Outward Bound

We’re here!

It's Boston Baby!

Read all about it …

It’s funny this going on holiday lark; almost from my first waking second this  morning I was thinking about events in my “blogging voice”. I was considering what I was going to report upon, what level of detail I should include and how personal to make it? I’m not sure anyone wants or needs to read about what I had for breakfast (supermarket brand ‘wheat bix’), or how I prepared the house for its week-long shutdown (leave the WiFi running for the security system. No, maybe  don’t share that, too much information for burglars?). I will say that I was up far too early as it turned out, but all-things-considered, that’s good.

Part of what makes me think about what I’m going to include far more than I normally would is that I am aware that there are a number of you who read this and even have gone so far as ‘like’ or ‘follow’ this WordPress blog who don’t know me nor have any cue who I am. You are most welcome and I am quite chuffed that anyone, let alone someone who doesn’t know me from Adam, would want to read my drivel. I appreciate, of course, that by adding ‘Boston’ as a keyword, and later when I similarly include ‘Red Sox’, then I’m automatically exposing this up to a much wider audience. As I say, all are very welcome, it just gives me pause for thought.  Moving on…

Thanks to ‘Find My Friends’ I saw Nick was approaching around the agreed time of Silly o’clock, known to most normal people as 06:00. I had a final check of the essentials (passport, plastic and charging leads) and went out to wait on the street corner for him. Coincidentally, I saw Matt (a.k.a Chappers Jnr.) who as well as being a friend of the family, so to speak, is also my milkman. That was one less job I needed to do, sending him a text. (If you read this Matt, just a reminder: no milk Fri or Mon but if I can have some on Wednesday-week, that would be smashing). Too mundane yet?

Nick’s super-dooper built in SatNav wanted to send us down the M1 but he agreed to my suggestion of overruling it and going via the A38/M42/M40. According to its ETA it was three minutes longer my way, suggesting we’d be at Heathrow at 08:06. All went pretty well really. A few minor bottlenecks where we expected them to be and the usual amusement of the collective antics of the Great British Driver. The sun won its battle to break through in the Oxford area, and other than a bit of a queue behind a very recent shunt as we joined the M4 off the M25, a painless journey.

It was exactly 08:30 when we boarded the car park shuttle and exactly 09:00 as we strolled through Duty Free toward the Virgin Clubhouse. With a warm greeting and the information that our flight was to be called at 12:15, we settled in and got started: Full English, if you please. If I’ve a eeensie-teensie observation about Virgin’s hospitality, I did think they were a little stingy with the coffee. All we had to do was ask, obviously, if we wanted more, but with such tiny cups, why not just leave the pot? Just a thought.

What to do in the Clubhouse for three hours? Well, people-watch of course — though the observer became the observed when I rather spectacularly failed to notice a small step while returning  to the window seating area… which caused mild amusement for the two Brummy businessmen whose business I’d earlier been considering probably a bit too deeply. Karma? I had a walk up to the “garden”, which is an open area overlooking the apron, as notable for its aromas of Jet A-1 as much as the activity of the airport below. Oh, and we ate some more and drink a little bit more – rounding our stay off with an excellent (and obligatory) Clubhouse Burger. Nick had sampled a beer (because he could) but I’d stuck to caffeinated beverages.

LHR Panorama

Clubhouse Burger

Lunch.

At the appointed time we walked to the gate and boarded the aircraft; splitting off in our separate directions with a plan to regroup at the baggage carousel. The plane is an A340 named ‘Ladybird’ (of course I took the mandatory photograph from the departure lounge… It may appear here later.) Pushback was deleted a little because, as the Captain (Roger Sugden?) told us, “the airfield was busy” — in one of the more witty and engaging Captain’s preambles I’ve heard,  he made sure to stress that there was nothing wrong with the aircraft. We were eventually moving at 13:18 and in the air 20 minutes later with 132 passengers and 15 crew on board.

Ladybird

Yes, I know you’ve seen this view lots of times before!

We took off to the east and banked right, before heading north and into the broken cloud. Once away from what I guess was Hounslow, I wasn’t able to pick out any landmarks below. The Upper Class cabin is only about a third full – the rear section being virtually empty. I’m in 5K on the righthand side. Service has been, as you’d expect, attentive, efficient and a delight to be on the receiving-end of. I had the chicken for lunch which was, well, very good of course…. not that I’m a good judge of the effort which goes into turning any old chicken into fancy chicken (I just hope that bone wan’t sticking out like that when the bird was alive). I capitulated after the meal and had a Heineken which was a big mistake as it gave me a splitting headache for much of the middle part of the flight. I managed to stay awake/alert enough to watch and quite enjoy Spectre – but I didn’t have to break off for a quick snooze at one point and several leg stretching jaunts around the cabin — a benefit of it being so empty, there was plenty of places to stand and stretch without getting in anyone’s way.

Lunch again

Lunch. Again.

Aerial view of Boston

Decent view of Boston on approach

Later

Phew! That’s the stressful bit over. We’re in the Concierge Lounge of the Renaissance Hotel on Congress Street. Put in perspective, of course, the “stress” to which I refer is of the very minor variety and really only applies to the hour between landing and getting landslide (though the Silverline journey could have been better — and a lot worse, too, it has to be said).

I finished the above screed with about an hour to go before landing. The Captain had explained that our unusually short flight time was due to an equally unusual phenomenon of a tail-wind on a west-bound Atlantic crossing. This meant that despite the congestion at LHR we were at the gate at Logan 25 minutes before schedule. That was more of a curse than a blessing as we coincided with an arrival from Beijing. I mean no disrespect to those passengers, except that there was an inevitable language barrier at immigration which slowed things to a crawl. At first I thought we were doing well: A new innovation is that “ESTA holders not using the  authorisation for the first time” (i.e. me, because I entered the US last year at San Francisco on this particular issue), can use automatic machines along with US citizens. The trouble is, that the machine did;t seem to like me and my receipt was printed out with a big cross through it and I had to join a loooong queue for a manual Primary Inspection. D’oh. Worse, I looked across the hall and saw Nick had passed and was through soon after.

Forty five slightly frustrating minutes later I joined Nick in the baggage hall. There CBP officer had, of course, asked me the purpose of my visit and telling him it was for the baseball he asked e if I was a Houston Fan!? I thinking he was joshing me!? Another longish queue to get out the customs hall and we were landslide about an hour after we touched-down. Could be worse.

We got seven day T Passes from the machine at the airport out of conveniences as it turns out the Silver Line is (temporarily?) free to Downtown. Not getting the tickets today would be no advantage, so… The bus was full to capacity and traffic getting out the airport and into the Ted Williams tunnel was at a crawl. The bus driver was very helpful when it came to getting us off at the right stop, but as Nick commented, her pedal control in the start/stop traffic left little to be desired. We were well shaken when we got off about 20 minuets later.

The bus stop was right across the road from the hotel so we were up in the room for a much needed change of T shirt (it’s warm and sweaty here in Boston as we arrive) and an even more needed cold drink in the Lounge. Combine that with also much needed charging of devices and uploading of the many photos already taken, and here we are.. Early evening in Boston.

Renaissance Lounge

Bloggin’


 I’ve uploaded the best of my snapshots from today to Flickr.

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