Tag Archives: heathrow

The Great Trip Home

London pictures here.)

Okay, so it wasn’t really a great trip home, but as far as trips home go, it was pretty good.

I got home a week ago, but I’ve been pretty busy (read: procrastinating) on writing this blog entry until today.

I got to spend two days in London, or rather a few hours of one day, a full day, and a day in the airport. I took the train from Edinburgh-and the British trains are surprisingly not smooth and seem determined to throw everyone around the train cabins without actually managing to crash the train. It was an interesting ride, and after four hours of jostling I arrived at King’s Cross, where I spent half an hour waiting in line to get an Oyster Card while listening to some guy complain about his lost Oyster Card and a few other guys get really angry at him.

Anyway, the next day I spent wandering around two different types of shopping areas. This:

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And this:

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The first is Camden Market, which is an awesome place full of interesting items and clothes of various styles. Also fried oreos. That’s right. Fried foods that aren’t meant to be fried aren’t limited to the United States.

The second is Regent Street, which is full of Stores I Can’t Afford and several H&M’s. It’s a pretty street to walk down and window shop and stare at what might have been had you been born rich, or at least wealthier than you are now. It’s pretty much the opposite of Camden Market.

Now, I’ve already been to London twice, which is why this blog entry only includes something about a market and not any of the more iconic things one might do in London. One might say that I’d gotten lazy on this part of the trip–and that’s true. But I did spend a few days in London a few years ago, and a few weeks in London two years ago, so I covered a lot of ground. This visit I had less time, so I did less. And what I did was explore an awesome market that people should go to more often.

The next day I went to the airport nice and early (Heathrow, for the curious) where I wasn’t allowed to check in for three hours. I arrived six hours before my flight because my hotel check-out time was early, and my flight was relatively late. I ended up puttering around, buying a paperback version of JK Rowling’s secret book (the one she wrote under a pen name), and drinking coffee.

Heathrow Terminal 5 is a nice place to spend a few hours once you’re allowed to check in. There’s a TARDIS, several shops, a noodle restaurant, and a fair amount of free wifi, all of which I took advantage of. Never have I spent more time in an airport so willingly.

I had a flight on British Airways, which was really nice–good service, back of seat entertainment systems, and relatively good food. The flight went faster than I expected, probably because I watched Casino Royale and then spent the next three hours writing with Les Mis in the background. Not a bad way to spend a flight. I didn’t feel like dying once.

And when we got into JFK, we were treated with a lovely sunset as a backdrop to New York City.

NYC sunset from JFK airport.

NYC sunset from JFK airport.

It’s been surreal being home. I kept thinking, “Oh, yesterday I was in Europe.” And then, “Oh, this time last week I was in Europe.” I’d gotten tired of traveling but I miss it, too, which is always the problem of coming back from somewhere. Being left at home with nothing to do is quite a change from exploring new places, and I’ll probably go stir crazy in another week. I love traveling. I love planes, which sounds weird but probably isn’t. I love the feeling of being in a place with a lot more stuff going on than at home. And I love doing what I want.

But never fear! I’m accompanying my family on college tours for my sister in about a week in Boston, which is a really nice city that I haven’t been to enough. And after that, we’re going to Cape Cod for some relaxation and good ice cream and one really scary beach that constantly changes and is surrounded by sharks. It is the best beach, and it is in Chatham if you ever want to explore a creepy beach.

So, although I leave you with this last bit of the trip, travel isn’t over for the summer. Interesting things are still going on, and thankfully the rest of the summer won’t be me staring at the computer screen wishing I was elsewhere, as I often do.

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Airports

(Day (insert number here)-Favorite Airport.)

I love traveling, and I love flying. Flying is my favorite form of travel. Say what you will about long lines at security and delays, flying is really really cool and awesome. And I’ve often found that most airports reflect the places you’re going to. So I’m going to list a few of my favorites, and a few of my least favorites.

Favorites

Vancouver International: Vancouver is a beautiful city, and the airport is beautiful to go along with it. Full of natural colors, like turquoise and browns, and lots of glass, and a good amount of awesome shops, and a waterfall near immigration, the airport is really great to look at. Also, there’s a really good hotel in the airport that has fantastic views of the planes taking off that I may or may not have stayed in. And it’s right in the airport, not right outside. Literally, an airport hotel. Also, conveniently, certain airlines will have you go through immigration before boarding, which saves you the hassle of going through immigration after your flight (which is nice, especially if said flight is six hours).

