Well, I’m finally back home. Long day today. I got up at 5:15 a.m. after a 2 hour nap, got the last bits of packing done, had breakfast, and got out the door at 7 a.m. Base2Stay was a lovely hotel, and I thoroughly recommend it. Check-out was a breeze.
Off to Earl’s Court, then to Paddington, and grabbed the Heathrow Express to Heathrow.
Everything was going smoothly.
That is, until I got to the American Airlines terminal.
There were two people doing security checks, and a line was starting to build. The line kept building and building, and we were all waiting and waiting… and one of the security people just up and left. The other person stared at her as she walked off, and everyone in line sighed in the way that air travelers sigh when they realize that something simple has just become something difficult. Fortunately, someone else eventually stepped up and got things moving, but by then the line was ridiculously long.
I was glad I had gotten there early and made it to the front of the line. I had good line karma today. Even so, 30 minutes’ wait just to check my passport? Can’t the people at the desk do that when they take my bags?
I was also somewhat fortunate that my bag was under 50 pounds in weight, so no extra charges.
Then it was off to the security screening, which was a lot friendlier than the TSA. There was a person there in front offering plastic baggies for people with liquids. That’s a brilliant idea. And there was a place to dispose of things that would not be allowed in security. Also nice.
There was no silly shoe dance. I got to keep my shoes on, and there was no loss of dignity, either. Just a simple bag search.
I think the TSA could learn a lot from our British friends on how to conduct a search. All of the incidents and complaints swirling around the TSA come from some crazy policies that center on a basic fallacy– that humans, who are fallible creatures, can create a perfectly secure environment. It’s just not possible. Might as well do the best we can, and put more air marshals on the planes, instead of making flying a harrowing experience. It’s bad for business.
I headed to the Admiral’s Club and relaxed for a bit, then at what I thought was the right time, headed to the gate. Unfortunately, they hadn’t fueled the plane yet, so we had to wait 20 minutes to board the plane. Argh! I could’ve stayed in the club and enjoyed its calming atmosphere, but no such luck for me.
Even after I got on the plane, we had to wait to take off. Naturally.
The flight was long, and tedious. I listened to podcasts and dozed and stared at my watch.
Getting into RDU was interesting. I got off the plane quickly, and had good line karma at the US border, so I didn’t have to wait too long, and customs was just a matter of handing in my card. I guess they don’t search your bags anymore, huh?
So that was pretty much it for my London trip. Lots of fun on the whole. I saw a lot of former US presidents, oddly enough. The JLPT didn’t go as well as I planned, but I came away with some knowledge that I hope will propel my Japanese studies forward.
London is deceptively expensive, and can lull you into spending a hell of a lot of money. Those pounds can just fly out of your wallet if you’re not careful.
As a cultural center, it’s definitely worth a visit, although some places are more interesting than others. I suppose that’s a matter of personal preference. Going in summer is a bit of a mixed bag, because you have to deal with thousands of other tourists, but the days are really long, and the weather is generally good. (Low 70s, with a little rain here and there, but nothing too bad.)
Contrary to American stereotypes (which are usually wrong anyway), the food in London is excellent. Use a service like Google Maps to check out restaurants before going to avoid bad restaurants, and be ready to just try stuff out.
Hotels are expensive in London. I think of it as opportunity cost. If I have a decent hotel that costs a few pounds more, and has an excellent location, then I can save money/time in other areas.
I’ll put my London wrap-up in another post.