After an-hour-and-twenty-minutes riding the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) from the San Francisco airport to the Oakland airport, I arrive and make my way to security (actually, to the bar; security is just a small obstacle to get there) a pod-like structure catches my eye. I open the door to peek inside and find that it’s a nursing mothers’ pod. Two benches, a mirror, and dimmable lighting decorate the inside. I take note in case I ever get stuck in this airport and need a quick nap. (Don’t judge me.) (FYI – in this same realm, www.spleepinginairports.net can help you in a pinch.)
I enjoy some time at the bar commiserating with fellow Norwegian Airline travelers before our flight is called. I step on to a 787 Dreamliner and find my seat. When I arrive, I find a young man already sitting in it and politely point this out. Though I find it strange that he didn’t even wait until boarding was finished before he took a different seat than assigned, he politely gathers his things to move to the aisle seat as he says something unintelligible to the man in the window seat sitting in front before settling into the aisle seat in my row. Soon, a woman stops at the row in front and indicates to this guy’s friend that he’s in her seat. What the hell? Did these two just wait for the music to stop and sit down? Both these guys are now sitting on the aisle when the male flight attendant stops by and says something to him which I can’t hear. Still, his body language says, “I think you’re dreamy and maybe we can hook-up when we arrive in London.” Before long, Mr. Flirty Flight Attendant returns with a blanket (normally sold for a $7 fee on Norwegian) for his new boyfriend, smiles, and says, “This is for you.”
After a while, a female flight attendant stops by and tells the man in front that a woman with a baby will be moving into this seat and he and his friend are moved somewhere to the back of the plane. This leaves me with an entire row to myself. Some days the Travel Gods look down on you and smile.
Known for mood lighting and fresher air which supposedly combats jet lag, the Dreamliner only came into service in the last few years. Though I didn’t pay the extra $45 to reserve my seat prior to the flight, miraculously, I snagged my desired window seat and settle in. While nesting, I explore my seating area where I find a button which dims and ultimately blacks out the window instead of pulling down a shade. While it takes about five minutes of button-holding to achieve total blackout, during the dimming process it does offer cool shading which turns the sky from sunny, to indigo, and to a deep violet before, eventually, going black. It’s a bit like an Instagram filter. I’d totally like this in my house.
Under the seat I not only find a lifejacket (yeh, hoping I don’t find a need for this amenity), but also an outlet with which to charge my phone, computer or any plug-in appliance. Seriously regretting not bringing a blender (daiquiris for everyone!) I plug in my phone instead. The overhead recording brags about the oversized bins in which to store carry-on luggage but, as Norwegian doesn’t allow any more carry-on than most, what’s the point? The seats offer no more legroom than any other flights I’ve taken. I play with my personal TV where I catch up on Deadliest Catch (haven’t seen this since I left the US nearly two-years-ago) and write a little before popping half an Ambien, stuffing earplugs in, donning my sleep mask, covering up with my coat (nope, didn’t pay for the blanket either) and lying down to sleep. (Thanks again for the empty row Travel Gods.)
A mere eleven-hours-later, I land at Gatwick airport. I breeze through security, grab some British Pounds from an ATM with my Charles Schwab debit card (No international fees; check it out., and head to the train information booth to work out the best route to get to my Airbnb. While flying into London City Airport would have been more convenient as my conference is being held down the road at the ExCel Center, there aren’t a lot of flights landing there. And as for landing at Heathrow, man those trains into the city can get expensive. Besides, my cheap airline, Norwegian Air, only flies into Gatwick.
I hop on the Gatwick Express train to get to the underground (aka the Tube), to get to the bus (aka really? I’m not there yet?), to walk to the apartment (total cost $15). When I arrive at the street, I a few apartments on it and Google Maps isn’t exactly clear which one when it says, “You’ve arrived.” I walk through one parking lot, dragging my small suitcase (Small? I know, it’s a miracle, but I’m only here for a few days), and ask a guy exiting a car, “Is this 38 Susannah Street?”
“What?” he asks
I step closer. “Do you know if this is 38 Susannah Street?”
“Pizza Hut?” he replies.
“Uh, no. Thanks anyway.”
I didn’t realize American English was that different than British English.
Eventually, I find 38 Susannah and hike up the stairs as the lift is broken (see, already learning the language). I’m greeted by Joy, a young Chinese woman who giggles a lot and scurries around the flat (I got this language thing down) like a new puppy chasing kibbles around a hardwood floor.
After dropping my bags, I mention that I’m hungry and will head out to get some food. I’m hoping to grab some fish and chips along with a lager (seriously, I’ve got the English down and am applying for citizenship) before heading back, doing a bit of work, and sleeping, as jet-lag has hit me harder than ever before. (I’m calling bullshit on that airplane mood lighting.) As she must run out to do some errands, Joy offers to show me around the neighborhood so I can find a place to eat. We head out where she points out a market which is closed today, and then a Chinese restaurant, a fast-food burger joint, two more Chinese restaurants, a Pizza Hut (ah, that’s where it is), another Chinese restaurant and, oh, another Chinese restaurant. I tell her I’ll be fine and set her free to run her errands. I find a pub which, unfortunately, doesn’t serve food, and continue down the street to find a place to eat.
After a nice Chinese meal (surprise!), I step out into the rainy London afternoon. It’s already getting dark and I’ve made the rookie mistake of forgetting my umbrella back at the flat. Arriving at my abode wet and tired, I trudge back up the stairs, enjoy a hot shower, plan my next few days at the conference, and drift off to sleep.