Sometimes there are layovers that are memorable, bordering on epic. I can’t speak for the others on my crew but last night was one of those. For me my layover started with something I never do, nap. Usually I don’t sleep after landing as it messes with my sleep patterns but I knew I wanted to stay out later than usual so I slept.
I had some errands and shopping to do. It does sound weird that I had running around to do in a place where I am technically a tourist but after coming to London one to two times a week over the last four months I am finding normalcy in a life where “normal” is rarely found. How long will it last? Probably not long. The winter schedule is looming around the corner which means I will probably be back to Canadian domestic flying shortly, if not on call again. I was batty enough to leave my errands for a Saturday afternoon and a couple of those stops included Debenham’s and Primark on Oxford Street. If I had been a little more cerebral and a lot less tired I would have avoided that street all together on a weekend as the stores and sidewalks were pure unadulterated chaos. I ran in to Sarah one of my fellow FAs. We headed back to hotel together to meet up with the rest of our crew.
Sarah has recently come back to work after having her first child. She had to make one of the most excruciating decisions a woman has to make in our industry. “Do I keep doing a job I love which takes me away from home and pays well or do I find something tolerable so I can be at home every night?” She is still struggling with the decision as she will for years to come, every holiday, and missed event will seem like torture but the extras will be golden. The extras are days off volunteering in schools or spent lakeside with her little one, the travelling with her kids, and the delight in their little eyes when they discover her world and the world through her stories and pictures. The pride and strength her daughter will find in Sarah when she is old enough to realise that being a mum doesn’t have to mean you give up your entire identity. That sacrifices are made by mums the world over and need to weigh for each person’s vision of how they want to raise their kids. Sarah will have more time off than any of her friends who are working 9/5 in an office tower. The give and take is that they will be home every night but exhausted making mad dashes home from work and to daily chores and activities. Sarah will be able to bid her flights around her kids’ schedules and her sacrifices will come in giving up certain kinds of flying to be there when other parents can’t be at the concerts, first days of school and recitals. My heart goes out to her and the long nights away from home she will have.
One of the best ways to take Sarah’s mind off missing her baby is to take her out and have fun. We had a great crew. On holiday weekends it is usually the junior crews working the overseas. We all wanted to go for dinner and dance the night away. We started in the hotel lobby and ran into a crew from another base that most of us knew. We were not sure where we wanted to go for dinner so we decided to follow the Toronto crew as they had a place in mind in the Piccadilly/Soho area. Arriving at the restaurant was a long process. Busses on a Friday night towards the west end were packed and traffic was heavy. It took a lot longer than normal to get the night started. The one problem with having a large group decide at the last moment on a Saturday night where they are going to eat is that no one has made a booking. We arrived at the restaurant prepared for a wait and we were not disappointed. We left our request with the host and were told to come back in three quarters of an hour to be sat. We did what one does in London when waiting for a table, found the nearest pub. The blue posts bar was around the corner from our designated eating venue. The pub is off the main path as most watering holes are. When looking for a place to go your best bet it to avoid main streets in tourist areas and hit the side streets or high streets in local areas in my experience. The main floor was crammed full of people passing time over a pint. The upstairs however had a large table that a young couple were kind enough to move to a small table so we could sit together. The upstairs was also a lot quieter allowing for conversation, until we got there that was. A dozen chatty Flight attendants created quite the cacophony.
We returned to the restaurant we were intending to have a quick lovely bite to eat at, Fratelli La Bufala, only to find out our wait was going to be substantially longer. This would not have been an issue had we just been told to come back in a second wait of forty-five minutes; instead we were strung along with promises of getting a table momentarily sort of like a prom date is teased with a night of intimacy. There isn’t a waiting area in the restaurant itself, nor is there one outside on the bustling sidewalk just like any other high population density area. Space is at a premium so we hugged the exterior of the building trying to avoid the path of pedestrians navigating the pavement. If we had the skills to busk and juggle or break in to song perhaps we could have entertained passersby instead of irritating them.
The weather was on our side and it was a lovely night to spend outside but we would have felt happier waiting back at the pub in retrospect but in all fairness we were a last-minute large group. Once we were finally sat we found the pizzas were worth the wait at the Italian chain eatery. I opted for the Reale pizza a Prosciutto topped creation from the special pizza oven on site. It was divine even priced at 13.50 pounds. Our issues with the restaurant, however, did not terminate when we were sat at a table. Several pitfalls ensued with our ordering either due to the chaos a large group creates for a server or the minuscule staging area for the food next to the pizza oven. appetizers, drinks, and mains were all overlooked which resulted in lost revenue for the restaurant as we would have paid for plates had we received them. Attention to detail was also furthermore not the forte of our wait staff. Little items such as cutlery, drinking glasses for shared bottled beverages were not brought around without numerous requests from my partners in dinning trouble.
I noticed that most of the other patrons were speaking Italian and this should not have been an issue with us as two of our diners ordered in Italian, one of the perks of being out with a multilingual bunch of friends. We had pretty much every European language covered betwixt us . All in all the food was great but the service could be greatly improved upon. I would like to give the restaurant another go, with a smaller group, on a hopefully quieter weeknight with a reservation and see how the establishment fairs.
We departed later than we had intended from our meal and were anxious to get on to the dance floor. We had our dancing shoes on and had to find a club quickly. We were lucky enough to stumble upon KuBar on Frith St. I will be frank as I do not want to mince words but this particular club is a self-professed gay bar. If you are not comfortable with videos playing on the many screens of intimate same-sex situations then this is not the place for you to come and dance. I, personally, liked the place. It featured great music, didn’t have a cover at this location (there are various venues some have covers but are open later), and it was nice to give the guys we were with the spotlight for attracting attention rather than us girls. I felt at ease at the bar and the downstairs was roomy enough we could all dance or lounge as desired.
Clubs in London are different from those that I am used to in Canada. Luckily a few of my companions were familiar with how the clubs work and schooled us quickly. The pubs and no cover bars close at midnight on weekends. If you want to keep dancing member clubs are open substantially later, some as late as 6am. The member clubs have a cover charge of 5-20 quid depending on the establishment. Since KuBar closed at midnight and we were still itching to shimmy and jive we went in search of a place open later. We wandered in the Soho area for a bit without much luck as plenty of fun seekers had the same goal so clubs were lined up. This deterred some of our group who had an earlier flight than mine. They capitalised on the opportunity to call it an evening and ride the night bus back to the hotel. The few brave and rhythm revellers remaining from my cohorts walked from Soho, around Chinatown, to Covent Gardens. Not too far from the latter area we came upon The Adventure Bar. We were a little unsure of a place with that name as to what we were getting ourselves in to. What kind of adventure lay down those stairs for us?! Far from the worst thoughts that briefly crossed our minds as we paid the 5 quid cover fee, the club was brimming with dancers a good decade younger than me. Yet the music was that from my youth so it worked out. Another difference we noted between dance clubs in North America and those in urban U.K. is the lack of a proper dance floor. People were dancing everywhere in the two sites we visited, again space is at a premium so I danced in many a hallway that night. After a while the jet lag hit us and decided to throw in the towel on our fun time. Rather than wait for the night bus, which was scheduled every half an hour or so we opted to cab it back to the hotel.
You can fit up to 5 people in the taxis; if you split the fare it is quite reasonable. We enjoyed the quick ride back to our home for the night. It was a very different experience seeing London during the wee hours. I had never been out in this city that late before even though I love to boogie. It is rare to have the perfect storm of a crew who will stay up late dancing the night away. I hope Sarah had fun and for just awhile say how our job can be great for her giving her much-needed time to decompress from everyday life as a mum.