For the last time, we awoke in Europe and got ready to head back to the United States. Our plan was to be at Paddington Station around 9am in order to get to Heathrow by 9:40 to check in two hours ahead of time. While we were getting ready, I checked American Airlines’ web site to confirm that we still had an on-time departure as well as which terminal at Heathrow we needed to depart the train. According to their website, it was Terminal 4. So Daniel and I headed downstairs and checked out.
The Royal Court Apartments is still a great deal in London. You can get a twin room with a separate room with a TV, kitchenette, and a couch for a reasonable rate. They are in the process of refurbishing the entire complex, and if the reception area is any indication, the place will be stellar. I suspect they will be jacking the rates up, which is unfortunate. Personally, I like the area where we stayed in Phillipe’s apartment, and Jonathan mentioned there is a good hotel called the Tavistock Hotel that is pretty reasonable in the same area. I will have to check it out.
Since we were just a few blocks from the station, we walked down to Paddington and arrived at the train station. We found the Heathrow Express ticket office where they informed us that there is about a 15 minute delay on all lines due to rail work. This didn’t seem to be that bad, as it was still within my comfort zone at the airport. I went ahead and validated the last day on our Britrail passes and we headed for the platform. It was hard to miss the big sign titled “What Terminal” which helps you locate your airline’s check-in counter. I skimmed it over and discovered that American was in fact at Terminal 3. I was sure that the site said Terminal 4, but not wanting to have to retrace our steps, Daniel and I decided to get off the train at Terminal 3.
The train was a few minutes late, but it was a nice smooth uneventful ride to the airport. We found the American check-in lane and was happy to discover that there were not that many people there. I think everyone had checked in already. I was a bit nervous putting my bag on the weigh scale due to the issues we had at LAX, but since I was wearing my jacket and my heavier dress shoes, I made it with no problem. Daniel and I were so happy to finally not have to lug our suitcases around. This whole trip, everyone has been shocked by the size and weight of our bags. I think it is a sign that next time, even if I go away for three weeks, I should invest in a smaller, sturdier bag.
We shopped around at some of the gift shops at the airport. Daniel picked up some things for his friends, and I picked up some food to tide us over. The Pain au chocolate left a lot to be desired. We already miss our Parisian pastries. I did think it was funny that at Heathrow they have one machine to x-ray your bags and then another to x-ray your shoes. A two-step process, which I am sure on busy holidays, makes the whole line crawl. I think I like it better here in the states where you put your shoes on the belt with everything else.
We arrived at the gate (after a 20 minute hike), and got on board the plane. We sat in the exact same seats as we had going over to London, but I felt that this plane was at least a bit cleaner and in better shape than our flight over. Since our plane arrives in LA around 3pm and we left around 6pm coming here, I bet they use the same plane so people traveling to the UK only get 2 hours of cleaning vs. what they can do in the UK.
The flight was pretty uneventful – no major turbulence. I managed to watch Transformers and bits of Hairspray. I enjoyed Transformers, but didn’t really like Hairspray all that much. It was OK until I saw John Travolta in drag and it sort of ruined it for me. He does not make a convincing woman. I also watched a BBC show called Life on Mars about a detective who gets hit by a car in 2006 and wakes up in 1972. I thought it was great and now I have to figure out what happens next. It also stars the guy who played the Master in Series 3 of Doctor Who.
After 11 and a half grueling hours, we arrived at LAX. I am always happy when I fly American into the US at LAX because we get the smaller and cleaner Terminal 4 customs station versus the overcrowded and smelly International Terminal customs. We had to wait in a queue for passport control, but it moved rather quickly compared to the queue for people who are not from the US. We grabbed our bags and after asking a quick question at the exit, we were free to go. Daniel’s brother David was there to greet us and before we knew it, we were in the middle of rush hour traffic.
I finally made it home in the early evening and crashed. It felt so weird to be back at home again, like nothing had happened for the last three weeks. I got a jump start on laundry and then crashed.
This was a great vacation that really helped me recharge my batteries. Despite being gone for three weeks, I felt that with a little bit of laundry done, I could easily stay out for longer if I needed to. Daniel was ready to go home, he had his fill of foreign languages and the poor performance of the dollar. We really traveled well together which I think added to how much fun I had. I hope everyone has enjoyed my trip as much as I have.
Hopefully, I will be off on another adventure soon!