I arrived in London today. This is the first time traveling here and ohh what a city! I haven’t seen much but so far it’s pretty amazing here. I can’t wait to explore but I must get some much needed food and sleep first.
It’s an extremely long story but in a nutshell I went over 42 hours without sleep and 21 hours without any food. If you mix together long flights, misunderstanding, and some rookie traveling mistakes, you will get what I will now refer to as the “Fast of 2011.”
Feel free to skip the rest of this post. It mainly is just a play-by-play of me whining about my travel day(s) to London.
The long story….
I awoke yesterday at 10:00 am to finish packing and to run a few errands before skipping town. I left Baltimore on an Amtrak train around 3:15 to catch my Icelandic Express flight at Newark airport. The train ride was about 2.5 hours, which left me 3 hours to get from the train station, to the airport, through check in, and security.
Please note that I was giving a very nice and large send off meal around 2:00pm before leaving Baltimore. On the train I had a candy bar and a cold Pepsi.
I get checked in and I make it to the gate. Having a late and large lunch I decided to wait to eat, and have some snacks on the plane or during my layover. That decision will end up being a big mistake. I boarded my flight to Reykjavik, Iceland around 9:00pm.
I bordered the plane and realized I had just climbed into the equivalent of a 1981 Nissan Datsun beater car. Basically, If your seat had a seat cushion then you were flying first class. I was looking for a carving on the plane that said “Wright Brothers were here.”
Shortly after takeoff the stunning and gorgeous Icelandic stewardess started the planes food service, which consisted of helping passengers get food and drinks from their bags. There’s no food, no snacks, nothing. You could however, buy some select beverages and sandwiches. The sandwiches looked like they were made when the plane was made. So I passed, especially when I heard a man ahead of me buy a can of beer with American money. Adding together the price of the beer, conversion rate from dollars to kronur (Icelandic money), a conversions fee, and I’m sure a S&H fee, his bottom shelf can of beer cost him $9.75. I passed, and was given a Dixie cup of water.
My seat neighbor next to me offered me some string cheese, which I gladly accepted. While I sat in my jump seat enjoying my water and string cheese meal I realize that I won’t be able to buy food in Iceland because I don’t have any kronurs. I would need to either convert dollars to their money or buy with dollars which will cost me a fortune. I don’t care I’m hungry!
My six hour flight ends and I arrive at the airport in Reykjavik which is a runway in the middle of the Icelandic terrain. So there’s the runway edge and then there’s green purple floral that goes as far as the eye can see. No chain link fence, nothing. The plane parks in what looks like a plane parking lot and we exit down portable stairs. I’m now standing on the tarmac in Iceland with nothing keeping me from walking to the edge of the plane parking lot and wondering off into the amazing Icelandic terrain. Though tempted, I decided against it. Maybe on my return flight. I ventured into the airport. Even though it is very small it is extremely modern and well designed. We’re herded into customs to be processed, but wait? I have a connecting flight I don’t need to go through customs. Nope, you have to go into Iceland and then return back to catch your connecting flight. (Please note they did this to everyone on my flight and that I just didn’t wonder off into the wrong area or exit.) So I went through the arriving customs counter and got my passport stamped. I turned a corner and I was back in the airport and had to go through security again. After my groping session at the medal detector, I headed to my gate. Before that though I had to go through the departing customs counter. In a thick Icelandic accent a man asked me how I liked my stay and if I have anything to declare. Really? It’s been 4 minutes!? He asked me something that I couldn’t really understand but I think he said something about going in now and I said, “yes?” He stamped my passport once again and I’m off to my gate. As I’m heading through this expansive wing of three gates I realized there’s no food on this side of the customs counter. That’s what the guy was trying to ask me! He wanted to know if I was sure I wanted to go through customs and not get something to eat. Damn it!!
It’s now 8:00am Iceland time. Currently, I haven’t slept in 25 hours and the only thing I have eaten in 8 hours is a Twix and some string cheese. No food, not even a vending machine that I don’t have money for. Can’t wait to get to London. I wonder how long the next flight is….let’s see…. 4 hours!
I don’t sleep on planes. I don’t sleep in cars, trains, benches, parks, etc and I don’t take naps. For some reason I can’t sleep unless it’s time for my nights sleep and only if I’m in a bed of some sort. The only exception to this was in my high school english classes.
Because I’m so tired I’m hoping that I might get some sleep on my next flight. I boarded the London flight and found my seat on a plane that is big improvement form the last. This flight doesn’t have any real food or drink service but it does have in flight entertainment that kept me awake the entire flight. I refer to the entertainment as Screamapalooza which is an a-cappella group of small babies and children who scream at the top of their lungs. Someone must have told them the price of beer.
Four hours later I land in London at Gatwick airport. All I can think about, as we taxi to the gate, was what kind of food am I going to get after getting through customs. Was it going to be a burger, sandwich, pizza, or all of the above. It’s now been about 30 hours without sleep and 12 hours since I’ve really eaten.
I get off the plane and we’re herded to the stockyard, I mean the customs line (or “queue” if your in England). Gatwick customs center is under construction and nothing is working. Their line distribution system, computers, and kiosks were not working. They were using what looks like old refrigerator boxes as make shift podiums. I believe the boxes once belonged to travelers who eventually died in line. I quickly blew through the customs line in a quick 2 hours 37 min.
While I’m in London I will be staying with my friend Claire. I’m suppose to be meeting her in London at a certain spot at a certain time. Because of Customs I might not make it in time. My phone is dead and I have no real way of contacting her to let her know what is going on. Which means I can’t stop and eat. I have to figure out the train system, get into London, and get to the meeting spot by 6:00.
I take the over-ground train to London Bridge and get to the place I’m meeting Claire. It’s currently 5:00pm London time and it’s been 36 hours since I have slept and 18 hours since I have eaten.
At this point I’m not hungry anymore and figured once Claire arrives we’ll go eat something since it will be dinnertime. Claire arrives and suggests we head to the house so I can ditch my bags and freshen up before heading to dinner. I agree, and two hours later we’re heading to an amazing Thai dinner.
We ate and caught up on old times and then headed back to her place. I’m now tucked away in my room writing this and thinking about my day(s). “Fast of 2010” included 21 hours between meals, and 42 hours between sleep.
The lesson to this long ass story is: When you fly internationally, pack some damn food!!
The queue at immigration is sort of an introduction to the Great British Queueing tradition. Plus it’s revenge for the outrageous queues at US immigration!