Saturday, July 17, 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 On The Road Again

Bewley's Hotel inside Manchester Airport.  It was really a normal hotel, but after two weeks of London's smallest bathroom, Bewley's felt like The Ritz.
Last night I stayed at a hotel right in Manchester Airport.  Very convenient!  Bewley's is a U.K. hotel chain, but their claim to fame is American style rooms.  That means they have queen size beds, (almost unheard of in London!) a love seat and table, a full sized t.v., and an iron and ironing board in every room.  I'm embarrassed, but I will admit that it took me about fifteen minutes to figure out how to turn on the lights.  I tried everything I could think of, but no luck.  I had figured out how to turn on the the t.v. and change the channel, (always hard for me) how to turn on the bathtub and shower, (more confusing than you would think) and how to adjust the thermostat (I was surprised they let the customers do that).  But, the lights were a mystery.  Finally, I swallowed my pride and called the front desk.   The woman informed me, rather snippily, that you must enter your door card in the slot inside the door.  Who knew?!?  Certainly not me.

This is not a joke!  These are real instructions.  At least
this bathroom had instructions.  Most of the time I just
fiddled around until I stumbled on how to flush the toilet,
 turn on the shower, or run the bath.
But the best thing about Bewley's was the bathroom.  It had a tub! A tall, deep bathtub!  And joy of  joys, the bathroom was big enough for me to spread my arms open wide and twirl around, which I did.  It was also big enough that I could shave my legs without having to open the shower door.  Luxury! 

Bewley's also had ice machines.  Hooray!!!  But, no ice bucket.  Huh?!?  I finally figured out that guests were suppose to take the tiny juice glasses provided in the room down to the machine where you fill up each glass individually and then walk back to your room.  Why do the Brits fear ice?

The ice machine was in a small vestibule which had a few vending machines.  One sold cokes and juice.  Another sold "sweets" and "crisps."  The third was larger so I figured it sold sandwiches.  Wrong.  It was a vending machine for alcohol!  Each of the little bins held a wine cooler or a bottle of beer.  Some of them even held cans of soft drinks and those little bottles of booze.  That's something you would never see at home!

See the down comforters?  There is no top sheet under that
fluffy comforter, nada!
I experienced another first, as well.  All the rooms had down comforters covered in duvets, but no top sheets on the beds.  I knew this was how most Europeans make their beds, but I had never experienced it.  It worked well that night because it was chilly.  But what do people do when it is warm?  It's the down duvet or nothing.  You can't fold down the comforter and cover up with the top sheet on warm nights.  And, what about the cleanliness?  Does the hotel change the duvet covers each time they have a new guest?  Bleh!!! I'm glad that didn't occur to me until the next morning at breakfast. 

I don't think I will ever get use to seeing
 police officers carrying machine guns!
I got to the airport around 8:15 and spent the next 45 minutes going through security.  Let me tell you, British airport security was definitely more stringent than American security!  First, all the passengers had to go through a one on one interview with a security officer who asked about our luggage and why we had been to the country.  Who packed your luggage?  When did you pack?  Did anyone else have access to your bags.  Where are you going next? 

"And madame, did you let a crazed terrorist
pack your luggage this morning?"
Next, the baggage check person asked about electronics, lithium batteries, hand held computers, and weighed the luggage.  I was a little worried about that.  I would swear my bag weighed twice as much as when I left DFW.  It weighed 14.1 kilograms, whatever that means.

Then, we did the put-your-things-in-the-bins, take-off-your-shoes, and check-your-311-bag routine.  Unlike the DFW security people, these security people really checked the 311 bag.  One of the security guys cheerfully told me that my bottle of contact solution was too big.  The same bottle that successfully made it through security in DFW and JFK, didn't pass inspection in MAN.  They did let me put some solution into my contact case before they threw it away, though.  Thank goodness for small kindnesses!

The Security Officers took their job, very seriously!
After that, I thought we were done, but no!  We had to go through another security check before we were allowed to enter the waiting area for our gate.  Two female officers wearing scary, blue latex gloves gave me a thorough, but polite pat down and minutely searched my purse.  Whew!  I heard a security officer explaining to another passenger, who had gotten his feathers ruffled, that we were on a high security flight.  Always curious, I asked my officer, why.  I thought the flight might have tighter security because we were flying into New York.  The officer said that it wasn't because we were going to New York, it was because we were going to the U.S.  Apparently, all flights going into the U.S. are considered high security risk flights.  That was an eye opener!  They had certainly increased security dramatically since my previous trip just last summer.  I have to admit that after I heard that, I did take a look around at my fellow passengers to see if anyone seemed suspicious!  They all looked like normal ol' people to me.  After all this rigamarole, the only thing left was to get on the plane and fly home, and I was quite ready to go at this point.

Ah!!!  Airplane travel is so sophistocated.
Three hours into the flight I decided that plane engineers are all sadists!!!  They must all have had terrible childhoods, are confirmed misogynists, and must be related to the Grinch.  Can there be anything more awkward and uncomfortable than trying to eat a meal on an airplane?  Trying not to spill anything on your neighbor who is 10 centimeters away should be an Olympic event.  Salad should never come in a plastic covered container that you have to tear open with your teeth!  And, whose bright idea was it to put Thousand Island dressing on a flight full of Europeans?  The British man sitting next to me looked totally bewildered.  He also seemed mighty confused as he tried to figure out what Laughing Cow spread was and how we were suppose to eat it.  No wonder they laugh at the idea of American cuisine!  I bet the flight attendants had a good time laughing at how ridiculous the passengers look trying to eat their "meal." 

Passport Control and Immigration at JFK.
Arriving at JFK was awful and wonderful.  I don't know what it is about airports that seems to make people feel more frantic and rushed, but it always seems to happen.   Take that situation, put it in New York, and add rude French tourist who have no concept of standing in line and you have a sure fire recipe for stress.

But, it was wonderful to hear American accents again and see the relaxed, more casual style of interaction we have with each other.   The first thing I saw and heard while standing in line at customs was two JFK customs officials joking around and flirting with each other.  A younger man was pretend flirting with a middle age woman who was clearly his boss.  They didn't try to lower their voices like the British would.  They knew all the bored passengers waiting in line were listening to everything they said, but it didn't bother them.  He kept cheekily asking her to go out with him, and she kept rolling her eyes and telling him to get a life.  It was great and so American!  It felt good to be home.  It was like a big ol' glass of ice tea filled to the rim with ice!

Mother met me at the airport with a big ol' glass of ice tea and tons of ice.  What a treat!

Mexican food, how I've missed you!!!

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