Monday, November 13, 2006

Trip Report: Getting to the UK

Venice Beach, L.A. - 10am(ish)

I've decided that I really need to do a trip report because they're such fun - for me anyway. This first part will cover the getting to the UK because it was a bit of an adventure, mostly because it took 48 hours instead of the expected (and usual) 24.

We flew from Christchurch to Auckland to catch the international flight without any problems and sat in the Koru Lounge (thank goodness for mothers that are members) snacking on free food and reading interesting magazines whilst waiting to be called for our flight, which never happened! First of all there were technical delays and then at about 11.30pm, there was an announcement that they were going to change the engine(!!!) on the plane and we were going to have to overnight in Auckland. Personally, I'm all for changing the engine if there's any issues.

So we were loaded onto buses and shipped out to a hotel for the night, what was left of it considering we had to be back downstairs for the bus at 5.30am. That was a definite challenge. My mother and I decided that we'd have separate rooms because we could and both had an excellent, although short, night's sleep.

Once we were back at the airport (and ensconced in the lounge again) we were told we could spend the day in Auckland and catch that evening's flight or take the flight to L.A. and overnight there. We decided to do that because neither of us had spent any time in L.A. and it would give us half a day there. Loaded up and flew off without any issues.

For some reason our luggage was REALLY slow coming out in L.A. so we were on the last shuttle to the hotel and by the time our bus got there, there was no room left at the inn. Loaded back onto the bus and to another (better) hotel where I eventually staggered into bed at 2.30am local time. Up and meeting mother for breakfast by 8.30am which is really good going for me.

My mother had met another passenger on the flight at breakfast who had found out about a bus tour that left in half an hour so there was a bit of a rush on my part to a. eat and b. pack out of the room before going! Made it though. We were the only 3 from our flight doing the tour - most of the others had opted to sleep in and try going for a walk later.

The tour was called a Hollywood tour and it was excellent. I came away from the tour wanting to come back to L.A. and having a good explore. The first part was hilarious as we went to the tour company's depot where we paid for our tour and were sorted onto the appropriate buses. Included in our fee was free popcorn! Not at that time of the a.m. for me I'm afraid but people did take advantage of it - it smelt a bit revolting on the bus later.

I couldn't get over the brightness of the light. I wasn't expecting it as NZ is considered to be bright but I'd have to say that I found L.A. brighter. I had my glasses on so hadn't brought my sunglasses with me and thoroughly regretted it. I spent most of the morning with my eyes all squinted up and watering. Mind you, I'm not sure that I would have been able to get my lenses in anyway. Venice Beach, which was our first stop, was completely blinding - the photo really does not show the glare.

The only other problem we had was that we had no US money as we weren't expecting to be there at all. There was a mid-morning break to allow shopping and my mother and I had to run around and try to find somewhere to change money so we could buy water. Ridiculous really.

So thoroughly enjoyed our tour. When we got back to the hotel the others told us that they'd tried to go out walking but there was nowhere to go. I'd heard before that L.A. is a car city and that people don't walk anywhere but had forgotten that so was glad we'd done the tour thing.

The flight from L.A. to the UK was absolutely horrendous as the airline had put 2 flights together and the plane was completely full. Not a spare seat anywhere. So it was noisy, hot, crowded, queues for the toilets and we had terrible seats in the middle and not together! Do not want that experience again. Didn't sleep on that leg at all.

Once we got to Heathrow we had to wait for at least 30 minutes on the tarmac while our slot was cleared. That was a real pain but we seemed to go through customs fairly quickly. Because we'd now arrived on a Sat instead of a Fri E & T had come out to meet us which was fabulous. So great to see them and they escorted us to their flat.

To be continued.


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