9 March 2011, parts 1 – 3

9 03 2011

It’s five minutes til the 9th of March, but not here.  Here it’s not yet 7 pm and the waiting game began about an hour ago.  I must say this – all of the orrific stories I read of other people’s experiences with Virgin Airlines and their special assistance have all proven untrue for me, thus far.

We arrived here at Mami and maneuvered through the maze that is the international airport’s traffic layout and nearly side-swiped a little blue car in the rental car that was under Glenn’s mother’s name and credit card.  After finally making it through that hell and returning the car rental, we caught the shuttle to the actual airport a few miles away.  Once at the airport, the Virgin check-in clerk, Daniela, did the rest.  She pleasantly chatter about the sites not to miss in Edinburgh, summoned a wheelchair assistant and guided us to the waiting area.

Alejandro, our wheelchair assistant, cheerfully maneuvered us through each check point, no lines, no waiting and was very informative along the way.

We now sit here at the terminal, F19, waiting.  And waiting.

For another hour more at least.

As Kayla said – an hour is more like ten years when you’ve waited for months to get going!  I couldn’t agree more.

-~-

We boarded with little trouble, kindly escorted down the ramps, but not to our seats.  Of course, I was silly enough to have picked the furthest back seats on the Airbus A340 on which we are flying.  I’ll not make that mistake again seeing at it was 70 rows back from the loading doors.

Within an hour we were wheels up and over the most impressive, albeit light polluted, view of Miami and the Atlantic seaboard.  Kayla quipped about how evident it was that we Americans used too much electricity and true that was.  As far as the eye could see, there were city lights or their glow visible.

The meal options were vegetarian vegetable pess-tah (pasta) or chicken stir-fry.  The opposing aisle had the pess-ta or beef stew – the latter of which I truly wanted, but I chose the stir fry rather than be a pain in the ass.

I have to pause and state what a wonderful meal it was, no sarcasm.  Salad was crisp green leaves of romaine and arugula blends, very flavourful!  The stir fry had great large vegetables and tender thigh pieces of chicken, with rice cooked to perfection.  Colour me surprised.  A nice brown betty type of dessert and roll complimented it all.

The seats aren’t great, but I expected that, yet anything within their power to make it better, the stewards did.  And then some.

We had a lovely breakfast of a wheat roll with cheese and either egg or ham, and a stunning aerial view of Ireland out the window as we ate.  The seat back “tellie” had a nifty “Where Am I Now” programme that we were able to use for tracking the flight along the way with moderate accuracy.

The girls are getting a kick out of the British accents and terms the flight staff have been using, such as rubbish instead of trash, queue instead of line; but for me it’s their pronunciation that I’ve been focusing on.  For all of my watching of British movies and shows, you’d think I wouldn’t have to ask twice for them to repeat, much less thrice…

Turbulence being as it is, I must stop for now.

-~-

After about five loops over London, we’ve finally landed at Heathrow, early no less.  It’s as expected, gloomy and overcast – and just beautiful!

Robert Carter, who reminds me of Liza Doolittle’s father, is my special assistant and so funny!  He wheeled me down to our own private shuttle bus to Terminal One.  Once there he took us over to “have some fags” and he decided to have a couple fags too.  Glenn looked a bit bewildered, though I had told him that they are called fags here, I think he thought I was just full of it.

Nonetheless, we choked down our first smoke or five since Miami in record time, and Robert let us know that we had a four hour layover and plenty of time to come back out for more if we would like, but he could take us inside for coffee if we wanted.

Coffee!!

Robert chatted with us and every person he encountered, and they with him as well.  It surprises me how personable everyone we see is.  Except perhaps the police.

As we sit here drinking our coffee, the armored police have been strolling by in pairs, fingers readied on the triggers of their AK47 assault rifles with sniper scopes – like something you might see in a Bond flick.  These guys mean business.  We contemplated taking a picture but wondered if it is legal and if it isn’t, do you really want to find out the hard way?

The Costa here for our coffee is much like a Starbucks, but better coffee by far.  Overpriced, but they put effort into their work, complete with designs of chocolate powder onto the foam of your latte and swirls and layers of foam on the cappuccino.  Impressed I am.  Alannah ordered a Camomile tea, which arrived in a pint glass like you might see in a bar.  The cost was 7 pounds, which we paid for with a $100 and received back 2 – 20 pound notes, 1 – 5 pound note and a handful of coins with pence and pound on them.  I have to presume it was right, but Glenn asked me no less than three times if our coffee really cost about $50.  I got confused and decided the stress wasn’t worth it and just said yes.

We ventured out into the cold, wet air for a few more fags before getting into the queue for assistance for the flight to Edinburgh.  I cannot say enough how courteous everyone of their staff here is, even random strangers.  A Mrs. Smith (smy-th) inquired about my back and suggested methods to alleviate my pain (rest mostly) and said to avoid any suggested surgeries because Docs just think of surgery as a cure all when it isn’t.

It seems only I chose to sleep on the first flight and as I sit here writing this, Kayla and Alannah lie next to me, inverted to use one another as pillows, and Glenn is sprawled out across four seats.  I however, am alert and anxious.

Within 24 hours I’ll have seen the sun rise over Brogdar, toured Skara Brae, and we’ll have shimmied down into Wideford Carn to explore the tombs.

Time to board and will write more later.

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