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Big business in Poland, part ten

At last, it was Friday… the last day of my husband’s big Polish business trip. It promised to be a weird day, since our flight didn’t leave until 7:00pm and check out at the Sofitel was at noon. Fortunately, the staff at the Sofitel granted Bill’s request for a late checkout, so we had use of the room until 3:00pm, even though the hotel was booked. As it turned out, I didn’t need the room beyond noon. The weather was nice, so I decided to walk around the main square and check out the Christmas market, which opened that day. I dropped off a bag with the hotel staff and set out on my last Polish adventure.

First, I was going to have lunch. Originally, I thought I’d go back to the Doctors’ Bar, but for some reason, they appeared to be closed on Friday. Maybe they had a special event, since it looked like it was open, but the door was locked. So then I decided to find another place, which took some time, since I couldn’t decide what I wanted. I hate eating in restaurants alone, because I feel awkward. Eventually, I ended up at a place called Steak ‘N Roll, which appeared to be a steak joint loosely modeled after the Hard Rock Cafe.

There wasn’t any rock star memorabilia on the walls or gimmicky cocktails on the menu, but they were playing rock music on the sound system as they showed unrelated muted rock videos on the monitor. The music and videos were reminiscent of Hard Rock Cafe… and, in fact, I think the music was my favorite part about the experience, which ended up being kind of disappointing.

A tall young man invited me to sit down and handed me a menu in English. I asked him for a large draft beer. He said all they had was dark beer, which was fine with me. He went to get the beer and set it down, then asked if I was ready to order food. I wasn’t, because I was having trouble deciding what I wanted. I kind of didn’t want another burger, but it was either that, a Reuben sandwich, or a steak. They had other stuff on the menu that didn’t really appeal… salads, soups, fish bowls, and such.

I wasn’t sure I wanted a steak for lunch, and didn’t know if I had enough cash, although they do accept credit cards. I don’t really care for Reubens because of the sauerkraut, which I knew would result in a very windy flight. I just wanted a sandwich, and nothing jumped out at me as especially appealing. I asked the guy for another minute or two, which seemed to put him off a bit, even though there was only one other party in the dining room.

After a couple of minutes, the waiter came back and asked for my order. I decided to have the Classic BBQ burger, which consisted of a patty with cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, BBQ sauce, and mustard seed mayonnaise. This is not really the way I like my burgers, but the only other regular burger choice was the Alamo Burger, which came with mustard seed & mayonnaise sauce, nachos, cheddar, bacon, tomato salsa, jalapeno, and lettuce. That sounded like a recipe for indigestion. Or I could have had a vegan burger, which came with goat cheese, lavender mustard, rucola, beetroot, and nuts… and that didn’t appeal to me, either. Side note: wouldn’t goat cheese render that burger non vegan?

Once I ordered, the waiter came back with a basket of grilled bread and a side of truffle spread. I’m sure a lot of people love the truffle spread and, in fact, Bill probably would have eaten all of it if he’d been with me. Unfortunately, I have a demonic hatred/phobia of mushrooms and truffles. Just having that spread near me was giving me the willies. I don’t enjoy the aroma of truffles, either, so I left the spread untouched and pushed it far away from me. I know a lot of people think this is crazy. Believe me, my life would have been so much easier if I didn’t hate fungus so much.

Finally, the burger arrived, along with a side of steak fries, which looked really good. However, just like the burger I’d had earlier in the week, the sandwich was too big to bite into. I had to cut it, which made a bit of a mess. Also, they had really slathered on a ton of the mustard seed mayonnaise, so much so that it was dripping copiously from the side in big glops. I don’t know what the deal is with mayo in parts of Europe, but I’ve found that people over here seem to love it and really load their burgers up with it.

I didn’t think the burger was as good as the one I’d had at Doctors’ Bar. The patty didn’t taste very fresh and had been molded, rather than hand shaped. The steak fries looked appealing, but had kind of a weird aftertaste, like maybe the were fried in old oil or something. As I was finishing up, the waiter asked me if I wanted dessert. They had a three items that looked appealing, but I decided I’d rather have another beer. By that point, they also had a lager, which the waiter offered. I told him I wanted another dark beer. I got up to go to the bathroom and when I came back, I found that he’d left me a small beer, even though I’d said I wanted another one and meant I’d wanted one just like the one I was drinking.

So I decided to just finish up and get out of there. I asked for the check, which the guy brought to me. The total was 61 zloty, so I put down a 100 zloty bill and asked him to bring me 30 zloty back. Instead, he brought back the whole amount and said, rather curtly, “Here’s the rest of it.” I kind of sighed and gave the guy a ten zloty note and went on my way. He did kind of smile at that. It occurred to me that he probably didn’t want the coins… who knows? The experience left me in kind of a bad mood, though. I wished I had just eaten shashlik at the stand in the Christmas market that was set up just outside. I probably would have had a better experience.

After I ate, I had a couple of hours to kill. I walked around the main square and took pictures of the Christmas market stalls I’d watched workers constructing all week. I’m glad I got to see them open before we left, although I didn’t end up buying anything. There was nothing there that I couldn’t live without and/or couldn’t buy in Germany. Still, the Christmas markets are kind of cool, and it was interesting to see one in Poland. Here are some photos.

