Here’s the quick version.
Who: Myself and Jon
What: Trip to Europe
Where: See pic.
When: May 2-17th
Why: Jon’s brother is stationed in Stuttgart currently. We were planning to go next year, but since we’ve been trying to have a baby we decided we should do this trip sooner rather than later.
How: Planes and Trains, mostly.
Now for the detailed version!
The following takes place between May 2nd and May 3rd, with a little bit talking about prep/packing beforehand.
Alright guys, so while planning this trip, we decided we’d each bring one regular suitcase (carry-on size) and one underseat bag. We would try to not check things as long as we could. Now, packing efficiently is not one of Jon’s strong-suits so I basically had to supervise and direct him with his. We only brought about 1 week’s worth of clothing, knowing we’d have a few opportunities for washing. This helped tremendously.
For my liquids, I grabbed the roll of Safeway brand cling-wrap I’ve had since I lived in California (I normally use the Press-N-Seal kind for food, and so this has just sat around for sad, lonely years) and put squares under the caps for added protection.
Saturday, May 2nd began our flights. We departed from Kansas City at 10:15am, flying United to Chicago (ORD), arriving at 11:49am.
Canadair Regional Jet 200–this is a pretty small plane. Everyone with any kind of rolly suitcase had to gate check, and once we boarded I could see why. The overhead bins were ridiculously small. Even the bag I normally put under the seat wouldn’t fit. They gave everyone back their bags right at the gate, which I have mixed feelings about. Basically anyone on the plane who had their bags gate-checked (nearly the whole plane) had to mill around in the jetway while a few people not waiting for bags tried to get through, and then they bring a few bags out at a time so you have to kindof watch for yours and try to navigate through in the crowded jetway. I feel like perhaps just sending them to baggage claim would have been less of a hot mess.
We then had a 4 hour layover, but we wanted to give ourselves enough time to leave the domestic terminal and go through security again at the International terminal (since TSA Precheck doesn’t apply to international, sadly). But, as it turns out, since we were flying Aer Lingus business class, we get to use the Air France lounge. Basically, we spent 3 hours in a nice quiet space with free food and drinks. Not a bad way to do it!
Then comes the long flight! Departed ORD at 3:50pm to arrive in Dublin, Ireland at 5:15am. I’m pretty sure my flight selection was just setting myself up for jet lag failure, but just as equally was Jon’s planning for us to go to a baseball game the night before we leave and a late movie the night before that. So much for adjusting to local time gradually beforehand! But I digress. As mentioned before, we were flying business class, which I was pretty stoked about. Also, I’m pretty sure this Airbus 330-300 is the largest plane on which I have ever flown.
Alright, let’s talk about this plane. Business Class rocks my socks.
And there was fancy food!!
After food, we still had a handful of hours left until landing, so I tried to sleep. I had some luck, but might’ve had better luck if there were more, or a thicker pillow. Jon watched some movies but fell asleep through them. He can sleep pretty much anywhere.
About an hour before landing, they start to wake people up and we have a breakfast of fruits and pastries.
We landed in Dublin about 5am. I find the layout of the terminal interesting. When you leave the jetway you take an escalator up to the 2nd floor, while those waiting to board the next flight are on the 1st floor. It actually seems less chaotic to me this way. Then we have to split up according to whether or not we’re UK citizens or not, and have our passport stamped. We had a short layover until the flight at 6:50 to London (LHR). This one’s on an Airbus 320, and this seat configuration is more or less what I’m used to flying in.
As I wait, I buy some water and get to use the chip feature of my travel credit card for the first time. Our flight to London is quick and uneventful, other than to note that since we were sitting in an emergency exit row we weren’t allowed to have anything under the seat in front of us, which I found odd.
We arrive in London at 8:05am. As you may have deduced, it is now Sunday, early in the morning with a full day ahead of us! No customs to go through here. Now we need to make our way to Bristol. Below is a map for illustrative purposes.
We were still weighing the pros and cons of taking an express train to Paddington Station or regular Underground trains (difference being time vs money)when we came upon a lady selling express tickets for 10 Pounds each, which I decide is acceptable so we take it. As we wait for the train, I see my first ‘Mind the Gap’ sign.
London Paddington Station was a little bit of a mess. I encountered my first ‘pay toilet’ but since we didn’t have any change, I waited. This journey was the only one I didn’t have tickets bought for since I didn’t know at what time we would be getting to this station. I wish I’d estimated. The lady at the info both seemed helpful, and suggested we go to the ticket windows instead of using a machine. But, the guy at the window was less than helpful and it turned out we bought tickets for the train but that did not include seat reservations. So once they announced boarding, it was a tidal wave of people all trying to get on the same train.
Before, when we were waiting around, I entertained the idea of buying a Paddington Bear, but by the time we boarded, I was so disgusted with this station I wouldn’t do it.
Since we didn’t have seats, we spent the first hour or so crowded in the aisle by the luggage racks with a bunch of other people. There was one family from Brazil with 3 children who were sitting on one of the racks. It would’ve been less annoying if people hadn’t kept having to walk through us to the car behind (which I’m presuming was a dining car because they all came back with booze). Eventually some people got off the train and we were able to sit down, and it was glorious.
Finally, we reached Bristol. We stayed at the Hotel Novotel Bristol Centre for 2 nights. We arrived before check-in time but luckily they had a room available for us. We drop our luggage off, change, and then go out to catch a bus south to Wells, which is the town where they filmed Hot Fuzz, which is one of the coolest movies ever.
First, I just have to mention that the road we were on was a small road with buildings and bushes sometimes coming right up to the lane, but this bus driver was hardcore, bookin’ it down the road. I think if we’d been sitting on the left side of the bus I’d have been jumpy and scared, as the occasional bush was grazed.
Nicholas Angel: Yes Mr. Staker, we’ll do everything we can. Can you describe it?
Peter Ian Staker: It’s about two-feet tall, long slender neck, kinda orange and black bill…
Nicholas Angel: Anything else?
Then we ventured inside the castle walls and saw some swans…
Here’s a few pictures compared to the movie scenes…
And then I found the shop with the Cornettos!
The cathedral in Wells that they erase out of the town landscape is pretty amazing. They didn’t let us take pictures inside but I got plenty of outside shots and a few anteroom hallways.
Here are a couple more random Hot Fuzz gifs because I like them.
This concludes the first post. Stay tuned for the next day….Cardiff and the Doctor Who Experience!!!