UK & Ireland, Day 1: And the Night Ended with the Wrong Hotel

Wednesday, 5/25/16

Our flight to England left at 8:55 AM Chicago time. We were a little nervous because there had been several news stories in the week or so leading up to our trip regarding massive TSA delays, especially in Chicago. Travelers were arriving hours before their flight and missing it altogether because they were in the security lines for so long. We were planning to wake up at 4:00 AM, which should get us to the airport by 6:00 AM. Francisco found an updated news story that said that the TSA situation was supposed to be much better with wait times down to 15 minutes vs. 3 hours, so we felt comfortable sleeping in a little later.  At 5:07 AM, I heard my bedroom door open as Francisco left the room, so this was my wake-up call. We left the house shortly after 6:00 AM. We took the toll roads to get to the airport as quickly as possible, but there were still a few pockets of bad traffic.
Our wait time was not long at all. We breezed through security, and I feel like we were barely at the airport before we started boarding. I hardly had time to order us a Caramel Waffle Cone Frappuccino and Chocolate Marble Cake from Starbucks.

We flew American Airlines, and it was probably the worst plane we've been on for an international trip.  Generally, we would have a seat-back television screen or at least a shared screen for every couple of rows in each aisle of the plane. Instead, the TVs were only in the middle aisles, which made them really difficult to see. I tried watching some of the movies for a while, but soon gave up and just read Station Eleven and played Diner Dash. [Nothing like reading a novel about a devastating global flu outbreak when you're crammed onto an airplane heading to a foreign country.] Honestly, it was kind of a small plane for such a long flight.
It was an 8-hour flight, so we were flying all day, but that was the way we wanted it. That was another plus of flying out of Chicago; it had been much easier to find a flight that wasn't a red-eye. I have too many sleep issues to try to sleep on a plane if I can avoid it.

I did regret that we hadn't had a chance to grab more food while we were at the airport cuz' we really weren't given much food on the plane. We had some not quite french toast with fruit and a bagel for breakfast. For a long time, this was all the food there was, and I was starving. We got a snack near the end of the flight - since we're vegetarians, we got the cold pasta salad in the middle. I flagged down a flight attendant to verify that everyone else was getting cheese pizza and asked if I could have one. Luckily, she had a couple leftover once everyone had been served. Oi, that's the downfall of requesting vegetarian meals - you usually get to eat first, but sometimes the standard meal is better and something you would have rather eaten anyway.
It was after 11:00 PM in London by the time we collected our luggage. There was only one remaining time slot for the Hotel Hoppa bus we had planned to take to our hotel. We waited at the designated bus stop in the chilly London night air, but the time came and went with no sign of a bus. We walked over to hail a taxi just in time to see the bus pull up to a different stop, so we went over and confirmed with the driver that he was going to the ibis hotel and then paid our fares.

Meanwhile, I was trying to get my phone to connect to the local cell network. Francisco had spoken with T-Mobile prior to our trip, and they had said that we would be covered in the UK without any additional fees. We weren't having much luck with establishing an effective connection, but we thought we'd try to sort it out tomorrow.

We went to check in at the hotel, and we discovered that we were at the wrong location. *Face palm.* I literally remember thinking that we should have specified which ibis when we talked to the bus driver, and I somehow had a sinking feeling that this was the wrong location. I was hardly even surprised when the guy at the counter informed us of the bad news and directed us to a phone we could use to call a taxi.  I was frustrated that we had literally just paid 10 GBP to go to the wrong place and now we had to pay even more than that to get to the right one. It was now past midnight in London, which was only like 7:00 PM back home, but we were plumb exhausted.

Almost to the room, and then we can relax...except the room is even smaller than anticipated. The bed butted right up next to the shower and sink area, and the shower door was much for privacy. We almost thought there wasn't even a toilet until we realized we'd passed it as we came in the room door.


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