April 10, 2009

We made it! No thanks to us...

We were prepared. We were really prepared. I was more caught up with work than at any time in the past four months. I had just successfully hired for my open position. I was on track with April's poem-a-day, the pool was chlorinated, the house was super tidy, I had Euros in my wallet... we were prepared.

The day started well. Antoinette picked us up at home and brought us to BART right on time. A gray, sprinkly morning was a good warmup for what we expected in England. The boys were excited on BART to SFO.

(Don't ask me what was on Ethan's mind. Isn't that a great suspicious look?)

We were confident and happy to be going on vacation.

BART got us to SFO on time. We sailed through check-in and security. We found a Burger King and even got a table. Life was good. We boarded through the spacious. luxurious business class to get to our seats near the back of steerage and found that the engineers of the Boeing 747 have discovered the secret of the Bag of Holding (you D&D players know what I'm talking about... it's that normal-sized bag into which you can cram pretty much unlimited things). Judging from the space available for my legs (and I am only 5' 8", remember), they packed a lot of seats onto this plane. Anyway, it was on time and the people were friendly and we got food. And they played four movies on the 11-hour flight to Frankfurt. I watched Quantum of Solace (frantic and, like the 747, cramming too much into the available space) and Frost/Nixon, both of which I quite liked. I ignored the other two. Seven Pounds and something else I forget.

What's that? Frankfurt? You thought we were going to London? Yes, well, with four tickets to purchase and a savings of $300 a ticket, we took the San Francisco to Frankfurt to Heathrow redeye route rather than the comfy direct flight. We got to know our little section of Terminal 1 at Frankfurt airport pretty well in the three hours we spent there, though.

Here's the plane that carried us across the Atlantic:

And here are the boys on the bus from that airplane to Terminal 1:
And here they are in Terminal 1 while we figure out where we can wait out our three hour layover:

Finally, after a bit of a nap, a $5 Sprite, and being frisked and wanded through the intraterminal security screening, we boarded the Airbus A321 to London. (Oh, Ethan also had a flashlight of his tested for explosives. That was probably the highlight of his day.)

We arrived without incident at Heathrow, breezed through Immigration, had no trouble with our luggage, took the scenic route to find bus stop #2 for the Hertz bus, and made it out to the Hertz rental lot reasonably smoothly. That's when the angst crept in.

Yeah, I was a bit worried about driving on the wrong side of the road, but I had just seen James Bond (who is British) drive on both sides of the road in pretty much equal measure, so I figured I'd fit right in. Just like at home. But what really freaked me out was that as prepared as we were, we had not printed out directions to our friend's home where we were to stay.

We knew it was in a town named Virginia Water "pretty close to Windsor," which was "pretty close to Heathrow." I had the address but no map. And this particular Hertz office on this particular day had (a) no maps, (b) no internet directions kiosk, and (c) no one who knew of Virginia Water ("Virgin what?"). So I asked for Windsor, and I got "M4 west." Which was a start.

We made it alive onto the M4 westbound, somehow. And we saw signs for Windsor. We thought maybe we needed to go even farther west, but we got off at Windsor hoping to find a place to stop for directions. We managed to make a wrong turn off a roundabout and miss the town center, but it led us to a gas station that had a woman who knew where Virginia Water was... and how to get there. She directed us, and we followed her directions, and they got us there. Here is the route we followed:

You may notice that it seems a tad circuitous, and that there is a thick bluish road labeled M25 that cuts off, oh... I'd say 75% of the distance. In fact, here's what Google Maps suggested once we found the house and hooked up to the internet:

Regardless, we still had to ask directions two more times to find the house itself, which we eventually were able to do, on a cute little street that looks something like this:

The benefit to our scenic route was that we got to meet some locals, got to see some scenery that was not planted by a highway work crew, and got to visit a grocery store and an ATM.


fairyhedgehog said...

Oh that is a long way round! I'm so glad you arrived safely in the end.

Blogless Troll said...

I don't know how they do things in England, but whenever I see a tourist wearing a Cal hat I go out of my way to give him circuitous directions.

McKoala said...

It's all fun. Lovely puddles. Hope it doesn't rain every day you are there.

Chris Eldin said...

LOL at the troll! He always sidetracks my otherwise nice comments, which would've been "great pics" and "Looks like fun!"

Stacy said...

I love hearing about this. Allow me to live through you vicariously for a moment . . . .

Anonymous said...

All right, even though you are in London - grrrr - I'm giving you an award because your wife is gorgeous and obviously very patient (she looks so calm in the tarmac-y pic)


Ello - Ellen Oh said...

Have a wonderful trip!!!!!

JaneyV said...

I'm exhausted just reading about the trip. You all did so well. Welcome to Blighty. I hope that today's weather is a bit better. As I drove around the M25 the other day I waved toward where you are staying (I know where Virginia Water is - beautiful spot - and it has the added distinction of being the place where Bill Bryson met his wife).

Have lots of fun.

PJD said...

BT, the irony is I was not wearing my Cal hat. But I'll keep that in mind for the future...

Aerin... an award! How lovely of you. I will have to catch up with such things when I'm back on California time (or rather, since I'm still partly on California time, back when I'm on California soil).

Thanks all y'all for dropping by. We're having a great trip, hosted by a wonderful family, seeing many sights, and failing to write while I'm here. I am so jealous of you who keep posting word counts and have "Koala Approves" badges.

Anonymous said...

We're having a great trip, hosted by a wonderful family, seeing many sights, and failing to write while I'm here. I am so jealous of you who keep posting word counts and have "Koala Approves" badges.Pete, you're not a very good liar.

Bob Palin said...

Judging by my experiences on the M25 you were probably better off taking the circuitous route!