Day 1 part 1
Welcome to England Asshole
I must have picked the best day to fly. I arrived to a nearly empty McAllen airport. The United desk was completely empty and I just walked up and dropped my bag off. Me and my family walked over to security where there was no line at all so we decided to hang out a bit longer. After about thirty minutes of chasing my son around the terminal it was time for me to go. Off all the goodbyes this was the hardest for obvious reasons. This was the first time I was leaving for this long. Thankfully my son isn’t old enough to realize it yet.
The flight was extremely fast. About an hour wheels up and down. The best part about flying from Mcallen, was not having to deal with Security in Houston. I arrived with about one hour before my flight and just happened to walk by Cat Cora’s Kitchen. Cat is my celebrity crush. No way was I leaving without grabbing a bite.
Cora’s is set up like any other airport lounge. Nice décor and a really cool open area where you can see them cook your food. The menu is fairly small but quite tasty. As I had a 9 hour flight ahead of me, I decided to eat light. I grabbed their homemade chips and sautéed spinach with garlic and chile. Both were decent but nothing special. Prices were what you’d expect. As I rushed out to catch my flight I ran into the first Londoners I would be and glad I did.
I can’t even remember how but I and the gentleman struck up a conversation. His name is Matt and his wife is Jo. They were heading back to London from a vacation in Honduras I believe. They asked where I was staying and gave me great directions on how to get there as well as advise that will help me connect with local minority cultures in London for my project. They were a wealth of knowledge and we ended up being the last on the plane. I later received an email from Matt telling me he would send me more information later. Great couple.
During the check in process I was on the fence about upgrading to Economy Plus which gives you about 5 inches of extra leg room. I know that may not sound like much but after a few hours it is. They were charging between $107 and $135. I decided to take my chances with my original seat as I saw about 25 empty premium plus and 20 regulars on the map. I was right. The seat next to me was empty as well as several others. I had all the room I needed. Many people stretched out over three seats to sleep as the flight was only about 70% full. I commend United Airlines.
I’ve been flying United for the last few months after American pissed me off. I’m VERY VERY impressed. The service on my London flight was great. Fast and constant service was the theme. They were everywhere at the right time. We had a minor maintenance issue which cost us about 20 minutes before takeoff but no one noticed. Once in flight it seemed as If the entire passenger list kicked of their shoes and took some Xanax. It was super mellow. I watched Life of Pi and Rise of the Guardians. Between movies and a delicious dinner (General Tso’s chicken) I listen to music and got some writing done. I eventually decided to grab a few winks about 4 hours out and stretched out over both seats.
As I looked out of my window near final approach, I saw the sun begin to rise over the British hills. As the light fog rolled in, light barely revealed this amazing countryside. I could feel the history and simplicity of this nation. The sense of adventure began to wash over me. My It didn’t take long for me to be reminded of the simplistic and bureaucratic thinking of officials.
We breezed through to passport control. They have a fairly fast processing system here especially in regards to the number of people that came in. As I approach the counter I’m greeted by a fairly jolly British gentleman. He asked me the typical passport question. “Where you from”? “How long you here for”? “Business or pleasure”? Now the next question is when things got a bit tense. “When you going home”? Tip for you. Not a good idea to tell them you don’t know. But in my case this really is the answer.
I have no idea when I’m returning to the U.S. and I don’t have a return ticket. Is this against the rules? Technically no. Bureaucratically, HELL YES!!!
He proceeded to give me a lecture about why he shouldn’t let me into England. He said he doesn’t know what I’m going to do and if I’m trying to stay in England illegally. Now I’m thinking to myself, “Of all the places in the world that are not only closer to home but sure as hell cheaper, why would I come to London?”. The only saving grace was I have quite a few stamps in my passport and I had my cruise receipt for Scandinavia. I’m a bit annoyed but I kept my cool. I politely smiled and began to walk away. He then called me back and said, “You can’t wander around forever. Someday you need to settle down”. I just nodded and walked away. If he only knew.
TIP: DON’T ARGUE WITH PASSPORT CONTROL AGENTS. You will lose. It’s a privileged to be allowed into someone elses country regardless of what “rights” you think you have there. I’m not saying kiss anyone’s ass or allow yourself to be abused but pick your battles. These are underpaid government workers for the most part. Imagine how you would feel if you spent your day watching people travel the world and vacationing all the time while your at work.