07.07.2013 - 07.07.2013
I hate air travel. Flying from Frankfurt to Houston I was unable to sleep with the seat reclined because the 4 year old behind me wants to pound on the touch screen on the back of my seat. The only way to stop her is by putting my seat in the upright position so she can’t reach it. Then after we arrived in Houston, I thought we would be able to cut our 8 hour layover short by getting on an earlier flight based on conversations I’ve had with United customer service. The earlier flight to Portland was full, which was I was told was unusual, due to the rerouting of San Francisco flyers as a result of the plane crash there a couple of days ago. No problem, put us on standby and see what happens. When rechecking our bags in Houston the agent suggested we place our bag on the earlier flight regardless of what happens, that way if we get on standby it will meet us in Portland. Then . . . surprise! Nope, can’t do that because I used miles for our tickets. Surprise (not really), I was given bad information by the United customer service line again. Instead we spent our time watching people in Houston running around and reacting to gate changes, more changes than I had ever seen before at an airport. I’d see the same people running back and forth between gates every hour. One person almost missed their plane because they made the gate change announcement at the last minute while they were in the bathroom. Another person noticed a gate change at the last minute on the board and asked customer service why they didn’t make an announcement over the intercom. The customer service agents reply, “because you’re the first person who asked. . . we did put it on the board though”. The waiting was excruciating, so to pass the time I adjusted Jen’s walking cane and tapped her once on the forehead with it, and then I told her she looks hot and placed the icepack for her foot on the top of her head. Jen’s reaction “I think we’ve been spending too much time together”. My reaction – 30 seconds of laughter.
Epilogue: Land in Portland, and our bags are already sitting next to the carrousel before it starts. Looks like the bags can fly standby with miles, just not the owner of the bags. I get home and it turns out I didn’t leave the charging cords for the camera and the tablet at home, they must have been removed from our bag by some luggage handlers or security people. A couple days later Jen calls United to report this. After an hour and a half on the phone with United, they tell her she needs to report it to the last airline in the chain of overseas flights, Croatia Airlines. United customer service strikes again!
OK, enough venting. 95% of our trip was great, and we were lucky to be able to do it.
Overall tips for Adriatic travel
1) Traveling through Croatia from the south coast to the north coast is better than how most guide books describe croatian itineraries (from north to south) because when you are traveling between island destinations (Korcula and Hvar) the ferry leaves in the morning, giving you a complete day to visit the destination. Also if you are traveling in the shoulder season of April, May, or June you hit the southern places first when they are at a cooler, more reasonable temperature, and it give the northern destinations time to warm up.
2) Enlisting the help of guides here is more important than in other destinations. Elsewhere in Europe guides are expensive, and although helpful, you can scare up information on art or city history from literary resources or an audioguide and tour a town yourself. At other destinations you could maybe splurge for a guide at special sites, like the Vatican Museum in Italy. However, guides in the former Yugoslavia are relatively inexpensive. Also, although most people speak English well, town sites and museums are less likely to have English translations at their attractions, especially in small towns. Finally, and most importantly, much of the ‘history’ (RE: Balkan war) here is recent and has actually been lived through by the locals. Speaking with someone who has this experience is obviously much more rewarding than having a guide explain the Renaissance to you 500 years after it happened.