An Impromptu Layover in London

postcard design by C. Foster

“Keep calm and carry on”

After my connecting flight to Paris was cancelled due to severe weather conditions, the airline gave passengers hotel accommodations for the night. There were several airport hotels, but to our delight, the airline booked a rather fancy one for my family and me.

Look at the gorgeous chandelier that welcomes guests in the lobby:

We spent a couple of minutes fumbling in the dark before we read the sign saying you had to insert your door card (room key) in a slot on the wall to make the power sockets and lights work:

Snacks we bought from Marks & Spencer and Boots in the airport:

Look! Mariah Carey is on bags of crisps here

Giraffe

flat white

fish and chips with a side of pea purée (mushy peas)

non-alcoholic Elderflower Collins

Breakfast buffet at Steak & Lobster (restaurant in hotel):

Our stay was brief, but it was comfortable.

Like it says on the umbrella tag, the lovely hotel provided shelter from the storm:

After the tasty breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and caught a shuttle back to the airport.

Finally, we were on our way to Paris. Or, were we?

Another delay

We experienced a 90-minute delay in London. The captain told us that he was not confident to fly due to an earlier issue with one of the instruments. This meant we had to board another plane!

While we waited for the tram to take us to the new aircraft, the captain invited passengers to visit the flight deck of the plane, an Airbus A320! We got to briefly chat with both the captain and first officer!

After we boarded the new plane and got settled in, the captain informed us that the ramps and passenger stairs were stuck and couldn’t be removed from the side of the plane!

About 30 minutes later, we were ready for take off. Finally, we were on our way to Paris, for real.

From there, we’d catch our flight to our third/final stop: Berlin, Germany!

*More to come on our visit to Berlin

7 Words Francophiles Never Want to Hear

“Your flight to Paris has been cancelled.”

These are words that Francophiles, like moi, never want to hear!

Due to Storm Dennis, my connecting flight from London Heathrow (LHR) to Paris was cancelled.

Safety first, my head says.

Think about the people who are experiencing strong wind, heavy rain, and flooding, or worse, my head says.

Yes, but my aching heart cries, Oh, c’mon! What a letdown!

In addition, LHR was experiencing technical issues so they put out large white boards to communicate flight information! Not a good travel day.

airline’s website on 16 February 2020

Because of severe weather conditions in the area, I had assumed other carriers were also grounding and canceling flights out of LHR that day.

I was terribly disappointed.

Reluctantly, I accepted the airline’s offer of a new flight to Paris leaving the following day. While I was happy to be rebooked, this new flight gave me only about an hour to catch my flight from Paris to my third/final stop on my journey.

Per their policy, the airline gave us weary, stranded travelers the following:

  • a voucher for a one-night stay at an airport hotel, breakfast included
  • vouchers for light refreshments from airport concession stands and restaurants
  • vouchers for shuttle rides to/from the airport

It was windy and cold at the shuttle stops. Add frustration and confusion and you get a chaotic scene!

For instance, a few shuttles didn’t stop at their designated spots so people had to sprint back and forth. Some people boarded a shuttle only to be told they were on the wrong one. Still others had to wait for the “next one” as each shuttle filled to capacity quickly.

Seize the Day

Eventually, I accepted the fact that my plan to visit Paris (for a few hours, at least) failed.

Perhaps spending a night in London instead was meant to be! Going with the flow, I decided to make the most of my impromptu layover in London!

Wednesday Postcard: London, England, United Kingdom

photos on postcard: G. & M. Grist

Bonjour! Hello and Happy New Year 2020!

This week’s carte postale features a 2019 calendar from London! I am taking it down from my cork board for obvious reasons, but I will cherish it. It’s a souvenir I picked up during a quick layover at Heathrow Airport.

From left to right, the postcard features:

Until the next Wednesday Postcard, à bientôt!

I’m a Royal Watcher 👑

[Updated: December 6, 2018]

Something that many people don’t know about me is that before I became a self-professed Francophile, I was a bit of an Anglophile and passionate royal watcher!

I knew the exact moment it happened, too. It was in 1981 when the engagement of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer was announced. I was a highly impressionable 8-year-old and in my eyes, Charles and Diana were people to admire, whose ways were to be emulated, and whose love story one should be so lucky to have. Who could resist a real-life fairy tale?

So began: The collection of every newspaper and magazine article on the Royal Couple that I could find. The British English spelling of words in my tween diary (colour, grey, centre, flavour). The peppering of my speech with words like lovely or quite or quite lovely. The belief that one day, I would go to Buckingham Palace to see them in person.

I didn’t have Barbie dolls nor did I keep up with the Disney princesses. Why do that when I could follow real-life royalty?