I went back to the hotel a little bit before three and parked myself in the lobby to wait for Bill and his co-worker, who would be sharing a taxi ride to the airport. They got to the hotel at just after 3:00, and we started our journey back to Germany. Our cab driver turned out to be an older Polish guy who spoke broken English and wanted to bond over rock music.

We got in the car and he proceeded to speak to the men and ignore me. Actually, if I had been in a slightly less irritated mood, I probably would have enjoyed talking to him. He told us about how he’d grown up in Poland during the communist era and went to university when Americans weren’t friends. He studied German, because although English was available, learning it wasn’t all that encouraged. What a difference a few decades make. We ran into so many English speakers in Poland. I was shocked by the difference between 2008 and 2019.

Anyway, the guy kept listing all of his favorite English speaking rock bands… Rush (which he noted is Canadian), Metallica, Journey, and curiously, he even mentioned Blondie, but he wasn’t sure if Debbie Harry was American. He had no way of knowing that I was probably the biggest music buff in his taxi. Bill asked me about Ms. Harry’s citizenship, and I confirmed that she’s from the United States. The taxi creeped along, because Wroclaw has terrible traffic during rush hour and the roads are in the process of being expanded into two lanes. My mood was still slightly sour, mainly because I felt like a third wheel sitting there while Bill and his buddy chatted up the taxi driver.

We finally got to the super nice airport in Wroclaw, and this time, I did not get bumped from business class. I was allowed to use the lounge, but ended up hanging out with Bill and his co-worker at a restaurant. The co-worker turned out to be interesting to talk to, since he’s from Georgia and has a strong accent, but is quite liberal. We were lamenting that Trump is our president, and he told me about his plans to buy homes in different European countries and just rotate from house to house every ninety days. He’s already bought a house in Italy and is looking to buy ones in Germany and England. I’m not sure how well his plan will work, nor do I think it’s very practical, but I can understand the attraction of simply hanging out in Europe for awhile. I’m inclined to do that myself.

Our flight was okay. I was seated in 1A, which was not any more comfortable than any other seat on the small airplane, but had an empty seat next to it. I also got food, which on Lufthansa is at least somewhat edible. Actually, it wasn’t bad at all. We had some kind of guacamole like salad, hummus, panna cotta, chocolates, bread, and red wine. One thing I didn’t like about my seat, though, was that it was right next to the lavatory. At one point, a woman got up to use the toilet and neglected to close the door after herself when she was finished. I happened to be eating when this occurred, so I had a nice view of the toilet while I was chowing down on hummus.

But there was also a very kind flight attendant on board who was very solicitous to me. When I mentioned her to Bill, he knew which one I was talking about, because he’d also noticed how good she was. I’m always heartened when I run into flight attendants who are genuinely pleasant and seem concerned about giving good service as well as maintaining safety. I wish I could have seen her nametag. She’s one for whom I would send compliments to Lufthansa– a true credit to her profession.

We were quick to retrieve our luggage and on our way home before too long. Bill was smart enough to park in “business parking”, which is well worth the expense, and actually comes out cheaper than regular parking, anyway. On Saturday, Arran came back home and was delighted to be with his people again.

I wish we could have done more while we were in Wroclaw. It’s a great city, and I didn’t get to see enough of it. However, I think there could be a chance we’ll come back on our own terms, bringing our own vehicle with us so we can get out and about and try some of the city’s tourist attractions. I particularly would have loved to have sees Hydropolis, which is a museum about water near Wroclaw. And, of course, there are still some places in the area around Wroclaw that I’d like to visit, but with Bill in tow. It’s just a lot more fun to visit these places with someone else.

Next up– ten things I learned in Wroclaw, Poland.

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Paul Simon or bust… Our Dublin getaway! Part ten

Monday morning, we woke up bright and early for our trip back to Germany.  Bill had scheduled a wake up call for 7:00am, but we were already wide awake by the time the phone rang.  He’d also ordered a cab for 8:00am, but we were ready to go at about 7:30am.  In retrospect, I wish we’d had one last breakfast at the marvelous Merrion Hotel, even though it would have added another 60 euros to our bill.  I had forgotten that the lounges at the Dublin Airport are all purpose and kind of suck.  Our last visit to Dublin was in November 2016 and I had forgotten about the lounge, which is kind of grubby and crowded.

I had prepaid for the room with the plane tickets.  I booked the trip through Expedia and I think it came to about $3,000, including four nights in a five star hotel, business class flights on Lufthansa, and trip insurance in case we couldn’t go for some reason.  When we checked out, we paid another 438 euros for food and bar.  That was actually less than I was expecting.  Could we have done it cheaper?  Of course!  But I wanted this to be a really nice experience, and it was.  The Merrion Hotel certainly deserves all of the accolades it gets.  I’d stay again… if I can afford it, that is!  Seriously, if you’re going to Dublin and want to splurge, the Merrion Hotel is a great bet for that.

