The best part of traveling is falling in love. You fall in love with your surroundings, your food, your drink, and your fellow travelers. You feel the rush of the high as soon as you exit the airport, and it doesn’t subside until you begin boarding back home. You get caught up in it, seeing everything new for the first time (even if it’s utterly familiar) and reacting with glee and childlike enthusiasm to every moment that hints at a magical opportunity.
I loved the ticket dispensing machine for the subway, that reluctantly printed out the card needed for me to get to the city. I love the stranger who helped me coerce the ticket machine to give me my pass, and who was a great conversationalist for the 45 minute subway ride downtown. I especially love the fruit stand that greeted me when I emerged from the station, with free samples of luscious cherries.
I loved the walking tour I took of the city, where I explored ancient contents, crossed spiteful steel bridges that didn’t have guard rails, scuttered through winding alleys that may or may not have been the inspiration for Diagon Alley, and eating delicious chocolate cake with the friends that I met there.
I loved the lunch with the pitcher of sangria, even though a pigeon did a drive by defiling of it.
I loved the port tasting, from the cheapest sugary wine to the exquisite aged option. I also loved having a bit too much port.
I loved being invited to dinner at another hostel, where I had a tasty meal at an open bar. I loved sharing it with other travellers riding similar highs, and falling in love with all of them for it. I also love
(I also loved not being hungover after a day where I consumed 5 glasses of sangria, 4 glasses of port, and a shot of some sort of schnapps. Way to go liver!)
I loved my first day of the camino, where I trekked with a wonderful partner through 33km of Porto’s beachfront, enjoying the boardwalks and the beauty that they presented with every step.
I loved the feeling of destiny when we reached the hostel at 11pm and were able to get in just as the door was being locked for the night, and then getting the bonus of having our own room.
Finally, I loved falling asleep as soon as I went under the sheets, getting my first full 8 hours of sleep on this vacation.
As it turns out, travelling between airports in London can be a pretty harrowing experience.
I had a three and a half hour gap between my two flights today, which theoretically meant that I could have taken it easy and relaxed in Gatwick with a bite to eat before boarding to Porto.
210 minutes before Porto (B.P.)
My flight to London-Heathrow actually lands 15 minutes early (yay!), but disembark 30 minutes after its scheduled arrival time (aww…). Going through standard immigration, I cheerfully explain to the officer why my landing paper only lists my stay in England as a couple of hours.
150 minutes B.P.
Heathrow is quite a large airport. Imagine Seattle airport, but bigger. And with more British accents. And everyone walking on the left hand side. It’s not quite like that, but by now you’re probably very confused.
Regardless, I begin my long trek underground to the central bus station. I pass by other travellers, a busker, a dozen “keep calm and carry on” shirts and “mind the gap” shirts, and a fork in the path which I’m fairly certain leads to a Morlock’s nest. Either way, this is good practice for the Camino.
I finally buy my bus ticket, and am told that it would be 20 minutes until the next bus. Time to hunker down.
105 minutes B.P.
On the bus! I grab two very comfortable seats near the front, and my bag and I get cozy. I pull out my guidebook and start memorizing Portuguese vocab words and phrases (although I doubt that I’ll have to ask for tampão).
The driver’s voice comes up over the intercom. The scheduled trip between Heathrow and Gatwick will take an hour and fifteen minutes. Oookay….
55 minutes B.P.
I look outside with window and admire the English motorway. It’s such a striking variety of cars, and they’re so different from the cars that I see back in Seattle. Whereas Seattle is filled with Toyotas (especially Priuses), Nissans, Hondas, Subarus, Chevys, and Fords (and the odd Tesla), England’s cars as distinctly European in flavour. You see fleets of Volkswagens, Mercedes, and BMWs cruising down the freeway, and very few of them are the luxury cars that define them. They’re just normal hatchbacks. You also see Vauxhalls, Citreons, Peugeots, Land Rovers, and the odd Jaguar (I’m in love with their hood ornaments). I idly wonder how Brexit will affect car demographics.
I check in online to my flight and score a window seat. My boarding pass indicates that boarding ends 20 minutes before flight takeoff.
I look outside the window again. Rush hour is beginning…
40 20 minutes B.P.
We’re running 20 minutes late. The driver announces that they’re going to stop at the northern terminal in 10 minutes, and arrive at the southern one in 18. I find myself looking for my spirituality before my Camino even begins.
10 minutes B.P.
New plan: get off at the northern terminal and see how far I can stretch my luck. I jump off the bus and sprint to the elevator that leads to the monorail servicing the two terminals. I dive into the elevator just as its doors close, peripherally aware of the amused looks of the other riders. The doors open, and before the elevator’s “ding” is complete I’m already halfway to the monorail.
7 minutes B.P.
I grab a tray and dump my pack and my bagged liquids into it. In a singly smooth motion that would make a veteran symphony conductor weep I take off my shoes and my watch and place them next to my bag. To the x-ray machines!
5 minutes B.P.
I forgot about my phone in my left pocket. I assume the patdown position.
3 minutes B.P.
Shoes back on, I weave through the terminal toward the gates. I’m surprisingly nimble given the bag on my back. I inwardly curse at whoever thought to put a long and winding path through the duty free shop in between security and the gates. I narrowly avoid paying for a display case of vodka.
30 seconds B.P.
I make it! Gasping, I present my digital boarding pass and am allowed to board the plane. I sit next to a smiling Portuguese grandmother. I wipe the sweat off my brow and collapse into a nap. My tummy rumbles, but I ignore it.
(Trying again on WordPress, since the official Blogspot app is nonfunctional)
Today marks Day 0 of my Camino, where I plan on walking from Porto, Portugal to Santiago de Conpostela, Spain over the span of a little less than two weeks. But first I actually have to get there. To do that I will have to drive from Seattle to Vancouver, fly from Vancouver to London (Heathrow), bus from Heathrow to London (Gatwick) over a small time window, and finally from there to Porto.
So I’m finding myself currently in YVR, about to embark on the second hop of my trip to Porto. This has already had its fair share of excitement. I was held up at the Canadian border because I am (technically) a Canadian resident driving in a car I own equipped American license plates, and so the border guards wanted me to pay duty and register the car. I have driven up before while I was on a work visa, but that meant that I was an American resident so had no motoring issues. Thankfully – despite the driven motivation of the initial guards – I was finally allowed in while keeping ownership of my vehicle.
The Vancouver airport breezed me through security (props to them on running an efficient system!) and I promptly located and navigated to the airport lounge. With any luck, I’ll be able to navigate through the winding country roads of Portugal and Spain with the same ease. I’m now loaded up on Laksa soup (an Indonesian dish) and easing through a glass of merlot while waiting for my flight to board. I’ll have to be careful not to become so heavy that the plane won’t be able to take off!
Signing off for now, will update in Porto (or London, if something interesting happens there).