The Only Way to Fly…

14 03 2013

Tuesday/Wednesday

March 12-13

My flight doesn’t leave until 9pm so I spend an antsy day getting ready to leave.  Finally 6:30 comes and Rich dumps me at the airport.  Easy Peasy.  I check my 3 (yes, 3 but one is strictly for Janel) bags, fly through security via the “first class” line and head to the British Airways lounge.

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I am greeted with smiles and an escort into the small, private lounge where a server promptly greets me and tells me to help myself to anything I would like.  Nice.

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I manage to pour a nice glass of Shiraz and fix a smallish plate of cheese and crackers.  I know I will be well fed on the flight so I don’t want to overdo it even thought I am starving.  The server comes and tells me to relax – they will come and get me when it is time to board.  No need to look at my watch.

When boarding time comes I am one of the first to enter the plane.  I am so excited to see what the First Class cabin is like on this BA 747.  Oh my – it is awesome.  Each passenger in my cabin (I think there are only 10 “seats”) has their own compartment outfitted with a little closet, pop up video screen, personal reading lamp, bose headphones and leather reclining seat.  The compartments kind of “snail” around so that it feels very private.  I can deal with this.

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Did I mention there are fresh flowers in the cabin? Oh – they are in the lavatory as well.

I quickly settle in and a flight attendant comes to greet me. I must give a shout out to the attendants on this flight.  They were spectacular.  Not only were they super friendly, but they were down to earth, helpful and downright fun.  Of course, it helps that they all had a fantastic British accent.  Kinda made me start talking like them! I was offered a drink and noticed that the folks on the opposite side of me were quaffing champagne.  Who am I to be a party pooper?

This was really strange to me.  Several folks were just standing around chatting and I eventually joined the discussion.  One couple had just been on a 4-day golf vacation staying at the Four Seasons in Scottsdale and playing at Troon North. Thankfully, I have actually played that course and acted like it was an every day occurrence for me (when in actually you will most likely find me playing at courses that are 1/4 of the price of Troon North!) I name dropped several courses and we all got along famously.  This is all before takeoff whilst the poor souls back in coach were fighting for overhead space.

Soon enough the flight attendants come around again to refill glasses, provide our dinner menu and give us all our British Airways Pajamas and toiletry kit! (seriously) Some passengers choose to change into pjs right away.  I slipped the top of mine on and decided the bottoms would be dragging on the floor.  (however – I DID remove my shoes and put on the nice fluffy socks they gave me).

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These pjs prove to come in handy later…

Surprisingly before takeoff there is no chiding the passengers in first to buckle up, make sure your belongings are stashed, seatback forward, etc.  Everything is very civilized.

I peruse the menu during takeoff.  Wonder what I will choose?

I peruse the menu during takeoff. Wonder what I will choose?

What is this?  Another menu?  This one looks very important and deserves a long study:

IMG_6771A move is chosen (Hope Springs), seat is way reclined and feet are up.  When we level off the attendant comes by to see what I would like for an apertif.  The choice is clear – Kir Royale.  I made my dinner selection:  The Tomato Tart and the Petite Rack of Veal. I explain that I will made a decision regarding dessert/cheese much later.  My tray is prepared with crisp white linen, china and real flatware and an amuse of jamon/cheese is presented.

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The meal proves to be outstanding.  The movie is so-so.  I am a bit disappointed that I am no longer hungry for either dessert or cheese, but one must make sacrifices.  The flight attendant asks me if I would like her to prepare my bed.  Why, yes I would.  She completely flattens my seat and spreads a fresh padded sheet on it.  Then she adds a couple of new pillows and a fluffy white duvet. She asks me if I want to be woken for breakfast.  What do you think?

The cabin is so quiet that I slept for 4-5 hours.  That, my friends, is the beauty of the night flight direct to Europe.  9-10 hour flight at dinnertime.  Relax, watch a movie, eat and go to bed.  I wake relatively refreshed with only a couple hours of the flight left.

IMG_6776I ordered a light breakfast because I really wasn’t hungry.  I felt an obligation to eat a little bit.  Watched a little tv and then we landed  just a tiny bit late into Heathrow around 2pm.  It took a while to find where my connection was and I did not have time to visit the reknowned Concorde Room lounge.  I will hit it up on my way back.  The flight to Madrid was uneventful.  My seat was in Business Class (they have no first) and definitely not nearly as plush as the flight across the pond.  They did, however, manage to serve  a proper English tea which was very nice.  The 2 hour flight landed in Madrid right on time at 6:45pm.  Got to find Nellie!

I made my way through the maze that is Barajas airport and texted Janel that I was at Baggage Claim.  This is the response I received back from her:

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I found the carousel for bags from my flight and waited with other passengers for the bags to start coming.  It seems “baggage purgatory” is not just reserved for Sky Harbor.  Finally the bags started arriving.  Have you ever experience that sinking feeling as everyone gets their bags except you and you realize that no more bags are coming?  I stood at the empty carousel for several minutes thinking I might be at the wrong one.  I checked and re-checked the signs.  Nope – this is the right one.  Where are my bags???

