Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Beautiful Baltic Adventure, Part 1: Getting There (is NOT half the fun).

Note later...ok, that's a slightly cranky-sounding title, isn't it? Fact was, though, for an overseas flight, it wasn't that bad; there was one major glitch caused by a passenger not turning up when he was supposed to, which led to a missed flight and luggage that didn't turn up until the next day - but the staff on my flight and on the ground actually did an excellent job of sorting things out to get me to Tallinn without too much additional hassle, my habit of packing my carry-on to cover for a day's delay of the checked baggage kept the late luggage from being a hassle & all in all, it wasn't half the fun but it oh so easily could've been worse. A friend just got back from an overseas trip of her own and had a much worse story - she also was on a flight with a person who decided that he did not really want to be on that flight after all, only instead of just not getting on in the first place, he stood up and went to collect his carry-on just as the plane was 2nd in line from taking off...yeesh!

That being said, I was rather meanly delighted when was I was in either CDG or Helsinki when they publicly shamed
someone who pulled the same stunt - over the PA, in 2 different languages, "Joe So-and-so, Joe So-and-so, you should be on board your plane right now, you are inconveniencing your fellow passengers and if you are not in your seat in 5 minutes your luggage will be removed from the aircraft". I hope they were doing that in JFK too. I wouldn't know, I was on the plane!

Well, once we were sailing, getting there became half the fun. But to begin with, of course, there's this:

Thursday, June 14th. Lovely sunset going on out there over the snippets of Jamaica Bay that I can see from the gate. Bet some of my friends are out enjoying it. Me, I'm waiting to board Air France Flight 11, scheduled to depart for Paris at 9:55. There she is. Pretty bird!
Actually I kind of liked this evening start. I'm SO not a morning person, I always have to have myself all packed up the night before, I end up being up 'til 3 am obsessing over my packing, and then I sleep the 3 hours until the car service calls with my eyes half open - this was actually really civilized, I packed the night before, I got up at the usual time, I went to work, attended the meeting I had to attend and then packed it in there and headed home, where I had a nice comfy couple of hours to romance the packing-up a little more, clean out the fridge, water the plants and generally breathe a bit (and start in on Fahrenheit 451, combination trip reading part 1/homage to Ray Bradbury) before the car service came. Nice. No problem checking in, dropped off the giant dufflebag at the x-ray stand, went on in to the gates, found some not-half-bad Chinese-style noodle soup with roast pork for dinner and was at my gate with all sorts of time.

Unfortunately somebody else didn't have things quite as well under control - the boarding process went off right on schedule but some chucklehead decided not to board. We waited for said chucklehead for a good 45 minutes, I think - then they had to find chucklehead's luggage to take off the plane and that's how our 9:55 flight became a 10:55 flight.

Which was an issue given that my connection in Paris had started out as a one hour 10 minute one - landing at 11:10, flight to Helsinki at 12:20 Ooops.

Oh well. I tend to be a bit crazy when I'm getting ready for a trip - but when the car service turns up, I can finally calm down and let things go. Anything I have I have, anything I've forgotten I'll just do without, and the minute the phone rings to tell me the car's downstairs, whatever happens, happens.

Good thing, too. We touched down in Paris right about the time I was supposed to be boarding. I knew I wasn't catching that plane. I asked one of our flight attendants what I'd need to do, she told me to visit the Transfer counter to get another flight, which I did I did, letting anyone who still had a shot at catching their flight go first before I went up to the counter. At first the young lady who was helping me out was having a hard time finding a good connection. I didn't come right out and say it but thoughts of having an evening to visit Paris started dancing in my head - it would be inconvenient but heck, I've never been to Paris so that would not have been such a terrible thing!

However, the young lady called over the young man at the next desk as soon as he'd finished with his other clients, they started clicking through things and pointing at various possibilities and speaking French very rapidly, but I understood just enough to realize that I wasn't getting a night in Paris, which was ALSO fine.

