Friday, 9 May 2008

The perfect welcome home - finally!

As you might have gathered it's all been a bit quiet in the North London Kitchen. That's because we've been away on a bit of a tour taking in the sights of Los Angeles (work not fun) and Cuba (fun not work). We are however back in Our Lovely Flat (tm) and feeling very very pleased about it. We're not usually people who are desperate to come home whilst travelling, but this time around we really felt the need to be back in our own place, with a comfortable bed, and most importantly our own food.

We had to do the return in three stages, since the ridiculous United States insist on enforcing trade embargoes on Cuba and so we couldn't travel direct between LA (where are return flights to the UK were from). This meant an arduous journey going from Havana, to Cancun, then Cancun to LA before we could fly home. This would have been fine under usual circumstances, but being the awkward thing it is my body finally decided to complain about the bad fibre-free-veggie-hating Cuban/Mexican diet on the flight back to LA. We'd already had an awful flight to Cancun since Cuba can clearly only afford to supply tin cans and amateur pilots to their airlines. So having emerged a little green in Cancun we planned to relax on the beach for our brief 24hr stop and then head back to LA suitably refreshed the next evening. It wasn't to be.

I arrived at Cancun airport feeling fine, but about half an hour before boarding my stomach started complaining. Quietly at first, and then with increasing insistence. I thought this might just be nerves and adrenalin as I have never been the most enthusiastic flier and after the previous experience it is understandable that my body might be a bit reluctant to get on a plane again so soon. I took a travel sickness pill, and sternly told my stomach where it could put its uncomfortablness, I wasn't having it.

Oh, but I was. An hour into the flight and I was getting worse, and having disturbed the woman sitting next to be on several occasions for trips to the toilet she finally (and very kindly) went and spoke to the Spanish flight attendant for me explaining I was feeling ill. I was promptly whisked (with a worried looking N in tow) to the front of the plane and asked numerous questions about what I had eaten and drunk in the past few days. Visably relieved to discovered I hadn't eaten on the plane (and so couldn't be ill as a result of them) he then fished out a box of medications and gave me two pills and a glass of water and coke to try and settle my stomach. This was clearly exactly what my stomach had been waiting for, and promptly and violently made its discomfort known to everyone (ah, thank goodness for the invention of airsickness bags!)

The flight continued for the rest of the five hours very much in this vein with poor N having to look after a rather shell-shocked me. (I haven't thrown up since I was about five, so the whole thing came as something as a shock to me, perhaps even more so than it did to N and the flight attendant!).

We were so glad to finally touch down in Los Angeles, that it didn't occur to us that the evening could get worse! We managed to flag down a cab and after a somewhat bumpy ride (eek!) arrived at our hotel. It had a "no vacancies" sign up outside, but that was fine, we assured the cab driver, we had a reservation. Oh no we didn't, not according to the hotel, who hadn't been informed of our booking. I nearly cried at this point. The guy was so nice though, and even let me log into my email on his machine and show him the booking (we hadn't been able to print it off in Cuba.) He then phoned a motel in a better location, who had rooms and would let us stay for the rate already agreed in our booking. All we had to do was get another cab across to it and check in. It wasn't the greatest looking place, and was clearly priced according to location rather than quality, but at we were only going to be there one night, and at this point anything would do ut.

It was midnight by the time I was finally able to collapse in bed, and at the sound of breaking glass a block away soon after we turned the light out we could only laugh - albeit through rather resigned gritted teeth.

After a nice lazy day pottering around in Santa Monica, me nursing a very tender stomach and not really sure of putting anything in it and certainly not fancying anything we headed to the airport. The final stretch was upon us, all we had to do was make it though the ten hour flight, get on a tube and we'd be home. Yeah, right, like it would be that simple.

I still couldn't face much food on the flight, but managed to force down a bread roll and a glass of apple juice. Of course, as soon as I had braved this the turbulence started. It has been a little bumpy already, but not so much to make me worried, but when we hit the thunderstorm it was the final straw. I hit total and almost hysterical despair. Poor N spent half an hour just holding me trying to calm me down. I think I spent the whole time quietly mumbling "I just want to go home."

Fortunately it ended, and he managed to distract me for an hour with a game of scrabble. I then took one of the tablets a pharmacist in LA had given me, which would both sooth my stomach and make me drowsy. It totally knocked me out for four hours. Thank goodness.

I have never been so pleased to arrive and drag myself through Heathrow, and to top off the amazingness of being back on English soil, we were greeted with stunning weather. Sunny and warm. Hotter, in fact, than it had been in Santa Monica. We arrived home to a luscious green garden with many of our vegetable plants thriving with the sun streaming through the trees which had leaves on again. A total change of scene compared to the snow we left in.

It was the perfect welcome home.

More tales from the trip (more cultural and less intestinal!) to come with some photos too. Just wanted to share our (in hindsight) hilarious trip home, to let everyone know we're still here and very very glad to be back.

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