Friday, May 31, 2013

Welcome to Basel

We didn’t sleep as much as we should have slept on the plane last night, but we managed to stay on our feet all day long. We took a self-guided walking tour leading us on both sides of the Rhine River. I wish I’d thought to take a picture of the ferry we rode. It’s powered by water flow. The boatman points it towards the other sore and the river’s current pushes it across, dragging along a strong cable stretched across the river.

We thought we’d be inside of museums today because of bad weather, but the rain was very light all day and we really felt like walking. We’re pretty excited to be back in Switzerland.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Back from San Francisco

Last time I posted, I wrote of my frustrations during a day-long trip from Boston to San Francisco. The trip should have taken just a few hours, but several different problems stretched the trip. Here’s the good news: I arrived in San Francisco exactly in time to get to the ballet as it opened, and I arrived in a peaceful state of mind. I’m very pleased about the peaceful state of mind. I’ve traveled enough to know that life goes on, often quite well, in spite of setbacks along the way. I still aspire to export that more of calm to the non-traveling parts of my life, but these laboratory experiences help me to do that.

We only spared ourselves a few days in San Francisco, but enjoyed ourselves richly. If you get a chance to see the new San Francisco Ballet production of Cinderella, you should do it. We loved it. We also enjoyed numerous walks with relatives in various parks, especially the Presidio, and we luxuriated in a couple of fine museum visits. We see the Museum of Asian art often because Nika works there, but this time we saw some of the 2000-year-old Terracotta Warriors from China, which we considered extra-special. Maybe even extra-extra special. I had to see their faces in order to appreciate their artistry and individuality. We had a great time with Dutch Masters at the De Young Museum too.

We wanted to see relatives from several different households, and during this trip everybody’s schedules meshed almost perfectly. We got to spend time with almost everyone, and really enjoyed renewing our connections with so many wonderful people. Nika even proposed that we should move to the area. I welcomed the idea, but Alla is not yet ready even to consider it. She thinks it’s too far from Belarus, where we also enjoy spending time. And of course we value our connections in Boston.

We haven’t come so close to seeing “everybody” in Boston, because our “everybody” here is so big. But we’ve had great times with quite a few good friends and we’re happy about that. Unfortunately, being “home” means that we have to devote lots of time to things we can’t avoid, including bookkeeping and administrative matters as well as those pesky home-maintenance projects. We hoped to sit down for a meal with all of our neighbors, but people are so busy that we’ve had to settle for piecemeal visits. But we’re happy to see everybody well and doing well. That’s always pleasant.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Lessons learned while traveling

I am presently stuck in Philadelphia. I would prefer to be on my way to San Francisco. Failing thus far, I will try to learn from the many things that went wrong.

My first mistake was that I don't like to get to the airport early before my flights. Usually I get away with it, but today would have been different if I'd started earlier. US Airways has lots of flights from Boston to Philadelphia, and I'm confident that the one 30 minutes before mine left with empty seats. I wish I could have asked to board that one, but they closed the gate as I got there. Leave home a little earlier.

I never did like US Airways and still don't. I took this free trip to use up my frequent flyer miles, but I'll try not to fly with them again. When they learned that our takeoff would be delayed due to weather, they quickly locked the door on the plane and moved away from the gate so we couldn't get off. Don't fly US Airways.

We arrived in Philly five minutes before my onward flight to SFO. I ran to the gate, but got there two minutes late. They sent me to an overcrowded customer service desk. I should have opened the Kayak app on my phone and asked for a list of options getting to my destination. Instead, I talked to a not-so-helpful agent on the phone while waiting to reach a more-helpful agent at the counter.

The agent at the counter found me a way to San Francisco that gets me there almost in time for the ballet, but if I had known to ask, I would have pressed her to send me sooner via Las Vegas. She didn't offer that, I think, because it would have put me onto a partner airline and may have cost them some sort of a fee. But I didn't even ask. It was only after this that I discovered the Kayak app.

By the time I went to ask, the agent on the Las Vegas flight wanted to close the doors and she wouldn't let me in without properly-printed tickets. Once again, I needed that app on my phone. Next time and ever after, it's going to be there.