Part 1 London and Paris 10 Day Getaway - Planning and Flying

1:42 PM AirplaneFoodCritic 0 Comments

It was about three months or so before I turned 40. If you know you then you know I am really into birthdays, specially mine. So of course 40, being a huge milestone year, I wanted to do something extra special. I keep a Google Document year round to preserve ideas for my next birthday as they come to me. I write things down like meals, restaurants, themes and more. For the big 4-0 I started thinking about little getaways that might be fun. I have not had a job for several years and the corresponding lack of income that comes with it so I had to be a bit frugal. I thought of Monterey, where I have access to a beautiful house in Pebble Beach. I thought of Disneyland or a Disney cruise because I have a family member who work for them and I could get a huge discount. I thought of a road trip or a camping trip. But in the end, I knew what I truly wanted. I wanted to go to Europe because of a few strong reasons that I could not ignore: I always fondly remember my trips to Europe. I always am happiest when I am traveling in Europe. And, honestly, I knew that my bf would propose to me the next time we went to Europe and being engaged is kinda fun.
Genuine happiness in Europe, 2010.
So I did it. I planned it all out as you may have read in my previous blogs and then three months out, I clicked "Buy" on the United Airlines website, the London hotel website and the Paris hotel website. To save money, I had to skip travel insurance on one of the hotels which means if I can't go or have to cancel for any  reason, good or bad, convincing or lame, I would never get my money back. What I am saying is: I was committed. And guess what happened the following day. I mean, LITERALLY the following day...I got a letter from unemployment and disability saying that they are cutting off the last piddly amount of payments they were giving me. Oopsy. Guess we will have to be a bit chintzy once we arrive. No skydiving, no Michelin Star restaurants. I don't really care. I'm going to be in Paris for my birthday!!!

