Day 15 of Trip to Land of Free
July 23, 2010

Day 15 was our last day in the US. We had to wake up early to get our flight back from SFO to Chicago. Of course it was still foggy in SF. I remarked to Helen that I would be very grumpy if I lived in a place where it was cold during the middle of summer. Even England isn’t like that. We had to leave for the airport at 7:00am. I hadn’t told the kids but I had actually booked a stretch limo to take us to the airport. It was only $10 more than a standard taxi and as Michael and Chloe had been counting the ones they saw during the trip, I thought it would be a good experience. They were really chuffed but it wore off quickly especially when we were driving on the motorway and it felt like we were on a boat. Helen couldn’t look out the front window as she was getting so car sick (or maybe boat sick would be better) and Michael was totally pale by the time we arrived. I don’t think the end came quickly enough for them! The long wheelbase and suspension does make you feel like you’re on a boat. I have been in one a few times before and I remember this from every time I have driven in one. On the way to the airport I remembered another observation from the trip – Americans love outdoor sculptures. They are all over Chicago, LA, SF and even St Louis. Some are weird and some are fine but it is just incredible how many they have.

We were able to check our luggage through to London so that worry was gone and all we had to do was to wait for our departure. We were able to use the Admiral’s Club lounge which is the American Airlines lounge. Who knows why they call it the “Admiral’s Club” – do they not realise you’re taking a plane and not a boat?! The flight left on time and we had breakfast on board. The flight was quite comfortable again except that the airhostess was relatively “grumpy” though I think it was her mannerism. Helen said that if that is her manner then she should find another job! It really wasn’t that bad though and as they don’t give much service it didn’t really bother me. We actually landed early. The temperature at Chicago was 30 degrees so a little shock to the system versus the cool SF. We had a mammoth walk as we had to change terminals (and Chicago is the biggest airport in the US) and there are no walkways or escalators. We also had to take a small people-mover train to go from Terminal 4 to Terminal 5. We again managed to check-in easily and as we were travelling on British Airways we were able to use the lounge (with, mostly importantly, free wifi, as we had 4 hours to kill). The duty free shopping is the most disappointing I have ever seen. It is just a small series of fold-up displays which stretch over about 20 meters and that is all there is. Quite amazing for America as (as you should know by now), Americans take every opportunity to sell you something so this is a bit of an anomaly.

As the flight is was a sleeper flight (i.e. they don’t serve dinner), we ate in the lounge. After we got on and the plane took off, it was 8pm and we all put our chairs down and went to sleep straightaway. Unfortunately none of slept brilliantly. I woke up at 11:10pm and pretty much didn’t get back to sleep again before about an hour before we landed. Michael woke up at 11:30pm and also fell asleep around about an hour before we landed. Stephen seemed to sleep the best though he also slept in fits and starts and both Helen and Chloe woke up early and didn’t get back to sleep again. I reckon I never got more than 3 hours sleep. Factor in the change of time and we landed at 9:30am after taking off at 8pm and with just 3 hours sleep it doesn’t make for the easiest of days.

We went and had breakfast (after landing) at the British Airways arrivals lounge. They have a great breakfast including even pancakes which Helen felt she should have just for old time sake. We then took a taxi into London to spend the day at the flat. Helen had a shower and immediately went out to do some shopping (like she didn’t do enough in America). The rest of us stayed in the flat. Stephen spent the whole time on his laptop (and I probably did too besides the odd phone call) and Michael and Chloe mooched around. Stephen went with Chloe to Pret to buy us lunch (oh the pleasure of letting your kid out in a major city without the fear that he will get mugged or nabbed). After lunch Michael fell asleep on the couch and Chloe joined him just after Helen got home. By that time it was time to finish the repacking of the suitcases and adding another bag for Helen’s purchases in London today (and our internet ones that I had sent here to the flat). Only Helen, Michael and Stephen are heading home as Chloe and I are still in London for another week. Helen and the boys left in a taxi at 4:15pm for the airport and at 6pm Helen SMS’d to say they were in the lounge and at 7pm they SMS’d to say they were on the plane. They should be over mid-Africa by now.

Chloe and I both fell asleep for a hour and a half and then at 7pm we went out for dinner. This is the first time ever that Chloe and I have been alone together. We went to a Spanish tappas restaurant for dinner. Over dinner we chatted about this and that including remarking about well dressed the women are (and no very short pants though some short skirts were evidenced but everyone I saw wearing one had the right to wear one – don’t tell Helen I said that). I love London and being here now feels like a second home to me so I feel very comfortable here. I have managed to stay awake until 11:10pm tonight and now I am going to bed. Tomorrow Chloe and I go down for the weekend with my parents in the New Forest and then on Monday it is back to work (though my first meeting is in Bournemouth which is very close to my parent’s home).

This is the last you will hear from me from this trip. Hope you enjoyed getting the updates. Thanks for everyone’s comments over the last 2.5 weeks. I know that I didn’t respond to everyone but it is enjoyable getting comments back from you to!

Until next time, that’s all folks ….

P, H, M, C & S

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