Day One: Thursday, August 6th
So, I should start out by saying that with all of the travelling we’ve done recently, I’ve become quite the airport connoisseur. There are definitely some things that make an airport stand out from the rest (both in good ways and bad)…
Before we left for the airport on the “Zero Day”, we were met with some slight havoc. We went to the mall to withdraw some cash for the trip and our card was inactive. “Huh???” So after trying several different ATMs (here, sometimes the bank you pick won’t take American bank cards) we went home to check our online banking and sure enough, fraudulent charges were pending. There were over 500 bucks in charges at Walmart, Best Buy, and a gas station somewhere in Illinois. Since we weren’t even in AMERICA, it wasn’t too tough to convince the bank lady that they were not our charges. She nonchalantly explained that it happens quite often (what???) and basically somewhere we used our debit card, someone pulled the information from the electronic strip in their system and made a fake card... sketchy, but the money was returned and we were good to go. It still put us in an uneasy mood merely hours before we had to fly across the planet. No good.
Kaden was a perfect angel staying up late waiting for our plane to depart Abu Dhabi. Our plane was supposed to leave at 2 AM… it didn’t actually leave until after 3, and he was still just barely grouchy. Abu Dhabi airport is a perfect example of why airports should probably all have been designed with some basic criteria in mind. First of all, it is very “busy” both visually and physically. The terminal is fairly small, but it situated in a round fashion with a huge green and blue sort of futuristic-looking stream of barf coming out of the middle. Around it are the terminals, which are unclearly marked, and only provide seating after you have checked in… which you can only do a half hour before your flight actually leaves. Before that, you and the 500 other people on your flight are seated on the floor in a hallway. Kaden thought it was great.
All complaining aside, once we actually boarded, it should be noted that other than Qatar Airways, Etihad has to be one of the best airlines left on the planet. The planes are all brand new and spacious (there is a test for this… on Etihad I can cross my leg under my butt and sit on my foot comfortably… on DELTA I can barely sit with just my butt on the seat.), the staff is elegantly dressed and helpful (speaking upwards of 10 languages between the attendants), the food is good, and the ambiance is calming. We took 7 hours on Etihad to get to Paris…
Ahhhh, Paris. Write it down now: If you have never flown through Paris, DON’T! I have never really had a beef with the French before this trip… I’ve heard all the best puns and boycotts directed at the French that there are. I would always smirk at a mere good joke, but not with any underlying reason to dislike the French. It’s just been like laughing at a Jewish joke or a blonde joke. Until now.
We land in Paris and it is pouring rain. Not that this is Paris’ fault, but when they brought up our gate-checked stroller only after ten minutes of it sitting on the tarmac, it was less than dry and I HAD to put my baby in it or we would have been leaving luggage behind instead. Right on.
THEN, the completely unhelpful Delta ground crew lady told us that the Delta terminal was in 2E or E2, she wasn’t sure. After a quarter-mile walk we were faced with a flight of 40 stairs and no “lift” available. Stu asked her if she could help us find someone to assist us with getting our luggage and stroller (and kid) down the stairs and she, in a flabbergasted tone, informed us that it was “not her job” and promptly left us standing there. Awesome. So then, dripping wet and moody (none of us got a lot of sleep on the previous flight, including a thoroughly confused and irritable Kaden), I flagged down a security guard and motioned for him to walk up the stairs to me. After some hand signals of protest, he reluctantly gave in and came up the stairs, telling us the whole way down that there was an escalator (helpful…) to the right.
At the bottom of the stairs, manning a security check point sits “Camille”. Camille is a heavy-set Parisian who speaks no English, and is apparently angry about life in general. Stu approached her to ask where we go to find the E terminal and she said something in French… that sounded rather short with him. He tries again, “E Terminal?” She waves her hand in the general direction of a departures screen and turns around and walks away, eyeing us and complaining to her little man-slave nearby. I say, “Bitch.” As of yet, I don’t like France.
