I’m back! It’s good to be home. I’ve sorted the email, the snail mail, done the laundry and put away the
suitcases. I had a great time. I’ll get the pictures back this afternoon so I can start posting tomorrow. In the meantime, here are some things I learned on this trip:
- Two weeks is long enough. One week would not have been enough, so I think two weeks is just right for an overseas trip. I was ready to come home, though.
- Some clothing that advertises that it dries overnight does not. In particular, heavy hiking socks. Even hanging right over the radiator, they took two days to dry.
- Take anything you might need in case you get a cold. I didn’t. When my drainage and cough started, I went to the drugstore (“chemist” in Britspeak) to see if they had anything like our Cold-Eeze, with zinc in it, and they didn’t. Next time I’ll make sure to take some, and also Sudafed.
- Don’t fly to or through John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York if you can possibly avoid it. My flight to the UK made a stop there, and because of heavy traffic I missed my connection. I got to my tour a day late. I’ve been in most of the major airports in the country, and JFK is the tenement slum of US airports. It’s dirty. It smells. It’s colorless and ugly. The employees are sullen. There are no hotels on site. And, it doesn’t have the capacity to handle all the air traffic that is routed through it. O’Hare in Chicago and Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta are both busier than JFK (they routinely vie for title of busiest airport in the US), and they are both very nice airports. They’re clean, colorful, comfortable (albeit crowded) and their employees are cooperative. (I love alliteration!) JFK doesn’t have to be the way it is, so I’m assuming it chooses to be. Ugh.
- In contrast, Heathrow Airport in London was a pleasant surprise. It’s one of the busiest airports in the world, but didn’t seem crowded, and it didn’t take me long to get through security when I was leaving the country (and it was the middle of the day, not first thing in the morning). The employees I encountered were nice and very helpful. And, the signage there must be the best in the world. You can follow the signs to get everywhere you need to go. Also, there are two hotels on site. One is a Hilton, and the other is…
- A Yotel. If you ever get a chance to use one, do it! I had to spend the night at Heathrow before I joined the tour the next day, and I stayed in a Yotel. It’s a hotel that can be used by the hour, if you just need a nap or shower between flights, or overnight. The rooms are very compact, but manage to squeeze in all the amenities, including Internet and a flat screen TV. My room had bunk beds, and the best shower I’ve ever been in – it was one of those rain-type shower heads. I could have stayed there all day. The price was very reasonable for the room, and it was very clean and very comfortable. There aren’t any in the US yet – they could certainly use one at JFK.
- I only took a carry-on bag and a large purse on this trip. I got really tired of hauling that bag around airports. For me, the carry-on days are done. I’ll take the absolute necessities on board and risk the chance of losing the rest. After all, there are clothing stores in the UK and, I’m sure, in other foreign countries as well. That’s what travel insurance is for.
- Speaking of which, get travel insurance for any major trip! My missed flight at JFK resulted in extra expenses for two hotel rooms, and a bus ticket from London to Wales to join the tour. My travel insurance policy should reimburse me for those, which made the missed flight much less of a disaster. The policy also covers lost luggage, some medical expenses, etc. Well worth the money – my policy was about $275.00.
- Don’t plan to do a lot of shopping (unless you lose your luggage). I came home with a very small recipe book, a gardening book that I found for two pounds in a used bookstore, and two virgin wool pillow covers that were on clearance that match my living room. Otherwise, everything was just too expensive when the exchange rate was taken into consideration. With the weakness of the dollar, there just aren’t any bargains left.
- Take fewer clothes and more film! I ran out of film three times – I ended up taking 13 rolls of film, one for each day I was there. (I had only brought eight rolls with me.) I also had taken a skirt, flats and a dressier jacket in case I needed them, and I didn’t.
Whew! That’s enough for now! More vacation news to come…