Travel Diary – Getting to Seattle (Part 2)

So its a little after 6am UTC+1 as we touch down in Paris, the city of love and classical romance. It was a pleasure to finally be off the plane as I was seated next to this really big dude that managed to encroach on the personal space of both me and the dude on the other side of him. He also took the cake for wearing his team colours as he was dressed from head to foot in ANC party colours. If he wasn’t taking up my sleeping space then he spent the rest of the time waxing lyrical about how he has a US tertiary education and that the whites just don’t get the whole affirmative action thing and why its so good for the country. Also something about the ANC just not explaining it all properly. At least he was flying economy not business class!

The Charles de Gaulle airport has changed considerably since my last transit in 2001. Its odd, I’ve flown through Paris about 29 times now and not once have I had time or a visa to visit the Eiffel Tower and see the rest of the city. I have been outside the airport but that was on a temporary visa that was arranged for me and my colleagues when our Air France flight from Paris to Johannesburg was delayed 12 hours due to a technical fault. So alas I only got to see the inside of the Hilton at the airport.

One thing I found really impressive in CDG airport was the laptop power jacks and tables outside the boarding gates. Coupled with fast wireless Internet access at 10 Euros an hour made the 4 hour long wait between flights a bit more pleasant. To top it off, they even have these really comfy chair type beds littered around the terminal which are surprisingly comfortable when you have a while to wait for your next flight. Quite a few people were actually catching a few minutes of sleep – as a South African I’d be too afraid of my hand luggage getting nicked from next to me to be able to fall asleep. For the life of me I can’t seem to find a photo of them on the Internet but I’ll be sure to take a photo on my way back through next week.

The flight from Paris to Seattle was pleasant even though it was a daytime flight. I left at 10h30 Paris time and got to Seattle the same day at 11h55 Seattle time. Very odd as I think I had 5 meals on Friday and I even skipped supper in Seattle. Its odd but every flight I’ve had to Seattle I’ve always sat next to an MVP. Yeah last year it was a fellow Xbox MVP and this year it was a French Office Groove MVP.

Landing in Seattle I was quite surprised to see sunshine as the weather forecast predicted wet weather. Immigration was an absolute dream this time as there were practically no queues and the officers on duty were extremely friendly and pleasant to deal with. Customs followed suit and the one dude even asked me if I had biltong on me. LOL.

As the 2009 Global MVP Summit only technically starts on Sunday the 1st of March I decided to book myself into the cheaper 3 star Sixth Avenue Inn in downtown Seattle for the first two nights. I must say its quite comfortable for overnight stay but I wouldn’t stay here unless I was trying to save some money. Everything is acceptable except for the bloody shower. I’m a person who likes to shower and this shower just doesn’t cut it. At least it has free high-speed Internet access although I’ve been hooking onto the Westin Hotel over the roads wireless network as well.

Here are a few photos of the Sixth Avenue Inn:

Sixth Avenue Inn sign from my room Sixth Avenue Inn room View of the Westin Hotel from my window Sixth Avenue Inn view at night

Sixth Avenue Inn wired Westin Hotel wireless
Sixth Avenue Inn wired connection. Westin Hotel wireless network I’ve been testing.

Travel Diary – Getting to Seattle (Part 1)

Air France Boeing 777-300ER I don’t really know why but travelling has become a chore for me. As much as I love to go new places and meet new faces, I dread the actual travel bit. Whether its driving to Durban for the Christmas holidays or going overseas for business, its stressful but the stress begins a good while before the travelling actually begins.

It all starts with getting a visa. This can be an absolute schlep for us South Africans but fortunately for me, I still have a valid US visa from my trip to the 2008 Global MVP Summit. This afforded me a little less stress too early, however I still suffer from the day before stress. You know the kind, when you need to pack your suitcase and hope you don’t forget something in the process. This year I planned to pack for the trip the night before, but alas my car decided to give me grief, so all plans went out the window and things went adhoc from there.

Getting to the airport is always something that needs planning, especially if you don’t have family nearby. Yep, most people don’t realize how lucky they are to have a family member drop and collect them at a whims notice. I’d decided to take a shuttle to the airport to reduce the stress, a decision compounded by a faulty car. So I booked a shuttle through the EZShuttle service that numerous people have recommended. Unfortunately they were 1 hour and 15 minutes late for the pickup from my office resulting in me basically flipping out. Yeah I was this close to cancelling my entire trip and going to fetch Data, my cat, from the cattery.

The trip to the airport found me getting car sick due to the stop start nature of the traffic through Alexandria township and the driver continuously applying and releasing the accelerator. The last time I felt like that was being driven around in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2002 but I’d rather forget that stressful trip.

Arriving at the airport exactly two hours before my international flight put me into mission mode. I systematically and logically proceeded to eliminate the hurdles. First lets get checked in, Air France staff point me to the new electronic check-in machines and whoops, problem, I need to see a check-in counter agent. Apparently it’s because I’m travelling to the US. That done, visit customs for a DA-65 form – can’t leave SA with a laptop and camera without one as it will result in too much stress on the way back in.

Besides for the long queues at the security checkpoint and at passport control, the rest of the experience was quite pleasant. The Air France flight was jam packed aboard a Boeing 777-300 and left soon after the scheduled time. Food on the flight was excellent and the staff were friendly and cheerful as I remember them to be.

Next stop, Paris.