This Will Be A First For Me

Travel is about new things. Well, it is for me at least, and I’m about to do something I rarely do coupled with something I have never done. I usually travel solo. That’s because I hate everyone….. always. No, no….that’s a joke.I usually travel alone for a bunch of reasons and I’m fine with that. There are some places where I would prefer to travel with friends, but usually I can get along OK by myself. So this trip that starts today is already an outlier for me as I will be traveling with several relatives, but the biggest challenge I will have to overcome this trip is that it is being put together by a tour company.

I’ve never had anyone set up air, hotels, tours, etc. for me. I usually do it all. I also do most of the planning when I travel with others. Mostly due to the fact that by now I have lots of experience. Letting someone else do all the planning was difficult. I have status with an airline and I take advantage of all that comes with it: extra bags, faster passport control, nice (sometimes posh) lounges. I got lucky, they booked it through my preferred airline! Since we are on the same reservation, they can get some of my perks. Maybe not the lounge access, I can only get two guests in not five, but something is better than nothing.

Now all I have to do is show up. The rest is supposed to be taken care of. My biggest concern right now is that we hit the ground running and I can’t sleep on planes. I’m going to try again this trip. My fingers are crossed. I also awoke at 3am today (8am London time) to get ready. I really need to get where I can sleep on planes. I’m getting older and my current system of staying awake 24-30 hours straight and sleeping 16+ hours the first day is getting mire difficult.

More from London soon.

Barcelona Day Un

My first flight was at around 7am local time so I had to get up at about 4:30am to get ready and get to the airport. All went without a hitch and I got there in plenty of time.

The flight from Chattanooga to Atlanta is an annoying 20 minutes. It is annoying because you have to go through a lot with security, waiting, etc for just 20 minutes of air time. But, it still beats driving since Atlanta traffic is probably the worst in the US.

Got to Atlanta and got on my flight to Charlotte and then the delays began. There was poor visibility in Charlotte so they kept us in Atlanta for about half an hour. By the time I landed in Charlotte, after a 30 minute flight, Delta had rebooked me through Detroit instead of back to Atlanta for my flight to Amsterdam. Fine by me. I kind of prefer Detroit’s airport to Atlanta’s (sorry ATL, you can’t win one in this post [insert cheap Super Bowl joke here]).

The bad part of being sent through Detroit to get to Amsterdam was that instead of being on KLM as was my original flight from Atlanta, I was now on Delta. Delta is great, I just wanted to experience KLM’s long-haul service and see how it compared. Oh well, that’s what the future is for, right? The Detroit flight go there sooner, so I kind of won in the end.

The flight to Amsterdam was quick, about 7 hours. I got lots of reading done. I can’t sleep on planes. I look at people who can as if they have a super power. By the time I got to Amsterdam, I was dragging. I hit one of the KLM lounges to get some coffee and catch up with some work that came in while I was zooming across the Atlantic.

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If I’d had a window seat, and it was daytime, I might have seen Greenland!

One of the unpleasant side effects with me and sleep deprivation is that I start to say dumb things. Well, they make sense to me, but come out poorly worded. My answer at passport control in The Netherlands to “Are you going to Barcelona on business?” was “No, pleasure”. As soon as I’d said it I knew it sounded weird. As if all I planned to do in Barcelona was drink and go to brothels! That’s a half-truth. I’m going to drink and go to museums!

The KLM lounge was one of the nicest I’ve been in and most lounges are pretty nice. The internet wasn’t working for me but the coffee was. I was able to get a little work done, but got enough caffeine in me to keep me awake to Barcelona.

A short two-hour flight brought me to Spain. The flight over the Pyrenees was pretty cool as they have snow now and I’ve not seen much of that in my life from the air (or ground, I live in the American South).

I got my bags and grabbed a taxi. I was too tired to try to figure out the metro and wasn’t sure I could make the two blocks from the stop to my hotel. I’d been up for about 27 hours straight and at my age, that’s pushing the limits. The gods of travel (are (is) there any (one)?) grinned upon me and my room was ready two hours early. I checked in and slept from about noon until 2am Barcelona time. I hate to waste travel time asleep, but sleep is very important.

I’ll say this, late night Catalan / Spanish TV can give late night Japanese TV a run for its money.

Paris Day Un

After a quick 7+ hour flight (I know that seems long, but I have had much longer), we landed at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. Since there would be a few hours before our flat was ready my plan was to spend some time in the Air France arrivals lounge and then catch the train to the city. I had received mixed messages as to if I could have access to this lounge via my Delta Medallion level and my Skyclub membership so I made sure to ask the helpful staff at the Skyclub in Atlanta if me and my guests would be permitted. The agent looked a bit on his computer and said we would. D’accord! Upon arrival the agent at the Air France lounge said otherwise.

Usually I have a plan B, this time I did not, so we spent an hour or two at the airport in non-lounge surroundings. We took the RER and Metro to our Air B’n’B flat in the 2nd arrondissement. It was small, but very nice and had all the three of us would need for three days and was in a great location. We took a quick walk to a shop for some supplies and took a quick nap to try to mute the jet lag a bit.

Having only a short day we decided to do only one thing and that was tour the Paris Catacombs. In the late 1700s Paris’ cemeteries were way full and they needed the space to build stuff so they dug up all the old bones and placed them in abandoned quarries that were at the time outside the city. They are now beneath the streets of Paris. The bones of millions of people from the middle ages until the turn of the 18th century.

I’m not sure why, but I have always wanted to tour them. Being a history buff I have always liked cemeteries and this is just different kind. It was interesting and had far less walking than I had imagined. It is a bit odd to be in the presence of the remains of so many people who are identified only by cemetery and date of removal from it. It must have had a bit of a subliminal effect on my tired brain because I had two dreams about dead realtives that night. It is no wonder some people believe in ghosts. Not me, but I’d still rather not have the dreams.The gift shop was small, and over priced even by major attraction gift shop standards, but I got a few things.

We walked to a cafe nearby for dinner and spotted a boucherie across the street and decided to check it out after dinner. I grabbed a sampling of sausages for us to snack on along with some cheese. We hopped the Metro back to the flat. While we were en route I opened my bag to get something and noted that it wouldn’t be a trip to Europe for me without everything I have in my backpack smelling of smoked sausage at some point.

 

 

 

Not Quite Off The Grid

I am currently in a “cabin” (the owner’s word, not mine)  on the side of a mountain in Virginia not too far from West Virginia. I am here for the oldest reason a single man has for going someplace where he doesn’t want to go: to take his mother to visit her grandchildren.

Despite all of the nature, this is not my natural environment. I am a city dweller. I love cities. I have always lived in a city since I have been old enough to control my own destiny. You will see most of my travel will be to cities. Don’t misunderstand me, I love nature, but I like to visit for a short time and then go back to civilization. It’s best that way for both nature and myself.

It’s also best for nature if we just spend a little time there and leave it be. It’s been having rough time the last 200 years or so. I feel bad messing up what is left. Most cities are on t sites where man ruined nature long ago. Let’s live there and not screw up any more of it.

I enjoy air conditioning, pizza delivery, water systems, sewers, screens on widows, museums, convenience stores, knowing an ambulance could get down my street if needed, cell signals, and non-bug-based sounds. The fact I can post this due to cable being present here means that this place is in the weird rural yet not rural that so much of America is.

On the plus side, I got to pick my first apples. We had to drive about half an hour to get to the orchard from the mountain compound. As much as I enjoyed the apples and picking them, I REALLY enjoyed the most civilized part of the orchard, the hard cider tasting room.

It is great seeing family, but we really should do it in a city. We all live in them. They are very convenient.