We had yet another entertaining ride to the airport with cab driver who told us he was one of eleven children.  He said back in the 60s, there was no TV, so what else were you gonna do with your time?  He was a very nice fellow who bid us a sincere farewell.  I think Ireland is one of those places where you have many friends you haven’t yet met.  It’s got to be one of the friendliest countries I’ve ever visited… and at times, I felt like I was back in the USA.  Lots of Americans were in Dublin, too.

Obviously, other people wondered if that all purpose lounge was seriously the only one…  Oh well.  It had free WiFi, fruits, cheeses, drinks, and limited seating space.  In the morning, there’s no beer to be had, but they do stock it later.  Don’t ask me how I know.

 

Our flight to Munich was populated with a lot of Italian teenagers.  I guess they were in Ireland for the same reason the Spanish teens were there– to learn English.  This, even though English is Ireland’s second language.  It’s easy to forget that Irish is a language, too.  The flight was trouble free and pleasant, complete with food…

The flight attendant seemed nervous about giving me this tray of food.  It wasn’t bad.  The cookies were extras from coach because she was afraid I wouldn’t like it.  There was burrata, a shrimp with asparagus slices, wurst with pickles, and some kind of vanilla mousse that was pretty tasty.  I also got hot bread and white wine.

 

We had a two hour layover at Munich’s fabulous airport.  Given a choice, I think I’d take Munich over Frankfurt.  It’s just a nicer place to spend time.  The guy who checked our passports at passport control seemed confused by the concept of the Status of Forces Agreement.  But, to his credit, he figured things out quickly and sent us on our way.  We hung out in the Lufthansa Business lounge for an hour, then got our rinky dink flight back to Stuttgart.  It took about twenty minutes and yes, they fed us.  Actually, it was a nice snack consisting of part of a wrap, a brownie with nuts, caramel, and cherry filling, and grapes.  Seems crazy to wait two hours for a twenty minute flight, but it is what it is.

A couple of sky shots I took.  I think I got these on the first flight from Dublin.

When we got to Stuttgart, our bags were the first ones off the plane.  We grabbed them, got to our car, and drove to Max’s just in time to hit Stuttgart rush hour traffic.  Zane and Arran were delighted to see us and Max gave us the lowdown on what we need to discuss with their vet.  He really does take excellent care of the boys and they love going to see him, although sometimes I leave his place feeling like a negligent dog mom.  But I’d rather it be like that than worry that my dogs aren’t being taken care of and I know he does take great care of them.

I don’t know when our next trip will be.  I’m hoping to visit Armenia in the fall, if we can get enough time off and Max has availability for the dogs.  But we’ll have to see if we can pull it off.  For now, I’ll get back to blogging about restaurants and local fun stuff.  Stay tuned!

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Celebrating 14 years in Ireland! Part two

On the morning of November 11th, we dropped off Zane and Arran at Dog Holiday.  Zane and Arran have stayed at this dog hotel several times and always have a good experience there.  I had left some medication for the dogs, along with peanut butter to help them take it.  At first, Max the proprietor didn’t want to use the peanut butter because he says it’s too messy and full of sugar.  I will admit I got a little pissy, mainly because I use peanut butter that is all natural and contains nothing but peanuts.  Whitley’s Peanuts in my hometown of Gloucester, Virginia sells amazing products that are very high quality.  Max was under the impression that I was giving my dogs Peter Pan or Jif.  No way!

I was on edge as we were leaving Stuttgart.  Zane just had surgery to remove a mast cell tumor.  I hadn’t been expecting the news that his lump had been cancerous, so I was upset.  Having someone imply that I feed my dogs junk didn’t sit right with me, but I’m sure Max meant well.

Having dropped off the dogs, Bill and I made our way to the airport.  We were there very early for our flight to Munich, which was set to leave at 12:50pm.  We did the self-check in at a kiosk, which sort of confused us because I think it might have been for people who weren’t checking luggage.  Because I booked business class, Bill and I were entitled to check two bags each at no extra charge.  We had planned to check one bag each, but I decided I’d rather not lug around the bag I usually use as a carry on, since the only thing in it I would need was an iPad.  It turned out to be a good decision to check three bags between us.

The very helpful Lufthansa agent pointed us to a dedicated security line for first and business class passengers, as well as the Lufthansa Lounge.  Since I was a bit hungry and we were in no hurry, we decided to stop for something to eat before we went through security.

Salmon tapas and a croissant!

 

We had a quick bite at the Italian cafe in Terminal 2, which I paired with some prosecco.  The salmon and shrimp salad was great for boosting my blood sugar a bit.

The priority security lane…  there was even a red carpet there!

 

Even though our security line was supposed to be “priority”, it was crowded.  It took some time to get through the process, made slightly more annoying because I was having trouble understanding instructions.  One of the agents said something to me that I couldn’t quite hear.  Even if I could hear it, I wouldn’t have necessarily understood it.  I finally said, “Sorry, I’m American.”  She switched to English and I finally got what I was supposed to do.  A sharp eyed agent spotted that my car key fob had fallen out of my purse.  When I went to claim it, he asked if I was sure it was mine.  I was sure, especially since it was apparent that no one else in the security line drove a Mini Cooper.

