A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: kenyashoe

Japan

sunny 65 °F

So this should have been easier than it was.

A 90 minute flight to Delhi (India), a two hour layover, and a 7-ish hour flight to Tokyo.

Not even close.

Although I didn't think it would end up being a problem, my plan to check in for our Japan flight on-line that morning ran into the big snafu of the JAL website being down. Yuck. So I printed our itinerary, and assumed I would just show it to the gate agent in Delhi, and get our boarding passes there.

Second of all, they made us check our bags. Even though our entire plan for the trip (not check anything and carry everything on each and every flight) was JUST for this reason (we couldn't check them on Jet Air because it was the only flight NOT on our OneWorld ticket, and thus we would have to pick up our bags in India and re-check them - which (because the Delhi airport is so poorly designed in this way) meant we would have to actually legally ENTER India. Meaning, you need a VISA to simply pick up your luggage and re-check it on a different airline. Not a very smart system.)

When we got to the Jet Airways counter in Kathmandu, they told us that we had to check SOME of our bags, as we could only bring on one bag each (NOT what their website says). BUT, they told us it would be no problem to check them straight through to Tokyo (not what I expected them to be able to do, as the tickets were booked completely separately). So we made a quick decision, and gave them our clothes bags (and kept our backpacks and souvenir bags).

No problem, right?

Our flight from Kathmandu to Delhi took an extra forty minutes to board. Once we were on our plane (a nice, new 737-800), the pilot comes on a very casually announces another 30 min delay to to air traffic issues.

I'm sorry. Where are we? Kathmandu, Nepal, right? WHAT AIR TRAFFIC!!!

We finally got airborne (got served an entire meal, totally old-school wise, too, and the drink cart had two options, both free: water or beer. I swear. It was hilarious watching the entire plane have a beer. I have to hand it to Jet Airways, it's not a bad idea.

That being said, we landed in Delhi at 6:45pm, and had a 7:35 pm flight. We were sweating it (also it was hot). Most of the reason why it was a bad situation was that we didn't have India visa's, meaning if we missed our flight, we couldn't enter India (they don't issue visas at the airport), and would be stuck in the Delhi airport for an entire day waiting for the next flight to Tokyo (assuming we could even get on...)

So as soon as we even got close to the gate, Traci grabbed Tessa (asleep), ran for the front of the plane, and I manhandled my way past some very confused Indians to chase after her with our bags. We were running (as fast as we could, I will say, given what we were carrying), towards what we assumed was the Japan Airlines plane we had seen on the other side of the International terminal as we taxied in, and we happened to run by a young guy in a suit with a badge, who looked official, so I grabbed him and asked where the Japan Airlines flight to Tokyo left from. He said, "It leaves tomorrow, not today". I was like, "Look my friend, you're wrong, it leaves in like 30 minutes." He looked at me funny, and said, come with me, and led us to a checkpoint (complete with security), with a long-ass line of folks waiting for something. It was clear to him that this was urgent. He got on a phone for a few minutes, and then looked straight at me and said, "I'm sorry sir, but the gate is closed, and they won't let you on."

Stomach drop.

We pulled out all the stops. Traci started crying, I was pleading with the guy to try again, and Tessa looked sick.

He got back on the phone.

Then he asked if we had any bags. I said four. He talked more (we were in full panic mode at this point). Then he said, "They'll take you, but not unless you have your bags". Meaning, because we didn't have our bags, as they were checked - and we get arrived in Delhi too late to get them loaded onto the JAL plane in time - Japan Airlines wouldn't let us board. JAL policy, I guess.

I looked at Traci, thought fast, looked back at the guy and said, "No, you misunderstood me. THESE are our four bags HERE!" (for the record, I was counting Tessa's Hello Kitty backpack as one of the four, to make the story stick.) Fingers crossed, if JAL wouldn't let us on without our luggage, we made the decision to give up our luggage for the sake of making the flight.

The guy (who was a total pro, both of us have since agreed), looked at me, thought for a second, and grabbed the phone again. [For the record, I think he totally got what was going on, and approved of us changing our story mid-stream, in order to bypass the stupid JAL baggage rule. I guess we'll never know. If I ever come back through Delhi, I'm bringing him a bottle of scotch, either way.]

