Friday, March 26, 2010

The days before our trip, the joys of flying in 2010 and the obstacle race to get on board our flight destination JFK.

Eladio and I happy on the plane to New York despite our troubles at Madrid Barajas airport.

Here I am midweek writing my blog. I’m not at home this time, but on board the AA Iberia run flight 6523 destination New York (some 5.700 km and 8 hours to go) as you can see in the picture illustrating this post. I want to recap and continue where I left off last Sunday so that I can start with a clean slate when I report live from the big apple. How exciting!

The week has been short and mostly taken up with preparations for our big trip, the biggest since India in December 2008. I did however get some work in and went in a few times, once for a cancelled meeting and once for a planning meeting for our up and coming Yoigo employee and partner summer party which could well be in Ibiza, Europe’s clubbing capital. Wednesday saw me at an extremely boring sector annual conference organised by the APD. At least there were some familiar faces (e.g. my best Nokia Siemens friend and ex colleague, Julio Navío) and it was a chance to be with the telecoms media, bless them. As usual the Yoigo presentation was the most popular because of the bits of spice put in it by my transgressor boss who always gets away with murder and whilst bearing a Cheshire cat smile on his face. Bless him too.

One of the nicest moments of the week was unexpectedly receiving a giant chocolate Easter egg from my events agency QuintaEsencia. Thanks girls. It looks too good to eat as you will agree from the photo below but it might well serve as our Easter day egg to be eaten when Adele and Bernard come to stay with us.
The lovely chocolate Easter egg I received out of the blue this week from the girls at QuintaEsencia.
For the moment it has joined my sweet corner on my Grandparents’ “toy boy” (an old fashioned word for chest of drawers and what we have always called that particular piece of furniture in our family) on the landing.
Our sweet corner on the "tall boy" at home.
We were to be leaving the family for over a week, so dinner out with the girls was very much in order on Wednesday night. We took them to Lisboa Antiga in Majadahonda, the same place we went to with Roberto and Maricarmen last Friday. We repeated the salmorejo (sort of thick gazpacho) and bacalhau a`braz (egg, cod and potato scrambled egg is the best translation I can think of) washed down again with vinho verde, that delicious sparkling and fresh white Portuguese wine. Ah and the chocolate mousse desert is out of this world. It was good to have some quality time with “the girls” as they are known at home, specially by my Father. Oli, unfortunately was a little unwell with faringitis. I suspect her non-stop travels from Isreal to Sicily to Portugal together and last weekend’s excursion to Chinchon with a big group of friends and another weekend of intensive smoking and drinking will have had a lot do with it. Well she’s young and will get over it.
My father, of course, is another story. We don’t like leaving him behind, especially after his fall last week. I am very grateful to my friend Elena who yesterday brought us the perfect alarm system for him and which is now up and working. Suzy will take care of him, I know and next week whilst we are still in the US and the girls go to Santa Pola, Zena, our Ukranian cleaning lady will come and sleep at home for the first time. Luckily too he will have the BBC for company as finally the aerial company have got the satellite tv to work or at least I hope they have.

But mostly this short week was taken up with preparations for our big trip to New York, the so called money capital of the world where opulence is the norm whilst our last big trip was to the far less developed country of India. Believe it or not I have never been to New York. I have been to Chicago several times and once to Arizona when I worked with Motorola. I have also been to Los Angeles (thanks to Nokia) but have never made it to the Big Apple, unless you count a few hours at JFK airport on my way back from Mexico City in the late 70’s. The time spent at JFK deserves a chapter in my promised book as it was where I met one of my Mother’s sisters, Dara who was a nun in New York for the first and last time in my life. I witnessed that day the meeting of the two sisters who hadn’t seen each other since the end of the second world war. They parted as young girls and met again as old ladies. There were no mobile phones, email or Facebook in those days and travelling was much more expensive. So yes New York has been on my agenda ever since. I booked the trip in November and finally the time to travel came and we are on our way.

