We’re back in Charlotte after a wonderful long Summer holiday with the Ashridge 3. It was an exhausting journey home on Friday, but we made it. Friday morning started with a jolt and a five thirty alarm call to get us up and moving in order to make it to the 7.47 London Paddington from Plymouth Train Station.
Dad drove the kids and Bill in to the city while I played passenger in Mum’s car and we hauled in the luggage. It was another miserable looking morning in Devon and the mood in the car wasn’t that much better.
I expect the atmosphere in Entity was a bit better though as Sam had declared he was ready to go home and see his friends now. While Nanna and Grandad certainly hadn’t had enough of Sam, Sam’d had enough of being at Grandad’s house and was eager to embark on a journey that was to involve three trains, two aeroplanes, an airport bus and a ride home in Daddy’s car.
Bea was probably asleep, sucking on her hand and unaware of the big trip.
Two giant holdalls, a stroller, Trunki, two laptop bags and our carryon bags were hauled to the station platform, along with Bea in the Baby Bjorn and a wide eyed little boy keen to see some trains. We had a little wait before our train arrived and just tried to drink in the last moments with Nanna and Grandad before having to say goodbye and pack them back into the webcam.
Train boarded and bags stowed I confused everyone by madly darting off in the opposite direction to our reserved seats, but all was redeemed when Bea and I returned having commandeered a table. Phew. Had not been looking forward to the journey to Heathrow with just two seats between the four of us.
With Nanna and Grandad safely on the platform (especially good after a little scare when the door locked with them still on the train helping us move bags!) looking into the carriage we sadly waved farewell. At least, Bill, Bea, Sam and I waved to Nanna and Grandad. Nanna and Grandad just waved to Bill and Sam.
I had moved into an empty seat just to their right, to be near the platform side window and was desperately trying to gain their attention. Bea was waving, pressing herself against the glass and sticking her tongue out at her grandparents. I could see Nanna asking Grandad “Where’ve Kay and Bea gone?” and then sadly the train started to move and pulled us away from under their noses. *sniff*
The journey up to Paddington was rather pleasant with Sam and Bea being wriggly, but angelic. As always the seaside route was beautifully scenic Sam enjoyed pointing out all the water and spotting all the fishing boats bobbing up and down. Another family occupying the adjacent table then kindly provided us with a Paddington Bear activity kit for Sam and we coloured and doodled our way up to London. That is, when we weren’t munching on Grandad’s excellent eggs amazed sandwiches and packed snacks.
Once in Paddington it was a battle to get to our next connecting train, the Heathrow Express. It was a very tight turn around and we had to race across the busy station dodging infuriatingly slow meandering passengers with all our clobber, but somehow we managed it. We did not get to see Paddington Bear.
Arrival at Heathrow Terminals 1,2,3 achieved, a third train then delivered us to Terminal 4 where we were delighted to be able to check in, on time, and relieve ourselves of our check-in baggage.
Too easy? Yes.
We were not so delighted to be told that Bea wasn’t in the system though. This was despite having got her over to England with no problem, and my clutching her very real paper ticket , with her name on it, in my hand. That was a bit of a spanner. It also meant that even when they added her to the flight she wasn’t going to get the baby meal I had ordered for her. Or any meal for that matter. Oh, and to cap it off we hadn’t even been seated together on the aeroplane.
We were kept waiting for ages while the check-in assistant tapped away on her keyboard, kept looking confused and paced off to defer to more senior staff several times. Finally Bea was issued a boarding pass, and my agitation at being told by Mr Senior Staff that the “airline doesn’t provide any meals to infants at all” resulted in a call to find Bea some baby food for the flight, and strings being pulled to allocate us a row of four seats together. I think Bill had been quite interested at the prospect of being sat peacefully on his own, however I would imagine that whichever poor passenger had drawn the short straw of being sat next to Sam would also be rather thankful for seat switch. If only they knew what a narrow escape they had had.
The flight was good. The NorthWest aeroplane was a really nice big one with individual screens in the back of all the seats. Sam sat and glazed over to Monsters V Aliens for a good while and Baby Bea liked to excitedly paw the screen. When that had lost its appeal I pulled out my laptop and let Sam play a Bob the Builder computer game. Bill hadn’t seen Sam’s proficiency with the track pad before, or realized his gaming ability, so that was fun for him to see too.
Meanwhile Bea was a heavy wriggle fidget and I spent the flight with aching arms and struggling to contain her. She did succumb to sleep for part of the flight, as did her big brother and Mummy. Sam was freaky again and had another night terror. He was yelling and crying and thrashing around in his seat. We couldn’t wake him up to comfort him. I’m glad Bill was there to see it and help out by holding Bea out of harm’s way this time. Weird.
We were very delayed leaving Heathrow and then delayed again on the tarmac in Minneapolis. A one and a half hour layover dwindled into a half hour mad dash through immigration, baggage claim, customs, recheck, security and what seemed like the length of the airport to get to our next gate. Customs was the worst, we were in such a hurry and yet managed to pick the slowest queue. It crawled and we were frantic thinking we were going to miss our Charlotte flight. Once through the security checks and released into departures Bill stormed on ahead with Sam in the stroller while I huffed and puffed behind getting red in the face trying to keep up and not bump Bea around too much as we tore through the building.
Of course, we made it to the gate and discovered that the plane had been delayed. It was still waiting on flight crew to arrive. Infuriating, but at least we had made it, and with enough time to find out that we’d all been allocated separate seats again!
Waiting in the aeroplane for our turn to take off was actually a lot of fun. There was lots to see. From his window seat Sam got to point at diggers sleeping after a hard day working on some airfield maintenance, count the number of fat grey military aeroplanes lined up around the airport, and see aeroplanes take off and land beside us. We were part of a long orderly queue of aeroplanes of all shapes and sizes patiently awaiting use of the runway and as the aeroplane swung around we could see all the planes behind us. An excited but very tired Sam couldn’t stay awake for our turn to take off. With a smile on his face he joined his little sister in dreamland and snoozed all the way through to our safe landing in Charlotte.
We finally walked in through our front door a full 25 hours after leaving our beds in Tavistock. Sam and Bea were seasoned travelers and absolutely no trouble at all, but it was still a tough, draining, and incredibly exhausting day. Even with two perfect angels Bill has no idea how I managed to get those two kids and all our luggage to Ashridge on my own. I don’t really know how I did it either.