Category: travel

Aug 17 2010

More from Dubai

Still at the Dubai Airport and still have not found wifi. So more random blabbering from me. I did get today’s New York times downloaded, which is something I suppose….yes, the Kindle’s world 3G really is world wide. I’m at the gate waiting for my flight now, this was a much more pain-less checkin than in SF, primarily because I was already checked in. My luggage (hopefully) went straight through to South Africa.

I had a really interesting conversation with a woman from New Zealand who is on her way home from Afghanistan. She had spent the last 4 months there as a relief worker, and was on the 12th hour of her layover. Some random facts she told me about: no smoking anywhere in public during Ramadan, the Irish pub at the airport here is the only place that serves alcohol during the holiday and they have free wifi (will check it out on my return, I’ll have four hours to kill), shopping here is out of control – the time to come is the first two weeks in January, but duty free isn’t bad here end either. She definitely convinced me to take a longer layover if I’m ever here again – i would love to explore.

What else. Burkas are omnipresent here, but not so much so in rural Afghanistan, near Iran. Women there do not wear the full deal, some of them may wear the head piece, but she made a point of saying its personal choice. It’s not quite as required as it may be elsewhere. Of course, that said – no shorts, no skirts unless they hit the floor. No short sleeves, no cleavage. Strangely enough, heavy, heavy makeup is ok – its strange to me to see these gorgeous women wearing pounds of makeup covered from head to toe. All you see are smoky eyes. She pointed out a woman wearing a tank top and said that someone was going to ask her to please “cover herself for decency.”

I suspect I will have a lot more to say about the gender stuff once I’m not quite so sleep deprivand have had time to process. It has definitely been an experience. Nothing bad, though, I want to emphasize that.

Ok, I think we’re boarding soon. Next stop Cape Town, where although it is winter, there is nothing wrong with a woman in a tank top.

Aug 14 2010

San Francisco to Dubai

I’m currently sitting in a hotel room in Dubai, typing this entry on my brand spanking new iPad I won at BlogHer care of the University of Phoenix!! I’m in Dubai because I’m headed to Cape Town for work – that’s where Yola is originally from.

The iPad is….spectacular, and well deserving of a post of its own, which I’ll do once I’ve had some more time to play with it. To summarize, though, I will say that I still stand by everything I originally said about it – it is a luxury device. It doesn’t replace anything I already have, but wow, is it am amazing experience. And as you can see, I’m kinda getting the hang of typing on here too.

Back to the story at hand – traveling. So I left San Francisco at 4pm on Sunday. It is now 9pm on Monday, after a 16 hr flight, and I’m in the Emirates Millennium hotel overnight before my 9 hour flight on to Cape Town tomorrow.

Dubai is a hoot. The airport is a hoot, the airline is enough of an experience that it also deserves a post of its own. ….it’s all pretty amazingly foreign and I love it. It’s funny – I was in India about 4 years ago, but Dubai is much more like Israel than india as far as the general makeup and culture. And I don’t mean that in any political sense, but it really is shockingly similar (in a positive way, in my mind). Stupid stuff is familiar to me, the fliptops on soda cans, the selling of “soda water,” the military everywhere.

Part of the familiarity is because I was in Israel over Passover, and here I am in the UAE over Ramadan. I don’t really drink alcohol, so it doesn’t effect me quite as much as it did the 13 year old me dying for a bagel, but the feeling is the same…and I think the word is respect.

It’s respect for the dominant culture/religion of the region, and as a tourist, the subtle (and not so subtle) reminders that this is a major holiday is helpful. I’m not trying to be dumb American and offend anyone.

Cross Las Vegas with middle eastern culture, and you kinda have Dubai. I mean, there’s a waterfall at the friggin airport. Oh, and yeah, it’s hot out. Well over 100 and the sun is down.

I’m not sure when I’m going to get this posted – no wifi in the hotel (but hotel, food, and transportation are free from Emirates so I’m not complaining) – but will post this, using the word press iPad app, as soon as I can get online.

