The Journey Home
25 August 2015
This day has finally come. Sadly, it’s time to head home. We’ve certainly enjoyed our travels, seeing old friends and making new, but vacation can’t go on forever.
As with all other travel days, of this trip, we start early with packing. This morning it should be so hard, you would think, it all needs to go home and we packed for air travel just two days before. Today it seems like there’s much more organizing to do. Eventually everything finds its place, or is left behind.
After another home breakfast at the house, we headed for the airport. We wanted to get to the airport a little early to take advantage of the lounge amenities. We’re flying British Airways First Class today! We cashed in a ton of points to book this flight, so we might as well make the most of it. Having failed to make reservations for our free massages in the BA Spa, our best bet was to get there early and see if we could get on the schedule. – Note to self: book the massage as soon as you book the flight!
Neil and Darren drove us to the airport which not only worked quite well, but was also very nice of them to do. I’m always amazed at getting anywhere by car in London. I don’t know how people manage. I’m usually pretty good with direction and getting around, but London always baffles me. Getting from point A to point B seems, invariably, to take you through points M, R and Z along the way! Nonetheless, we get there in good time.
Arrival at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 is uneventful. The first time I’ve ever actually arrived here by car, having only ever passed through here in transit. We easily found the First Class check in counter – couldn’t hardly miss it actually, off to the right with a tasteful but huge sign announcing it’s splendidness. In the old Terminal 4, this was quite hidden I had noticed in years passed as I would headed to the lengthy coach class check in lines. When we walked up today, we were the only ones there. A quick drop of the bags and we were off to security. The First Class, Business Class and elite status passengers have a dedicated security line, secluded from the others. Two X-ray machines but the line wasn’t moving very fast – hardly at all. Apparently, they had just run through a test bag to check the system and the screeners. This managed to shut down that scanner and now wasn’t coming back on line any too quickly. So much for speedy at this point. We’re still hours out from our flight, so no matter.
As you come out of security, you’re right in front of a very non-descript door, except for a small Concorde Room sign and a matron guarding the way in. A quick check of our boarding passes, a review of our reservation on her terminal, and we were in. The inner sanctum, as it were. Or so we thought. Another attendant inside asked for verification of our rights to admittance. That cleared, we proceed to the luggage check to have them hold our carry-ons. This was just beyond the lounge headed toward the Business Class lounge. So, of course, we had to check in with the nice gentleman on that side on our way back. We stating that we had already check in to the lounge (twice) his only response was “I haven’t seen you before.”
Next to check to see if we can get our free massages. No better luck than when we tried to call. No spots available except maybe in the other remote concourse. Not knowing yet where our flight was to depart, we didn’t want to risk getting to the wrong part of the airport and then having to walk back. If you try to come back from the B of C concourse on the train, you’re forced out of the airport and would have to go through security again. Not a gamble worth taking. We could have perhaps snagged a private cabana. Since we didn’t need a shower but did want to eat, we give these a pass. Judging from some pictures I’ve seen online, this is just as well.
We head over to the restaurant section of the lounge to find all the private booths taken so we just grab a couple seats at the open tables. Same food is served, but I have to say that the people in the private booths certainly seemed to be getting better service. Waiters were constantly bustling about in there while it took a good 10 minutes for anyone to stop by our table. Once we had a waiter, we quickly had bubbly in hand. Cheers! Kevin’s pretty sure it was our waiter’s first time serving, poor thing looked flustered all the time...again with the rushing about and not much seeming to be done in the process.
There was a good selection of fare available. We each started with the soup. As I recall it was good, but the menu is no help in remembering what it was, as it’s just listed as soup of the day. Your guess is as good as mine. Afterwards, I had the Duo of West Country Beef, pressed beef with oxtail ravioli accompanied by Romanesco puree. Kevin had the Summer Salmon Salad. For desert, we both had the Affogato – vanilla ice cream topped with a shot of espresso and a cookie – Yum! And of course more bubbly.
We still have some time before boarding – our gate hasn’t even been announced yet - so we just found a couple spots to relax out on the “terrace,” still inside, but overlooking the main terminal. What’s up with the horse lamps – those are just odd! Eventually our gate is announced – now we only have ½ hour to get to the plane in the next concourse – time to run! While we were told that no announcements of flights would be given in the First Class Lounges, we really would have appreciated some notice that boarding had started. Live and learn.
When we get to the gate, it appears that almost everyone has already boarded, virtually no line. How did everyone get here so quick and already board? There is a small queue for coach boarding but we slip right by. Upon arrival at the door to the airplane, the Purser (head flight attendant) greeted us. As soon as I showed my boarding pass, the flight attendant standing nearby offered to take me to my seat. When the Purser saw Kevin’s boarding pass, he called “service”, and another flight attendant, loaded with a tray of drinks she quickly put down, and came over to escort Kevin to his seat. You certainly don’t get this when you’re turning right as you board. Once settled, more bubbly was on offer. “Of course, I would love some.” Apparently, we were the last two First passengers to arrive – again I ask: how did they get here so fast?
