London to Los Angeles

Well, it is that time once again folks, when we find ourselves all excited about going on yet another holiday.  Today we were jetting off to Los Angeles, where we were due to spend a night in a hotel near to LAX and join our ship Celebrity Eclipse tomorrow, to set sail for the amazing islands that make up Hawaii, the 50th state of the USA.

We got up at 4.00am on this chilly October morning, thankful that the ever-present rain we have been experiencing for the last few days appeared to have abated.  We didn’t have any breakfast, preferring instead to wait until we were either at the airport or on the ‘plane instead.

We set off through the quiet dark streets for Newcastle Airport, and made it in good time as there was hardly any traffic about at this uncivilised hour.  Leaving the car in the long-term car park, we trundled our cases into the main airport building and checked in immediately, before any long queues had started to form.

As we didn’t have a lot of time to spare, we made our way straight to the departure gate and boarded British Airways flight BA1321 for London Heathrow.  As Trevor’s seat was next to the emergency exit, it meant he had no seats in front of him, which is always a good thing.  😊

We each had a cup of coffee on the hour-long flight to the capital.  British Airways, like many other airlines and indeed other companies, has had to make cut-backs, so the complimentary in-flight snacks and drinks on domestic flights are no more (unless you’re in Business Class) so it cost us a fiver for two cardboard cups of coffee.

As the aircraft started its final approach into Heathrow, we enjoyed a very red sky on the horizon; “red sky in the morning is a shepherd’s warning”.  Not that it would worry us when we were leaving behind the cold dark miserable British autumn weather.  😊  I had the usual feeling of suppressed excitement and anticipation at the thought of starting another amazing cruise to somewhere new; we hadn’t been to Hawaii before, although it’s been on the bucket list for some time now.

Once we disembarked the aircraft at Terminal 5 we made our way immediately to the Wetherspoon’s “Crown Rivers” pub for our breakfast.  Trevor had a substantial bacon sarnie washed down with a pint of Doom Bar, while I had a breakfast sandwich containing bacon, sausage and egg. Mine was washed down with a glass of blush prosecco. 😊

Once the sign came up on the board advising us to proceed to area C64 for boarding, we made our way along to the gate where we saw the huge British Airways Airbus A380 awaiting us.  Our boarding passes told us we were on the upper deck of the aircraft, and once we proceeded up the ramp to the upstairs part we were delighted to see that our seats were those ones at the bulkhead, where there is no-one in front of you and you have absolutely loads of leg room.  In fact, our seats were ideally placed for the toilets as well as the galley. What a coincidence that we’d been given the emergency exit seats on both flights!  😊

I have been watching flight BA283 on FlightRadar 24 for the last few weeks, and even though the departure time is listed as 09:50 hours, it had never left on time; most times it was 45 minutes to an hour later taking off.  Today, however, it was bang on time when it was pushed back from the gate, and started taxiing to the runway.

Whilst the aircraft got ready for takeoff, I mentioned to Trevor that I hoped the flight would not be turbulent, as I find it most disconcerting when a giant aircraft, weighing many hundreds of tons, is buffeted about in the air five miles above terra firma.  A member of the cabin crew, who was near us on the jump seat by the emergency exit, heard me and mentioned that flight turbulence was not that much different from a car going over a pothole or a ship sailing on a rough sea.  😊

Flight BA283 took to the skies and we settled back in our seats to get through the next 10½ hours.  Because we had no seats in front of us (yippee!) our AVOD screens were tucked away in the seat arm-rest, so we pulled them out and tuned into the interactive SkyMap, so we could watch our progress across the pond to Los Angeles.

Shortly the inflight cabin service started and our cabin crew guy, whose name tag proclaimed him to be Shiran De Silva, came around and asked us what we would like to drink.  He was very pleasant and smiling and when we requested a cold beer each, he brought us two!  We enjoyed them with a small packet of cheese and onion flavoured pretzels while we looked around our immediate surroundings and I browsed the magazines and Kindle books I’d loaded onto my iPad.

Presently the trolley came around with our lunch, which was very substantial.  We enjoyed a main meal of chicken curry and rice followed by chocolate mousse, cheese and biscuits and one of the Graze snack boxes consisting of seasoned corn kernels, chickpeas and small salted crackers.  It was all washed down with white wine and a bottle of water.  I joked to Trevor that, unlike the fare on the cruise ships, we wouldn’t get a post-luncheon liqueur or brandy.  😊

I spoke too soon, however; as our cabin crew guy Shiran came around with the coffees, he’d also brought us a small bottle of brandy each.  This guy reads minds!  😊  We enjoyed the brandy and the warmth that it brought in these chilly air-conditioned surroundings.  Pulling my blanket up to my chin and putting my neck pillow into sition, I snuggled down and tried to snatch some sleep after our 4.00am start, but I can never sleep well on an aircraft and I just dozed intermittently, as the giant A380 sped across the cloudless skies bringing us ever-closer to our destination.

