Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thee Prodigal Returneth

I suppose I should start by apologizing for being rather scarce, except that I don't know when that's going to change - I might be back from the Epic Visit to Australia, but I'm still juggling the stress balls. At least I'm not having what I not-so-fondly refer to as stress meltdowns on a daily basis.

Anyway.

Here's a little mental exercise for anyone whose mental hasn't been exercised enough lately. Picture a large, busy airport, rather behind on essential maintenance and somewhat grotty. Add a departure lounge area that can handle maybe 300, crammed with something near 1000 tired, harried people. Now imagine 3 gates, all adjacent, all of them showing the same departure time for 3 long-haul (8+ hour) international flights. Garnish with a less than stellar PA system performing rapid-fire updates in several languages, some of them possibly English.

Now imagine Kate, with body claiming that I should have been horizontal several hours ago, standing and trying to wait patiently for the boarding call on the flight that should have boarded 1/2 an hour ago. Notice that Kate is swaying. And looks like collapse is nearby.

And people wonder why I hate to fly?

Anywho, I survived that little trauma, got to Melbourne for WorldCon, and lo and behold, 4 hours to transfer one bag between adjacent terminals is simply not sufficient. So it's exhausted Kate stumbling around looking for something suitable in size beached whale in order to not look like something the cat decided against dragging in because it was just too disreputable.

Once that little problem was dealt with, the con was wonderful, if rather quieter than many of the cons I've been to. I suspect that the huge space of the Melbourne Convention Center plus the lack of any real 'gathering space' had a lot to do with it. The people there kind of rattled in that massive area.

The good: Catching up with assorted friends I know mostly online.
The bad and the ugly: Melbourne Convention Center does not have any water fountains. Not one. What's more, the water in the loos is temperature-controlled to be warm. I ended up getting my water refills at the loo taps, going from basin to basin to get the cooler water. I didn't have the budget for the convention center's overpriced bottled water, so I ended up somewhat dehydrated despite the regular trips to the Ladies for water refills.

It seemed kind of light on publishing folk - perhaps an opportunity for the enterprising? As Dave mentioned on Monday, Aussies read. Despite shamefully high book prices (someone is making out like a bloody pirate there, and it ain't the authors or the readers - when the Aussie dollar was worth about half a US dollar, the prices were kind of reasonable, but they haven't dropped any and the two currencies are pretty close to parity) people buy books.

Then came the blast from the past. Picture an airport terminal. Now throw away the picture and replace it with a warehouse. Insert some rooms and a few counters and the like inside, park some seats in there, and you've got Melbourne's Essenden Airport - the one the light planes use. Security consists of a friendly guy on the counter asking "Have you got anything dangerous in there?" and you answering "Nope." To get on the plane you walk out on the tarmac and climb into a 20 seater (this is the big plane) with no amenities. Just seats and seatbelts.

And at the other end of the hour-long flight, Kate finds Heaven on Earth, otherwise known as Flinders Island. Of course, nothing's perfect - Dave makes me catch my dinner (squid) and food for the cats (wrasse). I recommend this as a relaxation cure - you can even eat what you catch, so long as Dave doesn't make me cook it! (The less said about my cooking the better).

So now I'm back, buggered (to use the Oz vernacular), and periodically removing velcro cats who are quite convinced if they let me out of their sight I'll leave them again. And now that I've splattered you with my travel tale, it's time for yours. What are the best trips you've taken, and why? The worst? The weirdest?

10 comments:

Brendan said...

Should I pick the holiday spot my parents chose because it had the highest rainfall in the state(You will never guess what happened!), or the one where(with a sister who got very car sick) we drove down a road because it had a turn for every day in the year, or the one where we went on a 2 hour bush walk with a map 40 years old.

Then there was the holiday where a shark got caught in the trech between the beach and the outer breakers meaning we couldn't go swimming for the entire fortnight.

Oh I could go on(and on and on).

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Bouncing off France en route to Portugal is fun. First, given the -- often justified -- low opinion French have of Portuguese immigrants, on the way out they dumped about 400 Portuguese into a tin roofed building for hours. In August. While I had an infant.

