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.