A travel day from hell in parts…A travel day in heaven for the balance….

The menu we were each handed after taking our seats on the Emirates Airlines flight from Dubai to Barcelona.

We live and learn. 

In our “old lives” we assumed we had a moderate amount travel experience as a result of various vacations over many years, seldom if ever, encountering the trials and tribulations that we now encounter as nomads. This is especially the case for those of us who don’t go “home” to repack subsequently hauling everything we own with us every single day.

It’s somewhat similar to the turtle carrying his “house” on his back. If he/she flips over, his/her whole world is literally and figuratively upside down. That was us yesterday morning as we left Dubai, United Arab Emirates to fly to Barcelona, Spain, to stay overnight in a hotel, leaving today to board our 8th cruise since January 3, 2013.

Actually, it will be our final cruise over the next 15 to 16 months with us staying on land through July 2014:  Tuscany, Italy (beginning in less than two weeks); Diani Beach, Kenya; Kruger Park, South Africa;  Marrakesh, Morocco and Madeira, Portugal, all of which we’ll be living in single family homes from two to three months.  

Photos were taken with my phone.  Our cameras were too hard to get to when on the plane. Who knew I’d want photos of the inside of the plane anyway? This is the removable remote control that is tethered with a retractable cord, in each of our personal command stations.  The button on the right releases it from the console.
As much as we loved our two and a half months in Placencia, Belize, we also look forward to settling in to our new locations savoring the unique and varied cultural differences we will behold and cherish in our hearts, in our minds, in our photos and our writing.

Yesterday,we took our first flight since we left Minnesota on Halloween, 2012. All other transportation since leaving the US has been by way of car and cruise ship. 

This is Al Pacino playing Phil Specter in the HBO movie of the same name we both watch simultaneously on our own screens.  I watched two scary movies after this and Tom watched Lincoln, failing to remember the second of the three. 
The limitations of refusing to fly could invariably prevent us from the opportunity to experience many parts of the world. 

Thus, we booked this first flight to Barcelona, to “get our feet wet” with the realities of baggage restrictions, one way fares, time constraints, tiny airplane seats and in most cases, no meal on board.

Let’s get the yucky part over with first. The property manager arranged for our ride to the Dubai airport. With our flight at 8:15 am, Ignacio picked us up at our Dubai condo at 6:00 am sharp. If I slept three hours Sunday night, I’d be stretching it. 

Our remote in place, revealing the many options on the screen.

My phone’s alarm was set for 5:00 am. I still didn’t fall asleep until after 2:00 am having the usual “moving anxiety” that Tom and I both seem to struggle with. 

After an excruciating day on Sunday, tossing yet more “stuff” to further shrink the load, we knew our baggage was overweight. Our one large bag and carry-on bag each were stuffed to the gills, now down to one large suitcase each for clothing.

I don’t know why we got such a kick out of the remote, taking so many photos, but here it is again outside the console.  Quite nifty.  Then again, its the small things….
Our menu for the flight on Emirates Airlines. 
With the intent of facing the excess baggage reality after weighing our bags on our portable travel scale Sunday afternoon, we prepaid $415 which allowed us an included 30% discount for paying online in advance. This allowed us an extra 20 kg, which translated to 44 pounds. Our checked bags included two large suitcases and one duffel bag.

We knew this wasn’t enough, but hoped as we’ve done on flights in our “old lives” that perhaps we might skate through at this airport.

Ha!  No skating in Dubai!  We were required to place all of our checked luggage on a scale only to discover that we still were short, resulting in yet another payment for $240.Ouch!  Now we were in for US $655 for excess baggage fees. If we’d left the two carry on bags we’d hoped to check, we’d have had to pay yet another US $300. Tom stacked them on the wheelie cart.

If you can see this clearly, notice the verbiage at the bottom of the page where it mentions the free drinks.
Exhausted from the trying experience, including a little diplomatic pleading, we allowed ourselves a moment to sit down to catch our breath, only to look at each other simultaneously, standing knowing full well that we had better be on our way. It was already 7:10 am. We had to keep moving with the looming security check facing us. 

After removing our bulky boots, jackets, watches and all the carry on luggage on our carts, multiple gray plastic bins began going through the x-ray machines.  After our awful experience with the knife placed in our bin in Barcelona, we kept a watchful eye as it all went through the conveyor.

Confident that we had nothing to worry about, we stood by prepared to gather our stuff and be on our way.

No such luck.  Showing us an x-ray of one of the carry on bags, the security guard insisted we remove everything in one of the orange carry on bags to find an object that appeared to be a pair of pliers or large tweezers.   Neither of us recognized the item. 

This was Tom’s lunch.  I was so hungry I started eating my deli plate before remembering
to take the photos.  Tom ate twice, me only once, still full from breakfast. Real silverware, food wasn’t bad at all. 
One by one, still in our compression stocking feet, we started pulling every carefully packed item out the overly stuffed bag. I kept asking to see the x-ray again and again. It looked as if the item was located in the upper right hand corner of the bag. As Tom and I reviewed the x-ray over and over, we both realized simultaneously, that this wasn’t an x-ray of our bag! It was an x-ray of someone else’s bag who was now long gone.

Embarrassed by their error, needing to justify the delay, they ended up confiscating one of our extension cords and an old surge protector, leaving us with two smaller items, neither of which were in the bag in question. What? At this point, we had little energy left to argue as we repacked up our bag, put on our boots and began to make our way to Gate 36.

It was now 7:32 am. Our plane was scheduled to depart at 8:15. All we had to do was get to the gate and somehow convince the flight attendants to allow us to bring on the six carry-on items in our possession, as opposed to the allowable one item per person.

