The Trip — 2016: Part 29 — Arriving Home

Once again our plane is a Boeing 777-300, very comfortable and smooth. We took off about three-thirty — a delay of about an hour and a half with arrival in LA scheduled to be about 6:10 pm.

I got a copy of the Wall Street Journal and The London Times and read through the taxiing and takeoff until it was time to eat. Well, at least, until it was time for a Jack Daniels or three.

The meal consisted of:

Starter — Prosciutto and Mozzarella with melon

Salad — Spinach and frisée with strawberries and blue cheese and yogurt dressing

Entrée — Seared white halibut with beurre blanc sauce, champagne risotto and grilled asparagus

Dessert — Gourmet cheese plate of red cheddar, blue cheese stick and Montero farmer white

It all tasted quite good. Filling but not stuffing.

Di watched movies on her video screen, and I worked on my Trip photos for most of our very smooth flight. Toward its end we were served another light meal, salad and sandwich and dessert. I also drank several glasses of ice water — no more Jack.

Touchdown at LAX was 6:20 pm. We waited until everyone else had deplaned before leaving. The scooter, despite the best efforts of the crew was not delivered to the plane’s door but a wheelchair was there and the scooter was waiting when we exited the boarding tunnel. A minute to put it together and we were off to Immigration and Baggage — it was, again, a v-e-r-y l-o-n-g walk and a couple of lift rides, as Di’s scooter cannot negotiate stairs or escalators.

Note: The elevators/lifts in this section of LAX only have access to two floors: the floor you are on and the floor Immigration wants you on.

Immigration was extremely busy as several planes had recently landed, including the three hundred people from our flight. We were allowed to use either the automated processing or Special Assistance and after a glance at the long lines opted for Assistance. A few minutes later we were through passport control/immigration and headed to the Baggage area.

We were passed on the way to baggage by several young (18-22) men who had been on our flight and had exited at the opening of the plane’s doors. They had waited in lines long enough for us old slowpokes to catch up and pass them — chortle.

Our luggage carousel (3) was just beginning to unload baggage from an AA flight just in from Mexico and a few minutes later began to disgorge the baggage from our flight as well. Wonder of wonders, less than ten minutes later I had all four of our suitcases and onto our last check by Immigration.

I handed him our customs declaration, a quick glance and we were out. Up the tunnel and into a sea of faces and name cards from drivers — ah ha, the driver who had taken us to LAX in June was right there. I called to Charlie, who was ahead of me and the driver took my cart. The time was 7:40 pm — an hour and twenty minutes after touchdown and we were out.

Because of the crowds and construction, our driver had to park in a lot several minutes walk away from the Tom Bradley International Terminal — that walk and a smoke for Di had us in the car at 8:00 pm on the dot. There was still a good deal of traffic on surface streets and the 405 Freeway, but we pulled up at our driveway a minute before nine. Home.

I walked Charlie to the bench outside our front door and then helped the driver with the rest of our luggage. The house key was actually in the carry-on where I remembered leaving it and I soon had the door open, the alarm switched off and Charlie deposited in her garden room.

The cats said “Hello” and “Where the heck have you been?” I brought in the luggage, put the scooter in the garage, made Charlie a cup of tea (decaffeinated Earl Grey) and sat down exhausted. Time enough tomorrow (or Saturday) for emptying the suitcases. “Zzzzzzz . . . ”

(to be continued / concluded?)

The Trip — 2016: Part 28 — Leaving England

We checked out of The Swan at Streatley at nine-thirty this morning and rode to Heathrow with the same driver who took us to Newbury yesterday and arrived at Terminal 5 shortly before eleven. Our itinerary told us to go to Terminal 5; however, BA said that our flight (actually on American Airlines like our flight to London) was leaving from Terminal 3. We are currently waiting for a Special Assistance bus to take us to Terminal 3.

Trip - Di and luggage in the bus
Di and luggage in the bus

Well, at slightly after noon the assistance bus arrived. The driver lowered the ramp in the back and then stopped traffic so that Di could drive her scooter into the back of the bus. He then loaded the luggage and we were off. The trip to terminal 3 took about ten minutes, without any stops or hang-ups along the way. We were quickly unloaded and . . . Di needs a last smoke before going into the terminal.

The AA desks are to the right of our entry and there is no one in line ahead of us. We are quickly processed except for the scooter. After about ten minutes the clerk finally clears things dealing with Di’s scooter and up into the lift we go to go through Security.

Again, Di’s scooter gets us the short line, which really isn’t too much shorter than the long line. Five or fewer minutes later we are through Security and into the shops and headed for Lounge H — AA’s Admiral’s Lounge. It’s a small lounge but there is warm food and cold drinks. I have a bit of lunch and a drink. Di has a cup of tea and a couple of pieces of chocolate cake and some bread and butter.

Our flight appears to be delayed a bit, but I don’t know how long a delay.