I heard him saying something about no luggage, and then five minutes later another Indian airport guy ran up with three boarding passes, and ushered us through security (as fast as possible, given that we had to clear X-rays AGAIN, get patted down, take out our laptops, get Traci's nail scissors confiscated, get our tickets checked, get every bagged stamped and checked - seriously, more security than any airport so far, although strangely enough Kathmandu had FIVE security checkpoints). We ran HARD for the gate, with the security guy with us, telling us that we had to hurry, and ran sweating, and disbelieving that this happened straight onto the big JAL 777, TWENTY MINUTES AFTER THE DEPARTURE TIME. They literally closed the doors as soon as we stepped on board (we weren't even in our seats yet), and started backing away from the gate.

I still can't believe they held the plane for us. But no one even gave us a second look. Maybe that would have been rude in Japanese culture. In any case, we sat together, and said an emphatic YES to the drinks they offered. BIG TIME stress, and NO BAGS - but we were headed to Japan.

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After an EASY seven hour flight, with great food and some good movies (and decent sleep), we landed in clean, organized, modern Tokyo.

A long 30-min line through customs, and we were headed for the airport train station for our train to Tokyo.

While we were waiting, a wonderful Japanese woman walked up to us, and in unflinching Japanese fashion, gave us these incredible, ornate pieces of origami that she made on the plane ride (for Tessa). They were a box (a real two sided box, and two fully-functional tops (the kind you spin). She must have seen Tessa on the flight and decided they would be for her.

What a way to be welcomed to Japan.

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We made it to Tokyo (and hour late, due to high winds and the resulting delays on all trains), and caught a bullet train (the Nozomi Shinansen, as they call them here) to Kyoto.

Kyoto is friendly, quiet, and a really amazing place to end our trip. We checked in, and got a gorgeous room overlooking the garden.

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With an automatically flushing toilet with heated seat. Yikes!

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We slept fourteen hours, woke up at 6am, and felt great. Kyoto is packed this time of year, as it's the height of cherry blossom season, and Kyoto is world famous for how beautiful everything looks here at this season. The day was 65 and sunny - perfect to explore.

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We went to two temples, known as the Gold Temple and Silver Temple. (They are actually called the Kinkakuji Temple and the Ginkakuji Temple). They were crowded, with folks from all over the world, but peaceful and just stunning.

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We had an amazing day.

More tomorrow, our last day before heading home.

Posted by kenyashoe 02:25 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

On the bullet train to Kyoto

Posted by kenyashoe 02:23 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Nepal is surreal

sunny 80 °F

Getting in late at night, to a city we've always dreamed of seeing, is kind of unfair, as you just don't know or understand where you are.

Waking up the first morning to THIS...is pretty cool.large_Our_view_o..Bouda_Stupa.jpg

The Hyatt in Kathmandu was pretty much just about the coolest hotel I've ever been in. And NOT expensive at ALL. I guess by western standard.

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We spent the first few days fighting ridiculous jet lag, but enjoying this extraordinary city. We walked around, we took some rides, we saw a city SO alive. It sounds cheesy, but it's hard to explain in any other way. So many honking horns, so many colorful clothes, so much bustle and movement and poverty (but happiness), it was just really powerful to take in.

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We went to one of the beautiful stupa's (a shrine), called the Monkey Temple, on an tall hill (a relative word, in Nepal) overlooking Kathmandu. (It was aptly named.)

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We spent three days just taking in the city (as well as a little by the amazing pool, or else Tessa would have revolted. She made friends, too.)

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I got beat at chess, but taught someone to play.

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We saw some amazing sunsets, too.

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We saw naan being made, which was really cool, strangely.

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Oh, and did I mention that we took a flight over Mount Everest!!!!!!!

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Actually, I have to say was that all seeing it made me want to do is come back for a closer look. (I've already booked tickets. Don't tell Traci...)

But seriously, how many 3 1/2 year old's get to see the Himalayas?

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ON our next to last day, our great friend from Austin Vanessa Vaughan came over to Nepal to hang out with us. How amazing is that!! So we got to explore some more....

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Nepal grows all of it's own produce (they import very little). It was obvious on the streets...

