On March 30, 2013, I started my journey to London early in the morning. I got up around 4 am after only a couple hours of sleep and made sure I had everything in my bags, ate breakfast and waited for my brother to pick me up for the drive to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. We left my parents house around 5:30 am for my 7:00 am flight to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
Me at Home Before Going to Airport
I had an hour layover in Dallas, then flew to Charlotte International Airport for a flight to London. My layover in Charlotte was 3 hours, it passed quickly, our flight to London departed at around 7 pm EST. US Airways had a reception at gate for the London flight, the food looked good, I had just eaten and was not hungry, did not eat any. I took a couple of the sandwiches for the flight, but I ended up eating the in-flight meal and leaving the sandwiches and the lunch bag US Airways gave us on the airplane.
Lynnae at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix
The flight to from Charlotte to London was uneventful. I changed seats about an hour into the flight, ended up with a great seat, lots of legroom. I think the seat was empty because it was close to the restrooms, did not bother me, the extra legroom and open seat next to me made for a comfortable flight. I did not sleep at all during the flight to London, instead I watched Argo and Skyfall. I also read Rick Steves' Guide to Europe through the back door to get some ideas of what to do in London after I landed.
Lynnae at Charlotte International Airport Before Flight to London
Our plane arrived in London on March 31st at 7:30 am, at that point I was brain dead. I had been up all night and had only slept a couple of hours the night before, it was my usual bedtime in Arizona when we landed in London. I made my way to customs, the customs agent took an interest in my background and asked me several questions. I haven't gone through customs in a long time, the last time I went abroad was to Iraq with the Defense Intelligence Agency. I remember going through customs in Germany but I did not get many questions, except why was I traveling using my tourist visa. I was staying in Germany either, maybe that is why I did not get many questions from the customs agent. I do not remember Japanese customs agents asking many questions either, but it has been several years since I was in Japan.
It was a different story in London, the customs agent noticed I had written N/A employment section. The customs agent asked me what was my occupation and I told her I was unemployed. The customs agent asked me when was the last time I was employed, I told her 2009, although technically I left the Central Intelligence Agency in 2010. The customs agent asked me where I worked before I became unemployed, I told her I worked at the CIA. She asked me, "What is the CIA?" I told her the Central Intelligence Agency and she asked if I was involved in intelligence, I said yes. The customs agent asked why I left the CIA and I told her it was a long story, she seemed satisfied with that answer and did not ask for details.
I cannot remember if the customs agent asked where I worked before the CIA or if I just offered up my pre-CIA employment. I told the customs agent before the CIA I worked in defense/military intelligence, I did not specify I worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency. After discussing my employment history, the customs agent asked how I supported myself and funded my travel after all these years of unemployment. I told her I had savings, she asked me how much, was it lifetime savings, etc. After all these questions, the customs agent asked me the standard questions, how long did I plan to stay in the UK, where else would I travel, did I have a return ticket, etc. Finally, the customs agent was satisfied with my answers, stamped my passport and I headed to baggage claim, they call it baggage reclaim in Britain.
My baggage was waiting for me when I got to the baggage reclaim area, I strapped on my backpack and headed out. I asked a couple of people for directions on how to get to London's trains to Paddington. I took the Heathrow Connect to Paddington Station and then walked about 20 minutes to my hostel. I dropped of my luggage at the hostel and had time to kill. I decided to go to Speakers Corner at Hyde Park while I waited for check in time at the hotel. I will blog about my Speakers Corner experience in my next post.