KAE Podcast 2 – Part Two in our Grand European Tour 2012 Podcast series the Millers land at Heathrow and make their way by train to Nottingham where they will be kicking off their six week tour around Europe.
We arrived in England to an uncharacteristically sunny day. After the challenges involved with traveling all day and overnight with two small children, we decided to take the weather as a good omen for the rest of our trip, which was perhaps a bit overly optimistic. Our youngest, not quite 13 months old at the start of our trip, took great exception to being awakened after only about 4 hours of sleep. She normally sleeps for a 12 hour stretch at night, so we really couldn’t hold it against her. She cried off and on from the moment we woke her up on the plane, and by the time we got to passport control she had had it with the whole situation and dissolved into a full-blown meltdown. We moved her so that I was carrying her on my front in the ERGO baby, and I did my best to calm her by singing softly and rubbing her head, but she refused to be calmed. As we gazed out onto the sea of at least a thousand people stretched out in front of us, Scott and I exchanged a look of utter helplessness that only a fellow parent could fully understand.
After about 15 minutes in the queue, with our baby wailing louder than I’d ever heard her before, the voice of an angel came from behind me “Madame, would you like to come with me?”. I quickly realized that this was not the first time the angel had spoken to me, but between Luciana’s crying, my near panicked state, and sleep deprivation, it had taken me a little while to hear him. When I finally turned around, I saw an official looking man holding open the rope that formed the queue. “Would you like to come with me?” he repeated, while gesturing away from the queue with the hand not holding the rope. Ever swift with a comeback, Scott said “As long as we’re not being arrested for being too loud!”, which elicited a chuckle from the angel and those within ear shot. We followed our savior all the way to the front of what must have been at least a 3 hour line, and breezed through passport control in about 5 minutes. I do realize that skipping us to the front of the line benefited the other people in the queue almost as much as it did us, since they would no longer be subjected to the incessant and extremely loud wailing of a confused and angry baby, but I certainly never expected to be given special treatment, and I will never forget the kindness of our Heathrow angel.
After collecting our checked bags and breezing through customs, we purchased Underground tickets from a ticket agent, and began our journey through London to Saint Pancras station, where we would catch our train to Nottingham. I did a little bit of research ahead of time and determined that while the Heathrow Express would get us into London in half the time or less, the Underground would take us directly to our desired station (the Heathrow Express goes into Paddington) and was a fraction of the cost. We decided that with 2 kids plus all of our baggage, being direct and cheap far outweighed speed. Upon arrival at St. Pancras station, we made our way to the ticket counter and bought one-way tickets to Nottingham. When catching an East Midlands train, it is important to note that you will pay at least 20 pounds more if you don’t buy your ticket online ahead of time. We discovered this the hard way. I wasn’t sure what time we would be able to get to St.Pancras, and was concerned about choosing the correct any time ticket, and so didn’t buy them from home. In hindsight it would have saved us about 80 pounds if we had bought our tickets online, which I did do for our return trip from Nottingham to London, because we had to make a critical connection for our Eurostar train.
The ticket agent put us on the very next train to Nottingham, and as it as already at the platform. We had to practically run there. Not an easy thing to do while hauling 2 rolling suitcases, a duffel bag, 2 backpacks, a stroller with a toddler and a baby in a carrier. We were able to get 2 seats together, but it was a rather long ride with the children on our laps, since both of them were exhausted and thoroughly sick of sitting still. This was Sunday morning, and there were 4 blokes seated around the table next to us on the train that had obviously had a Saturday night out in London. One of the group fell asleep with his head on the table, and as the train approached their stop, the other 3 climbed over and around him as quietly as they could, with the obvious intention of leaving him there. They quietly giggled as they snuck away and as I was openly watching their antics, they each gave me the universal “shush!” sign, first finger to lips and smiled a boyish grin. At the very last moment, they took pity on their sleepy friend, woke him up, and he managed to get off the train in time.