Category Archives: Travel

F’in airline pilot f’s up their Easter

As someone who flies quite a lot, I am always interested in stories and news about airline flights. Today’s CNN story about a Northwest flight out of Las Vegas being cancelled because the pilot (I can’t believe this, yes the pilot!) was causing a disturbance (swearing up a storm and even at the passengers) that resulted in the police being called. Definitely something not right there and obviously, not at all normal. Talk about killing your career.

The fact that the flight was cancelled and the 180 passengers are now stuck in Las Vegas as a result of this definitely sucks.

They probably wouldn’t be in the mood to watch this hilarious t.v. ad for the psycho stewardess who is trying to quit smoking. I wonder if that is what was wrong with the pilot?

I have definitely not had either of these experiences when flying.

Some pics from Bulgaria (where Istill am)

First of course I want to say how wonderful the DevReach conference was, how impressive the developer community is and what a great time we all had participating in it. It was totally worth coming all the way here.

In addition to the two-day conference, the Bulgarians have kept us busy. Here are some pics from the last few days.

Sunday night. Dinner at a classic Bulgarian restuarant where we had our first encounter with Bulgarian food …

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…and the famous Bulgarian Raika (brandy).
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Monday morning. The start of DevReach! There were about 300 attendees at this conference. This is a pic during the keynote. You can see Goksin Bakir (raised arm) and Stephen Forte in the foreground. Although the conference was in English, the keynote was in Bulgarian. Luckily, someone was translating for us. Much of what we heard was about how strong the developer community is there which we were happy to be experiencing.

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Monday night. We are driven up a long and windy mountain road for another amazing Bulgarian experience at Vodenitzata. More of the abundant and delicious food, more Rakia and this time also folk music and folk dancers as well as firewalkers! The taxi ride back to the hotel was a little wild – even for this ex-NYC dweller.

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Tuesday afternoon. After finishing my talks, Stephen, Richard and I were taken to see the new Telerik offices. They building is not complete yet but it is going to be great. They have beautiful mountain views, lots of light and balconies galore. Here are some of the construction workers who are making this happen.

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One thing about Sofia that is hard to get used to is the stray dogs. There are thousands of them. But they are part of the landscape, tame and somehow get fed and avoid the overwhelming traffic. There are 2 million people in Sofia, which is a lot more than the city was originally designed for. Therefore there it is pretty crowded but there is a ton of construction going on.

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Tuesday night. After the closing panel of the conference, we went to yet another wonderful classic Bulgarian restaurant. No pics as I was travelling light that night. After that, the old farts went back to the hotel and I went on to a small nightclub with Angus Logan and Svetlozar, another one of the Telerik partners, to meet up with his wife and friends. I finally begged for mercy and was put into a cab back to my hotel, since I’m one of the old farts, too.

Wednesday was tourist day. Yay! Here is a view of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia built in the early 1900’s to commemmorate the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire. Of course,  you can’t take picture inside, but needless to say, it was amazing.

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We toured around Sofia all morning, visiting a Russian church and then a coffee shop, part of a chain that looks modeled after Starbucks.

Later we drove to Rila – a 2 hour drive on roads that are under construction (paid for by the EU who wants them improved for people driving through Bulgaria to get to other EU countries… and note that Bulgaria beocmes part of the EU on Jan 1.)

I thought seeing the goats wandering freely by the side of the road (and later some cows and horses) reminded my quite a lot of my trip to South Africa last year. Even just the dry grass here makes it look like I could have taken the picture in So. Africa.

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I saw this woman when we were headed up the mountain. Mostly everyone we saw was modern, but she is certainly the image many of us may have.

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Before we went into the monastery compound, we had yet another huge bulgarian meal. You can’t imagine the food that kept coming out of the kitchen. We finally begged for mercy even though it was all amazing. The glass that looks like it was milk was really yogurt. It is also a known hangover cure. The pitcher is yogurt, too.

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Here are a bunch of photos of the monastery. Inside this cathedral we were astounded. (Again no pics in doors). I love the stiped paining everywhere – it reminds me of persian pottery.

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The end. IT’s late. I’ll post some more in another day or two.

Getting to Bulgaria

The best part of my journey to Sofia was flying out of Munich over the Alps. For a good half hour we were right over the Alps and not too far up in elevation, so we could see so much very clearly. The rocky craggy mountains, the mountain lakes and streams, the switchback roads going up a few of them.

I had a window seat of course.

At one point the pilot said that if we looked out the window of the right side of the plane (where I was) we could see the Mediterranean Sea, and lo and behold, I did!

I was fortunate to be seated with two world travellers so we had a very engaging talk. One works for EU Customs and is coming to Bulgaria to help their customs officials prepare for becoming part of the EU in January.

We are in a lovely, elegant hotel.

I loved seeing this when i entered my room, something that belongs in the MOMA. As usual, my photography skills don’t do it justice.

Reservations made on the United.com site travelling internationally with a Star Alliance partner turned into a nightmare

By tomorrow afternoon, we’ll know if I really make it to Bulgaria or not for the DevReach conference, but even though my flight, which I reserved on August 4th, is tonight, there still is no ticket.

Here’s what happened.

Reservations made (8 weeks to go)

Booked flights on United.com travelling on Austrian Airlines from JFK to SOF 8 weeks in advance.

Flight cancelled (2 weeks to go)

Two weeks before the trip, I get an email from (not Austrian and not United but ) the person I was flying with to say the flights were cancelled.