I had to go to Finnair to get my boarding passes; I was warned there that my connection in Helsinki was technically doable but only because Helsinki is a small airport - no guarantees but worth a shot. I was also told that the flight from Helsinki to Tallinn was possible the shortest flight on the planet and that the front end of the plane would be landing while the back end was still taking off.

Got my boarding passes, was warned that there was some chance that my checked bag wouldn't make the connection, found an internet terminal where I sent my friends a message that I'd be in closer to 9 so they wouldn't be stuck at the hotel waiting for me, and then went to the gate for the Helsinki flight.

And here's Finland -

and I kind of liked that because it reminded me of a picture that had been posted in the Wikipedia article about the Estonian flag proposing a winter forest as a possible inspiration of the Estonian blue, black and white - just imagine a little snow on the tarmac, right?

The flight to Helsinki had actually had a good tailwind so we got in half an hour early or so, so I had a little time to start getting into my proper silly American tourist role - I bought a curious-looking chocolate at a coffee stand, a big bell-shaped thing that turned out to be a thin shell of rather nice chocolate filled with a fluffy cream (yummy), I went looking for the reindeer jerky I'd jokingly promised TQ I'd bring him, I didn't find that but I bought some dried reindeer soup mix which we're going to have for dinner tomorrow night ("I'll bring the potage de Rudolph", I said and I am sorely tempted to go buy some little jingle bells and put them in the pouch as a joke - seriously, though, it sounds really interesting, it's called "Porokeitto" and in addition to reindeer meat it's got potato, barley, onion, carrots, leeks, lovage, nettle, and savory - sounds good, right?), and then I just couldn't resist taking pictures of these candies...we're, like, soooo totally not in Kansas anymore! OK, so you can buy Moose Droppings-type chocolate candies in any cutesy gift shop in Maine, but can you imagine mule balls candy in a vending machine in this country? The "lady" counterpart is pretty funny too. 

On to my flight, then...oh, wait, no, that's not my flight...

there's my flight, shortest flight on the planet is a puddlejumper of course - 

but what a puddle. Oh my. I'm already being blown away here by the amazing Finnish coastline. If you'd told me that I was looking dpwm at 2 of our stops (Pihlajasaari, just below the frame, and Suomenlinna, right in the mouth of the harbor, there's a red-hulled boat with a white superstructure steaming past it which you might be able to spot if you click on the picture for detail) I would have caused an international incident by leaping up and doing a little happy dance in the aisle - fortunately nobody told me - 

and we flew on to Estonia - 

And here we are at the Tallinn airport - unfortunately my big bag didn't make it and pretty soon I found out it was still in Paris, but the folks in the baggage claim area said that it would be there by early in the morning and they'd make sure it got to my hotel, and it was, and they did, so that was all fine 

And this has really nothing to do with my trip except that, like the mule-ball candies, it caught my eye - friends who are parents of small children, doesn't it seem like every airport in the world should have a place like this???  Children must be so much happier when they get on the plane if they get to wait in a place like this. Just lovely.
And speaking of just lovely - a five-euro van ride later, here's Captain Kat saying "Welcome to the Old City of Tallinn!" Hooray!



O Docker said...

Well, half of the fun may not be in getting there, but sometimes half of the blog is.

I liked the vending machine candy (or pictures of it) and that set me to wondering if Miss 43 might not have a future in developing her own line of Finnish candy.

bonnie said...

If I'd had the correct change at that point I would have brought back samples. I could have sent them to Tillerman to have him send them to his friend Miss 43 and then we all could have retired. Or Miss 43 and I could retire and Tillerman could re-retire.

And she could afford some clothing, poor dear! :D

Funny thing is when I googled the names of the candies, what I found is that every American with a digital camera who finds themselves with a few minutes in the Helsinki airport ended up taking almost identical pictures. I wonder if they're even sold anywhere else in Finland, or if it's purely a product for the puritan tourist trade?