The time has come to place my new carryon size wheelie bag in the car and kindly ask Deanna to drive me out to the airport so that I can meet Dale and our journey can begin in earnest. The weather at Victoria International Airport was best described as “meh” and as such I didn’t feel that we were going to be missing much while we are away for the next 10 days.
Today’s journey will be of epic length and will include three planes, one train and at least a couple of automobiles. For those keeping score at home, I have indeed just mentioned that our journey could be considered very similar to a movie from the 80’s where two fellows decide through necessity to travel together from New York to Chicago. Our journey neither starts nor ends in the Windy City, however it does begin on Vancouver Island and will hopefully finish some 27 hours later in Austria.
I suppose many of the keen movie buffs amongst you are wondering who of us most resembles the character played by the late great John Candy on this adventure. Suffice to say that I just had to remind Dale that those aren’t pillows he is jamming his hands into.
After we organized boarding passes and said our goodbyes we made our way to CATSA screening and stepped into the abyss. It wasn’t too busy but unfortunately it was also understaffed and therefore slow going.
The slow moving cue eventually split and along with several American ladies I was directed towards the furthest X-ray station. As there were only five travellers in our group, I soon began to wonder why it was taking so long to get to the point I could remove my IPad, small liquids and gels and place them gently into the neatly stacked white plastic bins as you do at every airport I have ever been to around the world.
I stepped back a little to see if I could figure it out the delay. It was no surprise I suppose that each of these ladies had believed it was a great idea to place each souvenir purchased, each piece of clothing worn and each copy of People Magazine read into their open top shopping bags. Just to further complicate things, the lovely and patient shepherd herding sheep today for CATSA had to ask that most of these items be separated and placed in additional bins.
Upon completion of this seemingly arduous task I clearly overheard the shepherd ask if they had any electronic devices that they had not yet removed from their bags. The reply he got was quite unequivocal. “No” and with that the first bin was pushed along the rollers and into the X-ray.
It disappeared for a moment and then soon returned at breakneck speed. The shepherd asked if the owner of the bags and stuff in that particular bin was traveling with an IPad? The reply was “yes”. That was countered with “I thought you just told me you had no electronics in your bag?” A simple question I thought. But not so simple as it turned out. The lady in question replied that “in the states they have a different definition of electronics”.
An IPad does not meet that definition apparently. Clearly the Kindle and IPhone subsequently appearing from the same bag moments later further pointed to the flawed Canadian broader definition of electronics. We as Canadians need to stop causing real hardships for confused cross boarder shoppers. Perhaps our Prime minister can publicly apologize for that as well. He seems to be good at apologizing to everyone for everything.
We got through eventually and we soon found a couple of stools to sit on at Spinnakers in the downstairs departure lounge. We sat there for an hour and then moved towards our gate.
With typical WestJet banter the flight was called and we made our way aboard with high hopes of clear skies to Calgary. Our row was shy one passenger so we had tons of room. An hour or so later and we were on the ground in Calgary. A smooth transition to the international side and there we grabbed some dinner.
After dinner we moved next door to a nicely appointed lounge called VIN. This place was a little upmarket but this is a vacation so a little treat can’t hurt.
I soon spotted a sixty something man sitting on his own against the back wall attired from head to toe in Saskatchewan Roughriders apparel. For those who don’t know much about the Canadian Football League, this means he was dressed completely in green complimented with white logos.
Initially I thought this guy must be a super fan who is getting in the spirit several months before the season kicks off. He must be just killing time in international until he meanders back to the domestic side to catch a flight home to Regina. We sat down next to the super fan in question and I was just about to chat him up when his extremely forlorn looking wife appeared and slumped in the chair adjacent.
Our perceptive waiter was soon to inquire if everything was ok. The rest is comedy gold and I will confidently state now that nothing will make me “LOL” harder on this trip than her well considered response. She took a deep breath as if she was about to weep and then explained she had just returned from checking the departure board and to her dismay their flight had been really delayed.
The waiter asked where they were flying. Her response was to my surprise London. Before you judge me I just thought there aren’t many destinations on this planet that you would wander about dressed like a leprechaun with footballs silkscreened on your chest, London included. She went on to explain to the waiter that they were supposed to leave at 6:50 pm. The departure board now says the flight has been delayed to 18:50. That’s a really long time and the price of the waiters rum was very expensive.
The waiter replied compassionately that he was sorry about the prices but the bastard never even thought about explaining the 24 hour clock to this misguided Rider faithful. With that she acquiesced and ordered another expensive rum and a half carafe of Diet Coke “on the side”.
It wasn’t long before we were aboard WS1 bound for Gatwick and seated one row behind the privileged once again. Story of my life. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. WestJet operates transatlantic flights with a no frills service. You may purchase a meal if you wish. Don’t expect a blanket but the crew are cheerful and seem to really care about their customers.
So much so that 4 hours into the journey our flight attendant came on the PA to request us to pull down our window blinds. She went on to advise that soon we would be “flying near the sun” and some passengers may prefer to sleep. Now I’m no historian but as I recall flying near the sun was not such a great idea for Icarus.
I rejoin you today from Platform 2 at Salzburg railway station. We are resting after an 05:30 alarm and subsequent walking tour (self guided) through old Salzburg. Last night after a picturesque train journey from Munich we quickly stored our luggage in our room at the very hip Villa Carleton Hotel and then boarded a cab for a local beer garden. This place had several floors of beer halls and numerous food vendors that all had their own version of roast chicken and wurst. We drank a customary litre of the house brau and scoffed a couple curry wurst. A little bit of carnivore nirvana.
That capped off a 30 hour journey and sent us to sleep in a quick and effective manner. So fast forward a few hours and we are back at it and wandering the story book streets of Salzburg. I can’t really wordsmith an accurate description of the place. I suggest such guidebooks by Frommers or Rick Steve’s for that.
We left the hotel at 6 a.m. and wandered along the river towards the old town and all of its amazing baroque buildings. Several minutes later and we were crossing the river and walking towards the churches in the centre of town. We could hear the monks chanting from outside St. Peter’s so we crept in to gaze around this beautiful Catholic Church as they continued. Beautiful frescos adorned its dome and if my neck would have allowed it, I could have stared upwards for hours.
As quietly as we entered, we left by the same door and wandered around the adjacent platz for a few minutes. A couple hours on foot got the hunger and thirst going. Fortunately we just so happened to be on the approach to Europes oldest coffee house. Cafe Tomaselli is a very fine place. When I say fine I mean fine in the truest sense of the word. The coffee was amazing and our breakfast was second to none. When in Salzburg one must also experience the apple strudel with a generous portion of unsweetened whipped cream in accompaniment.
Our waiter was very sophisticated, convivial and not dismissive as some can be when they hear a North American accent. All that to say that we were blessed to be in the right place at the right time for this magnificent yet simple meal. We were soon back at the hotel, we grabbed our bags and checked out in order to be on the platform at which I currently sit on time. Here we wait for our next train to Venice. I feel lucky to say this is my third trip to the lagoon. I love Venice and of course I have heard the stories over and over again of it being a smelly tourist trap that you can give a miss. I think those who say that haven’t walked the back streets or revelled of what it has to offer. Murano or Burano are also just a short vaparetto away and are both charming in their own separate ways. Check back in a day or two for a quick recap of our time in the Veneto. I hope for my third time to be a charm.