After what was a good day spent exploring more of London, I ended up heading back to the hotel on foot from Waterloo station in the rain. Not a good start unfortunately. The day was meant to go better as I was going to go by Tube from Waterloo to Paddington and then pick up the Heathrow Express from there. Yeah that is not going to work in the rain. So after running from the station to the hotel (a good half a kilometre) I grabbed my bag and jumped in a cab for Paddington Station.
The almost 20 Quid cab ride was pretty much as expected, was over half what I paid for my HEX ticket but to be honest, a 500m walk in the rain with a suitcase was not ideal. But I was at Paddington Station, dry and relaxed. First hurdle over. I walked towards the HEX platforms (6&7 according to the signs) and it turns out I had literally just missed the last train by like a minute or two. Damn. But that meant I had a good amount of time to sit, relax and enjoy the free wifi in my first class seat while I wait. Yeah not gonna happen.
Pretty much I was the only person in the carriage for quite some time, but the wifi just would not connect. Bummer. Even after speaking with the conductor he just didn’t seem to care, so by the time I gave up on trying to get it to connect we were on our way to Heathrow. A family of 4 had joined us by this stage and the train journey just does not feel like 15 minutes. This train is amazingly good. Gotta love it!
Soon enough I was being dumped out at the station between terminals 1 & 3. I made my way up out of the rabbit warren that is the Train Station up to street level and to the Departures area of Terminal 3. But here is where plans go awry again. I had planned to be at the terminal nice and early, to hopefully check in and get lots of plane spotting done, as I was still hunting the Retro jet and I was sure I was going to get some weird, wonderful and random aircraft. Hopefully. But check in was closed and wouldn’t open for another 30 mins. So off I trapsed to get some cash converted, but I couldn’t even do that as he did not have enough Japanese Yen.
So after waiting it out in the line for check in (no seats around so may as well act like a gate lice) check in opened and I was checked in first for the business section (another man was checked in first for first class.. lucky bugger). But with that done, I walked around and checked out departures, got my cash exchanged as suggested at the main point (then found out that there was a 2nd brand of Currency Exchange so might of gotten a better rate… damn) and went in search of some “Tablet” a kind of Scottish Chocolate Fudge, but I could not find any.
Cleared through security using Fast Track which was actually very Fast but I was very slow, making sure I had everything out and did not get frustrated as I stripped off for the dignity dance. No shoes off though so that was a change. Through security, through “Passport Control” where it was a “Did you enter on this passport” “Yes” “Thank you”, all of a few seconds, wow… thorough. Then you are dumped out at what seems the worlds largest duty free store. I browsed through the watches as they had the brand I like, but did not buy as I was keeping all my shopping now really for Hong Kong. But I did end up picking up some Shortbread as a gift using the last of my coinage and some mens cologne as I was running out.
With that I wandered the halls a little, managed to score a photo of a Turkmenistan 757 at one of the gates, gave up and headed for the Singapore Lounge to see what it was like and I was told it had good views. They let me in surprisingly as I was instructed to go to the London Lounge. The Singapore Silver Kris Lounge was ok, nothing spectacular but it would do the job. Unfortunately it did not have the best views and it seemed what I thought was the London Lounge did, so I was going to change over (but what I saw was the Cathay Lounge instead).
I trapsed the short distance to the London Lounge and this is more my style, love the Scandanavians really as this is the SAS lounge, so fully of Ikea and Sven from Sweeden. Hah. But really the views were awesome, so out came the SLR, the food was good, lots of vegies for me to graze on with a good variery of snacks etc. Lots of them. But all in all, it was a good choice. I grabbed some drinks, some nibbles and camped out by the windows where I had good views of the active runway and was pretty much in the right spot for some shots of the landings as they pulled onto the Taxi Ways.
Lots of good things went past, Korean Cargo, Singapore Cargo, Emirates, Etihad, Royal Air Maroc from all the ones I remember but I am pretty sure I took several hundred photos again. Soon enough it was time to head to the lounge after picking up a few magazines to get me through the flight just in case. I headed towards the boarding gate a little early to make sure I got onboard with plenty of time to take some photos of their new product.
All Nippon Airways (ANA)
London Heathrow to Tokyo Narita
Boeing 777-300ER (JA785A)
Business Staggered – Seat 7A
Boarding: 1855 (Gate 307)
Push Back 1929
Take Off Roll: 1949 (Runway 27R)
Top of Descent: 1440
Touch Down: 1513 (Runway 34L)
Shut Down: 1518 (Gate 57)
Boarding was called about 5-6 minutes after I got to the gate so that was good timing! Gotta love it. I was the first person down the Airbridge for Business Class, again beaten by a man in First and some Unaccompanied Minors for Economy. But this meant I had heaps of time to explore the seat in all its goodness.
The first thing that strikes you about the new Business Staggered seat with ANA is the privacy. I could not even see anyone else in the Aircraft without really pushing to try. But to be honest that is probably what they were after. The seats were good and comfortable, plenty of nooks and crannys for storage and a decent overhead bin just for my bag as their seemed to be more than enough space.
