I get up and ready and am waiting at the door for 10 minutes. My driver arrives at 3:02 for my 3:00 pickup. Trust is not my strength; I’ve already looked up the number to check status.
My driver – this is my third time traveling with him – is a soft-spoken man with glasses and a pleasant accent. He’s from an African country but has lived here for 20 years. He’s thoughtful and reasoned, good-humored in such small hours, and enjoyable to chat with.
The self check kiosk isn’t working and there’s no one at the Air Canada desk yet, but I had printed my boarding pass at home so I press on. AC seems to have just one gate here. It’s across from a Dunkin Donuts and I bless the nice young woman who gives me my coffee.
I settle in near an outlet to charge my Kindle while I read the ebooks from Wil Wheaton I bought for travel (I enjoy his blog, and thus far my purchases do NOT disappoint)
…and a new arrival at the gate is a snorter. DUDE. WE CAN ALL HEAR THOSE NOISES AND THEY ARE GROSS.
Lord thank you for this day and bless this person because they are probably suffering or at least clueless and give me – no not strength but grace to not go punch a person.
As if I would ever.
The hop to Canada is relatively short; the 2nd leg to Heathrow is interminable. But Canada Air is running both and the planes feel clean, bright, spacious by airline standards, with nice amenities (movies, charging station, food service etc).
As we are landing in Heathrow on the 2nd, there are fireworks displays going off all around. How big they seem from the ground and how small from above!
The last leg of the flight is a codeshare run by Aegean and it’s a shock to the system to return to such tight cramped quarters. The crew is nice though. I try to sleep when I can but it’s just not conducive.
It’s 4:08 local time when we land and nearly 5:30am by the time we get through customs, get our luggage, meet our driver and get transferred to our hotel.
We see the Acropolis, lit up, in the dark of the morning on a distant hill en route to the hotel.
The moon is a crescent in the sky and the signs in English and Greek underscore the distance I’ve traveled today.
I wake a few times in the night, probably extra restless because I know it’s a travel day. Strange sounds, a dripping that at first I think must be in my bathroom but when I come awake I know it’s the rain.
Technically I can sleep in — check out is noon, my airport pickup is 1:30pm. And I was up so late (and I’ve been so obviously sleep-hungry) that you’d think a sleep-in would be just the thing. Continue reading “Day 4: Waiting”→
The flight is at 7:35. International: advice is to get there three hours ahead. 4:35pm. But my car has picked its moment to beg me to get rid of it and so between the unfamiliar rental car and the unfamiliar route to Dulles, I give myself plenty of time. I’d so rather be checked in, reading at my gate, than stressing about it. Continue reading “Day 1: Departure Iceland”→
My original flight plan would take me nearly 24 hours, inclusive of security lines and layovers, but on arrival to Miami I am able to get in an earlier flight, so I can already be home hours before my original flight would have been boarding.
It’s a shock to the system, to get back on an American flight and the cramped space. Two days later I will hear something from the airlines – as they prepare to further restrict the space- about how passengersdon’t mind because they don’t opt to pay more for a better seat. To which I call bullshit. Charging more for that space is a money-making device for the airline not a social experiment, don’t let’s kid ourselves, and there are certain fees we might avoid on principle in protest. (Example: I prefer and choose when I can the airlines that don’t charge for luggage, even if I’m not going to check a bag, for instance, and under no circumstances am I paying for a checked bag even if it means traveling that much lighter). In the same way that I might pay more to board early / ensure I can get my carry-on in the overhead compartment but, though it’s a distinction without a difference, I will promptly stop flying an airline that charges me for bin space. Count on it.
I back that up with action: They supposedly get the best ratings of any major US carrier and invested a lot in improved customer experience (recent news articles notwithstanding) but there is one airline with whom MY experiences were so bad that I will not fly with them. Period. Even if it costs more. Even if it means having to make stops/layovers. If there is literally ANY other airline option, I take it. Because all I can do is vote my displeasure with my wallet.
In any event, it is good to be home. To shower in clean water. To be able to brush my teeth from the tap. To drink iced drinks and eat raw, fresh vegetables. ( Salad! Oh I missed salad! )
It’s a bit after 6 am when we land in Colombia for our connection to Peru.
I say we, because it turns out the 2 ladies next to me on the Miami flight are on the tour as well (2 of 4 sisters who will be traveling together).
Announcements in the Bogota airport are of course made in Spanish, then (sort of) in English. Their TSA-equivalent, as here, is not a tourism service but a security detail, and mostly speaks Spanish. My grasp of Spanish, which mostly covers greetings and food will not serve, but being a frequent traveler helps; the rigamarole is close enough to the same. I find my gate, and spend the couple of hours until we press on trying to rest and trying to guess who in the crowd is also on the tour with me.
