1000 words worth a picture: my first atlantic flight and london
So, it occurred to me last night that I wasn’t quite satisfied with how I’ve shared my travel experiences here yet. Because of technology and wifi restrictions on the trip, I’d settled for more pictures over words, supposing that as a picture can say a 1000 words, more pictures was better. I added a bit more context to my summer trip posts, but still, given that they were written on my phone, they’re still pretty brief. Now, I’m glad I’ve shared my pictures here, but as part of the goal of this blog is to act as a time capsule for me, I want to take some time to record and share some of the stories that are associated with those pictures. So that’s the purpose of this little vignette series – the 1000 words series – to share the stories of those pictures. Now, they won’t all be 1000 words – that’s just to give it a cute title – but they will be posts about 1 or a couple of my travel pictures already posted here, with the story elaborated on. So, to start, my first atlantic flight, and landing in London.
I’m not afraid of flying, it must be said. And, for all that I’d never flown overseas at that time, I had flown plenty of times within Canada and the USA. I’m not even a person who is still really amazed by flight. I remember taking a trip in 11th grade with my school band, and several of my classmates had never flown before, and they were so amazed by the experience (to be fair, the severe turbulence we experienced on that flight probably didn’t help). But I’d been flying pretty regularly since 6 weeks old, and so although I was pretty excited about the trip, I wasn’t super excited about the flight.
That did change, a bit.
But first, I had to fly from St. John’s to Toronto, to go from Toronto to London. Despite the fact that I was flying further west to ultimately go east, the advantages of this related to plane size for the airlines later became clear to me. It was here, however, that I learned a valuable lesson about stop overs: they need to be more than an hour. My stopover was 50 min or an hour I believe, and although my father had cautioned me about this, it was the best flight (I’d decided to take this trip pretty late in the year), and we both figured the Toronto airport wasn’t that big, so I’d be fine.
This, I will note, was a definite logical fallacy.
Local flights land at the entire opposite end of the airport as international flights take off. Also, there are, at least in the Toronto airport, ‘checkpoints’ that you have to cross with your passport. I’d also had the bright idea to exchange some money at the currency counter in Toronto, which I did, getting Travelex currency cards – which I do recommend to all travellers, they are really great ways to have temporary debit cards with already converted currency – but it did mean that I arrived at my gate just in the nick of time to join the already half boarded general boarding line, which was cutting it a little bit close. However, I did make it to the plane, and once I got on it, I realized this was the biggest airplane I’d ever been on.
I’d never seen a plane where there were 3 rows of three seats, and I was utterly lucky to have managed to land 3 seats all by myself, which meant I could stretch out a tiny bit and try to sleep 🙂 I didn’t get the best sleep – because I by that time I was pretty excited, and also because despite earplugs and a sleep mask the sound of a plane is still there. Also, I tried to get up and talk a walk every time I found myself up – it was a pretty shortish flight, but after learning about DVT I wasn’t going to take the chance – so it wasn’t the most restful night. I do think I slept through breakfast though, but I did wake up to a snack, and my very first look at England: my first look at a continent not my own.
I think what struck me – though you can’t see it great from this picture – is that it looked similar but different than what I was used to seeing. From the sky, homes and streets are all organized similarly by necessity or by convention. And yet, even from the air, the design of the houses was different enough to stick with me that I was some place new, some place different. Now, by this time I was tired but super excited, which is when I was hit with the labyrinth that is Heathrow airport. I was lucky that I only had a carry-on so I didn’t need to get a bag, but Heathrow, as I’m sure popular culture has informed you, is freaking huge. You just walk, and walk, and walk, and wait in a huge customs line to try and explain that your three day stay in London is part of a larger trip, because apparently three days in London from Canada is a bit suspicious, and walk…
You get the idea.
Finally, I was through security, and now it was time to find the tube, or the London Underground – the subway – to take me to my hotel. I’d google mapped the route before hand: which train, which direction – towards Cockfosters and no I am not making that up – where to transition and which final stop I needed to take and thankfully, the subway station was easy to find.
The trains in London are really nice, just FYI. Also, people say the Underground is confusing in London, but I disagree – the subway was super easy to navigate, and the terrifyingly calm “Mind the gap” lady voice was kind of fantastic. In Toronto, all announcements are spoken over the worst PA ever, and you have no idea what they’ve said, so England is absolutely kicking our butts there. I was pretty tired on that one hour trip, and there was a second where the fact that I was in a foreign country relying on public transport when I had occasionally gotten on the opposite bus in a city that I’d lived in for 4 years (also the wrong train in Toronto…), but honestly I was mostly too tired and excited to be anything else. I also had a chat with 3 Canadian girls who were exchange students sitting in my compartment, which was just more proof of how small a world this is. They invited me to a giant city pillow fight, but given that I had no pillow – and was mostly trying not to fall asleep on the train – I said no, but the offer was appreciated 😉
And then I was in London 🙂
There was however, an outdoor multi cultural food market that open the day I landed, and given that I had 3 hours to kill before I could check into my hotel, sitting and taking this collection of food and cultures I’d found myself dropped in was somehow, just what I needed to make myself feel totally settled in London.
Nothing like polish sausage and french pastries in London to sooth your mood…also there was a Starbucks, proving that they have indeed invaded the planet.
The reason I wanted to share this little tale was because honestly, from that moment on, I wasn’t anxious about travelling anymore. From that moment, where I’d barely seen anything yet, I knew that I was already in love with travel. And that moment, that second of clarity, has shaped all of my life already – my summer trip, my next month holy crap! Brussels and Paris trip, or my upcoming summer extravaganza (post about that to come, as it’s firmed up now) – but also, I know, has shaped the way I’m going to live my life in the immediate and distant future. I want to see the world, and from that moment on, I knew I was going to take every chance I had to see more of it.
And I haven’t looked back 🙂