…but not in the good way. I mean that I have rarely seen such a massive line at the security checkpoint. And even though there were at least 15 scan lines, the hordes of people snaking their slow way through to get to these lines was insane. Is there some holiday happening that I am unaware of? Fortunately, I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare, and I am now ensconced in the SWISS lounge (why on earth did they change their name from Swissair, anyway?). Despite not having the appropriate pass, they let me in anyway, and I am now enjoying free water, brownies, brisket, cantaloupe, and Wi-Fi, not necessarily in that order. My flight boards in a little less than an hour. I will then have about a 3 hour layover before catching my flight to Marrakech. Maybe by the time I return to NYC, Spring will actually be a thing.
So my flight to Istanbul was set to take off at the ungodly hour of 6:40am. That meant I would need to be to the airport by 4:40am, which meant I would have to leave Malabar Hill at around 4 or so. Nik helpfully used an app on his phone to reserve a cab for that hour, and we returned to chatting and drinking and celebrating Rittu’s pre-birthday. Around 11pm, I got notice that my flight would be delayed until 8:30, so Nik called and changed my cab to 6am. When I woke up this morning, I got packed, got ready, and was down in front of the house just after 6am, but no cab. I didn’t want to wake Nik so I just walked up the hill a bit to one of the busier streets and within a few minutes I had a cab.
It is a pretty amazing experience to be whizzing through the streets of Mumbai so early in the morning. Whereas the traffic is usually pretty crazy, tight, and slow-moving, at this hour one travels at dizzying speed. We reached the airport in something like 25 minutes. It was still dark out and I have to say the new airport looks pretty stunning at night, all lit up as it is. When I first arrived at this airport a few weeks ago, I noted what a new and clean terminal it was, but I was not overly impressed with the design. Going through the departures and ticketing area is an entirely different experience, the place is really beautiful.
As I approached the check-in counter for my flight, I found out that my flight was delayed yet another hour, so I was really early. Oh well I thought, I can hangout in the business class lounge. I went through the special security screening and passport control area they reserve for business class passengers, which was about the easiest of these things I have ever gone through in my life. There were exactly zero other passengers in this line, and the whole process took about 2 minutes. I then headed over to the rather nicely appointed business lounge area where I am currently holed up writing this very post.
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Because of an incredible stroke of luck (and knowing the right people, and taking the opportunity when I could), I was able to get an amazing deal on my round-the-world ticket. And the best flight of the bunch is about to happen in a couple of hours. It is something called “Suites Class“, and I am taking it from Singapore to Mumbai. I think it is safe to say that this will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience (at least for me).
Since I had to get some work done today anyway, I thought I would avail myself of the first class lounge at the Singapore airport and spend the day being productive while luxuriating in a lounge I will probably never see the inside of again in my life. I arrived at the airport and they whisked me through to a special check-in area, then through a much speeded-up immigration process, and then into the first class lounge. When the woman guiding me through saw how much time I had, she suggested I head over to Terminal 3 (I am leaving from Terminal 2) where she said I could avail myself of a private room. By that I thought she meant an office space with a closing door so I could work undisturbed. But what she was referring to instead was something they call “The Private Room”, only for Suites customers. The use of feudal terms seems appropriate here: I arrived at the outer part of the lounge after passing the peasants wandering the airport and was greeted by name, then led down a long corridor of twists and turns, first past the vassals of business class and their sad area, and then beyond even the nobles of first class in their slightly more plush digs, and finally to the nicest room of all, the aforementioned Private Room, fit for you guessed it, the king.
Once inside, I set myself up at a table in the dining room, where I was brought pretty much anything I wanted. They had a fantastic menu, and I especially recommend the assorted satay plate, it was super delicious. I have to say, I was pretty productive while being plied with coffee, fresh juices, a foie-gras and egg topped burger, more coffee, water, and all around excellent service. Oh, did I mention the delicious petit-fours?
I made a few forays out of my castle to the general airport and duty free areas to pick up a couple of gifts for my hosts, mixing as best I could with the hoi polloi, not knowing what could we possibly have to say to each other, and trying my best not to look any of them directly in the eye. With most of the day past and my flight leaving in a couple of hours, I decided to head back over to Terminal 2 and the lowly first class lounge to await my flight. As I left The Private Room, the woman at the desk gave me a look of pity and asked if I wouldn’t be more comfortable staying there until my flight, but I put on a brave face and told her with the adventurer’s wink that is my trademark that I was curious to wander over and see the other side.
