I really need to get better about blogging.
From what I remember of my trip at this point, as it’s easy to forget things you do unless you take pictures/write about it…. I’m on my final day in Britain and what better way to spend it than a bus tour?
I took the bus tour that goes to the Queen’s castle, Stonehenge, and Oxford. It was a nice full day trip, about 12 hours long! 8AM to 8PM just about, and what’s nice is they drop you near-ish to your hotel as long as you are staying within a certain area. Pretty nice!
Anywho, first stop was the queen’s castle. As usual the weather was sort of dreary but still perfectly fine for pictures. What I found amazing is the approach flight path for Heathrow is directly adjacent to the castle, so you have planes flying by constantly! Constantly as in, every 60 seconds or so! Poor Queen.
The Queen’s castle tour is twofold, where you can tour the grounds of the castle and you can tour the inside of the castle – sounds obvious – with the off limits portion being her actual residence. No pictures of the interior due to rules, but I got some snaps of the exterior. Interestingly enough, the castle has it’s own church!
The interior was pretty interesting as in if you go back 500 years and stay there and add a few more rugs, you have the castle interior! But what I found interesting was that the place burned to the ground in the 90’s and they rebuilt it “just as it was” so they kept it that way.
From the castle we drove to… Stonehenge! Definitely a bucketlist “wonder of the world” type thing, similar to visiting the pyramids, and I was really worried that it was going to turn out to be crummy due to the weather. But, the weather cleared and I got blue sky in my pictures!
It was pretty awe inspiring to be near something that you’ve known about your entire life but never seen in person. I mean, it’s in all the ancient history books in school growing up right? It was nice to actually see it in person. And the whole thing is pretty well organized, I definitely recommend it if you’re in Britain! It’s a must see.
Next up is Oxford. What I didn’t know is Oxford is actually a bunch of colleges smashed together, not just one “Oxford College’ so to speak. Each individual school is fairly small. I suppose it would be like the different departments in college, so “School of Engineering” and you would say “I go to the Warren school of Engineering, at Oxford” or something like that. We did a short walking tour. They also had a carnival going on which was pretty cool, and apparently they only do it twice a year so what are the odds!
And that was my last day in London. After I got home I checked my credit card bill and had a heart attack because I wasn’t paying attention to the exchange rate as much as I should have! Oh well!
I suppose this is a good a place as any to write about my experience leaving Heathrow.
I got to the airport two hours early for my flight. I walk up to the counter and he scans my passport and informs me my flight has been canceled. Apparently Lufthansa pilots chose that day to go on strike. Thanks guys! So I spend the next three hours waiting in line to get my ticket exchanged for another one. My problem was I wasn’t just flying to Seoul, I was flying to California and I needed to connect in Seoul. I had budgeted a 6 hour layover and had booked on a separate ticket my flight to the US. Well, the next available Star Alliance flight was on Asiana for 9pm that night, and it had me arriving at Incheon 5 minutes before my next flight departed. I went ahead and took the ticket and called United to see what they could do for me. After talking with them, I decided I was better off trying to make the flight in Seoul and changing my flight if I missed it than trying to rebook then, so I decided to do that. Unfortunately I had 8 hours to kill in the airport, and I couldn’t print my tickets until 4 hours before take-off, meaning I couldn’t get past security to hang out at the lounge. So I found a dinky restaurant (it wasn’t terrible actually) and sat for 4 hours. Then I exchanged my ticket for a voucher and then headed for the lounge. Ugh.
Definitely the nicest lounge I have been in, ever. The kicker was it wasn’t even a United run lounge, they contracted with another company. HAH.
I would also like to add a caveat to anyone who doesn’t believe in chasing status, chasing status is what saved me on this particular trip. I made Gold at this point so I had access to all international lounges for free regardless of what fare class I booked. Lifesaver. I was also saved from a sea of Koreans at the gate because they allowed me to board alongside business class since I was Star Alliance Gold.
The only reason why I care about boarding early is because it ensures I have space for my bags in the overhead bins.
I land and instantly call United because I know I’m going to miss my flight. Unfortunately this was wasting time because 15 minutes into the call she says, “oh it shows the plane is still there, go to the gate and try to make it!” So I go through security without a boarding pass and somehow talk my way out of it which honestly I have no idea still how I managed it, ran to the train, switched terminals, and ran to my gate – only to have them deny me boarding even though the ramps were still attached. I guess the computer system was “already closed” or some excuse like that. So I was escorted to immigration.
I called United back and had the nicest, most helpful service agent. I was pretty bummed because earlier they said they couldn’t fly me through Haneda because the first leg is on Asiana (looking back now this would probably have been possible but the previous agent wasn’t extremely helpful) and I thought that I was going to have to wait until the next day. She comes back after putting me on hold and says she would protect my fare and book me on an Asiana flight three hours later direct to LAX. She definitely did NOT have to do that as I booked my two tickets separately and in no way was she responsible for me missing my flight. So all in all I only arrived home 7 hours later than planned. Not too shabby. Best of all? I got lounge access and they had showers so I got to shower while I waited for my flight. Couldn’t have worked out better.