After a 6 day visit to the West Coast of the United States of America, it was time for I and Mike to make a very sobering journey back to blighty. This was the end of one of the best times I have ever had in my life, and we were both very sorry to say goodbye to California.
The day started like the rest did, except it was pretty clear what we had to do later on in the day, that was fly home to miserable England. I could sense this atmosphere of sadness, especially on the ride into Westwood.
We decided to take one last drive around, and then got some breakfast. We were a little early, so we went to Starbucks and got some Latte. We were checking out the UCLA honeys whilst waiting for the Californian Pizza Kitchen to open!
Once we had our early lunch, we left and went back to the Westin Century Plaza, where we packed up our stuff and checked out. I stood on the balcony for the last time, teary eyed, taking some last shots of the view which I had woken up for the past few days. I’m gonna miss this place!
The view from our balcony, this would be the last time I saw this view.
A little drama happened when it came to the Valet Parking! It seemed they had lost our car keys! So we were stood around like a pair of tits for 20 minutes whilst they looked for them. Eventually we had to come in and help them find them, it turned out one of the workers changed the hotel key fob to a new one and the numbers weren’t correct, whatever! No tip for them anyway!
We made our way to LAX, en route we stopped to fill up the rental car at the nearest gas station. This happened to be a Chevron on Sepulveda. We also stopped off at In-N-Out for one last time. I drank my last Dr Pepper and we watched some aircraft movements.
My last Dr Pepper consumed at the In-N-Out!
We drove down to the Radisson, and dropped our car back off at Midway. Where the same guy who handed us the keys 6 days previously asked if the 330i was “Fast enough for you guys”. To which we said “Hmm.. Yes!”. All in all, it was a sad 15 minutes of my life.
After 6 days of being thrashed, this rather sorry looking 3-series would be returned it's owners. I'll miss you babe!
We made our way to Terminal 2 via the Radisson shuttle. The mood was just as sobering as it was this morning, and I was still feeling pretty sad to be going home. We checked in for our flight. The check in agent had a sudden staring session at the screen when she see the note on our booking references. A good friend of mine had requested that no one is to be seated next to myself and Michael, to which she confirmed, no one would be for this flight to LHR. Result!
Before clearing security we headed outside again for Mike to have a quick chuff. We walked over to a spot where we could see the aircraft. We had set eyes on our beauty. I confirmed (with the use of a video camera!) that we would indeed be flying on Cosmic Girl, G-VWOW. It was nice to know that before we got to the gate! This also concluded two V:PORT flights!
After we had finished outside, we took in the view one last time, and headed back into Terminal 2. We cleared security with no major issues, thankfully. My experiences of Terminal 2 airside haven’t been particularly good. So I wasn’t expecting a great deal of fun!
We decided to look in the duty free shop, to see if there was any decent deals going down. This reminded me of what we did last Saturday at LHR! Spending masses of time looking at aftershaves and testing all of the latest and greatest. We bumped into a 40 something woman who was looking for something or her 15 year old boy. Mike made the most professional sales pitch in the world, he was helping her out, unlike the dappy store assistants who were happy to sell you the new fragrance on the block.
After leaving there we headed over to the “I Love LA” store and then onto Starbucks for our last Latte in the USA. I tried some Hershey’s chocolate with my latte, and I have to say I’ve never tasted anything so gorgeous in my life!
Time was getting on and we decided to use the internet booths for a little while. At this moment I recalled something from the previous V:PORT flight we had, that was the ability to Text and Email from your seat! So I got my cell out and wrote down some numbers of those close to me, so I could show off a little bit!
We were still online checking out some shots on A.net and catching up on our backlog of emails, when we heard the following announcement: “Virgin Atlantic Airways flight 8 to London’s Heathrow, is now ready for boarding, would all passengers for this flight please come to Gate 27 where your aircraft is ready for boarding.”
With that, I paid a little visit to the little boys room, in which the whole world and his wife were taking dumps. This made me feel uneasy, especially with some of the sounds I was hearing! I got out of there as fast as I could. LOL!
So we made our way down to Gate 27, and was greeted by the same lady who checked us in!! Mike picked up his duty free from the man with the trolley, and we boarded G-VWOW for our red eye trek over the pond. I love the sound of the interior of the 744 when on the ground, something so peaceful about it!
We climbed on board and made our way down to row 48. Now we had to decide about the window seat situation. Mike insisted I take it for most of the way then when a few hours away from LHR we swap. I wasn’t at all bothered, but hey its all good. I took 48A and Mike took 48C, we used 48B as a communal place to put our crap. I noticed that the headrests had the “Backing the Bid 2012” covers on them, I should have taken one!
I settled down in my seat listening to some tunes on the iPod, reminiscing the good times myself and Mike had in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. I got out my camera and took a few shots out of the window whilst we were waiting to push back. The ANZ 744 next to us was also going to LHR, the race was on!
