Monday, December 5, 2016

Memories of London Heathrow Layovers

Long Walkway Terminal 3 Heathrow
Upon returning from several days of hiking parts of the Cotswold Way with my wife Stacey, I thought it best to spend our last evening at a Heathrow area hotel. Leaving directly from Selsley would necessitate leaving around 3:00am, riding via train and coach, to check in on time for our 9:20am departure; besides, I wanted to see what the Skyline Hotel (now named the Skyline Sheraton) looked like, some 45 years later. Yes, I was among the first guests to stay there after it opened in 1971. The rest of the crew stayed at hotels in Kensington, but us DCSs had an earlier check-in, so we stayed at the Skyline. Some time ago the hotel was downgraded from its original five-star, to a four-star rating. The exterior basically remains the same. Inside, there’s now a much longer front desk at the reception area. Diamond Lil's Saloon is now a sports bar, however the rustic wood entry remains, a leftover from the former Yukon motif. The lounge at the indoor pool area, where I consumed many drinks while “chatting it up” with Nino the barman, other DCSs and some rather intriguing folks, has changed little. 

Skyline Hotel Bar 1971
No longer are there sunken bar stools (in the water) on one half of the circular bar. Nor are there any more live birds singing from the trees under the glass dome. The roving steel band is also a thing of the past.  Needless to say, there are no longer more than a hundred Pan Am “stewardesses” laying over there each evening—as were in the good ole days.
Stacey and I arrived at an empty bar, shortly after seven pm. The barman (who took our picture) told us he had a full bar earlier, before the patrons left for a group dinner. It was a rather haunting, but rewarding feeling, just sitting there with my wife—and my memories—with no other patrons or guests around. 

 Skyline 45 years later

The next morning, our Delta flight departed from Terminal Three’s gate F21. How very coincidental! Back when I worked TW761 to LAX, it usually departed from nearby gate 22. Now, as then, that end of the “F” concourse continues to be the longest hike from the main Terminal Three departure lounge. The two long walkways, with a moving sidewalk on one side, haven't changed one iota (see photo above). Now, passengers have rollers on their carry-on bags. Back in the early seventies, such a common-sense modification to luggage was mostly non-existent. Being too macho to rent a baggage trolley, I lugged my bag and flight kit all the way. Maybe that’s why I occasionally get spinal injections years later for pinched and slipped vertebrae.

My soon-to-be-finished memoir recalls numerous ‘eventful’ layovers at LHR, with many scenes taking place in the Skyline, and later at the Sheraton, further down Bath Road.

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