Sunday, March 31, 2013

Travel Day


Whenever I travel…there is logically Travel Day 1 (leaving) and Travel Day 2 (coming home).  Sometimes…there are more travel days…especially when I am on an AWA trip where we are bopping from place to place.

Yesterday was my Travel Day to come to Florence to see Kari. 

I’ve done plenty of traveling as this blog attests to…but this was my first trip out on my own where I was going out completely alone to a place where English is not the first language…so I was a bit nervous.

Adding to the nerves was the SUPER tight connection I would have to make in Frankfurt to get to Florence!

BUT…I’m a big girl…the litany of questions I had, Corey very patiently answered (more than once)…

My first sense of apprehension came when Corey’s Blackberry flight alert popped up with a new arrival time in Frankfurt…7:17 AM…this was problematic as my bag and I needed to be on a 7:25 connection to Florence…ummm.  Ok  Corey said to question it when I checked in.

I’m not sure if I have ever described the check in experience in Hong Kong…but let’s just say the whole thing is the beyond civilized and convenient. 

There is a high speed train that goes from Hong Kong Station to Asia World Expo…The airport is on this line…as are stops at Kowloon Station (our stop) and Tsing Yi.  At Kowloon Station you purchase your train ticket and walk into the “check in” area.  All the airlines are represented and you check in…give them your bag if you are checking…and off it goes…and you go.  We have never had our bags not make the flights and you are freed from dragging the darn thing on the train and into the airport.  There are never lines at airport express. Well…by that I mean no more than 2 people.  It’s just painless.

SO…here I am checking in and the young lady at the desk has NO IDEA why the flight alert would be saying 7:17…HER computer says 6:25 as scheduled…curious, but let’s trust that computer…when are computers EVER wrong? (wait for it)

I get settled…of to the Cathay lounge (constant travel has risen me to the Silver level on Cathay so I get to use their Business Class lounge when I am flying Cathay even when I am not flying Business Class!  – “status” has it’s privileges.

We board the plane on time…”status” also means I get to board w/Business Class which just means I get to grab the closest overhead space and get changed into my jammies before everyone else boards.

THEN…as we are settled…the announcements from the Captain begin.  First…headwinds.  That will slow us (ok)…THEN…the revelation that Blackberry Travel Alert was right ALL ALONG….Europe is moving to “summer time” this weekend…Clocks go forward…flight schedules do not…and I have just been guaranteed to miss my connection.  SIGH. Ok…nothing to be done….can’t stress it, can’t change it…Corey told me what to do if it happened (since an hour was doable…yet really pushing it).  However…we still have not started engines… or closed the door…we are sitting.

Back comes the Captain (who has a terrific accent so he can keep talking). It seems that we are waiting for six people to come on board.  Then we wait some more. Back comes the captain to let us know that the six people have disappeared in the Hong Kong Airport and do not seem to be coming to the flight.  Problem is…their luggage is on board.  We can not fly with luggage that does not have owners ( It’s the “fool me once..shame on you, fool me twice shame on me” terrorism rule).  So pardon the interruption as we dig through all the luggage in a 747-400 and find these 6 bags. ARGG…but finally, we go.

Flight is uneventful (and after seeing FLIGHT, I am very relieved for this).  A lovely flight attendant lets me know that my bag and  I have been rebooked on the 11:50 flight out of Frankfurt, No need to rush now! 

Frankfurt airport, home to Lufthansa, is HUGE…so I’m pretty pleased I did not have to do the OJ Simpson sprint from International Terminal 2 to the relatively domestic Terminal 1.  I clear security, which every country does even though you don’t leave the secure areas…I guess they want to check for their own contraband, get my new boarding pass and find a place to put my foot up since it has taken on the look of a side of beef since I twisted it two weeks ago (good timing).

We get to Florence on a beautiful smaller plane – no props but really good leg room b/c European carriers are civilized.  I chose a window since we would be flying over the Alps…but the plane was empty so I could have sat anywhere.


Then…here comes the city!!

IMG_8730It was spitting rain a bit…but I’ve come prepared.

My bag is grabbed…Taxi acquired (though I’m pretty sure he took me for 5 Euro…jerk…no tip…AND for what I paid to go 5 km I could have gone around Hong Kong Island…all of it…3 times)

I get to my “hotel”…Katti House…and find the owner does not speak on bit of English…so we use pencil and calendar to figure out how many total nights I am here since we are going to Venice for 2 nights.  Then my bag is taken…back outside…(she tried to tell me to leave it at the bottom of the stairs…I did not listen)…where am I going?…across the street…WHERE AM I GOING?…and the lovely gentlemen shows me the 3 keys it takes to get to my room…and he shows me the bath and the hairdryer (thankfully b/c I did not bring one)

