If you've ever flown to Europe (or another continent, for that matter), you know that the flights last eight hours or more. That wouldn't be so bad if the airlines didn't try to cram 500 people into baby seats jammed into metal cylinders designed to hold half of that amount comfortably. Add in screaming kids, hacking adults, droning engines and reclining seats in your lap, and, well, you get my drift.
Overseas flights usually leave in the evening — 6:00 to 9:00 PM on average — so by the time the flight attendants finish serving dinner, it's bedtime. I don't sleep well on planes. Sleeping pills which normally knock me out in five minutes at home have no effect on me when we fly, so I spend the better portion of our flights listening to Mike's snoring compete with the plane engines. By the time we land, I'm exhausted, cranky and looking forward to falling into our hotel bed for a power nap.
Of course, that isn't always possible. There aren't too many direct flights to mainland Europe from Las Vegas these days, so layovers are the rule rather than the exception. Unfortunately, layovers seem to be longer rather than shorter these days, too. I mentioned the other day that we had a layover in Helsinki's Vantaa Airport the last time we flew to Europe. It lasted more than eight hours. The memories make my back hurt.
The experience wasn't horrible, but it certainly wasn't fun. Vantaa is a bright, spacious airport, and all of the public areas in the terminal are sparsely decorated and filled with plain and simple furniture. The terminal in which we were stuck has a few stores, a few restaurants and a few seating areas. It's beautiful, functional, and extremely uncomfortable if you have to stay there more than 15 minutes.
We spent most of our time in the restaurant where I took the photo at the top of this post and from where I took the photo of the terminal (left). We had a small lunch there, although I can't recall what it was (other than over-priced). Mike tried to snooze a little, and I just tried to stay comfortable while my iPod charged wirelessly. (See the photo below. All I had to do is plug the donut-thingy into the iPod and throw it on the bar.) A few hours before our flight to Italy, we left the restaurant, walked up-and-down the terminal, had more coffee, and tried to find a seat near the gate from which our flight was leaving. By the time we got to Italy, we'd been up over 25 hours, and we were both cranky.
Our stopover this year is at London Heathrow. While it's not as long as the Vantaa stop, it's still quite long at five hours. Hoping that Heathrow would have more than Vantaa, I checked out what we can expect for our British hiatus. The five terminals offer a variety of different amenities that include spas, shops, galleries, lounges, and restaurants. In addition, there are a few places that offer free hand massages, mini-facials, and more. Interestingly, Heathrow also offers different types of rooms where one can sleep for a couple of hours before moving on.
This layover may not be so bad after all.