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I have to say, we saw some of the oddest and most interesting things on the streets (or on the roadside) in Kathmandu. I'll share a few of them...

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My impressions of Kathmandu? The friendliest, nicest people I've ever met, anywhere. A city that is trying very hard to better itself, but (in Kathmandu at least), which is struggling with overcrowding, pollution, and lack of decent infrastructure. But the countryside is a different story. Next trip. :-)

We said our goodbyes to VV and Nepal....

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...and headed to Japan. :-)

Posted by kenyashoe 01:03 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Nepal!

80 °F

Posted by kenyashoe 01:44 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Hong Kong

72 °F

We landed in Hong Kong after our longest haul yet - almost 12 hours on the plane, with virtually no sleep.

I'll point out for the record again the amazing taxi driver on the way into town, with his FIVE phones.

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Made it to the hotel, which is in Tsim Sha Tsui, the Chinese 'mainland' side of Hong Kong. Downtown Hong Kong is across Victoria Harbour from Kowloon (the penninsula that we're on), and our hotel is on the 3rd-24th floors of a big Tsim Sha Tsui skyscraper.

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They gave us a nice room, but we needed a tub, so we asked if they had a room with one. So they gave us a SWEET upgrade to a harbour view corner room, looking out over downtown. It is an AWESOME view.

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We had breakfast in the Club Lounge (on the house), slept, and went exploring.

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After another long nap (we are some unknown time zone right now - but it is NOT the one that is in Hong Kong, I promise), we went out again to explore the city at night. The Tsim Sha Tsui district is packed, and it's Easter weekend, so everyone is out, even in the rain.

We went to the Night Market, on Temple Street, which was packed even in the pouring rain.

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There are two kinds of cars in Tsim Sha Tsui - classic red taxi's (made by Toyota), and super nice cars. This one was parked in front of the street food vendor we got dinner from.

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After another night of crazy late night sleeping, 5 am waking up, early breakfast, we set out for Hong Kong island (downtown), which you have to take a ferry ride across the harbour to get to.

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Downtown Hong Kong is filled with architecturally-amazing buildings. Seriously.

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And some familiar faces from back home.

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As well as large stuffed animals.

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We took the tram up to Victoria Peak, which looks out over the city from very high above it.

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The views from above the city, even on a cloudy day, were really amazing...

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There were also lots of beautiful wooded walking trails, in the virtual rainforest in the hills above the city.

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The way down on the tram was NOT for the faint of heart...

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We explored downtown a bit, on a day when it was filled with folks headed to church for Easter...

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Another crazy nap, and then out again for more neon lights...

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Back at home, with a new bathing suit, some little 3 1/2 year old found a good spot by the window to unwind. :-)

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Posted by kenyashoe 09:43 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

Paris, and then headed to Hong Kong

45 °F

Our last few days in Paris were great - exploring, playing in the park, sleeping at strange hours - what travel should be like.

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Our crazy hotel. By far the nicest place I've ever stayed.

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I mean, really. This is the lobby. I'm serious. It's like a museum.

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Tessa at breakfast. Notice the SEA OF ORCHIDS behind her. NIce digs, kid.

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Our typical spread.

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Our oops, OMG, are you serious, the waffles are 19 euros? (roughly $27). Wow. Okay, we won't be ordering that tomorrow.

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Another shot of coming back to the room, and saying "I can't believe we're sleeping on this bed."

Some shots from our outings:

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Paris is still cold (45), but spring is definitely on the way...

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This sculpture in park was haunting and beautiful at the same time. Next time I want to be able to read the description.

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The Opera House, in all of it's staggering beauty and detail.

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We found a quaint little bistro for dinner...

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Last images from our amazing hotel...thank your Park Hyatt for blowing our minds, and not kicking us out.

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Off to the airport we went!

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Cathay Pacific is known to be one of the world's great airlines. We flew a nice, 777-300ER (in case I hadn't mentioned, I'm a bit of an airplane junkie)...

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Unlike the cold, less-than-friendly (mostly guys) who worked the Iberia flight we took from to Madrid, the flight crew on our Cathay flight to Hong Kong were just over the top. Super nice, super friendly to Tessa (Mimi, one of the flight attendents, actually hugged me goodbye! And spent half the flight chatting Tessa up...)

