California, Here We Come! (2021): Day 2: And now, erm … back to the UK!


Today started by following a similar approach to that used on Thursday: we left the hotel without eating, intending to have some form of breakfast in the lounge. In this case, of course, the airport was just a short walk away. Unfortunately, we made our lives unnecessarily difficult by failing to notice the Fast Track that we would have been eligible to use, until it was too late. We knew that the British Airways lounge was still closed – strangely, given the marked uptick in travel – so we had to use the Aspire lounge next door, which was absolutely rammed. In due course, we made our way to the non-Schengen pier, located our gate and boarded our A319, an increasingly rare model in the BA fleet.

“But why?”, I hear you say; “why travel from London to Amsterdam only to turn round and reverse it out again?” The answer, of course, is that yesterday’s flight was on a simple one-way ticket, while today’s was the first small step in our intercontinental journey. Amsterdam is often a good place to begin a long journey on BA and its Oneworld Alliance partners. Schiphol is the home of Skyteam member KLM, which provides direct services to a host of long-haul destinations. If BA wants to compete with the Dutch airline out of Amsterdam, it needs to offer lower fares in order to compensate for the need to change in London. Numerous similar examples exist in Europe.

It proved to be a particularly short flight: we took off towards the west, kept going and landed directly onto a westerly runway at Heathrow, with no need to hold. Then, however, we sat at our stand for 35 minutes, waiting for ground staff to attend – classic LHR! Immigration was also a shambles, with people getting trapped in the automatic gates, and far too few of these open for use. We eventually opted to go to a human being, even though you were only meant to do so if asked. This move turned an ordeal into an absolute breeze: the agent only wanted to know what the new Netherlands evening curfew was like!

A two-stop tube ride and a thoroughly familiar walk brought us once more to the Hilton Garden Inn at Hatton Cross, where we had the same room as last time. This was no coincidence as we had self-selected it using online check-in.

Osterley Park & House

After we both briefly settled in, Bruce started work while I set out for a little excursion. This time, I took a 4-stop tube ride to Osterley station and walked to Osterley Park and House, a National Trust site. It was well out of season at this time of year: the main house was mostly closed, but the grounds and café were open, and there was a small ‘winter exhibition’. Overall, it was a perfectly pleasant way to spend a couple of hours at this time of year.

Following my return to the hotel room, Bruce and I had a drink in the lobby and later, an M&S-purchased in-room picnic. A reasonably early night was advisable, as Saturday would be a longer-than-usual day!