Our flight to Lisbon is via Edmonton and Amsterdam. The Amsterdam leg is overnight, so I had time to watch Arsenal embarrass themselves at Old Trafford before flying to Edmonton at lunch via the lovely teal and blue WestJet.
It was a longer flight than necessary since WestJet has invested in propellor jets to fly to and from Regina “International”, so we had lots of time to read through the in-flight magazine. Wow! I had no idea I was missing so much! Most of the magazine was given over to The Snowbird Lifestyle with pages of enticements to Have It All in places like Phoenix and Greater Palm Springs.
I had no idea. You can get anything there. ANYTHING! Case in point is this ad by the (according to the ad) two best doctors in Palm Springs. One will transform your mouth and the other will rearrange the rest of you. I had no idea this was available. Heck, I had no idea what most of it was! I always thought tanning salons were over the top but there’s a whole ‘nuther level available for Canucks in the desert.
Nevertheless, we still had time to kill in Edmonton. Enough time for a late lunch / early supper and people watching. What a strange trip already.
There was a small scale revolt at Gate 54, where an Air Transat flight to Cancun was delayed for over 5 hours. Farmers and farmer’s wives from all over north central Alberta were scowling, moaning and grumpily eating their chips while they waited for word from the captain. Waiting for a part to get flown in from Toronto. Or was it Montreal. But now the pilots, by law, needed to sleep for 10 hours before flying again. So the whole jean-short and ball cap menagerie was going to fly to Toronto for a crew change before continuing on to Cancun, some 17 hours late. A great moaning and wailing was heard for five gates in every direction until the announcement of “I’m sorry” vouchers. Then it was just a low, subdued moan.
Two hours later, I was walking down to Tim’s for my last Canadian coffee when I passed their gate in time for a loud ironic cheer – the Cancun flight was boarding. Thank goodness. Calmness can prevail again. Until I got to the Tim’s line. I think I was the only person there who had ever been to a Tim’s before. And that includes the staff! “I asked for no tomato!” “Are the ice capps supposed to be this runny?” “What’s a debit card?” (I may have misheard that one.). But at least I rrrolled up a free donut for the return leg. As I spent my last Toonie for a good long time, I made sympathetic eye contact with the frazzled Tim’s manager, then glanced down at the two inch thick stack of Air Transat vouchers.
But then it was time to leave Canada. Fly further North and further East than I have ever been. We departed on a KLM flight to Amsterdam, staffed by actual Dutch people! Bliss! The way they asked me to raise my seat to an upright ‘possission’ was dreamy. I was smitten.
And my travel companions! A veritable United Nations pushed and shoved and cajoled and refused to line up in any meaningful sense to board. An African man in flowing blue robes. Three generations of an Indian family including three toddlers and two grandmothers in wheelchairs. A pretty young Russian lady wearing five layers of sweaters, removed and folded each layer meticulously before filling the over head bin with them, then rolling her eyes as her lucky row mate professed his love for perogies (she warmed up to him, and eventually ran the plane out of gin.) And several tall, slim, Netherlanders. I kept quiet lest my prairie ‘aw shucks’ accent gave me away as the landlocked rube that I am.
One interesting note: All passengers got stopped on the loading ramp in Edmonton. We were questioned by armed guards who were doing a currency check. I assume they wanted to know if I was smuggling large amounts of money out of the country. They even pulled one guy aside and went through his bags! The crazy thing was, these fellows had “Canada Revenue Agency” badges on their uniforms. Yup! In Canada the taxman is armed.
It’s an 8 hour flight and I don’t know when we’re supposed to sleep. But the pleasant young fellow is coming by with drinks. I think we’re going to splurge – it’s a holiday after all. Ginger ale for two, please!
It turns out that we got way more than a packet of sesame snaps on this flight. Two full meals! Holy. Supper was some pretty good pasta with corn and black bean salad, and breakfast was a rather hard breakfast sandwich with fruit, yogurt and a muffin. Two sets of sturdy plastic flatware and a few resealable containers made it into our packs for picnic lunches later.
And it also turns out that all the booze was free too! I’ll be getting blitzed on the way home, for sure.
I will say that sleeping on the plane didn’t really work. Cindy at least kept her eyes closed, but I only nodded off once or twice. I was still very groggy when the lights came back on. But at least I got to see an amazing bank of starry sky at night then a quick, lovely sunrise (quick given we were flying toward the sun at 998km/h!)
And then the plane descended and we saw land. Holland. Just like I’d imagined it. Green, pancake flat and full of canals. But not like I’d imagined it either – freeways and refineries too. It was so cool to see large tankers pulled right up beside the oil refineries, but over a mile inland. The canal network can do that.
Compared to the deserted Edmonton airport, the Shipol(sp) KLM hub was a hive of activity. Passport checks were no problem, and we found our gate to Lisbon with enough time to walk around a bit. Then we loaded up for the last leg to Lisbon. I couldn’t imagine all the people in line were for one flight but we all made it on board. Cindy napped and I tried to trace canals as long as I could before we flew up above the clouds.
Having a bit of trouble loading pictures. Will figure this out before my next post…