Flying in First Class (scored by il papa on the flight from Denver to New York) is like going to a faraway planet where it is nice to fly on planes. Everyone is so kind and careful, and gets you a beverage the moment you sit down (no cart mind you! People with hands instead!), and one feels as though flying is an activity that could be enjoyed, like traveling by boat or limousine.
But hot-towel bliss was short lived: I disembarked at LaGuardia, retrieved my luggage, caught the shuttle to JFK, made it through the Virgin Atlantic check in, and arrived at the gate…. to wait for five hours. Jenny Mac arrived fresh from New Haven, and we waited together, scavenging sandwiches and reading material before boarding Virgin Atlantic Flight 4. I was in the left-hand window seat of the last row, and made instant friends with Harry and David (like the chocolates?!), sitting next to me and across the aisle, respectively. Harry is an art director in New York City and Dave is… Harry’s friend. They were loads of fun. We took photos of each other in our Virgin Atlantic eye masks and puffy neck pillows. It was late. We were delayed on the ground for two hours. Can you blame us?
SPECIAL NOTE: Best thing ever: Virgin Atlantic’s safety video. Sarcastic, at times risqué, and, above all animated. With rip-cracklin’ sound effects. Three-hundred points. Also a good thing: my eye mask which was printed with the words “beddy bye.” Honestly. Could they be any cheekier? No.
I slept for a bit on the plane, and woke up tired to ultra-bright and unsettling sunshine over clouds. We touched down at Heathrow, disembarked, made it to baggage claim and customs with no delays or problems, then caught the London Overground Express train to Paddington Station. The fifteen-minute ride was quick and clean, and featured yet another safety video, though not animated this time. At Paddington, Jenny and I hailed a taxi, who took us to Hughes Parry Hall – our driver was a gentleman with stunning blue eyes and an endearing cockney accent who advised us to leave plenty of time when planning to take the underground, as “the only thing that works all the time in this city are the taxis.” Sound advice. We checked in at Hughes Parry, and I did some basic unpacking, then ventured out into the city with Jenny N., buying a cute, cheap, functional pay-as-you-go cell phone, clothes hangers, and some grapes. After a deep four-hour nap, five charming Yale-in-London folks and I dined at restaurant Balfour. In a surprise maneuver, I ordered a spicy penne. It was delicious. Then we wandered over to the Paul Mellon Centre, and on and on through the theatre district (!) to Leicester Square. Desert and sundries shopping later, we arrived back at Hughes Parry. Where I am trying to put together an itinerary for tomorrow that will include the Tour de France, Wimbledon Men’s Finals, and three-hundred pages of reading.
Things are super, but I’m feeling ambitious: I want to interact and become intimate friends with some fascinating British folk. I guess I’ll try to work that in tomorrow, too.