I am now at a work desk in the decidedly downscale first class lounge area in Terminal 2, writing this blog post and trying to stay strong while I await my flight in utter privation. How do people live like this?
Boris and Milos took Fabian and I to the airport this morning where we bid them goodbye. It was so wonderful seeing my friend Boris and catching up while I was here, as well as meeting his really sweet boyfriend. There are some people in life that you connect with so well and always feel close to, and Boris is one of those people for me. I am hopeful (as is he) that he will move back to New York someday soon.
Thanks to Fabian’s platinum Amex, we are currently ensconced in the swank business center at the airport awaiting our flight to Paris. We keep hearing announcements in Serbian over the PA system, and I swear one of them was paging someone with the last name “Thisisabitch”. We distinctly heard it more than once, and it made me think that perhaps this is the Serbian version of someone playing a paging prank. Like when someone calls a bar and asks if they can page “Mike Hunt” or something equally juvenile. Still, we couldn’t help giggling every time we heard it.
I am now at the Amsterdam airport (Schiphol), awaiting my flight out to Marrakech. Getting to the airport was a breeze (despite getting on the wrong tram initially towards the central station). I was surprised though after going through passport control quickly that there seemed to be no other security. My carry ons were not scanned, and I initially wondered why, until I noticed that every gate has its own scanning. I am not sure if this is ultimately better or not in terms of security (which is mostly an aesthetic game anyway), but I can see a lot of advantages in speed and convenience for passengers. Doing away with the one big, central, and often excruciatingly slow line in favor of many smaller ones is a great idea.
Travel can be glamourous or exasperating. More and more, with all the cutbacks and nickel-and-diming of various carriers, most of the fun has been completely sucked out of what can and should be an exciting adventure, getting from one place to another. And airports are part of the equation. They should be places that exalt the process of a voyage, but often they too destroy all the life and fun of it with their ugly furniture, dark hallways, cramped lounges and musty corners. CDG in Paris is different, and even as they have added a multitude of terminals over the years, it has always kept its airy, open, futuristic feel. It makes one not only want to travel and dream of distant voyages, it also manages another equally important function: It calms and reassures one before a long trip. The collection of beautiful, soaring spaces and lounges is for me a welcome antidote to most airports which are crowded angry spaces that are overflowing with people in badly designed departure areas. While the airport is quite spread out, it is very easy to get from one terminal to another and one never feels rushed or pushed. As I sit here in my departure lounge, waiting to board a long flight back to NYC, I am at peace. (Except for the screaming child-monster 10 feet away from me whose mother seems to be completely deaf.)
This cracks me up. Arriving at the Hamburg airport, I pass this charming little glass smoke house reserved for all those that just HAVE TO smoke. Olaf tells me that especially in the mornings, there are a fair amount of people shoehorned into this tiny, smoky, smelly room, and they come out of there looking rather unhappy.
Josh and I are at the airport, awaiting our flight out to NYC. We spent the last day of our trip in Rio, enoying the beach and the gawking for one more day. The drive back was very easy (Gabe) and returning the car and checking in at the airport was a breeze (Gabe).
I have some mixed feelings about our trip back to NYC. On the one hand, I am excited to be moving to New York, and looking forward to the thrill and challenges that await. Not exactly in opposition to these feelings, I am also a little wistful about ending this part of the amazing journey I have been so fortunate to have been on these past 27 months. This is really the end of a particular chapter in my life and the beginning of another. It was especially nice sharing the last couple of weeks with my cousin Josh, acting as a kind of bridge between these two worlds.
I am at the airport, awaiting my flight out to Cancun. Security at the checkpoints seemed pretty lax, or at least it was for me. I could be wrong, but it seemed like the whiter people were having a much easier time getting through, while the locals were being checked more thoroughly. Because of this, I get to my gate much earlier than expected and I decide to crack open the laptop and look for WiFi. Security is pretty lax here too. It is supposed to cost $9.95 for a 24hr WiFi pass, but I got around this pretty easily and am happily surfing for free.
See you in the Yucatan…