First Leg of the Journey: Toronto to London Heathrow
[Note: If you’d like to skip the Toronto-London preamble and jump directly to the Tuscany blog, click here]
A Slightly Rocky Start
The big day is finally here!
I was packed and ready to go for a 6:00PM limo pickup which will take me to Toronto’s Pearson International for my 10:00PM flight to London’s Heathrow airport. At about 5:50 I said my goodbyes to Vince and the two doggos and proceeded downstairs to our condo lobby with my luggage, expecting Toronto Airport Limousine to be waiting for me. They always arrive extremely early for an airport pickup so I found it strange that they weren’t there – this was my first hint that trouble was afoot. At 6:10, still no car. At 6:20, still no car. I called the company and they said they would contact the driver and get back to me. 6:30 came and went without a returned call. I called the company again and got a little more info – apparently the driver had been dispatched and had been waiting for me at the wrong address. To complicate matters further, I had made a one-digit typo in my cell number when I booked the limo. The driver had been trying to call me repeatedly and had left voicemails, but of course I didn’t receive them as it was the wrong number. This typo was totally my fault and I take full responsibility for that.
Fast forward to 6:35 when the car finally arrived. I apologized profusely for my error regarding my contact number; the driver was very kind, calm, and said it was no big deal. Luckily I had allowed myself a good window of time to get to the airport so I was still OK time-wise.
There was the usual traffic jam in the downtown Toronto core and on the Gardiner Expressway (I’ve always puzzled why it’s called the “expressway” – travel on it is anything but “express”; it should be renamed to the Gardiner Parking Lot or something along those lines).
At Toronto’s Pearson International
I arrived at the airport at 7:30PM, still lots of time to check in for my 10:00PM flight. I paid the driver and got into the departure hall to get myself sorted out. My first stop was the kiosk where luggage gets wrapped in a secure plastic wrap. This was necessary for the photography backpack I took with me which I intended to check – the pack has lots of buckles, clips and straps that could get caught in the baggage mechanisms, hence the required wrapping. The friendly attendant at the kiosk shrouded my backpack in plastic wrap ($17.00), and I was then on my way.
I found an Air Canada check-in kiosk and got myself checked in. I proceeded to the bag drop and offloaded my two checked items (suitcase and photography backpack). Moving on to everyone’s least favourite part of airport travel – the security check and scan – I passed through the usual fracas there.
It was my lucky day as I was selected for the full body scan with the hands in the air thing that you must do when you go into the scanning machine. Security also flagged my rolling case full of camera gear for a thorough swabbing, searching for any b-o-m-b material (I look so like a terrorist, you know). I got myself put back together after surrendering the usual electronic devices, belt and anything metal to the scan. I walked the seemingly endless halls of Pearson to the Gate E section – ah yes, the very familiar Gate E boarding gates, home to many previous successful and enjoyable international trips.
Once I had my gate location established I walked around Pearson a little just to refresh my memory of the international gates (it’s been five years since I’ve been here):
I hadn’t eaten much that day, so at about 8:30 I suddenly realized I was quite famished. I always try to avoid eating at airports as I have trouble with the outrageously-priced – and usually tasteless – fare. Succumbing to my hunger and abandoning my principals, I bought a Chicken Caesar Wrap and a small orange juice for $21.00 – you just gotta love that airport gouging. The piddly wrap itself was $14.29 but at least it tasted OK.
Finishing my gourmet meal I wandered a bit in search of buying some hand sanitizer, then proceeded to Gate E79 to await the boarding call. At 8:50 I called Vince with an update, then proceeded to board the plane as the call was finally announced.
Boarding the plane I could immediately see that this was one very full flight. The attendants were calling for passengers to voluntarily check their carry-on luggage – never a good sign in my experience. I found my aisle seat and much to my joy discovered there was no one in the dreaded middle seat (score!) despite the full flight. I settled in and prepped for takeoff – we were slightly delayed as it was 10:34PM before we actually lifted off for the scheduled 10:00 flight.
Flying On, Through The Night
The flight was very pleasant, despite being in Economy (aka Steerage) class. Whenever I make this transatlantic flight I always marvel at the sheer size of our great country – from Toronto it takes just over 3 hours to clear Canada and the coast of Newfoundland.
Nothing out of the ordinary occurred during this incredibly smooth flight to London. As I usually do on any flight, I used the time to catch up on my music listening. The last time I crossed the Atlantic I discovered the group London Grammar (ah yes, Miss Hannah Reid and that shimmering contralto…) For those interested, I talk about this aural experience on Day 1 of my blog for my last UK trip, found here. This crossing I am using the time to revisit a hero of mine: the late, great Mr. David Bowie. I am currently reading an excellent biography of him by author Lesley-Anne Jones, entitled Hero: David Bowie. I listened to Tonight, which I had not heard before. I next gave Black Tie, White Noise a run-through before moving on to an old fave of mine Station To Station (which by the way, sounds pretty good in a 24-bit high-res remaster). A few hours later I finished up by revisiting a few choice tracks from Nothing Has Changed.