Part 4 – London, UK
“Welcome to London!” the cheery face of the immigration officer irritated me beyond belief as he handed me my passport. I didn’t know why I was irritated. Probably because just after a couple of hours of dreamless sleep, the pilot of my plane woke everybody up and said that we were about to land in Amsterdam and we had to strap ourselves in.
I was cranky. I was already having a bad start to this stupid “vacation.” Plus, I didn’t even know my way around the airport.
What a very nice day it was, indeed!
I was walking aimlessly around, occasionally sliding up my traveling shoulder bag up my shoulder, and balancing my coat, passport and other papers in one hand while pulling my luggage with the other. I was tired. The time difference was catching up with me already. It was an 8-hour difference. It was 10:45AM, Thursday morning, when I left Manila. Had a 13-hour flight to Amsterdam. Stopped over for 2 hours. Boarded the plane again and had an hour and half flight to London. It was 8:45PM, Thursday night, when I arrived here. And yep, I was starting to not like all of these at all.
Plus I couldn’t find my way around the airport!
Finally, after what I thought was an eternity, I finally noticed a guy in a black suit holding a placard with my name on it. He looked like one of those sentinels from The Matrix minus the shades. He was also big and burly like he was a part of the National Secret Service or something. I cautiously approached him and when I got near him, I almost had my jaw dropping because he was sooo tall!
“Excuse me,” I said and smiled confidently. Even though I was so tired and all I really wanted to do was crawl into a nice-looking bed and sleep.
The black-suit guy looked down on me and raised his eyebrows. He didn’t say a word like he was expecting me to say something first. God, he was a bit intimidating! But I wasn’t about to be fooled and intimidated. Sigh… Are all European men like this? I hope not…
“I’m Christine,” I continued then opened my passport. “Christine Martel. I would extend my hand for a shake but as you can see, I’m quite loaded.”
To my surprise, the big, burly guy smiled then chuckled. “Miss Martel,” he bowed his head slightly. “It’s my pleasure to meet you and show you to your hotel. My name is Marco,” he said with a bit of an Italian accent. I guessed it was Italian. I really didn’t know. “Come along now, Miss Martel. And welcome to London.” He took my big luggage and gestured me to follow him.
We weaved our way through the night crowd at the airport. When we were outside, I couldn’t help the gasp that escaped me as my “ride” to my hotel pulled up. I thought we would just be getting a cab or something. But oh my – that long, black vehicle was not a cab. Definitely not a cab. Marco opened the door for me and when I got in – my eyes were as big as saucers. There was a small TV in front of me and to my left was a small fridge with a chilled bottle of champagne. There were champagne flutes too as well as small pastries beside it. The seats were leather, and I could even lie down if I wanted to. I thought I had died and went to heaven! Ok, so that was exaggerating it a bit.
I was about to reach for the champagne when I heard Marco’s voice from a small speaker beside me speak to me from, I assumed, the front end of the limo. “Miss Martel, the champagne is for you, courtesy of the management. We’ll be at your hotel shortly. Enjoy your ride and once again, welcome to London.”
“Thank you, Marco,” I replied, went ahead and opened the bottle and poured myself a small amount. I leaned back on my seat, stretched out my legs and sighed. I closed my eyes and smiled wistfully. What started out as bad day (or rather – night) was turning out to be one of the best nights I’ve ever had.
And I hadn’t even met Daniel Radcliffe yet!
I opened my eyes once more and looked out my window. I sipped from my flute and took in my surroundings. It was a clear night. I fumbled around and saw a button to open the sunroof above me. I opened it and gazed at the clear night sky full of stars. I sighed once more and leaned back again.
I could definitely get used to this treatment. I wanted to thank every deity there was for Bethaly, for being my friend and for entering my name in this contest.
As I was almost dozing off, I wondered how the rest of this trip would go. And I smiled.