Business class was half full, and we had a space galore. This is a crazy way of life...

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It was about an 11 hour flight, and Tessa and Traci slept about 3 hours. I slept ZERO hours (way to go, Adam) but managed to knock off Cloud Atlas (A-), Life of Pi (A+), Silver Linings Playbook (B+), and some of Argo (C - how did that get nominated for so many damn Academy Awards?!).

We landed in Hong Kong, where it was humid and 70. Finally, warm weather - hopefully this carries through for the rest of the trip.

A bit of a line through customs, and we finally made our way to the taxi line (tons of taxis, no one in line), an headed into Hong Kong.

Take a careful look at our taxi driver. I am not kidding about this - I watched him actually use EACH of these phones at least one time. WTF!!

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Posted by kenyashoe 10:08 Archived in France Comments (0)

London to Paris

sunny 46 °F

We decided to go for one more outdoor excursion in London before we caught our flight to Paris in the evening.

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Man, was it cold. We made it to Buckingham Palace, and then through the walk to Big Ben, and then hailed a cab. It was 34 degrees and BLOWING. We were all just freezing cold. In the cab, we decided to make a stop for lunch at St. Paul's Cathedral, which has a great little cafe below it (and a wonderful vegan-friendly menu.)

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Our walk back home proved to be a bad idea - too long, too cold, and too much for Tessa. We de-thawed over our last afternoon high tea in the very nice Regency lunge (where we've been taking advantage of the free food all week)....

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and headed for the airport.

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Our flight was delayed due to the horrible snowstorms that hit northern Britain and Ireland all weekend (London got almost nothing compared to the feet and feet that they got up north), so we hung out in the business class lounge for a couple of hours. Again, more free food. Seriously - we're screwed when we go home to regular living. :-)

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The British Air flight to Paris only took an hour, and we sat in row 1, much to the amusement of almost everyone getting on board (who Tessa smiled an waved at, making a lot of friends.) However, karma has it that when you're the first people on the plane (we were), you always get your bags LAST. And event though we're not checking bags the entire trip JUST BECAUSE of this, they make us gate check the stroller, and then didn't have anyone to bring it to us (what happens when you land somewhere at 12:50 am). So we made it to the hotel at about 1:45 am.

But it was worth the wait. The Park Hyatt Vendome is probably the nicest hotel I've ever been in (thank you points!) and they had a great room ready for us. It's right in the middle of everything - 10 min from the Louvre, next to the big park, right in the middle of the craziest high end stores I've ever seen in one area. Have you ever seen Cartier next to Louis Vitton next to Mont Blanc, etc.? Who shops here? Better question - who lives here?

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We slept in (way, way in), and I sprinted downstairs for the (complimentary - yeah, baby) breakfast, in the middle of the hotel atrium/courtyard.

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When I came back up with a plate of waffles and fruit for the two sleeping girls, they were up an admiring the view.

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So we ate and then went exploring.

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Came back to a re-made beautiful room. One more pic for good measure. Man, is it nice.. :-)

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Posted by kenyashoe 14:39 Archived in France Comments (0)

Shoes in London

rain 36 °F

I mean, who takes shoes as seriously as Londoners?

Clearly nobody.

Posted by kenyashoe 15:17 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

London

snow 34 °F

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Landed at London Heathrow after an uneventful 2 1/2 hour flight, easy customs clearance, found our car, and headed to the West End of the city, and the Winston Churchill Hyatt Regency, our home for 3 days.

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Our small but cozy room.

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We slept in, and finally got used to the time zone. I went and ran in the gym, and we enjoyed the free breakfast that comes with our room, in the very hilariously elitist Regency Club lounge. Hey - free food is free food, especially in London. It's cold here - low 40's, so walking around is not dreamy, but the West End is filled with shops and restaurants, so there's a lot to see and do.

We walked through the crazy crowds on Oxford St., as I wanted to show Traci Liberty's of London, this crazy old school fabric, clothing, housewares store. Kind of hard to explain. Very expensive, and almost impossible to walk out of without buying something. (We didn't). But man, the cool stuff in there.