Oct 04 2009

A Grand Vacation to the Grand Canyon

A few weeks ago, I went on a short trip to the Grand Canyon. A friend of mine and I had planned a trip to Las Vegas, and really just threw the Grand Canyon in there as an additional “why not” type thing.

It ended up being unbelievable, and without a doubt the most memorable part of the trip – Las Vegas doesn’t even come close.

A quote from the recent Ken Burns special on PBS works well:

When the Creator made it, he forgot to create a word to describe it.

I don’t necessarily believe in a Creator, but this still fits. There are no words.

Another Grand Canyon SunriseWe went to the South Rim, to Grand Canyon Village, where you can go to various different spots to look around (or if you are so inclined, hike in). Our first view of the Canyon was around 5am, right as the sun was about to come up, and it truly took my breath away. We all felt a need to whisper, we didn’t want to disturb the beautiful peace in front of us. Even my pictures look amazing, and I’m a pretty lousy photographer using a fairly old camera (the friend I went with IS a photographer, so most of my pictures for posterity are hers), although the majority of my sunrise pictures didn’t come out due to low light.

The first time I went to Paris, I felt an instant connection, an immediate need to spend more time there. And I did – a few years later I spent over a week in Paris staying at a friend’s apartment and simply tooling around the city like a Parisian. I hope to do that again, many, many times.

Taking a pictureI feel the same way about the Grand Canyon, even though the experience is completely different. I want to spend more time there, not staring at it from above, but inside of it. I want to go down the Colorado, see the things that you can only see by river.

What amazed me the most, and I think a large part of the reason I need to go back – its not want, its need – is how untouched it is. Even up on the Rim, it’s not a huge resort town with lots of cars and hotels. It’s a very bare National Park, with basic cabins and campgrounds everywhere you look. There isn’t any entertainment – the entertainment is all around you, miles and miles of nothing.

It’s not just a big hole, as Chevy Chase said. It’s a spectacular look into history, at something created by the earth itself. It is amazing to think that something like this wasn’t planned, that it just happened, and yet, it did.

I am already looking into taking a river run sometime in 2010/2011 (these things have to be booked ages in advance), I want to plan and book it before the magic feeling the Grand Canyon created in me goes away. I know it will – feelings like that wear away with distance and time – but as long as I’ve already planned my trip back I can maybe keep some little piece of it alive.

Years ago, a woman around my age stepped up to the edge of the Rim, looked at the Grand Canyon for the first time, and was so stunned by the view that she fainted, falling in. As sad as that story is, I totally get it. The feeling is that incredible, your breath is taken away, and I can’t wait to feel it again.

You can see all my pictures from the Grand Canyon here.

Me and the Grand Canyon

Nov 16 2008

Southwest 2795 – SFO – LAX

I’m currently sitting in SFO, waiting for my flight back to LA. The flight’s apparently on time (the first on time flight I’ve had in longer than I can remember!), but oversold…they’re calling for people to switch planes, offering up $200 plus price of ticket and a flight at 9pm. Eh. Doesn’t sound like such a good deal to me, the extra hours of parking in LA would chomp into that a bit.

The one time I’ve taken that kind of deal from an airline it was one of those perfect offers that I couldn’t say no to. I was flying from Las Vegas home to San Jose, and there were terrible storms in SJ. Thunder, lightning, high winds, the whole bit. Our plane hadn’t even been able to leave San Jose yet, it was stuck on a ground hold.

The flight before mine had just been canceled, mine was delayed at least 2 hours, and the gate agent was telling us all that there was a strong chance the flight would be canceled completely. The initial offer was to be put on a flight later that night, and in return get a free round trip ticket on the airline (this was American) anywhere in the continental US. I offered myself up for that one, hell, it was VEGAS, I wasn’t going to complain about being stuck there (didn’t hurt that I had friends who lived there), and my job was flexible enough that the world wouldn’t end if I showed up late in the am. An hour later, the gate agent tells me that the second flight is probably going to be canceled as well, which meant there wouldn’t be any more flights out that night.

Since I’d offered myself up to be bumped off of my flight earlier, they were going to give me a comp hotel room and food vouchers, plus a first class seat on the first flight out in the morning.