I then passed the time reading my magazines, listening to music on my iPod, and doing some crossword puzzles.  Shiran came around again with some more brandies (!!) and spent some time chatting with us, telling us some amusing anecdotes gleaned from 14 years of working for British Airways.  What a great people-person he was, and certainly perfect for a customer-facing role.  He told us about his family and his previous jobs, and we told him about our world travels and our unforgettable flights on the inimitable Concorde.

And so the time passed in its inexorable way, with Shiran looking after us very well and providing superb service with a smile.  Although we were travelling standard class, with our spacious extra-legroom seats and attentive service, we felt as if we were in business class!  😊

After a second meal of a hot sandwich and tea or coffee (and more drinks courtesy of our favourite cabin crew guy Shiran!) the “fasten seat belts” sign came on and the giant aircraft began her descent into LAX.  We landed ahead of schedule, at 12.55pm local time (8.55pm British time).

As we left the aircraft, we shook Shiran’s hand and thanked him for his service and all the enjoyable little chats we’d had.  He’d certainly helped to liven up an otherwise boring long-haul flight.  We also had another four little bottles of brandy to enjoy in our hotel room later on. 😊

Inside the passenger terminal, the most tedious part of our journey had begun; the long, long, long queues for arrivals and immigration.  There was nothing we could do about it apart from go with the flow, but it was a good two-and-a-half hours before we got through, collected our cases from the luggage carousel, and made our way to the hotel shuttle buses outside.

At least the hotel wasn’t far away; we were booked into the Sheraton Gateway LAX hotel and we arrived about 3.45pm; tired, hot and sweaty and with the slight sense of disorientation that always follows a long-haul flight and an 8-hour time difference.

Once we got into our room on the eighth floor (room 819) we had a single thought; a refreshing dip in the hotel pool.  This would certainly perk us up a bit as well as washing off the day’s grime.  The temperature was about 26˚ C which was a bit different from the 5˚C it was back home!

Donning our swimming gear, we proceeded down to the lobby and out to the pool.  There were one or two people around, lying on sun loungers or sitting inside at the bar.  Entering the pool, we found the water cooler than expected, but once we were in it was lovely and refreshing and certainly livened us up after our long day.

We swam around in a desultory fashion for a short while, then climbed out of the pool and found a seat in the sunshine.  I dried myself off with the large, striped towel that was provided, then put on my sarong and went into the nearby bar for a couple of cold Budweisers, which we drank outside in the sunshine, letting ourselves dry off slowly.

As the late afternoon sun dipped lower in the sky, we returned to our room and decided to have a power nap, setting the alarm to go off in one hour’s time.

At 6.00pm, we left the hotel and decided to find somewhere to have a bite to eat.  We’d already seen someone by the pool with a “Subway” carry-out bag, so we knew there must be one somewhere nearby, and indeed Google Maps indicated a Subway only three minutes’ walk away.

We set off along the busy street, found the Subway and went inside.  I enjoyed a 6” teriyaki chicken while Trevor had the foot-long turkey and ham, which we accompanied with crisps, home-made cookies and washed down with a cold, soft drink.

Afterwards we took a slow stroll back to the hotel, passing the huge lit-up “LAX” sign; I stopped to take a photo of this famous landmark.

Arriving back in our room, we had to fight the urge to go to sleep straight away; we knew that if we did so, with the 8-hour time difference we would be awake all night.  So we went down to the hotel bar and enjoyed a drink while I made a start with this blog.   I couldn’t stop singing the chorus from the Bran Tran 3000 1997 hit which went “We did nothing, absolutely nothing that day and I say, what the hell am I doing drinking in LA”.  😊

Back in our room we pottered around for a bit, watching the CNN TV, reading and enjoying the last of the brandy and dry ginger, courtesy of our favourite cabin crew guy Shiran De Silva.  😊

We lasted until about 9.00pm, then we couldn’t keep our eyes open any more.  Settling down in our big bed with its crisp cotton sheets, we fell asleep almost immediately, and looked forward what tomorrow would bring.

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