I’m proud of everyone in this family for their contributions the past two days. The kids in particular really stepped it up, doing all manner of helpful things, and avoiding all manner of hinderful things, during the crazy two days of travel we had. I’m also very grateful, because we prayed a lot at the times when there were uncontrollable logistical elements or a lot of uncertainty, and we’re grateful for answered prayers. So what was all this travel like? That’s what this post is about.
By 4:30pm EST on Tuesday, we had fully prepped our home for the family who would be renting it from us, and had all our worldly possessions in 5 backpacks and 5 suitcases. A friend (our pastor’s wife, T) drove me and Meg to the cargo building at the airport, which received her and her travel crate, processed her paperwork, charged us a bunch of money, and took custody of her. She was quite scared (the dog, not T) but behaved very well. At the same time, the rest of my family and all their luggage took a cab to the airport, and T drove me to meet them there.
We went through security, got some snacks, and waited for our flight. It boarded around 9pm and then took off. Meg was on a separate plane and separate airline, traveling around the same time.
In theory, we should sleep for about 5 hours on the plane, because that would help us fight jet lag on the other end. In reality, they don’t serve dinner until you’re at cruising altitude, and even then they have to serve food to an entire 787, so you lose about 1.5 hours of that up front. Then there’s the challenge of sleeping on an airplane. To the kids’ credit, although they slept very little, they also fought very little, so I can’t complain. We gave up on sleeping after about 2 hours of sleep, and woke to receive tea and watch the descent. It was morning in Great Britain!
We landed at Gatwick airport, in a suburb of London, even though our destination is Scotland, because the only airlines that fly dogs into, say, Edinburgh, don’t fly from Boston. We got our luggage and took a taxi to a different London suburb, the one where Heathrow is, because that’s where Meg’s plane landed. We waited at the Heathrow Animal Reception Center (which even has a TV show about it) for her to be processed.
This took, like, forever.
First off, they tell you in advance that it will probably take at least 4 hours, maybe as much as 8. But at some point, they determined there was something wrong with the veterinary paperwork, but didn’t communicate that to us. Turns out they had to wait until our vet opened back in EST and solve the problem over the phone with them. And that’s just one of the many stages that end, finally, with a customs clearance, and receiving your dog. Our total wait time was almost 8 hours.
Called a van cab, it was too small, so it took Lydia, Addy, Meg, and their luggage, while another cab came for the rest of us and our luggage. These cabs took us to Euston Station in downtown London, where we bought a rail card, had dinner, and then boarded our overnight train to Scotland. Why a train? Because the dog’s required crate size is larger than domestic UK flights will accept. Also, sleeping on a train at night is part of the adventure!
We slept on the train for about 6 hours, setting our alarms for 5am to be ready for our stop at 5:48am. Good thing, too, because the stop came at about 5:35am, and it’s only a two-minute stop! The staff helped us disembark a family, a dog, 5 suitcases, 5 backpacks, and a dog crate.
I won’t speak for anyone else, but I know at this point, after about 30 hours of travel, I smelled bad, even to myself. That’s why, in the photo above, they all stood so far from the cameraman. However, it was a truly lovely morning.
One final cab ride later, we got to our new front door! Our superb landlady was waiting to give us a tour, let us know she’d bought us some tide-you-over groceries, and welcome us to the neighborhood.
We went almost straight from there to the beach, which is literally two blocks away, and which Meg loves. She attempts to make every walk lead here.
So we’re officially here! And very grateful that God kept us safe and avoided missing even one plane, train, or taxi connection.
So you can see why I said I was proud of everyone. There was almost no fighting, and not even any complaining when we asked people to handle other people’s suitcases to facilitate dog walking, or just be quiet and wait a second while we ask this guy this thing, etc., etc. The kids sensed a greater level of maturity was required for the past few days compared to normal life, and they gave it. Nice job, gang.
Then today (Thursday), we’ve prevented ourselves from sleeping (including by caffeinating one child) so that tonight, we can go to bed right after dinner in real beds—at roughly the correct time for this time zone!—and sleeeeeeeeeeep.