Well, well, well.
Two months after Birthday Extravaganza 2019 in the French Riviera, circumstances allowed me to continue the celebration.
“Labor Day Excursion 2019” took me to Madrid & Toledo, in Spain, and Brussels & Bruges, in Belgium. Add in a stop “home” in London, and this adventure was a BLAST.
Before I can tell you about my adventures in these wonderful locations, I must start with some pre-travel drama.
Back in late May 2019, I received a reminder email my airline voucher was set to expire in September. Since Birthday Extravaganza 2019 – my major annual adventure – was planned, I totally panic at this latest news.
Okay, panic is a bit over-dramatic, but if you’ve read my travel journal, you know I’m not an impromptu traveler. With only four months to plan an Autumn or Winter adventure, I was not cool as a cucumber.
However, if I let a free airline ticket go to waste, my mama would kill me.
Not literally of course, but can you imagine how many family dinners would begin with “Candy, I can’t believe you let a free airline ticket go to waste?”
To protect my mental health, I did the only thing possible — I went into deep research mode, including getting suggestions from friends and coworkers — chose my locations (mainly for weather reasons), dates and hotels.
Things were going great until four days before departure. It was 10 a.m., when I received the email every traveler dreads:
“Sorry to inform you that your flight has been canceled.”
I immediately attempted to rebook using the airline, British Airways, website. After six attempts and having no luck, I had to call customer service. After an hour on hold and 45 minutes speaking with a real human being (his name was Charlie BTW), I was rebooked on an earlier flight.
Crisis averted … or so I thought.
The next day I received another email cancellation notice. This time it was because of an upcoming pilots’ strike. I immediately went online, as advised by the email, to rebook. Once again, no luck. I called customer service, only to have the automatic answer service to say the call center was closed and to call back later.
Seriously! How does an airline send cancellation notices to customers, then shuts down its call centers knowing people are going to be calling to rebook? Talk about bad business practice!
The next day, after 20 attempts, I finally got through and was placed in the customer support queue. Three hours and 23 minutes later, I was rebooked on a partner airline — American Airlines.
THANK YOU AMERICAN AIRLINES for stepping up.
Crisis #2 resolved successfully and travel day arrived with no additional hiccups.
And Day 1 on this adventure was truly a day of firsts:
- First time flying British Airways. However, from the headaches I endured, it might be the only time I fly with them.
- First time flying out of LAX’s international terminal. Yes, I lived in LA 98% of my life, but I’d never flown any non-US based airlines from LAX
- First time grabbing lunch at Pret a Manger, outside the United Kingdom. However, it wasn’t the same, though the prices were most certainly on the airport scale. I mean $10 for a tuna sandwich, really?
After lunch and a 20-minute search for a working electric outlet to recharge my phone, I sat back and waited to board. Of course, I passed the time by jotting down a few notes for this blog.
Finally, it was time to board. Other than having to board a bus to the aircraft, (another first at LAX), boarding went smoothly.
Then without warning or explanation, boarding was suspended. There was no explanation for at least 15 minutes. Then a gate agent announced there was a “technical issue” with the aircraft.
My first thought was, “they’re going to cancel this flight and I’m screwed.”
Finally, the agent announced the “technical issue” was the on-demand entertainment system wasn’t working properly.
I know having entertainment on a long flight is a great customer comfort addition, but after two cancellations and a two-hour delay, I didn’t give a damn about entertainment, I just wanted to get to London and begin my vacation!
Somehow, the system rebooted itself and the issue was cleared. We completed boarding and 12 hours later I was “home.”
LONDON LODGE HOTEL
I checked into my accommodations for the next three nights – the London Lodge Hotel.
Located in Kensington, this nice Victorian townhouse is a stone’s throw away from Hyde Park, the Museum district, and a four-minute walk to Earl’s Court Station & the Piccadilly Line. I booked this hotel by exchanging some of my Diamond Resorts timeshare points.
My stay at London Lodge was truly relaxing and refreshing. My single room wasn’t large, but it was big enough for me, and the staff even honored my request for a single room with a bathtub. Awesome!!
My room was comfy and cozy, and had central air and heat. There were some noticeable wear and tear, but overall, my room was cleaned and I wasn’t afraid something would bite me during the night.
Overall, this was a wonderful hotel and the staff did everything possible to make my stay enjoyable, even ensuring I had a taxi to the airport for a very early 0600 flight.
Following a quick wash-up, I went to dinner at The Little French Restaurant. This compact, low-lit French restaurant with bistro tables was just right after a long travel day.
The three-course set menu offered options for every taste bud. I quite enjoyed the Fresh Marinated Salmon, followed by Lamb Wellington. Apple pie with vanilla ice cream was a nice way to end the meal.
The restaurant’s customer service was tremendous and my overall dining experience was a treat. If you’re near Earl’s Court in London, check out The Little French Restaurant.
After a nice walk around town, I headed back to the hotel for rest and preparations to travel back to Tudor times and enjoy a meal at Henry VIII’s Kitchens at Hampton Court Palace.