The Trip — 2016: Part 28 — Leaving England

We checked out of The Swan at Streatley at nine-thirty this morning and rode to Heathrow with the same driver who took us to Newbury yesterday and arrived at Terminal 5 shortly before eleven. Our itinerary told us to go to Terminal 5; however, BA said that our flight (actually on American Airlines like our flight to London) was leaving from Terminal 3. We are currently waiting for a Special Assistance bus to take us to Terminal 3.

Trip - Di and luggage in the bus
Di and luggage in the bus

Well, at slightly after noon the assistance bus arrived. The driver lowered the ramp in the back and then stopped traffic so that Di could drive her scooter into the back of the bus. He then loaded the luggage and we were off. The trip to terminal 3 took about ten minutes, without any stops or hang-ups along the way. We were quickly unloaded and . . . Di needs a last smoke before going into the terminal.

The AA desks are to the right of our entry and there is no one in line ahead of us. We are quickly processed except for the scooter. After about ten minutes the clerk finally clears things dealing with Di’s scooter and up into the lift we go to go through Security.

Again, Di’s scooter gets us the short line, which really isn’t too much shorter than the long line. Five or fewer minutes later we are through Security and into the shops and headed for Lounge H — AA’s Admiral’s Lounge. It’s a small lounge but there is warm food and cold drinks. I have a bit of lunch and a drink. Di has a cup of tea and a couple of pieces of chocolate cake and some bread and butter.

Our flight appears to be delayed a bit, but I don’t know how long a delay.

Just checked at the entry to the lounge and it seems as though the two o’clock flight to LA is now the three-fifteen flight to LA and should start boarding from Gate 27 about two-thirty or in about thirty-five minutes.

Well, I went shopping. First I went to a couple of book/magazine type stores and tried to get a crossword puzzle book — but, they only have British style crossword puzzle books. And, second, I went to buy some whisky. That took me to World of Whiskies. I found some that the clerk told me were not exported to the US — maybe, maybe not, but they are not generally available in Britain. I bought two bottles of Auchentoshan which I had enjoyed at the Quod Restaurant in Oxford. I hope they’ll taste as good in the US.

Trip - View from the lounge
View from the lounge

Returning to the AA lounge at about two twenty-five, I found that our flight was already boarding at Gate 27 — Di didn’t know because the announcements did not reach the part of the lounge in which I had found seats.

Gathering our stuff together, we ventured out into the Heathrow pathways and slideways to Gate 27. Upon arrival we were given assistance and shunted, after passport checks, etc., to the front of the line into the aircraft. Di drove her scooter to the aircraft door, escorted past everyone else, of course, and put on board. I brought our hand-carry items to our seats — garnering some comments along the way about her riding and me having to carry both her and my carry-on luggage — and then went back to fold up the scooter so that it could be stowed in the cargo hold and brought to us at LAX without delay. (Of course, they wouldn’t let me off the plane to go some six feet and fold up the scooter until they got an OK from Security.)

After stowing our gear in the overheads Di had some OJ and I some champagne while we waited for everyone else to finish boarding and the flight to begin.

(To be continued)

The Trip — 2016: Part 20 — Heathrow to Oxford

Trip - Old Bank Hotel and Quod Restaurant
Old Bank Hotel and Quod Restaurant

Only a dozen people or so were left in the baggage area and I was only able to find three of our four checked bags (Di’s scooter, however, was there and I unfolded it for her to ride through customs and to our taxi). After waiting for the remainder of the flight’s bags to be unloaded, and not finding Bag #4 containing Di’s extra shoes, sandals, knickers and everyday clothing, we filed a claim with BA. We were assured the bag would be delivered to our hotel the next day. (It is now 9:22 pm the next day and the missing bag has still not shown; BA’s phone line has been too busy to speak with anyone.)

Trip - Don, Kathy, Di and Joe - University College, Oxford
Don, Kathy, Di and Joe – University College, Oxford

Helen was taking a train and bus to her home in London while the rest of us went in a hire car, think taxi, to take Trish home in Newbury and us to our hotels in Oxford.

Trish had Peter, our driver, get off the motorway a bit early to give Don (his first time in England) and Kathy a tour of a bit of English countryside.

Trip - Shelly
Shelly

We dropped Trish at her home only to find that the neighbors who were keeping an eye on her place had not placed the key where they had said they would. Eventually, we had to leave as it was getting dark. Trish said she’d be OK — turned out the neighbors were in another backyard garden and hadn’t thought Trish would be home so early.

We went on to Oxford and Don and Cathy landed at their B&B, and we checked into the Old Bank Hotel. The room’s a bit small and cramped but looks nice. It has some handicapped accessible features and Charlie can use her scooter to go outside for a smoke. It took me three tries to get some ice so I could have a drink and there is no fridge (there is a stocked mini-bar cooler), nor microwave nor tea/coffee maker — hmmm . . . there is an attached restaurant and room service.

