Day 1 – Wednesday – Leaving London
The alarm went off as if I was off to work. That will teach me to not change it before a holiday. Sure, I needed to be out of the house by 8.45am, but the 6.45am alarm was just too early, especially when for once I got all the packing done the night before!
The first job of the day was getting to Heathrow – Terminal 2. I live in South London and I had a number of travel options to get to the airport. Taxi, Tube, Heathrow Express. I could have driven but I didn’t fancy parking at the airport or miles away from the airport to then get a bus to the airport. An Uber was going to be about £50. The Heathrow Express leaves from Paddington so I’d still have to get across London to catch it so would need to jump on the tube anyway. And then there was the tube by itself. It is possible to use your Oyster Card (or any contactless bank card) to get to Heathrow. It sits at the end of the Piccadilly line after Hounslow and would take about an hour door to door.
With the flight leaving at 1pm, check-in needed to be around 10am. With the tube taking an hour it means leaving at 8.45am. This would still be peak commuting time. I was about to become one of THOSE PEOPLE who take suitcases on the tube during commuter hours. What a tosser!
Getting to the tube was a short walk. For a recent holiday I replaced my aging suitcase with a brand new Samsonite one. The new one has 4 wheel drive and this makes it simple to push around. The walk to the tube was a doddle and I took to the lift to the platform. Once I got on a tube I realised the down-side of 4 wheel drive luggage….As the tube accelerates and decelerates the bag has a mind of its own and travels inside the carriage. This meant standing holding the handle the whole journey or sitting down but awkwardly trying to manhandle the suitcase every time it wanted to sprint off.
It only took me 40 minutes to realise I could lay it on its side and it wouldn’t go anywhere!
Arriving at Heathrow Terminal 2 was a breeze. Contactless card through the barriers, up in a lift and delivered straight to the departure area. I found the Air Canada check-in area and a lady directed me an automated desk. I will let you know, readers, that I have been very worried about this entire trip.
I read so many comments on blogs about how people’s tickets had been cancelled I fully expected mine to be cancelled for the last 5 months. Even when I decided to reserve seating and the Air Canada website happily let me pay them MORE money to do this, I still thought it might get cancelled. Check-In was going to be the last chance they have to tell me its all been a mistake and there was no booking in my name.
The automated check-in was simple. On one hand its a shame that the days of everyone being checked in by a person is now a thing of the past. But on the other hand, automated check-ins allow for return flights to New York for £128 per person! There was one issue with the auto check-in and that was that it didn’t print out my luggage tags! Maybe this was the start of this all crumbling in front of me. 🙁
Approaching the ‘Check-in Supervisor’ she pointed me back to the auto-check-in desks again as she saw we didn’t have luggage tags. I explained that the machine had not printed any out. The lady sighed. It was obviously something that had happened before. She gestured to the Manual Check-In line. It was 50 people strong and appeared to only go to one actual desk. Maybe it was my boyish good looks or the smile I gave her but she the apologised and unhooked her partition (not a euphemism) to let us go to the bag drop off. “They’ll print you off new tags…but don’t tell anyone!” So you readers better keep this information to yourselves!
Terminal 2 security was pretty slow. A guy stood at the front of the maze of queues and just told people to left or right. Each of the queues had a number so you had to guess which number was best to go down. I made my decision but soon regretted it. There was a family at the front of the queue who hadn’t sorted their makeup into plastic bags, had too much liquid, hadn’t taken off their shoes, hadn’t taken their laptops out of their bags, hadn’t taken their iPads out of the their bags and generally hadn’t a clue about going through airport security. What I thought was going to be the quickest line – and was certainly the shortest on ‘the left’ – wasn’t going to be.
There was plenty of time until the plane departed I wasn’t worried about the delay, just annoyed. There was a breakfast with my name on waiting for me in the lounge and a cup of tea just begging to be drank. Eventually I beat the end of level boss at Terminal 2 Security and progressed onto level 2, breakfast and tea.
Nothing too sexy on the food and drink front. The Fullers Pride (or whatever the pub is called) had everything needed and reasonably priced for an airport. 2 poached eggs on toast, with a cup of tea, was about £6.50. A Full English was £12 not including tea and would have made me stuffed for the plane. I checked the departure board for the 1pm flight to Newark and it said it was leaving from gate A5. The ‘A’ gates were only 5 minute walk away so this was going to be easy!
