Yeah – we are in Portland! Getting here took three days of travel filled with ups, downs, twists, turns and some nice surprises too. We still have massive head colds although they thankfully did not make us uncomfortable on any of our flights other than having to constantly blow our noses. The coughs are mostly gone.
The journey back to the U.S. began when we went to check in for our flight from Lisbon to Madrid and discovered Iberia had changed us to a completely different flight, one that departed four hours earlier than our reservation. Also, we no longer had nice seats up front, but had been moved to seats in the far, far back. Hmmm. Neither Expedia nor Iberia had ever contacted us about any sort of change, so this caught us completely off guard and we had to scramble to get our transportation to the airport changed, and finish our packing. We also had to pay extra to check our suitcases; they had been included in our earlier ticket. Thankfully the additional fee was quite small.
The Iberia flight to Madrid was extremely uncomfortable though, with no leg room whatsoever. Neither Brett nor I are big or tall people, but we were squeezed into our seats and couldn’t move our legs – I can only imagine how uncomfortable it was for people taller than us. Thank goodness the flight was just a little over an hour long. We also never saw a flight attendant the entire time except to greet us as we boarded and say goodbye at the door as we got off. We vowed never to book with Iberia again no matter how enticing their low prices appeared (the flight was ridiculously cheap, just over $100 for the two of us and our suitcases – a similar flight in the U.S. could cost around $150 – $200 dollars per person).
We had an overnight hotel reservation in Madrid, at a place located less than two miles from the airport, and supposedly just a 10-minute drive away. We got a taxi at the airport, and twenty minutes later our driver had us at the hotel! We’re still not sure whether he didn’t know where he was going, or if he was just trying to rip us off or maybe a little of both, but we were not happy when we arrived. We normally tip but this guy got nothing. Check-in at the hotel was easy and our room was comfortable, although the walls were quite thin – Brett joked he could hear the woman next door scratching her leg. We showered, got our clothes out for the next day, and went to bed as we had to get back up at 4:30 a.m. to be at the airport by 6:00 for our morning flight from Madrid to London. The hotel had arranged an early morning taxi for us, and this driver was on time, and made it to the airport in . . . eight minutes!
Madrid’s Barrajas airport is its own particular hell. I’m not sure who designed the place, but it really is not customer friendly at all. The taxi driver took us to Terminal Two to check in with Norwegian Air (there are four terminals), but after that was done we had to walk over a mile and a half to get to our gate in Terminal One! There are no shuttles or trams between terminals – everybody walks and there are signs up overhead reminding you of how many minutes away you are from your destination. We found our gate, had a cup of coffee and a pastry, but when it was time to board the plane passengers were put on shuttle buses and driven out to the plane, which was parked out on the tarmac outside of Terminal Two!
Our flight itinerary gave us a l-o-n-g layover in Gatwick airport (seven and a half hours), but the time there actually went fairly quickly. There were shops galore to check out, but we only hit up Boots for more tissues, some maximum strength Sudafed, antibacterial wipes for our hands, and a few bars of Cadbury chocolate to enjoy on our flight over to Boston. There were also loads of restaurants to choose from, and after looking at all the menus we settled on Wagamama for some good Asian food. I got two yummy filled buns and a plate of pad thai, and Brett ordered a big steaming bowl of chicken ramen.
As I was chewing on a pad thai noodle I bit on something hard and when I looked to see what it was discovered it was a big piece of my back tooth! Surprise! That little chip I had when I left Kaua’i and that had been bothering me a bit had developed into a crack and the soft pad thai noodle was apparently the last straw. I was initially very upset, but then realized that if it was going to break it had actually happened at a good time because we were heading to Portland where we would be staying long enough that I could get a dentist to take care of things before we left for India. Also, the broken tooth does not hurt at all, so I am not having to deal with any pain whatsoever. But still, this was not something we wanted or needed to happen.
Our flight from Gatwick to Boston was wonderful from start to finish, and I wouldn’t hesitate to book with Norwegian Air again for a long-haul flight. We didn’t win premier seats in the upgrade auction, but that turned out to be OK because our exit row seats were very comfortable with loads of legroom (and the extra we would have paid for premium seats is now available to cover my tooth repair). The dinner we were served was the best food I’ve ever had on an airline – perfectly cooked chicken breast and wild rice in a delicious sauce, with a lovely salad and wonderful chocolate mint mousse. We could find no fault with it at all. We loved it too when the adorable flight attendant from Spain described the menu to us and ended with “and doesn’t that sound delightful?” So cute! – when was the last time you heard that from a flight attendant? Norwegian’s fares are ridiculously low, but the seats were comfortable and the service superb, even in economy.
WenYu was there to meet us in Boston with a bag of hamburgers and fries! We were so happy to see her again, and we spent the evening chatting and catching up. Her boyfriend joined us for breakfast in the morning. They have been together for over two years, but this was our first chance to meet him and we liked him too – they’re a good match in both personality and temperament. He may look unassuming, but underneath his quiet demeanor is a guy who started his own company when he was ten years old which has now become a multi-million dollar enterprise. He’s known worldwide as one of the premier practioners in his field.
After breakfast we headed over to the airport to catch our last fight, a non-stop to Portland on Alaska Air. It was an easy trip as we had premium seats with plenty of legroom, and both Brett and I enjoyed one of their famous cheese and fruit platters for dinner (one of my favorite reasons for flying with Alaska!). The flight arrived in Portland on time, we picked up our car and then went to Trader Joe’s for a few things to get us through breakfast before heading to our Airbnb rental. Portland is cold and overcast, with rain predicted for later today, so we have been quickly reminded of why we left for Hawai’i four years ago! The Airbnb is very nice though, a great size for all of us to gather later in the month and celebrate the holidays together.
We’re going back to Trader Joe’s today to do a bigger shop, and then will go to Costco tomorrow for a few things. I will be calling the dentist first thing tomorrow (Monday) morning, and both Brett and I have appointments to get our hair cut on Wednesday. Mainly though it’s now time for us to rest for a while, to get well again and gather our strength for Part II of the Big Adventure. We’ve had a wonderful time so far, but we’re happy to be “home” for a while.