Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 1 & 2 - DEN TO IAD TO SVO TO LED

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I didn’t bother setting an alarm. I had to leave for the airport by 8:00, but having a puppy guaranteed I’d be awake before 7:00. Sure enough, I was up even earlier, closer to 6:00. I didn’t have that much to do, but I have learned my lesson about how much stress is caused by rushing. I got ready, packed my last remaining items and then made a quick trip to get coffee.

I had about a half hour until I needed to leave, so I spent that time watching the morning news with J. At 7:45 R rode with me to the airport. We didn’t encounter much traffic, although it was slower than usual. Arrived at the airport around 8:30, just over two hours before my flight was scheduled to leave.

My itinerary stated the first leg was a flight operated by US Airways. I had stopped at the other end of the building, walked all the way to the other side and tried to check in. The automated machine told me to speak with an agent who said my flight was really a United flight. Sigh. Walked all the way back across the airport. Since I wasn’t checking a bag, I tried to check in through the machine. No problems scanning my passport this time, but for some reason my Russian Visa wasn’t processing. The entire thing is in Russian and I apparently kept typing in the wrong number. An agent finally comes to my aid, skips me to a short line and I check in at the counter. Phew.

Virtually no lines at security, so I am in the Concourse with over an hour to kill. I used the time to catch up on my Facebook and email. Fifteen minutes before we are supposed to board I stop and buy a Chef salad for lunch. Yeah, I know that means eating at 11:00, but I certainly can’t starve myself until I get to Dulles. Boarding is uneventful, I had been given a window seat and the center seat was empty so I had plenty of room. Not that I needed it, I travel light.

Flight time of about three hours, start with a book “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” while I have to have electronics off, then I finish watching “Patriot Games” and start “The Sum of All Fears” – which ironically takes place in Russia. We landed a few minutes early. In the true spirit of Dulles being one of the worst airports in the country, I was told that I could just go to the gate to get my boarding pass. Only I wasn’t flying the same airline so my flight was not listed on any of the departure boards. Thanks, Dulles. Luckily I found an airport employee that was willing to help me, and directed me to the super crowded “shuttle” I would have to take across the runway to get to gate A15. 

Awesome shuttle at Dulles
The gate is deserted, but I decide to charge all my electronics while I can actually find an outlet. Guess what… phone charger broken. I know it’s not the outlet because I switched out with my laptop and that worked fine. $40 later (!!!!) I have a new charger and am just waiting for departure.

To kill time I read a bit, listen to my iPod, and do my two minutes of planks. Yep, I have no shame. I don’t mind doing them on the dirty airport floor…

So after my phone and computer are charged, I decide to get a quick something to eat before getting on the plane. I ended up getting a grilled chicken sandwich from Fuddruckers. I planned on eating it after I went to the gate to get my boarding pass since I was now about an hour before departure I figured someone might be there. As I sit down at the gate, I hear the announcement that the gate has been moved. Sigh. Pick everything up and walk back by where I just came from. Gate happened to be across from an eating area so I ate real quick and then went to the podium.

It’s never a good sign when instead of getting a boarding pass, the agent gets on the phone. There is a “problem” and agent wants me to come back in a few minutes. Great. There is only about 45 minutes until departure. No need to panic. I go back up about five minutes later. And just stand there. And stand there. And stand there. People are starting to board the plane. 40 minutes until departure. 35. There is something wrong with their “system” and they don’t think they can print boarding passes. OOOOOOOMG. Finally at 29 minutes before we are supposed to be IN THE AIR, I finally get my boarding pass.
I'm travelling after all!
No sooner do I get in line, then the lady in front of me literally falls backwards almost knocking me over. Maybe she was drunk. She seemed totally out of it. I get on the plane and it is a totally packed flight. I am relatively close to the front but with the catastrophe of my boarding pass I am one of the last people on the plane. And there are NO overhead bins for my suitcase. And 15 rows back when I finally find a space, the door won’t close. Aaaaaaah! Find a flight attendant that can speak English and he stores my suitcase with first class.

At first I think the seat next to me is empty. Then a very large woman sits by me. She can barely buckle her belt and seems chatty. A few minutes later a very large sweaty MAN says she is in the wrong seat. Turns out big sweaty guy will be next to me for the next ten or so hours. We were supposed to depart at 7:40, and with an on-time departure I would have a little less than two hours for my connection to St. Petersburg. Only… we left an HOUR late. AN HOUR. I would still have to go through “passport control,” not to mention trying to figure out WHERE to go and go to the bathroom, etc. So I was already stressed before we even got off the ground.

Sweaty Guy
Long way to go
Friday, June 24

I was spoiled when we went to China. Individual tvs so that I could watch whatever I wanted. Only main cabin tvs on this flight. One movie was in Russian with English subtitles but it looked “classic” so I skipped it. The next one was “Marly and Me” but it was in Russian with NO subtitles, so I skipped it. The last movie had Russell Crowe in it but he looked weird, so I skipped it. The end of the flight was some SUPER weird cartoons.

So what did I do for the 10 hours of flight? Well, I listened to my iPod until I had to turn it off. Then I read. I did NOT even use my laptop. Even though the battery was fully charged. I actually think I dozed off for a bit. I also went to the bathroom four times and had two meals. It actually wasn’t as bad as going to China, but it certainly didn’t feel as comfortable since I was trapped in a window seat.

