Friday, January 17, 2014

From PA, to the UK: my voyage


I have just arrived in the UK earlier today as I write this, and feel it is a good time to relate my trip across the pond.
Firstly, my luggage. After my initial test, I added a lot more stuff, and the weight went up to 46 pounds. I also carried with me  a backpack, and a tote bag style purse.
I arrived in the Harrisburg airport with plenty of time to spare. The Harrisburg airport is frankly tiny. There are ( I believe) only 9 gates, 3 in each wing. I can’t even call each one a terminal. They are very short and you cannot get lost. I waited with my parents in the McDonalds until about 40 minutes before my flight. My mother estimated that the flight would start to board at 5:20, so I went through security at 5:00. The airport was almost empty; there was only one person before me at security. The TSA officers are very chill and nice; I forgot to take out my liquids and the man gently asked me if I had any, and when I apologized and went to grab then he just said “it’s okay!” and chuckled. I find that everyone at this airport is very nice; they were like this when I traveled through them before.
This plane ride took about 2 hours, and reminded me that I hated flying. I was vaguely nauseated the entire trip. I then arrived at Chicago O’Hare, which is a mess. First I had to try and find my gate, which was not in the main building. I had to wander around up and down escalators until I reached the tram which could take me to the international flight terminal; where I got turned around and had to walk the entire length before I realized my error. Their signs were not as prominent as they should have been. I then had to go through some strange checkpoint that had no signs, and I was scolded by the officer for not having my boarding pass and passport out, even though there were no signs stating I needed it out. I then had to go through another security check (scanners and everything) which I was not prepared for. Their rules were also different than Harrisburg; you didn’t put your shoes in a bin, you put them directly on the belt. Two officers yelled at people who tried to put them in bin, quite rudely also.
I then found my terminal and found that my flight was delayed 30 minutes, so I had over an hour to wait. They then announced that people that had taken connected flight to O’hare had to have their ticket and passport checked, so I waited in line for that.  Then, a lady came around with tags to designate which bags should be overhead and under your seat. She asked if I was going on the British airlines flight, but I said no, I’m on that plane but my ticket said American airline. She tried to tell me I was at the wrong terminal, but I wasn’t. Apparently , british airlines was serving American airlines for this flight. The flight was miserable, almost 8 hours long and I had dreadful nausea almost the entire flight; I couldn’t even eat my food. After dinner, the anti-nausea pills and sleeping pills started to take effect and I began to doze. I never was able to actual fall asleep, I was in a middle seat and had no room to move. I also discovered my neck pillow was a bad idea; it made me feel worse. My whole left leg also was in pain for an unknown reason. Luckily everything got better when I arrived at heathrow.  
Luckily, Heathrow wasn’t that busy, but it wasn’t barren.  All their signs were well lit, and in prominent positions, and very simple. They didn’t try to put tons of information on one sign! I went up to escalators and then took a short tram ride to baggage and customs. First I waited in line at the border control, and filled out my UK travel card (it has basic information about myself and why I was staying), I then showed the security guy some papers sent to me by my university, we talked briefly about university costs, and then he stamped my passport. I then followed some signs , and went down an escalator to baggage claim, found my bag, and then went through customs (nothing to claim) and then to the area where they sell tickets to the underground. I pain my 5 pound 50 for my ticket, and then went to the underground station. A train was already there, but I waited for the next one because I didn’t know how quickly the doors closed (not quickly actually). I took the next train and rose it to the station I had to transfer. This is the part I was a bit intimidated about; the train from Heathrow only goes one way,  but my transfer station had several lines and directions. Luckily, the train only opened on one side, so I knew I was on the right platform; and then there were prominent sign that stated the line and direction, and a map of all the stations on that line. I took that train (I only waited like 5 minutes for it to come) and then got off at my station, drug my cases up some stairs, inserted my ticket and was out. I then walked from my station to my flat, which didn’t take as long as I thought.

Overall, the actual travel wasn’t so difficult (though O’Hare could improve!), I just find flying miserable because I am easily nauseated. My first impression of the tube, and British transport in general is very favorable. I look forward to exploring it in the coming months!

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