Foreign money is cool – Snacks can kill

We got to Seattle and the plethora of snacks Kaety packed flagged as all as  bombers. 

Fortunately we had hours to kill before our flight. 

While the TSA guy unpacked my food shaped explosives I thought about how many pieces of luggage and backpacks he navigates. It impossible for me to keep a great idea to myself so I suggested he look into become a freelance backpack reviewer for one of those on-line sites. He was not amused. 

Symone changed her giant wad of US cash into British Pounds and was eager to get settled so she could look at it all. So was I!

Norwegian Air – the screamin’ deal

We got a screamin’ deal on our tickets to London flying with Norwegian – the latest discount carrier. 

With a screaming deal comes severe restrictions. 

No seat assignments, no food, and baggage restrictions that forced me to resurrect my calculus skills. 

Kaety got serious about the food problem – it’s only a 9-hour flight but if our plane goes down in the icy wastelands of Greenland we will be gold card members of the survivors supply cache club – the primary benefit being you get eaten last. 

When we approached the Norwegian check-in counter Symone and I got into a debate about whether the symbol above the passenger representation was a window or a zero. I can imagine the Norwegian graphic designers snickering. IMG_7184

The safety briefing – “…your own alcohol?!”

I enjoyed noting the little tidbits that were added to Alaska’s aircraft safety procedure speech. 

I am often the guy creating the sign or policy that comes from a new trend in problematic behavior. 

When I hear, “…passengers are prohibited from drinking their own alcohol while aboard the aircraft…”, I know for certain that at least 10 ‘incidents’ and two executive staff meetings have proceeded that minor script addition…and there’s probably some great stories behind it. IMG_7183

Art of the cheap suitcase – Muji Love

During each trip we either have a bag failure or we (I) don’t want to mess with a checked bag. We always end up buying a bag to check on every trip – which tends to lead us to interesting stores we wouldn’t normally visit. The upshot of this circle of self inflicted luggage woe is that we have become cheap bag experts. 

Last we were in Japan and suffered from bag failure  Thomas Fast turned us on to the Muji store, which is something like Crate and Barrel, IKEA and the store where Classic Trek Colonist buy their uni-sex coveralls all wrapped into one. We bought a Muji suitcase and have deemed it the best bag ever. Light weight, smooth, simple and shocking durable. Every time we travel with it one us will exclaim, “I love the Muji!”

We need more. 

Guess we need to go back to Japan…IMG_7182

The night before the flight – “Oh Shilo!”

Oh Shilo…

It was the right price, gave us some elbow room, as well as that hot tub time machine groovy feeling but once we got in bed – yikes. 

 A combination of clock paranoia and an odd bed had us all flipping and flopping all night – I felt like a piece of meat on a slightly cool grill. I simply could not brown. 

The sheets were so oddly crispy that every time anyone moved it sounded like a group of people rummaging around in a vintage cellophane collection. 

The alarm did eventually go off and we launched out of bed like people escaping from an ant nest. 

Airport here we come…

Planning for England…with a teen!

When we asked 13 year-old Symone what kinds of things she’d like to see and do in England – she replied, “I want to see the British version of Taco Bell, and Big Ben.” 

We looked at each other and then kindly excused her from the planning committee. The mission to broaden her horizons was more critical than we had initially imagined!

We leave tomorrow for England…with a teenager!

This trip will be Symone’s first time out of the country and while it’s not the most challenging trip it will be a good introduction to ‘the other’ and hopefully open her head up to the idea of a bigger world. 

The Middle School years have been hard on her (and us). We want to create a dynamic, strong and resilient woman so we’ve got to start providing her some stimulus that lets her start building an identity as member of a much larger and more diverse tribe. 

Neither us of expect the trip to go flawlessly –  even with the warnings to monitor and mange her own emotional states and negativity we know there will be some ups and downs. 

When reviewing our tactics and strategies for helping Symone with the trip Kaety flippantly said, “It can’t be worse than taking an 18-month old armed with plastic forks on a 6 hour flight to Hawaii?”

I just looked at her and shook my head and recalled something a friend often says in a tone of sage laughter, “Bigger kids, bigger problems”

But concerns aside, when has a little discomfort ever stopped us!! We are all in, and we are taking the amazing, developing, beautiful, sassy, difficult teenager with us to explore a new land.

England – Exploring my stereotypes

In preparation for our trip I’ve been excited to review the stereotypes I carry around in my head about England – so that I can thoroughly enjoy busting them with reality. 

What do I know about England through the lens of literature, pop culture, movies and TV? 

I grew up on The Chronicles of Narnia and have Turkish Delight firmly lodged in my mind as a problematic food item to be avoided on all menus handed to me by white witches. 

