USA Day 1 – Flight to San Francisco

Tuesday 20 December 2022

Travel to San Francisco

We’re off again. First stop, to spend Christmas with daughter no 2, who lives just south of San Francisco. It’s quite a trek. I reckon if everything went smoothly it could be done door to door in 18 hours. However, in my experience, San Francisco has one of the slowest immigration lines in the world and I’ve yet to get through in under 2 hours. It really annoys me, standing there waiting an eternity while Americans swarm through in a matter of minutes. Yet in the UK, they’re allowed to use the fast track. What’s all that about? I reckon all border arrangements should be reciprocal.

Take me with you

Rant over and back to today, well yesterday actually. After a brief discussion about how much contingency time to add for a rush hour scrap with the M25, we decided to travel up to Heathrow the night before and treat ourselves to an airport hotel; The Radisson Heathrow.

So, instead of an early morning battle with the unholy trinity of the M3/M4/M25, we pootled up yesterday afternoon, so this morning all we need to do is catch a bus the last mile to the terminal.

Radisson Heathrow Foyer

The hotel has an interesting foyer with a mini parked in the middle and fake red phone boxes which allegedly offer self check in, but don’t appear to work. So we had to queue to check in behind a large group of rather bedraggled Argentinians just arrived from Doha, still bedecked in blue and white face paint fresh(ish) from their World Cup victory.

Raddison check in

This morning, before we even get out of bed, the plane has been delayed. Apparently, the crew haven’t had the necessary amount of rest time. We opt to set off for the airport anyway, with the intention of checking in then having a leisurely airside breakfast.

Instead of catching the hotel shuttle for £6, we walk across the road and catch a local bus for £1.65. Ten minutes later we have reached the terminal. An hour after that, we have reached the front of the United check in queue (having successfully negotiated the pre queue and the pre pre queue). Next, we spend an hour passing through security. Not helped by the old man’s bag being pulled for containing ice skates! By the time the issue is resolved (they were in the bag behind), breakfast is no longer being served. In any case, it’s time to head to the gate, clutching some insipid looking WHS sausage sandwiches.

Departing Heathrow

Only it’s not, because the flight has been delayed some more. This time because the plane has not been cleaned. Finally, we are able to board. The pilot is flying on his day off and the flight attendants look like they’ve been dragged from God’s waiting room. We sit on the tarmac for ages. Five hours since we checked out, the hotel is still visible out of the plane window.

Two hours behind schedule we eventually depart. Shortly after take off, we are served food. Then it’s time for lights out. Im not sure why. It’s day time where we’ve come from and where we’re going. So why we have to sit it darkness for seven hours pretending like it’s night time is beyond me. They even blacken and lock the windows so you can’t see out. I feel like a naughty kid being forced to play sleeping lions by a grown up who’s not sure how else to keep me quiet and still.

That said, it was 4 pm when the windows were closed near Iceland and quite dark. Seven hours later, when the window police relent, it’s 3 pm and light again. Hence, we get to witness the same sunset twice on the same day over two different continents. Time is fascinatingly weird.

The ancient air hostesses bring a snack. It’s a turkey sandwich. I ask what the vegetarian option is and get told it’s not to have the turkey sandwich. Good old United and their awesome customer service. As if locking us in darkness for 7 hours wasn’t enough.

We land and promptly manage to break two records from my five flights to San Francisco; firstly, we get through immigration in a mere 90 minutes! Secondly, we collect our hire car to drive down the interstate to Palo Alto and succeed in finding the I-101 junction after only three wrong turns.

We reach our ultimate destination (daughter no 1’s house) around 8.30pm (that’s 4.30 am in the UK). It’s taken us 19 hours and one of us had two very generous measures of wine on the plane, so we’re quite tired and emotional. So, after a quick catch up and dinner, we depart for our hotel.

Daughter no 2

Menlo Park Inn

We check into tonight’s accommodation at the Menlo Park Inn and crash. I’m too old for this travel malarkey.


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