Everyone who’d waited and tried to go on the actual flight was shit out of luck – they had to wait until the morning to fly as well, but the airline doesn’t comp things because of weather. Some of them even tried to offer up their seats to see if that’d work, but you kinda can’t offer up a seat on a flight that was canceled.

I was lucky, no doubt. I’d ended up in their system as someone who had volunteered to give up her seat for a flight that was subsequently canceled, which made everything their fault, not the weather’s. It was a little funny seeing all the same faces on the flight that morning as the people on the original flight from the day before. They were all tired and grumpy. Me, I’d had an extra night in Vegas, in an actual hotel, hung out with my friends for 12 hrs, AND got a free round trip ticket.

I’m not an “expert” traveler, but I have traveled enough that I’m getting pretty close. So my one piece of advice – if airlines are asking people to jump flights, think about a few things:

– Likelihood of the flight you were originally booked on leaving

– Likelihood of the flight you will be placed on leaving (if one flight’s overbooked, chances are very good that the whole airline is all day)

– If being placed in a hotel – what hotel, and does the airline fully pay for it. This can be significant, as some airlines only have discount vouchers for dumpy motels, while others will put you up in a “real” hotel.

– Price to you if you don’t get home until the next day. This includes job responsibilities, baby/pet sitting, parking, etc.

– Can they get your luggage off of the current flight? Sometimes the answer is no.

– Where are you. I was once on a flight from O’Hare to Dulles that was delayed on the runway for 6 hours before returning to the terminal for technical issues. After waiting another couple of hours in the terminal we were offered (all paid) a night in the hotel, dinner/breakfast, and a flight out the next morning. No miles, no money. I asked ‘what if we don’t want it,’ and they told me that the plane had to get to Dulles regardless, so it would eventually be leaving. It just may not be leaving until 3am. Well, I truly didn’t want to spend a night in the O’Hare airport hotel, I really wanted to sleep in my old bed, and at this point, I kinda felt like I’d waited for so long that I deserved to go home. So, I waited! Flight landed in Dulles at about 4:30am. The original flight was supposed to leave O’Hare at 4pm. It was absolutely insane, but at the end it was kind of fun flying on a 747 with 10 people on it (everyone else had decided to spend the night).

Another announcement asking people to volunteer. If they gave more than $200, maybe people would take it?

Also, the more desperate they get, the better the deal. For example, the deal here just changed – now they’re offering a 5pm out of Oakland instead of the 9pm flight here.

Me, I need to get back tonight. I could theoretically get back later, but I’d have to get to oakland, and I’d much rather get home at 6 than at 9. Plus, I checked baggage, and I’m always to paranoid to flip flights when I’ve checked a bag. I don’t think I would take this deal, no matter how great it became, I just want to go home.

That’s another big thing for ppl to remember – Southwest, in particular, is a wonderful airline to change flights on. However, if you have a checked bag, you have a good chance of losing it.

I fly from LAX to SFO a lot, and more often than not, San Francisco is fogged in. If I don’t have bags checked (which is most of the time I fly), I go from counter to counter around LAX looking for another Southwest bay area flight leaving earlier than my delayed flight. And 9 times out of 10, I get on a better flight. Now, depending on where I’m going, San Jose can be more trouble than its worth, but Oakland is just as easy as SFO. So ALWAYS check around at the other flights, and especially with Southwest, just ask someone. All the Southwest gate agents are really nice, and extremely helpful.

Now the offer is $200 travel voucher, refund on ticket, and flight out of oakland at 6. Only one person volunteered so far, they need 5. It’s gonna be ugly once they start bumping people.

Aah well, enough blabbering for me, time to close this down and get on the plane!

Nov 19 2007

It’s Turkey Week!

I will be heading out to Connecticut on Wednesday to hang out with my family in the middle of nowhere.

I’m not too concerned about travel, not on the way there, anyway. The way home could be a different matter. I fly LAX to Dulles to Hartford going, and Hartford to O’Hare to LAX. It’s the O’Hare part that worries me, I have a 45 minute or so layover, plus that’s the one airport where I’ve been stuck on a runway forever…we’re talking six hours or so.