The view out my window though, if I turn and look back, a Giant GE90 engine. God DAMN those things are huge (and loud when powering up as well). But that is a good thing, cause I love those buggers. I asked for some water, as the Pre Departure beverages offered were only Orange Juice & Champagne, so I could take some medication. The Flight Attendant actually was very kind and brought me some warm water to help with the medication, love the Japanese service!
After all the playing around getting myself sorted the boarding just flew by and before I knew it, the doors were shut and the air bridge was towed back. But that’s a good thing to as it meant I was now able to sit back and relax. Lots of photos taken as we taxied out and we passed the A380 ramp which was pretty much full (one each for QF, EK & SQ) and headed for 27R the active departure runway. We were about 3 or 4 in the line as we waited and I got to enjoy the Nose Camera View.
As we took off and roared down the runway (and I mean roared as the GE90s have that sound level)we were up in the sky, turning right towards Asia and my next part of this journey. The seatbelt sign stayed on for what felt like an eternity and it turns out it was kept on just in case of Turbulence. But then as they announced this, it came off. Funny that.
I browsed the menu which was at the seat and the Japanese menu sounded amazingly good so thought I would give it a try, gotta get used to Japanese cuisine I guess. But it was going to be a good service as the flight attendant serving my section just could not do enough. So with drink ordered and then shortly drink provided with a few little bites the service began.
The few little bites were like a small medly of yumminess with what I think was some duck, some weird jelly like thing, a little tartlet and also a medly of vegetables and lobster. It was yum++ I asked for some nuts and they didn’t have any but some rice crackers (close enough). Love it with a good drink as I settled in to watch a movie.
As the main meal service started it was looking to be good. The service was just excellent and the meal looked fantastic, full of vegies and some lovely looking smoked salmon. But there was also a few random things for me to try. Looked good. Tasted even better (especially the salmon which was not as smoked as I thought it would be).
The main meal was brought out pretty much as I finished the entrée and then that was just gorgeously prepared, the Sabelfish was tender and the rice and pickles made for a good filler with some warm miso soup. The Dessert though. AWESOME!!! This Ice Cream Parfait beat the pants off the Ice Cream Sundae on Air New Zealand but not as good as the ice cream I had in London at Ice Creaminista (which is a whole other story). After the meal and a quick cup of coffee, I put the seat fully flat and tried to get some shut eye.
The seat, well lets make some reviews shall we. The seat is great in the flat mode, but one little problem. It’s a little narrow around the shoulder area for me, but in saying that, I got about 3 or 4 hours sleep before waking up to try and reset my body clock to Tokyo time. So after a little snack of fruit, some tea I started working on this review and started a new movie (Adjustment Bureau).
As we cruised over Russia the scenery below was great, but after the movie finished I had the window open while I was working (its daylight I wanna be able to see things) I was asked to close the shades to help the baby in the cabin sleep. Damn babies ? O well. I grabbed a snack of some fruit & some cheese and settled in for another movie and did a bit of duty free gift shopping (they have something that would make the perfect gift for someone back home and since I was WAY under budget in Europe and Britain I just had to!) The service on my side was great but at times I wondered if they had forgotten me but to be honest they were just making sure everything was perfect.
After my “breakfast” of cheese & fruit I had asked to have my “lunch” served to me in about an hours time to try and sync up my body clock. I had thought they had forgotten as it came about 20 mins later than what I had wanted but I did not really mind. When I asked for some coffee to go with it, the first cup came cold, so when they refilled it, I mentioned this and the flight attendant brewed a fresh pot for me! Awesome++
Pretty soon after another movie and some more coffee they started warning us about the descent. Now what I did not like was that they took away your headphones a good 30 mins prior to arrival and because the plugs wont accept even normal airline double sockets I could not even use mine. O well. The descent was pretty much cloud and even with the nose camera all I could see was the front nose gear down and nothing but cloud till pretty much the runway but unlike the last landing I had in Narita, this one was smooooth.
After deboarding fairly quickly after a smooth taxi to our gate, it felt like I had to walk the entire terminal to get to the Immigration area where I was through with barely a question. It was baggage that was the issue. Bags took forever. I had to wait a good almost 45 minutes for my bags before they arrived and this was WITH a priority tag. The economy bags had not even started to come out at this point.
With baggage in hand, I went through customs and headed for the JR office to exchange my JR pass. Then it was time to pick up all my rail tickets for the next 2 weeks and then onto the next Narita Express into town. I had expected to get to the hotel around 630pm a good 3 hours after arrival (when my bags started taking their time) and I wasn’t far off it. I was on the 1645 train from Narita to Shinjiku and you are looking at a solid 80 minutes of journey time to Shinjiku (which is the end of the line pretty much). The Narita Express (NEX) was effortless and I paid for an upgrade to the Green car for today as to be honest, I just wanted some space. All my other journeys on JR will be Ordinary Car to keep the $$$ down.
By the time I got to Shinjiku and weaved my way out of the Station (muttering to myself West Exit, West Exit) it was just after 1830 by the time I got to the Shuttle stop and watched the Hyatt Shuttle pull around the corner having just left. O well, a quick 2 min taxi ride to the hotel and I was there and in my room before the next shuttle would of even picked me up!