Our seats, as you can imagine, were quite spacious with lots of storage for shoes and jackets. Oddly, however, there was no place for small items like a cell phone, power cords, or sunglasses. There was a place for a laptop but it wasn’t easy to spot. There was certainly enough room to have these things out, but no good place to stow for takeoff and landing.
As we were getting ourselves comfortable, the flight attendant came by to offer pajamas and slippers. She also brought the “For Him” amenity bags with all the goodies, one expects: tooth brush/paste, socks, lotions & balms, razor, and the best eye mask I’ve ever had. The pajamas are a nice light flannel – whether we’re supposed to not, we both kept them, along with the comfy slippers...and eye masks.
Once we got in the air, the flight attendant came around to take drink and food orders, asking us when we would like to eat. Kevin chose ASAP so he could go to sleep. Since I generally don’t sleep well on planes, I opted for a little later, which turns out to not been such a good idea. Before I had worked my way through the entire meal, our attendant went on break, his replacement didn’t seem to catch on very quickly that I was still only half way through the courses. It seemed to take forever for her to clear empty plates and bring the next. Yes, I know, another first-world problem!
After dinner, I found my duvet in the overhead bin and started to make up my bed. The flight attendant came by and offered to take care of it while I ran off to the restroom to get into my jammies. The rest of the flight for me while Kevin slept was a series of movies and time spent typing blog entries. One thing that’s always a highlight for me on the daytime flights between Europe and Seattle is seeing Greenland. It always fascinates. It will certainly be a sad day when it no longer has its snow pack and glaciers. For now though, it’s still beautiful. The rest of the flight was uneventful and of course more food came about an hour before we landed in Seattle.
The little island is Uummannaq Island. You can't really make it out in this photo but there's actually a town down there. Wikipedia can tell you more about it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uummannaq_Island
A quick run-down of the food (not all pictured).
For starters I had taken the gamble on the Sesame Seared Tuna. I was hesitant about “fresh” fish coming from an airline kitchen. Happily, it was actually quite good. Not 100% fresh tasting, but not bad.
Kevin started with the Wild Mushroom and Truffle Mousse. While, it doesn’t look much like a mousse as we would know it in America, it did have a nice, creamy mousse texture and quite flavorful.
Next up, main courses. I took another gamble in hopes of BA redeeming themselves after a previous beef experience I had on my last flight (see rant below). Pleasantly, it was served sufficiently warm but not overcooked, a nice medium rare.
On our flight back from Geneva two years ago, we were in BA’s Premium Economy ("World Traveler +") which supposedly featured entrees from the Business Class ("Club World") menu. I ordered the steak rather than chicken (should have known better after the horrid pork puck I had on the outbound). This was the worst piece of beef I have ever had the displeasure of eating. It was fully cooked well-done and beyond. The sauce was even completely dried up and fused to the dish. It’s an absolute disgrace that a cow gave up its life to have become this!
Kevin’s entrée choice was the North Atlantic Baked Cod. He doesn’t remember too much about it other than being thankful it wasn’t overcooked. We American’s do like our fish in a state others might call near raw, but they’d be wrong.
Kevin skipped on dessert while I enjoyed the Raspberry Délice. How could this be wrong – well, it wasn’t! It was a layered dessert with a cookie crust and a raspberry gelee top. This with a generous serving of Glenlivet 18 year-old was a perfect way to finish dinner as The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel finished playing.
Kevin finished his dinner with the Warm Blueberry and Nectarine Crumble.
After some time spent writing blog entries, taking pictures of Greenland and retrieving my sunglasses that had fallen into the bowels of my seat - don't ask!, it was time for a nap.
About an hour before landing in Seattle we were offered Afternoon Tea – very civilized! I had to pass on the sandwich selection as they all had something I don’t care for: either salmon, mayo, cucumbers, or some variation thereof. Kevin enjoyed his on the other hand. I did partake in the patisserie. This included a brownie, a key lime cake and a Battenberg cake. All served with our own personal pot of tea.
Upon arrival into Seattle, we of course were the first to immigration I think the last of passengers from another flight were just going through. We headed straight for the Global Entry kiosks with no lines, no waiting. Baggage claim went quickly as well – a near miracle at Seatac.
Our friend Maria was waiting for us when we got to the curb. A quick ride home and the journey was a fait accompli.
Such was our journey home. No dragon slaying or running from orcs and trolls, but there you have it. Back home to our own place and our own bed. Ah, to have clean clothes soon!
Just. Have. To. Stay. Awake. Until. Ten.
We hope you’ve enjoyed following us on this trip as much as we’ve enjoyed sharing it with you all. Look for more adventures in the years to come. We’ll keep posting about our trips as long as anyone cares to read about them. I know it’s taken a long time to get this written up so in some ways, I’m glad to have it done, in other ways I’ll miss spending so much time recollecting about the trip. Likewise happy to have all the experiences recorded for when things fade from memory.
Stay tuned for more travels.
Ps – There weren’t many guesses (actually none) for what these are from our QM2 post.
Perhaps you’ve guessed to yourself but didn’t share. For those still curious, these aren't just sculptures on the ship, they’re actually spare propeller blades. If you find yourself in the middle of the Atlantic with a blown propeller blade, you can’t just call the Automobile Association for help. I’m a little at a loss however as to how they would change one out while at sea.