Friday, June 4, 2010

UK Vacation (day 11 and 12)

(July 26-27, 2008)

Day eleven--St. Andrews to England

Shane, Si and Gabriel happened to be driving down to England today too (Shane had a tough guy race he was competing in on Sunday in London) so they rented a car and we all drove down to Shane's buddy's house in England together.

The drive was long (but then again, we'd kind of gotten used to long drives on this trip) but we eventually made it to Leo's house (Leo was also running the tough guy race).

Took absolutely no pictures today. Weird.

Turned in early as tomorrow we'd head down to London and catch our flight back to the U.S.

Day twelve--London to New Jersey to Virginia

Woke to the crowing of a rooster who did not understand his job.

Roosters are supposed to wake everyone up when the sun comes up....not at all hours of the night.

Leo should really have a talk with him....

anyhow, woke first at 3 a.m., then at 4 a.m., decided to get up and shower while everyone else was still asleep.

Packed up the car, said our goodbyes to our dear friends and hit the road by 6:30 a.m.

I guess I can blame it on the rooster, but I actually fell asleep in the short 2 hour drive from Leo's house to London.

Woke up while Jody was pumping petrol and got excited about seeing Buckingham Palace. We weren't able to see that when we first got to London, so I definitely wanted to see it on our way out.

Found a car park (car parks in London are the worst...they're small, terribly organized and EXPENSIVE!), parked the car and headed on foot toward the palace.

Because it was still pretty early on a Sunday morning there were hardly any people around!

Felt like the palace was ours!

We walked around a little, took some pictures and then really needed to hit up a bathroom.

Unfortunately, again, it was early on a Sunday morning, so NOTHING was open yet. We didn't have enough change to use a public bathroom so we ended up waiting for a coffee shop to open at 9 a.m. It was pretty comical.

After breakfast at the coffee shop we headed back over toward the palace....

but got completely caught up in the beautiful gardens and parks that surround the palace instead...

Marveled at the London eye (pictured above)...laughed at some crazy ducks....took a quick reading break next to a patch of the Queen's roses (roses that were planted in honor of her birthday) and just truly enjoyed London...

Time really flew by that morning (except when we really needed to use the bathroom and couldn't find one) and the next thing we knew we needed to start heading to the airport.

Not without first accidentally running into Buckingham palace preparing for the changing of the guard...

Not surprisingly, I got extremely depressed as we started walking back to the car park.

I didn't want to leave.

I didn't want the vacation to be over.

But alas...the real world was calling......

We walked alongside and then through Hyde park on the way to the car where Jody snapped this last picture of me on vacation...

and I snapped this last shot of Jody on vacation...

He was laughing at me because I had gotten myself stuck in the park...(there were no openings in the fence he's so cooly leaning on and so I had to walk a ways to get out)...

We got back to the car, figured out how to pay for the darn parking and then drove to the rental car turn-in.

I wish I would've gotten a picture of the rental guys face when he got a good look at our car....(to be fair, we did put that car through hell) was priceless.

We went through the paperwork, got it all squared away, caught a shuttle to the airport, got our boarding passes, checked our luggage, went through security and made our way through the beast that is Heathrow.

When we arrived in London 11 days ago the airport was practically was practically erupting.

There were masses of people on top of small quarters...only Heathrow isn't small! It's huge! Yet it looked like a crowded beehive. If I didn't fear for my camera I would've snapped a few shots of the madness, but it was too chaotic.

Our flight hadn't been assigned a gate yet so we decided to get a bite to eat which was a mission suited only for the brave. Jody secured a table and sat with our carry-ons while I muscled my way through crowds to get in line for 2 bagel sandwiches and some water.

After eating, I pulled out a book and Jody went in search of playing cards. (This is the first time he's ever travelled without them)

Forty-five minutes later he had his new London-themed playing cards and we knocked out a few games.

Once our gate was assigned we packed up the carry-ons and cards and headed that way.

The plane boarded a few minutes late (no biggie) and this go-round we had better seats than before....I had a window seat too! It was awesome.