I settle, shower, unpack, use the hair dryer…and figure I will text Kari to let her know my new address…silly me thought I was staying you know AT Katti House.  NO INTERNET. The book ad reviews SAID there was internet  RICK STEVES!!!!!!!!! You are normally more reliable than this!  This is what happens when you use OLD books…I have read in the 2013 book that indeed, there is no internet in my building.  sigh

I almost cried…and I am starting to panic b/c how will I get in touch with her to let her know I’ve moved…and…what am I going to do without internet…should I try to walk to her house and wait for her to get there (NO…don’t go wandering…she’s smart…she will find me)

So I pack up my computer…my phone..head back across the street and the man lets me in…and confirms there is no internet in my location…but I am welcome to sit on the couch in the hall and work there.  He shows me the password.  I’m in business.

I manage to dash off a text to Kari…do a little mail…text Corey and go back to my room to await the arrival of Kari.

Which happens not too long later…we enjoyed an amazing meal, wine, and went to check out her flat and meet her room mates.  Her place is HUGE! (though one bathroom for four girls can be problematic I guess).  We chatted…yes, I checked Facebook…then back I came.

Travel Day is in the books.

I’m not sure where to go for breakfast…the nice lady told me.  I’m going to pack this up and head over to the “Big House”…get online…and see if I can find coffee.  

I know my days,…while seeming to go on forever…will be gone in a blink.  It’s time to plan.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

If you can float…

You can  scuba dive.

If you can fall out of a boat

You can scuba dive.

If you can just let go of some preconceived notions (sharks)

You can scuba dive!

Believe me…I never thought I would be this person. 

I credit my entrance into diving completely to Corey.  He is the hand on my back, urging (shoving?) me into situations I would never put myself in.

In all honesty, to truly enjoy diving, you must be comfortable in the water.  The advancement of equipment for scuba diving has opened up this incredible experience to the masses. 

IF you are going to try this you MUST find a great shop to help.  Look for 5-Star PADI shops…as these locations have gone through some pretty strenuous vetting.  We have learned the hard way to use these shops as their standards are high and safety is at the top of the list.

You can do your book learning on line so you don’t spend your precious vacation time in a class room.  Then, when you get to your destination, you can do your test dives.

Our diving adventures started back in 2004, when our friends starting diving and told us how fabulous it was.  We were slated to go to Hawaii in January for our first “vacation” (that’s a trip w/o children) since the kids came along. 

We went on an “intro” dive with Tropical Divers. (Sadly, run out of business by the greed of Kaanapoli developers).  Intro dives are terrific because they let you check out diving before investing a whole lot of time, energy and yes, money. 

We spent quite a bit of time going over breathing (pretty important), equipment, descending, ascending safely, and signals.  Soon it was time to saddle up (as it were).

Our first dive lasted about 35 minutes.  We saw a relatively rare Hawksbill Turtle. After we moved around, we surfaced, and with our Buoyancy Control Devices (BCDs) inflated, we took the leap to continue and get certified.  First though, Eric made us pass one test.  With our masks off, we had to put our face in the water and breath through the Regulator.  This part we passed no problem, and were then given our books and assignments.

We spent the next few days reading and diving and testing in the beautiful waters above Lahaina.  Our learning area was a sandy area right off shore in 25 feet of water.  We would do our required activities, then do more searching for neat sea creatures (it was nice having a class size of TWO!)  Corey and I were most skeptical of taking off our masks and NOT having our contacts fly out of our eyes…but they didn’t (just as Eric said).

We dove again in summer of 2004, and then not again until 2008.  We did reintroduction dives with Shaka Doug Corbin (coolest shore dives in Maui).

Since then Corey and I have logged 100 dives and with this move to Hong Kong have been able to dive in Cebu and Bali (he has done Thailand also!).

Many of our dives are also with Maui Dreams  (did many of our advanced certifications here) AND their boat The Maui Diamond II .  We literally plan our time in Maui around how many dives we want to do.  We only want to go out with the best .

Diving has given me a MUCH larger appreciation of our oceans.  I am more aware of the issues facing the world with over fishing, shark finning, pollution, heck…I won’t eat Octopus anymore now that I’ve held one! (too cute and fuzzy)

Lastly, diving has allowed me to see things close up I NEVER thought I would see:

IMG_5476 Lobsters and sharks living together

IMG_5519 A Sea Rose

IMG_0183 Turtles

IMG_0452 Schools of beautiful fish

IMG_8458 Manta Rays

IMG_8119 Sharks!  (the vegetarian kind)

IMG_8028 Blue spotted Stingrays

IMG_8035 Garden Eels that disappear into the sand the minute they feel threatened

IMG_8383 Nemo!

I could go on and on!

Go back to the Blog of my 50th birthday in 2011! That’s how much we love diving!

Best of all…Diving has given me a sense of confidence AND it has given Corey and I something new to do together!