Annnnnd we’re off!

Remember that Europe trip Taylor bought me for my birthday? Six months later and we’re on it! I’ll be using the Nutshell Version to provide periodic (albeit brief) updates along the way. As a special Nutshell Version edition, Taylor will also be contributing – you’ll see his additions notated with ***. 🙂

We just arrived last night and a vast majority of our time so far has been spent traveling, so I don’t have a whole lot to report… except that the last 24 hours has been the most incredible comedy of errors, and it just needs to be documented.
I’m laughing as I type this, though, because there is no possible way I could encapsulate the absurdity of our trip so far in a blog post. But I’ll try:

Here’s what was supposed to happen:

Susie and Taylor arrive at London Heathrow and pick up their handy traveling wifi hotspot to use on the trip.

They take the brief 30-minute trolley ride to their hotel, check in, and live happily ever after.

Here’s what did happen:

Unfortunately we and our wifi hotspot arrived in opposite terminals. In any other airport, this might have meant a quick jaunt on a moving sidewalk… but since London Heathrow is roughly the square mileage of some African countries, getting there brought about a navigational adventure for which we were wholly unprepared.

Also of note, before I go on: We are lost, gullible souls and let our friend Will talk us into buying the end-all be-all European carryon for this trip – allegedly perfectly shaped and sized for any airline, and conveniently convertible from backpack to handbag to duffle. Not so convenient, however, is the fact that it doesn’t have wheels… and so we trekked our way through London Heathrow with these weighty monstrosities on our backs, looking for all the world like big bulky turtles. (I’d like to issue a formal apology to the dozens of innocent passerbys whose elbows and faces fell victim to this pitiless beast of a bag.)

***wheels in Europe = happiness*** 

All this to say, here we were coming off a 10-hour flight and 2 hours in customs, in a foreign airport and with only a very foggy idea of where we might find this hypothetical wifi hotspot in the distant mythical land of Terminal 4… and to top it all off, we’re both hobbling along like ankle-cuffed prisoners under the weight of 12 days’ worth of clothes and belongings.

***14 kgs or 29 lbs***

Suffice it to say, spirits weren’t high.

40 minutes and a crowded train ride later, we did in fact arrive at Terminal 4. And – aha! – there was the pickup location of our golden wifi hotspot. Things were looking up… until we received the device and realized it didn’t work. We realized this when it failed to provide directions to our hotel.

Exhausted, grumpy, and hunchbacked, we decided we would figure it out later… and instead used the spotty airport wifi to search for the hotel address. That’s when we learned that in traveling 40 minutes to our technology meeting point, we had put ourselves 40 minutes farther away from a bed. 

We spent the next hour and a half becoming intimately familiar with the London Underground, accompanied by what appeared to be the entire population of England on the train. “Sardines” isn’t even an adequate comparison, since at least sardines don’t have armpits or hacking coughs. We caught brief, shining glimpses of the city through the train windows… but ultimately 5 hours in, had yet to step foot on British soil.

And then, like a lighthouse’s shining beacon to sea-worn sailors… we reached our stop. We staggered out of the platform, weary and disheveled, and began the search for our hotel.

…Except that, oh yeah, we didn’t have internet. And that the train station was in the middle of a corporate office park – no friendly cafes to ask for directions. We cobbled together our meager bearings and began walking in what we thought was the right direction – with 30 pounds of baggage each.

***based on earlier review of maps, it was a 10 minute walk****

A mile and a half later, there was still no sign of the hotel – nor any of the landmarks we knew to look for. Our backs and feet ached. I threw my hands up in defeat and decided it was worth it to use international roaming data to figure out where the heck we were. We checked the map, and to our horror learned that we had walked a mile and a half in the wrong direction.

Despair settled over us like an X-Ray blanket.

We kept it to just one foot-stomping scream sesh before trudging, reluctantly, back the opposite way. 

By the end of it, my shoulders were screaming in agony. My feet had formed a union and were threatening to go on strike. I’d been awake for 21 straight hours – and while during that time I didn’t come across a single mirror, I felt qualified to guess at my current physical state. 

Finally, finally, we saw it – a friendly Marriott logo looming on the horizon. A tiny spring of hope began to blossom in my chest, we’d made it! Three miles of walking, half of which was in the wrong direction, and here we were at the hotel at last.

But wait, those steps looked awfully familiar. And I could’ve sworn we’d seen that JP Morgan building before. And isn’t that the same plaza we walked through when we first got off the train?

We almost collapsed with our mighty backpacks under the weight of this realization – we’d spent over an hour walking in needless circles when our hotel was steps away from the train station.

Just like we’d spent 40 minutes moving infinitely farther from our hotel on the train, for a wifi hotspot that didn’t work.

There were some good parts, though… like the flight attendant who stole some *** (a bottles worth)****champagne from first class for us to make mimosas, and whispered conspiratorially that it was Winston Churchill’s favorite brand (he reportedly drank a bottle every day). Or the fact that when we finally did get settled and had dinner, Creedence Clearwater Revival was playing in the restaurant. Or that even through the nightmarish underground train ride, we were at least entertained by the festive trolley line names (our connections were Piccadilly and Jubilee).

So now, we sit in our hotel room, treat ourselves to some overpriced room service, and toast the highlights of a comically bad day. Here’s to an outstanding trip ahead!

***Taylor’s Recap***

Title: Travel is a devastatingly challenging to make perfect.  

4.7.16 Whoa! You’ve heard of planes, trains and automobiles right? Well today we did all of the above plus 15k steps with a bag on the shoulders weighing 10kgs. Ouch! Plus I never really realized how dependent I’ve become on the Internet. Literally felt worthless without it. Sleep? Naw. Fall asleep at 10:30 wake up at 2:30. Stayed up thru the night. Jet lag is real folks. Melatonin regimen? Please. No matter what things you do to ensure perfection, ease and comfort, it just might not be fully achievable. 

Daily Travel notes:

Delta airlines to Heathrow, Piccadily Line to Green Park- Transfer to Jubille line – to West India Quay Marriott. 

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