Thursday, May 9, 2013

Home sweet America

On Monday, Alex and I began our journey home. We took the rest stop but I have to admit, flight times sucked and I am not 100% sure it was better in the end. We had a couple of really crabby days and I am sure today will be as well.

I had the stroke of brilliance to think up a solution to the too many bags for too small muscles at Pulkovo and loaded our huge duffel bag onto the stroller and had Alex push that. I was able to manage the rest of the bags. British Airways started off on the wrong foot. First they somehow lost the 2 seats together I had reserved online, then essentially accused me of lying when I couldn't come up with which seats they were or any documentation of having done it. We ended up in the very last row, where each time the flight attendants had to get something out of a locker they banged my seat. There is also apparently a new thing (well, new from the last time I flew with extra bags, which was admittedly a long time ago) where you check your bags, they hold your ticket hostage and you have to go somewhere totally different to pay for the extra baggage. At Pulkovo, it meant going back out into the entrance area, then upstairs to the Finnair ticketing booth, where they processed the payment. Then back to the British Air counter where at least I didn't have to wait in line.

The flight was relatively uneventful. Alex managed to color and do her mosaics (thank you again Jenny for getting her the first pack!) and we didn't even use any electronics. At Heathrow I was reminded how much I like Europe and all their baggage carts. The down side is we flew into Terminal 5 and were flying out of Terminal 1. I found my way to the Heathrow Express and here's where the amazingness of strangers kicks in. One of the HE employees let my cart through the barrier then helped me load all our bags onto the train. At Terminal 1 he reappeared and help me unload, then he got one of his colleagues from Terminal 1 to get me another cart right at the trainside. From there it was easy to get to the left luggage place and drop off all the checked bags, then catch a taxi to our hotel.

We stayed at the Renaissance Heathrow. One side of the hotel faces the runway and you can watch planes touch down and take off. It was absolutely the highlight. The room was tiny and dingy, the plug in the bath didn't work and Alex is traumatized by showers and she was already overtired so getting her clean was a bit nightmarish. The mini fridge is also ridiculous, hard to explain but the gist is to put anything in it garners a charge so we just wasted the huge bowl of yogurt we'd had to order to give her the medicine. Club access is also a plus, we were able to get snacks and water and the breakfast there was impressive for being "continental". All in all we'd probably stay there again, if only because of the runway viewing.

The next day we were up too early, so we just went ahead and started the day. It turned out to be a good thing as there was a bunch of running around at Heathrow - like at Pulkovo we had to check our bags at one place and pay for the extra bag somewhere else. Also annoying is that they don't put up the gate info until 90 minutes before the flight departs, but boarding begins 60 minutes before AND some parts of the terminal are a 20 minute walk from the center area.

When I saw on the e-ticket that the flight was meant to take 8 hours I was surprised, because I've done London-USA enough times in my life i knew full well it's 5.5h to there, and 7h back. And, we left 30min late and arrived 30 min early. Talk about padding the time! At least I wasn't misremembering the duration. During the flight things were a bit rough - Alex tried to nap twice but just couldn't fall asleep even though the plane was empty so we took a 4-seat row and she stretched out over 3 seats and got a 3 blanket cave. Knowing I'd have to drive to Philly from Allentown I napped while she watched shows, I probably slept 10 minutes but rested/dozed through 2 full shows so maybe 45 min?

We ended up having plenty of time in Philly, largely due to arriving early. There's a children's play area, so I like them even better than I thought I did as I've been very annoyed at American airports for not having them. We got ice cream for dinner :-)  The Allentown flight was bumpy and Alex proved again that she will be riding the roller coasters with Terry as soon as we go somewhere that has them, by telling me she liked that feeling in her tummy when we went bump.

When we got to Allentown Terry's hatred of the credit card was good for me, as there was only 1 taxi already hanging out and he didn't take CC but I had enough cash. He also very kindly managed to get the Subaru trunk open, which apparently T's mom or step-father managed to do something to and nobody's been able to open it for a little while. We were at the house long enough to make and have Alex eat a PB and J, for me to grab a few things we'd need, unload some of the vodka and maple syrup (although I missed 3 bottles) and one suitcase we didn't need, and head back out. Thank you Randy for leaving me a full tank of gas!

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