England with Family!
Trip Start Jan 23, 2007
120Trip End Dec 24, 2007
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After having another big breakfast (including the usual 4 pots of yogurt for Sam) we caught our free shuttle to the airport and played chess for the 2 hours until we were able to check-in - unfortunately the only free shuttle we could catch got us to the airport about 5 hours before our flight was due to depart. So imagine our joy when we found our plane was delayed by an hour!!
At least we were able to check through our bags and look through the duty free areas. Things here were disgusting cheap - disgusting in that couldn't take it through the States, because we had to go out and back through customs there, and we all know how draconian their security measures are. (exhale - no rant for you today!!) Had we been more entrepreneurially minded we might have bought the bricks of cigarettes on sale for 1.15 Euro, and sold them for a tidy profit in Europe (usual price apparently 8 Euro according to our sources).
Played a bit more chess, and watched innumerable Copa airlines flights arrive from all points of North and Latin America - it was quite weird having a huge airport effectively operating for the benefit of 1 airline (there were only about 5 other flights by other airlines for the entire day scheduled).
The flight was fine - we were glad to take off after watching clip after clip of the burning plane in Sao Paulo on CNN after it crashed off the runway the other day. Experienced the usual low standard of American Airlines service - haughty air hostesses and 1 drinks service (no beer). Sam never thought he would see the day when he become one of those people who actually commented that the service was bad (until this point every flight has been exciting) but American airlines is a joke. You expect to have to pay for everything when you fly on a budget airline, but having to pay for drinks, headphones and all the rest on a full fare was stupid. Imagine you'll have to pay for tokens to the toilet next - watch this space, we predicted it first!!
Landing in Miami was crazy. Pulled up at the terminal and dashed off to try and get our bags, stopping on route for a toilet break - problem being that there was one toilet (like one bowl - seriously) to serve the 20 gates in the close vicinity. Luckily we were first in the queue - the people behind us dancing impromptu jigs and looking very uncomfortable indeed!!
Bounded through the terminal and rounded the corner to see the gigantic immigration hall with every single one of the 50 queues about 20 people deep - yikes. As Miami is the basically the hub for the entire Caribbean and Latin America for the entire world, and suspicion America (with good reason probably) holds on people from regions south trying to gain entry, the queues were moving pretty slow. Frances patiently waited; Sam fretted we were going to miss our connection. Finally we were in front of the officer, and only had to provide our fingerprints and have our retinas scanned again (not the full cavity search thankfully - this is the land of the free after all).
Bolted down to the baggage claim to find yet another chaotic scene - all the carousels were overflowing and bags were being placed all over the ground. Little wonder - our carousel had 8 flights on it, as did most of the others. Thankfully our bags are pretty distinctive and we had eagle eye Francie on the team and we found them next to a different carousel in a few minutes. We ran to the opposite end of the airport to check-in - we were the very last people to check onto the flight apparently!! Perhaps it was our smiles that got us on - the check-in lady asked if we were dentists because we had perfect teeth (worth the 2nd mortgage for all those orthodontist visits Mum and Dad?!!).
Another sprint through the airport to the departure gate followed (Miami airport terminals must be at least 2 kms long) leaving us enough time to inhale a tuna roll at the boarding gate. It was kind of surreal looking across at the gate we had boarded our flight to Guatemala City all those months ago - our feeling of relief and excitement now contrasting starkly with the feelings we were experiencing at the same place 6 months ago!!
Hats off to British Airways folks - all friendly and helpful hosts and hostesses, and seatback T.V sets! Had a yummy dinner and a few quiets before watching some movies and listening to some music in English - wow!! Sam watched 'Blades of Glory' - a fantastically predictable movie about male figure skaters. The story lines of all the Will Ferrell and Co movies are effectively the same, and would be lucky to get 2 stars from any self respecting film critic, but Sam chortled and guffawed his way through the 80 minutes anyway!
Landed in London early, and had a stress free zip through to terminal to hugs and kisses with Jenny and Mick (sister and brother in-law for those not in the know) - a very nice surprise as we thought we were being met by a taxi!! They even had a sign and everything!
What a relief and joy to be with family again, although it was kind of weird to be greeted by Jenny and Mick who had seen us off in Auckland - almost felt like the past 6 months didn't happen at all!
Had a quick tiki-tour through the south west of London in their flash new Peugeot (a very stylish and comfy change from the beaten-up old beasts we have been used to riding in over the last we while!) - passing by Hampton Court palace and having a look at a picturesque lock on the side of the (very high due to recent heavy rains) Thames. Drove through some posh neighbourhoods of houses worth £12-15 million (you could buy the whole of the South Island for that!!), although most of them were well out of sight up private roads or long driveways.
Back at Jenny and Mick's, we had a big cooked breakie and laze on the couch for the entire afternoon. Sam mumbled something about going for a walk around the block but slothfulness eventually got the better of him.
Played a few games of Blokus too (our first board game in 6 months - sweet joys!!), before Jenny served up a huge dinner of Roast Lamb with all the trimmings, followed by icecream. Wow.
Had a quick talk to Mum/Trish too, so a good day all round. Unfortunately we were still in a different time-zone so couldn't sleep for a good while either, but made up for it with a good long sleep in.