The long trip home.....
Trip Start Aug 22, 2011
18Trip End Sep 29, 2011
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It's hard to believe that the trip I planned in such detail and anticipated for so long is now coming to an end. Towards the end of my trip, the Military Tattoo and the Holland & Belgium tour seem like they took place so far in the past, that they were another trip.
As on the morning of departure at the start of the trip, I woke at about 05:00, much earlier than the alarm clock setting. I figured it may as well start getting ready for the ride to the airport and as it turned out the timing worked out well. I left the Hotel at about 06:40 for my pre-rehearsed walk to Termini and to the distant Track 26. I arrived at the platform for the Leonardo Express precisely on time, and validated my ticket. There was a ticket check booth set-up at the track, and it appears it’s also possible to purchase a ticket there if necessary
The train departed right on time at 07:22, with the sun just starting to illuminate the tops of nearby buildings. The trip to the airport was routine, and the walk to Terminal 3 was short. I knew that I’d be taking a Lufthansa flight from Rome to Frankfurt, but wasn’t sure where the check-in counters were so I stopped at the Information Desk and was directed to Counters 264 or 265.
As I would be checking luggage, I assumed that I’d have to stop at the desk first rather than using the check-in Kiosks. That’s the way it is at home, but apparently that’s not the way things work in Rome now. After waiting in the queue at the check-in desk for 10-15 minutes, I was directed to go back to one of the Kiosks for check-in and make my seat selection. The girl told me to return to her desk when I had the boarding passes, so I wouldn’t have to wait in the queue again. With the three Boarding Passes in hand (three different flights), the check-in was completed, the luggage tag printed for my checked bag, and my main Pack disappeared on the Conveyor belt.
As is usual with all airports in Europe, there were signs indicating only one carry-on bag was allowed, so I asked the Agent and mentioned my Camera bag and she said it would be fine
The flight to Frankfurt was fairly short, about 1H:15M. Getting to the next Gate for the flight to Calgary was straightforward, but of course required passing through the Police exit checkpoint for the E.U. While I was waiting in line, I noticed one individual bypassing the line and walking straight through without being checked. I mentioned the incident to the Police officer when I went through the checkpoint, but regret not bringing it to his attention at the time. While waiting at Gate 46 for departure, I noticed the passengers waiting at Gate 47 for a flight to Beirut. They were a somewhat "colourful" group.
The Air Canada flight to Calgary departed on time and seemed to be full. The flight was about the usual 10 hours but seemed to “drag on” this time. I ended up watching five movies (Green Lantern, Eat-Pray-Love, Unknown and two others - I tried to choose movies that I hadn't seen before, even though some of them weren't my "usual fare"). They provided some distraction but as usual I had to put up with the cramped seats and legroom of “sardine class”. One of these days I may decide to pay for first class and see what it’s like to to travel in the “Pods” on a long flight. The guy sitting next to me seemed to want to watch movies for the entire flight, so I didn’t really talk to him at all. At last the Map function was working so I could follow the progress of the flight, something that hasn’t been working on Air Canada flights for awhile. The flight was a bit longer than expected as the Pilot had to take a slightly more northerly route to avoid turbulence.
Upon arrival in Calgary, I had to clear Passport control and fortunately the queue was short. After that I collected my checked luggage and then re-checked it for the flight to Kelowna. The baggage re-check area was right outside the doors of the baggage claim, so this only involved a short walk and dropping my main Pack on a Conveyor Belt. Once again I had to leave the secured part of the airport and walk through the “open” part of the Terminal, and then back through security to reach the “A” gates for my flight to Kelowna. It would be nice if they'd streamline the process so that passengers can simply go from one secure area to another. I can see no logical reason why it’s necessary to go through security once again. There appears to be a lot of construction taking place at YYC, so hopefully that will be implemented in the new airport design.
I eventually arrived in the waiting area for the “A” gates, which is the same one I’ve used many times in the past. It’s a small area but nicely designed, with not only washrooms but also a small food counter where passengers can buy snacks, drinks and other “small” food items. The connection time was perfect and I didn’t have long to wait until they started boarding the flight. The walk from the Terminal to the Gate was a LONG way, along a narrow two-lane covered concrete walkway. I asked one of the employees if they eventually planned to install a “moving sidewalk” to make the walk a bit easier, and she said that this area was just temporary and would eventually be part of a newly constructed International Departures area. She also indicated that she's worked at the airport for about 40-years, so will probably be retired by the time new facilities are built (I told her she didn't look old enough to retire, which was absolutely true).
At this point, I was tired and anxious to reach Kelowna and get home, so this flight seemed to “drag on” as well. I breathed a sigh of relief when the plane finally touched down on my familiar “home runway”. There was only a short delay for my Backpack to appear and Paul was waiting, so I was back at home in short order. It was a beautiful Okanagan evening, although I could sense the cooler temperatures and knew that it was definitely Autumn.
When I opened the front door, my trusty canine companion “Lou” was waiting, as were the two Cats, and they all seemed very happy to see me. Although I was somewhat sad that this year’s adventure was now at an end, it was comforting to throw my Packs on the bed and to be back in the familiar surroundings of “home”. At about the five week point during the trip, I was already starting to think of home, so now it’s time to get back to my routine, reflect on my trip and start planning for next year.
I'll try to provide some "Reflections" of the trip after I've had time to think about these for awhile.
And so ends my 2011 adventure in Europe.