Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sluggo's trip to London

Since my last post, I had mentioned that I was going to London again with my great friend Jeremy. He was going to be working the flight, as Purser, and I was just going to go along for his trip. He had a 24hr layover in London, so it was enough time to get in, take a nap, and do some running around London and see what it has to offer.

I get to Chicago a bit before he does. Keep in mind, I just worked a trip from San Francisco - New York's JFK airport that night, then hopped over to LaGuardia airport to get to Chicago. I think I had about an hours nap on the plane, otherwise, I didn't sleep at all.

Initially the flight was going to go out of K12, but it soon changed out of L8, and First Class was not looking promising for me to sit up front, where he was sitting. Fortunately for me, not only did I get on the flight, but I actually was able to sit in First Class!

Of course I had to have a pre-departure Champagne, and now we're off to London! The flight was roughly 7hrs 30mins. Surprisingly, I didn't sleep, or at least I didn't think I did, even though one of the other flight attendants said he saw me sleeping during one of my movies. Either way, I was comfortable. First up, were the Crudites and dip. This was basically something to get you started on your meal. It consisted of slices of celery, carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli. Now, on the most delicious appetizer! (MY FAV)

I can eat this appetizer day-in, day-out because I LOVE the smoked salmon. We use to have this on the domestic trans-cons, but they took this away to save some money, however, here is what the appetizer consisted of: Smoked salmon and tarragon shrimp accompanied by capers, red onion, and sour cream. Water, Pommery Brut Champagne, Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Merlot.

The Merlot was extremely tasteful and really accompanied the plate well. I would have asked for more, but being a good non-rev, I didn't want to take from the crew getting any food on the flight.

Next up was the Salad. I wasn't going to have a salad, but I took one anyway.  The salad consisted of: Fresh seasonal greens with squash, cucumbers, artichoke hearts and roasted tomatoes with pepper cream dressing. I could have added a Cajun-style roasted chicken breast, but I decided not to add it since I wanted to save room for the main course.

Since I was sitting in First Class, I had Video-On-Demand, so I started watching a movie that I've wanted to watch for a while, "The King's Speech". (Based on the true story of George VI and his friendship with a speech therapist who helps the stammering King find a voice.) Awesome job!

Next up on the menu was the main course. Dinner consisted of: Sauteed breast of Chicken featured with a ratatouille sauce, smashed potatoes with bacon and a medley of baby vegetables. Surprisingly, it was very good. I think I just about licked the plate when I was done. I can now understand why people want to pay Full Fare to sit up here due to the service. I just wish we would do the same on Domestic First Class Trans-Con flights. Something to differentiate from Business.

Of course following dinner, one has to partake in the dessert! Vanilla Ice Cream with Bailey's Irish cream. Simple and to the point, but good. I probably would have gone with just butterscotch, but since I don't get to drink on my flights that I work, I thought I should do it up....especially since I'm paying for this non-rev experience! (because I'm less than 25yrs with the company, I still have to pay taxes on the services in First Class, so this trip wasn't cheap!)

By this point, "The King's Speech" was over, so I wanted to watch another movie and selected "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt 1".(As Dark Forces threaten to tear them apart, Harry, Ron and Hermione set out to destroy the secret to Voldemort's immortality) I'm so behind in my movies, this flight really helped me get back on track!

It must have been during "Harry Potter" that I took a few cat naps that the one flight attendant said I took. I don't remember a lot of the movie, but it was still good. Once "Harry Potter" was over, then I watched "Inception"(In a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through dream invasion, a highly skilled thief is given a final chance at redemption which involves executing his toughest job to date: Inception.) I tell ya, I think I have to watch it again because I lost a LOT of info because there was so much going on. It was interesting that someone can think of different levels of your dreams, and other people trying to attempt the data in your brain, through your dreams.

By this time, it was time for our descent into London's Heathrow Airport, so a Pre-Arrival Beverage of chilled sparkling water to freshen you up.  Since I was in First Class, I was able to deplane early, and get through customs quickly. The sad part was, they changed the pick-up point for friends/family traveling with crew-members. Fortunately the crew and van weren't waiting long when Jeremy found me, and we were on our way to The Forum for our layover. The sad part was, the other in-bound crews from Miami and Dallas passed us, so that meant that when we got to the hotel, we'd be behind them in getting rooms, and sure enough, we waited a little over an hour.