Once we got through security, we made our way to Stuttgart Airport’s Lufthansa business class lounge.  The lounge is actually in two parts.  There’s the Senate Lounge, which I guess is for very high priority passengers with first class tickets or many Lufthansa miles.  And there’s the Business Lounge, which is for business class passengers and fewer Lufthansa miles.  This was the first time either Bill or I have ever accessed the Business Lounge for any airline, so it was a new experience for us.  To access the lounge, show the agent your ticket.  It will be scanned and you can then go in and enjoy peace, quiet, comfortable seating, food, and drinks.  The lounge offers light snacks, including fruit, soup, and salads, as well as what looked like Chex mix.  They also have wine, beer, whiskey, schnapps, soda, water, coffee and tea.  It’s all included in the price of your ticket, so you can help yourself.

WiFi is free in the lounge and easy to access.  There are also computer desks, free newspapers, and a couple of TVs tuned to the news.  There’s a bathroom right outside the lounge that is clean and quiet.  You can even charge your phone up there without even entering the lounge.  That’s handy information for anyone who’s running low on juice and can’t find an electrical outlet.  I must admit, it was a pleasure to spend our time in the lounge.  It was probably one of the nicest of the business class “perks” we enjoyed on our flights to Dublin.

Bill enjoys an Italian red wine while he reads the paper in Lufthansa’s lounge.

 

I had been a little apprehensive about out flight to Munich, since I wasn’t able to pre-select our seats.  I needn’t have worried, though.  Bill and I were given seats 1A and 2A.  Although I’m sure no one would have minded had Bill sat next to me, another Lufthansa perk is that the seat next to you stays empty.  Since there were only two seats to a side of each row, he was seated behind me instead of next to me.

“Free space”

Peek a boo!

Our flight from Stuttgart to Munich was running late, but it was only scheduled to be only thirty minutes, anyway.  Nevertheless, I was very impressed by the service on that particular flight.  The flight attendants were excellent, not just to the four of us in “business class”, but to everyone on the flight.

We were even served meals, though I opted not to eat mine.  This was Bill’s meal.  Note the real silverware and plates.  He said the food was pretty good.  As for me, I enjoyed two beers in thirty minutes.  They were small ones, though– 25 ml. each.

 

We landed in Munich and had just enough time to rush to passport control, where there was a pretty good sized line.  Actually, we got there just in time, since the line got much longer minutes after we arrived.  The passport agent asked me if I had a European passport after she noted how long I’ve been in Germany.  I mentioned SOFA; she found the card; and we were on our way.

Our flight to Dublin was set to last about two hours.  The one thing about that flight that I liked was that we had a separate entrance that served the six of us sitting in business class.  Other than that, I can’t say the business class experience from Munich to Dublin was that special.

We were served a meal not long after takeoff.  This was a light chicken and shrimp salad with mango.  It was surprisingly good for airplane food.  There was also a berry crumble, hot roll, and Swiss chocolate.  I usually don’t eat airplane food, but I did eat some of this.  I think the people in economy class got sandwiches.

 

Not long after we were served our meal, some guy toward the back of the plane had a medical problem.  The flight attendants asked for a doctor.  I’m not sure if anyone was able to help; but whatever the problem was, it was evidently handled onboard.  I think in the course of helping the person with the medical issue, the lavatory in economy was temporarily blocked.  Consequently, lots of people from economy class were using the lavatory in business class.  Technically, they weren’t supposed to do that, but the flight attendants did nothing about it.

I know it sounds snobby for me to mention this; I mention it only because some people will be reading this actually wanting to know about business class service and I want to give full disclosure for those who care.  In any case, because of all of the people coming up to business class to use the toilet, it wasn’t as peaceful and quiet as it could have been on our flight.  I know this wasn’t necessarily a usual thing, since at the beginning of the flight, a man seated in economy asked if he could use the business class lavatory before he sat down.  The flight attendant directed him to use the toilet in the back.  Later, I saw him up front standing in line for the lavatory like everyone else.

Another issue I had that made our business class experience less special was the fact that I was sitting in the last row in business class.  Some guy with long legs was sitting behind me and he kept sticking his feet under my seat and kicking my feet.  Even the free middle seat between us was a little annoying, since there is a place to put drinks there that is fixed.  You can’t raise the arms on the seat or necessarily stretch out much.

Fortunately, since we were at the front of the plane, we were able to exit quickly once we landed in Dublin.  Our bags were among the first to arrive in baggage claim.  And within minutes of our arrival, some guy came up to me and apparently assumed I was a local.  I think he was speaking Irish to me, though, because I didn’t understand him.

With the flights behind us, I was eager to get to the hotel and rest.  It had been a long day and I was tired and hungry.  Off we went to the taxi stand, where we met our first local.  More on that in part 3.

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Back to America…

Our flight from Rota was pretty awesome.  It was very smooth and I was able to sleep for a good part of it, despite lying on the floor and being a bit cold.  We landed at Whiteman Air Force Base at about 9:00 in the morning.  It was absolutely FRIGID there.  The temperature was about one degree and the wind was blowing like crazy.  We were on the plane as the load masters removed the chains and cables from the helicopters, so it was cold as hell.  An airman came on the plane to clear us through customs.  It was a very laid back interview and the guy who did it was quite cool (in a good way).

