Good morning, everyone! This is Matthew with the last of the actual posts of the "Surviving London" series. We hope to do a "What We Learned" wrap-up post about a week from now, just to give a brief synopsis of our overall thoughts. For now, I'm just going to give a brief rundown of our return trip.
Our overnight stay at the Radisson Blu in Paris was great. The hotel was very nice and we enjoyed every bit of that. Although, it wasn't enough to undo the sour taste Paris had left us with. I'm still trying to get over that, if you couldn't tell.
We took off from the hotel at 5:15 a.m., using the complimentary shuttle service to get to the Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport - or Aeroport if you're French. (We won't hold it against you.) The Radisson Blu is a bit further from the airport than we had originally thought, so it was a very nice service for them to offer. It saved us a few €25 taxi rides, anyway. The attendant at the hotel very politely informed us that the taxi drivers might attempt to pad that figure, so watch out if you're ever in that situation. Anyway ... back on track. We arrived at CDG about 2.5 hours early, and began our journey through security - which was actually pretty painless. Our flight departed at 7:45 a.m., lasting just more than three hours. We happily slept for most of that.
The next leg - from Reykjavik, Iceland (KEF) to Toronto, Canada wasn't quite as nice - not trip-killing terrible, but not nice. First off, it was delayed for technical reasons - which is amazingly reassuring to hear when you're about to board the plane. The worst part is that from the departure gate, you get to watch them pull parts and pieces from the plane ... and some of those look kind of important. Hopefully they put them all back in there somewhere.
A small interruption from Valeri: "Oh my gosh! This plane doesn't even have a phalange!"
**Ten points to whoever guesses the show that's from**
Other than that, KEF is a great airport. It's very clean, very modern and all around awesome. It is the home of IcelandAir - which also is awesome. We were lucky to have four different flights with them and we much preferred them to any other flight we've been on.
The second thing that didn't go quite the way we had hoped was the fact we had three of the most ill-behaved children that I had ever seen on our flight. Once we saw them in the terminal, we both immediately expressed our concern they would be boarding with us ... and they did. They brought all of their rowdy kicking and screaming with them. They didn't stop all of the kicking and screaming for the entire flight. It got bad enough the flight attendants rearranged the passengers and passed out earplugs. Luckily, Valeri and I had our headphones, so we decided to take advantage of the in-flight entertainment. We watched a movie called Spy (hilarious), and a few episodes of Big Bang Theory. We just increased the volume enough to drown out the hellions - I mean lovely children - in the rear of the plane.
We were dreading the next stop in Toronto. The Toronto-Pearson Airport (YYZ) is just horrid. It's too confusing and the baggage claim system is worthless. Our luggage should have been checked all the way through - like it is with any other flight in the whole world ... but we knew from our last flight through YYZ that all passengers have to re-check their luggage when connecting through this place. It's miserable. I'm not sure who designed that place, but I'd like to see him locked up for crimes against humanity - term: life. Some of you might think that is extreme, but trust me, it's 1,678% nicer than my original thoughts.
As I mentioned, we knew the breakdowns in YYZ's systems, so we knew how to attack the beast. We went straight to one of the gazillion baggage carousels and waited ... and waited ... and waited. When our bags finally made an appearance, there was much rejoicing. I've learned I have absolutely no patience for airports and I think my poor wife gets the brunt of that. She knew what she was getting into when she said "I do." No refunds or returns, all sales are final. Sorry, Val.
Interruption from Valeri: I told him a few times, "You already complained about that." He then replied each time, "I know and expect me to continue complaining."
Then there was U.S. Customs. Oh, man ... that was a wicked process. It was so much easier getting into the U.K. The process doesn't leave much room for an incentive to return! The lines are far too long, the Customs Officers too few (although, we were very lucky to have a pleasant one) and the process far to convoluted.
When you add that much complexity to a system unnecessarily, the single points of failure increases exponentially ... and when you're dealing with that many people (and their time and money), it's not a good thing.
Once we got past customs, we encountered another wall. Literally. It was made of glass and was very much in our way. I contemplated the ramifications of removing said obstruction by utilizing a well-placed rock ... but the thought of being arrested in Canada put me off that idea. So, we stood there waiting for someone to move the wall - and eventually they did. That allowed us to get to our gate about 30 minutes before boarding began ... which brings me to another breakdown: There was no attendant at our gate. After we hit the 15-minute mark, I finally wandered over to another gate, and asked some questions. The response was, "Oh, someone should have been over there already." My immediate thought was, "Yeah ... that's kind of what brought the question about, genius." I'm not sure if he saw my eye roll or not ... and I'm honestly not sure I would have cared if he did. Evidently, airports bring out the worst possible version of myself.
We finally boarded the plane - after sorting a seat assignment issue with Valeri's ticket - and began our short journey to Lambert Int'l Airport in St. Louis (STL). Lambert is a busy little airport! We either hadn't noticed last time we were here, or it was just way too early for the mania to begin. We made our way to the baggage carousels, grabbed our bags, then waited for our shuttle from STL to Columbia - which arrived right on time.
That's it. We survived another trip! There were ups and downs, but the time spent in London made it well worth it. We absolutely loved it there and were blessed with pretty decent weather for most of the trip, so we had an awesome time. There is so much to see and so much to do - and there is no way we could have even scratched the surface with the time we had.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit London, jump on it. You won't be disappointed ... and if you are, you're insane and need to forfeit your plane tickets to the Pearons.