Tag Archives: air travel

A Week Away

Back in June, when it was becoming impossibly hot and boring living in our rental apartment (with molasses-slow progress on our home renovation), Dear Husband and I decided to brave the outside world and travel out of the country.

Armed with passports, vaccination cards, entry documents, and recent COVID tests, DH and I embarked on a short Viking river cruise to Lyon and Provence. The tipping point was their excellent health and safety program, in which every crew member and passenger takes a short, non-invasive COVID test daily. At least we’d be protected within our bubble.

A few highlights, as this is by no means a comprehensive travelogue:

  • Watching the world flow by from our little balcony
  • Cocktail hour with witty and cultured new friends K and S
  • Breathtaking mountain views of the countryside
  • Strolling through Arles
  • Morning croissants and coffee
  • A day on our own in Avignon visiting two museums (classic and contemporary) and finding a terrific place for lunch
  • The uniformly excellent food, wine, service and crew on board

And a couple of lowlights:

  • The airports in Marseilles and Frankfurt (our connection), which were overcrowded and understaffed, with insuffient time to check all passengers’ COVID documents
  • Not enough time in Lyon; we will have to return!
Les Baux-de-Provence (from the bus)
Just drifting along
Soon to be sunflower oil
Arles Arena
One family’s multi-generational olive oil mill in Fontvielle

The Road Trip That Wasn’t

For weeks, I’d been dreading this: several days in Austin to clear out our remaining belongings — we’d sold the house in late March –, sell two cars, close our safe deposit box, and then drive 3-4 days back to Oregon.

Luckily, we were able to accomplish said tasks quickly, ship the boxes instead of loading them into our Titanic-sized, impossible-to-park rental car, and fly back instead. As I’ve often remarked, there is almost no problem that can’t be solved by throwing money at it. (Though, to digress, this apparently hasn’t worked for Bill and Melinda Gates.)

This allowed us time to visit with family and friends and reflect on some of the unexpected pleasures of dining out during a pandemic.

Pandemic Travel 2.0

  • Waitstaff no longer hover over your table, telling you their life story (“Hi, I’m Bruce and I’ll be your server tonight, although I’m really an actor and I’ve written this cool sci-fi script…”).
  • Table spacing makes for a much quieter experience. You might even be able to hear your own conversation.
  • Maybe it’s an illusion, but everything just seems cleaner.
  • Silverware arrives wrapped in a napkin, rather than having been sitting out on the table.
  • Many restaurants have streamlined their menus, so the choices are better thought-out and fresher.
  • People are too far away to eavesdrop.

As for air travel,

  • Fewer travelers = speedier security. They sure want you to keep moving.
  • Nobody seems to worry about liquids anymore.
  • Better filtration = less chance of catching a cold or flu, never mind COVID.
  • Even anti-maskers have to wear one.
  • A discreet cough or two (into your mask of course) and no one will attempt to ask what you’re reading or whether you live at your destination.
  • Fewer travelers = less luggage. For the first time in recent memory, our checked bags were already at the carousel by the time we arrived at baggage claim.

Woo hoo — home sweet (temporary) home in one day, not four. So what if we’ll have to load 17 boxes into our car and lug them to a new (also temporary) storage unit; the kids can sort out our crap when we cross the rainbow bridge!

Photo by Benjamin Suter on Pexels.com

Style: What to Avoid When Flying

window view of an airplane

Photo by Alex Powell on Pexels.com

‘Tis the season to be traveling. If your plans involve air travel — commercial, that is; you private plane people can wear whatever the hell you want — this timely advice (adapted from a post on WhoWhatWear) should come in handy. Click here for the full piece.

Tight Clothes

You want to avoid cramping and swelling caused by too-tight clothing and inactivity. Problems can range from the serious (DVTs) to uncomfortable bloating. An elastic waistband is your friend, and with a nice top layer no one needs to know you’re channeling Edith Bunker.

Anything Flammable

One more reason to choose natural fabrics! And cover your arms, legs and feet in case the unforeseen happens and you have to go down the emergency slide. A long-sleeved cotton t-shirt is breathable as well as protective.

High Heels, Backless Sandals, Flipflops

They make it difficult to quickly evacuate the aircraft, and could hurt others if they go flying off.  Heels could puncture the evacuation slide and they’ll sure make it a lot harder to run to another gate if necessary.

