Instead of a cab to the airport, the YHA booked me a hired car which was only 32 pounds as opposed to 60-70 for a minicab. I fell asleep for most of the journey to Heathrow, where we arrived before 5:30. So I basically didn't have to queue for anything. I sped through the VAT refunds, the check-in, and the security counters. Terminal 4, where Etihad takes off from, isn't the biggest terminal, so it didn't have that many opportunities for me to further work my debit card. I did get some things from Harrods though, because you can't get them in Australia, they're good quality (given that the bag I bought for my mum in 2005 is still going strong despite her using it at least weekly), and they were sightly cheaper than usual due to being duty-free.
I was also hungry so I had some porridge from "apostrophe cafe". Porridge always makes me feel so English. I still had time to kill so I wandered over to a newsagent and ended up buying a 2-pound copy of Cosmo UK. (What?!? I like the fashion sections!)
As soon as I settled into my seat on the first flight to Abu Dhabi, I fell asleep. I literally only woke up when my food came (earlier than everyone else's because I order veg meals...it's easier than specifying no red meat and no processed meats). And there was a ridiculous amount of food - for some reason, Etihad consider sandwiches to be snacks. Seriously? I thought a snack was a teaspoon-sized packet of peanuts. I did wake up properly for the landing though, which was annoying because some baby screamed continuously for about 20 minutes while we descended and the air pressure changed. And you know how crying is contagious with babies? Something about how the hive response will save them from danger if I recall correctly? Yeah, it wasn't pretty.
I've never flown through Abu Dhabi before so I didn't know what to expect. I was faced with a 10-minute trek through the airport to the "Transfers" area, where all our hand luggage had to be re-scanned. I was actually afraid that I'd be slow to my transfer, but they were surprisingly efficient (they didn't make us unpack our bags and take our laptops/liquids out for inspection, and very few people had to walk back through the metal detector a second time).
The second flight was the long one. But it was a really good 14 hours! I had the window seat and one guy had the aisle seat and there was nobody between us! Furthermore, the two kids in front of us (a baby boy and a preschool-age girl) were beautifully behaved. They dropped a few things (pillows, socks, etc) behind them which I picked up, but their father thanked me, and the baby boy gave me the cutest smile every time! (I'm not much of a baby person compared to my friends, but this icy heart will occasionally melt...)
Again, there was way too much food, but somehow I managed to get through it all (despite handing most of my trays to my brother when we flew to England in December). I guess three days of not eating lunch to save money helped give me an appetite. Plus, my parents don't order me vegetarian meals when we fly as a family, so if we're sitting at the back of the plane, I often have no choice and get served something I don't eat. Anyway, Etihad had this really amazing eggplant stew thing that is making me crave eggplant as I write this.
I don't know much about planes, but I was impressed by how soft the landings were on Etihad. I barely noticed them (or perhaps I was more sleep-deprived than I would like to admit). Anyway, I had to wait a really long time for my baggage to appear but everything was intact, so yay! Then I went out to wait for my mother and brother in the pickup area, and nobody complained about how heavy my suitcase was!
The first thing I did when I got home was shower! Oh, glorious, uncomplicated mixer tap with a strong, non-pulsatile stream! And only then did I start unpacking 2 months of memories.
Thanks for reading!