I called United and they re-booked me on flights that were highly inconvenient but I was told there was no option. When I recieved the email confirmation, they had messed up the flights, with 6 legs rather than 4 and some of them showing flights TO Bulgaria on my return date.

I decided to call Austrian and learned that their reservations actually have office hours! 9-5 est. So I waited to the next day.

Booked on new flights/new airline

Austrian fixed everything up and got me on the flights that made sense for me, though now on Lufthansa,  and sent me a link to a website where I could see that my new flights were confirmed.

No tickets? (1 week to go)

One week later I get a call from United saying my flight was cancelled.

It turned out that they were telling me finally about the original cancellation and had no clue about the new flights that Austrian had changed me to.

Again, Austrian was closed, so this time I called Lufthansa directly.

I was told that I was still confirmed on the Lufthansa flights but no ticket had been issued and only United could issue the tickets.

So back on the phone with United who said that they had absolutely no record of the Lufthansa flights, no access to the seats I was telling them about and that Lufthansa had no right to confirm me on their OWN FLIGHT, since I had originally booked through United. I asked how it was possible that Lufthansa could not promise me seats on their own airplanes!

New tickets

Finally, a supervisor found my Lufthansa reservations and said they would fix evertyhing up and issue me new tickets.

No tickets (4 days to go)

A few days later I looked on the United site and it had a trip with 4 legs over (the two old ones and the two new ones) and 4 legs returning (again, 2 old and 2 new!)

New tickets

I called united again and after a while on the phone was told it was straightened out and I should see the correct information on the site if I logged out and logged back in. But even after two more days, that wasn’t the case.

Flight info changed?

This morning, I received a phone call saying to call United about a change in my reservation. That did not make me happy. However, when I called, I discovered that this was for a completely different trip that is two months away. While I was on the phone, I asked about the fact that the site was still wrong about my trip that I”m taking today and was switched over to the international desk.

No tickets (day of flight)

After a few minutes on the phone with the next person, I learned that the new tickets had still NOT BEEN ISSUED. So I would have flown to JFK tonight (that is on Jet Blue), gone over to the Lufthansa terminal and been sent home.

New tickets

So…. now, I’m still on the phone with United being told that someone from United is talking to someone from Lufthansa to make sure it’s all fixed up becuase it’s way too late to do anything through the regular channels again.

For the amount of time I have spent on the phone dealing with this nonsense, I probably could have paid to fly in Business class after all.

I’ve learned my lesson about booking non-United flights on the United website. It’s still not settled and I’m really glad I’m not an A-Type personality or I may have self-combusted by now.

Venice or the Venetian

Vegas used to be known for it’s $5 dinner buffets and other bargains that made it a fun and very inexpensive vacation. The few times I’ve been there (for conferences only as it’s not really my dream vacation spot), I’ve been astonished at how pricey everything was – especially the Vegas shows, which I just can’t bring myself to buy $100+ tickets for. Markus Egger had a wake-up call when trying to plan a recent weekend in Vegas and says “who wants to stay at the Venetian when gong to Venice is cheaper?” Hear! Hear!

Oh hooray. I can travel with toothpaste again!

In the past month, I have made a number of short trips that allowed me to get away with a small carry-on bag. My big problem was that I couldn’t bring toothpaste with me. I hated the idea of buying toothpaste at my destination, using a touch of it and then throwing it away. I even felt guilty doing the same with teh travel-sized toothpaste that the hotels gave me. Use a small amount and then it gets thrown away. The packaging is my real issue – I am always at odds with the convenience of our disposable habits.

On the other hand, the hassle of checking my bags just so I could have toothpaste.

My deodorant is a solid, my face soap is a bar, hotels have shampoo and I don’t wear make-up. So it was really just the toothpaste that was making me dizzy.

So I was happy to see this today even though my next three trips are long ones that I will be checking my bag for anyway.

Airport Security at Burlington (BTV) and JFK’s Jet Blue and an unrelated big knife story

Before flying to NYC last week, I tried to find some information on what I could expect at the airports regarding the impact of the new security. Since I couldn’t find anything, I thought I would post these two airports.

Burlington (Thursday Aug 17th, late morning: 5 minutes)

The two ends of BTV are treated like separate terminals and each has their own security checkin. I went through the downstairs one which is for Jet Blue and some of the others, but I can’t remember which ones. My flight was at 11:30 am. I arrived at 9:45 am. I got through security in under 5 minutes.

JFK Jet Blue Terminal 6 (Friday Aug 18th, late night: 5 minutes)

This shocked me. I arrived at about 8:30 and again was through security in 5 minutes. They had 4 lines open and there just weren’t very many people.

Liquids in Carryons – oops

Both times, I inadvertantly had some liquid when going through security. The first was a small bottle of hand lotion in an outside pocket of my back pack. I had emptied out the backpack and repacked it, but had missed this. On the way home, I had totally forgotten about the small, nearly emtpy now, bottle of water I had been carrying around Manhattan on that hot August day with me. Both of these were extracted by the security workers.

I talked with someone who was travelling out west with a friend earlier that week. They had met up with her somewhere in the midwest. She too had a bottle of water. Security stopped her and found and tossed the water. The friend is from Texas and normally carries a Texas sized version of a pocket knife (a hunting knife!). When they arrived at their destination, she realized that her knife was still in her bag. She had forgotten to take it out before going to the airport and didn’t even know it was in there. The security folks were so hell-bent on liquids that they hadn’t found it.