May15th – 16th
Monday night/Tuesday morning Nat and I were both in and out of sleep. Being self-conscious of the time and wondering if we had set Jenny’s bedside clock alarm right, we were paranoid about being late. Young Nat was picking us up at 4:00 am to drive us to Newcastle Airport. Having literally thrown everything in our check-in luggage, we only had to pack our toiletries and we were off and running.
Young Nat, having travelled just as many miles as an astronaut in his career, could walk through this airport blind-folded. Once we arrived at the check-in gate, Young Nat pointed out a Newcastle United Football player, Jamaal Lascelles (former captain in 2016) walking by with his wife. I was in awe, having never seen a real life professional footballer. I may be a Cristiano Ronaldo fan, but I’m also a lover of Newcastle United and even Manchester United. Getting back to business, Nat and I were soon informed that we would have to transfer to Gatwick Airport once we arrived at Heathrow. Dumbfounded, we had no idea. If we were told by our travel agent, we had long forgotten. Young Nat looked a bit worried for us, as he could no longer be of assistance, so we said our goodbyes as he watched us walking hand-in-hand off into the abyss!!
The flight to Heathrow was short and sweet, but then the bloody aggravation began. We had no idea where to go to catch our transfer and even with a 3 hour layover we managed to use that time completely by just getting to where we were to go. We had no idea that the small square piece of paper stapled to our ticket was actually the British Airways Transfer ticket we were to use for the bus. Oblivious to it all, we wandered around the airport asking anyone that would walk by where the transfer buses were to Gatwick. Very surprising to find out not too many people even knew there was an area where buses and taxies lined up to take you somewhere. Finally, an intelligent woman, along with following a few “Arrival Transfer” signs hanging above us, we found where the buses at least came through for pick-ups. We, however, just didn’t have a ticket (despite the fact it was in my purse all along)!!
So exhausted, frustrated and barely dangling by a thread, we both said “to hell with it” and purchased a National Express transfer ticket for 54.00 Pounds. Now getting really anxious, our bus finally arrived and we were whisked away to Gatwick for (what were the odds) another adventure.
We’re now walking through Gatwick Airport, for what seemed to be miles, to get to our gate, of which we did not know the number yet. It had not been posted on our tickets. We checked the Gate board and were informed the number would be posted around 11:00 am. Our flight was leaving by 1:00 pm. Waiting and waiting, constantly checking the board, no number was being posted even though it was now past 11:00. We had no idea what was going on, when Nat asked someone and with luck he told us it had been posted, that we somehow missed it, and with the number in hand, we made a bee-line to get ready for boarding. My heart ached for Nat, worried about missing the plane, trying to slow down a pace to keep an eye on old miss cripple walking behind, he witheld his frustration. Finally arriving at the gate, no one was there. God almighty, please tell us we didn’t miss the plane!!!!! No, thank God, we hadn’t. The attendant told us we had a half-hour at least. Then suddenly other passengers came literally running in, thinking the same thing we were. Having no idea what was going on, British Airways had somehow managed to confuse a plane full of passengers now in the departure lounge.
At last, finally, we were boarded and sitting in our seats. With no one beside us, we felt we would have a private time flying home. We were informed that several passengers were missing and with that a head count was now being taken. We soon found out – about an hour while sitting on the tarmac – that their flight from Florida had been delayed and we had to wait until they, too, were boarded. We were still lucky as none of the missing passengers were slated to sit in the empty seat beside us.
We were ecstatic to get into the air and looked forward to another boring flight only because we were so tired and knew this would not be the time to get any sleep at all. The meal was soon served (Chicken with Chirizo and soggy chips) which, naturally, I turned my nose up to. Nat tried some just to fill a small void. We then watched a little TV – very old American shows – but were soon put off so we gave up and tried to sit quietly in our seats. Somehow, someway we both fell asleep long enough that when I finally woke up, the rest of the passengers were licking away on Ice Cream Bars – big, fat ones covered in chocolate. Somehow it seemed right as nothing was going our way that day no matter how we tried.
At long last landing on Canadian soil, we had no choice but to gather up as much energy as we could to make that bloody long trek to the baggage claim, customs and Niagara Airbus pick-up area. Another extremely long walk, winding in and out of the line control areas to get to customs area. Not having travelled in over 7-8 years, some changes had been made and unbeknownst to us, a lot had been computerized. Getting close to where we had to “check-in” on one of a dozen computer screens lined up along the wall with our passport, fill out the Landing Declaration and get a receipt, we soon became even more confused. I was able to follow the instructions, for the two of us, but not realizing that once I completed my turn, I was to have Nat follow, as we would end up with one receipt. Trying to figure things out, along came a snotty-nosed, arrogant and very angry attentant to help us. Not saying a thing but looking at Nat and repeatedly saying “Put it there!!”, “Put it there!!”, Put it there!!, “Put it there!!!” pointing to the screen and tapping her little stubby fingers on the passport screen for Nat’s passport which had to be scanned. Nat was ready to deck her, but the poor man could hardly lift his arms. Don’t ask, but we managed to get through the whole process, as we began another long trek to the Airbus area where we crashed until our driver arrived.
We were picked up for our last ride home on any kind of airplane, bus or vehicle, and arrived at our doorstep early evening. By way of coincidence we had a retired RCMPer drive us home. I was wearing an RCMP t-shirt I bought while in Regina so he asked me about. Nice man!!!
Walking in the door, Nat and I literally dropped our suitcases and went straight to bed. Only being 8:00 pm, we didn’t give a damn. Nat stayed up long enough to text Susan and Laura to let them know we were home and didn’t want to be disturbed until morning.
We have never felt such exhaustion in our whole lives. Our spirits had been broken. I felt like I had Fibomyalgia (like dear sister, Gail), bent over and walking as if I lost my cane and walker, my whole back wanted to cave in and drop to the floor for a thousand nights. We admitted we were becoming a bit old to travel like that any longer. Nat felt the same way only his legs are in better shape. Those large airports are beyond our capacity to walk through and any time differences in travel would take us twice as long now to get over.
After almost 12 hours of sleep, we awoke Wednesday morning still a tad tired. I got organized – throwing a whole suitcase of clothes in the laundry, getting our meds and toiletries back in order. Nat (believe it or not) went to his usual Wednesday golf league while I stayed home and got caught up with paperwork, bills, etc.
It was later that night, it dawned on Nat, he should have stayed home from his golf. He couldn’t keep his eyes open while eating pizza for supper nor for the entire evening. He finally realized it was going to take several more days for us to get back to where we were before we left. Life was now going too fast for us!!