Saturday, November 17, 2012

Finally Made It

Well, I finally made it to Prague. Nearly a year in the planning and over sixteen hours in the traveling. I had not really experienced this level of jet lag before since the longest trip I'd ever taken was from Connecticut to Hawaii with my parents when I was around five and I don't think five year-olds get jet lag. Anyway, here is how it went.

The first leg was from Phoenix to Chicago. That took about 2 hours and 45 minutes. I arrived at the airport nearly four hours early for my flight and was glad I did. I had a little bit on an issue with a very heavy suitcase.
I had thought, wrongly, that one over-weight suitcase was cheaper to fly with than just two suitcases. Boy was I wrong. Here's a tip, take two suitcases. My over-weight bag was going to cost $400 to check. Evidently it is a "safety issue." I'm thinking, "yes, okay safety is a concern with a heavy bag but this seems more like a union rule to me." Either way it turned out to be much cheaper for me to run to the airport gift shop, pay way too much for another suitcase and check two bags.
That is what I did. I bought a suitcase for $100 and commenced to repacking, in the airport. I did pretty well to. At the end of my session I had to make some really difficult choices and I threw away the extra pairs of shoes I wanted to bring with me. Women beware, shoes weight a lot. In the end it worked out well. I had two bags within weight specs and only had to toss three pair of shoes and a sweatshirt. Not bad and I got out of it only having to pay a $160 penalty for having too much crap. The whole repacking episode only took about 30 minutes and the people at the United check counter were really nice. They didn't even mind me frantically throwing my bag on the scale over and over.

From there it was a little bit of a wait at the gate and then I was on a completely packed plane. Overall the flight was not that bad. If you don't mind giving birth to the person in front of you while the two year-old sitting on his mother's lap behind you kicks the seat for nearly three hours.
The two year-old sitting to my right was actually well behaved and used the seat for almost 75% of the trip. She did of course use the whole seat and kicked me in the leg a few times when she was curled up on it playing with her mother's ipad. Other than the fact that she needed to be changed three times in the span of nearly three hours she really was great. The kid needed to be changed, not the mother.
The two year-old next to me was traveling with her two sisters and parents back to France. Her mom was on the isle seat and a really nice lady. She was originally from Phoenix and married a Frenchmen. They have a business selling bamboo things for people's homes. Evidently they travel to Vietnam a lot to buy bamboo stuff, but they are a pretty big company since they sell stuff in 23 countries. Don't look for them in the U.S. anytime soon, it's too expensive to get stuff there.
We arrived in Chicago around sunset and the sunset was less than inspiring, but it was really cool to fly over the city, out over the lake and back to the airport. I'd never seen the Sears Tower from the air, I know it's not the Sears Tower anymore, and that was awesome. The skyline really was pretty in the light. Sadly I'd already turned my phone off and didn't take a photo. I did take one a little before we got in to the city.

At Ohare I had to check in again, since I was changing carriers. I booked my flight the whole way via Aer Lingus but the first leg was serviced through United. At least I didn't have to go to baggage claim and recheck my bags. The big problem with Ohare is that the international terminal is not attached to the rest of the airport, it is very far away. I had to take a train from my arrival terminal to the international terminal. I wasn't really sure if I was on the right track, even after asking the guard for directions after I left the security zone, but then I heard a few guys speaking German and saw a group of Indian people and followed them. I figured following the foreigners was a safe bet, it was.
I checked in at the Aer Lingus desk and the attendant informed me that he needed to change my booking name on my ticket. I have a long name and a suffix which routinely screws up documents for me. It almost got me out of jury duty once though, so it's not all bad, I really did want to sit on that jury. Anyway the name change was to make going through customs easier when I got to Prague, so the attendant said. It didn't take that long.
I still had two hours or so before my flight across the Atlantic left, so I figured I'd get something to eat and have a drink before I left. I had a crappy, over-priced wrap then headed for the bar.
I sat down and ordered a draft Budweiser and a shot of Jim Beam, I asked for Wild Turkey but they didn't have any. I figured, what the heck leave the States with an American Boiler Maker in my gut and all would be good. I would have taken a photo of it, but I made the mistake of sitting next to a buzzed ex-marine on his way to Abu Dabi to be an instructor for dismounted ariel assault operations or some such. Basically, he was going to teach people how to hop out of helicopters and shoot things. I told him I'd seen that a bunch of times when I was covering the military and he was then very excited to have someone at the bar who understood what he was talking about when he brought up crew-served weapons. The only sentence I was really able to get out after he started going was, "cool, I have a friend who just got a job at Ferrari World in Abu Dabi."
I finished my drink with 15 minutes to get to the gate and proceded to go through security.

I have to say, all my suffering on the first leg of my flight was compensated for on the flight across the Atlantic. There was no one in the seat next to me so I could stretch out. The nearest smell kid was at least 20 rows away and the in flight entertainment options were excellent. If you ever have to fly across the Atlantic I can't recommend Aer Lingus enough.
I had rented a movie on my iPad so I'd have something to watch and totally didn't need it. The little screen in the back of the seat in front of me had everything I needed. There were some pretty new movies on there, some tv shows, which were pretty old and some basic video games. I watched Men in Black 3 and played Centipede. Talk about awesome.

This awesome little screen had everything; movies, tv and video games as well as telemetry about the plane. There were more control options via a remote stuck in the arm rest. 
The food on the flight wasn't bad at all and they even had a little breakfast croissant for us as we got closer to Ireland. The sun was rising as we got in to Dublin, but it wasn't really that inspiring at all mainly because it was super overcast.

The most amazing thing about the flight across the Atlantic is that we had a huge tailwind and the pilot took full advantage of it. We were due to arrive in Dublin at 9 am, instead we arrived at 7:30. I can't remember the last time I was on a plane that arrived that early. I was a little groggy since I didn't sleep so well on the flight, although I did sleep some, so after I got off the plane I headed for the bar. 

I dont think I would ever be able to forgive myself if I had not had Guinness in Ireland as well as Jameson. That glass of whisky is a double, a little small in my book but whatever. Anyway, I took my time drinking this and listening to all the Irish brogues around me while I update my Facebook and sent messages to friends keeping them apprised  of my progress.
Even after I finished this "breakfast" I still had several hours to catch my flight but I decided to head to the terminal to be safe. I went through security -- again. My gate was not open, but the bar next to it was. I had another Guinness.

My flight to Prague was pretty uneventful. It was packed but not too bad and I had an isle seat. The man next to me was reading some sort of article on his iPad which was all about finding and ordering beer in Prague. I thought that was kind of funny. The jetlag was catching up to me so I really just slept the whole way.
I made it safe and sound, got some currency and headed for passport control. I was a little worried about what passport control would be like but the ridiculously beautiful blonde customs officer was involved in some very important telephone conversation and never even spoke to me, she barely looked at me. 
I collected my bags and walked over to customs. There was an attendant there and I walked over to him and asked him if I needed to do anything. He looked at me like I was a moron babbling in some sort of made-up language and nodded at the exit door. I walked through it and then I was in Prague, so much for the need to change the name on my ticket and stuff. No one even checked my baggage claim tickets. 
From there is was about a thirty-minute cab ride to where I'm staying. Judging from the driver's frustration it was rush hour. He was a pretty awesome driver. He ducked that Skota estate car in and out like a pro. While I was looking around I thought two things, "this place looks like a cold-war movie set with strange modern bits tossed in," and, "wow, looks like 'FUCK' is universal in graffiti."

Then I made it to where I'm staying and figured I'd take a nap for a few hours and woke up twelve hours later. It's probably better to explore the city for the first time during the day anyway.


Related Articles