Over time, I discovered that, unlike Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny, fairy tales weren’t real. Sadly, the prince and princess turned out to be royal people who also had their share of commoner problems. And who could forget 31 August 1997 – the day that Princess Diana died. It was one of those days that when people ask, “Where were you when…” – you just remembered. I’ll never forget the day I heard the news. I was in Seattle with Mom for the Labor Day weekend. I remember returning to our hotel room to take a breather after a day of exploring the Emerald City. The news on TV reported that Princess Diana had been in a pretty bad car accident in Paris. A few hours later, Mom and I went out to grab some dinner. When we got back to our room, the headline on the TV screen had been updated with the grim news. The princess was gone. And along with her, the fairy tale and any hope of that ever-elusive happy-ever-after for her, and for anyone else who just wanted something to believe in.

It seemed the Royal Family was in a happier time only a few months earlier. In May 1997, I spotted Prince Andrew (Charles’ brother) in Oakland. He was in the Bay Area as part of an event called “Britain by the Bay.” One of his first stops was Barnes & Noble at Jack London Square, which was across from my office building. I remember taking an extra-long coffee break that day for a chance to see a real-life prince on this side of the pond. He arrived by boat and was escorted by bodyguards across the plaza. Prince Andrew smiled and waved to the small crowd that gathered before disappearing into the bookstore, where he was greeted with a display of books about Britain. That’s all I could see; they closed the doors, the crowd dispersed, and I went back to work, still incredulous that I had seen Prince Andrew – on my birthday, no less!

Eight years (and two jobs) later, I got to see Prince Charles in San Francisco. This time, though, I didn’t need to take an extra-long coffee break to sneak a peek. The Prince of Wales and his wife, Camilla, arrived around my lunch hour. (Wasn’t that considerate of them?) Like his brother did years earlier, he and his wife arrived by boat.

img_7497

At Pier 45, Gavin Newsom, then-mayor of San Francisco (who’s currently running for Governor of California), and his then-wife, Kimberly Guilfoyle, welcomed the Royal Couple on November 15, 2005

When the engagement of Prince William (Charles’ older son) to Kate Middleton was announced, it felt like hope had been restored. Their union would symbolize a second chance for a fairy tale -and all the dreams and expectations that come with that. For me, I was so inspired that I sent them a wedding card. I learned later on, that for their 29 April 2011 nuptials, they had received over 60,000 cards from people around the world. What’s even more remarkable is that they sent a thank-you note to everyone who sent them well-wishes. Imagine my astonishment when this missive arrived in the post:

img_7498

Received March 2011

I didn’t open it for days. It seemed too thin to be an invitation to the wedding, so what could it possibly be? Why am I getting an envelope with the Queen’s cypher (EIIR) on it?

One of the things I love about the English is their impeccable manners. While their gesture of sending a note of appreciation wasn’t surprising, I was stunned that they sent one to me (of course, via their secretary, but still…) Brilliant!

I knew that I wanted to visit Paris again one day. But after Princess Diana died, I especially wanted to see the Flame of Liberty. It is located directly above the Pont de l’Alma tunnel where her car accident happened. As people around the world placed flowers, notes, and pictures of the People’s Princess on it, it became an unofficial memorial.

img_6352

On the way to Place des Vosges in Le Marais, M. Didier and I drove through the Pont de l’Alma tunnel. It was a surreal experience. I get goosebumps looking at these pictures:

img_6536

img_6537

img_6538

Over the years, family and friends who know of my royal watching ways, have given me gifts, like books and magazine clippings. One of my favorite gifts is a replica of Princess Diana’s (now Catherine’s) sapphire and diamond ring that Mom gave me for one of my birthdays. I knew my CDG-SFO itinerary included a hop at London Heathrow, so I made sure to take the ring with me. Call me quirky.

img_6874

Flying over London and I’m waving to Harry and Meghan

In 2017, Prince Harry (William’s brother) became engaged to Meghan Markle, an American. (I’m like hella stoked, dude. Ohmigod, she’s a California girl, like me!)

img_6904

my choice of in-flight entertainment

At 2 o’clock on the morning of 19 May 2018, I tuned in to watch Prince Harry and Meghan Markle become the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

With the next generation, the fairy tale continues. I wish them well.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be waiting by my mailbox.

[Updated: December 6, 2018]

Look what I received today:

For the wedding card I sent them last spring, the Duke & Duchess sent a thank you note along with an apology for the delay. I love their impeccable manners!

I was only kidding about waiting by my mailbox. But it’s so good to know that had I really been perched out there, that my efforts wouldn’t have been for naught. Thank YOU, Harry & Meghan. You’ve made my day!