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400 Day LETS Odyssey
Copyright � James Taris

JAMES TARIS around the World- (2003-4)

I wanted to see snow in Canada, and I wasn't disappointed!

CANADA - Niagara (Wk.1 of 5 weeks)
Week 29 of World Tour

The Agony And The Ecstasy Of Flying

Today I was ending the first half of my tour (Asia, Africa and Europe) and beginning the second and final half. Unfortunately, due to restrictions on my Round-The-World ticket, I couldn’t get a direct flight to Toronto, so I had to get there on 3 separate planes.

The longest flight (over 6 hours) was from London to Chicago and I was lucky enough to be upgraded to a Business Class seat. This was the first time I’d flown Business Class, and there were many obvious differences from the cheaper Economy Class ticket.

First of all, I was able to go through the Fast Track entry at the airport, which meant there wasn’t any waiting in the long queues ahead of me. Secondly, and this was a BIG PLUS, I was able to take my trolley with me through the security check area. It gets so frustrating when you have to abandon your trolley at the security check area and can’t find another one on the other side. I carry about 50 kgs of baggage with me, so finding a trolley is always a top priority.

Ever since the World Trade Centre attack, flying to America has attracted a more severe security check system. Apart from the usual scanning of luggage as you enter the International Departures Gate, another security check is done at the Boarding Gate for your flight. All passengers are frisked and shoes have to be removed and checked using a hand-held scanner. Then all hand luggage is opened and checked visually.

Yes, it does make the whole boarding procedure much longer. And, yes, it does cause some frustration and is maybe very annoying for some people (the inspectors never repack your bags neatly for you). But hey, these have got to be the safest flights in all the world, so I’m all for it.

We were travelling on a Jumbo Jet, so my next Business Class surprise was being able to travel on the top floor of the plane (isn’t the view much better from up there?). And the space! Wow! Once I sat down, I had to really stretch my legs out before I could touch the seat in front of me. In fact, there was so much space between the rows of seats that other passengers were walking across my row as a short cut to reach their own seats.

The seats were wider. And the arm rests were so wide that you even had space to place several drinks on them. And neatly tucked away under these arm rests were individual and retractable movie screens. I watched 3 movies; Terminator 3 (being destined to save all mankind has got to be the biggest responsibility anyone could ever place on you), Pirates Of The Carribean (it’s rather ironic how you can become immortal once you’re already dead), Matchstick Men (lesson learned: always confirm the existence of a child [with your ex] BEFOREHAND and not after you’ve had your entire lifesavings conned from you).

My first drink was a champagne, which tasted much better once I poured my orange juice into it. My next 2 drinks were gin and tonics, then I finished off with 2 white wines, and a port, which I had with my meals.

And in Business Class, meals are ordered from a menu. For my entrée I had smoked salmon and sautéed shrimp with Louis sauce and Balsanic cherry tomato. For my main meal I had filet mignon with white wine pepper sauce, served with potato wedges and sautéed zucchini slices. And dessert was a selection of international cheeses (Stilton apricot and Taurus cheese) served with seedless black grapes (mmmmmm!)

As you can imagine, after all that eating and drinking, I was feeling very full and a bit giddy. Cheers!

I guess the only annoying part of this trip were the forms. As well as the Customs Declaration form I had to fill in a USA Visa Waiver form. And it’s the Visa Waiver form which was so annoying. My transit stop to Chicago was considered an entry into the USA and so my 90 day Visa Waiver entitlement would start from that day. Any re-entries from Canada would not entitle me to a new Visa Waiver allowance, so my USA entry was immediately reduced by 39 days (the duration of my stay in Canada) therefore only giving me a maximum of only 51 days in the USA afterwards. And the really annoying part is that this would not have been the case if I’d managed to get a direct flight from London to Toronto. That’s the part which really stinks!

And the stopover to Chicago was a bit of a nightmare. Everywhere else in the world, I would’ve just got off one plane and straight onto another because I was in transit. But in Chicago, as in all other cities of the USA, once I got off the plane, I had to collect my baggage, pass through customs, re-deposit my luggage for transit and re-enter through International Departures with the same strict security checks. This all took so much time that I almost missed my connecting flight to Toronto. In fact, I was so worried about it that I didn’t dare waste any time by stopping to tie my shoelaces after my security check.

But I did eventually catch my flight. I was the last passenger on board and couldn’t find any overhead space for my luggage. So after squeezing my coat, scarf and jumper into the locker above, I slipped the laptop under the seat in front of me, placed my carry bag in front of my seat, and sat down with my right foot on the laptop and my left foot in the space in front of the passenger next to me. Space-wise, this was the opposite extreme of the Business Class seat I had on my previous flight. And to add insult to injury, I had a window seat when I specifically asked for an aisle seat!

And this story ends with some good news and some bad news. First the good news. Lorne White, my Canada Tour organiser had told me that due to another commitment (he had choir practise) I should expect him at the airport at about midnight. My flight was due to arrive at 6.45pm, so I’d have to wait in the airport for about 5 hours before being picked up. But my hosts, John and Mary Beth Sheffield, made a special trip to pick me up, so I saved several hours of waiting. And it was such a welcomed sight when we finally got to their home in Welland and I saw the snow covered houses and streets. And the bad news? The airlines lost my suitcase!

P.S. They claimed that 95% of lost baggage is returned to the passenger
within 24 hours. So I fall into the 5% category, because mine took 26

This article is taken from the ebook,
400-Day LETS Odyssey

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