30th July, 2016
Last April, when my daughter Aedin was selected as a member of the Kentucky Ambassador of Music program, and we learned she’d do a seven-country tour, I decided that I would go see at least one performance. And since the first one was in London, my idea was to see that performance and then go see some more of the UK.
The KAM send-off concert was on Aedin’s 16th birthday (what a birthday present, right?), and they were to leave the next morning. We aligned our travel plans with theirs, set to leave on 30th June and arrive in London 1st July.
We were flying out of Cincinnati, so we left the KAM send-off concert in Louisville and headed directly that way. It was after midnight when we got up there, so we ended up sleeping in the car for a few hours in the long-term parking lot at the airport instead of checking into the hotel as originally planned.
My flight was before my partner Nathan’s, so we went in at the right time to check me in for an international flight. That meant before 4 a.m. But the folks at Delta apparently don’t show up for work before 4:30, and even then they didn’t start working for a while. I didn’t have a whole lot of down time before boarding started, despite being there 3 hours beforehand.
The first leg of my trip was to Toronto. I was glad I’d gotten a new sleeping mask before the trip, because I needed some more shut-eye if I was going to stay awake until Nathan caught up with me there. As soon as we loaded up, I put it on and pushed in some earplugs, and immediately passed out. I don’t even remember taxi or take-off or anything. I woke up to the pilot announcing our descent into Toronto, all warm and snuggly, some young guy in a hoodie leaning against me, sleeping just as hard as I imagine I had been just a minute before.
At Pearson Airport, the international arrivals area was my first airport “customs” experience. It was pretty much a non-event. I declared I had some snacks, told them what kind, and went on my way through the maze, handing my declarations card to two more folks afterward before I found my way to the general arrivals area, where I’d be spending the better part of the next day. I had a 12-5-hour layover, and WestJet won’t let you check in more than 4 hours before a flight.
It’s a big airport, so I thought I’d have plenty to keep me occupied while I waited. What I hadn’t anticipated was the utter lack of places to sit and rest. In areas where hundreds of people were gathered, there’d be fewer than three dozen seats. It was a good thing they had free carts to wheel around the luggage, or else I’d have gotten cranky pretty quickly.
Pearson’s a really big international airport, so I heard a lot of languages and accents around me the whole time, but there were a lot of arrivals on Korea Air and Saudi Airlines, so those were the largest groups that I saw and heard.
Despite being in an international airport, what I really wanted to find was Tim Horton’s, mostly for nostalgia’s sake, since they aren’t technically a Canadian company anymore. When I finally found them, I discovered they now have chocolate whoopie pie donuts!
My lovely sugar rush soon sent me crashing, and I lucked into a chair at a charging station where I could put my headphones on and block out the world for a while. I was tired, tired, tired, but couldn’t sleep until Nathan showed up, which was about 9 hours into my 12.5-hour layover. Once he was there, we could check in right away, though, so we did
In the tarmac area, the airport had already been renovated, and was really nice.
Before our flight, we decided to get some real food. Unlike some Americans ahead of us, we were okay with sitting community style at a long high-top table. When we introduced ourselves round the table, one of the Canadian ladies decided to buy us a round because I was enduring such a long airport stay. The beer was one of the best ever, not because of the beer itself, but because of its timing. When we got the check, I was glad she’d picked up the round because it turned out our burgers were $19 CAD each! They were good, but not $19 good. ($19 CAD = $14.65 USD)
Before we knew it, we were loading up on our big jet plane across the Atlantic.
By the time we got on board, I was going on little sleep and ready to pass out, but not before I watched the sun set from the airplane window. When the sun rose next, I’d be ready to set foot on English soil.