Got the same FABULOUS treatment on the flight.

Watched a few movies.

27 not worth it.

Smart People...definitely not worth it.

Had more fabulous food, watched more movies and then just like that, we were landing in Newark, N.J. 9:30 P.M. Eastern Time.

At this point we'd been awake for approximately 23 hours.

Deboarded the plane, picked up our luggage, went through customs and found out our continuing flight to Richmond had been canceled due to weather.

Ran over the the Continental desk (they were the carrier flying us to Richmond) and asked what to do...the Continental representative typed away at her computer (I'd really love to know what they're seeing on that dang thing...because they just type and type and type and type and you're left standing there wondering if they're actually helping you or ignoring you)......

after about 3 minutes (no joke) she says the next available flight is the next day at 9 p.m.

"That's not going to work," I tell her.

She types away.

"Well, there is one flight tomorrow at 1:30 p.m."

Why didn't she see that one before? I don't understand these people.

"Yes, that works," I say. "Now where do we stay tonight?"

"That's not our responsibility, since Virgin Atlantic was your main carrier they're responsible for putting you up for the night. You'll have to go to their ticket counter."

We sigh. The Virgin ticket counter is all the way on the other side of the airport. We just came from there when we landed. My blisters on the back of both feet had already re-opened due to all the walking around the airport. I wasn't a happy camper.

We trek all the way back to the other terminal and talk to Virgin.

"No, we got you here on time, we held up our side of the agreement, if Continental canceled your flight then they are responsible for you, not us."

Jody and I are seriously not happy at this point.

"You'll need to go back to Continental and tell them it's their responsibility."

"We just came from there, is there any way you guys can call them and tell them that we're coming back over there and that this is their responsibility? Because I don't want to walk back over there and have them try to send us right back to you." Jody says, clearly aggravated.

"We don't call the other airlines, but I'll give you a print out of the FAA guidelines that specify they are the responsible party to help you out." The Virgin manager runs into the back room to print this out and Jody looks at me with tired eyes...."we should just rent a car and drive home."

Ten minutes later, with FAA guidelines in our hand, we trek all the way back to the Continental terminal. My feet were bleeding at this point and I could barely walk so I sat down with our luggage and Jody stood in line to talk to a rep.

An hour later, Jody comes over and says Continental will not pay for a room (because the flight was canceled due to weather, it's not their fault), nor would they pay for a rental car to let us drive ourselves home. And even though all their signs said they were partners with Amtrak (apparently this is out of date), they refused to put us on a train.

All in all, Continental left us hanging....big time....and I seriously will never book with them again. Ever. I would've felt completely differently if they had at least tried to help us....just a little.....

So, Jody starts calling the car rental agencies at the airport....we find one that we can drive one-way, we rent it, we pick it up and we hit the road.

At this point we had been awake for 26 hours.

The first hour of the drive was fine...we were both still pretty hot-headed about the whole Continental thing, then I couldn't keep my eyes open and drifted off.

I woke a few times asking if Jody was OK, he was...but I was deathly afraid that if I fell asleep there was nothing to stop him from falling asleep, so I tried my hardest to stay awake with him.

We called a few people, played a few games, drank some caffeine, talked and then eventually (I can't even remember where we were at this point) we needed to pull over and nap.

We parked in a fire stations parking lot and napped for about 20 minutes before a police officer knocked on our window and asked if we were part of the fire squad.

"No," Jody says. "We're just driving through and I needed to rest my eyes for a second."

"Ok, well this is private property so you're going to have to rest your eyes somewhere else."

So we got kicked out of the fire station parking lot (which wasn't being used in the first place) and found a gas station not to far from there where trucks had parked for the night.

We slept for a good hour or two and then continued on.

Staying awake for the rest of the drive was a complete nightmare.

We were just so tired...but we needed to get home. The madness just needed to be over.

Finally, at around 5:30 a.m. on Monday, we rolled into Ashland.

Home sweet home.

Vacation accomplished.

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