Wednesday, July 23, 2014

UK – Iceland – Norway Cruise – Ocean Princess – July 6-20, 2014

July 3, 2014 – Travel Day

Our flight to Heathrow – BA294 – departs at 6:10 PM from O’Hare Terminal 5.  Fortunately, we got a ride to the airport – although we started off with plenty of time to get there, traffic was awful and we arrived at Terminal 5 at about 4:25 PM (twenty five minutes late).  There were only three BA agents working and everyone seemed to have a story to share with the agents – some passengers were repacking their suitcases while being waited on.  So, even though the lines were short, they were glacial. 

We finally got up to a window and the first thing the agent said was that we should have gotten here sooner.  I told him that we had been waiting in line for about 25 minutes but no comment.  He said we had to run to make our flight but, again, he was wrong.  Our passage through security was many times faster than our wait in line at BA and soon we were at our gate, M15, with plenty of time to spare. 

Our plane, a 747-400, was at the gate, serviced, and loading luggage. 

 20140703_ BA 294 - 747-400. (Small) 20140703_BA 294 - 747-400 (Small) 

BA294 – Readying for Flight

We have no standing at BA, so we waited for our row to be called (the plane loads from the rear to the front).  We are in 33HJ, which is the bulkhead aisle and middle just in front of the coach upgrade section.  Plenty of legroom and windows – right over the wings.  Soon, the doors were shut and there was no passenger in the window seat so Ellen moved there and we had the middle seat open.  BONUS.

The plan pushed right on time at 6:10 PM and we were in the air about 15 minutes later starting our 7 hour flight to LHR.  The takeoff was very smooth and soon we were above the clouds.

Dinner was served pretty soon as after departure – we had our Kosher meals (Asian Chicken and Rice, some version of coleslaw, a challah roll, and coffee cake).  We had this exact same meal on a previous flight.  I liked it for the most part. 

I tried all of the movies but never got more than five or ten minutes into them:  I rejected “Hunger Games: Catching Fire”, “Divergent”, “Her”.  I fast forwarded through “300: Rise of an Empire”.  The only movie I watched all the way through was “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”.  The main reason I didn’t get into the movies was the sub par sound system – the headphone jack did not fit snugly into the BA slot (the sound was odd and cut out all the time). 

The sound system proved to be annoying in another way.  A couple of hours into the flight, a flight attendant told us that a passenger would be taking the middle seat because his sound system wasn’t working.  He also brought his elbows with him (nice guy but big wingspread) so getting any sleep was out of the question.  Ironically, as soon as he sat down, he went to sleep and never really needed his entertainment system all that much. 

Friday, July 4, 2014 – Over the Atlantic Ocean

The flight was quite smooth (only the occasional shimmy) and the seat belt sign was never illuminated.   About 5 AM London Time, I caught a beautiful sunrise through the airplane door porthole.

20140703_sunrise over Atlantic (Small)

By the time I finished “Jack Ryan”, we had crossed the Atlantic; soon we were in England and on initial approach to London Heathrow.

20140704_Nearing London (Small)20140704_London Approach (Small)

On Approach to London Heathrow

20140704_Thames and London (Small)

Hazy View of the Thames and London Eye

We landed just a few minutes early at around 7:10 AM. 

Heathrow Airport is definitely designed for the physically fit because the walk to the baggage reclaim area was incredibly long – required a short train ride, numerous escalators and hallways.  We did eventually reach the passport control area, which despite the large number of people in line, moved rather quickly.  From there we walked again to the baggage area, where our bags were waiting.

Although I didn’t get any sleep on the flight, I was holding up OK.  The plan was to take the National Express Bus to Dover.  Originally, I had intel that had us going to T1 to catch the first bus.  We were told by an agent that the National Express Office was just beyond the exit area.  Speaking to the ticket agent, she told us that the “33” Bus (leaving at 8:55 AM) would take us to Victoria Station, where we would catch the “007” Bus (leaving at 11:45 AM)  to Dover (Ferry Station).  Total Cost 42 Pounds (4 pounds less than I had been quoted on line).  Another BONUS. 

We got front seats on the first bus –the AC was good and our ride to Victoria Station took us through the neighborhoods of London. 

Exiting the airport, I got a nice look at the Emirates Airlines model of the Airbus A380, which welcomes people to LHR

20140704_ A380 Model LHR entrance 1 (Small)

20140704_A380 on approach LHR (Small)

Model of the Airbus A380 (top) and the Real Thing (bottom)

We arrived at Victoria Station at around 10:30 AM – a very crowded station but we did find a seat.  More importantly, we found a Burger King that offered Chocolate Sundaes for 39 pence.  The sundaes hit the spot.

We lined up early for the Dover bus so we could get a good seat in front, which we did.  I had a lot of trouble staying awake for this leg but I did see most of the ride.  We were out in the English countryside for most of the trip.  The driver told us to stay on the bus when we got to Dover and he would take us to our hotel. 

We arrived at Dover around 1:35 PM and the driver did take us the extra few blocks to our hotel – the Premier Inn (Ferry Terminal).

The Premier Inn was very nice – friendly folks at check in.  Our room – 327 – is on the top floor and faces the harbor. 

20140704_view from room 327 (Small)

View from Premier Inn Room 327

The rooms look like they had been refurbished recently – the bathroom was very modern and fresh with the deepest tub we had every seen in a hotel.  The rain shower was very nice.  The room only had 30 minutes of WiFi per day (?) but you could get unlimited WiFi at the “Table Table” Restaurant on the ground floor of the hotel.

Even though we were tired and jet lagged, we opted to check out Dover.  We walked along the shore and beach – no sand just small stones. 

20140704_ET and inner harbor (Small)

Ellen and the Dover Harbor

20140704_Premier Hotel and me (Small)

The Premier Inn and Me

 20140704_Beach Dover (Small)        20140704_Dover Beach (pebbled) (Small)

Dover Beach

20140704_White Cliffs and Premier Hotel (right) (Small)

Condos, Premier Inn and White Cliffs

The weather was warm (almost 80F) so the beach had  lots of locals taking in the water (lots of swimmers) and sun. 

The walkway was flanked by the beach on one side and by a green space on the other.  In one of the park areas, there was a very interesting trio of statues (actually metallic cutouts). 

20140704_statue istallation on sea walk (Small) 20140704_sea walk statues plaque (Small)

The three individuals all had connections to Dover but the only one I recognized was Ian Fleming and his famous character, “007”.

Ellen spent some time in a shopping mall housed in what looked to be a former warehouse – no A/C so I checked out a nearby restaurant.  One of the installations in front of the place was a moving articulated statue (below).  Her slices would pull apart and then come together to form the complete statue. 

20140704_Articulated moving statue (Small)

“Sliced Up and Moving Woman”

We checked out a number of restaurant and shops and looked for the best place to shoot the local attraction - “Dover Castle”

20140704_Dover Castle from Shopping Mall (Small)

Dover Castle from Castle Street

We stopped at a Co-op to get some items to snack on.  Nearby was a Catholic Church, the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, which originally dates back to the Norman period – around 1100 AD.

20140704_St Mary theVirgin Catholic Norman 1100 AD (Small)

Church of Saint Mary the Virgin

After some thought, we decided to eat dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. 

I had a small salad (with an alien version of Ranch Dressing) and Mushroom Risotto and Ellen had the Salad with Salmon.  My dish was better than hers but, as far a English cuisine goes, it was OK. 

We actually caught a second wind and stayed up until 10:30 PM to try and get back on schedule.

A long day but everything seemed to have worked out.

Pedometer: 7786 Steps; 3.54 miles; 412 calories

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