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Spring 2005 - Southern England - Arrival
April 29 - May 29, 2005: Four weeks in England
Traveling from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Salisbury England and our first day in Salisbury.
Friday April 29, Santa Fe to Salisbury
We left Santa Fe on Friday, April 29 (weather in Santa Fe: Cold, overcast, hail and snowflakes).
This was the easiest flight to Europe that we have ever done. We had to book separate flights Albuquerque to Phoenix return on American West, then Phoenix to London return on British Airways because we purchased our BA flights on a sale and it did not include connecting flights. We took a 5:15pm American West flight from Albuquerque to Phoenix and were able to check our bags all the way through to London. Arrived in Phoenix at 6:15pm and got the 7:15pm British Airways flight to London, Heathrow. Because we were flying Club World, we got to use the British Airway lounge, but it was not that great of a lounge (small and only instant coffee). The Delta Crown Clubs, which are not so great either, are better.
When the flight was boarding, we were allowed to bypass the line because we were in Club World, which was kind of fun.
We had the usual champagne on takeoff and a nice dinner. There was both a seafood and a vegetarian selection on the menu, but we had ordered special request meals just in case (I am a vegetarian, Steve eats vegetarian or seafood). You have to order ahead to be sure you will get a meal, but we usually ask them to have the ones from the menu because the special meals are never as good (but they can only do this if, after taking all the orders, there are some left). This time Steve went for the special request seafood meal because it was plainer than the one on the menu and I had the vegetarian pasta from the menu. The dinner was fine and we watched the movie Oceans 12 (perfect for watching on an airplane).
At around 11:00pm Santa Fe time, we went to sleep. The "beds" were comfortable, but not perfect. They were a bit hard. The flight attendant told us they were replacing all the Club World seats, but had not done our plane yet.
Flying British Airways
British Airways offers four classes of service on most long haul flights: World Traveller (Economy), World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy), Club World (Business Class), First (First Class). Occasionally they have sales on Club World bringing the price down by about 50% (from Phoenix it was $2584 each return - not cheap, but we usually pay around $1800 each for tickets we can upgrade on Delta). If you collect miles on British Airways, or with your AMEX card and Membership Rewards, you can use miles to upgrade from World Traveller Plus to Club World (we did this for our 2006 trip).
Club World Seats
There were three Club World Cabins; two in the main part of the plane, behind First, and one upstairs. We were in the cabin behind First on the main part of the plane. We got to peak into first class, a small section in the nose of the plane, and you could see it was nicer and a bit more spacious. The flight attendant said the seats were 6" wider and folded down to a bed that was 6" longer. There were fewer seats in each row. We also looked at the Club World cabin upstairs. This looked nice, but the ceiling was a bit lower and I thought it would feel more closed in, however people on the Slow Travel message board recommend this section because it is more private.
Our section was only two rows of six seats, paired 2-2-2 (this is what my notes say, but looking at seating charts online, the are all 2-4-2). The small cabins give you more privacy; it feels less like you are sleeping with hundreds of strangers. They close the curtains between the cabins.
The Club World seats were great! Club World seats are arranged so they face each other; the one by the window sits backwards on the plane, the one on the aisle faces the usual way. There is a divider you can put up if you are not traveling with the person beside you. There is a lot of room in front of the seat and a footstool. Each has a private TV screen. The seat turns into a bed by pulling out the seat until it meets the footstool.
British Airways, Club World: Our two seats face opposite directions, the seat folds down to become a flat bed
Once you are laying down in the bed, it feels very private. There is a sort of wall around you at the top, created by the seat back, so people do not really see you, unlike on the seats on Delta where you are sprawled out in view of everyone. The downside was that if you are in a window seat, you have to step over the bottom part of the bed of the person behind you to get out. This worked fine for me because I am tall and could easily step over the bed, and only needed to get out once, but it could be awkward. I talked to the guy sitting there when I realized that once he turned his seat into a bed I would be trapped, but he must be used to flying in Club World and told me everyone just climbs over - and he was right, it was fine. For our next flight I booked the row at the end of the cabin so I won't have to do this (I will report back).
