Departing London/ Arriving in the US

I love to people watch and the airport is one of the best places to see all kinds of characters.

There was a young woman in front of us.  Her suitcase was gigantic and it was overweight.  She had to pull out a bunch of stuff out to make it less than 50 lbs.  I wondered why she didn’t wear some of the clothes.  Her shorts barely covered her bum, her see thru tank top was tiny.  She did have a really cute hat and shoes on.  But I think some pants and a shirt would have helped her with the baggage weight problem.  Just a thought…

Since we have to go through security I propose that we all wear flannel pajamas and slippers.  We’ll be comfortable, warm and it will make security a breeze.  But I can see some people wearing negliges if I suggest that.

Back to departing London.  I am amused by how each country sets its own rules for security.  In the US we need to remove our shoes but not in Europe.  Didn’t the shoe bomber fly from Europe to the US?  That just doesn’t make sense to me.  In the US we are not going through some x-ray machines but not abroad.

After going through security I was waiting for my husband and so they decided to swab my bags for bombs.  They just swab the bag and run it through a machine.  It only takes a few seconds. I know they make this ramdon but I don’t think I fit into any high risk profile.  I don’t see it as an invasion of my privacy but I see it as a waste of time and resources.

You can breath easily once you are through security, board your flight, sit for countless hours and then you arrive in the US.  We went through Newark this time.  It was my first time at this airport.  The passport control was fairly quick but they only had a handfull  of people working.  If they had more flights coming in, that would not have been adequate.  If we want security we should be investing in it.  Where are the 9/11 fees going to?

Newark’s Customs is very thorough.  It seems that everyone on my plane either had their bags x-rayed or searched.  It makes it a much longer process than just going through.  But since I didn’t have anything to hide there was no problem.  The girl with the overweight bag had her suitase hand searched.  Poor thing, it probably took an hour.

After you exit customs you must go through security once again.  If you checked your bags you must put them in a belt and they will get it to your destination (hopefully).  I don’t understand why we go through security again.  We never left security but I guess you could grab someone’s bag and take it with you.  Who knows.  This time I was selected for a body scan x-ray.  Not too time consuming but always a bother.  Then we get to sit in the terminal waiting for our flight to Chicago.

So many steps, so much security but somehow people know how to overcome it.  How do we balance security and comfort?  Personal liberty and the common good?  Who knows, but I do know that I prefer to be greeted by friendly agents who treat me kindly.  Even though they are in the security business they are dealing with people who are on vacation and they should try making our experience the best it can be.  Plus for any college graduate who is looking for a job, the TSA is hiring officers.  Hopefully you had some PR, marketing or psychology classes and you can make a difference.

London Day 1

London is one of my favorite cities, it has all the historical attractions, the cosmopolitan activities and this year even the Olympics.  But this time I encountered London with dismay.  Yes, dismay is the word to describe what is happening at Heathrow.  The line for passport control is extremely long.  It extends past the area originally designed for it, down one  hall, up another and then down another one.  Everyone who tries to get to the end of the line is dismayed by it.  It took us over an hour and half to get through the line.  When we got down to baggage claim, I spoke to a gentleman who works for the bag company about the second problem, the huge pile up of luggage.  Yes, for once your bags will get there before you do.  He said that the bag claim closes before everyone can get downstairs to claim their luggage.  So for those flying in late, they might have problems with suitcases.  In my opinion that is  another reason to travel light and only bring what you can fit in a carry on.
This time we are staying at the St. Ermin’s Hotel.  It is located in Westminster very convenient to the St James tube stop.  As always when we get to the hotel we are exhausted and no rooms are ready.  They gave us a room but it had a weird layout.  So in the afternoon they moved us to a beautiful suite with a canopy bed and a rain shower.  Lovely!  I still have  to figure out how to get the best room when you are so tired and all you want is to lay down and take a shower.  If anyone knows the trick please let me know.

We did the one tourist attraction we still hadn’t done, the London Eye.  Even though the line was long it moved quickly.  The views are amazing.  Seeing Westminster Palace from atop gives you a difference perspective as to it’s size and beauty.

Near the Waterloo station we found a lovely food market.  It had snacks, meals, desserts, deli meats from all over the world.  We didn’t eat there because we wanted to eat near the London Bridge station at our favorite restaurant.  How disappointing when we got there to find out that they no longer serve pasta.  But there was Restaurant Alma across the street and the ravioli Alma was awesome with asparagus and mushroom sauce.
We were lucky to have the Bank of England Museum open late.  Remember most museums close early in London but they are open late every once in awhile.  The museum is free.  It has some very interesting displays on the history of the bank, the evolution of currency both coin and note and you even get a chance to hold a real gold bar.  Yes, 28 lbs of pure gold.  How rich I felt.  The displays were interesting for adults and interactive enough for children. I would recommend this free museum to anyone coming to London.  It is so expensive to be here that when you find good things to do for free you should seize the chance.Gold image