Vacation USA – The Voyage Home

Some time back I booked a trip home for the first couple of weeks in May, I did this because there were two-three day week-ends the first two weeks of May and I thought I would lose less time from work that way.  It turns out my job doesn’t work that way, but as it turned out I needed to go home before the end of May to take care of some things back home so it worked out just fine.  Even Steven.

I booked flight on British Airways (BA).  After today I think they are my new favorite airline.  I talked to a couple of other advisors and they said BA was the way to go.  The flight I booked leaves Pristina in the afternoon, so you can get a workday in before leaving.  It then stops at London, Gatwick overnight, BA puts you up in a hotel overnight and in the morning you transfer to Heathrow for the flight to Chicago O’Hare (or wherever you’re going).

My flight from Pristina to Gatwick was uneventful; there were two others on the plane I knew.  An Assistant US Attorney (AUSA) from San Diego who had been in Pristina on temporary duty (TDY) helping with the Kosovo Criminal Procedure Code Revisions, and a Scottish EULEX Advisor to the Director of the Kosovo Police (KP).  I had been
working with the US Attorney so we sat together on the flight to London.  The flight, was full of children, and very large man we referred to as “Andre the Giant” sat next to the AUSA on the flight, he was so large he had to put his arm over the back of the seat to fit
into it.  This was unfortunate since the strong odor of his arm pits permeated our row of seats.  Thankfully, other than that and a man deciding to try to use the bathroom as the plane landed, resulting in the stewards threatening to divert the plane from landing if he didn’t sit down, the flight was uneventful.

We landed about 1700 (5:00pm) London time.  I made it through customs and retrieved my luggage without a problem.  The hotel was about 500 yards from the hotel so I walked there instead of waiting on a shuttle.  Everyone I spoke with, from the customs officer to the hotel clerk, was very friendly.  After checking into the hotel I decided to try to get some Flat Stanley, photos in London, so I took a shuttle but to the South terminal and caught a train to London.  All of the shuttles and trains went off without a hitch.  I arrived at Victoria Station after about a 35 minute train ride. Here the timing almost caught up
with me.

I wanted to go to Parliament, Big Ben, and Westminster to take some photos but it was getting dark.  I had been to those places on my last trip and I knew they were closer together and wouldn’t take too long to see.  I didn’t realize it until I got there but Victoria Station is about four blocks from Buckingham palace and in the theater district.  Due to the lighting I decided to get some pictures of the Palace and the theater district.  It worked out fine.  Even Steven.  I followed the crowds to Buckingham Palace, where apparently Price Andrew and Kate had retired after their wedding earlier in the day.  The place was packed with people and media.  After walking around the area for a while I took the train back to the hotel without incident.  I got to my room and went to sleep.

On the 30th I woke up, ate a huge British Breakfast at the hotel and walked to the Airport where I caught the express shuttle to Heathrow.  I got to Heathrow about 9:00 and found the place surprisingly empty.  I had upgraded my ticket from economy to economy plus class and was told in Pristina to go to the ticket counter at Heathrow to get my seat assignment, when I got to Heathrow there was some initial confusion on the part of the Airline where I needed to go.  As a result they upgraded me to full Business class and was granted access to the Airport lounges.  SWEET.

This is the way to travel, I spent the remaining hour and fifteen minutes in the way plush lounge eating free food and drinking free drinks, shortly before takeoff I walked to the to the gate and immediately when through the priority seating gate, bypassing a couple hundred people waiting in line.  Upon boarding the plane I was directed to my mini-suit.  This isn’t a seat it’s a booth with a seat that converts to a bed, I was brought a choice of champagne, juice or water.  Shortly after takeoff I was brought a menu and fed a pretty darn good three course meal.  As write I am waiting on my dessert, watching a movie on my private screen, listening to music from my laptop which is plugged in as I write this.
I think that soon I will see how the bed option works and take a nap.  I could get used to flying across the pond this way…


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