Travels - Links to each trip

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Camino - Via de la Plata. Return to Virginia

Wednesday May 22 and time for return home. I had ordered a taxi to take me to Heathrow for 8:00 am and it was punctually there. We made good time to the airport despite it being rush hour but the driver knew the way to avoid the worst of the traffic.
We got to my terminal, Terminal 3. Taxis have to use the third lane of traffic from the terminal entrances, the other two being for shuttles and buses. The driver was not allowed to leave his vehicle to get someone to help so I was left by the road with a suitcase and a backpack to try and get to the terminal on crutches. Also no luggage to be left unattended so I couldn't leave it and go for help. I spotted a sign on a booth near me with handicap signs on it and "push button for assistance". I pushed multiple times and heard a buzzer, but no voice came back to me and no assistance.
By now the taxi had left so I was standing there alone on crutches with my 2 pieces of luggage. I asked a passer-by to get a cart for me and he put my luggage on it. Still no sign of assistanceand I was getting angry that the system failed so badly. What do people do in this situation? Finally I waved down a passing police car. They were very good. They parked their van and helped with the luggage as they led me on crutches to the Virgin check-in desk which I managed ok with armed police escort!

There I had to wait while they contacted their medical department to get permission for me to fly since I had a cast. That took a while and they wanted to know what happened, where and when, what treatment I had and what medicines I was taking. All relayed on the telephone through a check-in agent with a bad stutter! It took a while but they found a chair for me to sit on until the wheelchair arrived. It was the same wheelchair driver as on Sunday at a different terminal. What a coincidence. Security etc. went fast and then to the lounge. Here it is all waitress service - excellent I ordered some fruit with yoghurt and coffee. Soon it was time for my 10:00 medicine and injection but the toilet was close and didn't want to inject in public.

Everything was smooth from here on. The gate was a very long way from the lounge, but I was taken there in an electric cart and was soon on board in the business class section of Virgin Atlantic on my way to Washington. I was able to keep my leg elevated for most of the 8:00 hour flight and the service was superb.

A crab salad appetizer for lunch

Followed by a delicious vegetarian curry
Finally cheeses and biscuits
All with a nice Sicilian red wine
Later we were offered afternoon tea with scones, clotted Cornish cream and strawberry jam along with (English) tea sandwiches. All very elegant and nicely presented.
The cabin crew were very attentive and time passed quickly. We were soon landing at Washington Dulles airport.
Wheelchair was waiting, immigration was easy and luggage arrived fairly quickly. The wheelchair attendant took me out to where Christa was waiting and it was wonderful to be together again after my adventures. I was wheeled out to her car and we set off for Richmond. Traffic was terrible, as usual, but finally we were home at about 7:00pm. Ute and Eva, Christa's sister and cousin from Germany who are visiting were waiting to greet us and of course I was glad to be home under the circumstances, but sad that my Camino was over so quickly after looking forward to it and training for it for so long. Next year? We'll have to see, but first I have to get through the next couple of months getting myself healed without driving everyone crazy by my frustration of not being able to do things.
That is the last of this series of blogs. A wonderful journey cut too short, but almost everywhere I met wonderful, kind, sympathetic people anxious to help and support me at a difficult time. People are good and I give thanks for having had an opportunity to meet them.