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Eastern Europe Tour

Day 0 Satuday May 19, 2007
Home - Prague

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What a beautiful day to leave Connecticut – temperature hovering around 50, cloudy skies, and an annoying drizzle! I had realized on Friday evening that I had left my battery charger plugged in at the office. I was awake by 5:00, and our flight was not until 12:50, so plenty of time remained to drive into the office and pick it up.

When I got back from the office, I packed my suitcase and my backpack. As he usually does, Woodrow, my eighteen-year-old feline buddy, supervised my activities. He only tried to sneak into the suitcase once. This would be the third time that he has stayed in the house while we were in Europe. Giacomo, our much younger cat, has completed one "home alone" event. As long as their cat-door stays in place, they should experience little difficulty. Chick Comparetto agreed to come by every day or two to make sure that they are OK and to give them – and the grey unnamed freeloading cat that Sue calls Miss Kitty – enough food.

My napping buddy.

I went back to sleep at 9 a.m. and got an hour-long nap. Woody, who is always on the lookout for someone with whom to nap, joined me.

The only defect in preparations was my failure to obtain a suitable sweater. I had discovered that May was not a good time to shop for them. My dad purchased one for me. They told me at Macy's that Shaquille O'Neal had returned it because it felt a little loose on him. So, I ended up asking Chick to lend me his sweater again. This will be the third time that I have taken it to Europe. It has also made the trip across the pond with him at least twice.

A minor crisis at the eleventh hour: some grease from potato chips got on my new brown pants. I immediately used detergent and water on them, but they still looked bad. I washed them a little more thoroughly and put them in the dryer for a few minutes; they were only a little better. I then soaked them and rinsed them thoroughly. They had spent twenty minutes in the dryer when Sue's sister, Betty Slanetz, showed up to drive us to the airport. They were still a little wet, but it had rained most of the morning, so probably no one would think much of it. Besides, Mr. Blackwell hardly ever is seen at Bradley International on weekends anyway.

Our cheerful chauffeur, Betty Slanetz.

The twenty-minute drive to the airport was problem-free. We checked in at the Delta counter and routinely breezed through security. At some point Sue discovered that she had forgotten to bring her cell phone. The worst part of this was that she did NOT forget the device that recharges it.

My left shoulder had been bothering me a little for a few months. On our last trip to Italy my right shoulder had been sore. Gotta butch up. Sue's right arm had somehow been injured two weeks ago. She was a lot better by the time that we left, but she still has trouble reaching up. I wondered if we could persuade Tom Corcoran to carry all of our bags.

I don't know what she is so happy about.

Our tickets to Atlanta were first class, but airlines in the Unites States no longer served meals on flights that last only a couple of hours. Before we boarded the flight we stopped at Fresh City and purchased Chicken Caesar wraps. This is my usual routine. However the person who made the wraps did not know how to do it. All of the chicken was in one place; all of the croutons were in another. Oh, well, as my Polish grandmother always said, "It all goes down the same pipe."

That listing for Prague in the second column was for us.

The flight to Atlanta was smooth and uneventful. Flying in first class (purchased with Sky Miles) definitely was very welcome. After a toast of Scotch on the rocks Sue and I both sawed a few logs. I also worked on this journal and did a little proofreading.

Fashion note: A guy in the first row wore two baseball caps one on top of the other.

I had been in the Atlanta airport dozens of times, but I could not recall being there on a Saturday before. It was strange to see 100 percent of the people dressed in casual clothes. Everyone seemed a little uncertain of what they were doing.

If I do not mend my ways and find the Lord, I will probably have to spend eternity in the smoking lounge at the Atlanta airport stuck between two people talking on cell phones.

Sue in her relatively peaceful and comfortable place in the Atlanta airport.

Sue attempts to write down a few thoughts in her journal. That footrest is her CPAP machine.

Our layover in Atlanta lasted approximately four hours. We found a pretty comfortable place to sit at gate B8. Sue found some empty chairs with no arm rests by the wall. She lay down and tried to sleep. I found electricity and did some proofreading. I was interrupted when a kid on the nearby play area suddenly threw an incredibly loud tantrum. My Bose noise-canceling headphones helped, but Maxwell Smart's cone of silence could not have eliminated the noise. When I put on Roberto Murolo with the volume at 30, it was tolerable.

After a couple of hours I walked up to the central area of the B concourse to go to the bathroom and buy a Diet Coke. I then trekked back to where Sue had made camp at B8. I had been seated about thirty seconds when I spilled my drink all over the floor. Nothing but the carpet got wet.

We took the people-mover out to the international concourse at about 5:30. Our gate was E9. One of the two men at the Delta counter pronounced Prague with a long a, like Sprague without the S. It is sometimes so embarrassing to be an American.

Several young guys sat together near us. They were conversing in a Slavic language, presumably Czech. They were joined by two young men wearing huge sombreros. They also spoke Czech.

While we were waiting to board, a long series of cheers and shouts could be heard from the bar across the corridor. The Preakness was being run.

Sue stretches out her feet in business class.

This was our first taste of traveling in such spacious luxury.

Our seats on the plane were great. Business class is definitely the way to go if you have enough money or miles. When we got on the plane, the flight attendant offered us champagne or orange juice. Sue and I chose the bubbly and toasted each other "Na zdraví," the Czech drinking greeting.

We took off right on time. As I always do, I immediately set my watch to the time of my destination. In this case, I quickly lost six hours, from 7 p.m. Saturday to 1 a.m. Sunday.

The guy across the aisle from us removed his shoes and donned a second pair of socks over the ones that he was wearing. I had never seen this before. I had often considered bringing a second pair of socks onto a plane, but it never occurred to me to put them on my feet; I had planned to offer them to parents of loud children to use as gags. [I later realized that the guy's second pair of socks were from a little package in the back of the seat in front of each traveler in business class.]

The path on the video screen almost took us right back over Connecticut.

It appeared that we would be flying almost precisely the reverse of our flight from Hartford to Atlanta. I thought that we might even go right over Hartford (nine hours after our original departure), but we flew out over the ocean at Newport News. We then hugged the coastline across Nantucket, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland. It was bright with sunshine in Atlanta, but it was quite hazy further north.

The dinner on board was fantastic. I could hardly believe it when the flight attendants handed out sixteen-page booklets that described the food and wine available. Here is the incredible supper menu:

I seldom have any problem falling asleep. However, this is the first time that I can ever remember being able to stay asleep on an airplane without experiencing a pain in my neck, my back, or my knee every few minutes. The seats were very comfortable, and they supplied us with eye masks and earplugs in little gift pouches that also contained lots of other goodies. We even had real pillows and blankets that bore little resemblance to the threadbare supplies in the coach cabin.

Objectives for this trip:

  1. Take better pictures. Last time I did not know how to use my Cascio camera, and even after I spruced up the photos, the results were embarrassing. I lost the Cascio last year, but my new Canon is much easier to use. At least I have learned how to delete pictures and suppress the flash. I also brought the instruction book with me.
  2. Relax. The last week, which included two business trips to New York, was quite hectic.
  3. Learn about these countries and their inhabitants.
  4. Proofread the last nine chapters and the appendices of the book.

These seemed like fairly modest goals, but they were all that I could think of.