1 December 2011

Day 1: Airports and Airplanes

My first day of traveling begins with my trip to the Pearson International Airport in Toronto.  The busiest airport in Canada, the Terminal 1 gate that Jet Airways uses was pretty quiet except for people boarding that particular flight.  At check-in (after standing in line for at least 15 minutes), I got one piece of good news, and one piece of bad news, which ended up cancelling each other and living up to my expectations.  

I had done quite a bit of investigating of Jet Airways before booking my ticket.  Jet Airways is an Indian airline, and I was somewhat wary of India's reputation for chaos (more on how the airline actually measured up later).  However, their information about baggage on their website said that only one piece of carry-on baggage was allowed.  Because of this stipulation (and the assurance on a long phone call, that I would, indeed, only be allowed to carry on one piece of baggage), I was working on the assumption that I would have to check my saxophone at a $50 cost for checking a second bag.  Mentally preparing for this, I double checked the insurance on my horn, bought what is universally regarded as the best travel case, and hoped for the best.  Lo and behold, when I arrived at the check in, after asking if I could carry my saxophone on, a supervisor came over and said, "no problem!" (I'm paraphrasing).  However, my main piece of checked luggage came in about 4 kilos over the limit, so I had to pay the extra $50 for that (a process that Jet Airways seems very ill equipped to deal with).  In the end, I was pretty much where I started, paying an extra $50, but with the piece of mind that comes with having my instruments with me, inside the pressurized cabin.  I think, in the end, I came out on top in the deal.

As for Jet Airways itself, I would give them the highest marks for comfortable (relatively) seating, plenty of legroom, and yummy Indian food for dinner.  Their service was actually quite good, and the boarding was quite organized and efficient.  Lower marks go to the (seemingly) abnormally high number of very young children who cried, screamed, and made various other loud noises throughout the entire flight.  But I guess I can't blame the airline for not coming up with a program to anaesthetize young children for the duration of the flight.  The in-flight entertainment was actually quite good, with a wide range of movies (both Hollywood and Bollywood) to choose from.  I watched most of Harry Potter 8, and then watched "Everything is Illuminated" in its entirety, which is rather appropriate, considering the book I bought in the Toronto airport was another one by Jonathan Safran Foer.  I'd seen the movie before, and really enjoyed the music (excellent work by the music supervisor for this one), and really appreciated Liev Schreiber's direction.  He really understood the Foer's humour, as well as the real emotional heart of the movie without making it over-the-top sentimental (which Foer's writing is most certainly not).  Considering the subject of the film, and the recent passing of my grandfather, I have to say that it really hit me hard, this time around.  

Finally, Jet Airways gets a big, giant FAIL for their use of Kenny G-like Muzak to pacify their passengers on embarkation and disembarkation.  I mean, I confess to grooving a little to the instrumental version of "Just the Way You Are," but when you get cheesy saxophone (wait, I'm in Belgium as I write this -- saxophone du fromage) playing "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," that's when the contents of my stomach become unsettled.  

I'm writing this right now to kill part of the 4 hour layover I have here in Brussels.  They sure know how to bilk their customers.  As you can see from the picture that I'll probably attach eventually, my breakfast of 1 500 ml bottle of water, 1 brown bun, 1 hard-boiled egg, and 1 30 g circle of Brie cost 7.80 EU. 

 In addition, the reason I'm not posting this at the time of writing, is that the internet in the Brussels airport costs 10 Euros for 1 HOUR!  That said, the bread is as good as I remember (maybe better), and the little round 30g serving of Brie cheese was delicious.  God, it's good to be back in Europe, where the standard of food quality is so much higher than back home in North America (no, I didn't indulge in a Philly Cheese Steak when I was down in Philadelphia).  To be able to get REAL Brie cheese, and a perfectly baked roll (crispy on the outside, soft on the inside) at 8AM, in an airport where they've probably been sitting out all night is outstanding.  I will also avail myself of some REAL Belgian chocolate before I board my plane to Berlin (where things will be cheaper, thank god). 
Unfortunately, I can't indulge too much, as I seem to have left my stomach somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean.  This isn't the first time the lack of sleep on a redeye flight has left my normally rock-steady digestive system uneasy.  Or maybe it's just Brussels.

And so, i bid you all adieu, as i sit here, watching the sun rise over some chunky airport building.  It's actually kind of blinding me, so I'm going to move and practice my German, or something.

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