Sleep came easily on Monday night October 10. The long drive from Richmond to West Hartford made that a certainty.
But, if we thought Monday was a long day, today, Tuesday, October 11 would be even longer.
On Tuesday morning, we weren’t sleepy heads. We had to make sure we were ready to depart to Bradley International Airport right after lunch. My mother-in-law was organized, but she had a few last minute needs, so I ran a couple of quick errands for her.
When I returned, we made sure that our luggage and our carry-on bags were ready. We did a final check for purses, wallets, passports, COVID-19 vaccination cards, and ID’s. Shortly after lunch, we loaded the car and drove to Bradley Field.
We took the non-interstate route. As we neared the airport entrance, an impatient driver was just off our rear bumper. At the last stoplight just off the airport’s grounds, he passed us, sped through the red stoplight at a significant intersection, and flicked his middle finger back at us. The irresponsibly reckless were still with us.
The Commander Supreme had found a reasonably priced vendor where we could park our car with valet service to and from the airport. Getting to the terminal was easy, and our first check-in with United Airlines went well. A wheelchair had been requested for my mother-in-law. Once the wheelchair and the attendant arrived, this person wove us behind the scenes to get us to the departing gate.
Prior to the trip, the Commander Supreme spent significant time reworking our seating assignments. One day everything worked well, but several days later we would be notified of another change. Those multiple changes created stress and tension for the Commander.
The flight down to Dulles outside of Washington, D.C. went well. At Dulles, the security and the screening ticked up a notch. But once again, traveling with Betsy’s mother afforded us quicker access in the screening process. For the flight from Dulles to Frankfurt, Germany we were able to board the plane early and get settled in our seats.
The B777-300 is massive. Everything about the exterior of the plane is big. Huge engines, wings, tail structure, and tires. While the interior of the plane seems wide and endless that interior size is deceptive.
In truth, I’m dreading this flight. Crunched in an uncomfortable middle seat for hours, flying across the Atlantic at night, and hoping that the pilot and the crew keep this big bird aloft.
I have distractions a book, Stealing Home, by Eric Nusbaum, a non-fiction book about how the Los Angeles Dodgers’ stadium was built in Chaves Ravine in Los Angeles, the flight tracker, and I can always watch a movie.
We are close to our 5:25 p.m. departure time, as the 777-300 gradually lifts off the runway. It is a long time until our predicted touch down in Frankfurt at 7:20 a.m.
Early on in the flight, the flight tracker captures my attention. We are at 35,000 feet, going well over 500 miles an hour, and I notice the temperature outside the plane is exceptionally cold, many, many negative degrees below zero. I also note the speed of the tailwind, and how at some point the tailwind disappears and the plane is barreling into a headwind. And, of course, there is always some chop, turbulence to keep everyone alert and in touch with Jesus.
At some point a meal was served, I don’t recall what I ate. To try to make you sleepy and cozy, United Airlines dimmed the cabin lights and provided everyone with a lightweight blanket.
I decided to watch the movie, Elvis. In truth, I don’t know a lot about Elvis, but the movie captures the ups and downs of his short life. Austin Butler, the actor who portrays Elvis, did his homework. His mannerisms and gyrations match what Elvis created all those years ago.
But, the real reason, I watched this movie is Tom Hanks. I have always admired his work, and Mr. Hanks does capture the complicated personality of Colonel Parker who was Elvis’ manager.
I’m not sure of the precise moment when the Atlantic disappeared, but the flight tracker had us arching over land. Soon my mother-in-law was commenting about the headlights from early morning traffic as we made the approach into Frankfurt.
Departing the cabin of a large jet is sheer human madness. Airlines should contract with retired elementary school teachers on how to effectively and efficiently get grumpy travelers off the plane.
Not sure how, but we cleared the security and passport checks into Germany. I recall being asked to remove my hat so that the clerk could insure that the bald head on my mug shot matched the bald head in person.
The German airline, Lufthansa, was responsible for flying us into Budapest. For this flight, the Commander and her mom were seated together, but I was solo way in the back. This was a ninety minute flight. I was looking forward to getting out of this airplane.
The approach into the Budapest airport was pretty. The Danube River couldn’t be missed.
Assuming we knew where we were going, the attendant with Betsy’s mother, quickly took off to the baggage area. We lost them, and we made several wrong turns trying to get to the baggage area. Eventually, we made the right steps and arrived, and Betsy’s mother was already there. Good news is our luggage made it, and at about the same time, the Commander’s brother and his wife walked into baggage claim too.
With Betsy’s mother and our luggage, we quickly found Viking personnel with their red signs. They arranged us and our luggage by groups, and soon we were in a van heading toward the ship.
We saw a lot on that ride to the river. Traffic cooperated, and soon we were dockside unloading and entering the ship for check in.
Our room wasn’t ready, but Viking personnel took control of our luggage and whisked us into the dining room for lunch.
During lunch, we learned about what would turnout to be the only hiccup for the entire trip. Our youngest daughter, Elizabeth, would not be arriving today.
On Tuesday, she was aboard her plane in Raleigh waiting to depart for Toronto. Unfortunately, the operator of the jetway, clunked the plane. When a jetway clunks a jet airliner, a engineer is called to inspect the plane for structural damage.
Of course, airframe engineers aren’t exactly on call. This interruption resulted in Elizabeth getting her luggage and going back home. She was not going to make the connecting flight in Toronto.
To her credit, Elizabeth diplomatically badgered Viking to secure her a better flight.
After lunch, our rooms were ready, and we got settled in.
Viking wastes no time in getting you acclimated to the city.
Early in the afternoon, we assembled in the ship’s lobby for a short walking tour of the neighborhood where the ship was docked.
Each guest has an electronic device with an ear plug. This allows you to hear clearly the tour guide.
Our tour guide was a resident of Budapest (pronounced Bu da pesh), and he was excellent. In fact, we found all of our guides on the trip to be exceptional. Each knew their history, but more importantly they knew the flow of their cities, and they wove in witty humor, and some current political insights too.
The heart and soul of this trip is Danube River. Clearly, no river, no trip, but this journey will feature the cities and landscapes on its majestic banks.
In our brief afternoon tour, I immediately was captured by the architecture, including the design of two bridges close to the ship, and the legendary great/central market hall.
Not long after the completion of the tour, Abby and Art arrived.
Before we knew it, we were seated in the dining room for our first dinner. Immediately, the waitstaff won us over with their attention to detail and humor.
After dinner, we took a walk. We crossed the river at the bridge nearest the ship, and followed the river path to the next bridge. We crossed this bridge and made it back to ship.
The beauty of Budapest revealed itself even more as the lights of the city etched out the landmarks and cast reflections on to the river’s surface.
We were looking forward to our second day in Budapest, but we needed a good night of sleep too. Hopefully, we would find it.