Coda: Home Again and Trip Reflections

And now it’s Saturday morning and the day of my departure for home, and off we go to the airport. My rail pass is even good on the Heathrow Express, a special train between Paddington Station and the airport, which I highly recommend.

Virgin Atlantic’s huge lounge at Heathrow has got to be one of the best places to wait for a plane, with all its amenities and comfortable seating, and my flight home was pleasant and uneventful. I was a bit concerned about breaking my rule concerning flying on dates near September 11th but there was, obviously, no problem.

I think this trip, downsized compared to my usual longer Fall tour including Europe, was just what I needed. All logistics arrangements went perfectly, the few unknowns worked out well, and it was definitely less stressful and cheaper. As I get older and look ahead to retirement, I’m looking for different approaches to travel that will let me keep going on a fixed income, and this was a good experience in that regard.

countryside

Ah, England! It’s a beautiful country. If you’ve never been, I highly encourage you to go. Imagine someone asking you, as they did me, to talk a bit, because “I just love your American accent”! We don’t know at this point what upheavals Brexit may cause in the future but, come what may, I’m sure we and our dollars will always be welcome in the U.K. I look forward to returning next year and I hope you’ll join me then, right here on this site, too.

And now, this is also the post where I review all those little notes I make during the trip about this and that, and share them with you.

britpeople

The lovely British people look like us, walk like us, and put their pants on one leg at at time, like us. But they’re just nicer. They’re more polite, more open, and less casual about civility and authority. Yes, I realize I’m not really exposed to the lower end of English society but nonetheless I think I can extrapolate my experiences into a comfortable sweeping generalization without fear. Why not? They also wear great scarves and hats. It’s always a pleasure to visit and talk with them.

old-man

Now, I’m not as ancient as the fellow here to the left, but I am sporting a lot of gray hairs these days. So, it was something of a surprise during this trip to find I was getting some age-related deference. For example, the young man who offered me his seat in a full subway carriage. When that happens, my first, internal reaction is “heck, no, I’m not old, but thanks”. Yet, there were a few times when it was really tempting to take advantage of that deference. I did take advantage of the fact that “senior discounts” in the UK usually begin at age 60 – so much more generous than in the U.S.

bookmarks

I like to collect paper bookmarks, usually from museums, during my trips. I actually use them while reading my library and other books and it’s fun to remember where and when I got them. I probably have 40 or 50 of them. So, it’s with a bit of dismay that I’m seeing what may be the start of their disappearance. I realize they’re probably not very profitable for museum shops, but I will miss them. It seems they’re being replaced by more expensive versions – magnetic bookmarks, leather-clad bookmarks, etched metal bookmarks. It’s a pity.

Up until a few years ago, whenever I returned to the U.S. I always had to go through the lengthy lines at Customs. At Dulles Airport, there’s even a double-whammy: long lines to get to a Customs agent before you get to Baggage Claim, and then another, usually shorter, line to get out into the airport proper after you have your bags.

customs

But, I finally bit the bullet last year and signed up for the Global Entry program and, boy oh boy, is it great. After getting to the Customs area, I now get to skip the first long, snaking line entirely and go directly to a kiosk, where my passport and fingerprints are scanned, and in about 1 minute I’m through to Baggage Claim.

This trip, after I collected my bag, I was appalled to see a huge line extending back from the agents at the second review point! But, oh my, yes, there’s a special lane for Global Entry folks with no delay! I almost felt guilty walking right on past the 200-300 people waiting in the other lines. If you travel internationally, even occasionally, then check out the CPB Global Entry program. It includes TSA Pre-Check and is good for five years. You have to shell out $100 and go through their background check. Would you pay $20 a year to breeze through all those airport lines? I’m sure glad I did. Cheers!

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