Day 1 London and Italy: The YVR-LHR Journey

British Airways 747 at YVR Our flight leaves this evening and we haven’t finished packing. We put together a detailed schedule for the grandparents so they know where, when, and how to take the kids to all of their schools and extra-curricular activities. Itemizing all of the equipment needed for t-ball, hockey, and swimming takes longer than expected. Gotta get the kids off to school and still haven’t finished packing.

Leaving for a trip on a weeknight and leaving the kids behind is unusual for us and resulted in an action packed day. I’d always thought that going our first trip without the kids would be pretty stress-free but I’m surprised at how much preparation is required to ensure that the efficient machine that is our child-centered life can keep running.

The nice thing about an evening flight is that we can spread out the usual madness over a full day. Not helping things is the fact that the weather forecast for London and northern Italy is literally and figuratively all over the map. Hot and sunny one day, warm and rainy another day, rainy and cold the day after. So much for packing lightly.

We manage to sort out our papers, money, photo gear, computers, and clothing while the kids are at school and fit it all into two medium suitcases, one carry-on sportsac, and my new photo backpack. It’s a reasonably compact set of luggage for a two week trip, but heavier than I’d like for lugging around Venice, Bologna, and Florence.

Another consideration of an 8:30pm flight is how to get to the airport. Leaving a car at long-term parking is fairly pricey and meeting the recommended 3 hour early schedule would mean asking family or friends to brave rush hour traffic both ways for us. That left us with the new Canada Line rapid transit train freshly built for the Olympics. The only issue is that we would be travelling at prime commuting time so space was going to be limited. I knew that the train wouldn’t be my wife’s first choice, but the argument that we have to get used to it anyways holds a lot of water.

After hugs and kisses with kid 1, we leave the house with grandma and kid 2. Being a regular day for the kids means that we have to drop one off at an after-school activity before being dropped off at transit. More hugs and kisses and we’re kid free for two whole weeks. Funny how whenever any of the other school parents found out that we were going to Italy their first question was almost always “with kids?”, but no one seemed to actually expect us to answer “no!”.

Approaching YVR on the Canada Line Luckily it’s fairly easy for us to get to the first stop on the Canada Line. We manage to get seats right at the front of the train and have space in front of us for luggage. By the second stop it’s standing room only. Getting off the train at YVR it seems oddly quiet, and not just because we’re kid-free. We made great time and are there the full 3 hours early for the first time ever. Walking up to the British Airways counter I breeze right past the check-in lineup entrance because I’m used to finding a line-up, but there is no line-up to be found. We check in, drop our checked bags, and clear security in record time. It would have been flawless had they not confiscated my wife’s just barely over the limit tube of toothpaste.

Inside the gates it was just as quiet. We buy magazines, snacks, and drinks for the plane before stopping to grab burgers and root beer. Arriving at the gate almost 2 hours early, there are only a handful of people around. It all seems so efficient. Is this really what travel was like before kids? Huh. We smile at each other when they make the announcement that people travelling with strollers should go to the desk for a gate check tag. We also reviewed a notice that we received at check-in about the impact to services that we should expect as a result of the labor issues (or industrial issues in British) BA is experiencing. Fewer crew, but don’t worry you’re still safe. First class, business, and regular class will be sharing a single meal service. I can just imagine: First and business class living on chicken or fish alone (okay, they probably still get champagne).

As we board the plane we do notice very few crew for a 747. They announce that they are working with the legally required number for crew to maintain safety levels. More than once they very politely apologize that the service levels may be somewhat degraded, and that the crew we do have is working against the wishes of their union so could we please try to not to take it out on them!

Because this is an overnight flight, the downgrade is service isn’t that noticeable. They run the safety video twice to allow time for two people to check the entire cabin for seatbelts and tray tables. A single drink cart in each aisle goes from the back all the way to the front, but they give us multiple cans and bottles. They offer free wine and I notice that the people across the aisle even score free two mini-bottles each of a little something to go with their club soda. Never having flown BA, I’m not entirely sure if free booze is normal for inter-continental flights, but I’m happy to take it, especially since I’d like to try to get to sleep quickly and get onto GMT. As we head north it seems that we are chasing the sun as it refuses to get dark.

The sun never did seem to set on our flight.

Eventually the dinner cart comes by. Chicken and rice or vegetarian pasta? I take the chicken and my wife takes the pasta. The people in front of us ask which the flight attendant prefers. She responds with a smile, “they are both one and the same really, I usually pack my own meal”! Actually the chicken is rice is pretty tasty, although a bit salty for my taste. Smartly is seems like the chicken has been slow cooked so it stays very tender and moist. In the air I’m happy to trade off some texture to avoid dry and rubbery chicken.

Finally dinner is done and I start watching Tim Burton’s take on Alice in Wonderdland. The free wine kicks in and I pass out halfway through (but the movie seems pretty good, so I’ll watch it later after I wake up).

London and Italy 2010 Posts:

2 thoughts on “Day 1 London and Italy: The YVR-LHR Journey

  1. Hi – I really enjoyed reading your experience of London and Venice. If you’re in London again, let us know. Also – if you post this page of the article again – let me know on Twitter @inlondonguide and I’ll retweet. all the best – Patrick, Editor

  2. I’ll be in London later this year and I’m hoping to finish my posts from my last trip before my next trip starts! I appreciate the comment and the offer!

    Ryan.

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