That was interesting

West Hampstead, London

One of the nice things about flying with a large, “recognized” airline is that they don’t have as many problems as your typical budget airline. Yeah right.

I just finished a journey which took several hours longer than it should have. It started right from the gate. Nenad was kind enough to help me with my things to Barajas, the airport in Madrid. That part went well. No delays there. Having checked in online, I was apparently supposed to drop my bags off at the “Fast Drop” and then head through security. Except that the fast drop was about as fast as any other airline check-in and the usefulness of my carefully printed boarding card went out the window when they gave me a new one anyway. OK, well at least I got to choose my seat online. Of course, the first thing the kind woman at the desk told me was that my flight was delayed an hour. Damn. OK, not much I can do… but definitely the start to a slippery slope which had my best laid plans slide out the window. Fast.

So once my big luggage was ensconced in the bowels of airport mystery, Nenad and I chatted for a bit since I all of a sudden had more time. Then I decided to get the fun process of airport security over with and we parted ways. Security was a non-event, no beeps or tender frisking this time around. My gate was somewhere in the “RSU” section, which it turns out means taking a train. If you want a “cheap” meal past security in Barajas, and you are going to the RSU area, you are advised to get something from the McDonalds in the HJK section. There are a couple places to eat in RSU, but I found them pretty expensive — for fast food anyway. I digress. Passport control stamped me out of the EU and I reached a screen that said my new flight time was 22:25 almost two hours now past the original 20:45. Reading and waiting followed.

The flight was fine, despite it being late. They served sandwiches, which is the first complementary food I’ve had on a flight in a long time. Then I arrive at Gatwick Airport. Not as big as Heathrow, but still one of the largest in the world. I was in the North Terminal. To take trains out to London I first had to take a train to the South Terminal. Did that and I made my way to the train station. I looked on the boards, but there were no trains on the Thameslink listed. Not good. So I asked someone there because despite my late arrival there should still be something even if I had to wait, because the website said so! But dumb luck would have it that Engineering works caused the closure of the Thameslink from one stop on either side of Gatwick from midnight to 9:00. It was 00:20 when I arrived at the train station.

In response to my inquiry, I was told I could catch a train to Three Bridges and then there was a replacement bus to Red Hill where I could get something to London. At this point there were a couple people who were together trying to get into London together and we end up in Three Bridges. We wait for about 20 minutes out in the cool mist before a bus arrives. And where does it go? Back to Gatwick! And then to Red Hill… Apparently we could have taken the bus directly from the airport. Props to the staff for their help on that one. So we continue on to Red Hill where a woman working has a vague idea of where we are supposed to be to catch the train to Victoria. I was told I could switch in East Croyden for trains going to West Hampstead. OK great. A train comes, but no one is sure if it is the right train or not, but we get on and luckily it was the right one. I get off in East Croyden (a center of all things lovely let me assure you) and ask the platform staff about the train to West Hampstead. I was on the right platform already, but the train didn’t come until 2:47 and it was only 2:00. I’m glad I had a book. So I wait in the waiting room which is a few degrees above the outdoor ambient. Finally the train came and it was the one that eventually (thank God because it smelled like urine) stopped in West Hampstead. I got out and it was pouring down rain. Awesome. The perfect ending.

But here I am safe and relatively sound and ready for bed. I just needed to vent a little steam first.