Saturday, February 28, 2009
Since I'm flying on United frequent flyer miles I had to plan my trip early. You're allowed to book frequent flyer trips on United Airlines a maximum of 330 days in advance. So last April, 330 days in advance of my final flight next Tuesday from Washington Dulles to LAX, I was on the phone to United to book the trip. (The itinerary was complicated and I was on the phone with the reservationist for at least 90 minutes.)
Nearly all of the flights have been on airlines partnered with United, only two flights are actually on United: Monday night from Rio to Dulles and Tuesday morning from Dulles to LAX.
When I made the reservation I was able to confirm all of the flights in first class except the United flight from Rio to Dulles. United had the seats but they weren't making them available for award travel. So I booked that flight in coach -- ten and a half hours.
The next day I started a program of once a day -- everyday -- calling United Airlines to ask if I could move to first class. I missed a few Saturdays and Sundays but pretty much consistently called every day.
After a couple of months I got moved up to business class. But first class remained elusive and I continued to call once a day.
Even once I left on this trip on February 10 I continued to call when I was in a country where United Airlines had a local phone number. I didn't want to incur the cost of making the call so I'd go to the Hotel Concierge Desk and ask if they'd dial the number and let me use the phone. They all were willing to do it.
And each day I'd be told the same thing -- first class isn't available and that I should ask when I checked in for the flight. But I kept calling.
The 767 I'm flying has 6 first class seats. For several months all six were unbooked. Then about 4 months ago two of them sold, leaving four seats. It stayed like that until two days ago when I found out two more seats sold, leaving only two available. That really depressed me, I wasn't feeling very hopeful.
And today -- about 60 hours before my flight is scheduled to depart -- United finally made a first class seat available to me. I was so excited but worried the reservationist got it wrong. But she assigned me a seat and it's really going to happen. After 10 months of daily phone calls it felt like a real personal victory.
And now I can start enjoying my trip. (That's a joke.)
The photo above is of the beach as seen from my hotel room. But I haven't been going to that beach. I've been taking the hotel's shuttle bus for the five minute ride to Ipanema Beach. I've been three days in a row now. The weather has been absolutely sensational.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
I didn't go to Barcelona on this trip but, apparently, my luggage did. Yesterday, somewhere between Athens, Geneva and Lisbon my bag got directed to Barcelona.
I went into a little bit of a panic when it didn't show up in Lisbon last night. I was only there for 12 hours and I was NOT excited about continuing on to Rio without my bag. I had no confidence TAP would 1) find my bag; 2) forward it to Rio and 3) deliver it to my hotel.
I learned four years ago in Cape Town not to rely on an airlinesto proactively deliver bags (I went two days without luggage, waiting for it to be delivered, when it had been just sitting in the Cape Town airport all that time).
So this morning when I found out my bag had been misdirected to Barcelona I snapped into action. Fortunately there was an early morning flight from Barcelona to Lisbon, arriving 90 minutes before my departure to Rio, and TAP had put my bag on it. Instead of counting on the airline to retag the bag in Lisbon and put it on the Rio flight I staked out the baggage office and waited and waited and waited until my bag finally showed up.
I checked it in for the Rio flight myself and what a thrill to see it roll down the conveyor belt at the airport in Rio.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
According to my tour book the view of Athens from the top of Lycabettus Hill is supposed to be the best. And you can ride a funicular to the top of the hill -- that sounded attractive to me.
Today is my final day in Athens. Later on I'm off to Rio de Janeiro -- my final stop on this trip. Traveling from Athens to Rio is somewhat complicated. This afternoon I'm flying from Athens to Geneva on Swiss Air. In Geneva I'm transferring to TAP and flying to Lisbon. I'm spending Tuesday night at a hotel near the Lisbon Airport and Wednesday morning continuing on to Rio on TAP nonstop arriving Wednesday evening.
There's a pretty little church atop Lycabettus Hill, complete with a stray dog. There are stray dogs and cats everywhere in Athens. I felt really bad for this dog because it was so cold and windy at the top of the hill and it seemed like it didn't have anywhere warm to go. And it's not like it could hop on the funicular to the bottom of the hill.
I warmed up inside with a giant cup of hot chocolate in the pretty little cafe next to the funiclar stop atop Lycabettus Hill.
Note the ashtray and glass of water. EVERYONE smokes in Athens (except me). And the free glass of water is ubiquitous. Even at McDonald's (yes, I went to a McDonald's) they give you a free little cup of water with your meal.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
I didn't to watch the Oscars but I just checked the winners on-line and I got 17 out of 24 (71%) correct. That's the same success rate as I had in 2008 and 2006 and better than in 2007 when I only got 15 out of 24 (63%) right.
Maybe next year I can push it to 18 out of 24.
Maybe next year I can push it to 18 out of 24.
I walked all around Athens today.
Atop the Acropolis an elderly British gentleman asked me to take his picture. I asked what he wanted in the background. He pointed to the Parthenon and said, "I want to send it to friends and say, 'can you spot the old relic in the photo?'"
Then I gave him my camera and asked him to return the favor. Can you spot the old relic in the photo?
The sad news is no Oscars watching for me this year. The show is shown in Greece but not on a channel available in my hotel. So I'll have to check on-line and see how my predictions turned out. And I'll have to ask Renee how Hugh Jackman did.