And so the time finally came. I had planned this trip for months, on an extremely tight budget; 5 days in New York and then on down to North Virginia and DC to stay with a friend who lives there for a couple weeks. A friend I met online, who across thousands of miles of land and water seems to understand me as well as if she were living in my own head.
It was late October 2016, and I was finally ready to get on the longest flight I’d been on in decades. I was nervous; what would the security be like post 9-11? Would I have enough time? As it happened, I left the house super early and arrived at Heathrow with plenty of time to spare; just how I like it. I was greeted by some beautifully autumnal red trees, lighting my way like beacons on the runway.
Security was actually a lot less terrifying at the UK end than I was anticipating for a non-EU flight. The staff were friendly and approachable, there was a relaxed and efficient atmosphere to the proceedings. Getting things out of my hand luggage to put through the scanner is always a pain, but nobody rushed me, it was all ok.
Then it was on to the departure lounge. I was amazed at how luxurious it was! It felt more like a shopping centre to me; I was relieved to find plenty of comfortable cushioned seats to settle myself in while I waited for my plane to start boarding. There was a charging dock for electrical items, I was impressed with that, too. I didn’t tempt myself with duty free, but I was amused to discover signposted that there was a spa on the premises! As you do… quick spa treatment before a flight (I should be so lucky)!
And then the anxious/excited wait for the departure gate began. I began to grow uneasy as minute by minute we got closer to departure time but with no departure gate number listed. I wondered how many of the other passengers were feeling that antsy anticipation too. A young couple, American (I could hear from their accents), sat nearby, and I could hear their two young boys asking their parents curiously what the hold-up was, and I saw in their parents’ faces the worry that they would have to keep their little ones occupied until we departed on a delayed flight. I caught eyes with the mother, and we exchanged nervous friendly smiles.
And then, as if the Gods of Flight could sense our agitation, up came our gate number, with a good thirty minutes to find our way there. Up leapt the excited children, skipping ahead as their parents frantically checked and triple checked they had everything and knew where the gate could be found. I wondered as I walked behind them, why it was they were flying; returning after a family holiday in the UK? Expats returning home for Thanksgiving holiday period? All these people coming together on this flight… Where were they all heading to? That was an interesting thought. And as chance would have it I would learn a little more about that family later.
There was a brief moment of panic at the departure gate as a steward noticed that the name on my ticket had been spelt differently than it was on my passport; she shifted off and whispered ominously to a man who I assumed was her boss. Oh the cold sweat that sprouted on my brow! Please don’t say I’ve come all this way just for them to turn me away on a formality like that?! (which always their error by the way). Luckily my panic was very short lived as the head steward said it wasn’t a problem and I was allowed through, phew!
It was nearly time. I could see the plane from my window. It was finally happening. I’d dreamed of visiting New York since I was a teen; envisaged myself living and working there as a young artist… of course that’ll never happen now but I was still very excited to see this place everyone had raved about. The time was now.
And so finally, after another kafuffle involving someone mislay ing their mac book in the departure lounge, I finally found my seat. I flew with Virgin Atlantic. Economy class window seat. I was expecting a pokey little uncomfortable seat. But I was very pleasantly surprised! The plane was wonderfully clean, the seats were well cushioned with good leg room. I was really pleased. Seven and a half hours would pass by pleasantly here. And then I a heard a voice in front of me I recognised. I looked up and, what do you know, taking their seats in the row in front were the young couple with two boys who I’d noticed at the departure lounge! We exchanged pleasantries as they buckled their boys into their seats, who were sparkling with excitement and curiosity. Safety procedures attended to, it was time to fly. As the plane picked up speed before taking off I felt the thrill of excitement finally release itself in my body. We really picked up speed, and I giggled and squirmed in my seat with delight; more so than the boys a third of my age sitting in front of me, dare I say!
Faster, faster, and we were finally in the air. The thrill of adventure and the anticipation of seeing new places… there’s nothing like it.It was finally happening. I was on my way to New York.
Next Up – Part Two: Across The Pond