Saturday April 30
Weather in England: Sunny and warm!
On the flight we slept until about 11:30am England time, which would be 4:30am Santa Fe time - a good 5 and a half hours. I felt pretty human when we arrived in Heathrow at 1:00pm, much better than arriving at 7:00am, which would be midnight Santa Fe time. At least you get some sleep at a time that your body thinks is "night".
The airport was empty. We were the first off the plane and the last to get our luggage. But at least it did arrive. There was a short line for customs, but it went fast. The agent asked how long we were staying and if we were going to other countries, then stamped our passports. After we got our luggage, we went out the "Nothing to Declare" exit and were not stopped for inspection.
Car Service to Salisbury
I had arranged for a Salisbury car service to meet us and the driver was waiting with a sign with my name on it, just past customs. He took us out to the car, in a lot just a few steps from the airport and we were off. Traffic was light and we made it to Salisbury in less than one and a half hours. He had talked to our apartment owner before hand and knew just where to take us. I found the car service through the agency that we booked with. Cost was 75 transfer from Heathrow to Salisbury (1.5 hr drive).
About our Apartment - Brown Street Apartment
We rented the Brown Street Apartment from Hideaways. It is a loft apartment in the center of the town. It has a phone and high speed internet access. 576 ($1,076) per week, $153/night. The apartment sleeps 6.
On booking, my only concern was that it might be on a busy, commercial street, but it got a 4 star rating and the description said it is set back from the street in a courtyard and has private parking. My concerns were founded - the apartment was nice but the location was not. It was off a commercial parking lot over a carpet shop.
Vacation Rental Review 1407: My review of Hideaways, Brown Street Apartment
We arrived at the apartment around 3:00pm. By now we were getting tired. The apartment is in the downtown area, above a carpet store (Magic Carpets on Winchester). The location is a bit odd, but the apartment is lovely. We unpacked, went to the store below to find out how to connect to the internet (we needed a cable and there was a network outlet in the dining area) and to find out where the nearest shops were. The owner of the apartment was not there, but the guys running the shop were able to help us.
First we went to the tourist office, figuring it would close at 5:00pm and not reopen until Tuesday (this is a bank holiday weekend). Turns out it is open Sundays and Bank Holidays. Still, it is always a good first stop. They gave us some maps, a good brochure on walks in and around Salisbury and told us how to get to the Waitrose. We also bought a small booklet on Wiltshire walks and on Salisbury.
Next we took a bit of a walk around town and found a tea shop (Polly's Tea Rooms). At 5:00pm we were having a cream tea (scones, clotted cream, jam, and tea). How is that for quickly adapting to life in England? Then we walked up to Waitrose (about 15 minutes walk, through the Market Square and then on a path along the River Avon) and bought a few supplies and some of the vegetarian Indian prepared foods that we loved so much on our last trip (the apartment did not have a "welcome basket" and there was not much in the way of supplies).
We went back to the apartment, but it was still light out (the days are long now!), so we went out again around 7:00pm for a lovely walk around Salisbury Cathedral.
Salisbury Cathedral was built in the 1200s and it is huge - massive! beautiful! You can see the spire (the tallest in England) from all around town and the surrounding countryside. The Cathedral was closed, but we walked around it and looked at the stone carvings. The neighborhood around the Cathedral is beautiful - old stone houses covered in Wisteria that was just starting to bloom, fruit trees in bloom, flower gardens. The River Avon runs along the side of the Cathedral area.
Back to the apartment for our microwave dinner - which was great - and then we thought we would watch a DVD. We brought two of our NetFlix movies with us instead of leaving them at home. I was just going to play them on my Vaio, but Steve said let's try the DVD player. I had assumed they would not work on the DVD player because DVDs are encoded for region. However, I popped it in and it played (we watched the first half of "Sideways").
>> continued - a week in Salisbury
Slow Travel Photos: Photos of the Club World seats on our British Airways flight.
Vacation Rental Review 1407: My review of Hideaways, Brown Street Apartment
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