During this time, Jeremy asked me if I wanted to go right out and tour the city, or if I was tired and wanted to sleep. It truly didn't matter to me, so I left it up to him since he was working all night, and he chose to sleep. We set the alarm for 1pm, however we overslept and got up and showered in time to head out by 3pm.

It was a gorgeous day in London. Low 70s and sunny. We stopped by the concierge desk before leaving the hotel to see what theater shows were on performing that night. Jeremy had mentioned something about Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical, but I was a little tentative about seeing a bunch of drag queens prancing around on the stage. Either way, I left it up to him to decide later what we were going to do, so we ventured down to Gloucester Road Tube station and got on the tube to Westminster Tube station. Not going to London that often (my 3rd or 4th time) I didn't know where exactly we would come up until we got above ground. Yup, you guessed it, right next to the Houses of Parliament (Big Ben) and Westminster Abbey. Since we had such a late start, we got to Westminster just in time for the 5pm Evensong service.  I know if we had other friends with us, we'd probably not have gone, but we went in for about 20 minutes of the service and listened to the Westminster Abbey's Boys Choir sing. It was awesome.

Once we left the Abbey, we walked along Whitehall and passed the stables were the Royal Horses are housed. It was open, so we peeked in and saw where many military parades have gathered. (or at least via video) We kept walking along Whitehall and passed the National Portrait Gallery and stopped at a TKTS half-price ticket store to see how much tickets would be for Priscilla. Unfortunately, the guy said that all the tickets he had had already been taken back by The Palace theatre. We then walked to the box office to see what kind of deals they had, but all the tickets were pretty costly, or had obstructed views. The girl at the box office suggested that we try another TKTS location, so we go trotting off to another store, but they were closed. Jeremy wanted to buy some tickets at a discount place, but they were only $10 cheaper than at the box office, so I told him lets think about it.

Of course, Jeremy wasn't too happy, but he relented and back to the box office we went, and somehow, we got AWESOME tickets at a GREAT deal. It was almost a 2-4-1 type deal.

Before the show, we ran to grab a bit to eat at an Italian restaurant called "Amalfi". We shared a pizza, dessert, and a glass of wine. Ok, we didn't share the glass of wine, we each had our own, but it was great.  

The tickets the Jeremy got were 4th row, almost center. It was awesome! The show was non-stop fun. I have to laugh, having worked at The Ordway Center for Performing Arts before flying, I can understand how different company's are strict about taking pics or being on cell phones. The Staff at The Palace were on top of it! They were awesome. Anytime they saw anyone taking a pic or texting, they were right there to tell them "NO"! We had so much fun during the show, I really didn't believe I would enjoy it, but I would LOVE to go back and see it again! I heard the production that's on Broadway is a bit censored from that of the London production, which is sad because it goes to show that those in the U.S. just can't handle the language or half nudity...I mean, there was a kid sitting with his parents in front of us who loved the show, so why can't parents just allow their kids to see this in the U.S.?

After the show, we went to Rupert Street Bar in Soho, then to Comptons of Soho London. By this point, I was getting tired and a little lit, Jeremy wanted to go to G-A-Y bar for one more drink, but I said I was fine, so we hopped back on the tube and back to the hotel for an early morning.

I got up at 6am to put myself on the standby list, got back to the room and took a shower. By this time, it was time for Jeremy to get up and get ready. He wanted to stop by this great coffee shop that he frequents, however when we got there, they had closed. (presumably because of the Starbuck's that was right around the corner).

We all load up on the bus back to Heathrow, they drop me off at the front to go through the regular passenger line and security, where I had to relinquish the rest of my contact solution bottle, shampoo (yes I do use some) and after-shave lotion. Once I finally got to the gate, the crew was just coming up from their screening and I checked in at the gate and got my First Class seat.