A bus was waiting to take us to “base ops”, which is a very small lounge with TVs and couches.  Someone in charge at the base explained to us that there was no support for Space A people and taxis were not allowed on the base, so we might have to walk to the front gate, which is not close to base ops.  It was also freezing!

Fortunately, the guy who drove the bus was available to give us a lift to the visitor’s center by the gate.  Bill and I and the Seabee called Enterprise and they picked us up, not realizing that there were three of us going instead of two.  For some reason, the sales agent from Enterprise had a driver, so we all had to squeeze into the car for the twelve mile ride to Warrensburg, Missouri.  We got our rental cars and said our goodbyes.  The Seabee was planning to drive to Virginia, while Bill and I planned to get a commercial flight out of Kansas City, Missouri.

I had booked us a room at the Embassy Suites at the airport because after some cursory research, it was clear that trying to get home on Friday would cost significantly more and wear us out.  As it was, we were already pretty tired and needed to sleep.

Bill started the 90 minute drive and we stopped in Independence, Missouri for a bite to eat at a place called The Corner Cafe.  The parking lot was absolutely full of cars and it was barely 11:00am.  I figured that was a sign the food was going to be good.  I had never heard of this place, but it’s obviously a chain in Missouri.  We walked into the place and it kind of made me think it was what you’d get if a Perkins and a Cracker Barrel mated.  The menu was full of comfort food and there were a lot of pies.  The clientele appeared to consist of a lot of people with walkers, blue hair, and oxygen support.

 

Lunch!

We bought this to go and ended up eating it for dinner.

The food was indeed quite good.  We were hungry and I was ready for something comforting.  I had fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and some surprisingly good green beans.  The meal also came with a roll.  Bill had a sandwich and fries.  Walking into the restroom, I could hear the 50s era rock and roll playing.  I took note of the toilet and realized that this was the kind of place that served food that led to taking a big dump.  I saw evidence of that…  ’nuff said.

I had to take a photo of this huge American flag on our way to Kansas City.

Bill after we checked in at about 1:00pm.

A folksy note left for hotel guests…

One thing I noticed about Missouri is that everybody seems really down home and “folksy”.  Another thing I noticed is that obesity is a significant issue there.  I mean, I am by no means thin, but I was feeling almost petite in The Corner Cafe, the hotel, and even at the airport.  I saw a lot of people using canes, walkers, and oxygen, too.

Anyway, when we got to our hotel room, I took a shower and started watching college gymnastics.  Bill went to bed.  I joined him about an hour later and promptly fell asleep.  The bed in our room was surprisingly and delightfully comfortable.  We slept through the manager’s reception and didn’t feel like going out for dinner, so we ate the pie we got to go at The Corner Cafe.  Then we went back to bed and slept until about 5:00 Saturday morning.

Bill was fretting a bit about what he was going to do with the rental car.  It turned out it wasn’t an issue.  We ran into another guy, obviously military, who told us he works in Hawaii.  We found the rental car facility and got the shuttle to the terminal driven by a kindly older gentleman named John who was very chipper, especially for the time of day it was.

We went to get our boarding passes and drop our luggage.  Since Bill is active duty military, he can check two bags for free on Delta.  So we checked in and it turned out our flight was so packed that we were assigned seats at the gate.  The agent who helped us then said that only Bill was entitled to get free bags.  Bill said he knew, but since he’s allowed two bags, he claimed mine as his.  I’m not sure why this was an issue for the agent.  I mean, in his shoes, wouldn’t she do the same thing?  Who wants to pay $30 a bag?  She let it go and then asked us to take the shoulder straps off the bags.

Our bags dropped, we headed toward security, where I noted that I had been pre-selected for “pre-check”.  That meant I wouldn’t have to remove my shoes or jacket, nor did I have to pull out my electronics for security, as long as I made it through the metal detector.  Well, I was wearing two jackets because it was so goddamn cold outside.  I took one off and left the other one on.  It had a metal zipper, so I set off the metal detector.  So then a member of the security force came over to escort me to get my hands swabbed.

I initially thought these people were TSA, but it turns out the Kansas City airport is one of the few airports that doesn’t have official TSA people on the payroll.  Instead, they have a private security force that follows the same procedures as TSA does.  Anyway, the young woman who was to swab my hands came over and asked me to go with her.  I reached for my stuff and she said that she had to carry it.  I still had my passport and boarding pass in my hands and set it down while she prepared to test my hands for nitrates.  Her machine wasn’t working, so another security person had to do the test.  I went to grab my passport and boarding pass and she said she had to take them.  We went to another testing site and the guy swabbed my hands.  Naturally, I came up clean.  The experience made me think it would have been much easier to just go through the regular screening.

We ended up getting seated in the exit row at the ass of the plane.  A very sunny flight attendant confirmed we were willing and able to help the crew if we should crash.  The flight was basically very pleasant, until we were about to land.  I had left my purse on the floor for the entire flight because I couldn’t hear the announcements very well where we were sitting.  It turns out that if you sit in the exit row, you have to put all your stuff in the overhead bin.  A different flight attendant came over and asked me if she could put my purse in the bin.  I said, “If you must.”