Then finally another woman walks up to us and in very broken English tells us to wait here and a bus would be coming shortly to take us to the proper terminal. Now, I realize I’m complaining that these French folk do not speak English… learn French you might say. If I were in the French countryside and a local farmer did not happen to speak English to help me out, I would never have anything to say. But we were in an International airport where every sign is written in English THEN in French, which happens to service hundreds of thousands of people who all typically speak English as a first or second language because they know to get anywhere in the world they need to. So I’m just saying, if you're going to work somewhere where your nametag says, “Hello, my name is Camille, may I help you?” and who’s uniform is emblazoned with the words “Customer Service” on the back, you might want to speak something other than useless French!!!
Anyway, rant over. The bus driver, who also spoke nothing but gibberish, kept telling me to “go to back” when I was asking if this was our stop (no signs ANYWHERE). FINALLY we arrived at the correct terminal and got our boarding passes… we headed to security where a nice gentleman asks us if we are British. Once he discovers we are American, he turns sour and is suddenly unhelpful. (Assbag. See if we help you again next time Germany decides they’d like some more property.) Our stroller (since the guy wasn't listening to the idiot American when I told him he needed to turn the wheels towards each other so it wouldn't get stuck) got stuck in the screening machine and the lady operating kept giving me orders in French, “blah blah blah blah blah”. Me: “I don’t speak French.” She slowed it down for me and got sterner and louder, like it would help me to suddenly speak her language… “BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH”… “I. Don’t. Speak. French!” She gaffed at me and walked back to the original security man to talk smack. But we were finally free to go to our gate. Thank freaking God. We were supposed to have a 4 hour layover in Paris, but after being delayed in Abu Dhabi and then having to deal with so much crap once we’d arrived in Paris, we were cutting it close. Luckily, because France sucks, our plane was delayed by another hour.
Kaden had a great time running around the airport though. He was quite the little explorer. We got our first look at things being listed in Euros for prices. Interesting as well. Then, just as we thought we were free to go, a French security lady realized we were arriving from the dreaded Middle East and proceeded to ask us the most obnoxious questions that I could hardly contain my glee or giggles. “Tell me about the item someone has given you to hold.” And, “Tell me about the explosives you have in your luggage.” We finally did get to board… without being arrested.
Now is the time to REALLY complain about how crappy our domestic carriers have become. Etihad was so nice we were truly spoiled, but THEN we had to ride with Delta. The seats were so painful I LITERALLY hurt my tailbone during the ten hour ride that even today if I lean back on it I get a stinging pain up my back. The food was ok, about what you would expect. But the flight attendants were HORRIBLE! We, as you are aware, were travelling with a baby… we need a little more help (like water to make bottles) than the typical traveler. We would push the call button and literally 45 minutes would go by with not so much as a stewardess even walking by! Not to mention that on this ride Kaden screamed for a good portion of the time, putting Mom and Dad in a pretty antsy mood.
Mercifully we were allowed off this plane in Salt Lake City (a fine airport, btw, by Sydney's standards...) where we were informed by customs to not fear, our plane would wait for us (after all the delays we were 15 minutes from departure when we got to customs). Our plane left at 2:55… at 2:49 Stu and I made it through customs and began an Olympic-record-breaking sprint to our gate. A half-mile later (after sitting still for ten hours on a plane, mind you), at 2:54, we reached our gate and were informed that it pulled back ten minutes early and left without us. Drained after over 24 hours of travel at this point, and being up for close to 48 hours, I felt close to tears.
Luckily, there was one more flight to Spokane that night that left in an hour and a half. Thank. God. After a Starbucks and a washed face, I felt much better as we boarded the plane. Kaden slept the whole way in my arms and we landed to find Momma E waiting for us. I got all teary-eyed when I saw her. (We made it!) We got our bags quickly and went out to see Maddison (in full racing gear from her practice Supercross race) and my Dad awaiting us in the truck. That night we told stories of the big sand land and went to bed in Justine’s horribly uncomfortable, but otherwise very welcoming bed. Quite the trip.