This is the first part of a narrative of a vacation trip that my wife Frances and I took to Wales and southeast England, September 1-16, 2019. We stayed in Cardiff, Bath, and Bristol, visiting a few outlying locations during a daytrip from Bath. This was an independent trip, not a package tour. We are in our mid-60s, in good health, and live in Alexandria, Virginia. We are experienced travelers, having taken annual trips to Europe for more than ten years. We prefer to travel by foot and public transportation whenever possible. This was our third trip to Britain, although we had never been in this part before.
Sunday, September 1, 2019 (Alexandria to Dublin)
We were packed and ready early in the afternoon. Our cat Gene had been dropped off at the vet clinic for boarding on the previous day. The house was prepared for our absence. The SuperShuttle van to Dulles Airport arrived a few minutes early. There were already two passengers. The air conditioning was blasting away, and the radio was on. It was a long ride. As usual, the driver was fiddling with the GPS and a couple of phones the whole way. We stopped at a hotel complex to pick up one more passenger and were amused to observe an Indian wedding reception in progress: lots of women in saris, people posing for group photos, etc.
Once at Dulles, we had a little trouble locating the Aer Lingus counter, as it was around the corner from the major airlines. They put baggage tags on our carry-on luggage as well as our check-ins—apparently some kind of new security measure. Security and passport control went as well as they could. I was wearing loafers so that I could take them off quickly, and I had on a web belt with a plastic buckle (such precautions seem so routine now!). We took the people mover to Concourse B. It is a principle of airport topology that your gate is always at the end of the concourse, and so it was in this case.
We settled in to wait for the plane, which arrived on time. After the rich people exercised their “pre-boarding” privilege, the airline loaded us in steerage from back to front rows (for a change). That helped us out, as we were pretty far back.
The plane sorted itself out and took off in the usual way. This was my first flight with Aer Lingus. The cabin staff didn’t seem as well organized or alert as most airlines. It wasn’t anything major, just the small things that one notices when you have so little to do. The meal was pretty good, with shepherd’s pie and a caramel pudding. I supplemented that with some snack bars I had brought, trying to eat something every couple of hours. I drank orange juice and water to prevent dehydration. Unlike, say, Air France or Brussels Airlines, Aer Lingus does not offer free beer and wine with the meal—just as well that I wasn’t tempted.
I put on my noise-cancelling headphones and spent most of the flight reading a book about the development of clipper ships. I tried to sleep when I could, which wasn’t much. The book gave me a little perspective. The clipper Flying Cloud set a record time for the New York to San Francisco run that stood for 130 years (for sailing ships). That time was 89 days, 8 hours. Compared with that, having to sit in an uncomfortable chair for seven hours while crossing the Atlantic doesn’t seem so bad.
Walking miles: 0.8