Friday, April 29, 2016

April 29th - Travel Blog

Hi, it’s Christina –

Greetings from Prague, Czech Republic! It is now 6 am on Friday morning, at least I think it’s Friday, the brain is a little foggy at this point. 

Still awake and ready to leave
on our adventure.
Wednesday, Paulie’s birthday, mom and I got dropped off at Newark Airport around 3:45, breezed through security, and were at our terminal gate, waiting for the 6:25 plane, by 4:10. Not exactly sure why we needed to be at the airport by 4:00 for a 6:30 flight, I think it may be a ploy by the airports to get you there early so you have nothing to do while you’re waiting, so you spend money. Well, all they got out of me was $4.50 for a water – which, of course, while juggling my bags to get on the plane, I forgot. UGH.

Since all of the other passengers heeded the two hour early warning, our British Airways flight took off twenty-five minutes early. How cool was that! They passed out the best pretzels – these tiny sour cream and onion ones – I wish I had snapped a picture of them so I could get them again. Hopefully they’ll have the same ones on the return flight.
Yeah, I'm the world's worst selfie taker

The flight wasn’t full, so I moved over two seats, and my mom, who was sitting with two other people moved over by me. If I was a little smarter, and a little more selfish, I would have snagged a whole row like some of the other folks did, this way I would have been able to lay down and maybe get more than the 17 minutes of sleep I got.

Yummy & he knows how to plate a dish!
I did get to watch Burnt – the Bradley Cooper movie where he’s a chef. It was rather enjoyable, and had several parts where I caught myself laughing out loud and quickly covered my mouth to muffle the sound so I wouldn’t wake the folks who were actually sleeping.

We had a nice tail wind, and got to London early, a little too early, because Heathrow won’t allow planes to land before 6:00 am, so we had to circle a while before we could land. Now, not for nothing, but Heathrow is a fairly major international hub. Wouldn’t you think A) the place would be a little nicer, and B) their baggage inspection area would run a lot more efficiently? The airport, or at least terminal 3 – which was nowhere near where we landed - is a maze of drab corridors – picture a 1950s insane asylum, yeah, that bad. The inspection area had maybe six people manning it, and when each and every container containing liquid, paste or gel – even containers at or under the allowable size – are inspected, and you have multiple planes dumping out at the same time, sixty inspectors would have a hard time keeping up, let alone six. 

It was a bit of a cluster, and there were countless people complaining because they missed their connecting flights because of the inspection delays. I felt bad because mom and I were the 5th and 6th bags to be inspected, and we had a 4 hour layover. If I had known when we got in line, I would have let the people with an earlier flight to go ahead of me. Wouldn’t you think there would be an express lane or something specifically for travelers who have a small window between flights?

Waiting for the bus at the
Vienna Airport
The new flights don’t post which gates you are at until an hour before (of course our was the only one which posted only twenty minutes before), so mom and I went to the most central area we could find to sit and wait. I grabbed a much needed cappuccino, and a tea for my mom - $8! Sheesh! When our flight finally posted, I came into my first incompetent British Airways employees – the ones at the desk checking in the passengers. Mom and I are the second ones to the desk – there is NO ONE else there, and the witchy blonde chick makes us drag our bags through the cue. At this point, I had been awake for over 24 hours, and let’s just say I wasn’t in the mood for inanity, though I did manage to restrain myself from making a scene, she knew she was not my favorite person at the moment.

We get on our flight for Vienne (Wein), and mom promptly falls asleep – good for her, but I’m a bit envious. At this point, my back had just about enough of sitting, and bless the flight attendants hearts, they fully understood, and allowed me to stand in the back of the plane with them. Sarah & Rebecca were positively delightful, and made the two hour flight go by in a flash.

So far, from what I’ve seen of Wein, I’m not all that impressed. I’m hoping the area we see from the ship will be much improved over the dirty, grimy, industrial area around the airport.

The bathroom on the bus - Let's
just say that was an adventure
and leave it at that.
We did not have passage booked from Wein to Prague because our travel agent said it was much cheaper to do it on site, so after a bit of confusion, we were able to, for 22 Euro, get on a bus, but the bus only took us part of the way. We had to get off in some town and wait for the actual bus that was going all the way to Prague.

Hoping the rain doesn't really
come. It's chilly enough with-
out it!
Here’s where my first encounter with some drama occurred – the bus was about to leave, and mom is nowhere to be found. She was cold, so she said she was going to wait inside the door. Fine, no big deal. I should have known better, because the door she was “waiting” in led to a mall. The bus was closing its doors, I screamed for it to stop, screamed for my mom to hurry up when I finally saw her coming – and we were able to catch the bus. Thank God, because if we had missed it, the next bus wasn’t coming for a few hours and we would have had to purchase new tickets.

I know it's hard to see, but I'm
pretty sure this is a nuclear
power plant. YIKES!
This was around 4:00 pm – the 36 hour mark of being awake. Yeah, I’m twitching at this point. On the bus, we have wifi, but not until we hit the Czech Republic. The moment wifi kicks on, I go in search of an address for our hotel, because nowhere in the paperwork sent by our travel agent is there an actual physical address for our hotel – and, of course, everyone we ask has never heard of Hotel Orien – probably because I was saying Oh-rye-on and over here they pronounce it Or-ree-on.

The “cruise director” on the bus (I don’t know what else to call her – flight attendant, maybe – she helped the travelers, made them drinks, handed out headphones), Lucy, plopped down in the seat next to me, and helped me search for the hotel. Then when she finally found an address (we had to check several sites, and finally the address was listed on a review site), she screen printed everything from her phone and emailed it to me.
The view from one of the many windows
in our hotel room.

Initially, upon arrival in Prague, we were going to make our way via the metro, to the train station to purchase our tickets for our Sunday transfer to Budapest, then take the metro two more stations, get off and walk the few blocks to our hotel, but by the time we arrived, WE WERE DONE. There was no way either of us were walking more than a few feet dragging our luggage.

Our kitchen
So, we opted for a cab. I had heard horror stories about the cabs in Prague – thankfully I do not have one to add to them. The price was 300 Korun (pronounced Crown) – roughly $12.50. The driver, Alexi, was great. He pointed out good restaurants – ones the locals like, told us about several tourist traps to avoid (hopefully some of his tips penetrated my sleep deprived brain), and didn’t drive like the maniac all the trip advisor sites claimed all Czech taxi drivers did. God must have known I wouldn’t have been able to handle any more stress, so he put Alexi in our path. THANK YOU!

That little hobbit bed in the corner
is mine.
We arrive at our fully booked hotel. Our room only has one bed, but the staff scrambled and found another bed to put in the room – it’s about as comfortable as you’d expect a rollaway to be, but at that point I really didn’t care. Mom and I dropped off our bags, then went to Vini Vidi Vici, one of the restaurants Alexi recommended, had some pumpkin soup and bread for dinner, then came back and went to sleep.

Not sure what’s on the agenda for today, but I’ll be sure to let you know all about it tomorrow morning.

Until then, have a WONDERFUL day & happy writing.