I really wasn’t bitchy about it.  My voice was matter-of-fact.  I know they have their rules.  However, the damn purse was on the floor for the entire flight and no one said anything and I honestly didn’t hear them say that it had to be in the bin.  I had put it under my seat when we ascended.  So then the flight attendant said in a preachy voice (as if talking to a child), “I must because you are sitting in the exit row!” Fine.  The explanation wasn’t necessary, really, and I could have done without the holier than thou tone.

The other flight attendant who had been so nice made an impression on me.  I actually went to Delta’s Web site and sent a note complimenting her.  I had made a note of her name and wrote that I hoped they’d let her know that a passenger had appreciated her very pleasant personality.  Maybe random praise will help her get a promotion.

We were supposed to have a two hour layover in Atlanta.  Bill and I decided to have lunch at the Sweetwater Tavern.  Sweetwater is a craft beer made in the Atlanta area.  We used to drink it a lot when we lived near Atlanta.  The waitress ended up chatting with Bill about home brewing, which Bill started doing in earnest when we lived in Georgia.  We gave her some tips and it turned out the guy sitting near us was also a home brewer.  It was kind of neat being around all the beer geeks.

We left the tavern with a few minutes to go before we were supposed to board our flight.  It looked like we were going to get home early.  But then, just after Bill called the kennel to let them know, we got word that the plane we were supposed to board had a maintenance issue.  Once again, we were going to be delayed.

So then Bill struck up a conversation with a guy who turned out to be a lawyer in San Antonio.  Bill is taking a computer law class, so they had something to chat about.  I sat there and played with my phone.

Naturally, the plane was packed.  It was a very obnoxious flight and we were in the second to the last row, so there was a parade of people passing to go to the bathroom.  Some Army guy reclined in my lap and there were conversations so loud I could hear them through my noise canceling headphones.  That flight could not have ended soon enough.  And then, once it did, it took awhile to get our bags.  Mine came out quickly, but Bill’s took much longer.

When we got to the parking lot, we couldn’t find the damn car…  And then the road we needed to get on to get to Camp Bow Wow was under construction, forcing us to take a detour.  But we did finally get there and the boys were delighted to see us!  I even filmed our reunion.  There wasn’t any barking or howling, but there was a lot of kissing, tail wagging, and genuine happiness at being sprung from the joint.

Arran welcomes Bill home.

It always takes me days to get everything back to normal after a trip.  However, I always learn a lot when we travel.  This trip was no exception.  I think my next post will be about all the new things I know, now that I’ve gone to Spain and Portugal!

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Rudeness in the friendly skies…

This morning, my husband Bill sent me a hilarious article about rude people on a Thanksgiving flight.  Basically, what went down is that Elan Gale, of The Year of Elan, was on a flight that got delayed.  A self-centered woman on the flight was very upset that she had a connecting flight to Sacramento that she would miss.  She was loudly protesting, being very rude to the flight attendant, and basically causing a big scene.

Elan Gale witnessed the embarrassing spectacle and decided to send the woman a glass of red wine, along with a note strongly hinting that she should shut her pie hole.  Naturally, the lady, whose name is Diane, didn’t appreciate the gesture.

Elan responded by giving Diane a couple of mini bottles of vodka.  Diane wrote back that Elan is an “awful person” and she feels sorry for his family for having to deal with him.  So much for goodwill toward men during the holiday season.

Elan and Diane continued to go at it for the duration of their flight to Phoenix.  Elan eventually invited Diane to “eat his dick”.  When they disembarked, Diane slapped Elan across the face.  Elan declined to press charges, though he would have been within his rights.

I’m sure there’s an unknown reason why Diane was being so difficult during that flight.  Perhaps someone in her family is sick.  Maybe there’s some other big problem in her life that made this flight’s delay so catastrophic.  Maybe she has a psychiatric problem that causes her to freak out when she travels.  But there was not a damn thing anyone could do to help her and her endless bitching wasn’t making the situation better.

Of course, Elan and the flight attendant kind of egged her on… though the rest of us are probably somewhat entertained by his antics.  But what if Diane had gone ballistic on the plane and started a brawl?  That whole comedy could have easily turned into a tragedy.

Something remotely similar happened to me once.  I have probably already related this story, but it bears repeating.  Back in April 2010, Bill and I took our very first trip to the Caribbean to sail SeaDream I for the first time.  We had to fly out of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.  Our flight got delayed by a couple of hours.  The later scheduled flight actually left on time, while we were stranded all afternoon.  People were highly pissed off.

When we finally left the very crowded and expensive airport in St. Thomas that was selling beer for $6 a bottle and water for $5.50, many passengers were decidedly irritable.  I witnessed one guy inviting another guy to kiss his ass when the guy tried to butt in front of him as he demanded a seat in first class.  Then we had rough air for most of the flight, which made people even edgier.  For most of the flight, we weren’t supposed to stand up.  I noticed one unfortunate elderly gentleman had apparently wet his pants.

People had very tight connections because we were so late getting in.  The lady who was sharing our row with us was among those who needed to bail quickly.  Bill and I stepped out of the row so she could get out.

Suddenly, I heard a woman behind me say, “Excuse me, Ma’am.  I need to get past you.”