Just checked at the entry to the lounge and it seems as though the two o’clock flight to LA is now the three-fifteen flight to LA and should start boarding from Gate 27 about two-thirty or in about thirty-five minutes.

Well, I went shopping. First I went to a couple of book/magazine type stores and tried to get a crossword puzzle book — but, they only have British style crossword puzzle books. And, second, I went to buy some whisky. That took me to World of Whiskies. I found some that the clerk told me were not exported to the US — maybe, maybe not, but they are not generally available in Britain. I bought two bottles of Auchentoshan which I had enjoyed at the Quod Restaurant in Oxford. I hope they’ll taste as good in the US.

Trip - View from the lounge
View from the lounge

Returning to the AA lounge at about two twenty-five, I found that our flight was already boarding at Gate 27 — Di didn’t know because the announcements did not reach the part of the lounge in which I had found seats.

Gathering our stuff together, we ventured out into the Heathrow pathways and slideways to Gate 27. Upon arrival we were given assistance and shunted, after passport checks, etc., to the front of the line into the aircraft. Di drove her scooter to the aircraft door, escorted past everyone else, of course, and put on board. I brought our hand-carry items to our seats — garnering some comments along the way about her riding and me having to carry both her and my carry-on luggage — and then went back to fold up the scooter so that it could be stowed in the cargo hold and brought to us at LAX without delay. (Of course, they wouldn’t let me off the plane to go some six feet and fold up the scooter until they got an OK from Security.)

After stowing our gear in the overheads Di had some OJ and I some champagne while we waited for everyone else to finish boarding and the flight to begin.

(To be continued)

The Trip — 2016: Part 27 — Shopping and St. Thomas of Canterbury

Trip - No Fishing
No Fishing

This morning I made Di tea and went to the front desk for some coffee and milk which were delivered ten minutes or so later. Finally figured out how to use the coffeemaker in the room, Magicmix. Coffee isn’t very good but it does put caffeine into my bloodstream to start the day.

It’s cloudy but not raining and Di is able to have tea, smoke and read on the patio. We’ll be heading into Newbury for some last-minute shopping later in the morning.P1010051bsmall

Toward the altar

Pryors picked us up at eleven-fifteen and deposited us at the edge of the pedestrian shopping area in Newbury at noon (and to return at three). Oh, goody, three hours of following my wife shopping and carrying her purchases.

We visited a number of shops looking for four things: a suitcase to replace the one lost by BA, a fruit bowl for Helen to brighten her new kitchen, books, and, of course, candy.

Altar window

I found a bowl for Di in John Lewis (designed in Britain and made in China), found a suitcase in another shop (no I didn’t get the one going for £695), purchased a dozen books in WH Smith and candy at Tesco‘s. Picked up the suitcase after the books and candy and loaded them into said suitcase. Then returned to John Lewis and purchased the fruit bowl — in a lot of bubble wrap.

We then found a café in a quiet courtyard and Di had a pot of Earl Gray tea and I read The Daily Mail. Just before three we headed out to where our car should be waiting and there it was. The return route was the reverse of the morning’s and again we passed Tricia’s home in Hampstead Norreys.P1010069bsmall

Upon returning to our hotel room we discovered that our room’s phone still was not working. Helen showed up at four to have tea with Di. I helped Di to the restaurant and then went for a walk through Goring and went to look at a church I had noticed earlier in our stay.

To the back

The church turned out to be St. Thomas of Canterbury. I walked around the church and through the attached graveyard and memorial to the local dead of WWI and WWII. The interior was simple with a beautiful stained glass window high on the wall behind the altar.

Di and Helen were demolishing a second pot of tea when I returned to The Swan and so I retired to the reception area to read and blog. After two hours of tea, Helen and Di returned to our room and said their good-byes.

Tricia arrived a while later and we moved to the restaurant. We found the same low table and comfortable chairs we’d had the previous night ordered drinks: Pimms, whisky and gin and tonic. Starters, dinner, dessert and conversation. In all it was a nice dinner and company for our last night in England.

(to be continued)

The Trip — 2016: Part 26 — The Swan at Streatley

Di and I went to lunch in the hotel’s restaurant. There is no way to get Di’s scooter safely into the main area of the restaurant; the ramp into the area is both too long and too steep. We ate in the area adjacent to the deli and the bar. The chairs are hard and uncomfortable, and we sat at the “picnic” bench on pillows in the corner.

Trip - Our room from the entry hall.
Our room from the entry hall.

Di had a Pimms and both of us had a salad, shared chips and bread, and I also had an order of mussels. The food was good but slow and it began to rain while we were eating.

Upon returning to our room, the electronic key did not work. So we trekked to the office and we got a new key. Di asked if our phone and light had been fixed and was told that they had.

We returned to our room and I found that, although the light had been fixed (they changed the light bulb), the phone still did not work and walked back to the office to so inform them.

A few minutes later the clerk I had spoken to earlier this morning knocked on our door and told us that the hotel’s staff could not fix the phone and that they would have to call in an outside electrician — tomorrow or later.

