I guess I'll start at the beginning, since I hear it's a very good place to start. The trip was a celebration of my parents' 65th birthdays and 40th anniversary, all of which occured last year. My sister Gabrielle and her husband Chris are currently living in Africa, and Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo (of Heart of Darkness fame). Gabrielle, my other sister Dominique, and I, along with our spouses, gave our parents the present of a family trip to Africa. The Congo, however, is not a tourist friendly place, so we had to choose some other part of the continent to visit. After a fair bit of web surfing and guidebook reading over the past year, we settled on the "northern circuit" of Tanzania and the island of Zanzibar just off the coast as the best place for our trip.
There were eight of us going on this trip, starting from four different locations: my parents from Pennsylvania, Dominique & Ted from California, Gabrielle & Chris from Kinshasa, and Jaime & me from Arizona. That made the air routings a bit of a mess, but it all worked out in the end. Jaime and I flew from Phoenix to Chicago, where we met up with Ted, who had flown in from SFO. Dominique was already on the east coast for a conference, so she went with my parents to JFK. We six were all supposed to meet up in London, where our flights were scheduled to arrive only 5 minutes apart. In Chicago, I brought Jaime and Ted into the American Airlines Flagship Lounge, the special airline club with free food and booze for those of us who spent too much time on airplanes last year. Meanwhile, my parents and dominique were in the admirals club at JFK, which they got into for free since they all (and us too) had upgraded our seats to business class for the transatlantic flights. We connected via cell phone before departing, and it was fun to have a lounge-to-lounge conversation. The picture above left shows Ted and Jaime enjoying the Chicago flagship lounge.
We got into London around noon. The business class seats on American are quite comfortable, as is the whole business class experience (food, drinks, movies, all of it). Unfortunately, flights to heathrow are pretty short, only about 6 hours, which isn't enough time to properly enjoy it all, and get sleep too. So we all took a short nap at a hotel near the airport after arrival. Then we hopped on the tube and went downtown to meet up with our friends Renny & Bill, who moved to London from San Francisco about six months ago. They played tour guide for us as we walked around in the rain, looking for a good place for dinner (see the picture, above right). After rejecting an italian place, a middle eastern place, and a tavern (and there were no indian curry houses to be found in that part of town), we sent our advance scouts (Bill & Dominique) ahead without us to battle the rain and find a good restaurant which had space for eight. They succeeded in their quest, and we had a very nice meal at a Thai restaurant, lots of conversation, and then finally headed back to our hotel to catch some bed-ridden shut-eye before our next long flight on Monday.
Tomorrow, the journey continues...