Shannon Fennell's Blog

My life, art, travel, make-up, cooking and the occasional rant!

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What we did on our summer vacation

Are you ready for the slide show?  Grab a drink, sit back and enjoy… it won’t be as bad as your Aunt Muriel’s old style slide show of their six-week RV trip along the Trans Canada… in fact it isn’t really a slide show because I don’t know how to set them up, but I can post the photos!!  LOL

Due to mom’s stroke she is now hemiplegic (one side paralyzed) so, as flying in economy was out of the question for her, we went “Executive First”… the price when we booked was very low for first class… $1790 vs $799 for economy … we decided that the only way for us to get mom to the UK was in first class.  Since we were planning to stay with friends and visit instead of doing the expensive tourist thing we reasoned out that overall the cost of the trip wouldn’t be much different.  I checked the price again before we left and it was back up to around $7000!!  We must have booked during a sale or when the prices were still really low due to the economy.  In any case we rationalized it as mom needed the comfort and the trip was my 50th birthday present to myself.

As we started our trip in Grande Prairie we had to fly on a Dash-8 to Edmonton… no first class on a Dash-8.  And, as mom can’t walk up stairs she is coded as “CARRY ON”…. LOL that makes her a carry-on bag!!  ROTF

They strapped mom into a very narrow wheelchair with lots of straps and then two ground crew carried her up the steps of the plane, one at a time, then dragged her up the aisle (well, just to the second row – not the first because that is the emergency exit row) and I transferred her to her seat and buckled her in.

At Edmonton they had a “pope mobile” as they called it for unloading mom… they drove it up to the plane and then rolled her across the ramp into the little booth, and out the other side where the wheelchair and Air Canada staff person was waiting for her.

We had a several hour layover in Edmonton before our flight to London so our escort took us directly to the first class lounge… I like first class.  Free food, free drinks, free whatever you want!

And comfy chairs…

I should point out our luggage.  See those bags beside the chair?  The blue ones are ours – that’s all we had for both of us for over two weeks.  The grey bag was one we were returning to Anne & Jill as they left it behind on their last visit and all it had in it were things we were taking over to them – candy, books, etc.  So two carry-ons, three if you include mom!

We were sitting right over the departure gate for our flight, #56

When it was time to board one of the Air Canada agents came and got us (before they made any announcements) and wheeled mom down to the plane where they were waiting to carry her to her seat… there was enough room available to actually wheel the regular chair into the galley and since mom was in the very first middle seat I was able to transfer her right into her seat without her having to use the mini-chair.

The pods are really cool… you have your own touch screen tv, headphones, controls for the chair/bed, side table for drinks, tray table for meals, privacy… the only thing was the plane was HOT.  I ended up stripping down in the lavatory to a light cotton top… and I was still too hot.  Mom was fine.

On the flight over I was immediately behind mom… which was a bit awkward as with the privacy walls you can’t talk to each other… she’d wave her hand over the wall at me to get my attention, so I’d have to put my recliner down, put away the table, fold the tv away, unbuckle myself, get up and step forward to see what she wanted… TWICE, yes, TWO DIFFERENT times all she wanted to know was… WHAT WAS I WATCHING!?!?!?!??!?  ARGH!

On the way home we got the flight steward to see if the people at the front would change seats with us (we had #4 & 5 in the centre) as mom would be using the on-board wheelchair to get to the toilet several times and if we were at the front we wouldn’t disturb others.  The people were nice and we managed to get the centre front and right front which looked at each other… so I could see what mom wanted and sometimes hear her over the engines… sometimes.

They feed and water you constantly in first class… snacks, meals, drinks, more snacks, another meal… more drinks.  With a menu to choose from and all served on real dishes with real cutlery.

We arrived at Heathrow and had to wait to get off.  I won’t bore you with the details but the wheelchair assistance at Heathrow SUCKS!  It is a contract – not the airlines, a company has a contract to do ALL the wheelchair pushing.  And they are slow, park you in hallways and leave you there and complain about their jobs, and just plain awful.  A horrible experience.  And the airlines can do nothing about it… Long story short ….it took an hour and a half (even using the express lane at customs) to get from the plane to the main hall where Anne and Jill where waiting with their wheelchair for us.

At that point it was hugs all around then headed to Anne’s van for the drive to Plymouth.  We were on the A303 and the A30… drove right by Stonehenge (and on the way back too!)

We had a great relaxing vacation and visit… took several site seeing drives – out onto Dartmoor (didn’t see the Hound of The Baskervilles), all over Cornwall, over to Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park which was lovely, saw the Plymouth Museum, out to the Eden Project, to Looe, to Port Isaac, and to Par for lunch with some Cornish face painters on my actual birthday.  And several nice relaxing days just hanging about… and the weekend jaunt up to Gloucestershire (which is covered in my previous post about the Jam!)

On the day we took the drive to Port Issac we passed this old and picturesque Inn that served “Fresh Cream Teas All Day” so, of course, we had to stop… it was YUMMY!  The scones were fresh and hot from the oven with clotted cream, jam and tea.

The table with the umbrella is where we sat to have our cream tea.  The gardens were gorgeous and in bloom.

On my actual birthday we met up with a few of the Cornish face painters for lunch in Par (photo of the group is here). This is the remains of the cake Jenny’s daughter made for me… it was delicious!  I completely neglected to take a photo of it before demolishing it – it was beautifully decorated.

We went to Looe and mom had two ice cream cones and a Cornish pastie… which she really liked… a lot.  The shop where we stopped to have the pasties put all their pasties and pastries on sale at 5 p.m. for a pound each so Anne bought a bunch to take home and we had pasties for lunch another day… and mom gobbled hers up again!

The following photos are of Cornwall… please excuse the quality as I was taking them from the back seat of a moving van tearing up the road… and I have no idea exactly where or what I was taking photos of.  I just wanted to have photos showing the scenery and the unique things the British road system offers.  Like residential buildings right on the edge of the road, tunnels made out of trees, roundabouts, wrong way traffic….

Anne and Jill’s house is right on the waterfront – a development of townhouses and apartments as we would call them here – right beside the Tor Point Ferry slip.  We rode the ferry back and forth several times.

In this next photo you can see the top of Anne’s building just above the top of the ferry ramp at the far end of the ferry…  right about the roof of the car.

And my last photo … of the boats anchored near the ferry slip.

I completely forgot to take photos for most of this trip… which is a departure for me.  I usually would have hundreds of photos, but with having to push mom’s wheelchair and take care of her the camera was just left in the bag most of the time.  Anne took lots on her camera but forgot to give them to me on a flash drive before we left and I’m still waiting to get some via email.

We had a lovely time, really relaxing.  Mom did great, used her cane a lot and “walked” daily… her muscle tone in her weak leg improved massively with all the exercise.  Anne and Jill were superlative hostesses.

We started to plan their next visit over… a road trip through BC to Vancouver Island, Vancouver and points in between.  Probably 2013.  Time to start planning the itinerary!