Friday, October 18, 2013

Stilton in London

I'm having nacho cheese soup for dinner while watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  It came from a can.  I've been craving cheese and chocolate all day -- to be precise, I'm remembering the chocolate-covered cheese Figurine bars my mother used to buy in the 70s.  Cheese and chocolate seem a bizarre combination, but I remember that even as a five-year-old, they tasted good together.

Nacho cheese is a poor substitute for the Celery and Stilton Soup I had in London last summer.  It made an impression, comforting me when I was feeling lost, abused, and downright unexpectedly sick.

In the middle of July, we were stuck overnight in London when we were supposed to be flying home.  A snafu at the control tower in Rome, coupled with an airplane-stairs thief at Heathrow, conspired to trap us, by British Airways, no less.  They said we couldn't be trusted to get our own luggage onto the flight, and then proceeded to lose it themselves.  And then we had to stand in line for four hours while they finally said they couldn't get our group home together.   With a British Airways pickle and cheese sandwich.  I had already had one of those for breakfast on the flight over.  Ew.  Hey, at least they fed us, right?

We were hassled at the airport when they finally put us in a hotel for the night, by rude and evil customs agents who wanted to make darn sure we didn't attempt to defect to England while we were there.  Don't get me wrong -- I'm sure that my trip to the UK next year will make me want to live there, but at the time, I developed a sudden cold just upon leaving Italy, and I hurt dreadfully standing in that line.  Both of my legs decided to chime in with horrible femoral nerve pain, and I really wanted to cry, I was so tired and miserable.  I just wanted to go home, because I couldn't go to any of the shops in Heathrow, and the bathroom kiosks contained nothing for colds and allergies.

(My dog was just in my lap for petting.  Have you ever seen a Yorkie grin? It's a jaunty, Elvis-esque sideways smirk, thank-yew-vurry-much.  In short, adorable.)

  We were finally sent through customs and released to the bus loading area, where we waited for about an hour for the shuttle to our hotel.  I seriously considered buying a pint of whisky at one of the duty free shops so that I could pass out when I got to a bed.

It was freaking cold down there, watching double-decker buses go by, waiting on our shuttle.  I was shivering. But when I looked around, no one else was, and they said it was fairly comfortable where we were waiting.  So I realized I had chills, along with my sore throat and stuffy nose that had come upon me in twelve hours' time.  Maybe someone sneezed on me in the Vatican and I picked up their bug -- I don't really know.  

I do know that I will not travel without my allergy and cold medicine again.  Lol. Other than that, I was very well travel-prepared.  I didn't expect an allergy attack or cold in July, and I didn't expect it to drag me under so fast, but I was worn out from nine days of travel already. That was the summer I went places.  I was busy, and it was wonderful.  :)

We were provided rooms and dinner at the Renaissance Heathrow, where a youth ministry convention of some sort was being held.  They kept the restaurant buffet open for us to have dinner, and that's where I found breaded mushrooms, a bunch of food I was feeling too sick to try, and the celery and Stilton soup.  It was the only thing I could taste, and it did wonderful things to soothe my raw throat.  I believe the soup, coupled with sheer exhaustion, made me sleep deeply most of the night, though I had tried to order a shot of whisky, again, out of desperation.

Being that this was a more upscale hotel than I'm used to, I was surprised by the down comforter on the bed and the heavy robe provided.  I put the robe on top of the comforter and slept like the dead until 3 am when I developed fever and had to kick off the covers.  It was a blissfully comfortable night other than the fever.  I even bought a down comforter for my bed at home a couple of months later.  :)

The next morning we had the breakfast buffet before returning to the airport, and I discovered that cold medicine was available in the hotel gift shop, bless them, along with throat drops and an Oxford University hoodie that I decided to buy myself as a consolation for being sick.  

The staff at the gate for the airline my reduced boarding party was transferred to (it was an American airline, but the staff were undoubtedly New Zealanders) tried for a couple of hours before my flight to locate my missing baggage, but they could only confirm that it was not going to be on that flight, when all was said and done.  They had a sort of "I feel your pain" attitude when I told them I blamed British Airways, and were very polite and amusing about it all.  I appreciated that they had even tried.  They were calling desks all over the airport to find my bag.  Oh well.  

I did enjoy the return flight in the daytime, because there was an entertainment screen at every seat and I got to watch three movies on the way over the Atlantic. :)

Having your bag of dirty clothes and souvenirs on the return trip isn't as important, and it just meant that I only had to lug my backpack around with me.  Lack of baggage, however, did create some serious suspicion in customs when we made our way through the Atlanta airport, where we were supposed to re-check our luggage for the final flight. 

Understand that I was ticked about BA's attitude about not giving us back our luggage, but at the time I shrugged it off as just one of those things that sometimes happens when you travel.  I learned my lesson several years before and made sure that I had all my necessities in a bag that was NOT going to be checked.  My backpack / purse.  So I was okay, and not bothered by trekking through Hartsfield without my rolling suitcase to wrangle.  I just hoped that it would eventually find its way home to me.  C'est la vie.  No biggie.

The Atlanta airport was COLD and kinda empty.  So I got to wear my new hoodie and charge my phone.  And I passed out on the flight, then on the drive back home.  I felt that I wasn't being polite to do that, but I couldn't exactly help myself.

Ah, but I wish I had some more of that soup.  :). Maybe I'll find some on my next trip.  I'd try to make some myself, but I'm not sure I can even find Stilton cheese in my little hometown.  It's getting hard just to find watch batteries these days.

Am I happy? Not particularly, at the moment.  I'm just snuggling within the warm memory of a comforting time in a strange place when I wanted to be home, sick in my own bed.  I'm just having a little better time handling the depression this week.


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