Trip - On to the Ashmolean Museum
On to the Ashmolean Museum

I took Di out to smoke in the parking lot behind the hotel and then had a couple of drinks (Trish and Helen had gotten me a bottle of Cardhu at Corfu Duty Free) and some of Di’s Twiglets before turning in for the evening.

The hotel delivered a London Times and Daily Telegraph this morning and I read parts of them before Don and Kathy showed up about nine. We went to the Quod Restaurant next door for coffee, tea and breakfast. The service was slow, and we weren’t even asked if we’d like a second cup. No, I didn’t get any breakfast.

Trip - Egyptian exhibit at the Ashmolean
Egyptian exhibit at the Ashmolean

About ten-thirty we started to walk to see Shelly’s memorial (who, ironically, did not graduate from University College) and then walked in the other direction to take in some of the Ashmolean Museum. Don and Cathy wanted to split up to meet us at the Quod for High Tea at 3:30 pm. (Liliana, the librarian from Charlie’s former school was in Oxford with her husband for the summer and was also going to join us there.)

I asked Charlie if she wanted to see the museum and she said no. I asked why we were there and she said she wanted Don and Cathy to see it or, at least, have the opportunity to do so. Therefore, I wandered through the museum until after one when Charlie wanted to go outside for a smoke. I came out after another ten minutes and she now wants to go shopping for some skin moisturizer and knickers.

Trip - Tea
Tea

We do this and return to our hotel to wait for her friends and guests to show up for tea. I go next door to make reservations and am told they are taking no more, just show up — great. Everyone arrives and there is no room for us in the restaurant. We have to go to the “library” in the hotel. Eventually we arrange the furniture to suit ourselves and open windows that seemed to have remained unopened for decades to get some fresh air and cooling.

Trip - Kathy, Tricia, Di and Lilliana
Kathy, Tricia, Di and Liliana

Tea is served and we remain talking for some hours; Trish joins us; plans are made and changed; a round of Pimms is shared. Trish eventually takes Don and Cathy to a pub where they’ll meet her son and have a drink. Liliana and her husband have already left and Di and I head back to our room.

(to be continued)

The Trip — 2016: Part 19 — Villa Andonis to Heathrow

Time to take a swim before the day gets too hot to go out in the sun; after all, I’m not an Englishman.

Don and Kathy took the bus to Kassiopi; Becka walked to the harbor to do a little swimming in the bay (and maybe a bit of shopping); Di and her sisters are in and out of the pool and I’m reading the “local” papers online.

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Eirini, Di and Dora

Being as this is our last full day at the villa, the sisters who own it came to say goodbye to Di, and the rest of us, this morning and brought her a few small gifts. They’re good people as Di has gotten to know them quite well through two years of email communications and frequent conversations while we’ve been here.

Dinner was a home-made affair of chicken, pasta and salad provided mostly by Trish and Helen.

Our last day, Friday, dawned just as beautiful, with promise to be hot, as most of those in the previous three weeks. I had my swim about nine and then went in to shower and finish packing. Di and her sisters swam later and sunned until after one in the afternoon. By that time I had most of Di’s stuff packed, including the items she’d purchased on Corfu for herself or for gifts.

Trip - Villa Andonis on the day we left.
Villa Andonis on the day we left.

Our taxi was late and arrived about two-fifteen. We loaded our belongings, Charlie’s scooter and ourselves and we were off. The drive to Corfu airport took about a half-hour.

At the airport we went to check in and all went fine until we came to Charlie’s scooter. First the security had me load it on the luggage belt to go through the scan — it wouldn’t fit. Later they decided that it had to have its battery attached — contrary to what had been AA and BA policy on our two flights previous. They had me wait in an out of the way area until the scooter was brought out from the luggage loading area.

Can you see me getting ticked off at both BA and Corfu security?

Trip - BA A-320, Passenger bus, wheel-chair loading truck.
BA A-320, Passenger bus, wheel-chair loading truck.

Then they came and got me and told I now had to go through security with the rest of my party, who had also been held up, and go to “6” just past Gate 5. (Gate 1 is where the rest of the passengers on our flight were to board.)

Di and I were hurried through security and to “6” at the end of the Departure level of the terminal. We were taken outside into the 90°+ heat of the day and I had to attach the battery to Di’s scooter. It was then wheeled off to be loaded onto our A320. The gentleman who had taken charge of us wanted Di and I to wait in the chairs there to be taken to the plane in about “5 minutes.”

NO, we were not going to wait in the heat and sun for him to return, so he reluctantly brought us back into the terminal with its minimal air conditioning. And, no, Di did not have time to shop in Duty Free. Yeah. Fifteen – twenty minutes later our guide returned to get us to the plane.

