I HATE flying!!!

Well, that one-hour delay in Cincinnati turned into five hours, which means my connecting

At the Paris airport after a night of flying and no sleep

flight was busted, as was Plan A. My new connection in Paris, where I write this post from, leaves at 7:30 tonight and arrives in Zagreb at 9:30. This means I can’t take the bus today to Zadar where I’ve already booked a hostel room for tonight and tomorrow night.

Delta gave us a voucher for dinner – $6 for Christ’s sake! Used it at the Outback restaurant at the Cincinnati airport for an appetizer, baked potato and two drinks. The $6 barely covered the tip. Airport food is expensive! After dinner, I had just enough time to buy Wi-Fi access and book a hotel in Zagreb (Hotel Holiday) for tonight ($91 for the room plus taxi fare to the hotel and then to the bus station tomorrow). Plus, I will be out the $50 I paid for the hostel tonight. I was told Delta might reimburse me if I write them. We’ll see.

The trip to Paris took 7 1/2 hours. Delta had to have a new jet flown from Atlanta because the one we were to fly on was broken and they couldn’t figure out what was wrong. They swapped out one 767 for another. Not a great plane in the economy section, although they did show free movies the whole way, which was good as I was up all night. Can’t sleep sitting up and with a crowd around me. As we boarded the plane, a Delta guy gave everyone a voucher for $100 for future travel, and the flight crew must have apologized 15 times about the delays before we landed. They also comped me on two Jack Daniels, which by that time I really needed. Nice older British lady sat next to me and didn’t try to engage in conversation. I wasn’t in the mood either.

The Paris airport is as I remembered – very spread out with lots of walking, sometimes on moving sidewalks. Going through customs was ridiculously easy; went to two stations and they simply stamped my passport without any questions. Thought I was supposed to claim my bags, go through customs and then recheck my bags, but when my suitcases didn’t show up at baggage claim I figured they were going ahead with me to Croatia without the customs check in Paris. Maybe in Zagreb.

Found an Air France window near baggage claim and the nice lady gave me a new boarding pass and directed me where to go. Good thing, too, as it is easy to get turned around in this airport. She also told me my bags would be on my connecting flight. Next to her window was a currency exchange window, so I exchanged a bunch of dollars for Euros. The Euro bills are wider than U.S. dollars and don’t fit so well in a standard billfold.

Had to go through security once again, which was no problem, except I had to take my camera equipment out of my backpack (it was buried on the bottom) and then they wanted to search the pack. I was carrying two nail clippers, which apparently set off alarms, but they let me keep them.

The passenger gate areas here are very open and in a modern building. On one floor are the gates and passenger seats and down a moving walkway is a shopping and restaurant area. I was hungry so went to see what was available. The food was mostly premade sandwiches, fruit, sodas and stuff you take from shelves. However, the prices are so high I didn’t get anything. A Diet Coke was nearly $5, a small bottled water $3.50, and a ham and cheese sandwich nearly $8. I’ll be here for another four hours so I’ll probably get hungry and bite the bullet – and the ham sandwich. Haven’t had a decent meal since Tuesday night and probably won’t until Saturday.

The Paris airport has Wi-Fi service for about $10 and hour, but also a free 15-minute service I will try to use. I haven’t found any electrical plugs to connect my laptop so I’m on battery. Such outlets were commonplace at the Charlotte and Cincinnati airports.

So now my Plan B is to stay overnight in Zagreb and catch a bus Friday morning for Zadar, where I still have a reservation at the hostel for Friday night. I have no contact info for the hostel but I did contact hostels.com, where I booked the reservation, to tell them my situation. I asked for an extra night at the hostel but I doubt that will happen. The hostel page on hostels.com did not have a phone number or e-mail, and I only received a confirmation from hostels.com so I couldn’t contact the hostel directly, something to keep in mind.

Also, a quick take on fashion here – lots of black, few colors, tapered slacks. I guess I’m standing out a bit in my Hawaiian. You think?

Off to Europe

Labor Day weekend came and went very fast as I approached my liftoff date of Sept. 7.

At the Cincinnati airport

Asheville was having its annual LAAF Festival downtown, which is basically a one-street, four-block-long lockdown for pedestrians and tent vendors. Lots of arts and crafts tents, as well as food vendors. Weird costumes and street acts, such as fire jugglers. Lots of bars on the street, Broadway, and lots of people. Beer sold under a tent but you first had to purchase a $2 armband, the proceeds going to the arts community or some charity. My daughter, Kim, and her husband Danny’s band, PawTooth, played Saturday night at The Lab, in the back room to a good crowd.

On Monday, Danny and Kim put on their biennial back-deck, pulled-pork barbeque, with Danny rising before dawn to get the fire started for 5-6 hours of smoking four pork butt roasts. Homemade coleslaw, buns and lots of other great food brought by friends rounded out the menu. The barbeque, however, was the belle of the ball. Maybe 15-18 people showed up, we drank the wine bought the week before at Biltmore Estate, plus lots of beer and other beverages, and did it all with a steady rain all day.

Tuesday night, took all the family out for a nice dinner at Rezaz, a Mediterranean restaurant in Biltmore Village just down the road from the house. It turned out to be a good table etiquette exercise for Lena and Eliges, Danny’s 18-year-old son. Shared appetizers of smoked salmon and mountain trout and crusted shrimp and calamari. For dinner: large, seared sea scallops on a bed of fresh spinach and polanto, braised lamb ribs, roasted duck breast and paella. And two bottles of red wine. Quite nice.

The five weeks I spent with my daughter and her family were great, and a welcome respite from my traveling, but I’m feeling the need for space and independence. As expected, though, there were a lot of butterflies on the way to the airport. My “Plan A” for my year-long trip is certainly solid but stuff always happens, and then you have to revert to “Plan B” or “C.” Or you just have to make it up as you go along.

Wednesday was trip day, and I sit in the Cincinnati airport as I write the beginning of this report. My flight to Paris has been delayed an hour but they assured us we wouldn’t miss out connections in Paris. Kim drove me to Charlotte this morning, as I decided to fly out of there instead of Atlanta because it was a lot closer and Kim wouldn’t need to drive so far and so long. Almost missed the flight to Cincinnati because they changed the gate and I didn’t hear the announcement. Got on my plane at the last minute with a seat change that had me in the front of the plane. Sweet! Charlotte airport, BTW, has free Wi-Fi access.

Cincinnati’s airport does not. Here, you can order T-Mobile wireless service for $8 a day. I may try it. The Cincinnati airport has just one terminal, terminal B, which suggests there are more terminals but there are no airlines leasing gates in them, so they’re closed. The sole terminal is nice, however, with lots of stores and restaurants.