At this point I recorded some videos that I hope to put up on YouTube and noticed I could see some Air Canada planes! This holiday just got real!
Arriving at Gate A5 and something wasn’t quite right. This was an Air India flight to Newark. Now my brain is wondering whether it was a shared flight – some airlines share a flight so BA might sell you the ticket and it will have a BA flight number but it also may have an American Airlines flight number and it could be an AA flight. I know I’m off to Newark and I know the flight leaves at 1pm. Surely this must be my flight. Then it dawns on me. I might be going to Newark but the flight I need to be on, right now, is actually going to Montreal. With Air Canada. I have two boarding passes, one for Montreal and the other for Newark. Back to a departure board to check and there is a flight leaving at 1pm for MONTREAL from gate B42!
A rush across the airport happens next. And, of course, Gate B is the furthest from gate A at a 15 minute walk. Thank goodness for the travellators.
10 minutes later and I’m in the right place. Gate B42 for an Air Canada flight to Montreal. It isn’t on last call so I casually join the queue and no-one, except you readers, know that I nearly ended up on an Air India flight to Newark!
On Plane Number 1
Boarding the plane is uneventful. The cabin staff are very pleasant and explain the flight is full. I do wonder how many people have paid only £128 for their flight? That is £64 each way! The fact I didn’t pay for baggage makes me confident that food and drink will be included on this flight. RESULT!
The Captain advises that the flight time will be 6 hours 45 minutes but will probably be 7h 15 travel time. He also says that in Montreal it is currently -9˚. It’s been a long time since I was last somewhere that cold but it does set me up for the stay in New York!
I watched ‘Kingsmen: The Golden Circle’ and you can read my separate review of it here (when I get round to publishing the blog post!). The Air Stewards kept the drinks flowing, there were complementary pretzels, and a hot lunch was served. The choice was ‘pasta or chicken’ and I opted for the chicken. What I got was certainly interesting. Green Liquid. Chicken. Beige Sludge. Reddish/brown sludge. It didn’t taste disgusting but it wont win any Michelin stars. Total Cost = Zero so I can’t complain too much!
I did try to watch Atomic Blonde but it really struggled to hold my attention. After 50 minutes I turned it off and decided to watch a few things on my iPad. Atomic Blonde may work better on a big screen but on my little Airplane TV it really boring the pants off me. Sure, it is probably very true to how Germany (east & west) were in the 80’s but too many moody shots, drags on cigarettes and dramatic pauses for my liking.
I decided to treat myself to some Murder In Successville that I had downloaded from BBC iPlayer before I left. I find this hilarious! While watching one of these episodes they brought round an afternoon snack – a chicken fajita flavoured sausage roll. It was calories and nothing else – there was very little flavour but it was hot and it did feed me.
Strange Ice Lines Over Canada
While flying over Canada I noticed some very strange ice lines on the ground. Being so high up these must have been massive but what was really weird is that they were perfectly straight and appeared to not be flat – they followed the change in relief of the terrain. I have some photos so I will try to upload one.
We soon made our decent to Montreal and although it was looking very cold outside we landed with no issue. It was nice to leave the plane and stretch the legs. Travel time so far had been about 7.5 hour flying, 1 hour commuting and roughly 3 hours at Heathrow waiting. A long time I am sure you would agree.
In Canada we made our way through what looked to be US Security. I had both sets of finger prints scanned and they also took my photo. There will be no denying that I have arrived in the US! Completing the ESTA (and the Canadian eTA) in advance meant there was no delay in being processed however there was queue to get seen by the last security check. There was a board a bit like the screens at Argos that tell you that your item is ready for collection. Except that it wasn’t an item number, it was your name. When it turned green you were supposed to go forward to get checked but really it just added you to another queue to be seen by the last security check.
Finally we were out and could get to the departure lounge. Montreal had the feeling of a small airport but I think it was probably quite large. Getting to our departure gate was a short walk through a duty-free like area before we got to the gate. Here they told us that the flight was delayed. Adding to the delay leaving Heathrow we will have another 30 minutes added to our traveling time as the flight coming in was running late.