Trip - Passenger loading/unloading stairs.
Passenger loading/unloading stairs.

Now we were a bit ticked off but the next part was actually neat. Di was wheeled down a long ramp and to the back of rather large truck, but it wasn’t exactly a truck. The back end had a lift gate which we all got on and it lifted to the passenger area of the vehicle. The airport worker opened the door and pushed Charlie in. There was an identical door in the front to the right of the driver and another lift.

We drove to the front of the plane and parked just inches from the plane. The entire passenger section of our vehicle was then lifted to the level of the plane’s door and Charlie was wheeled forward. All she had to do was walk a step to the plane and then another fifteen feet or so to her seat in Aisle 1.

Trip - Lunch
Lunch / Dinner

After we were seated the buses from the terminal carried the rest of the passengers out to be boarded. A weather delay over western Europe caused a half hour delay of our takeoff, but the plane was cool and it wasn’t a problem.

The flight itself was smooth; the Jack Daniels plentiful and the prawn dinner tasty. We had a twenty-five minute wait until a wheelchair arrived to take Di into the terminal at Heathrow. A longish walk and a two-stop tram ride brought us to the baggage area . . . Problem.


Trip - Back over England
Back over England

The Trip — 2016: Part 6 — Donnington Grove

Trip - Donnington Grove

We head down the rather steep hill (Di’s sitting in her wheelie and I’m backing “up” so she doesn’t go rolling down at breakneck speed) and stop for a pot of tea (for Di) at Costa Coffee and then to the newsagent’s for magazine, candy and cigarettes. They didn’t have the cigarettes she wanted, but we got candy and her gossip rag. Then it’s back up the hill a bit to the coffee shop and the remainder of her tea.

About ten to six, I begin to push her up the hill to the bank building and it begins to rain — no, we don’t have any rain gear as we hadn’t anticipated being around so long. The doorway has a small overhang and we didn’t get too wet as the taxi was right on time. In goes Di, in goes her “wheelie” and in goes I. Fifteen or so minutes later we’re “home” again.

Gerry and I go to the local fish and chips shop and get four orders of fish, three of chips and one of “mushy” peas. The food was good although Di didn’t really like Maria’s putting the chips in the oven to crisp them up a bit — they were no longer proper “English chips” but American “French fries.”

Trip - The Donnington Hotel - Our room is in the building on the right.
The Donnington Hotel – Our room is in the building on the right.

On Wednesday it’s time to leave Maria and Gerry and head to Newbury where we will stay a night in a hotel before Heathrow and a plane to Corfu on Thursday. The same driver who brought us to Hopton picked us up about 11 am and the three-hour journey begins. Less traffic, a bit less conversation between the two ladies but a much higher volume on the radio, BBC2. Oh, what a headache.

We arrived at the Donnington Grove Hotel and Country Club. No one’s playing golf because of the rain. Our driver helps with unloading our gear, but we then find out our room is in a separate building, again uphill of the main building and reception. Another major job of moving luggage (grumble, grumble, grumble). I put Di’s scooter back together and she motors up to the room while I schlep our luggage in three or four trips.

Trip - Donnington Grove Hotel Main Entry
Donnington Grove Hotel Main Entry

She has a couple of cigarettes and I make her a pot of tea to keep her company while I take a walk — the first real exercise I’ve had in a week.

“Oh, didn’t you get enough exercise going up and down the stairs at Gerry and Maria’s or dealing with the luggage and Di’s scooter?” No. I don’t call running errands for the wife exercise.

The golf course was rather pretty, had a nice old bridge and ducks and swans aplenty so I took my camera along on the walk. I found a public footpath through the golf course and had an hour and a half walk.

Back at the hotel I enquired after a bite to eat and a drink. The whisky was good but the English make a “Canadian pour” look generous. I also brought a menu back to the room for Charlie to look at.

Oh, yeah, when I charged my drink to our room the bartender said he’d just brought my wife fresh milk and sugar for her tea.

Di’s sister, Tricia, was in the room with Di and they made dinner reservations for six o’clock. Dinner for Di and I as Tricia had to go home and get packed and ready to fly with us the next day.

Trip - Di and the finally chosen wine.
Di and the finally chosen wine.

The dinner was very good. I had a salmon Caesar salad and poached salmon while Di had a small green salad and the poached salmon with boiled new potatoes. The only snags had to do with the waitress thinking I’d ordered the pork and having to wait for my salmon and the wine.

Charlie ordered a half bottle of a sweet dessert wine and when it arrived it turned out to be not what was on the wine list, red and not very sweet or desserty. Eventually, the bartender found an acceptable wine, which Charlie liked (she had a glass or so and I finished off the rest).

Then it was off to bed to wake up at 3:30 am and picked up at 4:45 am for the trip to Heathrow and an 8:50 flight to Corfu.