England 2023 Trip Report Day One
A bit of background on this trip:
In January of this year my favorite band of the last 35+ years (Europe) put tickets on sale for their latest tour. They were calling it the Time Capsule tour and it was celebrating the 40 year anniversary of the release of their first album. It was promised to be a deep dive into all of their hits but also some of the fan favorites that were never released as singles. Billed as an intimate night with the band it was for smaller venues with a much more up close and personal style.
The unfortunate part of all of this was that, as usual, they would not be touring the US. I was really bummed because this was the tour I really wanted to see.
I had seen them twice in 2005 in Anaheim and San Diego when they reunited and again in 2016 when they came to San Jose but that was the extent of the US tours since they got back together (I was just shy of being old enough to be allowed to go to rock concerts when they first toured the US in 1986 and 87).
In 2020 they were going to tour in the states as an opening act for Kansas and Foreigner. We had tickets and even passes for the meet and greet (It was a part of our 4 part 20 year anniversary present to ourselves–Harry Potter at Universal Studios, Europe Concert, 20 year vow renewal in Vegas and Harry Potter Play in San Francisco) and while I was excited about that, it wasn’t the tour I wanted. I didn’t want to see them as an opening act. They have 11 albums worth of songs and to see that smushed into a 30-45 minute set, while worth it, would just leave me wanting more.
At any rate, it never happened because COVID did. The shows were cancelled and Europe never rescheduled any dates in the US.
Feeling super sorry for myself for not being able to see the Time Capsule tour, the date that the tickets went on sale for the UK shows I was popping on the website and seeing how quickly the tickets were going. I put in VIP tickets for two and was able to get really good seats. I played around with all the different venues (they played a lot of UK shows) and then I decided fuck it, I’m doing this.
I was willing to waste money that I shouldn’t just to have an off chance that all the stars in the universe might align and I would be able to see this show.
My husband and I have a friend that lived near Manchester. We had visited her right after 9/11 (we were scheduled to fly out the day after but it was delayed by two weeks understandably, but that is a story for a different time) and hadn’t seen her since. I figured it was a wonderful opportunity to visit with her again and give me more of an excuse to sell this to the husband when I told him I bought the tickets. Oh, did I mention I spent this money on the tickets without discussing it with my long suffering husband first? Yeah, that happened.
So I picked the Manchester show and bought the tickets. Second row, dead center with the VIP package that included access to the soundcheck before the show, signed posters and a VIP lanyard.
I got the insurance on the tickets but it said that you could only basically get your money back if you got COVID or had some sort of natural disaster prevent you from getting there. No matter, I’d figure it out.
Two weeks later I found the right time to mention it to the husband who was, understandably, less than thrilled.
He enjoys the band and knew straight away when he first met me 24 years ago that I was (unhealthily?) obsessed with them. Over the years he has bought me all kinds of memorabilia that hang on our walls to this day, but while he “gets it” I’m not sure he fully understands my infatuation and that’s okay.
When I was a kid I didn’t have the best childhood (I know, who did right? Boo hoo). But when I discovered this band at age 13 or 14, it gave me an escape. Listening to their music was the one thing I could do that would transport me to another place, if only in my head, for a few hours and get me out of the hell I was living in. I’ve never forgotten that and I never will.
Over the years I feel that the music has just gotten better. I’m so grateful to still have that escape, even though my life has improved vastly, and I will always be thankful to them and never be able to repay them for the good they have provided in my life.
Having said all that, my husband is a reasonable man, but also very frugal and did not see the benefit of buying tickets to a concert in a foreign country that we would now have to plan a trip to.
But he loves me and asked that I let him digest the information.
When we reconvened on it some weeks later, he had warmed to the idea a bit but was disappointed to find out that our friend that lived in Manchester had moved. To Spain.
So now we had tickets to a show in a place we had no real interest in going.
I asked him if he wanted to see if I could sell the Manchester tickets and get some for one of the two London shows they were doing. He was agreeable to that, if they seats would be comparable to the ones that we already had.
I looked it up and I could still get second row, but off to the left side, which I was fine with so we agreed that was better and I bought them.
Once the location was in a more touristy area with more things to do, I could see him get much more excited about the trip. He also told me that he had thought about it and he realized that the Europe concert from 2020 was the one thing from our 20 year anniversary that we had not been able to complete and this would bring it around full circle. Also, he said that I rarely asked to go anywhere vacation wise unless it was Vegas or Maine and that once he put that in perspective, he was much more amenable to the idea.