Coming back -- and me the only French speaker in the family -- they assured us our flight to the US (right there, on the ticket) was a "summer flight" only and the day before had been the last active flight. Our flight showed on no boards. We finally found it, but it wasn't till we landed in NYC that I was sure we had it right.

As for the lack of water fountains, that's endemic. The worst offender is the Frankfurt airport -- miles and miles of terminals, not a drop to drink, and ONE (that we could find) public bathroom, with a SINGLE stall. Oh, yeah, and you needed local currency to open THAT. They're so lucky we're all civilized. Or maybe we aren't. Maybe there's a corner of the airport where the floor, inexplicably, turns yellow...

MataPam said...

Circling Denver for hours, the cabin pressure changing every five minutes, the eldest child four months old which is a might young to explain how to stop his ears hurting.

My favorite remains the very full flight with Miss Podunk and entourage on their way to the Miss Texas contest. Balloon, flowers, huge garbage bags full of shoes as carry on luggage. It had to be seen to be believed.

Winding roads, car sick chilgren. Yep. Got that one checked off the list.

Lost luggage, yep. Destroyed luggage, yep.

Still travelling, too. Must be a hopeless optimist.

Kate said...

Brendan,

You mean getting flooded out isn't meant to be fun? Gee, I thought that was why my family took us (5 kids...) camping in not terribly waterproof tents.

I've done the "2 hour" bushwalk. Interesting, but my feet weren't happy.

And jeez, didn't they even try to chase the shark out at high tide?

Kate said...

Sarah,

Wow. Anyone would think these people didn't actually want your money. Or anyone's money, really.

If I was less certain of the universality of human stupidity, I'd start to wonder if modern travel was designed as a torture test.

Kate said...

Matapam,

Wow. I'm not sure whether that's "optimist", "masochist", or "yes".

Chris McMahon said...

Glad you are back in one piece, Kate.

Probably the worst was a trip to Indonesia on Garuda. After that trip I came up with the slogan "Garuda is Ruder!" The hostess told me to stop bothering her and come and make my own tea!

The runner up is the Air Phillipines flight that changed its departure time without telling us. We managed to catch the flight - just - only to get seated in an Economy section that allowed smoking! Cripes. I have bad allergies and I could not have handled that - so I made something of a scene & they put us up in first class (believe it or not). When I sat on the first class seat I got stuck with a needle that someone had booby-trapped the seat with. True story.

Kate said...

Chris M,

Wow! Okay, now I'm SURE that someone, somewhere is trying to keep us from traveling, especially flying. Maybe the cruise ship industry is part of a conspiracy to bring down the airlines? (Now there's a fun story... the cruise ships want to return to the ocean liner days and are sabotaging the airlines... Nah. No-one would believe the cruise ship people would be that competent)

Brendan said...

Kate, since we were in a cabin we didn't get washed out but it did rain for 11 days of the 14 we were there. We tried amusing ourselves with table tennis but the table was so damp and rotten it broke in half when we set it up.

I am not sure who was going to chase the shark away. Where we were staying was a spot with 6 holiday cabins and a permanent residence. There were no ocean capable craft unless you count 1 surf board and unfortunately our tides don't really rise that high so it is doubtful if we could have got it over the sand bar anyway(it was about 10ft long).

The ocean fishermen had a good time though, and they did eventually catch it(it tasted delicious).

Anonymous said...

My cousin's wedding. I fainted in the church and missed the actual marriage. At the reception 2 of my cousins had to be taken away and poured into beds after too many quadruple brandies.

And on the way home we were driving up Steep Hill in Lincoln (a Roman town in England with rather narrow roads) and my mother had to tip out her knitting and give me her bag to vomit in as there was no way my father could stop the car.

The marriage lasted less than a year and I never got to see the photos.

By the way Kate, I never drink Melbourne tap water. I think it tastes vile. I often drink water straight from the tap in Sydney but in Melbourne I'd pay any price not to.

Laine