Kings Cliffe - UK
Finally! We thought the day would never come. We had postponed our trips to Panama and Italy due to COVID 19 and had remained hopeful that things would improve before our trip to Kenya. Luckily, the country opened up to International travel in August 2020 and so our trip was still on!
But first we had to take a trip to the UK to visit family. Mother had passed away in August and due to quarantine restrictions, we were unable to get to the funeral in time. Then Dad had his second hip replacement and so it was time to visit before our trip to Kenya. We would still have to quarantine, so we booked for a month, two weeks of which would be in isolation and then two weeks to visit family, although that was somewhat restricted due to the UK being in a COVID 19 lockdown. Only one visitor from another household allowed at a time, any other visitors needed to be outside and no more than 6 people at a time.
Undeterred we continued with our plans and with bags packed for 6 months or more of travel we were finally ready to go! We had checked in with the airlines, which was quite stressful. Our flights had been changed to two days later than the original flights, and when we tried to check in online, the flights could not be found and our original flights were still listed and had flown. We were concerned that all the flights had been cancelled, especially as the US COVID numbers were still increasing, but finally, the notice came through that we could check in. There was a great deal of paperwork required regarding passenger locator information for both Portugal, where we were transiting through, and also the UK. This was due to COVID, they needed phone numbers, addresses and we expected a delay at the airport when we arrived and possibly a briefing on the quarantine rules etc. So we went to bed, satisfied that we had packed enough, completed all necessary paperwork and crossed everything hoping the journey was smooth.
Our friends kindly drove us to Miami airport, south on I-75 and across Alligator Alley. The day was clear, a little cooler than usual, but still a high of 82 degrees and the sky was a brilliant blue and a nice breeze bending the palm trees just a little. We were early and the baggage drop off was not yet open, so we stopped for a coffee and as soon as they opened up, we dropped our baggage and headed through security. It was a breeze, not many people at the airport, it was almost civilized! There were hardly any stores open and either MacDonalds or a bakery café for food choices. We chose the bakery, but after trying to eat a chicken and chickpea wrap that had a ton of lettuce in it, which had been heated, and sharing a piece of quiche, which should have been heated, we thought that MacDonalds might have been a better choice! We didn’t hold out much hope for the food on the airplane but satisfied ourselves that we had a dozen granola bars in our bags, and we would probably sleep most of the way anyhow. Food would have to wait until our arrival in the UK.
We sat at the gate, watching the comings and goings outside on the tarmac. It all looked like chaos, with weird looking trucks and vehicles whizzing all over the place, guys waving arms and shouting across vast open spaces, with jet engines blasting. We saw food being loaded, baggage and a large haul of some unknown cargo craned up into the hold. We were a little concerned that our baggage might not get to the UK with us. Our lay over in Lisbon was only an hour and twenty-five minutes and we had to go through immigration there and possibly security again. Soon though, it was time to board and we headed to our seats.
The plane was less that 25% full and we had plenty of room to stretch out if needed. We were surprised to see a couple of dogs on the flight, in the cabin! As this was an international flight, I wondered about the quarantining process in Portugal. I can’t imagine having to deal with a dog on a flight, even if it was a therapy dog, I would certainly be more stressed with one than without one. One of the dogs did not look particularly friendly and became very excited at the sight of the other dog.
The plane was very nice. New, clean and very quiet. The seats were a little narrow and as always the actual seat never feels big enough. I find airline seats end somewhere about halfway between your buttocks and the backs of your knees, so the lower part of the back of the thigh is left without support. I’m sure this is why your legs ache after a flight.
We took off and after choosing a movie and settling in, food was served. Surprisingly this was delicious. BBQ chicken with pasta, a salad, bread, cheese and crackers and chocolate cake. A couple of glasses of Portuguese wine went down well and after the movie finished, sleep was in order.
The flight itself was very bumpy. Lots of turbulence over the Atlantic and while I slept for a while, the turbulence kept waking me up. Marcel had moved to another row so we could both stretch out, and he even confessed later that he was becoming quite worried about the extent and duration of the turbulence. The pilot had to climb to 42,000 feet to try to avoid the bad weather. We made it safely, and we arrived an hour early due to the tail wind, so we had plenty of time to transit through. That went smoothly, although there were more people at the gate and it was a little difficult to socially distance, but just about doable. We had chosen an aisle and a window seat in the hope that no-one would choose the middle seat and we were lucky, no one claimed it! A short 2 hour flight to the UK and we were here!
We were surprised at immigration. We exited the plane and walked out towards immigration. As we were walking, 4 young people in uniform came towards us and the other passengers and asked for the passenger locator form that we had filled in online. We knew we would need a printed copy so we took this out of our backpack and were waved on. No desk, no briefing, no advice or information on quarantining! They didn’t even look at the paperwork, we could have waved a Walmart shopping list at them and they would have moved us on! We went through passport control which was all electronic, and collected our baggage, which did all arrive quite quickly and headed out to meet our ride.
We were tired, but the day was fresh, the sun was shining and the sky was blue with just a few clouds and we were happy to have arrived. However, as we headed to our destination the clouds rolled in and the rain came down and we knew we were back in the UK!
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