I know that classism is a big problem; Richard Sharpe, Poldark, Bronte, Dickens, Austen, Elliot and every BBC show ever made has me on edge that I may run into a terrible legacy of social exclusion, especially if I’m seen wearing jeans.

I know that copper mine ownership in Cornwall is financially problematic and really hard on your relationships. We are not going to Cornwall or to any mines. 

Magic is everywhere and can be found in the most unexpected places. 

Everyone in England finds love and attempts to marry that love, but folds to social pressures in the end – taking a spouse based on political arrangements. If anyone attempts to buck the social order and marry for love, they will certainly die of a disease or be crushed in a cart accident. Through this well documented media narrative I know that no one in England is in love –  they are just long-suffering. 

Everyone in England is painfully polite. Long time friend and dual citizen Laura Good says otherwise. I guess I’ll find out…especially after I ask people about their loveless arranged marriages. 

I know that if you are going to be murdered in the English countryside it will only be along a coastal cliff or on a moor. In London everyone dies from hideous injuries inflicted by supernatural creatures…in an alley. We will be avoiding all three of those places to ensure our safety. 

I have a hundred little details rattling in my head regarding safaris, being on campaign, imperialism, pimps, tea, pith helmets, robbing the ancient treasures of others, royal families and the whistling tune from bridge over the river Kwai. 

…and the Danes. Lots and lots of Danes. I’m not sure what to do with that information. 

Damn it, now I have that whistling tune stuck in my head. 

Iceland – the after action report

Iceland: The after action report.

We flew home and tipped our body/sleep acclimation fully over for the second time in a week. I fully embrace that I am a delicate flower and such jagged transitions mess me up for quite a while. 4 days after returning and I am starting to see straight and walk fully upright. My verbal and emotional filters were compromised while I was recovering, so I’ve had to deliver more than my normal number of apologies this week.

Our brains expanded as a result of the trip. My dreams have been filled with black sand beaches, steep sweeping mountains and blue black seas. I’m not sure how the change will find its way into my life but I can feel it. Travel always does that.

The children were happy when we came back. Alan and Delores and Jami and Matt kept them occupied, fed and entertained while we were gone. Knowing the kids are taken care of by loving people makes our time away free from worry – which is huge. Thanks guys!

What was the price tag? Iceland is an expensive place to visit. The flights were cheapish- $420 round trip. The car rentals were brutal. Typically we rent a roller skate for $22ish a day. In Iceland that same roller skate was $65 per day. Lodging was on the cheaper side – decent VRBO apartment in a good location – $70-120 per night. There were cheaper places available.

Food on the other hand was brutal and kind of value random. A hotdog – $2. Bottle of pop- $6. Pub style hamburger – $27. Pint of beer $8-12. Glass of wine – $12. Extravagant seafood meal at mom and pop restaurant – $40. We figured it out too late to take advantage of the knowledge but the pattern was that locally produced food was way cheaper. Imported foods were brutally expensive. We could have done better with our budget and still eaten well if we had figured this out sooner.

All of the ‘attractions’ were very inexpensive or free. The Iceland tourism machine gave visitors a lot of tour and transportation options which didn’t seem terribly outrageous. $40-400 per day per outing depending on how grand of an experience you were selecting and how far or rugged you wanted.

Souvenirs were pretty steeply priced even at the duty free store at the airport, which was probably one of the grandest and most expansive duty free stores I’ve ever seen.

One other interesting thing about money was that Iceland, even in the most remote locations, is essentially a cashless society. The culture of the card is super prevalent. We never handled cash or had to deal with currency exchange the entire time we were there.

Kaety and I play a lot of travel games with travel card benefits, miles points and chain memberships and we weren’t able to utilize any of our discounts or cost reducing benefits in Iceland except for simple dollars for points on our credit card. The big hotel chains don’t really have big footprints in Iceland…yet.

Iceland – The church and last day

We spent our last morning wandering Reykjavik, shopping, seeing the sights and gawking at other people doing the same thing. We went to the church, looked around, remarked at its impressive and austere nature, and then took the elevator to the top to check out the city view. We had different experiences at the top. I saw pretty roof-tops and a dark dramatic sky line. Kaety smelled urine. When there’s that much perceptual space between us it’s always a signal that eating should happened soon.

We ate at a dark, romantic stone building that was so cool everyone stopped on the street just outside the window next to our table and took a picture of it. I got a kick out of watching them suddenly notice the place, dig out their cameras and then act like people who wear bi-focals as the tipped their heads back to peer into their tiny view screen.

We swam at the edges of big walking tour groups and dodged our way to various city spectacles.

We said goodbye to Iceland and headed for the airport. We fly back in time so we will get to Portland an hour after our flight from Reykjavik left except with a 7-hour full body hangover.