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Afterwards we stopped in Selfridges, which is kind of like a mall, and which has this amazing (and amazingly expensive) food court. You could basically buy anything you want - any kind of food. We saw some beautiful and strange things. :-)

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After Tessa and I had afternoon tea upstairs while Traci caught up on her sleep (someone kept her up most of the night - I have no idea who. :-)

We took a cold but really fun walk through Hyde Park to the Kensignton Whole Foods, one of the biggest in the world. Honestly it was wet and rainy, but we had a blast. The park is huge, and already showing signs of spring.

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WFM Kensington is cool - three stories, packed, and with a very different mix of cool products. Honestly it was one of the coolest WFM's I've seen, and we've been to a lot.

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It started raining and blowing at about 30 mph just as we left, so we caught a taxi home (after trying to hail one for seemingly 30 min - not surprising that everyone wanted to a taxi when it's pouring rain outside.

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We went to bed early, and woke up to brunch upstairs. Tessa is getting used to drinking tea British-style.

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London is cold and snowy today. We walked through the West End past a ton of cool shops, in the snow.

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Hamley's, the largest (self-proclaimed finest) toy stores in the world. SIX stories tall, and packed to the gils. Amazing.

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The rule was Tessa could pick out one thing. She got a little Mini Cooper model to drive her tiny dolls around in. Good choice. We also got a giraffe puppet, which we couldn't pass up. The best part of the store was the Lego section.

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Tonight we went for dinner at a Lebanese place. It was decent. Not amazing. But Tessa liked falafel. Cool.

Some sites from a night out on Oxford Street.

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Posted by kenyashoe 08:44 Archived in England Comments (0)

Austin-Chicago-Madrid

60 °F

AT&T Around the world


Day 1 – Austin.
A busy start to our crazy trip. I’m up at 6, making sure the last day of our Immersion gets going. Bags packed, car loaded, breakfast done (for the group – my bowl of collards and fruits sits in the front seat of the rented Jetta, in a ‘borrowed’ bowl from the resort, waiting to be eaten while I’m driving home.) Once Rip is thoroughly finished with his presentation, and on to start the graduation ceremony, everyone on our team gets a last hug, and I’m warming up the cold Jetta engine in a hurry, heading back to Austin at about 80mph at 9:36, to catch our 12:50 flight to Chicago. The trip takes 45 min (land-speed record between Marble Falls and downtown ATX), and I pull up at 10:15. Boxes unloaded into the storage shed for Jillian, I get a beautiful run out the door at full speed greeting from Tessa. A great start to the adventure.

The biggest concern of the trip is Walker. Maybe it’s been slowly progressing for a year, but the poor guy’s hips took a major turn for the worse in the last week. The Tuesday before our Immersion started, he and I were in the AM/PM vet at 9:30 at night, getting an x-ray. That he has arthritis is not surprising for a Great Dane, but man I wish he could get better over time. That’s not the way this one works, according to the vet, so the judgment call is to make him take it easy while we’re gone (read – he’ll spend his time on the couch, with little kid stool and rolling chairs blocking his access to the rest of the house, and Grace overseeing his activity level. Grace rocks, and we’re leaving with him in good hands, without the level of concern we had over the last week that we shouldn’t go.) He was in the backyard when I came around the corner with boxes to load into the shed, and was moving quicker that I thought he would be to come see me…big sweet boy dogs.)

We’re off at 10:45, packed into the car, with a big trekking backpack (Traci), a regular yellow backpack (me), and two rolling carry-on bags for everything else. And a BOB stroller, which I’m not convinced is a great idea at this point, but we’ll see. 15 minutes to the airport, car checked in the rental counter, and we’re at the ticket counter. The tickets take a bit of sorting out, as they were re-booked so many damn times that we actually have two sets in the computer, but she’s quick to sort it out, and soon we’re in the Admiral’s Club sitting down in laughable comfort.

So the way it works is this: because we’re flying business class on the whole trip (courtesy of the fact that it was a miniscule 30k more miles to upgrade from coach to business for our round-the-world tickets – will the massive difference in comfort and fun of flying with the rich kids and being able to sleep actually whole lying down on a airplane) – we get to hang out in the first class travel lounges in every airport of the trip. Should be interesting.

