Leaving London

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy leaving London, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the way it did happen. It was meant to be simple: tube to Bank, DLR to London City Airport. My cheap flight took me from London to Amsterdam to NYC and then Albany. Not a day I was looking forward to by any means, but prices this summer were horrendous and my hopes to get the trip paid for by leading students didn’t happen.

I’d never been to City Airport; I’ve been to Heathrow many times, Gatwick a few and even Stansted, though I’ve never actually flown out of it. The light rail went direct to the airport terminal, so it ought to have been easy. After waking up at four, afraid I’d miss my alarm at five, I rolled out and got ready. There was plenty of time and hardly anyone about so early. Smooth sailing on the tube and fortunately, steps down to get to the DLR. The train waiting was for Lewiston, but the next one went to the airport.

However, the train that was sitting there suddenly shut down and everybody got out. What? No DLR today, some kind of problem, the man said. So how to get to the airport? Back to London Bridge, change to the Jubilee line, go to Canning Town… and then what?! Argh, time for a taxi. I was fortunate to have help or I never would have got my one bag, full of six weeks of clothes and presents, up the many stairs. Panic setting in, but actually it didn’t take too long for a cab to come along.

The fare ended up being over £20 (ouch) but I suppose it might have been more to Heathrow. City Airport is quite small, so I should be forgiven for thinking it might be easy to get through security quickly. Ha! In the end I had to take everything out of my carry on and my ‘suspicious’ items had to be scanned again — yes, that dangerous tea towel and my jewelry case. Reassembling everything at least killed the time waiting in the lounge. The small jet was packed to capacity, at least a third of which was a Chinese tour group of Chinese almost all women.

We had begun our descent into Amsterdam and of course, the seat belt sign was on, but a few of the tour group decided to get up to use the toilets. Suddenly the plane rolled swiftly to the left and just as swiftly to the right. I’d never felt anything quite like that. The little Chinese women went flying. Fortunately no one got hurt. The pilot explained, once we were on the ground, that we had hit the wake of another flight. We should have cleared it easily, but the wind carried it up. Bizarre.

The Amsterdam airport is huge! If you want tulips, you can get them. I nearly missed my connecting flight because my phone didn’t pick up the local time and I was an hour behind, strolling along thinking I had all the time in the world, until I saw the listing which said it was boarding now. Oops! The flight on the whole was good: KLM treats you a lot better than the American airlines, including the food and drinks. The flight back always seems endless, but we got a little surprise a couple hours before landing. There was turbulence off and on, nothing much, but all of the sudden there was a huge thump that sounded like we had hit something.

Guess what? As the pilot told us right away, we had hit the wake of another plane (“if you look out the window behind us you should be able to see…”). What’re the odds? From the relative luxury of KLM I headed next to purgatory: terminal 2 at JFK, the one that’s so run down they don’t have a recording of all the things you need to do at security (yes, I had to go through passport control and customs and back through security), they have a guy repeating over and over and over the requirements. Fun!

Well, it could be worse.

A lot to get caught up on, but it’s hard to keep from wishing I were back in England. Sigh.