Thursday, July 24, 2014

Trip Show & Tell

***This is long. Go make a cup of tea, then settle in!***

Air Canada: our journey to London Heathrow had two stops, each with an hour and a half on the ground (Toronto, Dublin).
Our flight from Denver to Toronto was delayed 45 minutes, our flight from Toronto to Dublin was delayed three hours - thereby fully missing our connection to London.  It's a long story, but in short: Air Canada did nothing to book us on a new flight, and we had to do it ourselves with Aer Lingus (our final flight was with them anyway).  What this resulted in: arriving in London five hours late and lost luggage (both of us).  I had a claim number (I filed with Aer Lingus upon landing), but no one was calling us back.  I had an anxiety attack in the middle of the night, called home - luckily, my Dad talked me down.  The next morning, we decided to change our plans (seeing as we were beginning day three in the same clothes, no toiletries or anything), do less sightseeing and more damage control (H&M for t-shirts and underwear, Boots for deodorant and the like).  At the end of the day, I surrendered any hope of hearing from anyone at the airline, and talked to our concierge at the Hilton London Kensington.
If you've ever seen "The Grand Budapest Hotel", you will understand: always go to your concierge.  He got a hold of the airline immediately - our bags were still in Dublin.  It took another 24 hours (just before 9pm) for our bags to arrive at the hotel, but they did, thanks to Tim (concierge) and the Divine.  Thus, four days after we took off - we had our luggage. I've never felt so lucky as when I looked at everything in my suitcase.
Aside: it was during these stressful days that we visited Oxford Circus, Picadilly Circus, Leicester Square, and Covent Garden.  I have a couple of pictures, but wasn't really feeling like myself.  Our international charger/converter was in my luggage, our phones were dying (we charged through the USB ports in our hotel room's tv, but it was only 5 volts - not the 110 volts needed. Thus charged very little, slowly) and I wanted to save my camera's battery in the event that our bags never made it. 

The morning after we received our luggage, we checked out and went to pick up our car. I did buy international data, but limited usage to Google Maps - and only when off course.  Before leaving each destination, I mapped our next location using wi-fi (yes, I had paper map directions but I'd recommend both) and let the navigation load.  Even with no wi-fi or data on, Siri will still tell you where to go (unless you get off course, thus turn data back on).  It helped make our driving experience so easy.
Back to where we stayed: all rooms were two twin beds with en suite bath. The Hilton was a splurge (and I am SO GLAD I booked it for our first three nights in England), but I caught a good deal on Travelocity: 30% off.  Five stars for the concierge and free shampoo & soap alone.

In Windsor: Innkeeper's Lodge  The rooms you see in the photos are accurate, they have free parking, free wi-fi, quiet, carb heavy continental breakfast (I had three types of toast... and different jams).

In Salisbury:  CityLodge  Budget for a reason, because the building is on the historical registry - they don't want to repair anything.  Windows and window sills were covered with another piece of glass attached the wall. Stuffy, moldy, paper thin walls (I heard the entire discussion the foreigners had all night). No pictures on the website also for a reason. I'd love to visit this city again, but I'd stay elsewhere. Unrelated picture, but from Salisbury:

In Southend-on-Sea: Hamilton's Boutique Hotel. Lovely, comfortable, and breakfast served on blue china (I ate toast, hashbrowns, tomato half and mushrooms).  Coffee served in a french press. Photo:

Our last three nights in London, we stayed in the budget Comfotel GRN  Good location on the tube, nice people, accommodating breakfast (they brought out soy yogurt and non-dairy margarine for my toast), but our room was on the fourth floor - in the attic.  Sloped ceilings, the bathroom was in the closet, and skylights - no ventilation.  Our last night - at the end of the hottest day, my brother (albeit dehydrated by his choice, as I was constantly buying water) woke up with heat stroke around 3am.  Our room was close to 100 degrees, so we went down to the street to bring down his temperature (he was nauseous, couldn't feel his left leg, dizzy, racing heartbeat - called Mom, who talked him down.) We left for Heathrow earlier than needed in the morning!

If you go: Oyster Card, The London Pass, English Heritage Pass  

The Oyster Card is a pre-paid card, which you can reload, for discounted Tube fares.  I still have about $8 worth on it, so if you need one - let me know.  The London Pass included most major sites in and around London.  You can buy the amount of days you'll need, and in some cases it acts as a "fast pass" with your own separate entrance to popular sites.  We bought the two day, and had "paid" for our pass in two and a half site visits (we used it six times total). The English Heritage Pass (we bought the oversea's visitor pass) saved us $20 each, and we only used it twice: Stonehenge and Dover Castle.

Souvenirs: Harrod's tea towels & oven mitt ($35 - No wonder we couldn't afford anything nicer! Ha!), English Toffee from Selfridges, Earl Gray Tea - with Prince Charles seal from Windsor Farm Shop (even though the bag says Buckingham).  All given to parents.
My souvenir: scarves bought from street vendor on Oxford Street. Medium blue with black butterflies, Cream with brown horses. I had been eyeing different stands for a while, then settled on these.  They are very soft!

I learned a lot about myself during this trip, and I'm so glad I got to share this experience with my brother.  I would go back in heartbeat, two bad hotels and all....but on a direct flight.  ;)

11 comments:

  1. Wow, what an adventure and clearly we didn't even know the half of it! The flight sounds like a disaster, I've heard terrible things about Air Canada. I pretty much refuse to check my bags on 99% of flights and I think the only flights I've ever checked bags was my flight moving to Seattle and my flights to and from Europe. Losing my luggage is a big fear of mine but it seems like you and your brother handled it well and you definitely had a good plan to conserve your resources. That is so amazing that the concierge was able to track your bags down and they arrived just in time! I'm sorry that it put a bit of a cloud over your first few days but I'm glad that it worked out in the end.