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The Austin Admiral’s club is nice – relaxed and low key, with four drink tickets and free wine and OJ for momma and Tessa. They call for our flight to Chicago and we’re smiling all the way down to Gate 14.

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First class to Chicago on American (business class doesn’t exist on US flights) is boring and easy, on the CR700. Drinks and some food that I’ve already forgotten, and a quick two hour flight, and we’re in Chicago, heading for the Admiral’s Club, and a awesome little kids playroom for Tessa while I try to get off a call for an hour.

We head to Gate K19 for our Iberia flight, and find a mob-scene of Spanish folks already lining up. This is where the VIP seats are so nice – separate line, first on board, and heading for seats 7 A,C and D – back of the business cabin.

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A note on Iberia – first of all, all of the reviews on this airline make it sound horrible. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as the flight attendants and pilots had been on strike for a week in late February and the first week of March, protesting the fact that the parent company of the airline (which also owns British Air) was laying off 20% of their workforce, and forcing everyone else to take a pretty big pay cut and loss of vacation days. Not exactly a recipe for a friendly flight crew.

The place was a Airbus 340-600 – a big, super long cool plane.

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This one was on the older side, and the cabin looked the part – nice, but worn.

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The seats had more room between rows and aisles than any airplane I’d ever seen, though, and Traci thought it was crazy nice. There was nobody else in the entire row (three sets of two seats across), so we had our pick. The flight crew (all men and one woman purser) were friendly but curt – as you might expect a crew of folks who were working for less money with less job security than they would hope for to be. Tessa eyed them with suspicion when they tried to be nice to her though – maybe she sensed their vibe.

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Tessa sat next to me in the window seat, and we pointed out all of the different color planes as we taxied to the runway, and then we lumbered down Chicago tarmac and slowly headed up. Curving over the downtown skyline, we headed over Lake Michigan and towards Europe, hoping to get some sleep.

I will say that we ordered gluten free (for momma) and vegetarian (for Tessa and I) meals on all of the flights, and were very curious what Iberia was going to do with this. When the tray came, and there was a simple salad on it, Traci and I looked at each other and laughed. Wow guys. This is it? I was glad I brought a bag full of Lara Bars. We laughed harder when they actually brought out dinner. At least it wasn’t just going to be salad, like we thought. Needless to say, it wasn’t amazing food, but we ate enough to be full, and tried to get Tessa to fall asleep.

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The funniest part of the flight were the couple in their mid-fifties sitting in front of me (left side of the plane), who actually GOT UP and moved over to the other side of the plane mid-flight – after the woman kept looking back at Tessa (who wasn’t doing a single thing, or even being loud). They clearly wanted some version of the child-free first class experience. Fair enough. But she gave Traci the evil eye after she moved! Wow! And then the purser went over, spoke to them, looked at us, and laughed. We were both as amused as we were offended. Whatever. Mental note – older, rich Spanish women may be rude.

We got a few hours of sleep (me more than Traci), and Tessa got 3-4 hours, which wasn’t horrible.

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We crept in over the Spanish countryside, which was beautiful, and landed at the really very cool Madrid airport. The pictures say it all – just really one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen (by FAR the coolest airport). You know the big ‘mountain range’ look that Denver’s airport has, and how cool that is? This was way cooler. See for yourself.

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We waited forever to get the stroller (damn gate checking – I’m already bummed we have it, even if it’s good for pushing Traci’s big backpack), then walked through customs in a breeze. I will say this though – for a beautiful as it is, you walk forever to get through this place. Outside, to the hotel shuttles, and our Hilton airport shuttle literally cruises right up – bueno.

At the hotel, which is actually really nice too, and they let us check in at 9am – very nice. A modern, big courtyard, with really cool architecture, and a very modern, stylish medium size room: just right. We had to the breakfast buffet (41 euros for the two of us – not cheap by any means, but we’re starving.)

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A nice breakfast later, and after a extended three hour nap, and we’re in a cab heading for downtown Madrid.

The cabbie takes us to the Prado museum, which is one of Europe’s finest. It’s in a beautiful, central part of Madrid, with classic older European architecture, and next to the exquisite Parque del Buen Retiro (a massive park, with a big lake in the middle of it that people rent rowboats and try to impress their dates in). We walk through it, taking pictures, and Tessa plays on everything.