Accepting the idea that my bags did not make it was not easy.  I made my way to the lonely help desk and explained my situation (mostly in English) to the clerk.  He explained (mostly in English) that my bags were still in London.  I could wait 2 hours for the next flight to come in and collect them or I could wait and they would deliver them the following morning.  Arghhhhh!  I was mentally going through my bags to see if I could survive the evening without them when I realized that I don’t even know where to have them delivered!  In an effort to not carry a lot of things on the plane, I left all the info of the apartment where I would be staying in my checked bags.  Smart.

The clerk told me I could go out and meet Janel and he would stamp my claim check so that I could re-enter the secure area to pick up my bags.  Sounds good on the outset, huh?  By this time I am sure Janel is wondering what in the world I am doing.  I exit through the automatic doors of the baggage area to see the smiling face I have come all this way to see:

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So great to see Janel!  But know we have to make a decision.  Stick around the airport for a few hours or try and figure out where to send my bags in the morning.  We decide to split the scene.  Fortunately, I had sent Janel my itinerary that had the phone of the apartment where I will be staying.  She called Fernando and explained that we were running late and got the address from him.  Now all I have to do is try and get back through those one-way automatic doors.  I wait and wait and finally someone comes out so I go busting in. Of course, I am stopped by a security agent.  Who is speaking SPANISH.  Talk about being thrown back into language school – wow.  Somehow I convince her that this is what I am supposed to do and she lets me pass.

Our plan was to take the convenient (and cheap) airport express bus to get to my apartment.  However it was freezing outside when we were waiting  for the bus and my coat is in my checked luggage…We opted for a warm taxi.

My apartment is about a 2 minute walk from Janel’s piso.  We found it easily and Fernando was waiting for us.  He is super kind and we happily conversed both in English and Spanish.  I surprised myself with how much I remember (especially understanding, not necessarily speaking). The apartment is tiny, clean and cute.  Perfect.

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We dump my one little carry on bag, pick up a nice, warm jacket from Janel’s and head out to dinner.  Janel has chosen a nice, low-key place for tonight that she thinks will be perfect – La Musa Latina. Janel is correct.  The place is open, friendly and kind of rustic. We are seated at a long communal table and immediately Janel directs me to a glass of Bierzo. (if you recall, we both discovered that we love Bierzo wines on my last trip) The menu has many interesting small plates (just the way we love to eat) and we order several: javali with sobrassada and honey, langostinos a la plancha, quesadilla with huitlacoche. (you have GOT to click on the previous link…).  The huitlacoche was fascinating with a truffle-like flavor.  I had remembered watching an episode of Bizzare Foods where Andrew was in Mexico and was introduced to huitlacoche.  I thought it looked gross.  It does, but it tastes great!

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Everything was wonderful and when we finished it we wanted a touch more (the beauty of ordering tapas) so we placed an order for fried green tomatoes and berberecho dip with plantains. Berberechos are cockles and I had never had them before.  The dip was mixed smooth with cream cheese and drizzled with olive oil.  It was the star of the night.

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Berberecho dip with fried plantain chips

I believe Janel and I could have stayed and chatted all night, but she has work tomorrow and my bags are supposed to arrive early so we needed to call it a night.  The walk home was really, really cold (I am so glad I packed layers – now if I could only get to my luggage…).  Janel walked me to my door and then headed for her home.

Here is where the BA pajamas played their role.  It was cold in the apartment and I was glad to have the pjs since I basically had nothing else.  My apartment is very, very quiet and I am beat.  I crawl under the covers so happy to be here with my girl.

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7 responses

14 03 2013
Rich

Love the writeup. You really must feel guilty for all those shmucks uncomfortable back in coach. C’mon – lamb shanks shepard’s pie on the menu? While they get 6 tiny pretzels?

Didn’t expect Madrid to be so cold. Janel – you look GREAT!!! The langostinos remind me of Piran!

14 03 2013
Linda

I think even you (Rich) would be very happy to fly this way. We need to save our points… And me feel guilty… no – I have paid my dues.

14 03 2013
Janet

Absolutely guilt free, I’m sure! Sounds like a wonderful flight. Sorry it didn’t extend to getting your luggage. Hopefully it arrives soon. Love that they gave you pj’s, socks, padded sheet (padded sheet???). I only hope my experience is half as good.

Nel looks great. Can hardly wait to see you both in person. Save a little bit of fun for me!

15 03 2013
Linda

Janet there is no doubt you will enjoy your first class experience. You will arrive relaxed, refreshed and ready to go (as long as you don’t get carried away with the flowing champagne…!) We are talking about you all the time and can’t wait for our Short-Haired Ladies experience to begin!

15 03 2013
Alice

Linda, I like your apartment. I hope it gets warm and toasty. As usual Janel looks great. I’m glad you two are together.

22 03 2013
lesia antestenis

Amazing trip! I love it the Short-Haired Ladies—You and Janel look like twins. How do you eat all that food and come back skinny? Enjoyed reading your Blog, makes me feel like I’m there. Looking forward to the rest of the trip!! First class is the only way to go to Europe…

23 03 2013
contomates

walking, walking, walking! our feet take a beating but we definitely build up a steady appetite.

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