08.06.2010 - 10.06.2010 76 °F
Finca Bag End, Spain: 4.52pm, 16/6/10
When we used to keep a diary (less fun than a Blog) we never, well almost never, did the last couple of days. So I was determined to round off this Blog to leave it as complete as possible.
I'm afraid that highlights of the journey back centres on food, for a change.
Firstly, for our last meal in Boston, we returned to the restaurant where John had left his bank card.
(Incidentally, a hint for anyone coming to the USA. You really need very little cash. It's not really a good idea especially as it usually costs money to get some out from an ATM. Tips and tiny purchases, maybe. But paying for everything with a Nationwide Debit card is the most cost effective way of spending your money here. Can't remember if I mentioned this but we did find an oddity with ATMs. There is not a rule of thumb, but ATMs in convenience stores could charge less than major banks; charges we saw ranged from $0 to $5 per transaction. Oddly, some banks did not charge at weekends! Maybe they turn their computers off? So we aimed to get cash out on Saturdays and Sundays and it seemed to work! Also, the fee, when levied, is a flat rate so we didn't take out small amounts.)
Charley's it's called - the restaurant in Boston - and it's a traditional Boston, Cheers-esque, dark-wood bar and restaurant. The waitress was soon to fly off to London for a "pre-med" course. She wanted to know all about it. A friend there had already sent her an Oyster card (whatever that is). We warned her that she would have to learn to "eat proper". None of this American fork-shovelling.
Johns "Filet Mignon": best yet
Bob's Prime Rib: excellent.
Then back to the Hilton, Boston Back Bay. Wednesday morning:- The drive at 5.15am to Boston Logan airport, through the nightmarish tubes and tunnels under Boston Harbor, was not as bad as anticipated. Returned the car to the Hertz depot, though, for a few terrible moments, the barriers did not lift and there are those razor things set in the road where, if you reverse, they rip your tyres. Sorry, tires. Then straight on a courtesy bus which we had to ourselves. A long walk to find the "First Class" check-in (John's tendonitis had been getting steadily worse over this holiday and long airport treks seem to aggravate it more than anything. So he was really hobbling.) Then through "Priority Security", another perk for travelling in Business Class. And into the recently refurbished AA (that's American Airlines, folks, not the other lifesaver) "Admirals Lounge". Which was very nice. Although snacks were limited to muffins and trail mix.
On to the Boeing 757 which they now use on the short (less than 6 hours) hop to London. This makes for a much more pleasant, smaller cabin and we had 2 great Flight Attendants, Debbie, the Purser, who seemed very senior, and Sugar, this wonderful black lady who went round asking all of us our first names and writing them down. She was even more senior, had a painful-looking hip problem and her torrents of loose hair seemed to be pinned on to her scalp. She could barely manage to carry more than two drinks at a time, but she did her best.
Bob's French Toast
The quantity of food and number of meals served was almost the same as on a 12 hour flight so it was all-but constant. An episode of Paul Temple, a short doze and we were descending into Heathrow before we knew it. In "Y" Class, I never felt I didn't want the flight to end yet. This time, it seemed far too short!
You need a PhD in advanced electronics to operate the seats!
I think we should have enough AA miles this trip for an upgrade next time too. Hooray!
Fairly rapid through Immigration and a long wait for our bags. We thought ours were never coming. Then all the "PRIORITY" labelled bags came through together.... at the end. Good old Heathrow!
Another observation: no one seems to use taxis anymore at Heathrow. Just one couple waiting in front of us and that was it. And quite a wait for a taxi to arrive. This time no "go back to where you come from" attitude. Indeed, perhaps the other extreme with a full run down on the perks that BA staff are allegedly getting.
At the Radisson Edwardian, where we arrived at about 9.45pm, the hotel porter, who was opening the taxi door for us, was knocked out of the way by Atilla "the Hun-garian". The somewhat over-enthusiastic check-in clerk, after another tip, we thought, somewhat cynically yet accurately.
