Thursday, April 23, 2009

What a long, strange trip it'd been...

After a whirlwind trip to France/Belgium and then back to the States, I am finally back in Glasgow. Right now, I have nothing booked in the upcoming future, which is a bit of a strange feeling.

The journey back to Scotland was pretty smooth, even if it included three flights. The first leg, Washington-Paris, went by surprisingly quickly, and even though there were turbulent patches, I'd properly geeked out pre-flight and checked the turbulence forecasts, so I was 100% prepared for it. And unlike my westbound flight, this Air France 777 did have the good OnDemand, which always helps.

The only bad part about the flight was the cow behind me who kept pulling on the back of my seat and kicking it all flight long. So, to the person who was sitting in 28E on AF027 IAD-CDG on April 19th, know that I hope you read this. Know that I hope that you and your ugly seat-kicking sneakers get a karmic airplane beat-down on your next flight. I hope you're seated next to a screaming baby. Or a really flatulent person with bad BO. Or a really flatulent person with bad BO who's holding a screaming baby. Because you robbed me of sleep. So did the person whose wrist-watch alarm kept going off every fifteen minutes and wouldn't turn it off. In a cabin full of sleeping people on an overnight translatlantic flight. Really. Had this happened once, fine. Twice? But for four hours this watch kept going off, and no one could figure out the source. I wanted to punch someone. See above about baby/gas/BO. Why do people not know how to act on a plane?

(This is also the point where I puff out my chest a little and proudly mention that the TSA guys at Dulles told me that I was the most organized person they'd had go through security all night, and if there were stickers or gift certificates, I'd get one. And they complimented my socks.)

My connection in Paris was pretty harried. CDG sends you through a very spread out maze of border control and security, and terminal 2F feels like a giant biodome. A big, round glass bubble, with too many gates, too few chairs, and does it ever get hot and loud. Luckily, I got to my gate for the Amsterdam flight just before it started boarding, so I didn't have to spend too much time there. I was quite happy to get on the plane and rest my head against the window and stare out of it for a lovely hour of sunny, smooth flying over France and Holland. But by the time we landed at Schiphol, I was so tired I was having trouble processing things, and wanted to cry at the thought of going through yet another passport control and security line. It was the same deal as CDG, where I had so little time to connect that once I'd gone through the checks and used the bathroom, it was time to board. Which in retrospect, because I made the connections, ended up great because I didn't have to sit around for hours, but in the future, I'm never having that little margin of error for international connections. The stress and the hurrying is not worth it. But I got on the plane, and almost immediately passed out for all of boarding and the start of taxiing. Not just resting my eyes, but out. Dreaming. Waking up only when safety announcements in Dutch started, staying conscious through take-off, and then passing out again once we hit cruise, pretty much for the rest of the flight. When we started our descent into Glasgow, I got a little choked up at the scenery. Not only was it beautiful and shockingly sunny, but I was just so happy to be back in Scotland.

After my third (surprisingly hard) landing of the day (what gives, European pilots? American pilots can do a lovely, gentle touchdown, why can't you?), and my third passport stamp of the day, I entered my fourth country in 14 hours. And finally, I was home.

And that ended my fling with European carriers. The food is way better, the service is way better, and the planes even seem cleaner. But I kind of missed having American pilots who talk to you (the pilots on the flight from Washington to Paris didn't speak ONCE the entire flight, except to tell the flight attendants to take their seats for landing). And I missed not having to go through all those hoops. Next time I go home, it's back to United. Or maybe BA or Virgin if the price is right. But free champagne and extra baguettes on Air France are not worth the extra connection.

Right? Right?


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