Naturally we got right back into darts on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons were taken care of.
Friday evening sees us at the Elks Lodge for dinner, usually with all our Elks friends from the park.
We decided at the spur of the moment to go up to Tempe AZ (which is a suburb of Phoenix) for a Detective Dinner Theater. We treated ourselves to a night in a hotel too to avoid a 50 mile drive home afterwards.
It was a fun night, first you have to give yourself a "Code Name" before you enter. Dinner was a nice 3 course meal and we both chose fish for our entree, a tasty baked cod dish.
The stage was set when the "Victim" staggered in and the chase was on! The various actors were in the audience but nobody knew who they were. Clues were presented, everyone had to figure it out for themselves! It was both funny and entertaining and although Barbara and I got the right suspect (after being suspect by our fellow table mates for a while) we didn't get all the clues.
We had a few drinks afterwards and slept soundly. The next morning we found time for a visit to the local Elks and to Jerry's Artarama (a big art store) before heading home.
Art naturally is consuming much of my time, with different groups on Monday, Tuesday and 2 on Thursday!! I have spent most of my time completing work I hadn't finished rather than starting anything new, but that's very satisfying too and means I don't have a cupboard full of half finished paintings.
Out of the blue one of my nephews asked if I had any photo's of my sister Beryl from when we were younger. She turns 80 in December and they were planning a surprise party for her back in our hometown in England.
Finding photo's wasn't difficult but it lit an ember. What if WE showed up as a surprise too? Humm.
Barbara was on board as soon as I mentioned it so I started looking up flights from Phoenix to Manchester UK. $1750 each! Ow. We can't justify that.
I have used a travel search app in the past. Called "Hopper", it takes where you want to leave from and where you want to go. When you tell it when you want to go it starts searching continuously for fares across all airlines and routes. Then it searches for similar places and dates and lets you know the alternatives. Finally it watches for trends in fares, so if they are going up or down it notifies you.
The big difference was that from Manchester to home would be about 40 miles. London to home? 240 miles.So what next? Fly, rail or drive from London?
There came a shock, flying those 240 miles would cost MORE THAN THE 5000 MILES FROM PHOENIX TO LONDON!! Rail fares weren't much cheaper.
My niece works for Rentalcars.com and their price for renting a car for a week was about $400 so that settled it we would be driving. But that meant we would have transport during the week too and could go and see some of our friends and relatives at same time.
As the time got closer I started thinking about flying again. I love flying. I loved my job because it involved a LOT of travel around the world and occasionally I miss that.
I was sitting early one morning watching TV (I usually wake up around 5am), and a thought came flitting into my head. "It will be good to travel again". Then the other side of my brain broke out laughing. "Dummy, all you do is travel now!!"
We had tickets thru Virgin Airlines but they code share with Delta. Code sharing means they have one flight but both airlines can sell tickets on it! Which is great if Virgin's ticket is 1/3rd of the price of Delta's, but the service is the same.
We thought about the hassle of checked in bags and picking the bags up at the carousel, it's always a pain and a delay. We finally decided to just do carry on bags. We were only going for a week and better still we could do laundry at our daughter's house so we only took clothes for 4 days.
Bill ran us up to the airport (Thanks Bill) so no long term parking. Karen will pick us up on the way back (Thanks Karen). Seemed like everything was set.
The reality of travel around Thanksgiving made us plan on getting to the airport in plenty of time to allow for rush hour traffic in Phoenix and the huge crowds at the airport.
So how did the plans go?
The day before our flight we watched the weather channel and there was a big snow storm predicted for Minneapolis our stop over on the way to London. Humm.
The traffic we expected in Phoenix? NONE!
The huge crowds at the airport? NONE!
BUT before we left home the airline sent a message saying that the flight to Minneapolis was delayed 2 hours and that was bad news because we only had an hour to get on the flight to London. We still went to the airport early.
|The early flight was 2 hrs late but we left an hour before we were supposed to!|
|Snow at Minneapolis|
This was a complete surprise. Excellent service, great food, free booze, great entertainment system. It made the 8 hr flight a lot nicer. This is the 2nd time we've been pleasantly surprised by airline service, last time we flew to England 2 years ago British Airways was excellent and cheap too. Maybe there's enough competition that they have had to improve?
Heathrow is not my favorite airport. Its old and worn. I ALWAYS have problems renting cars there and have been ripped off royally a few times. With my niece working for Rentalcars,com I was hoping for a smooth ride.
I was wrong. Rentalcars had offered me full coverage insurance for $12 a day which I accepted and I got a confirmation e-mail which warned me not to accept any attempts by the rental company (Europecar) to sell me more.
Now the $88 a day had turned into 88 Pounds a day, which is about a 30% increase. Further they said they didn't show any insurance coverage and that would be an additional $60 a day! I showed them the e-mail but they pointed out that it didn't have any details of the policy which they could put on the agreement. We called Rentalcars on a conference call call and they denied all knowledge of any insurance despite me giving them the confirmation number. Being a cool calm collected guy I blew my top!! I cancelled the reservation without penalty and we caught the shuttle bus back to the terminal.
As we got off their shuttle, the shuttle for National Rental pulled up and we got on it. We talked to them and mentioned we have a Shamrock membership with them. Immediately they jumped in and made the whole thing seamless, we told them we wanted the cheapest they had.
We then got offered a free upgrade to the next size up which naturally we took, but as we walked across the lot the rep said what size car would you really like and we ended up with a very nice SUV with with all the bells and whistles. A Vauxhall Mokka.
|Vauxhall is a GM brand in UK|
|This is the daytime HIGHS for UK|
Our daughter Sally didn't know though so there was still one surprise left.
|Sally Iain and Niail|
|Safety team standby the candles|
|Beryl gets help from Niail with the candles|
|Beryl dancing (Right)|
|Nephews watching dancing|
|Cousins, nieces, wives|
But a week doesn't last long. We were soon packing the bags again and driving back to London for the flight home.
|Walking in the park|
|Grandma gets to play|
|A stop for lunch and a thatched cottage|
|A cozy pub for lunch|