This was the last day of my UK Trip.
I packed my stuff up and we lounged around for a bit before the minicab arrived to take us to Heathrow. It didn’t take nearly as long as we thought it would take to get to the airport, probably because we were travelling in excess of Mach 1 on the highway (ok, it was 80 mph, but that’s still quite fast in a minivan).
We headed to the Air Canada counter and I sorted out my ticket, checked my luggage and we went in search of something to eat. Finding that traditional English restaurant, Burger King, Rob and I played BT Tag with someone’s phone in the airport for a bit.
Finally, it was time to make my way to the gate, so we took some pictures and said our goodbyes. It was really nice to see Rob and meet Yuki and I was sad to bid them farewell.
Passing through security was much less of a hassle than I thought it might be. I guess the Brits aren’t as paranoid as the Americans are.
Once through security, I found myself in something that rivals most malls I’ve been in. There were shops everywhere selling everything you could think of from perfume to consumer electronics to books to … well, you get the idea.
I picked up a couple of books and waited for the gate to be listed for the flight.
This was in itself was interesting because one of the computers running the displays kept crashing. It turns out the displays were powered by Windows 95 boxes — probably explains why it kept crashing.
Anyways, the gate was posted so I made my way to it. Talk about a long hike. I think I passed Rob and Yuki’s place on my way to the gate. Judging by the map, there was only one gate that was farther away from the waiting area. I checked in at the gate and waited for the flight to be called.
It was called, we boarded and made the seven to eight hour flight to Dorval. They served us a couple of meals and showed us a couple of movies. No, I don’t remember what was shown.
Arriving at Dorval pretty well on-time, I breezed through immigration and customs and made my way to the Dorval VIA station.
I upgraded my ticket to VIA1 when I arrived at the station. The chap behind the counter said “whoops, it might be too late” but he called someone and they said they would put an extra meal onboard. I called Patti on my cell and she said she’d meet me at the station in Ottawa.
When the train arrived, I hauled my luggage on-board and found a seat. The VIA1 person came by with the meal and said “whoops, there’s no meal for you”.
Well, needless to say, I was unimpressed. She found the train manager and he and I had a chat about the situation. By this point, I really just wanted to get home, so I asked him for a refund on the upgrade. He made a phone call and said he’d accompany me to the ticket counter in Ottawa and sort things out. He offered me a drink.
The people sitting across the aisle from me were travelling from Quebec City to Ottawa. They had been driving from Ottawa to Gaspe, but their car was hit by a truck outside Quebec City, so that ended their trip. The train manager on the train from Quebec City to Montreal was quite rude to them because apparently it was their fault that their reservations on the train were screwed up, regardless of what it said on their tickets.
The train manager on our train talked to them and more than made up for his colleagues behaviour and they went away very happy. (Before he talked to them, it sounded like they would never ride on VIA again.)
We arrived at Ottawa on-time and I met up with Patti after getting my refund.
And thus ended my first trip to the UK. I can’t wait to return!
As a postscript to this: I sent a letter to the president of VIA Rail complimenting the train manager on the train from Montreal. He sent me a letter back saying how happy he was to receive a letter like this and assured me that the train manager would be recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty. A gold star from the president of the company has to look good when it comes time for a performance review. 🙂