Sunday, September 11, 2011

African Trip Review - LHR: Star Alliance Gold Lounge

We landed at Heathrow a bit earlier than scheduled and we had a few hours to kill until our flight back home to Chicago.  MS wanted to spend some time shopping at Duty Free, which I must admit Heathrow had a nice shopping promenade, but Duty Free doesn't really do it for me.  MS really like Thomas Pink shirts -- which are nice, but not a real steal even at Duty Free.

The one thing on my list for the layover in Heathrow was to fully take advantage of the Star Alliance Lounge. I have never had a shower at the lounge before and I figured after a safari drive, two flights and nearly 24 hours of traveling, nothing is better than a shower.  We walked into the lounge (after a little hiccup with our boarding passes) and were surprised by the near complete silence -- there were so many people in the lounge...all crowded around the TVs.  As we approached the large TVs we noticed a few people sobbing, quietly -- others trembling while holding on to walls or each other.  We see the TVs are all showing the quake damaged nuclear plants in Japan.  Upon further inspection all the sobbing people were Japanese.  The flights to Tokyo were cancelled that day.  Japan was on the brink -- I cannot imagine what that would be like. You are on your way home to find that you cannot return -- that perhaps you might never be able to return, that your family may be dead or worse.

We decided a shower was definitely in order -- we could catch up on the news after we freshened up.  We wouldn't have done this, I do believe, if the disaster was in the US or we had friends in the area.

While less important now than before we arrived in London, the showers were absolutely amazing.  The room was small, but had a private toilet, a sink and a shower. The room was also equipped with soaps and shampoos.  The water pressure was great and the temperature was perfect.  Any time I have access to a lounge shower, I will use it. I had a scalding hot shower, a shave and brushed my teeth (for about 40 minutes it seemed like). I felt like a new man -- except that I forgot to bring a change a clothes in my carry on.  While my body was clean, my clothes were filthy -- but it still made for a nicer return flight to Chicago.

After showering we ate a brief breakfast and watch the news -- utterly silent and thankful for what we have and what we were returning to.

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