Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tales of Transit

I think we are still a bit jet-lagged, and a bit worn out from some running around we've done. More on that later. Or in a later post.

The flight out was supposed to be at 2:45 AM. I'm not sure exactly what time we eventually got off the air, but it was at least half an hour after that. We discovered at this juncture that Emirates might have very pleasant customer service, they are not really good at telling customers what is going on. The first plane was a 777, and felt fairly roomy. For a plane. I'm oversized for planes, and feel like a size 10 foot in a size 8 shoe on any plane.

There's really not much to tell about the flights. They fed us every few hours, and offered us hot towels and lemon-scented hand wipes. The food was good, the in-flight entertainment was good and free. I watched five or six movies in a fruitless quest to become able to sleep, and as a result caught up on some 2011 movies I never saw. And frankly, having seen them, was very glad to have never paid money in a cinema to see. With the exception of "Limitless", which was clever and slyly funny.

We stopped at Changi Airport in Singapore, which we weren't expecting but were grateful for. We had about half an hour to walk around the terminal, plug into the internet, and gaze out the window at what looked like every other airport in the world, then back on the plane and on to Dubai.

The approach into Dubai was fascinating for me, as I looked down onto miles and miles of desert, vainly looking for camels. Their were a surprising number of enormously wide highways cutting across the desert, without a vehicle to be seen.

I got to see quite a lot of the desert, as we circled Dubai for about half an hour before deciding to land. Which was very exciting, as we were already running late, and the hour we had scheduled there was compressed to five harried and overly exciting minutes. We just had time enough to get off the 777, exit into the terminal, go up a set of stairs, down a set of stairs, and up another set of stairs onto a big Airbus. Our passport and boarding pass were checked three times before we got to the plane, for no discernible reason, and the security check included a request that we take off our belts.

The Airbus was noticeably larger inside than the 777, but it still felt like a size 9 shoe. Off again, over Iraq, the back of Turkey, the Black Sea, Romania, Hungary, Austria, The Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium and the Channel. Again, I found it fascinating to look down on the northern part of Iraq and the back end of Turkey - the land looked like a crumpled handkerchief, all fantastically rugged mountains and deep isolated valleys. It was faintly absurd how excited I was to be able to look down and see the Tigris, and to look at the lights on the horizon and know it was Bucharest. For me such things have always been as fantastical and real as Arrakis or East Beleriand.

By the time we got to the Channel, I was very much ready to get out of the plane, although Delia was more relaxed - possibly because she'd been able to get sleep on and off, while I had slept no more than half an hour throughout the flight. We circled for a little while, touched down, and headed for immigration.

We missed a bullet with immigration - 12 hours later and we would have been caught up in a strike by the  immigration officers, and could have been in the queue for hours. As it was, our papers were examined cursorily, and we were waved straight through. There was a certain relief to know that they were really, truly letting us into the country.

Getting to the hotel was definitely enlivened by us being ready to fall asleep on our feet. The first part of that trip was trivially easy - followed the directions to the Underground, bought some tickets, and rode through to Victoria Station. Getting from their to the hotel should have been a five minute walk, but Google Maps helped us by taking us on a rambling sight-seeing wander - Eccleston Square seemed to have confused it. Checked in, decided that we'd had several breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas (but no dinner) on the plane, and elected to crash into bed without seeking additional food.

Next up - squirrels, talking trees, fat pigeons and hot chocolate.

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