Friday, November 20, 2015

Day 1: Flying across the pond, we're in London, baby!!

Thursday, Nov 19 (afternoon)

Finally, it’s travel day. As I had mentioned, I had lots of work to do, and conference calls to run and attend. I had calls that ran all the way until 11:30 am. After my very last call, I had just about 1 hour to finalize my packing. We had an airport shuttle pick-up scheduled at 12:45pm. It felt like the longest hour. Within that 1 hour, I packed, I showered, I ate, I even blogged for a bit. LOL!!! Next thing you know, it was time to go. The Roadrunner Airport Shuttle driver knocked and by 12:50, we were on our way to the airport. We had 1 more pick-up in Malibu which allowed us to take the Pacific Coast Highway. 

By 2:20pm, we made it to the airport. There was no traffic at LAX. The driver drove us to Terminal 7 and we made our way to the counter to drop off two of our checked luggage. There was a long line to get through security, but since we are TSA approved, we went through the TSA Pre-check line and breezed through security. Nancy and I went straight to United Club and did a few last minute business errands over the phone. After a few drinks and appetizers, it was time to head to Gate 77.…boarding time.

We made it to our seat. While we didn’t get first class seats, I managed to get us a free upgrade in Economy Plus. There was no one in front of us - talk about leg room. We had lots of room to stretch, just perfect for this 10.5 hours of direct flight from Los Angeles to London Heathrow Airport

A few days ago, I was on a flight from New Jersey back to LAX. The flight was delayed nearly 3 hours due to mechanical issues. Well, not today. This United flight was efficient and we left on schedule. We were up in the air by 5:05pm.
Blogging continues

Leg Room


I fly United Airlines quite frequently. I don't expect much from United or any "American" airline for that matter. I care most about just getting from Point A to Point B. For this United flight, it went pretty smoothly. The cabin crew had served us drinks and snacks and shortly after we were given our dinner - chicken and couscous, and veggie pasta. After dinner, I tried to get on the Wi-Fi, but it was down for most of the flight. Fair enough. It forced me and Nancy to get a few hours of sleep. By the time, we woke up, there were only 2 hours left of flying time, and breakfast was served. The plane finally landed at Heathrow around 11:20am.

London Heathrow Airport
First impressions of Heathrow? Huge airport, lots of walking, lots of walking, and lots of walking. It must have taken us 15-20 mins to get from the plane to the immigration. The line was long, picture a long line as if we were about to get on a Disneyland ride. The line queue in itself took another 1/2 hour of our time. After a brief Q&A with the immigration officer, we headed for baggage claim and got ready to look for the Tube, the Underground Train.






The Choob
I've been on many subway or train rides in NYC, Rome, Paris, Milan, and the "choob" was just slightly different. The seats were cushioned and the train wasn't as roomy compared to the subway in NYC. Sheena, our niece who lives in the UK, gave us detailed instructions what to do. She said to get a one-way ticket and board the Piccadilly Line and get off of Green Park. Of course, we followed her advise. The train arrived and we got settled and found a seat. That's when it hit me, I fell asleep. Then again, it was around 4am California time when we boarded the Tube.
Rush hour
The ride lasted around 40 minutes. We got out of Green Park, walked out of the station, and followed the signs to Stratton Street. To our surprise, The May Fair Hotel was only a couple of minutes away from the Tube. That was a pleasant surprise. We didn't have to drag our luggage all over the city.

The May Fair Hotel
If there was one thing I was looking forward to with this trip, it was the stay at The May Fair. After I started earning points on my credit cards last year, there was a lot of hype with booking a stay at The May Fair. It's a 5-star hotel and we're staying here for 4 nights. How much? Zero. Zilch. Nada. We used points that we earned from credit card bonuses. The beauty of this offer, for every one (1) night that we booked, we got the 2nd night for free. So for this 4-night hotel stay, we only used points to pay for 2 nights and received 2 free nights. The average night at The Mayfair is around $600 USD, and thanks to Club Carlson for treating us here.

The moment we arrived for check-in, they noticed that we have a gold member status. I didn't even know what all of that meant. Once the front desk staff member noticed our gold status, she called her Guest Relations Manager, Matteo, and handed the services to him. He took over, welcomed us, and escorted us all the way to our room. He did say that he gave us a free upgrade. He extended his business card and asked that we call him directly should we need any assistance.






We unpacked our clothes and placed them in the closet. We had about an hour to spare before Sheena's arrival. We planned on meeting at 5pm. Instead of sitting in our hotel room, we decided to venture out.

After a few minutes of walking from our hotel, we passed by a show room filled with Rolls Royce vehicles, and next to it was the Bentley show room. Hmmm, next thing we knew we ended up in what looked like the Rodeo Drive of Central London, New Bond Street. It was shops after shops of major high end designers. After a look here and there, we headed back to the hotel to meet up with Sheena. When we got to our room, to our surprise, there was a chilled Moet & Chandon Champagne, 2 champagne flutes, and a plateful of chocolate-covered strawberries courtesy of the hotel. Thank you, May Fair Hotel!!!

Sheena moved to the UK a few years ago, and it has been at least 8 years since we last saw her. She took us to Victoria Station, which reminded me of NYC's Grand Central or Penn Station - a hub of many transportation options and restaurants. We bought our 7-day transportation pass which included 2-for1 discount deals to many of the local attractions.



From there, we headed to Harrod's, a fine upscale department store in London. We were a bit hungry, but we didn't want to eat a full meal, so we opted for some macarons at Laduree. Shame on me for not going to Laduree in Paris and NYC. Well, not today. Not only did we eat a few delicious macarons, we also had some good English tea along with it. Okay, so there, Laduree and Harrod's are now off the check list.



Now that we had our pastry or dessert, it was time to eat dinner. We took the Tube towards Piccadilly Circus, home to many of the West End theaters, and ironically, it was also right next to London's Chinatown. I remember reading a tip from one of  the posts in TripAdvisor to check out Rasa Sayang, a Malaysian restaurant in the heart of Chinatown. So glad we did. We had Roti Canai, Shrimp Fried Rice, Chicken Satay, Fried Chicken wings, and Kangkong Belacan, so flavorful, so spicy, it was delicious.



After dinner, we decided to head back to the hotel. It has been a long day of travel, and we wanted to rest up. Tomorrow is going to be another adventure-filled day. This is all for now, thanks for following our journey. Good night!

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