He then asked me if I would like to keep the tickets to the Manchester show and see both shows (Instant regret showed on his face as soon as he asked this ).
Ummmm…who are you asking? OF COURSE I WOULD!!! I’d see every single show on this tour if I could!
And so it was to be. We planned a trip to England, staying in London with a one night side visit to Manchester.
With 9 months to plan it, I think it worked out pretty well with a good amount of touristy stuff and rest all wrapped up together.
Woke up on Thursday morning around 4:30 or so to get an hour long workout in. I’ve recently lost 135 pounds and exercise has been a major part of that. An hour is less than I do on a normal day but on this day it was more about calming my anxiety and less about burning calories, though I knew I was going to be eating plenty of those as the day wore on. I’m not a good flier. I am afraid of heights and have pretty bad anxiety on a good day. The last two years of working out have done wonders for my fears and phobias, but when it comes to a biggie like flying, I still get really anxious.
We had packed the night before other than the essential last minute morning things so there was little else to do but shower, load up the van and get the dogs off to the vet to be boarded. We knew we would be in a hurry so we pre filled out all the paperwork the day before so drop off only took a minute or two.
Then it was off to Rob’s dads house where he was waiting and ready to take us to the Marina drop off for the airplane shuttle bus.
We had to go early because my father in law was expecting workers to come replace some windows at his house. We didn’t mind, because he was doing us a favor and it worked out well as we had time while waiting for the shuttle to call AT&T and get our international plan activated on our phones.
We also had a lovely chat with an older woman named Candy who was going to the San Jose airport to head off to Vegas for the PBR event. When Vegas is a common bond, there is always plenty to talk about.
The shuttle was thankfully uneventful (did I mention I have a fear of freeways as well?) and we got to the San Francisco airport about four hours early for our flight.
We just basically hung out near our gate and chatted until it was time to board.
Last month I had a sedation dentistry appointment (another fear) to get my two front teeth replaced (crowns). I mention this because they had given me two Valium pills to take the night before in case I had trouble sleeping. I had been able to get to sleep just fine that night so with no use for the prescribed use of those pills, I had a little friend in my pocket.
I took half of one and holy crap that was a Godsend. Didn’t make me loopy but really made the take off (the worst part for me) painless and almost enjoyable. Rob was like: “Who are you???” because I was laughing and joking the whole time when I’d normally be cutting off the circulation in his hand for the first half hour of the flight.
The flight was nine and a half hours but it really passed quickly for me. We got lucky and there was no other person in our three seat row so we were able to spread out and relax. There was also no turbulence to speak of and lots of movies available to watch. I finally got to see Are You There God? It’s me Margaret.” (a book I read multiple times as a child) and also a couple stand up comedy specials.
Unfortunately, sleep eluded me.
As we got close to landing they rushed everyone into clean up mode and the flight staff took their seats stating we were heading into bad weather and it was going to get really bumpy.
I braced myself for an anxiety filled hour but other than a couple of bumps right after the announcement it was smooth sailing. Thank goodness!
Once we landed we had to clear this automated passport check thingie. That took quite a while simply because there were soooo many people in line, but after that we got our bags and away we went.
I thought customs would take forever but I guess the passport thing was all we needed to do as we breezed right through the exit with no questions asked of us.
Once we were out we bought an Oyster card for the underground and traveled the hour by Subway to get to our hotel. I have to go on record as saying that I really, REALLY appreciate the transit system in England, just as I did the one in Korea when we went a few years ago. It simplifies things so very much and really keeps the spending down on having to take Ubers or cabs.
Once off the tube it was a short walk to the hotel. We were early but they said our room should be ready in a few minutes. They also waived to early check in fee, so that was nice.
We went into a corner of the lobby and about ten minutes later we were told our room was ready and up we went.
The room was small but not horribly cramped. It was stuffy though and the window didn’t appear to open, nor did the air conditioning appear to work. I was pretty sure it was going to be one of those situations like we had had at the Four Queens one winter in Vegas where they just shut off the air conditioning to a whole tower and when we complained we were told to basically suck it up. It wasn’t horribly warm, but I could tell it would get bad when we used the shower given how small the room was, but that was a problem for later.
(Full disclosure, these pics were taken a couple days after we arrived because I forgot to take any when we first got there, too tired.)
We settled in and unpacked the best we could with no drawer space and then Rob caught a nap.
I decided to go explore the neighborhood while he slept, so I went on a walkabout to check out the shopping and restaurants nearby.
I also picked up dinner from the place downstairs and by the time I got back it was time to eat and hit the sack, having been up for over 24 hours.
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