    Hamilton's Boutique Hotel looks so charming! I love the aesthetic, it is so lovely :) That is so horrible about the final stop though! I've had heat stroke before and it is awful. It must have been really scary experiencing it in a different country and feeling so ill right before having to fly home. Glad that he was ok though and that you both ended up having a great time despite some of the obstacles you faced.

    Beautiful scarves!! Definitely a great choice! I hear ya on the direct flight though ;) I'm glad it was such a good experience for you, it definitely seems like an amazing trip! It's nice to have you back though ;)

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    1. At the time, it felt less like an adventure, and more like chaos! Ha ha! But now that I've lived and survived it, I can say that I've learned a lot about traveling internationally (and how lucky I've been to not have had this happen previously!). I think international flights are the only ones not charging for a bag, and I don't own an overhead bin size case - but I might soon! ;)

      I was uncertain about the last hotel, and knew it would be a gamble - but it was cheap. Next time, I'll do a better job investigating and not compromise! It's funny that both of us had a bit of breakdown, and I'm so thankful that he did recover and we didn't have to go to a hospital.

      By our last day, I was ready to return - but now, I wish that I was still traveling! I love seeing something different, learning new things, every single day. My life seems a little boring now! Ha!

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  2. I'm so sorry you had the problems you did, but way to go Mr. Concierge! I had no idea they could help with things like that (and boo on the airline for not being more helpful with you.) Glad you were still able to make the most of it.

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    1. Thanks Abby! I am so thankful our luggage was returned! We had a great time, and while my brother doesn't care much about traveling again (he's a homebody), I can't wait to get out there!

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  3. I am surprised there was no compensation from the Airline. I'm with Sarah, I have rarelly checked my luggage. Can't even remember doing itt ever. What a wonderful bonding experience with your brother. You sound like very compatible travellers. It is tough travelling with someone and 'losing it' is not uncommon.

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    1. Clearly, Air Canada didn't care. Our flight back was much better, but I won't be booking with them again. If only I was a millionaire, I'd fly on Virgin...

      I should buy a smaller suitcase, just for domestic traveling. And one that is easily identified. When describing my bag, I said "it's black, has a handle and wheels when upright". Just like every other bag in the universe. I only had an old hot pink plastic id tag with my name and phone number. Otherwise - it would have been faceless and nameless!

      I think it turned out alright, and I would travel with him again. However, I think he did this trip partially for me, as no one would have come with me otherwise. He's not big into travel or exploration, so that might be his first and last stamp in his passport. Me, however, I have price watching reminders on other destinations already!

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    2. I have travelled solo many times due to not knowing anyone else who wants to go. In fact, I'm pretty sure all my bad travel experiences were when I was with someone else.

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  4. I did what you told me to and made a cuppa. It's Irish Breakfast, though.
    Anyway, I'm so sorry you had to deal with all that stress from the airline and the lost luggage, hotel rooms and all. Fearing that is part of the reason I dread traveling. When I was in France, my girlfriend at the time got sick and it was so frustrating trying to get medicine and not being able to communicate... we also may have stayed in a hotel run by the French mob, basically, but hey. It's all a learning experience, right?
    I also totally would not have been as well prepared as you guys! I don't have a smart phone, so I would have been totally lost on the roads but this is all good to know.
    Figuring out the public transportation system is also sometimes difficult in new cities. You guys really did well. Like Shen says, it's good you and yr brother were together.
    Really pretty scarves. The blue is such a nice color, I'm sure they look great on you. (Did you and yr brother take any photos of yrselves you care to share?? ;) )

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    1. Wonderful! I'll have some tea soon (although probably iced, as it's a little warm).

      The panic of being elsewhere and not knowing what to do and where to go, is a little overwhelming. I'm so glad she got through it! I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been for you both! Oh my, run by the French mob - there's a story in there whenever you feel like sharing! Ha ha!

      The tube was easy, and having paper maps and navigation (we could have added it to our car package...for $200. Nope.) made driving pretty easy. We had a few wrong turns, and one occasion where I thought my bladder was going to explode - but otherwise, great. ;)

      We did take a couple! He's pretty private, so I haven't asked if he would mind - but I will found out!

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  5. Wow, reading the first part of the fiasco you had to go through almost make *me* have a panic attack, so I can just imagine how you were feeling! Thank goodness for the awesome concierge (we just watched The Grand Budapest and loved it :)). I'm glad things got sorted out but, yeah, I can definitely see why you weren't feeling like yourself until that happened. I get the same way and get out of any mood to capture the moment with a camera.

    You were smart to print off directions. It's something we always do when on a long trip and has come in extremely handy a few times.

    Scary that your brother got dehydrated and started to get sick. I'm glad he got better! Most of the places you stayed at sound pretty decent. That can really make or break a day, can't it? You attitude about the bad stuff is terrific, though. We always have something go horribly wrong on each trip we take but would gladly do it all over again, too.

    The scarves are gorgeous and certainly look soft! It was so nice of you to bring your parents some gifts, too.

    I really enjoyed all of your trip posts, Ingrid. It was really fun to read about it all!

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    1. It certainly was an experience, Molly! I should have started with him our first night, but I was so delirious with exhaustion that it didn't occur to me. I think I said something to reception, but can't be sure. (The movie was so good!)

      I think you're right - something unexpected can happen at every trip, and it's all about getting through it! While I drink a ton of water, he has never felt the need to (oh, youth!), so the fact that it happened to him was scary, yet not unavoidable. Obviously, I need to do even more research when booking a place!

      Thank you so much, and I'm so glad you enjoyed the recap! I love revisiting it!

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