My journey back to New York began with a breakfast at the hotel. Our new Pinay friend Editha was there, overseeing meal operation since early in the morning. Kudos to her and her staff, Mercure Hotel's buffet spread didn't disappoint in this most important meal of the day. We helped ourselves to a plateful of pastries, cheese and some cold meat, gulped down by a glassful of mixed fruit juice. Editha later on came to our table with steaming cups of cappuccino which really helped perk us up - this on a long day of travel.
From the hotel, we walked the short distance to Jerozolimskie - one of Warsaw's major thoroughfares - and boarded the local bus no.175 which goes directly to the airport. Named after Poland's pride Frederyk Chopin, Lotnisko Chopina w Warszawie (or Warsaw Chopin Airport) doesn't have the bells and whistles of the big guys, i.e. Amsterdam's Schipol, Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok, Singapore's Changi or Dubai Airport, but it's still an efficiently-run airport given its size. They have a decent Duty Free where I bought last minute souvenir shirts (Chopin, what else?) for some friends back home. Another ride on a bus brought us finally to our waiting British Airways A320 parked on a remote stand.
Our departure on this mid-morning flight to London was on the dot. Flying time was about two hours and a half. As soon as we reached cruising altitude, flight attendants came down the aisle pushing their trolleys and offering us refreshments - a tuna sandwich which came with a small can of diet Coke. It was not only scrumptious but a guilt-free healthy food.
London's Heathrow is notorious for bottlenecks not just on the ground but up on the air. Just as we were on our final descent, the captain nonchalantly announced a delay in arrival due to heavy traffic. In aviation parlance, this is called a holding pattern. Our plane merely flew in circles above like a hawk stalking its prey on the ground. Outside my window, I was excited to see other planes on a stacking order, a KLM Boeing 737 and a Pakistan Airlines Boeing 777. My visual delight came at a cost - we touched down almost an hour late.
Erwin, my travel buddy who lives in London, was determined to treat me to lunch in his neighborhood fave: Nando's. With still enough time to spare despite our delayed arrival, we hurried out of Heathrow via London Underground's Piccadily line, really the cheapest way to go to downtown. After dropping off his bags in his cubicle/apartment, we walked to this restaurant that specializes in chicken with Portuguese/African flavor. We ordered its trademark dish, the Peri-Peri Chicken (flame-grilled after being marinated) and a bowl of chicken livers. I don't know what's with the sauce that marinated the chicken but it truly was delightful, with every juicy bit an exclamation point. I wasn't too fond with the chicken livers since they were too mushy after drowning in gravy. Little did I know, Nando's is actually a chain that operates in 28 countries.
Had our plane from Warsaw not been delayed, I would have had time to revisit some spots in the city. Much as I was hoping to at least do a quick photo shoot, there were major subway changes that afternoon which further derailed whatever intentions I had. After bidding Erwin goodbye and thanking him for the lunch, it was time to catch the subway again, back to Heathrow Airport. My American Airlines flight to New York will be leaving in less than two hours. Thankfully, my bag has been checked-through from Warsaw all the way to JFK so all I had with me was my daypack and my onward boarding pass.
A Boeing 777 big bird was bringing me back to the Big Apple. As it was dinner time after our unremarkable take-off, matronly American Airlines flight attendants paraded down the aisle with their trolleys. First came the drinks and some packet of nuts. About half an hour later (and after that whiff of "something's being re-heated in the galley"), they came back offering us a choice of two dinner entrees - in my case, some pasta. Nothing spectacular.
The lackluster meal took a backseat as my gaze wandered off and into the western horizon where the sun has just hidden. Crossing the Pond - the Atlantic ocean, that is - is about seven hours but that's nothing compared to the 16 hours I spend flying nonstop to Hong Kong from JFK. With little else to do, I fiddled with the diminutive backseat TV screen and watched a movie until I dozed off for an hour or so.
About an hour before arrival, the flight attendants came back with boxes of personal-sized pizzas for everyone. New York, with all the Italian immigrants that came before me, has a long love affair with pizza. There's probably a pizza parlor in almost every block of Manhattan. But this plumpy in-flight piece, baked somewhere in one of Heathrow's kitchens, does not give pizza-savvy New Yorkers a smile wide enough to mean "this is really good!". I didn't finish it. My thin crust pizza is waiting in my neighborhood.