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It’s maybe 60 degrees, sunny, and just a perfect day. We have a bite at a lake-side café (coffee, sparkling water w lemon, green olives to die for, a veggie sandwich that Tessa doesn’t touch, and a bag olive-oil cooked potato chips (how Spanish). It’s just a really nice spot.

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We walk around a big statue (Mto. Alfonso XII) dedicated to a Spanish (king? President? We should know this), with big lion statues, and the aforementioned boat rental, and spend an hour taking in the park.

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One of the great city parks in the world, no doubt. Tessa is getting tired, so we catch a taxi home (20 min, 20 euros), and try to get to bed (this takes me no time at all, but Traci is up til 2 with Tessa, as someone wants to watch Daniel Tiger videos at 11pm – poor thing isn’t quite on the time-zone yet.)

We sleep til 10:25, and I manage to catch the breakfast buffet before they close. For 25 euros, it better be worth it, so I pile on the food (omelet, salmon, three glasses of fresh OJ, a coffee for Traci upstairs, and toast w honey for Tessa (wrapped in a napkin). They charge me 15 – good start to the day.

We pack, and head back to the Prado, this time to see it for as long as we can before catching our flight to London this afternoon at 4:50.

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There are lots of Spanish school kids outside, but inside it’s really not crowded at all – NOTHING like the Louvre was the summer of 2011 when we were last in Europe. With less than two hours, we had a quick bite in the café...

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and then headed right for the good stuff – the masters collection of (mostly) great Spanish painters from 1100-1800.

I don’t have enough cliché’s to explain how amazing it was to see some of these paintings. First of all, it was a great time to be there – really not that crowded, with a tour group of teenagers in front of the really famous pieces here and there, but nothing you couldn’t wait two minutes for them to (looking bored) move on with their guide. Some of the paintings were so awe-inspiring that you just stared. I caught myself thinking something along the lines of “so this is what people spent a lifetime perfecting – I can imagine that being a life unequivocally well spent”. As in, if I spent a lifetime making one masterpiece this perfect and extraordinary, I would have no regrets. My favorite painting of the day was a landscape by Joachim Patinir called ‘Crossing the Styx’, which showed a soul’s journey between earth and hell. It was mesmerizing.

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They also had a version of the Mona Lisa, painted by one of the Leonardo da Vinci’s understudy’s, which was pretty amazing to see form three feet away. And the floor to ceiling paintings by Raphael were just unreal.

Three times during our time there we came across an artist (clearly with the permission of the museum) set up in front of a masterpiece, easel and all, painting a replica of a painting. One was right in front of Raphael’s ‘The Cardinal’, and was chatting with a guard while making what looked to us like finishing touches. His painting was amazing – about 5% lighter in skin tone than the real thing, but really really really good – an amazing work all by itself. To be able to paint by eye in such a way….. We were both pretty blown away. I wish I took a picture.

Tessa held up for about an hour, and then was – very justifiably – bored by the art (and got us followed by Prado security for the last three rooms we were in for accidentally going on the wrong side of a rope in front of a painting.) So we decided to head for the hotel and the airport to catch our flight to London.

A quick 20 min taxi back to the Hilton, grabbed out bags caught a shuttle, and we were right back at the beautiful Madrid airport. Traci said that if every airport has an architect, then the guy who designed the Austin airport (which I think is one of the nicest in the US) must feel like an idiot if he ever comes to Madrid. Seriously. This is one impressively good looking building.

We had ‘Fast Track’, which is British Airlines version of VIP security treatment, so we sped through the lines, and got to the gate in easy time. A quick 2 hour flight later (with much better vegetarian/gluten free meals – Traci had tofu and some nice fruit), and we touched down in London. Fast Track also helped through customs (a.k.a., the 'Border')...

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...and we found the car service I booked right outside holding a sign with our name on it (it’s easier and cheaper than taking a taxi in London, or so I read on-line). 45 minutes later we pulled up in front of the Winston Churchill Hyatt Regency London. Pretty sweet.

More tomorrow.

Posted by kenyashoe 16:29 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

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