First Stamp in the Passport Goes To…

So here it is, the big reveal!  Our next big trip, and the country we will be house sitting in for the first three months of 2018!  Drum roll please! Drdrddrdrdddrdrdrdrd: England!

Since it had been many years since my last (and only) international trip, and Ian had never left the country other than on cruises, it was an interesting experience preparing for our trip.  We found it easy to pack for the first portion of our trip; the three months we plan on staying in England being rainy, winter months.  The lack of any definitive travel plans past those three months however, made it a challenge in terms of knowing what we might need to pack.  Though we knew we would need our winter coats, and rain gear for winter in The United Kingdom, we could also require lighter clothing for southern Spain in the spring or summer months, or even heavier clothes for the snow of the Swiss Alps.  We simply didn’t know.  So, we packed everything.  (At least that’s what it felt like.)

Determining that we didn’t want to be lugging half a dozen suitcases across Europe, we limited ourselves to one large checked bag and one carry-on for the plane, each.  When Ian realized his camera bag was gaining a bit too much heft, he added on a laptop bag as well, to distribute some of the excess weight; and, for the plane ride, I added a small backpack which held my kindle and some snacks for the long journey across the pond.

At DIA (Denver International Airport) we flew through our check-in, dropped off our checked luggage, and were waiting at our gate in a flash, and we played a few games of Worms on our Nintendo Switch while we waited for our plane.  Somehow, we had managed to get impeccable seats, and even had priority boarding, and we were some of the first people on board.  The seats we were in, though not quite first-class, were Iceland Air’s equivalent of Business Class.  For a seven hour flight, the extra leg-room, and the television screens in the back of the seats were definite plusses.  The flight was even empty enough, that I could have hopped over to the other side of the aisle to get away from Ian, if I wanted.  Definitely felt like we were living the high life.

Once we took off, and I realized the flight was only seven hours (instead of the 10 hour flight I originally thought it was) I decided that I would power through the flight, and not sleep until our final destination.  So, for lack of anything better to do, I flipped through the movies available in the on-board entertainment library.  When we left Colorado, one of the more prominent television channels was in the middle of its “Harry Potter Weekend” cycle, and it just so happened that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was available as an in-flight movie.  How could I pass up watching the story of my people, while on the way to its country of origin?! Haha!  While I plowed through Goblet of Fire, How to Train Your Dragon, and Baby Driver, Ian watched King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Wonder Woman, and Baby Driver as well.

As we closed in on Reykjavik, Iceland (where we had an hour-long layover), Ian tapped me on the shoulder and pointed out the window.  Though faint, and difficult to see with the interior lighting of the airplane, we could just barely make out the flickering green glow of the Northern Lights.  Having never seen the Aurora Borealis, it was fun to see a bit of it, no matter how fleeting, from the window of our airplane.

When we landed in Reykjavik it may have been 6am, but to us it was just about midnight.  With how dark it was in Iceland (6am in the dead of winter) it may as well have been midnight for them as well.  Keflavik International Airport is currently undergoing quite a construction overhaul, and half of the gates appear to be getting facelifts, so we were let out of the airplane in the middle of the tarmac, and were bussed to the terminal on shuttles.  If we were worried about one thing on this whole trip, it was that our luggage would be misplaced during the plane change in Reykjavik.

Once we were shipped over to the terminal, we pushed into the building with the crowd, and were met with a busy, early morning rush of travelers.  The door we entered through was only a stone’s throw away from our departure gate, and we took some time to grab a water, visit the restrooms, and readjust our belongings.  Though we didn’t get to spend any time in Reykjavik, it is likely that we will return to the U.S. via Iceland Air at the end of our trip, and may be able to see it in the daylight then.

As we prepared to board our flight to Heathrow, we again had priority boarding, and were some of the first people ready to board the airplane.  Once we had our tickets and passports checked however, we came to a standstill at the bottom of the escalator up to the skyway.  For some reason, they had begun checking tickets before the plane was actually ready to be boarded, so we were stuck standing in a crowd, at the bottom of a stairwell.  As more people had their tickets checked, we were all pushed closer together.

Bored, with nothing in particular to do but stand there, I just looked around at what there was to see.  Though I wasn’t necessarily being nosey or anything, my glance fell on the boarding pass of the individual in front of me, and I the name grabbed my attention.  Hoppus, Jack.  “Hmm,” I thought.  “Hoppus is a very uncommon, though very familiar name.”  Now, I was intrigued.  I looked up at the group of people in front of me.  The individual whose ticket I glanced at had to be about 15 or 16, and he was with his family.  I looked to the front of the group, and lo and behold, it was Mark Hoppus.  So help me, Mark Hoppus (singer and bass guitarist of Blink-182) and his whole family were on our flight from Reykjavik to London!  Although I was geeking out and smiling like an idiot at Ian, I refused to pester a celebrity while he was accompanied by his family.

