As airports go, I have to say that Newcastle is usually pretty great, probably the only one in which I consistently encounter smiley security staff. The guy working this morning, however, seemed to think it was hilarious to loudly leer at women passing through and suggest he might decide that their shirts pose a security threat so that he could make them go through topless.
Skeevy staff aside, I made it down to London without incident and met up with Fi, and even had a nicely quick dash across from Gatwick to Heathrow.
Fi and our mountain of luggage at Heathrow
The flight to Chicago was quite painful. It seems British Airways still have some planes with the old-fashioned entertainment systems where the movies play at set times only. I haven't seen these systems since about 2005 and had hoped they were extinct. The fun (?) part, of course, is that they don't tell you when the movies are starting -- I assume the point is that you can entertain yourself trying to work out what happened in the first half-hour of the movie? Lacking enough brain function to even follow a linear story after my lack of sleep, I tuned in for about an hour in the middle of something I'd already seen (The Hunger Games) and then, realising the resolution of the screen was only a fraction of what you can get on a phone, gave up and did some work instead. Now that's desperation.
Fortunately, we now don't have to get on another plane for three and a half weeks, which is a glorious thing indeed!
We took a shuttle straight from the airport to the hotel (in which every single passenger turned out to be going to Chicon), washed the plane off, registered for the con (the badges are very cool, although they do seem to contain an alarming number of lines from the address field of the database!) and then had a quick explore in search of dinner.
We only went out for a couple of hours, but already I have made two Startling Discoveries:
1. Chicago seems to have some sort of weird extra season that we don't get in England. It involves this yellow ball of fire high up in the sky, and the sky itself is this strange bright blue colour. And it's warm enough outside to walk around without a jacket! Although you still need to carry the jacket with you to cope with the freezing air conditioning indoors.
2. I can't believe this isn't in all the guide books, but Chicago has the coolest car parks:
I assume the bottom of the river is littered with the rusted shells of those that reversed too far?
And if we've learned this much within a block of our hotel, just imagine what the next 3,000 miles might bring!
Our final burst of energy of the day went into locating Gino's East to investigate the famous deep dish pizza. This is a restaurant with a brilliant approach to interior design: why invest in expensive painters when you can have customers decorate your walls for free?
I would probably look more enthused if I could remember what sleep was.
It also gives you something to do in the hour it takes them to make the pizza, besides the kids' puzzles on the back of the menu. We left our marks, of course, and I learned that someone from France visited this restaurant on my birthday nine years ago. I hope they had a good time.
I cannot speak highly enough of the food. We only ordered a small pizza between us, and even then I only managed one slice, but it was the best slice of pizza I have ever tasted. I've never tried deep dish pizza before, but I'm definitely a fan of putting the cheese on the bottom.
The 'deep' in the name is to be taken literally.
Chicago's made a good first impression, but right now I'm quite fond of the idea of sleep. Lots to see tomorrow, and I believe there's a convention starting as well...