#927428 by whiterose
15 Oct 2016, 17:02
We had such a good time in Antigua, the Virgin rep was assiduous in his visits, I decided (reluctantly you understand) zip-wire experiences were not for me, we toyed with the idea of a cruise round the island or even a taxi to English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard, but in the end we went with OH’s request for a holiday doing absolutely nothing.

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Galley Bay’s staff are like Virgin’s crew, they really make the brand and cannot do enough. The resort deservedly gets very good feedback on TripAdvisor, my only grouse was the wifi or rather its lack. I know one could have an online holiday but it was our anniversary and family wanted to Facetime and couldn’t and I wanted to download the Times for OH who as you may recall can’t see well but can manage the headlines with large font. I could only get any coverage at all in a very tiny area right in the centre and even then it was slow. One could pay quite steeply for what was called high-speed but Guest Services admitted that it wasn’t always high-speed and was also limited in area coverage, but maybe this reflects the infrastructure of Antigua’s internet availability rather than anything to do with Galley Bay.

Onto the next stage of the tour. Each autumn we usually spend a few weeks with #2 son and family in the States. They live in a pretty little township in New Jersey, about 12 miles west of NY – they have my favourite view of the Manhattan skyline from their windows. Sometimes we go late summer, sometimes as late as Thanksgiving. They suggested that we might fly on to them from Antigua instead of flying back to UK and visiting them later, which made sense to all of us particularly as we are going over again for Christmas and New Year. EWR is about 25 minutes from them, whereas JFK on the other side of Manhattan is 1.5 hours even on a good day. To my dismay I discovered that United were the only airline flying direct from ANU to EWR and I really do dislike United – chaotic check-in and freezing cold planes in flight for a start. And even then we had to fly on a Saturday as flights on other days involved a 24 hour stopover in Miami. But the alternative was JFK and a much longer drive. So with heavy heart I booked United and what they call Business.

Tried to do OLCI the previous day but couldn’t which set alarm bells ringing, maybe we’d been bumped off, or our seats had been changed. In light of the very heavy traffic between the airport and resort when we arrived in Antigua, we asked for a taxi ridiculously early – turned out to be doubly ridiculous as there seemed barely another car on the road so we arrived at the airport in the rain (only rain of our entire stay) at least an hour earlier than necessary.

Already a dozen or more people at check-in, two or three Tensa-tape lines. Only two desks active, a third desk housed a woman who seemed to be doing nothing. Check-in provided entertainment however. A group of three women leisure travellers at one desk, all of a certain age, all with copious luggage, all taking ages, all apparently mobile but one of them subsequently took to a wheelchair at the gate for boarding! At the other desk was what seemed to be a professional businesswoman in that she was dressed in a skirt-suit and heels. She was checking-in hold luggage and took for ever and seemed to be arguing with the check-in agent. Eventually she came back to the queue and went along the front row talking to each person, some of whom took out wallets and purses. Alas we couldn’t hear what was said and can only surmise that she hadn’t realised that certain classes of ticket on United require you to pay to check baggage. But would she really, businesswoman or leisure traveller, be travelling without cash or cards?

Eventually the glacial queue moved (it took about three-quarters of an hour for us to get to the front) and we got to the desk. Every action took for ever on the computer, I reckon United has only one hamster on their IT wheel. Also no facility for copying info from one screen to another so everything she needed for me had to be repeated and spelled out for OH, for instance son’s address in NJ as onward travel destination.

But eventually we were finished, and went upstairs to passport control (hooray, they let us out) and the dreaded security screening but OH was persuaded to carry the hated white cane and in fact we sailed through without too much problem, smaller area so we were able to find each other after screening, with the result that we fetched up at the gate over two hours before departure. No status with UA of course, so no option but to sit on the plastic chairs and wait it out.

Time passed and eventually we boarded, UA board Business class first, which has the advantage that those passing to get to seats further back can’t sling luggage into every overhead bin as they pass (I’ve seen that done, baffles me how they remember where each piece is) but it does mean that you get all the vast, heavy backpacks swung in your face and your knees banged by too-large “cabin” baggage.

For “Business” read VS PE, slightly wider seats in leather and free meals and drinks. Drinks offered as soon as we sat down and we had G&T with the size of the measure of awesome strength even if it wasn’t Tanqueray!

I must have had several brain cells missing when booking as I’d booked us into row 2, yes really I need to be thrown off V-Flyer for forgetting that row 2 is immediately behind the bulkhead seats. All was well, I had a quite respectable, quiet person in front of me but oh no, the very last person to board was around 20 years old and a real heavyweight, ear buds firmly in ears, vast backpack rammed into overhead bin with scant regard for what was already in there and threw himself into the seat – I swear the plane lurched to that side. Take-off was smooth and on time and the minute the seat belt lights went off, he flung the seat back straight into OH’s lap and feet went up on the wall and of course nothing you can do, he’s entitled to recline but if only I hadn’t been stupid with the row 2 seat selection.

Lunch offered very quickly, no printed menu, just “Chicken or Pasta”. We both opted for chicken and it was surprisingly good as airline meals go and white/red wine offered (and of course accepted).

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I asked heavyweight recliner if he would mind sitting up to allow OH to eat which to his credit he did. Immediately he’d finished eating he flung back again so I swapped with OH – I’m nearly a foot shorter so it didn’t impinge on my knees as much.

IFE is mostly pay to watch so I contented myself with the flight map and my iPad and Kindle.
It was (as always) very cold but I knew it would be so had packed my VS socks from the ANU flight amenity kit and a wrap so I was OK.

We landed at EWR and as usual made our best speed to the gates of hell that is EWR arrivals. Hooray, not too many in front of us as no other flight had just landed. A new gorgon at the front of the queue but even she was more friendly or at least less unfriendly than the “normal” one and the security agent was positively welcoming. Things are looking up. Luggage took a while to arrive but then we hit huge and I mean huge queues for customs, just two desks working and hundreds of people queuing. Never had that at EWR customs before, but this was a different terminal to the one VS use. But eventually we got through and there at the foot of the arrivals ramp was #2 son, big beaming smile and arms open wide to hug us.

Don’t miss the next thrilling (?) instalment with the finale of the anniversary tour, a long weekend in Washington.
#927431 by pjh
15 Oct 2016, 18:17
Doesn't sound the most stellar of travel experiences, but the gin and knowing you were headed to the bosom of your family must have made it tolerable.

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