Dirck in Algarve village
We never really got clear information information from United about what was involved in flying their airline for two of our three flights to get to Lisbon from Des Moines and flying air canada the last leg, between Toronto and Lisbon.
They were fine with selling us the pricey plane tickets that included the air canada flight but seemed to know little about the particulars. (We even had to call air canada to book seats for the Toronto-Lisbon-Toronto flights.) United wouldn’t do it.)So when we couldn’t get a clear answer about whether our bags could be checked straight through to Lisbon (or if we would have to pick them up in Toronto and transfer them to air canada,) we opted to carry on our luggage. (And had to surrender our Swiss Army knife in the process.)
At Coimbra restaurant (where guests tape notes of appreciation on the walls)
we were glad to have our bags when our planned two hour layover in Toronto outbound evaporated as we were sat on the runway at Chicago’s O’Hare. At one point it looked like we would have to wait two hours to fly to Toronto (we didn’t find out until later that a storm had shut down the airport) but fortunately our delay ended up being one hour. We ran thru the airport, went thru some sort of expedited Canadian customs and easily made our 10 pm connecting flight. (Phew! If we had missed that flight we would have had to stay overnight in Toronto and wait til 4:30 pm for a flight to Newark and then get an 8pm flight to Lisbon.)
it was Canadian travelers we met in Toronto outbound who told us that on our return trip, we would be able to go through U.S. Customs in Toronto, before catching out next flight to Houston, which was a relief since we had a two hour layover in Toronto but only an hour layover in Houston (which means we would probably miss our flight to Des Moines if we had to go through customs there). I couldn’t get anyone to confirm this from the airlines but it is in fact what happened. Phew!
meanwhile the air canada planes there and back were old and cramped with NO movie screens. The only option was to use our laptops (or rent one) and get movies via an airline app. Huh?
CAught sight of Naomi watts, Lieb Schreiber and their two tow headed boys looking about as harried as we did this morning in the Newark airport. Keeping it real! Our direct flight from Des Moines went without a hitch. For some reason, d and I were given “TSA preselect” status so we jumped the queue at security, didn’t even have to take off our shoes or take out our liquids. Woohoo. I am usually the person randomly selected for a pat down so nice change. So far so good traveling on thanksgiving day.
Victorinox “Huntsman” Swiss Army knife with knife chain and belt clip
So apparently now we won’t be allowed to carry a Swiss Army Knife in our carry-on luggage when flying. Word has it that the TSA has reversed its reversal of a policy banning small knives – among other things – from being carried onto a plane. And although I was looking forward to bringing my Swiss Army Knife with me on trips to, say, Arizona – where I usually don’t check my bags and where we often find a Swiss Army Knife helpful during our mid-hike picnics – I have to admit it seems safer not to allow passengers to walk on board planes with small knives. CBS story on reversal
Yes, we also had some time to kill in the Phoenix Airport on our way back to Des Moines earlier this week and there were plenty of art exhibits to pass the time. One of the odder ones was tucked away in an out-of-the-way corner near the Starbucks on Level 2 of Terminal 3 – 2″ x 2″ Thumbnail portraits, quite literally, by Roberta Hancock. They are individual oil paintings of thumbs dressed in various garbs – a Rastafarian thumb, a nun thumb, a cowboy thumb, a bride thumb. They made me laugh. The Phoenix Airport Museum’s collection has 600 works and 35 exhibit spaces scattered across six buildings. How amazing.
We were not looking forward to our three hour layover in the Minneapolis airport en route to Phoenix from Des Moines but it turned out to be better than expected. We found a surprisingly good restaurant and decided to splurge since it was a Saturday night and we were stuck in an airport. And by splurge I mean paying $10 for a fancy sandwich with top-notch ingredients as opposed to $5 at Subway. We ate at a wine bar called Surdyk’s Flight in the “airport mall,” which has small plates, sandwiches, salads and paninis served in a sleek alcove with a few booths, each with a flat screen TV showing a movie with the sound off and English subtitles. Our sandwiches were excellent, served on crusty baguettes from what we were told is one of the best bakeries in the twin cities, Rustica. The restaurant itself is an offshoot of a well known wine shop in Minneapolis. (Hence the word “flight” in the restaurant’s name.)
One sandwich was salami with a thick slab of fresh mozzarella, aoili, greens. The other was Applewood turkey with thick slice of Manchego cheese, aoili, quince jam. My husband had one of his favorite beers, Bell’s from Kalamazoo., Michigan. The place even had two of Iowa’s finer products, La Quercia prosciutto and Templeton Rye. We shared a Rustica ginger molasses cookie for dessert and all toll managed to easily kill over an hour at dinner.
On the way back to Des Moines, with another three hours to kill in the Minneapolis airport, we ate at the super sleek Japanese sushi and noodle place Shoyu in Concourse G. The food was really good (and pricey) – we had very crispy chicken and mushroom wontons with cilantro and smoked chili glaze and shared an entree – Tokyo style pork ramen with hard boiled egg , wakame, memma, and togarashi (none of these items were familiar except the egg) and a Rush River Amber Ale from River Falls, Wisconsin. We ordered on an Ipad (not the one I am typing on now) and watched chefs cook in an open kitchen. Brave new world here. The waiter told us the new restaurants in Concourse G are part of the airport’s overhaul last August and some were conceived with the help of well-known Twin Cities chefs. Shoyu, for example, was the offspring of Tanpopo noodle house in St. Paul’s warehouse district.
Also in the foodie flyer’s heaven of Concourse G, we found Mimosa, an upscale French restaurant, and Minnibar, a cafe that looked like a set from the Jetsons (serving “globally inspired sandwiches created by Chef Andrew Zimmern). There also is a new high-design upscale “food hall” in Concourse G (and other mini-halls elsewhere) that is markedly different in appearance and offerings from the old-style “food court” that still exists in the airport (along with fast food chain outposts sprinkled here and there including Starbucks, A&W, Subway, Godfather’s Pizza, Quiznos Sub, DQ, Chick-fil-A, Sharro ). While the courts have the usual Chinese and Mexican fast food, the halls are sleek and cleanly designed with little areas selling upscale fro yo, lots of fresh fruit, eccentric assortments of candy (goo goo clusters from Nashville but alas no Hi-Chews, from Japan), cleverly packaged travel items, from nausea pills to backpacks.
Of course we were looking for some humble popcorn after sharing our pricy entree and appetizer at Shoyu. No such luck.
I have long thought that one of the worst jobs has got to be working at an airport gate counter. You end up having to deal with a lot of frustrated, angry, surly people (who often have cause to be all of those things given the headaches and mounting unpleasantries of flying these days.) But today I met an agent at the Nashville airport who went out of her way to be helpful and how refreshing is that? She not only went the extra mile, she wasn’t even technically still working for the airline i was traveling on, American (she was working for American eagle). and darned if she didn’t manage through basic competency and kindness to nip my anger, frustration and yes, surliness in the bud. I arrived at her desk worried that my delayed flight in Nashville would mean a missed connection in Chicago and frustrated because the guy at my gate wasn’t particularly helpful and when I called American, my old trick, I got a recording that the wait for an agent was 40 minutes. Surely that couldn’t be right. I called back and the recording said 35 minutes. Grrr.
Anyway, this woman helped me figure out what I was likely to encounter in Chicago, my options for later flights (or lack there of). The news wasn’t particularly encouraging but she gave me news and she gave it to me straight. Which I really appreciated. When I thanked her and mentioned how hard her job must be, she looked me right in the eye and said she really loved working the counter. It showed! (I did make make it home as scheduled…after making a very close connection at O’Hare.)