Finally, the flight crew allowed us forward, and we were able to go upstairs to the skyway.  While the Hoppus family took the escalator, Ian and I climbed the stairs, and we were actually the very first people on the plane.  As we took our seats, and found spots for our bags, I saw Mark and his family take their seats only a few rows in front of us.  That entire flight I fought the urge to ask for a picture or an autograph, and finally decided that, if we were stuck in the line at the border near him, I would ask for an autograph.  With that decision made, I finally relaxed a bit, and settled into watching Going In Style, the in-flight movie I had chosen.

When we landed in London about three hours later, the long night was finally starting to take its toll on me.  Back home it was going on 5am, and I had still not slept.  After my movie ended, I noticed as it grew brighter outside, and then watched the landscape below, as we swung around London and dropped down into Heathrow.  Once the plane reached the gate, we grabbed our bags, and were on our way to the Border check.

A bit groggy and out of it, it took me a minute to realize we were actually lined up at Border control right behind Mark Hoppus’ wife and son, but, as he is constantly traveling, Mark himself went through the automated Border control.  Damn.  Well, it was really cool being able to say I saw him in person, nonetheless!

Border control was actually much faster than I expected.  We were only in line for about fifteen minutes, and then it was our turn.  Our passports were checked, we were asked a few questions, the officer stamped our passports (Yay! The very first stamp in our new Passports!), and then we were off to find our bags.  Once we saw our bags on the carrousel, it was like a huge weight of stress melted off of us.  We would be able to survive our six month journey as long as we had those bags.

Suitcases in hand, we dragged ourselves out of the airport.  We had a slight hang-up at the elevators to the shuttle-bus level of the garage (people were being quite impatient and getting on the wrong elevators), but eventually made it to our bus stop.  Ten minutes later, our bus arrived and we were off to the car park.  Nearly three hours later (there was a whole bunch of stupid happening at the car park) we finally had the keys to our long-term rental car, and were off to our Airbnb in Poole.

As Ian drove, I accidentally dozed off a few times, and probably slept about 30 to 40 minutes of our two hour drive.  Having never driven on the left-hand roads of the UK, we were a bit worried Ian would have trouble with it; but after a few minutes, he got the hang of it.  Driving through the narrow streets of Poole, which looked like they couldn’t possibly be for two-way traffic, we managed to find our Airbnb just before dark.

Once we met with a friend of the Airbnb hosts and had the key, we settled into the flat, and then walked into town for some dinner.  One of the suggestions we got from the hosts was to a pub called Le Bateau Wood Fired Restaurant and Bar.  As it was a bit early for dinner, we found the bar relatively empty, and we grabbed an open table.  The very first thing I made sure to order was a hot cup of tea.  When in England, right?  Sipping my tea, I got a good look at the fun décor of the restaurant.  Although we hadn’t been able to see it on our drive in, Poole is right along the English Channel, and the nautical décor fit right in with the seaside village.

Dinner options at the pub were pretty diverse, and we started with a round of wood-fired garlic bread.  So good!  Starved from our roughly twenty hours of travel, I ordered a large plate of Fish and Chips with Mushy Peas, and Ian ordered a plain pepperoni pizza.  Boring.  Warming up over the tea and food, we really started to wake up, and enjoy the fact that we were finally in England, after so much planning and waiting.

When the waiter came ‘round to ask us about dessert, we were eager to taste one of our favorite English desserts, Mince Pie with Custard.  As it’s usually a dessert you see around the holidays, we were happy to see it on the menu, and were not disappointed when it arrived.  The spiced fruit filling and the flaky pie crust were delicious.  After a full day of travel, Le Bateau was just what we needed to refuel.

Stepping out into the rain, we walked back through town to our Airbnb.  When we got back to the flat, we unpacked for the night, and found a box of chocolates on our bed from our hosts, along with a binder of local information and activities.  Sadly, we didn’t have enough time in Poole to check out anything other than the restaurant we went to for dinner.  Worn out from the day, night, and second day of traveling, we showered off the grime of two days of airplane, and fell into bed.  In the morning, we needed to make another hour drive to Swanage, where we would find our next house sit, and we needed to shake off the jetlag as soon as possible.

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