We walked and walked, seemingly to no end, with our arms loaded with stuff while Tom
amazingly wheeled the precariously stacked cart. Following sign after sign all pointing
to Gates C 1-50, we wondered when we’d ever get close to the gate. First, we had to maneuver past Concourse A 1-50, then Concourse B 1-50 to find our way toward Concourse C. 

In dire frustration, twice we stopped asking uniformed employees if we were going the right direction.They assured us that we were. Time was marching on.  Were we going to miss our flight? Our cruise ship is leaving tomorrow. No refunds. What about our checked bags? Yikes.

Finally, we saw a sign that clearly stated “Gate 36.”  Following a narrow hallway, we ended up at a bus station. Oh, no! A bus to the tarmac? 

Sitting on the bus, still not moving at 8:15, in a near panic, Tom reassured me saying, “There are over 20 passengers on this bus going on this same flight. The plane won’t take off before we get there.” 

Once again, Tom was right. Once the bus started moving it took a full 10 minutes to arrive at the tarmac while the plane waited, cabin attendants eagerly waiting at the open doors beyond movable stairway.
“Oh, no,” I thought, “This bus has taken us to a steep stairway to climb to get into the plane?  How in the world will Tom haul that 100 plus pounds of stuff up such a steep set of steps in the unsteady wheelie cart. Everyone was rushing.
Waiting to be the last getting off, we were hoping that the flight attendants, in a desperate attempt to avoid any further delays, would push our bags through.  Perhaps, that was a good decision. 

In any case, in a matter of minutes, the nature of our day totally flipped when Tom somehow maneuvered the two flights of steep steps, puffing and panting in the 90 degree heat, all the way to the plane, all without a landing to enter the rear door of the plane.  Immediately the gracious flight attendants began to help with our bags with nary a complaint or comment, showing us to our assigned seats and then…the fun began.

Much to our delight, our two assigned seats were in a grouping of three seats with the third seat unoccupied. Keep in mind, we were the last passengers to board the plane thus we felt confident that the extra seat was ours to use. 

In a matter of minutes glasses of cold water were handed to us along with our dining menus.  Tom’s face was pale. It worried me. (Having both been sick for weeks, the strain of the morning wore thin in our weakened condition). Minutes later, we discovered the remotes to our personal monitors, the free current movies and TV shows, our comfy pillows and blankets, the complimentary headset, the complimentary cocktails, beer, wine and beverages.

We looked at each other with the same thought in mind…good thing we had yet to book our future flights yet. At all costs and efforts, we plan to try to fly Emirates Airlines.

For the first time ever, we both felt as if we were in first class when in fact it was “coach” which proved to be a pure luxury on Emirates Airlines. Gone was our frustration over the cost of our
excess baggage, gone was the angst over the security error, gone was the tension of the late bus ride to the plane and the fear of missing the flight.
In its place was a profound feeling of pure comfort, the pleasures of impeccable friendly service, cameras shown to us from the perspective of plane’s current views from the cockpit with detailed navigational information, multiple universal plug-ins for our digital equipment, perfect lighting, air-
conditioning and a bonus of spacious restrooms.

For almost seven full hours, we had fun. We talked. We laughed. We watched three movies each.  We recharged our phones in our own universal plug ins.We were served two full meals, breakfast and four hours later, a full lunch with dessert.  They accommodated my way of eating with ease, already on the menu, not too bad tasting.  What an experience!

If we can fly the many hours to Africa on Emirates, we’ll be thrilled. That’s our next challenge.

Exiting the plane in the telescopic tube at the modern Barcelona airport was uneventful. Exchanging US $ to Euros was time consuming but at this point we weren’t rushed.  

For the second time, I’d failed to bring the address to the hotel. When we came to Hotel Grums on May 5th, I hadn’t brought it assuming the cab driver would know the location of this popular boutique hotel, often booked by cruise passengers. When he didn’t know it he only had to plug it into his navigation system with ease. 

This second time as we headed back at the same hotel, I’d let it slip my mind to bring along the
address on my phone. When the cab driver didn’t have a clue where it was, nor did he have a navigation system, he pulled out a map asking our help.  Oh, yeah. A map was going to help us. Duh?

Pulling out my laptop from the tightly packed bag, I looked up the email confirmation that I’d received from Expedia with our hotel confirmation, telling his the address. He then looked on the map locating it and asking me for confirmation. 

Twenty minutes and US $50 later we reached our hotel, checked in and found our way to our room, figured out the plug ins on our own and plopped on the bed to relax until dinner at 7:00 pm.  

With the two hour time loss, sleep would come easily after a light dinner in the dining room and an episode of Downton Abbey on my laptop in  our room.

We’d made a decision to wear the same clothes yesterday and today with only fresh underwear to avoid opening our sucked Space Bags and suitcases at all. With not an inch anywhere in our luggage, it was a wise decision. In my “old life” I’d never wear a shirt more than once with my propensity to spill food on myself. 

This morning after dressing and looking in the mirror, a quarter sized spot adorned the center of my fitted tee shirt.  A little soap and water on a washcloth, a gentle rub, a resulting big wet spot and a while later, before we left the room for coffee, the spot was gone.
The only bags we opened were the computer bags and the single duffel bags filled with our year’s worth of toiletries, cosmetics, and miscellaneous items, some required to shower and freshen up. All we’ll need to repack before we leave the hotel at 10:30 am on our way to the pier, is the duffel and the computer bags.
This morning the reality dawned on me that I’d tossed (to make room) the remainders of my 12 ounce bottle of body lotion and an 8 ounce bottle of facial wash, two brand name items I’ve used for years.  Soap for two weeks won’t kill me plus I’m hoping our cabin steward can roust up a few little bottles of lotion.
Improvise, I remind myself. As long as we’re healthy and safe, the stuff doesn’t matter. Improvise.

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