That experience was probably the worst thing that’s ever happened to me traveling, which on the one hand is saying something, on the other…it probably means I’ve been fairly lucky. :)

The flight was originally delayed due to the flight crew not being there. The flight they were on was late. Their flight got in about an hour late, and we were finally put on the plane.

The plane was something like 25th in line for takeoff. We waited, and waited, and waited….then they said something was wrong with the plane. But, they could fix it while we were on the runway, if we went back to the gate, everything would take longer.

So the plane was moved to an out of the way spot on the runway, and we waited some more. This was where the six hours comes in.

My flight was supposed to have left at 3pm. At 11:30 pm, we returned to the gate. They couldn’t fix the problem, and needed to use another plane. Believe it or not, there was a plane available, and that flight was going to leave at 12:30am.

We were all offered hotel rooms, meal tickets for the airport and rebooking on the first flight in the morning. I’d say maybe 80% of the people took the airline up on their offer, by then, everyone was just frustrated and tired and annoyed. Not angry, not anymore, just tired and in need of sleep.

I only wanted to get home and sleep in my own bed. I really didn’t want to wake up in the morning and have to go through all of this again. And I did finally make it home, on that second flight, at about 4am.

I’ve been stuck in London and Las Vegas overnight, once because of an obnoxious agent, once because of bad weather. I’ve had countless flights delayed or canceled…I even had an entire TRIP canceled by an airline because of weather.

But this…this was unbelievable. See, I finished my book about 3 hours in, and didn’t have anything else to read. I was talking to a friend on AIM (after 1/2 hr they gave up on the “no cellphones” thing), but my treo’s battery was nearly gone. I was going to die of boredom!!

Fortunately, a couple of really cool guys went around the plane and got me two more books. I can’t even remember what they were right now, but I read them cover to cover. I was also able to get into my luggage when the planes were switched, and grabbed another book out of there.

I travel with three books now, as well as my power cords for my cell phone. I’ve had moments since where I ended up going through all three books, and had to charge my battery in the middle of an airport.

Wednesday I’m going to be traveling all day. I leave here at noon, I land in Hartford around 11:30pm. But at least traveling means hours and hours to read a good book…or three. “Always be prepared,” right? I was a good Girl Scout. Is that really a surprise to anyone?

May 11 2007

Hi from south carolina!

I have to admit that I’m loving the south (despite the 11hr car ride it took to get here). Its just an entirely different world here, and so neat.

right now I’m in greenville, and will be heading to asheville tomorrow (biltmore winery…woo!). I may still be stressed about moving, but this is a great escape.

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May 04 2007

How to waste time at an airport.

1) drink. two is more than enough, the idea is NOT to get drunk, just to make the wait more enjoyable. then do the following….

2) befriend random people and take some sick satisfaction that they’re stuck there longer than you. you also get great stories about how stupid ppl. don’t tell them they’re idiots, of course, encourage them to talk and entertain you.

3) window shop. You won’t find anything worth buying (well, I got the new tom clancy-lite book), but mainly just laugh at the crap for sale. seriously, who is gonna buy a brass statue of liberty in LA?

4) wander. lax is a big airport and worth exploring a bit. going from terminal to terminal is fine….the more you walk, the better you’ll be sitting still on the plane for six hrs.

5) people watch. guess where people are going…then see if you’re right. along those lines…

6) check out the different ppl at different gates. ex: folks going to tokyo vs those going to oklahoma. silly, but interesting.

7) read trashy magazines. books are for extended reading time…the plane….junk mags are for wasting time.

8) catch up on podcasts. just try not to look too stupid laughing at diggnation…remember, you’ve been drinking, but you are NOT DRUNK. no acting like a dufus.

9) write a long rambly lj entry.

and most important..

10) don’t get to your gate until just before boarding. don’t be that person who hovers….you’re all getting on the plane anyway, who cares if you’re the first person on in seating one. not to mention, its fun walking by all of the idiots hovering and getting right on the plane.

…and now I have wasted two hours, heard some good stories, met some fun ppl, and am boarding in 45 mins. not bad, right?

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