As always after these excursions, a rather sad and empty feeling on waking up, but at least it was at a reasonable hour.
Made it down to breakfast. This hotel has many things going for it, but the breakfast buffet was confusing in the extreme. Where to find stuff? First-world problem, I know….. Staff service very poor, though.
Back out to the lobby to say goodbye to Andreja and Marius. Both have been right up to the standards that we have come to expect from Viking staff. Both got a firm handshake and a tip.
We boarded our minibus to take us to the airport, a 25-minute drive, along with a couple of Americans that we knew reasonably well and were good company. They were only going to Heathrow as a transit to Nashville and the connection was very tight.
Once dropped off at the airport, another Viking representative took us in hand. This is Viking at their best – they really do look after you. He directed us to the right check-in desks, even though they were not yet open. He had even identified which desk was the right one for Club Europe (sort of emasculated Business Class) types like wot we were.
We were first in the queue, so through in a jiffy.
Next – Security. My most hated part of air travel. We managed, not without some difficulty, to find the fast track section, and we were first in the queue again. They didn’t actually seem to be expecting us!
We got through with relatively little trouble, thank the Lord. Always makes me feel so much better.
Next – Passport Control. Why, when we are leaving the country? Go figure. Anyway, got a stamp on the passport.
Next – find the lounge for Club Europe customers. This was a lot harder than it should have been. After several false starts, we finally made it, to sit down and relax for a bit. All the indicators showed that the flight was on time. Ha!
Time came to head for the gate. Massive queue, which was complicated by the fact that there was another queue for a LOT Polish Airlines flight to Luton on the next gate all mixed in.
After much scurrying around, I managed to find what appeared to be a queue for priority boarding for our gate, but it was not clear at all. We chanced our arm, and for once it was the right choice. However, the boarding time went from 11.30 to 11.45 as we waited, and waited. This for a flight supposed to depart at 11.50. I know – those of us used to air travel are thoroughly familiar with this scenario, but I still wonder – why on Earth can’t they get this working better after all these years?? The incoming flight had been delayed by heavy headwinds, apparently. Surely they know this is going to happen?
Finally, the queue moved forward, and we were on the aircraft reasonably quickly. The situation was exactly the same as the flight on the way out – we were separated by a seat which had a table blocking it, but there was no additional legroom, which is my real priority.
We got ourselves as comfortable as could reasonably be expected, and passengers just poured onto the plane. It was constant, until things came to a grinding halt, accompanied by an almost panic-stricken announcement from the cabin director asking for passengers to move any small bags from the overhead lockers to underneath the seats in front of them, as there were far too many bags trying to find space on the aircraft. Lots of threats of bags having to be removed and checked into the hold. High stress and lots of tension.
As we had three seats in front of the two of us, we managed to get our carry-ons under those. Lots of others were complying also, and the situation finally eased.
However, this delayed the flight by at least 40 minutes. It also meant that the flight missed its slot to Heathrow because of dodgy weather (no, really?) restricting incoming flights, so we had to wait another 20 minutes.
Finally, the plane backed off the stand and taxied out to the runway. Another 10 minutes and we were airborne.
From that point on, the flight was smooth, uneventful, and very well serviced. Drinks and meals were served with humour and engagement. With about half an hour to go before landing, the table between us looked as though we’d been having a party! That Aviation Gin is good stuff…..
Our American friends, of course, were, erm, exercised about whether they could make their connecting flight. Their plight was not helped by the fact they did not know where their carry-on baggage was stored on the aircraft. We could only wish them well as we left to board the bus to transfer us to the terminal after we’d landed, over an hour late.
For at least the 9th time out of 10, the passport scanners at Immigration did not work. Very frustrating, but at least the queue to see a human was very short. Five minutes later and we were both through.
Met Paul, our driver scheduled to take us back home in his nice Audi once again, with no difficulty, and we were soon crawling our way around the M25. To be fair, it could have been a lot worse, but we were hit with some absolutely torrential rain on the way.
Arrived home to see the house still standing. Always a good sign.
Well, that’s the end of a wonderful journey. The usual sorting through the post, unpacking, and washing to do. These things are important, you know…..
Hope you’ve enjoyed it if you’ve been along for the ride. I’ll be posting a summary of the trip very shortly.
Thanks for your company. It’s been great.
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