Before I had a chance to move out of the way, she and her two very large sons pushed past me, practically knocking me down.  I was stopped by the row of seats.  After a day of being stuck in the airport and listening to people bitch and moan, I had had enough.  I fixed a murderous glare at the woman, who had managed to get close to the door, and said very loudly, “What the hell is wrong with you?  Do you think you’re the only one on this flight that has a tight connection?”

She lowered her head, obviously embarrassed.  I was positively seething and probably still muttering expletives as we waited to escape the aircraft.  I draw the line at patience when people get physical with me.  But karma was obviously in motion, since it took about ten minutes to get the door open.  I think that woman and her sons missed their flight, despite their dramatic sprint up the jetway.

Far be it for me to encourage rudeness on airplanes or in airports.  I do think the flight attendant kind of made this situation worse.  On the other hand, I have to admit that it gave me a good chuckle this morning.

I wonder if Nancy could have smoothed things over with Diane…

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The flight home… seat recliners, carry on space hogs, the Beagle Brigade and the TSA…

StarGroup Taxi Services picked us up promptly at 8:30am.  I had been a little nervous about the timing, since the cab driver who had taken us to the hotel mentioned that Athens has a lot of traffic in the morning.  Having once lived in the DC and Atlanta areas, my husband and I have seen some serious traffic snarls.  We wondered if three hours was enough time, since we had no idea what Athens’ traffic really looks like.  We asked the hotel clerk about it and she said we wouldn’t have a problem making it on time for our 11:25am flight if we left at 8:30am.  She added with a smile that we’d even have time for coffee.

I want to reiterate that StarGroup Taxi Services did a great job.  I would definitely recommend them to anyone who needs a taxi in Athens.  Our driver even fetched a luggage trolley for us and loaded our bags onto it.

We dropped off our bags at US Airways, then set about finding our gate.  Security wasn’t difficult at all in Athens, though we did have to go through additional screening at the gate because we were headed to America.  I wasn’t looking forward to the flight, since it was scheduled to be about eleven hours.  I haven’t been to eastern Asia, so that was the longest non-stop flight I’ve ever taken in my life.  When I was booking the flight, I gave thought to using a different airline and breaking it up, possibly staying overnight in Paris or Amsterdam.  But in the end, US Airways offered the best prices and the most direct route home.  Besides, if I’m going to spend the night in a European city, I want to actually be able to see it.

Our flight was slightly delayed, but it turned out the headwinds were favorable, which meant we might shave a little time off the total flying time anyway.  I was glad for that.  Like many people, I find flying to be a pretty miserable experience these days.  From the terrible food to the cramped seats to the fact that a lot of folks just don’t care about anyone but themselves, long haul flights on most carriers are the pits, especially if you’re flying in coach.  As it turned out, our flight wasn’t completely full.  A couple of people even got the entire middle rows to themselves.  There was no such luck for Bill and me, though.  As we made our way to seats 20A and 20B, we found some guy already sitting there.

“Excuse me, you’re in my seat.” I said.

The guy looked at his ticket and realized he had overshot his seat, which was 19B.  He moved, but then as Bill was trying to stow our carry on baggage, he decided to get involved.  He said, “I want to make sure there’s enough room for my wife’s bags.”  Obviously, the fact that Bill also has a wife with one carry on bag was irrelevant to him.  Fortunately, since the flight wasn’t totally packed, we found space in the bin across the aisle.  When Bill and I fly, we often don’t bring on carry on bags, mainly because as a servicemember, he can often check bags for free.  But on long haul flights, I like to have a bag with me, just in case something happens with the checked luggage.

Flying out of Greece…

The guy’s wife turned out to be a very slim and pretty blonde I noticed at the gate.  She looked like she was quite a bit younger than he was.  Later, we heard them say they had just gotten married.  As soon as the plane was in the air, they both reclined their seats as far back as they could and stayed that way until we landed in Philadelphia.  In fact, when the announcement was made that people needed to return their seats to the upright position, these two had to be reminded personally.  I also noticed that the guy gave me a dirty look when I sneezed or coughed.  It’s not like I could help it.

I know the issue of seat reclining is controversial.  Personally, I’m in the camp that is against it in coach, because it really does take space away from the people sitting behind you.  I never recline my seat, even on long haul flights, because I don’t find that it makes me that much more comfortable and I empathize with the people who have to sit behind me.  At the same time, I know that some people are more comfortable when they can recline.  I think that’s okay, as long as people are considerate about it.  I have short legs, so the leg space isn’t usually a huge issue, but reclining does make it hard to use the tray table or stand up to go to the bathroom.  I find that a lot of times, if you have to steady yourself by grabbing on to the seat in front of you as you’re standing up, some seat recliners get a bit pissy.  In any case, while I realize that the seats recline and people have the “right” to recline if they want to, I also think it’s very inconsiderate to recline all the way for the whole flight, especially when people are trying to eat.  I ended up with a really nasty charley horse at one point that took several minutes minutes to abate thanks to these two.  By the time we landed, I was feeling pretty agitated.  It’s amazing how quickly my own sense of decency can erode when people are very inconsiderate to me.