Dinner, Meal #1
Breakfast, Meal #2
Anyway, we had left Dulles late and I was getting anxious and checking my watch every few minutes trying to figure out if I was even going to have time to make my connecting flight. We land and I have about 50 minutes from the time we hit the ground to be in the air on the next plane. Takes 5-10 minutes to get off the plane, and I am practically running but staying behind the lead person so I know where to go.

Turns out that the ticket counter was pretty easy to find, and the Passport control was super fast since I was one of the first people off the plane. Again, the agent gets on the phone rather than give me a boarding pass. I think it’s because it’s too close to when we depart, but in reality, even having booked ten months ago, the flight was overbooked and I got bumped. Luckily there was another flight leaving 55 minutes later, so I got re-booked on that one and didn’t have to worry about rushing so much.


Of course then I can’t even figure out where to go. Everything had been marked really well upon exiting the plane, but then once I got my boarding pass I didn’t know what to do. A good Samaritan pointed to the escalator. That helped me get to the right place, but then I couldn’t figure out how to get to my gate. There were all these signs for declaring goods and different terminals. My ticket didn’t even HAVE a terminal on it. I ask someone and she points me in the opposite direction I had been going.

Wait in a security line, then get to the gate. Hadn’t seen anywhere to change my money so I wasn’t able to get anything to drink. Found out there was free WiFi, so I played on Facebook for a few, then got in line to board… at which point I look at my ticket. Am I really in row 2?

Every airport should have these

Up for 24 hours...

Get on the plane and row 2 is… FIRST CLASS!!! I have never flown First Class. It was pretty exciting. There was a lot more room, and I could have had complimentary alcohol at takeoff. I got confused and turned it down because I really don’t drink. But I should drink when it’s free…

FIRST CLASS!!
Foot Rest!!
We leave a few minutes late but I don’t care, it’s my last flight. Being in first class also meant a free meal, even though the flight was only a little over an hour. I tried some caviar,  and drank Coca Cola Light. Out of a REAL glass. Yes, I am easily impressed.


Caviar
Coca Cola Light. IN A GLASS!
View of St. Petersburg #1


View of St. Petersburg #2

Depart the plane OUTSIDE the airport, then have to take a little bus. What IS it with these airports and these stupid shuttles??? 


St. Petersburg Airport

I need to change my money before I can go anywhere, but I can’t seem to find WHERE. Finally I see these little green machines that are supposed to do it, but both ones I try are not working. After probably twenty minutes of wandering around the airport, I find someone that speaks English and is able to direct me to yet another machine. This one works and I have my Rubles. Exit the airport and get a taxi.

Two Machines. Really?
It’s a longer drive than I think to get to the hotel. At about 20km, I wasn’t really expecting it to take 45 minutes. Or for it to cost me $100. Yes, 100 American dollars (with 300 Rubles in change). Flabbergasted. Between the taxi fare and the stupid phone charger I had to buy I’m almost out of money already. We arrive at the hotel and I swear he took me to the wrong place. It looks like we are in an abandoned neighborhood. The driver calls the number on my reservation, and it turns out we are in the right place….

Looks Rough
Checking in only takes a minute, and I ride a terrifying elevator to the fourth floor. Set my bags down and pretty much turn right around to go wander the streets for a bit. I’m exhausted but afraid that if I sit down I won’t get back up. It’s still early and I don’t want to waste a few hours just because I’ve been up for… over 30 hours.

Lobby
Bathroom
Main Room
Scary scary scary elevator
Even though the hotel is a little scary and ghetto, it is SUPER close to a lot of landmarks, and hopefully close to the race start. I don’t know for sure what I was looking at, I didn’t bring  a map with me, but I saw some neat stuff.


Lady offered to take my picture - Less creepy shot of me, too bad she didn't get all the building in

Neat archway


Love the ! bumper sticker
Some fancy bank
This is like a Where's Waldo Picture. I'm right there.



I made sure to get my souvenirs on the way back to the hotel, just in case I don’t have time later. I won’t screw up like I did in China and end up with nothing!  Stopped at a little café and got some chicken, potatoes, salad and bread before heading back to the hotel.

Dinner. Souvenirs are in the pink bag.
My parents had these when I was a kid and they fascinated me. I know A will love it!
Took a quick shower, unpacked, then did a blog entry. Nice that I have WiFi and can do this daily so I don’t have so much to do when I get back! Ended up staying up way later than I planned, but this way hopefully the time change doesn't affect me as much. Almost midnight and it is STILL light outside. Crazy!!

4 comments:

  1. Holy WowJ Long post. Glad you made it! Eep the photos coming.

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  2. So glad you made it there ok, despite all the chaotic flight stuff. Can't wait to hear more :)

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  3. I've never flown overseas - didn't look like your experience did anything to make me jump on the next flight to Prague. Looking forward to more!

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  4. You are soooo brave! I mean I probably would never think of going to Russia because I don't know the language ... but then to even go alone?? That's awesome! And way to score on first class!! I guess you deserve first class after big, sweaty man!

    ReplyDelete

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