Sunday, May 12, 2024

Saturday, May 4, 2024. Heading home.

 I don't think I needed the alarm. I was pretty much packed from the night before - just needed to throw my pajamas in the suitcase and I was done.

We had tickets on the Heathrow Express back to the airport. They don't have a set time. A train leaves Paddington Station every 15 minutes. Our hotel was about ½ mile away from that station, but with heavy, full suitcases and carry-on bags, I wasn't going to complain about the Uber Cynthia summoned for us.

 The Uber dropped us off at the taxi area on the back of the station. Until now, we'd only gone through the pedestrian entrance on a different street. We had to take an elevator down one level from the street. The station on this side was unusually quiet. Luckily, there were signs on the floor leading you to either the Heathrow Express or the regular Tube trains, so we didn't struggle for more than a couple of minutes before figuring out where to go.

 We passed through the automatic gates that scanned our tickets and were between two trains. A man ran past us and hopped on the train to the left. We had first-class tickets, so I didn't want to just hop on a train without orienting myself, so we walked down the platform toward some workers. The train the man jumped on left while we were walking.

 I approached a worker, showing him my ticket and he said, "Why are you showing me your ticket? Just get on a train." Well, on the other end, at the start of the journey, I needed to show my ticket before getting on to the train in a first-class car. This guy didn't care what we did and was angry to be approached by someone. Ah, London. Thank you for bookending my vacation with angry workers who are resentful they have to do jobs.

 We got on the remaining train, in one of the first-class cars, and sat down. We started out alone in the car, but one man did hop on before the train departed. He sat a good distance away from us, which was good because he was coughing.

 After a quick train journey, we found ourselves back at the airport. I tried once again to check-in at one of the automatic kiosks, but was given a card to report to an agent instead of a boarding pass. Cynthia got her boarding passes. I was ushered through to the back-checking agents and they were able to print my boarding passes after informing me that I would have to go through customs and security in Dallas before continuing to Burbank. I don't know why I needed extra waring while my sister didn't, but whatever.

 The security line was a little bit different than in the US. There were tables where you could search through your carry-on bag before going through the scanners, to make sure you didn't forget any liquids or electronics. We didn’t stop here, since I think we both knew where our extra scan required items were in our bags and we could easily find and remove them.

 Even though in Burbank I didn't have to take my phone or iPad out of my bag, I had to in London. But I didn't have to take my shoes off. You only had to take your shoes off if you were asked to do so. I made it through the security scan with no problems. Cynthia was no so lucky. Her bag was flagged in the x-ray machine and she had to stand with an agent while he searched through her bag for whatever had looked suspicious. I sat and waited. It was a rattail comb in her bag that had looked like a knife. And she had too many liquids so they threw a couple of them away. 

We sat at our gate, and only had about 30 minutes left until the airplane would start to board. Good thing we did give ourselves the full 3 hours they suggested to get through the airport because apparently that wasn't an exaggeration. I got a tea at Starbucks and a Coke for Cynthia at a newsstand. We were in the second-to-last boarding group, so had to wait while watching almost everyone else get on the plane. Airlines - window seats should go first! I don't understand the stupid way that people are loaded onto planes.

 This time the flight was full. There were no empty middle seats. And this wasn't a redeye flight. We left London at 1:10 PM and I was scheduled to arrive in Burbank at around 9 PM.

 My vegetarian lunch this time was a little better - not vegan. It was also the same as the vegetarian option all of the passengers had, but I was given my tray early to make sure they didn't run out of that selection. It was paneer in curry with rice, a chocolate brownie, a bread roll and quinoa coleslaw. The snack later in the day was less appetizing - a toasted pastry filled with zucchini and marinara sauce. I only took a couple of bites of that one. Yuck. 


I watched three movies on this leg. The Beekeeper: terrible writing and acting, but not bad enough to turn off. Bullet Train: by the same guy who directed The Fall Guy. I liked it overall. Aaron Taylor-Johnson was very good and I would have preferred that his character not die, even though he was a bad guy. Brian Tyree Henry was also excellent. It was pretty good. I took a break and wrote up a lot of this travel memoir, even though my keyboard had died and I had to enter it on the little keyboard on the iPad screen. With just over 1 ½ hours remaining, I watched Relax, I'm From the Future because it fit the time constraints. It was ok, but had some confusing logic in it. Best not to think too much about it. It was short and not didn't require a lot of thought to watch.

 Back in the US, we had to go through customs at Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW). Luckily, the line for citizens was shorter than the line for people visiting the country, so we got through the customs line pretty fast. Nothing to declare!

 Then we had to go collect our suitcases and drop them off in a different location. It seemed stupid, but I guess it was just to make sure that there weren't unclaimed bags getting on plane transfers. I got an email that a lot of suitcases didn't make the flight, so to not freak out if our suitcases were there. Luckily, they both made it. I would have been surprised if they didn't considering how early we got to Heathrow.

 From dropping off our suitcases, we had to go back through a security line. This line was long. It was estimated to take 20 minutes from a place in the line that was still 15 minutes away from us. That's how they counted it as far as I could tell. They didn't just say, "From here, it is 35 minutes." Nope. Fifteen minutes from here to where it will be another 20 minutes. This is where it started to look like we might not make our connections. I was still optimistic, but things could go south.

 We finally got to the scanning area and this time, I was the one who got pulled aside for a bag search. I had packed a lot of tea in my carry-on, because it was heavy, and the tins looked suspicious. A TSA worker pulled all the tea out of my bag and swabbed the containers. He put the swab in a scanner and it set off an alarm! He had to call a supervisor over. My sister, worried she'd miss her connection, left me at security. I wasn't bothered. The supervisor and original TSA worker opened all of my unopened teas and said, as they looked into each one, "That's tea." They swabbed them one at a time and this time the alarm didn't go off. They offered to pack my bag for me, but I said I would do it.

 I packed my bag and found my gate. I then went into the toilet and removed my compression socks. I hate them! I only left them on this long because I knew I'd be taking my shoes off at DFW for the security line and didn't want to walk barefoot on the airport floor.

 I was getting email updates for both my flight and my sister's flight. Both flights were delayed and kept changing gates. My flight left at least an hour late, so worrying about the long security line was a waste of time. The delays were weather related. There were big storms all across the country. As a result, the flight to Burbank was bumpy to an uncomfortable degree. I was relieved when we landed safely. My friend who had been watching my cats picked me up and drove me home. All of my cats, except for Shio, came out to see me as soon as I got home. My house was just even messier than I left it. The cats knocked a couple of chairs over, but everything was fine.

 I had been up for close to 24 hours by then, and fell asleep pretty quickly. Glad to be home. My vacation this time was short enough, though, that I'm not swearing off traveling again like I did in 2014. The flights were brutal, but I could see doing it again under the right circumstances. The right circumstances might have to be saving up to fly business class, though.

 The end.

(The cookies from M&S that were delicious and beautiful.)

(Diva happy to have me home.)
(Flight path home.)

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