On Plane Number 2
Luckily the flight to New York was a short one with only 55 minutes in the air. It felt much like a flight from London to Dublin – by the time you get up in the air its time to come down again! The plane was tiny and had barely enough room for me to stand up in. There were 2 columns of 2 seats and it was certainly the smallest plane I’ve ever traveled in. We were offered refreshments and soft drinks were complementary. There was no screens so I’m very glad my iPad was loaded and I got through another 2 episodes of Murder in Successville. About 90 minutes after we go on the plane we were getting off. The temperature was a scorching 4˚ so much warmer than Canada!
As we’d already gone through passport control it was just a case of walking off the plane, through the airport and to the baggage carousel. Here is where the excitement comes! I made a joke that I doubt our bags would come out first and within moments one of our bags does. I watch the bags come out and after 10 minutes they turn off the carousel and my actual bag is no-where to be seen. I go to talk to the baggage people and they radio someone who said they will send it up.
Another 10 minutes pass and nothing happens. I head back to the baggage people and they radio again and I’m promised it will come up.
Another 10 minutes pass and no bag! I go back to the baggage people and they are about to radio through to the people on the other end on the radio but I interrupt. “Is there any real benefit of radioing them again as you’ve done it twice already and they don’t seem overly interested in finding my bag?” I refuse to leave the office and eventually someone asks me to follow them to the carousel while my bag comes out.
It does not come out.
Another 10 minutes passes and he is on the phone to some people. Eventually he phones someone and the carousel bursts into life. Then it appears. My bag! Thank goodness. I thank the gentleman who helped me resolve this issue and we made our way out of the airport.
Leaving Newark Airport (Finally)
There was much discussion earlier about how we’d get from the airport to the hotel. We had pretty much agreed to take public transport to the hotel. It was only going to be $26 for both of us. However, after the long wait for my bag and the fact it was now pretty much 1am UK time, I said lets grab a cab and for $77 ($57 for the taxi and $20 for the ‘toll’) we took an official airport taxi.
The taxi its self was hilarious. First the taxi driver didn’t believe me when I said the location of the hotel. He kept checking. Every couple of minutes. I show him the address on my phone but that still doesn’t convince him! The other funny thing with the taxi is that he has some god-awful (excuse the pun!) religious radio station on. With pan-pipe moods type songs. For 45 minutes. It went on and on. Occasionally with a smooth crescendo (if such a thing can exist) at the end of the song to really raise your god loving spirit!
We found the hotel, strangely at the exact address I’d given, and went inside. There were two very good signs that we noticed in the lobby. Firstly, it smelt Chai Latte and secondly, they had a live Jazz trio playing in the hotel bar. The Reception desk told me that this was the first day they had the Jazz on. What luck for us! After a great American Greeting we went to our room on the 14th floor. The view was amazing!! The Empire States Building was right outside our window. The trouble was the room was tiny and there was a fan/vent outside which made a low hum. This was enough to convince me to ask to see if we could change rooms.
The reception desk was more than accommodating and we got moved tot he 18th floor however it did mean we lost our view of the Empire States Building. We did also get a much bigger ‘lounge’ area that included an actual sofa, not a single chair in front of the TV and bathroom door! We lost the bath but gained a lovely double shower. Although we lost the view of the ESB, we now were on the other side of the building so got a view of One World Trade Center.
After changing rooms we headed out to grab some food. It appeared we were close to the Korean area as there were tons of Korean restaurants near the hotel. We picked one and had a Bi Bim Bap – This was served in a hot bowl with a raw egg. Everything then gets cooked by the hot stone bowl – including the egg – but I’m not well trained in this so had a lot of burnt rice.
By this time it was 3am UK time and I realised I’d lost the power of speech. I could talk, but slowly, and if I needed to think about an answer to a question, I couldn’t talk until my brain had finished its thinking. This meant one thing.
Bedtime for me!
Paid the bill, walked back to the hotel and climbed into bed. I very much doubt it was 3.30am UK time when I fell asleep but fall into a deep sleep I did.
Day 1 done.
Tired but arrived!