Trip - Shower

As I was closing the door, the clerk asked me to hear him out and offered to move us to the next room, a mirror image of ours. I asked Di and she said OK. I returned to the door and told the clerk that we would switch rooms and he proceeded to tell me that he couldn’t do it because he had just been informed that the people next door had extended their stay and that the room was no longer available.

Tricia came to pay a visit after work and while she and Di conversed in our room I headed for the comfortable chairs in the reception area to read. A few chapters later Tricia found me and suggested a drink and, maybe, dinner. The bar in the reception area was closed so we collected Di and headed to the bar/restaurant.

It was raining so Di couldn’t use her electric scooter without getting wet. She sat in her “wheelie” and I pushed her to the bar area, carefully going down the steep and long interior ramp — and then she still had to get up and walk to navigate some steps.

Trip - The loo
The loo

We found a nice sitting area with sofa and chairs and Tricia and I went into the bar to order drinks (Pimms, sherry and whisky and some crisps and nuts). We talked and drank and ate, decided on a second round and went into the restaurant to have dinner in what was really a waiting area — comfortable sofa and chairs, low table. Di had a chocolate dessert of some kind and Tricia and I enjoyed fish and chips.

Following dinner, Tricia returned home and we returned to our room. Although it was still raining, Di put on several layers of clothing to have a last smoke before turning in. It was wet outside but there is a slight roof overhang on the patio (from the balcony above) so she didn’t get too wet.

(to be continued)

The Trip — 2016: Part 25 — Croquet and Swan

Sunday — We rose a little after seven; coffee and tea and a shower later I packed up our belongings. (A bit difficult as we are still down one BA lost suitcase.) Di paid the remainder on our bill and Mima checked us out of the hotel.

Trip - Di's gift from Patrick Mavros
Tricia wearing Di’s gift from Patrick Mavros.

Note: Aside from our quibbles with the “accessible” room (accessible, not specifically designed for those who are handicapped and may need assistance), our stay was quite pleasant. The personnel at both The Old Bank Hotel and The Quod Restaurant were invariably courteous, polite and helpful, including putting out the portable ramp over the entry step for Di’s scooter.

Trip - Tricia's Garden
Tricia’s Garden

Our driver (the same gentleman who took us to Highclere Castle/Downton Abbey the previous week) was waiting in the car park and helped to load our luggage and Di’s scooter. It was a short drive to Goring-Streatley and The Swan Hotel where we left our suitcases; it was too early for check-in. We then wended our way along narrow country roads to Tricia’s home near Newbury (Hampstead-Norreys) — laundry, lunch, family and croquet.

A bit after two in the afternoon Helen, Richard (husband) and Theo (son) arrived after battling London traffic with roads closed and re-routings for an international bike race.

Trip - Theo and Di
Theo and Di

We had a good time with food, wine, a game of croquet and a sisters’ game of Bananagrams. Helen’s family returned to London and Tricia, Di and I played a game of croquet before adjourning to the house.

Trip - Richard

About eight-thirty in the evening Tricia drove us back to our hotel and we recovered our stored luggage and checked in. I thought our room was an improvement over that of the Old Bank in Oxford but Di was disappointed. (When all was said and done, we enjoyed our stay at The Old Bank much more than our stay at The Swan.)

It had a great deal more room and the bathroom has more handholds than our previous room. However, the room was not carpeted and Di was afraid of falling on the hard floor. There are no handholds in the main room and the chairs are on casters — they roll — not a good choice for handicapped people or others who have difficulties with balance.

The bathroom is roomy but there are no handholds from the entry to the toilet nor are there any at the sink. The shower area has more handholds but is the same slippery type of floor as the Old Bank Hotel which necessitates multiple bathmats. There is neither a shower door nor a shower curtain and the shower area is open to the rest of the bathroom.

Trip - Theo, Di, Tricia and Richard
Theo, Di, Tricia and Richard

I made Di some tea on Monday morning and myself some instant coffee in the room this morning. Di went out on the patio for a smoke and book read. I walked to the front desk for a newspaper — there were none. I asked for a directory of services and was assured one would soon be delivered to our room. I then walked around the grounds and found the restaurant. Some of the halls and walkways had ramps and others just stairs. There was no one in the restaurant/bar to answer questions although there were people seated.

Trip - Entry to the Newbury RDA (Riding for the Disabled Association) - Joe's wine glass.
Entry to the Newbury RDA (Riding for the Disabled Association) – Joe’s wine glass.

Returning to the room, Di wanted to call Pryors for a trip to do some shopping in Newbury on Tuesday — the phone was dead. I went to the front desk and informed the clerk there. A few minutes later another clerk knocked at our door and asked about our fan not working. How can someone get “dead telephone” mixed up with “fan?”

A few minutes later another young man came in to check the phone — another failure. I also told him the light on our patio was out. He said he’d replace the bulb this afternoon. The phone? — he left mumbling something about maintenance.

(to be continued)