Amsterdam Schiphol International: Amsterdam’s airport is full of happiness and modernness and has an indoor mall BEFORE security. Everyone is really helpful. I would like to point out that I got free ice cream that the airport staff was giving out when we were leaving. Also, for some reason, there is a plane on the roof of one of the buildings. A big double-decker plane. It’s a cool airport. Just take my word for it.

Heathrow International Airport (London): This airport has gone under some major renovations in the past few years. It’s modern, has lots of stores, and for some reason, books in a vending machine in at least one of the terminals. Books. In a vending machine. Yes, this airport suffers from delays and long lines as huge airports tend to, but I haven’t yet had a bad experience here. Immigration is pretty fast. You can easily get from Heathrow to London for less than £10 via the subway, which will take you into the heart of London if you so choose. And it’s London. Come on.

Kona International Airport (Hawaii): Located on the Big Island, this airport is, to put it simply, really awesome. Why? Because it’s all outdoors. The ‘buildings’ are huts with thatched roofs. The runway lies amidst a blackened field of dried lava, right next to the beautiful blue ocean. It’s a novelty among airports. Amazing.

Zurich International Airport: There’s some good and bad here. The good: you can buy anything you want. Especially chocolate. Lots of chocolate. I got some chocolate truffles in the airport. There are places to eat. This is fact. The airport, to put it mildly, is swanky. The bad stuff: so much security. Literally, you get checked on one thing or another about four times. It’s annoying. And they won’t let you check in for your flight until about three hours beforehand. So if you arrive before that, like we did, you kind of have to wait around for awhile. But the airport boasts its own train station from which you can pretty much get anywhere in Switzerland, and plenty of places outside Switzerland. And I always appreciate convenience.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport: I have a soft spot for the airport which I so frequently use to go home and get back to college during the holidays. The good things: it never takes more than 10 minutes to check in (if you must), it never takes more than 15 minutes to get past security, the new terminal is very new and very pretty with LOTS of places to eat, the new terminal also has a Borders, all the gates are really easy to find, and even if you’re stuck in the sucky old terminal because you decided to take Southwest Airlines there’s a Cinnabon so everything is okay. The bad stuff: Raleigh-Durham isn’t the most interesting place in the world, so if you’re arriving at the airport, well, chances are you aren’t about to embark on a mind-blowingly fantastic vacation. Chances are you’re here for business, or college.

Least Favorites

John F Kennedy International Airport (NYC): Let’s start with my home state. And they try, they really do. Kennedy is a city of its own, with its own highway, a network full of runways, and 8 terminals ready to take you anywhere. I personally feel excited whenever I’m here; it’s an international airport. I’m going places. And the terminals, for the most part (Sorry, Delta) are really nice. But that doesn’t excuse the near-hour it takes to get through security and the endless flight delays of about an hour or more before you board, and about an hour waiting on the runway. Also, it is really a pain to get from JFK to NYC. There is no direct way. There’s a somewhat direct way. You’re better off having a car. And let’s not start with the people who yell at the cars trying to pick people up at Arrivals. Welcome to New York, indeed.

LaGuardia Airport (NYC): Yeah, so NYC really messed up with its airports. LaGuardia, for those who don’t know, is the smaller, closer to Manhattan cousin of JFK, and only serves national destinations. That said, the airport is old, constantly under construction, and surprisingly you can get lost trying to find one of its three terminals. Check-in and security lines are long. Delays, as with JFK, are rampant. And for an airport so close to Manhattan there is literally no direct way to get there. You’d think they’d have built a subway line from LaGuardia to Grand Central but no, the closest subway station is a fifteen-minute bus ride away in the opposite direction.

Charleston International Airport (Charleston, SC): If Boring was an airport, this would be it. This is the only airport that does not reflect upon its city, because Charleston is beautiful and old-timey and awesome. Charleston’s Airport shares space with a military base, and the airport is all brown. Literally, small and brown, with no flair what-so-ever, and nothing to do.

Panama City International Airport (Panama): Yes, the actual country of Panama. The airport lacks any sort of aesthetic pleasure. The bathrooms are…don’t go in them. (And bathrooms are surprisingly important.) And there is nothing to do while you wait for your flight. And it’s dismal.

There are plenty more airports I could talk about, but these are the most exceptional, for better or for worse. Airports are a huge part of traveling, so it’s inevitable that if one is really good or really bad, you’ll remember it.

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