I am not the only one playing that game. 😊
Avianca airlines planes feel spacious- it strikes me that these are old planes in the old configuration– remember when we thought this was a small space because our leg might occasionally brush up against the person beside us, instead of today when we fly in a seat that veal would find cramped? And yet on this flight, there’s actually room at my feet to store my personal item and still cross my legs if I want.
The luxury of it!
On the next and final leg of the trip I sit next to Pat. She and her husband Ron are on the tour (for some reason none of the couples have been seated together on the flight) and we hit it off immediately.
There’s a bit of brief confusion in the pickup process, but we’re sorted shortly. Pat Ron and about half of the group are taken back to the hotel, while the other half of us take the optional tour of the Pisac Market.
Several hours later, having met more of my tour mates (Linda and Joe, Sue and Ken, Chelsea and Ryan, Jenny and Lynn, Doug and Yung, and so many others), seen alpacas and llamas, had a demonstration of local silver works, learned a bit about how to spot real baby alpaca products vs fakes, spent far too much time (for my liking) in the market proper, and felt a bit of the unevenness of high altitude – the length of this sentence well mirrors the length of the day – we get back to our hotel in time to change for dinner (if desired) and our group tour kickoff meeting.
My hotel room is sparse but lovely, and a shower and bed sound delightful. I sleep very soundly – which is good, because tomorrow will be an early, long, and utterly amazing day.
I’m restless the night before my flight. Logistics, what I’ve forgotten, what I might need. I remind myself that I’m in the care of a good God who knows my needs, and anyway I have a full day in Miami to acquire anything I forgot, sleep fitfully for a few hours, and wake early to prepare to depart.
I have my bags ready, have just finished my exchange with the boy, and have the house clean (the better to come home to a clean house) when Sis arrives to drive me to the airport.
It’s nice to have this time together, even though I know and feel bad that she’s making this drive amidst the morning rush. I leave my personal cell with her; my network won’t work internationally but that’s the phone my bank or cc will try to reach if they need me or If I need to verify my identity to them. Meanwhile I’ll have the work mobile.
It is smooth sailing to Miami, even if there is so little legroom that it’s literally impossible to cross my legs
But I don’t sleep well the night in Miami either, passingly emotional, and tossing and turning worried, among other things, about finding a power converter for my mobile, and the schedule for the day to come.
In the morning I get up early (easily done, as I am still on my work schedule and barely slept anyway). Overnight I’ve learned that Google says the local Home Depot is 15 minutes’ walk from the hotel, and that the local Home Depot says they have travel converters in stock.
I get about a half block into the mission, however, when I realize Google’s route means walking in a freeway (with no sidewalks, of course). I return to the hotel, to inquire about a taxi; the shuttle driver offers to take me there and back for a few dollars while he’s between routes. I get the last one in the store.
I get back to the hotel with plenty of time to enjoy the morning; to have coffee and yogurt, to pace each floor in search of my step goal, to pack up, check out, stow my bags with the bell captain, and – for want of ways to pass the hours before my flight more than actual interest- to take the bus service to Dolphin Mall.
I have a delicious palomilla with rice and plantains (one of my favorite Cuban dishes) at the food court, walk the circular route of this massive shopping center, browse lightly, get my steps for the day and basically bore myself to tears at the mall.
When I can stand it no longer, I catch the return bus back to the hotel, have dinner, and get my bags to head to the airport.
Basically I am just filling time as best I can, because my flight departs Miami shortly after 3am, for the first leg of the trip, to Colombia. Of course there is no sleeping at the airport, and I regret to report that there isn’t any en route, either.
It’s raining along the eastern seaboard, at least between NYC down to Baltimore. NYC Edison Wilmington and home. All the places I monitor regularly on my weather app, all the places I find myself with frequency.
And of course, at BWI airport, where cold meds and cough drops are masking the plague I’ve been fighting for over a week. The airport is coming to life on a Monday morning. The meds are working, because I can tell that the air is thick with cinnamon and sugar.
Cinnabon is next to my gate.
One hour to boarding. 5 hours to arrival.
This is the only day this week it’s expected to stay above freezing but that only makes it sweeter that I found the fare sale when I did.
Also, I’ve never been to Puerto Rico before.
Halfway down the frigid air starts to turn warm and pleasant. Breaks in clouds reveal small islands surrounded by jewel tone seas.
And then I am in Puerto Rico, making my way to my hotel, getting checked in and squared away before I start my first explorations.