This ANZ was parked next to us, also on it's way to LHR!
Push back! Goodbye LA!
These wonderful GE CF-6’s were started and we made a slow taxi out to 24R. The sun was setting, creating a really nice effect as I looked down the entire length of 24R. An aircraft was in front of us as we entered the threshold, that held for a moment and then blasted a long 24R. It was now our turn to make a move into that warm Los Angeles Air.
What an amazing view down 24R, especially with the breathtaking sunset!
We powered up a little, and the brakes were released. The engines were then nailed into “Lets get the f**k outta here” mode. This helped us blast along 24R. We rotated and made the climb out over Manhattan Beach and then out over the Pacific Ocean. Exactly one day ago we had witnessed a Virgin 747 over head from a near by location, 24 hours later, we were doing the same thing.
Out over the beach where we had passed on our LAX-LAS flight a few days ago!
We continued our climb into the murky, cloudy sky and the flaps were raised. We levelled off slightly and the power was reduced. I continued to listen to my iPod and take some pictures. I said goodbye to all of the great places I had visited on this holiday, and sat back in my seat for a while. I was still feeling really sad!
Making our way out over the Pacific. Flaps raised and we were gaining altitude.
We executed a series of turns to start heading towards the East. This gave us some amazing views of the sunset from the air. The clouds had turned a pink colour, and were absolutely beautiful to look at. Me and Mike started talking about the view that we could see, I said “You HAVE TO see this!”. It was really quite remarkable.
Amazing pink clouds seen here, nice view!
We made a few more turns and eventually that lovely pink light had almost vanished, damnit. There was still plenty of cloud around though. It was only really starting to sink in that we are actually on our way home from LAX, what a sobering thought!
Clouds and more clouds, fantastic light was fading fast.
So the drink and pretzel service was just about to commence, when there was an announcement on the PA. “Would Passenger Justin Wood please make them self aware to a member of Cabin Crew please.” I thought to myself, “Oh god, here we go again!”. The girl was stood behind me as she repeated herself, and I smiled and said “It’s me!”. I think I made her laugh as she ballsed up the second part of the announcement! To my disappointment, she didn’t have any upper upgrades or any in flight cockpit visits! On my outbound flight I had reserved a model of the 747-400, and arranged for it to be collected on my return flight home. They were just trying to find me!
I took a quick shot out of my window again, we were passing over a built up area with a main road/interstate running through it! The cloud had cleared slightly, but the light was gradually getting dimmer.
Boo! Darkness was on it's way!
Approximately 25 minutes after take off, the light had almost vanished. I sat back listening to my iPod whilst gazing at the moving map on the V:PORT IFE. I was really happy to get this on the way home, I feel it made this 10 hour trek feel like a walk in the park. I don’t really do too greatly on red eyes, but with V:PORT I was loving every moment.
This was something that would last for a few more hours, it was nice to watch happen though.
The meal service commenced, which is always a good thing I guess. I do love the food on VS, even in economy! There is always plenty to fill you up, and it doesn’t taste all that bad. I opted for the beef (I think) on this occasion. I was almost half tempted to have a few beers to help me get some quality shut eye, but I gave it a miss as I didn’t fancy running the risk of waking up with a hangover or anything. I had some coffee with my desert, and I took my shoes off and started watching some movies.
As soon as I got settled, I suddenly remembered that I had taken down some numbers of people I cherish from my cell phonebook!! With out pause, my credit card came out and I was scrambling through my carry on luggage looking for this sheet of paper. Eventually I found it and I loaded up the on board communication system. I blasted off a couple of emails to A.net photographer, and good friend Josh May. Josh had joined myself and Mike on our 2nd day, we went downtown to the Staples Centre to watch the LA Clippers play. We finished the evening with a nice meal.
After 4 hours of flying, and about 1 hour of drifting in and out of consciousness, I opened my blind up. I was amazed and totally excited to see the Northern Lights! This is the first time I have witnessed such an event. I immediately pointed it out to Mike, with out any further delay I took a grab shot of this event. It’s a real shame the quality couldn’t have been better though.
WOW!!! The first time I have ever witnessed the Northern Lights. It was really really impressive! (ISO1600)
Three hours had passed since I saw the Northern lights. I spent that time watching some movies, texting/emailing, and sleeping. Mike had found a way of sleeping which someone recommended. I didn’t like the look of it! Basically it was resting your head on the seat tray! What if the sucker in front decided to recline their seat?! Ouch! I decided not to try sleeping like that, even though Mike seemed to sleep most of the way home. I did get a picture of this event but he would not appreciate it making the web, so I have to refrain myself guys.
The crossing was pretty uneventful to be quite honest. Virgin maintained their usual drinks through out the night, which is excellent. I consumed a few glasses of water and orange juice during the flight, to reduce the chance of dehydration and so on.
