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in the motherland

We’ve arrived in Prague!  I’m woefully behind on my travel-blogging, and the fact that our apartment doesn’t have WiFi is slightly troublesome.  Stay tuned for the end of our travels in Budapest and whatever we’ve done in Prague so far. 🙂

Getting there…

The concert was a success. 😀

On Monday, I woke up without the usual nervousness I tend to feel on Travel Day.  I put all of my things in suitcases, drank a copious amount of coffee, visited with my cousin who came by with her son to wish me well, and loaded up the car.  Originally my mom was going to drive me down to O’Hare, but our friend Dianna offered to chauffeur us instead, and so it was.

After lunch at the Lake Forest Oasis, we arrived at O’Hare with two hours to spare.  Mom came with me to check in, and then we hugged and said our goodbyes, and then I was alone.

My first solo international flight.  Seven hours, left to my own devices.  I must admit I was a little nervous about that.

As it turned out, though, I had nothing to be nervous about.  Seven hours isn’t really all that long a time.  One movie (Kinky Boots), two music documentaries (Hugh Laurie: Down By The River; Queen: Days of Our Lives pt. I), a smattering of TV shows (none worth remembering), two meals (one with free wine!) and  a few twenty-minute snatches of unsatisfying rest dotted throughout, and suddenly we were descending into Heathrow Airport.

This is when things got exciting… or at least as exciting as layovers can possibly be.

I landed at 7am GMT and had 1h45 to make it to my connection.  I don’t know why, but less than 2h to make a connection is always dicey, and this one especially so: our plane landed at Terminal 5, and my connection was at Terminal 3.  No big deal– except that Terminal 3 might as well be a separate airport.  In order to get there, I had to follow the signs for All Flight Connections which was a labyrinthine path to a tram which went only to the far end of Terminal 5, at which point it was up two long escalators and down one short flight of stairs to a bus which took 10 minutes to traverse the expansive tarmac to Terminal 3, after which was a security checkpoint which meant waiting 15 minutes before taking off the coat/sweater/boots, unpacking the laptop, grabbing enough bins for everything, getting severely confused when the security guard referred to the bins as “trailers”, clearing security, and reassembling myself as quickly as possible.  Once sufficiently recombobulated, I resumed my epic journey.  Finding my flight on the TV screen, I was alarmed to see that its status was “CLOSING”.  Gate 24.  I started to jog.  Gates 1-42 were this way, so I followed the signs, turned a corner, and WHAM!  Suddenly I was in the middle of a shopping mall, staring at the food courts and the neon sign for Tiffany & Co.  I was momentarily stunned.  Where was I, and more importantly, where was my plane?  Shaking off my temporary disorientation, I turned another corner to find the hallway leading to Gate 24… except all I could see were gates 23 and 25.  A light jog down the automatic walkway finally delivered me to my gate, and I sat down in the terminal, relieved that I had made it.  Except there was no plane out the window; it was another bus.  We were delivered by several busloads to our plane, which we boarded by way of rolling staircase.  One hour and forty-five minutes, and I didn’t even have time to grab so much as a cup of coffee.

But the important thing is that I made my connection.  Plus I was actually able to get a little more sleep on this two-hour flight than I had on the seven-hour flight, and I deboarded in Budapest and cleared customs with nary an issue.

Jim came to fetch me.  The poor man was (and is) sick as a dog.  He led me to the bus which would take us to the Metro, which in turn delivered us to within a few blocks of our apartment.  We stopped for some sparkling water (a new obsession for both of us, which we discovered separately) and proceeded to the apartment, which is super cute.  After that, it was battling jet lag for me, and fighting off the plague for Jim.  We went to the local Spar to get instant soup and bread for dinner and spent the rest of the evening watching an episode of the BBC’s Sherlock, before drifting off to bed.

Now here we are, on our first full day in Budapest, and we’re just about ready to leave the apartment and venture off into the city… at 4pm.  Oh well.  After today, I’ll be less jet-lagged, and he’ll be less horrendously ill, so maybe we’ll be able to get out before noon.  Or maybe that’s hopelessly optimistic.  I guess we’ll see.


Time sure is a-flyin’.  I was trying to pack, but packing more than a couple days out always seems a little like shoveling mid-snowstorm: lots of energy expended that will ultimately end up achieving nothing.  So instead of packing, I’m now trying to clean my room and organize what’s staying behind.  Trouble is, what’s going and what’s staying are intermingled, so if I’m trying to clean, I can’t help but also pack.  So I’ve taken a time-out, to write in my travel blog.

I found out a few days ago that my best pal Sarah bought a ticket to come hang with us in Budapest, and then travel with us to Prague. Sarah is an exceptionally wonderful traveling companion.  When Jim was living in Buenos Aires a few years back, she and I flew down to visit him (and a few other friends who just happened to also be there).  We cracked jokes and sang songs the whole time.  We used to be roommates, which is how I was sort of able to tell that she’d be a good travel buddy.  She is fearless in new situations, and pretty much always has a good attitude, which are invaluable traits to possess in foreign and forever-changing surroundings.

I’m throwing a Going-Away House Concert tomorrow night, and there’s a lot of work to do on that front, which means I need to get this mother-f#(%@^ing packing done.

Two weeks and counting

I’m leaving the country in 14 days.  My passport just arrived in the mail, which means it’s really happening.

The plan is to meet my boyfriend in Budapest on Valentine’s Day, but don’t get the wrong idea.  We’re not big Valentine’s Day people.  February 13th just happened to be a date on which we could use Jim’s frequent flyer miles to buy my ticket, and it just happens to be an overnight flight.  Having said that, the fact that we’re reuniting in eastern Europe on that day of all days is pretty hilarious to both of us.  It’s very Sleepless-In-Seattle, and not at all what you would expect from a dreadlocked folksinger and a design convention groupie.

The initial preparations have begun, by which I mean I’ve made a list.  List-making is my favorite part of preparing for a trip.  A friend and I once waxed enthusiastic about the joys of making the list: strategically planning outfits for style and compactibility, picking accessories, downsizing toiletries, making sure you have enough stuff to keep you busy on the plane, all while riding waves of excitement at the thought of your impending departure.  The actual suitcase assembly is less enjoyable, which is why I generally put that part off until the absolute last minute– which, incidentally,  is when it becomes really handy to have a list.

I’ll be gone for six weeks, the longest span of time in which I’ve ever been out of the country.  That makes packing a little bit more of a challenge, but it’s a challenge to which I will certainly rise.

Two weeks from today I head to O’Hare, and the adventure begins.