Meanwhile, that tiny airplane bathroom is even nastier if something on the floor gets on your toes. ‘Nuff said.  Opt for closed shoes such as sneakers, low heels or flats, or boots.

Studs, buckles, zippers, belts can set off metal detectors and slow you down. The same is true for bold jewely. And it’s better not to put your valuables on the conveyor belt; just store them securely in a small case in your purse or carry on until you’ve gone through security.
Not Enough Layers

Airplane cabins can be frigid, so wearing layers makes sense.  You can always remove a sweater or cashmere shawl if you get too warm.

Pack a change of outfit in your carryon if possible, too — fresh socks, a tee and underwear at a minimum. It makes life much more pleasant if you’re stuck on the tarmac in an emergency, or your checked luggage is delayed or lost.

Safe travels,

xoxo Alisa

Getting There Isn’t Half the Fun It Used to Be

I love to travel. But it occurred to me on my latest trip that it all used to be much simpler.

Here’s what I needed when I was in my twenties: sneakers, heels, slip dress, sweater, jeans, birth control, a couple of t-shirts. Hotel toiletries took care of the rest.

Here’s what I need now:

  • Prescription meds
  • Heartburn/diarrhea/constipation prevention
  • Allergy pills, melatonin for jet lag, vitamin supplements
  • Wet wipes
  • Airborne
  • Biofreeze for aches and pains + acetaminophen day and PM
  • Gold Bond powder and blister pads for my shoes
  • Cleanser, day and nighttime moisturizer, sunblock, eye cream
  • Wood handled Q-tips (hate those flimsy paper cotton swabs)
  • Color safe shampoo and conditioner
  • Sleep mask
  • Straightening iron
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Glasses, reading glasses, sunglasses

Luckily, clothes are less of an issue. As a native New Yorker I dress like a Sicilian widow. Hence, my travel wardrobe consists of black cargo pants, black jeans, black pullover, black cardigan, black boots. Plus two gray tee shirts for a splash of color.

All packed? Now, off to the airport. Allow two hours minimum to navigate airport security (thank goodness for TSA pre-check so I don’t have to unlace my hiking boots) and wait in line to board the “aircraft” (doesn’t that sound unsettlingly homemade?)

Hold on… I know my butt has gotten a bit larger over the years but the seats have definitely shrunk as well! These days, First Class is what Economy used to be and Economy is pretty much “grit your teeth until you land”.

Anyway, we settled into our pods for the overnight flight to Europe, looked at the dinner menu and waited for takeoff. And waited. And waited some more until we were told there was a “mechanical issue.” After an hour we were told to get off the plane because they were “waiting for a part.” Long story short, four hours later instead of flying from Houston to Munich for our connection to Lisbon (and don’t even ask how United figured that going 3 hours further into Europe made any sense)—a connection we would clearly miss—we were re-booked through London. I’m told the Munich flight did eventually take off that night, though everyone had to scramble if they were continuing somewhere else.

We arrived in Lisbon 5 hours later than expected and – surprise – discovered that our luggage had not. Sure enough, it had journeyed to Munich. Luckily, we were all reunited the following day and embarked on a delightful visit to Portugal.

Good thing I’d worn the hiking boots, as I had no idea the country is so mountainous. For any of you who haven’t been there, the cities aren’t easy to stroll around because, as my husband says, “There is no downhill in Portugal”. Nonetheless, the people are warm and friendly, the streets are clean, the tiled buildings are gorgeous and the food is fantastic.

But one other downside of getting older: Used to be, I could sleep anywhere and hotel rooms (and beds) were a luxurious upgrade compared with my cramped apartment. Now, though, no hotel bed is nearly as comfy as my TempurPedic.

After ten days of touring Lisbon, Porto, Belmonte and Coimbra it was time to head home. Once again, we were connecting through Munich and once again I was reminded of how much more pleasant air travel used to be:

We flew Lufthansa for the first leg and had seats A and C; the explanation being that they had taken out the middle seats in the business/first section. Hah. It turns out that B is still there; it’s just covered over with a permanent tray table! So not only do you have the same cramped seats as Economy but now you can’t even use both armrests or stretch over into the middle seat.

Have you ever come home from vacation feeling like you need a vacation?