Thursday starts with my very own personalized “The Terminal” experience. Advancing a paraglider laden cart through a patrol circuit of domestic, international and US departures.
For 8 hours.
The only thing breaking the monotony – a visit to the bag wrapping store. Ten dollars for peace of mind that I won’t need to dry a soaked through reserve from a passing storm as baggage is loaded or face a broken shoulder strap that became jammed in a conveyer. Small price to pay and a welcome distraction from the to and fro.
1530 hrs creeps into view.
My imaginary gatekeeper, forcing this circuit, relents. Wasting no time, I check my Saran Wrap’d wing and bee line for security.
On the other side, near Gate 64, awaits the first part of a self-gifted 40th b-day present.
Yes ladies and gents, this year we fly in style.
Once inside, we find:
A well stocked open bar.
Choice of wine and coffee.
And seating aplenty.
To top this all off, I even happen to chance upon a former colleague with whom I had worked on EAs Need For Speed franchise many a moon before.
8PM rolls around and its time to make our way to the gate. The steerage is growing restless, jockeying for position in some vain hope they might get on ahead of the person next to them.
Ushered onboard ahead of the stampede, I climb the stairs of the 747-400 to the upper deck and look for my seat – the much coveted 64A. 64A is a lie flat pod that is blessed with a unique location that effectively seals if off from the remainder of the cabin. No one walking past or over.
No departure is complete without the traditional glass of champagne.
This evening the upper deck is an oasis of tranquility in comparison to the cacophony of screaming babies and banshee snorers located below.
Take off is non eventful, though it is quite noticeable how much slower the Queen of the Skies is in relation to newer, more powerful offerings. It does not take long before menus are handed out and dinner orders are taken.
Roasted Pear with baby lettuce, spiced pecans, and crumbled goats cheese.
Fresh seasonal salad served with vinaigrette.
Chilled main course salad of grilled chicken supreme with cranberry, apricot, and wheatberry.
I forego desert, reconfigure the seat into a bed, and call it a night.
Tomorrow – Heathrow.
Heathrow holding pattern – an aerial labyrinth into which many a flight enter possibly to never be heard from again.
So went the warning from the captain, but we have a trump card.
A medical emergency (which turned out to be a false alarm, but that wasn’t discovered until we were at the gate).
A rapid descent and a straight in approach – no time was wasted getting us a gate. The paramedics pile onto the plane, check the woman downstairs over and give the all clear.
One way to ensure you make a tight connection, I guess.
The herd crawls its way off the plane and brings with it a revelation. I used to be of the opinion that the title of slowest moving mammal on the planet was held by the old ladies driving on No.3 Road in Richmond.
Not anymore – now it’s Brits with drag bags disembarking a plane. If there was a fire, long pork BBQ would the daily special.
Nary a Canuck flag visible on my kit, I take on the mantle of quintessential Yank and unapologetically shoulder my way through the gelatinous mass of frequent fliers.
I make my way through Terminal 5, following the stream of Purple Flight Connections signs to an awaiting bus to take me to …
Take a well planned and laid out airport terminal – Heathrow Terminal 1 is everything but. Look up Charlie Foxtrot in a dictionary, you will likely something akin to see also LHR Terminal 1.
The terminal itself was a ghost town, perhaps being used as a set for the next installment of 28 Days Later. Few living souls, aside from myself and the security staff.
Not one to dwell, I get lost a few times before eventually stumbling upon the BA International Lounge near Gate 5. A few more hours killed before I make my way to the gate holding my flight to Marseille.
I am starting to learn, anything involving a mix of Brit and French travellers is destined to become a gong show. The recent French ATC strike has resulted in the flight being oversold (not to mention the mass of standbys). Bodies are packed into the tube of a waiting area, trying to inch closer to the gate door. Each knows that the last on will have no where to stash their bags and will have to use the dreaded under seat storage, eating away at what pittance of leg room BA has gifted them on the A319.
The tension builds, as do tempers. Finally the CSR relents and starts to call rows. I snag my aisle seat in Club Europe and do not have too long a wait before we depart. Another uneventful flight, aside from a cheese offering with the meal that had to rank amongst the worst things I had ever tasted. Note to self: avoid cheese sporting its own ecosystem of flora.
In Marseille, I have the info desk ring up the hotel for the shuttle, and make my way to the curbside waiting area. Tipping the driver comes with an unexpected benefit as he also works behind the front desk. A room upgrade and a half price breakfast.
Not long afterwards fatigue over takes me and I call it a night with an early start planned.