I booked a non-stop flight from SFO to Heathrow, I planned on taking the train through the Chunnel to Paris and then we were flying non-stop from Charles de Gaulle (Paris) to SFO. We live practically next to the airport now so it was super easy to ask a friend to drive us. A great start because right off the bat we saved $80 for the taxi or airporter. We practically waltzed onto the plane with no issues at all. The BF loves sitting next to the window so I booked him a seat there leaving me to sit in the middle. I don't know why he isn't an aisle guy. I am. I am tall. He is taller....MUCH TALLER. He is 6'7" for goodness sake. No matter. Whatever makes him happy. I look to my left, I see the love of my life. The guy who confessed to me the day before that he was going to propose to me on the trip but didn't get a ring that he thought I would like in time so we are postponing the engagement. I am fine with that. We aren't too huge on getting married anyways. I look at him and I fill of warmth, comfort, love and happiness. I love being on planes!! It always means something great is about to happen for me.
I love being on an airplane, despite the fact that I can't sleep, I'm crowded and the sound is mean I am going somewhere fun!
I look to my right and I see a tiny Indian woman who smiled at me and went back to minding her business. I thought, great, I have tons of space and no one will be bothering me. As the plane rolls back, away from the dock, I look back to my left to watch the runway go by. I turned to my right and my Indian lady friend was gone, replaced by a ponytailed, tattooed man in about his 40's. He smiled as the aroma of whiskey wafted through his grinning teeth. The woman had traded with him to be with her husband and I was left to change my in-flight game-plan. The man and I began to chat lightly. When the first drink cart came by he bought a half bottle of red wine. I didn't even know they HAD bottles bigger than the miniature 187ml ones but something told me that this guy would be the guy who would find that out. When the drink cart people came back picking up the trash, my new friend ordered three of the mini bottles. The attendant explained a passenger can only order one per person. He looked at me and the bf and back at the attendant. She gave him the three bottles but I am pretty sure she saw through the very thin vail. My new buddy ended up buying around 20 bottles of red wine under the rouse that our entire row was drinking heavily. Of those 20 I actually drank two because he was offering the bottles to us each time he purchased them. He was getting up and heading back to the galley every half hour or so.
My booze buddy. I think you can sort of tell how wasted he is in this photo. Sorry it is so blurry but we were all knackered from lack of sleep if not from alcohol.
He wasn't an unpleasant drunk so we got to talking. The conversation was casual as one might expect for half of us being blotto on red wine. I really felt bad for the guy. I still do. Even writing this I get a little dehydrated. Drinking that much red wine, for that many hours will dehydrate a person all on it's own. But when you are on a plane, the circulated air and cabin pressure can suck the water out even faster. Our flight was supposed to be 10 hours but we were lucky and had a massive tail wind that landed us an hour early. I chose to use this new friendship to help me with some of my anxieties about when we land. I know I have very little money and the more I can save, the better. Usually, when I land in a city I walk straight out to the Taxi queue and take the taxi straight to the hotel. This is the simplest way to do things. And I like simple after flying across the US and Atlantic. I get jet lag and I get it really bad. I have trouble thinking or putting words together, let alone speaking other languages. At least this time we were landing in an English speaking country but that doesn't make navigating to my hotel any easier. My new friend talked me into doing something I have never done before and have always been to afraid to do. I was going to take the Underground to our hotel. I mean, this guy was brave enough to drink his weight in wine for 9 hours and to top that off, his wife was coming in on a later flight. He had plans to wait in the Heathrow bar for the 5 hours until she landed. That is commitment to drinking if ever there were. If he could do that, I could get on a silly little subway.
All we have to do is go from what is highlighted to where I am pointing. No problem!
My extreme jet lag coupled with my adversity to public transportation due to social anxiety has always kept me from taking any cheaper routes to my hotel. So, I thank you, my Suffolk friend with the red stained teeth. We landed at about 5am, London time. We didn't check any bags so we just walked off the plane and followed the signs to the Taxis. Baggage claim and Taxi service is always near the exit so I know to follow those signs to get out of an airport. Luckily, in every country, the word Taxi is always the same so that helps a lot. We herded ourselves through the passport check and headed towards the outside. I had a bit of adrenalin pumping through me as I tried to psyche myself up for this new adventure of taking the Underground. That excitement started to wane as I got a bit lost. Turns out, there are all sorts of public transportation leaving Heathrow airport. There were stairs going up, some going down, there were people movers going this way and that. The room started spinning and I began to panic. I had just stepped off the plane and I was already lost! I stopped to take some big breaths. I looked up and who did I see? My friend, swaying and waving. I ran over and gave him a big hug. He directed me to the underground which was....underground. Why didn't I think of that? We just had to go DOWN. I was so appreciative that I Facebook friended him. I was appreciative as well as super curious how he was going to get through the next 6 hours.

The reason our taking this of particular trip on the underground was a good one is that it was a straight shot. That makes for a great training step for me. If I had to switch trains or walk too much, I would certainly get lost, tired and put off of ever doing that again. So we went down. And down again until we found ourselves in a ticket office. We chose to purchase our tickets from a human rather than a teller machine to reduce the amount of errors we could make. It was a bit of a line but worth it to make sure we were getting where we needed to go. We got our tickets and made our way to the proper platform. It was something like a 50 minute ride. We got on the train at about 5:30 in the morning which meant we would be picking up commuters as we went along. I was feeling lucky that we got on the subway car at one end of the line because we were able to get seats and establish ourselves. I put my suitcase in front of me between my knees in anticipation of more people getting on as we progressed in our journey. My boozy pal told me if I tripped people with my suitcase I should laugh at it instead of being mortified. Terrible advice but I took it anyways because it helped me immensely with my anxiety. And people did trip over me a little. I tried my best to not be in anyones way. I always think that they are working or trying to get to work, I am not so I should be the one going out of my way to make it easier on them. I relaxed more and more and time went on. I began to get a bit giddy...another symptom of jet lag. I think I took 20 selfies and I took a photo of every stop we made. I was making a bit of a childish fool out of my self because the end of the Piccadilly line that we were on is Cockfosters. I giggled at the silly name each time the automatic lady voice told us where we were going. I also kept singing Morrissey songs. "The Piccadilly Palare" has a line I sung over and over in my head;

So why do you smile when you think about Earl's Court?
But you cry when you think of all the battles you've fought (and lost)?
It may all end tomorrow
Or it could go on forever...

Once Piccadilly Circus came up, we stood up and got off the train.

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