I had asked my friends on Facebook to send me recommendations and wow did I get a huge response. I have copied and pasted all the names and places they recommend and put them together in a word document which starts with 3 pages from Juana who I think is in love with the city. I know I’m going to love it and this may well be the first of many visits. So thanks guys and girls for your response. I will take up as many as I can but only have 7 days so no way will I be able to fit them all in so leave the rest for next time. Our expectations are high and we will be seeing for the first time names that sound so familiar; the Empire State Building, the Rockerfeller Centre, Central Park, Broadway, 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, the Hudson River, Macy’s and Blooomingdales department stores although I gather the stores to shop have new names now such as Abercrombie and Fitch. Of course we shall visit the MOMA and the Metropolitan and if there is time the Guggenheim. I have been told I will shop until I drop (that is if Eladio lets me) and that we shall also walk until we drop but can hail yellow cabs (yes the ones you see in the films) that are not expensive. The walks apparently will be to visit Soho and Noho and the meatpacking district and Greenwich village and Tribeca and Chelsea which all sound so English but must be different. So yes expectations are high but I would also love to see the Bronx and even the no go areas as I did once in Chicago. We’ll see if that’s possible.

So yesterday was spent on last minute preparations including trying to print our boarding cards which turned out to be mission impossible even for the help line of I had the whole morning today to pack and remember all the little things such as umbrellas, a book, phone,. pc, iPhone and camera chargers (oh why aren’t they universal). I had a message from my friend Javier García (the one who works for Telefónica in New York and whom we visited in the summer at their village in Salamanca) to say they would meet us off the plane which is soooooo nice and something I am very unused to. My cousin Andre won’t be in New York in the end and Hopefully we will be seeing Angel and Rosa (my friends and neighbours from our beginnings in Spain who went to live there in the early 80) which will be great as there is so much to catch up on. Dying to see you guys.

Suzy drove us with plenty of time and we arrived at 14.30 to catch the 17.00 flight and were looking forward to lunch at the airport and some nice duty free shopping (my favourite).. However none of that was to be and we had problems until we finally got on board this plane. For some mysterious reason the check in desk were unable to check in Eladio due some mix up in their system I think. We were then told he couldn’t fly as his passport was the old fashioned type and would require a stamped visa by the US Embassy. The next piece of news was that yes it was suitable but the number of his passport on the new Visa Waiver US travel authorisation (ESTA) should have been his Spanish ID number and not his passport. This is rubbish as each document has a different number. Somehow they sorted that out but we were then told we probably would not be able to travel due to overbooking. I couldn’t quite believe the incompetence and Kafka experience we were experiencing and which had no proper explanation. I was nearly in tears and time was passing and I imagined ourselves grounded, not a very nice thought. Then suddenly we were told we were to fly but would have separate seats. I had booked these tickets in November and could not believe we were to be subject to such treatment and the possibility of not flying.

Finally with our boarding passes in our hands, no food in our stomachs and feeling as if we had passed some sort of examination and should be grateful for being allowed to fly, we made our way to security to get through our next obstacle and here the queues were gigantic. The joys of flying were certainly over after 11th September and with the increasing security measures which have people queuing up, taking most of their belongings off and feeling like criminals suspects. If you go through the x-ray and there is no beep you feel relieved. If it does beep your heart too begins to beep and the whole process is most disagreeable.

We then had to hurry to the furthest part of the airport (Gate U) which takes 22 minutes by train. Here w went through what turned out to be the first passport control. Once through that we had to run to reach our gate and catch our plane.. Our obstacle race however didn’t finish there. There was another passport control (understandable as were flying to the US?) and there the emigration staff divided us into 2 groups, those with a green stamp on their boarding card could proceed to the plane. Those without the green stamp had to go through yet another security check which to me looked like a check over at a police station but for all to see. Luckily we had a green stamp and didn’t have to go through this humiliating procedure.

Certainly flying today is not what it used to be.. Luckily on board we were able to change seats and are now sitting together and happily looking forward to our trip, but not I stress to immigration in New York. The nicest thing is that our friends Javier and Ana will be there to meet us.

But more about that in my next post which I will hopefully be writing from our hotel, Park Central New York Hotel in midtown Manhattan.

Till then
An important PS is to welcome Noa into the world, Noa, the daughter of Alvaro and granddaughter of Eladio’s brother Alejandro was born this week in León. Welcome Noa to the family.

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