I was so excited ten hours later when I spotted land below…

Once we landed in Philly, we quickly got through passport control and customs with no issues.  While we were waiting to pick up our bags, the Beagle Brigade came through to check peoples’ luggage for agricultural products.  Since Bill and I rescue beagles and didn’t have any contraband produce, we welcomed the sight of the adorable little hound doing her job.  It so happened the lady standing next to us had packed an apple in her bag.  The beagle made a beeline for her bag and sniffed it thoroughly, then sat down.  She looked up at the woman as if to say, “Sorry, you’re busted!”  The dog’s handler was very pleasant and professional, unlike the jerky TSA agent I later encountered on yet another security check.

Bill and I were in line, waiting to go through security again.  It was very hot, and I was tired, hungry, thirsty, and cranky.  I don’t remember saying anything that inflammatory.  I was just exhausted and generally crabby and probably looked pissed off.  Next thing I know, a TSA agent snapped, “Are you okay, Ma’am?”  His tone struck me as rather belligerent.  I shot back that I needed a drink… then clarified that I wanted lemonade, ice water, or chocolate milk.  I wasn’t about to get into trouble for being drunk when I hadn’t had a drop to drink.  😉

Frankly, that TSA agent really annoyed me.  I know the TSA is supposed to be about keeping things secure, but there’s no need to deliberately screw with people, especially when they’re jet lagged.  Air travel is undignified enough without hostile TSA agents harassing travelers and provoking them to respond angrily.  The experience was unpleasant enough to make me wonder if I really wanted to endure air travel again anytime soon.  Sadly, we do have to fly to Texas soon to find our next home.

After we cleared security, we stopped by Vino Volo.  Vino Volo is a wine tasting bar.  Back in June 2011, Bill and I spent a very nice hour in one at the otherwise unpleasant Newark Airport.  The one we visited in Philly was just a kiosk and not nearly as nice.  I ordered a sandwich that was supposed to have melted Brie on it.  The Brie was cold, so I gave it to Bill.  We did enjoy tasting a few wines and even met a really nice lady from Texas who gave us some tips on where to look for our next home when we move in a few weeks.

The flight to RDU was very full, but it was only an hour.  I fell asleep at some point after takeoff.  Bill woke me up for a cup of water.  That probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do!  We got home at about 9:30 or so…  I was very irritated, but glad the travel day was finally over.  We are considering going to Ireland on our next trip, but maybe it would be smarter to stay stateside and go somewhere we can drive to… or maybe just book a transatlantic cruise!  I’ve been wanting to do that anyway.

Even the beautiful views from above makes me hesitate to book another long haul flight…

 
Virgin America Airlines and Method came up with a handy video to remind people about courtesy…
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People who recline on planes…

Oddly enough, today I’ve run across two articles about people who recline on airplanes.  This happens to be one of my pet peeves.  I’m short and I have short legs, but it still annoys me when the person in front of me on a plane reclines.  I know it’s their “right”, since the seats are capable of reclining.  But everybody is packed in the plane like sardines and reclining takes away some of that space.  Plus, it makes it hard to get out of the seat to go to the bathroom.  Then when you have to hang onto the seat to stand up, the recliner gives you a dirty look.

I never recline, even on long haul flights.  I find that it doesn’t make me any more comfortable than I would otherwise be.  Plus, I know it annoys me when people recline, so I don’t do it to other people.  That being said, what is even more distressing to me are the comments people leave when they read these articles.  They get incredibly rude and show a disturbing trend toward uncivil behavior toward other people.  Case in point, this article from Slate.com…  And this one from the Smarter Travel blog…   The comments and passion generated over this issue leads me to think that most people are selfish assholes.

I did find it interesting, though, that some enterprising person came up with a device to stop people from reclining and smashing his knees.  Knee Defender hooks onto the tray table and makes it impossible to lean back.  I have to admit, I’m tempted to get them, except I don’t like to fly with my table down anyway.

We have a couple of long haul flights coming up in May.  Makes me wish I had a medical connection to give me some Ambien and knock my ass out so I don’t care if people lay back in my lap.

What I think is funny is that the people who made Knee Defender also made little printable notes you can pass to the person in front of you, letting them know that you’ve taken away their ability to recline.  I don’t know how I’d react if I got one of those things. Since I never recline, I guess no one would ever have to use them with me.

Probably the rudest experience I ever had on a plane was in April 2010.  We were on a very delayed flight and people were pissed off because we were stuck in St. Thomas at the airport all day.  The flight was kind of rough and the seat belt sign was on for most of it.  The lady who was sharing our row had a tight connection, so when we landed, I stepped out in the aisle to help her get her stuff down from the overhead bin.

Suddenly, I heard a voice from behind me say, “Excuse me, Ma’am.  We need to get through.”

Before I had a chance to move, this woman and her two overgrown teenaged sons literally pushed me into the row of seats.  I was absolutely fuming.  I actually glared at the woman and said, “Do you think you’re the only person on this flight who has a tight connection?  What the hell is wrong with you?”

It took Delta about ten minutes to open the door, so she probably missed her flight.  It would serve her right.

I hate flying.  I love traveling, though… so what can I do?

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