I got a little bored so I resorted back to the glorious V:PORT system. I have to say I fell in love with it more, the second time around. I took a quick shot of the map purely out of boredom, and for the purpose of my trip report. So were 2 hours 56 minutes away from LHR, cruising at FL350, Travelling at 555kts with 1,731 miles to go and a wind speed of 65kts. How many normal passengers will actually care about that information? I’m gonna make a bet and say, not many! Either way, I was loving it!
This amazing V:PORT system kept be busy.
After around 7 hours of solid flying, the light had started to appear. This was the most beautiful sunset I have ever witnessed on board an aircraft. The colours were absolutely fantastic! Some of the other people were starting to wake up, whilst the smell of something being heated filled up the cabin. It didn’t smell to tasteful, but I was sure as hell ready to eat!
Passing over some snow, just a slight pink hue appearing on the ground below.
It was getting there! Light is a slightly more intense pink.
The light went from pink, to orange!
Breakfast was imminent, so I sat back and prepared myself. I can't actually recall what we had, but i do remember some fruits, yoghurt and various snacks. It was all washed down with coffee and orange juice. VS don't do too badly with their economy meals, so all was good! The view wasn't much cop mind you!
Rather dull scenery below!
The clouds started to break as we entered Iceland! This allowed some good views of the snow capped rockies below.
We were passing over Mainland Iceland, when I decided to take some more breathtaking shots of the ground below. We passed over the Hvannadalshnjúkur Mountain which is in Öræfajökull. Totally awesome viewing possible in these amazingly clear conditions! (with thanks to Gisli for the info.)
The Hvannadalshnjúkur Mountain, very impressive!
A better view of the Hvannadalshnjúkur Mountain, Awesome!
We were now flying in that boring slot between Iceland and the UK. This is the part of the flight which seems to really give you a kick up the butt. I was getting a bit tired of the flying at this point, so I sat back with my iPod listening to some music. The view was pretty dull, reminded me of the direct Atlantic crossing that I made to DTW and CCC.
All to be seen was this deep blue sea!
As we flew down the backbone of the United Kingdom, the weather became more apparent. The amount of cloud that was around, was very similar to how it was when we left home a week ago! I heard on the news whilst in the US that we did get a lot of snow, and we experienced some sub-zero temperatures! Glad we missed it to be honest.
Upon entry to the UK, I had switched seats with Mike so he could get a glimpse of the world down below. Not only that, we had to be fair on how we did things! So far the flight hadn’t really felt as it was making me tired. But it was at this point where i started to feel like total sh*t! I headed over to the bathroom with my Davidoff - Echo, some deodorant, and my pink Virgin toothbrush. There was a bit of a wait for the bathroom, so I was stood there shoeless sporting my toiletries! What a sight!
After I freshened up i felt 100 times better. I returned to my seat and packed up my heavy bag with my G-VBIG model, and all of my other bits. I struggled lifting it to put it into the overhead locker it was that heavy! I blame this on the long flight that was just about to conclude itself, I was feeling pretty exhausted.
I was still shoeless, so I recovered my black slip on’s and attempted to put them back on. I had no luck as my feet had swollen so badly during the flight! I felt like a right dappy girl trying to squeeze my feet into them, but eventually I managed it. I hurt my hands and fingers in the process though.
I spent the next 45 minutes slipping in and our of sleep because my body was telling me it was 4 a.m.! My heart sank as I realised I had to go back to reality and continue with my boring every day 9-5 life.
We descended into the moody London clouds, spoilers deployed and the ride became bumpier. As we lined up for touchdown on Runway 27R, the sun blinded us both so viewing became almost impossible. We were lucky, as fellow Airnet photographer Simon Nicholls managed to get a shot of us arriving!
Here we are seen making our final approach onto 27R. With thanks to Simon Nicholls for the effort in catching our arrival.
We graced the surface of 27R with no fuss what so ever. We made our way to the gate and de-planed. We made our way through immigration, what a bloody joke. People just stop in the middle of the hall and don’t realise how much time they are wasting. So we edged forward and eventually made our way out back into the United Kingdom.
Remember that ANZ 744 that we were parked next to at LAX? Well that puppy managed to get here before us, and managed to have a luggage carousel before us. Mike pointed at the screen and exclaimed “How the f**k is that possible!!??” I agreed, how the hell?!
Anyway our luggage finally arrived, everything intact so all was well. We made our way out into the busy T3 arrivals area where we were greeted by a group of pasty looking Brits. After our 8 days together, it was time to say our goodbyes. It was a short, but saddening goodbye.
I made my way out to the coach station where I was due to catch the 032 to Southampton. It was absolutely freezing! I was talking to a couple who had just got back from Dubai! They were having a hard time adjusting to the cold winter wind.
A few moments later I boarded my coach home to Southampton, where I was met by my family. Good to be home, Not!
Thank you for reading my report and the conclusion to one of the most amazing times I have ever had.