Welcome to New York

New York, United States
Saturday, August 26, 2006

We spent the morning doing the washing and last minute packing. We now have 2 backpacks and 2 suitcases. All our clothes fit into the small wheelie suitcase so the intention is to check the 3 large bags at Left Luggage when we get to New York and just take the small wheelie one into the city. With the new hand luggage restrictions we can't even take toothpaste or moisturiser onboard, so everything needs to be checked in apart from our books and the computer.

We loaded the car for the last time and headed off to Heathrow. Almost immediately we got caught in a London traffic jam - also for the last time. There was no panic though, we had plenty of time - the car didn't need to be back until 2pm and the plane didn't leave until 6pm.

We found Hertz and said goodbye to the Sloth (she's not as nice as the Canary but she served us well). We got the shuttle to the Terminal 4 which was full to the brim with lines of people waiting patiently. After last weeks scare, security has been tightened significantly and there were loads of staff directing people to different lines and police wandering around with machine guns. Although we were far too early to check in, I had a quick word with one of the staff about requesting special seats. This lead to a long drawn out discussion about motorcycle accidents and sore tailbones but culminated in her taking our tickets and passports and checking us in ahead of the entire queue. She came back five minutes later apologising for making me stand for so long. I was not going to embarrass her by informing her that standing was no problem - it was sitting I can't do very well.

We had to wait in a long line anyway for the security check. They were making everyone take off their shoes and empty everything out of their bags. We had thought that lip balm would not be considered contraband but it was and so we had to ditch ours. At least they let me keep my drugs. We then wandered off to waste the next four hours, but this was not really a problem as there was a large bookshop in the terminal. The BOSS settled herself into a corner with a book and I perused the shelves.

A further security check before boarding was random body searches and a second emptying of bags just in case someone had bought lip balm within the secure area and were trying to sneak it onto the plane. We finally boarded and then discovered that the BOSS and I had been shifted around to accommodate two families. Unfortunately we weren't shifted to Business Class - instead we were seated in two different rows. And so we settled in to our 8 hour flight to New York. About 6 hours into the flight, the BOSS developed a fever and felt distinctly unwell. The flight attendant gave her some Panadol and she slept a little after that. We arrived in New York at 9pm (2am body time) and the passport check was the quickest we have come across. They fingerprinted and photographed us and then let us in. They charged us $3 for a trolley - a practice which I find objectionable. I am a firm believer that trolleys should be free of charge in every airport - perhaps my new crusade!

We waited patiently for our bags and 3 out of 4 appeared very quickly. After a while, no more bags were being sent down the chute but there were still 20+ people milling around waiting. Then the announcement - the last thing you want to hear when you are tired and cranky - "sorry, some of the bags were left in London". So why couldn't they have left the bag with the papers or the motorcycle gear behind. Why did they have to leave the bag with all our clothes, toothbrushes, medicines and clean knickers in it??? We had the clothes we were standing up in - and nothing else!

British Airways gave us a bit of paper saying that they would deliver the bag to the hotel when they could - and reluctantly told us we could spend $50 on essentials to see us through. My travel insurance was a lot more generous - allowing us $500 each to spend. Our last job before leaving the airport was to ditch our bags in Left Luggage. We had arrived in Terminal 7 so we had to find our way to Terminal 4 to find Left Luggage. We attempted to negotiate the new AirTrain whilst tired and feverish, so we ended up going the long way round and spending a useless half hour for a journey that should have taken 5 minutes. When we got to Left Luggage we discovered that they were run by a private company and wanted to charge us over $100 to store our bags for 3 days. (Greece only cost 30 euros for over a week). This was also objectionable and I shall add it to my crusade when I don't feel so tired.

Consequently we decided to take our bags with us into the city. We ordered a Super Shuttle but after a further 40 minute wait we jumped in a taxi instead. It was 11pm or 4am body time and the BOSS was quite delirious. She fell asleep in the cab and missed the spectacle of Manhattan at Night. When we finally reached the hostel it was close to midnight. Luckily the desk clerk had not gone to bed and he checked us in and showed us to our room. It was a very basic hostel - it looked like an old hospital - and the bed was so inviting. I think it took all of 3.2 seconds for us to fall asleep.
Welcome to New York.

Our luggage
Our luggage
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