I started watching my movies again. Started off  with a movie that we were playing on our Westbound Domestic flights, "The Company Men" (When corporate downsizing leaves Bobby and co-workers Phil and Gene unemployed, the men are forced to re-define their lives.) Next I went with a sci-fi: "I am Number Four" (This science fiction thriller follows an extraordinary teen who is a fugitive running from enemies sent to destroy him.) . It was interesting, I don't remember seeing advertisements for it, but the way they left it, there will be a second one coming out at some point.

Once again, time for meals to come out. I again had the Crudites and dip. I didn't care for the dip this time, as it was just a herb vinaigrette dressing, rather than an actual dip like we had leaving Chicago. Now comes the best part, the appetizer: Smoked salmon and tarragon shrimp accompanied by capers, red onion and sour Cream. Groom Lenswood Savignon Blanc. Again, I could just eat the smoked salmon since it is my favorite, but I chose not to since I didn't want to become a pain for the crew.

The Main Course had the same options as going to London, so I chose a different entree this time.  Grilled fillet of beef served with porcini mushroom butter and bordelaise sauce, diced yellow peppers, haricots verts, baby carrots and olive oil potatoes. I didn't care for the green beans that accompanied the vegetables, however the beef fillet just melted in my mouth. It was delicious. I probably could have eaten another one it was so good. We don't get anything like this on Domestic, so I savored ever last bite (except for the beans).

I guess you can consider me a simpleton. I again chose the Vanilla Ice Cream, but this time with Kahlua! I actually liked it better than with Bailey's. By the end of dinner, the movie was over, so I selected "Little Fokkers" (It's taken ten years, two kids with his wife, Pam, and countless hurdles for Greg to get "in" with his father-in-law, Jack) There were some funny parts, some dull parts, but over-all I liked it.

Just about 2hrs prior to landing, it was time for the 'Light Meal' to come around. I didn't eat breakfast on the way to London, however I wanted to eat something more, so I got the Grilled Chicken Breast offered with tabbouleh kebab salad, tzatziki with pita bread, kalamata olives and feta cheese. This was recommended by Jeremy, so I had to try it. He said that the pizza was never any good (too gooey) I was pleasantly surprised at how good the stuffed peppers were. I was enjoying my bottled water I didn't realize that a drink appeared on my tray, so Jeremy asked me to take a sip. I about killed over. I don't think there was any Coca-Cola with the double Jack Daniels he put in the glass! LOL Alas, it was good. By this time, it was time for my last movie: "Gulliver's Travels" (Jonathan Swift's iconic literary satire gets a larger-than-life, 21st century revamp)

I once again had an awesome trip to London. I really can't wait until I get over to the International side. Hopefully this summer I'll have my chances, but until then, I'll continue to do my Trans-cons!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sluggo's heading to London!

Tomorrow, I'll be flying to NYC to work my JFK-SFO trip on Saturday, then working the red-eye flight back to JFK that night. Once I get back to NYC, I'll then be flying to ORD to meet up with a couple of my friends to head to London for a day.

My good friend, who is a Purser out of ORD, is working the flight to London, and I'll be staying with him once I get there. I'm glad we didn't go during the Royal Wedding as it would have been hectic and busy, however I'm excited to be going back to London because it's been a few years since my last visit.

On this visit, it won't only be he and I, my friend is taking his partner too, so it will be the three of us running around London trying to stay out of trouble.

I'm not exactly sure what we'll be visiting, maybe head back to The Tower of London and check out King Henry's armor, or maybe go and visit The London Dungeon where they showcase how they use to torture those bad-bad people. (I remember visiting that when I first visited London back in '94...very cool)

I'd be ok with visiting some new places we haven't been yet. It is always a treat to watch the Changing of the Guard (I tear up watching the marching band go by) but we could go to G-A-Y, or Knightsbridge, Harrad's, or who knows where. I'll leave it up to my friend as he is often tired when working the trip in, but he's such a great tour guide. If I remember on one trip, we ended up going all the way to Vauxhall where we had fun bar-hopping. So many options to choose from, in so little time.

It is a shame that the bars near the hotel are no longer what they use to be. There were two gay bars within walking distance that were actually a LOT of fun, but they are now straight bars.

Well, keep an eye out for another update with where we went. Maybe I'll post my whole experience from boarding, in-flight food/movies, landing, customs, running around London, and the return experience!