July 1, 2013

UK Trip 2013 – Going Back Again!

Our last trip to the UK was in 2010, seems like only yesterday! When we went back last time we had so much planned, the months before we were creating an itinerary of our days, we had people booked in for breakfast, lunch, dinner and an evening, we raced around like crazy beings and although we accomplished so much it was a massive whirlwind and we came home absolutely shattered.

This time we planned on taking things easier, more relaxed. There were no itineraries, no rushing around pre planned! Again we were to stay at our parents homes whilst there, this we were VERY grateful for, and the idea of being able to stay in the family homes again was lovely. So with bags packed we were on our way, our friend Sue waved us goodbye at the airport, and then for the next 36 hour journey it was us – Wellington to Auckland, Auckland to LA, LA to London, London to Newcastle.

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This time round we decided to just fly straight through, last time we went via Singapore and spent a few days there at a stunning resort called Sentosa Island. This time we just wanted to get there and spend more time with everyone, we were very apprehensive about this, we have flown straight through before and we said never ever again. However Bethany was much older this time (she was 2 last time we flew straight through) and maybe her being older would make things easier.

We had heard bad things about flying through LA, so many people had said it was a red tape nightmare, even Air New Zealand sent us a detailed check list of what to expect, ‘armed guards’ was mentioned many times on this very detailed preparation list. Before that though we had our flight to Auckland, typically for the first time ever our flight from Wellington was delayed by nearly an hour, as we touched down finally in Auckland our boarding time for our next flight was our arrival on the ground time, straight away our plans to relax went out of the window as we rushed off the plane, ran through the airport, connected via bus to the other terminal and made it just in time before the flight closed!

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We were flying with Air New Zealand to LA and we were on their fancy new plane – The Hobbit plane. We didn’t actually know this though till we got to LA and saw our plane, we didn’t have time to admire anything in Auckland in the mad rush! The Hobbit plane was stunning, this was the plane that dropped the movie stars of The Hobbit in New Zealand, the one that did a flyby of Wellington on the premiere night – so very cool with its amazing artwork on the side.

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On board we had booked a Sky Couch, it was nearly 1am (NZ time) by the time we got our meal and Bethany was falling asleep sitting up. It was time to tackle the seating and turn our seats into a relaxing couch as we had seen on the adverts. If you haven’t seen a Sky Couch you can see the Air NZ video here – looks great right??

Well after nearly 20 minutes of seats up, seats down, bedding up, bedding down, seat belt extenders on, seat belt extenders off, switching position, moving bags, clearing space, and getting hot and annoyed – we gave up! We were all super tired and this was actually the last thing we needed. Not only were the positions on the information card impossible (possible if you are tiny humans only) it just wasn’t any use. Air New Zealand stress the point its a ‘couch’ and not a bed, yet why have photos of people sleeping? Anyway, all was not a complete loss, Bethany was able to get a really lovely sleep with just her middle section raised, and we used ours as extra leg rests which was really quite nice. It was definitely worth trying and we are glad we did but we won’t ever use it again. It’s ideal for two – here is what it should look like…can’t see any room for me to squeeze in!!!

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Arriving in LA after the first 12 hour long haul we were led from the plane through the corridor and into a room where we then went through processing and had our fingerprints and iris scans done. Then we were free to head into the departure area! The whole process easy and lovely and the only time we saw an armed guard was at the processing desk.

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We got such a lovely surprise here, we were dreading the stop but we were greeted with shops, cafes and places to relax. After browsing some shops (Bethany bought herself a spongebob cap) we went and grabbed some lunch. Never ever have we seen such massive sandwiches! And the coffee…honestly Bethany could of had a bath in the ‘small’ cup. There was just no way I could finish the sandwich or the coffee and both ended up in the bin – such BIG portions!

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We did get to see the Hollywood hills though from the airport!

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And with that we were off again, the next leg all the way to London – another 11 hours!

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We were back in our Sky Couch seats which we used again as leg rests, and we all managed some great sleep. The flights all seemed really easy, and wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.

The only thing that was a problem was the food. Bethany and I are vegetarian and I am gluten free also. I knew before we left that our meals were going to be plain and boring and as the adult I can deal with that, but there were no vegetarian child meals which meant Bethany had to have a vegetarian adult meal – which wasn’t great. I had a feeling this was going to be the theme to the flight. They even managed to bring out a fish meal for us which we had to promptly send back with cabin crew offering confused faces as to why we didn’t want it!

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Watching the in flight screens it’s very cool to see where you are flying, seeing the UK on the screen brought butterflies. At last we made it to London, just one more flight and we would finally be there!!! It was lovely arriving in London and watching people line the windows to take photos of The Hobbit plane, felt quite proud to be aboard such an iconic plane. We had to switch terminals again and after more security and faffing around (I lost my shoes at security!) we had a little while to wait for the next flight, so we went and grabbed some lovely food and relaxed before the last hour of flying.

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The excitement was too much to handle, it had been nearly 3 years since we saw some of our family and we couldn’t wait. At last, touch down at a sunny Newcastle airport, another great flight and our cases were first off in pristine condition.

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We had made it extremely well! We was super surprised and all really felt great, a little tired but a thousand times better than ever before. We will definitely take this route through to the UK next time, something about the time we travelled and the route itself made a massive difference this time. A very unexpected but happy relief. Now ahead of us was the most amazing three weeks, Bethany especially over excited to spend time with her gorgeous cousin Amy!

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