I seem to do a lot of "5:00 a.m.'s" on these roadtrips.
The first cloudless morning in London since I got here on Friday.
It's well laid out and seems to work efficiently now that they have sorted out the early teething problems.(Little snafus like all your luggage disappearing for 5 days and turning up in Moscow).
The eating options are plentiful (including Wagamama), the shops are interesting and there is a bit of a buzz sadly missing from most international airports, even the much acclaimed Changi* and Hong Kong airports.
Arrived early so had time to share some nicotine addiction with BA staffers in the smoking bunker outside at the far end of the Departures Concourse (presumably the only place uniformed BA staff are allowed to indulge their filthy habit).
How times change... (Yes, yes for the better of course!)
Those of you that can travel half price on public transport may remember the Peter Stuyvesant adverts featuring handsome airline pilots and glamorous hosties puffing away.
Now there is something weird about chatting to a four-stripe 747 pilot and a bevy of high-heeled attendants dragging on fags while hiding behind a screen wall.
I found it vaguely disconcerting.
BA Lounge serves a jolly good breakfast without those silly restrictions in Oz about no alcohol before 12 noon.
On the plane to JFK: Delighted that what appeared to be an American Airlines booking turned out to be a British Airways plane with those truly ruly flat bed seats that I like**.
This is good and getting better.
No it is not.
After farting around for half an hour on the stand, we taxi.
Then we stop, then we go back to the stand.
The Captain announces very cheerfully that this plane was "hit badly by lightning three days ago" and a few bits an' pieces went rather kaput.
Including something deep in this nose-cone without which, apparently, no one since Lindbergh would dare cross the Atlantic.
Why is there laughter in the cockpit in this time of crisis? I don't like it!
After much swarming and too much PA jocularity from our captain we finally rejoin the let's-get-out-of-here-queue on the runway.
We are 1 1/2 hours late and my JFK - Pittsburgh connection is looking sick.
However, a Bloody Mary puts me in the mood for a bite of lunch.
A few tasty scallops and a glass of Riesling are promising and maybe things aren't so bad after all.
Until the main course arrives: Chicken Tikka a la Chernobyl.
It is extremely ugly.
The very nice and friendly mothery hostess lady confesses to me:
"While we were back on the stand, I thought I'd save a bit of time and zap them.
Maybe I did it a bit too much..."
I could not eat a single morsel of it, so asked for the whole bottle of Riesling and a triple portion of the cheese.
The next flight is not until 8:30 tonight (which is 1:45 am tomorrow morning London time and 8:45 am tomorrow Perth time!) and it is now 2:45. The joys of travel.
*Changi Singapore has never worked for me.
It's exceptionally efficient, but is always undergoing a scaffolding / boarded-up revamp of some sort which makes it hard to figure out what overall picture they are actually trying to achieve.
Pre the last revamp, the Changi retail layout had that disconcerting "repeat every 100 metres" pattern: Same shops, same brands, same looking staff repeated in every direction. Add that to jetlag and a few too many shandies on the plane and a brisk leg-stretching walk becomes a bit of a headspin..
In the current revamp, a spree of designer label shops is about to be added by 2012. That may improve the look of things, but I have not found Singapore prices - especially designer label - anything to write home about since the late 1970's.
Smokers' Cough Zone: It may have been there forever, but I just discovered a Nicotine Addiction Area almost underneath the Business Lounges.
No need to climb up guiltily up through the kiddies' playground into the Harry's Bar & Cactus Garden (Who on earth wants to look at a cactus garden in 99% humidity.. They are nasty, spiteful looking things that could have been reject designs for extras in The Day of the Triffids.)
**Flat is good. Despite the claims of other airlines, I still find that BA Business Class beds suit me the best. Yes, they are narrow , but - unlike the gradual slope in the bottom 30% of of other airlines - they are truly flat./
The secret is in that simple little pop-up footstool that connects to the bottom of the seat and keeps it horizontal.
Rory at a warehouse. (3 square miles of books to look at...)
Niagara Falls at dawn (We do a lot of dawn.)
Thirdly, we went to dinner at very cheesy but very pretty Niagara-on-the-Lake via Lake Toronto.