The trip began when N arrived home, she insisted she work the last day we were leaving. Ugh. "They will survive without you" I told her. This isn't exactly true since they fired all of the temps while she was gone, but it sounded like good advice, no? In this economy nothing is certain, all the more reason we needed to get out of here I thought, just for a while, leave capitalism behind and see how the social democrats live. Already, today is the one year anniversary of my "push out" of Legal Services, part of the reason we scheduled it on this day. We were already packed, waiting for Budget Limo to call, beep or whatever they do so we can be picked up and taken to Newark and flown to London.
Two hours before I placed two cold glasses in the freezer and at 3 PM they were ready. I opened my new favorite beer, Blue Point Blueberry Ale and we toasted our vacation, my 40th birthday, N's soon to be 40th birthday, our "honeymoon" and our eight years together. We were headed to the UK and Ireland, my ancestors homeland, on a tour, a risk yes, for sure, but we didn't really want to work ourselves, we wanted to be taken care of, so we found Irishtourism.com and booked a trip. "Show up" in London they said and we'll do the rest. Perfect.
The flight was non-eventful. 6:22 minutes in the air, not bad, and a good selection of all kinds of movies, from "Casablanca" to "Little Miss Sunshine." I watched them both. I can't read on a plane, hardly so I distract myself from the fact that we are travelling at 500 mph at least, 40,000 feet in the air and travailing the jet streams. Reading doesn't help. Humans versus nature, I think and both are pretty amazing. As we took off out of Newark, I saw the sun beginning to set over the horizon that seemed to stretch toward Michigan, I looked at Nicole and said that same sun will be rising in six hours over the horizon while we land in London, which when we did seemed to rise over Amsterdam. "That doesn't seem possible" she lamented.
We de-boarded the plane, and were immediately placed in a never ending line through customs. I was still excited. This was day two already. This is how the tour rolls. Day one is take off, day two is landing though, only seven hours the older. Technically, it was September 10th when we took off and September 11th when we landed, so it is hard to quibble. In customs we met a nice couple, Paul and April, older, retired, N saw the CIE tour bag and she asked them if they were there to join us. I told Nicole to leave the tour bags at home, "I won't be caught dead with them" I said. Sure enough, they were from Pennsylvania, but as April put it, "she is a Jersey girl and always will be." They were nice and we got along swimmingly, little were we to know, they would be the youngest couple on the trip, the closest in age to us. April said a couple of things about Obama, that he was trying to kill her with the death panel, but we ignored it, we were not there to talk politics. Eesh. We did agree that the banks were a bunch of money grubbing, scum bags so that was nice. So much for not speaking politics.
After Customs we grabbed our bags, N's bag one of the first down the baggage chute, mine seemingly on top of hers. No name tag, N said: "it must have fell off on the way down." "Whatever," I said, "let's go get our bus to the hotel, I need a nap." N couldn't agree more. We hopped on the bus as it was leaving Heathrow, though we were the first to sign up, they nearly left us there. Not a good start, N was none too happy, and lucky she was there to question them or we might still be there. We got on the bus, exhausted I started to feel a bit queezy, it was already 8:30 am, 3:30 am New Jersey time and I needed a bed. The driver, in his cockney accent pointed out points of interest in London, but they all appeared to be pubs, nothing eventful on the way from Heathrow to our hotel. He was jovial and we were not.
The driver, however boarded 20+ people in the bus and all of them seemingly getting off before us. Each stop occurring in downtown London, I was screaming inside, what the fuck?! I faced south as he drove and started to feel I may need a vomit bag, what to do? I undid my seatbelt so I could move a bit and it helped. Finally, mercifully we arrived at our destination, we met our tour guide in the lobby and we checked in easily enough, nearly 10:00 am now and I am barely standing up, at this point I am capable of robbery, mayhem, maybe even manslaughter if I don't get some sleep soon. "Robert" our tour guide asks me where my name tag is on my large Swedish looking bag, I brush it off and say, "it must have fell off in transit." He nods ok, tells us about a welcome drink at 6 PM and Nicole, me, April and Paul are off to our hotel rooms for a nap.
I sacked out quick, double beds, N happy so I won't snore on her. Nice. I wake up at 1 PM London time, a three hour nap and I am ready to meet the beautiful London streets. I moan, groan and say to Nicole: "we should probably rally" and be off. N wakes up pretty quick, agrees we should see London. She stumbles over me into the bathroom, a pretty nice hotel in downtown London, next to some beautiful pubs. I am really excited to see one of the world capitals, off for some pub food maybe, a pint. I slump my huge bag on a luggage table, the swedish crosses looking at me. I open it, still groggy from the plane, the long morning and the nap, I search for my stuff, but only find unfamiliar baggage. "Sweetie," I say, "where's my stuff?"