"Welcome back, Mr Ashplant", he smarmed (not really, he spoke quite normally, albeit with a foreign accent. Something out of Paul Temple, really). "How was your trip to USA?" He must keep notes, this guy. The hotel had been full when we tried to make a reservation but Gavin, the manager, who'd I'd Emailed before trying to get a free room upgrade (and succeeding), found us space. There was a problem with the room allocated and the only one left was down a rather gloomy corridor, on the ground floor, with a view of a parked car and the back of a McDonalds Drive-in. We were cheered up when a guy brought in the now customary chocolate cake bearing the piped words, in chocolate, "Welcome Mr Ashplant". On balance, it did not make up for the gloomy room really.
BUT the rate they gave us did include breakfast and that was absolutely smashing. A huge range of food from bacon and eggs to smoked salmon and haddock. Eggs and omelettes and pancakes could be cooked to order. That made up for the gloomy room!
Hotel's own car to Terminal 3. Iberia check-in fine and through priority security, again, which worked well, and on through the shopping mall pretending to be an airport terminal and into the haven of the BA "Galleries" lounge (Iberia do no have a lounge here) which gets top reviews. Every drink under the sun is available here and a good range of snacks.
Flight to Madrid is delayed about an hour but we have plenty of time at Madrid, we think. People on the flight are panicking about making connections especially one guy who is trying to get to Tenerife. When we finally land at Barajas and taxi interminably to the terminal(!) by the time he gets off, he has about 10 minutes to make it. No doubt he has to run the full length of the awful Terminal 4.
This time the Iberia food was not so good. We assumed it spoiled due to the delay
We think we are being smart. We know where the "VIB" lounge is in MAD, having spent 40 minutes or so finding it merely a month before. We can see the lounge, up in the "gods", but how to get up to it? Last time we went up a hidden staircase which remains hidden from us this time. The escalators are all going "down". We see a sign to an "Airline Lounge" which leads down a long, dark corridor. We hobble down there then realise this is not the Iberia lounge. We finally stumble upon a lift, tucked away behind shops and restaurants, and above it a sign: "Iberia Lounge". Communication at airports is not a Spanish strength!
Again a haven of peace and comfort. Snacks nowhere near as good as in the BA lounge. John will get online to do a bit of Blogging. But can't connect. Bob is advised at the desk, "No Wifi in here". You have to bring your own plug and plug your laptop into the wall. Well done Iberia! Keeping up with the times!
Our short flight to Alicante is delayed. We finally boarded an hour late (they called Business class to board first, not that anyone took any notice). Then we stood at the door and waited, and waited, to board whilst the head Flight Attendant held long committee meetings with her crew and the Captain.
We finally boarded then the rest of the flight boarded, very, very slowly. Each boarding card was scrutinised carefully. Lists checked. Cabin crew backwards and forwards to check the seats. It took for ever.
After more debates and manuals being referred to and, at one stage the first officer stomping off the plane, the doors were closed. Then we sat and sat. The head FA started chatting and she was very nice. Had been flying for 32 years and had had enough. She wants to retire to her little house in Malaga.
The problems with the flight were: Air traffic controllers were on a work to rule; a FA (flight attendant) on another flight had gone over her hours so they took an FA from our flight. This meant they had to decrease the number of passengers by 4 rows-worth and this explained the manual seating of passengers.
After a while, we meandered to the end of the runway and waited, and waited again. We were beginning to think we would never make it home to see our Girls!
Hooray, we finally took off. A quick roll and a sandwich and we were landing at Alicante.
Again all sorts of problems getting our bags, but they did turn up (accompanied by drunken English lads on another flight on their way to Benidorm for a stag do) and we were out to call Terry who, within a minute, was round the corner and picked us up from "under the tree". Thank you Terry!!
Home within 80 minutes to find Poli waiting for us, soon to be joined by Sofi. All's well that ends well!
Many, many thanks to everyone who made our trip possible given that poor old Maurice had to stay back in UK.
Also "thank you" to those who supported this Blog ...and to everyone that knows us!
Bob got to see his Jacaranda this year!
You now have at least 2 years to recover. But germs of ideas as to where to visit next are already popping up. Dodge City? Cheyenne? Tombstone? Wilmslow, Arizona? Have we enough miles for an upgrade etc?