Posts Tagged ‘Airports’

Rocking Chairs

May 24, 2010

The South conjures up images of sweet tea lemonade, wrap-around porches, amazing BBQ … and rocking chairs.  Rocking chairs are the epitome of relaxation, and in my mind, usually involve groups of family members and friends enjoying each others’ company.  Kate’s post featuring Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm reminded me of an image from their site I had marked months ago: of rocking chairs looking over a dewy vista. 

Don’t you want to shut down your computer and go here – like.right.now?! 

(Courtesy of Blackberry Farm)

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Jet up north near the tip-top of the country; here you’ll find Mackinac Island, Michigan.  When your significant other is from Michigan, Mackinac Island (pronounced “Mack-in-awe”) is always at the top of the “must visit” list!  And for good reason.  The Island’s famed Grand Hotel features a sweeping, wide veranda that at 660 feet may be one of the longest porches in the world.  With more than 100 white rocking chairs, it is the prime place to grab a seat. There are numerous other perks to this 5.6-square-mile locale, including the feeling of a trip back in time.  Witness: A National Historic Landmark, Mackinac Island boasts a unique local ordinance that prohibits the use of any motor vehicles on the island.  Save for emergency vehicles, horseback, foot and bicycle are the primary means of transportation.  Add to that the hillsides of Victorian architecture that boast wide porches and balconies, the adornment of flower boxes and American flags on homes and street lamps, and you get the feeling that things are a bit more simple here.  Simple and yet still entertaining. With a well-honored dining atmosphere (including 17 fudge shops!), numerous shopping options, summertime festivals and a bevy of outdoor activities, there is plenty to do in between rocking on the porch chairs!

(Courtesy of Cleveland.com)

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We’ve been down South and up North, but I would be remiss if I didn’t note that airports along both coasts of the U.S. have stationed rocking chairs in their terminals.  This is one of my favorite features (and one I’ve used many times during stops in Philly).  Charlotte Douglas International was the first to feature the rocking chairs – and the trend was started somewhat by accident.  During a photography shoot in the late ’90s, rocking chairs were brought in to mimic the “style and comfort of a traditional ‘southern porch’.”  But the temporary feature was so popular with travelers that it soon became a permanent fixture in the airport.  Now some of the United State’s busiest airports – including Seattle, San Diego and Dallas/Ft. Worth – have followed the trend. 

Have you rocked in some pretty awesome places?  We could all use a reason to slow down a little!

-mm

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Volcanoes Happen

May 21, 2010

On April 15th, airports came to a standstill, planes were grounded and travelers stranded. The Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland had erupted, creating an ash cloud that forced the cancellation of many flights and disrupted air traffic across northern Europe. Unfortunately (maybe we were fortunate in the long run), my husband and I were among the millions who were left to fend for ourselves.  

It all started on Saturday, April 18th. We had been traveling in Europe, a vacation my husband and I had been planning for nearly a year, and were in Athens to catch a flight to Paris to get back home to Portland, OR. We arrived in Athens where we had a five hour layover. We grabbed some breakfast and reading material and tried our best to pass the time. I glanced up at the departure board and noticed several flights were cancelled. I looked over my shoulder and saw a young girl on a cellphone crying and then to my other side, another girl in tears fiercely typing away on a laptop.

Image by Sverrir Thor

 Okay, something was not right and I got a horrible feeling that our five hour layover may become extended. I headed over to the information booth and asked what was causing all of the flights to be cancelled. This was the first time I was informed of the volcano erupting three days ago. This was news to me as we didn’t watch television on our trip (most places we stayed in didn’t have them in the rooms) and with little internet access, didn’t catch up on our news. We were totally out of the loop, which became blatantly clear.

We needed to quickly find another route to get home. We found out that there wasn’t another route home and that we may be stranded in Europe for days, weeks, months even. This is when I started to cry. OMG, this can’t be happening!! What were we going to do? Where were we going to stay? How am I going to afford this? The airlines weren’t very helpful to say the least. They were able to re-route us to Rome free of charge, but couldn’t get us on a flight until two days out. From Rome, it was up to us to figure things out. Taking a train, bus or ferry were not options.

We eventually found a hotel in Athens where we used the internet to find a flight out of Rome through the same airlines we booked our flight out of Paris with, avoiding buying a new ticket. The flights were all sold out until April 24th which would mean four nights in Rome (a total of 6 unexpected nights stay in Europe). The dollars were quickly adding up and our trip was turning into a VERY expensive voyage.

On Saturday we finally get to go home!!!  The plane arrived in Chicago for our layover and my husband and I sprinted down the airport to our gate (mind you the Chicago airport is by no means small). We find our gate, only to learn that the plane has just left the terminal and we watch it taxi off. I felt like I was in a movie. We literally just missed it. We find out that was the last flight to Portland with the next one not leaving until 9:57 AM the following morning. We are done spending money so we decided the airport would be our hotel for the night. We found a nearby gate where others were also camped out and claimed two empty benches. I felt like we were homeless on a bench and each person had claimed their own. What made it even more bum-like was the vendor from a pretzel place across the way came over with a large bag of pretzels that had been the leftovers for the night and offered them to us. Though it may seem small, that kind gesture is probably what helped keep me sane. I felt like someone actually cared.

One major learning I can take away from this is to make sure you have International calling on your cell phone when traveling abroad!! Having this would have saved us a ton of stress and time.

Looking back, I consider ourselves lucky and perhaps it all happened for a reason. The unexpected extended stay allowed us to explore Rome, catch up on European politics (thanks to BBC News) and provided a great story to tell friends and family when we returned. Ironically, as it turned out, Rome was one of my favorite stops along our journey.

This post is by Lisa, special to Work Shoe Blisters.