Friday, July 22, 2011

Our Day of Airports

Balcony overlooking back yard area

Bathroom with gloriously hot water

Bedroom--Can you spy Daniel's head?

Desk, where our "wireless" internet plugs in.

Dining area


Laundry area--similar to those we used in Europe

Living room

Grandma's molasses--I can whip up a batch of Amber's cookies if I like!
And thus begins the blogging of more details that you could possibly want, but there’s currently nothing to do but watch informative bulletins/image control about LAX on monitors.  “Like a fine wine, we are getting better with age—please excuse the construction.”  Not clever enough to hold my attention.  Whatever happened to real TV in the airport?  I remember learning about both the death of JFK JR. and Michael Jackson at airports (Reagan and Sevilla, respectively).  So maybe you don’t want to spring for CNN, but what about say, Fox, so I can watch the So You Think You Can Dance results show.  Oh well, I guess I’ll catch up in Sydney with Daniel’s magic TV streaming software.
We went to bed late, assuming we wouldn’t sleep much, hoping we could sleep in since we didn’t have to leave for the airport until 12:45pm.  Sarah arrived to ferry us and our 200+ pounds of luggage to the airport.  No traffic or anything weird, so we arrived in plenty of time and she was kind enough to loiter to make sure the airport scales told us the same thing that the bathroom scale did—we were under 50 lbs a suitcase, but just by a few ounces.  We accomplished this partly by putting heavy things in our carry-ons—more about how that came back to bite us later.
Security not only did not care about my Cimzia, when I tried to mention it to a TSA agent, she cut me off and said, if we see something we want to know about, we’ll ask you.  Okay.  Daniel was worried about x-ray/slash aggressive padding down, but we just had to go through the metal detector.  I’m not sure why not everyone had to; I guess the extra security is random.  There was some grumbling about putting more than one thing in a bin amongst the agents and eye rolling, but no one actually mentioned to passengers that this was not what we were supposed to do.  It was still a fairly quick process since we were at the Southwest Terminal, so just Southwest passengers.  We bought severally overpriced wrap sandwiches, and just finished eating in time to board.  We left on time and arrived early.  We got three drinks, a 6 pack of Oreos, 2 bags free and they didn’t blink an eye at our overstuffed carry-ons.  Have I mentioned how much I love Southwest?  We’ve (fingers crossed and knock on wood) ever had one of our nightmare airport experiences with Southwest.  I am a little sad that they seem a bit more straight-laced than they used to be.  They didn’t even make the crack about, “If you are traveling with a child or someone acting like a child, secure your oxygen mask first.”
We arrived in Phoenix without incident.  I was a little worried because we were sitting next to a woman with a Pomeranian in a soft sided mesh carrier.  He yapped exactly twice in five hours, and that’s it.  She let him pop his head out of the bag a couple of times, but otherwise I guess he was asleep under the seat.  I totally do not see a cat ever agreeing to that without being heavily drugged. 
We had about an hour before our next flight.  We walked around a bit in hopes of finding an airport In-and-Out, but settled on Wendy’s.  We also signed up for a credit card.  Yes, only the Chases could manage to sign up for a credit card on a layover.  It was for a Southwest Rewards card and we got $1600 in free tickets (in theory, we’ll see) out of the deal and two free t-shirts.  I think Daniel was wavering with just the tickets, but that free t-shirt tipped him over the edge J  Just kidding, it was the tickets.  We still haven’t bought our return trip from LAX tickets yet, so hopefully they’ll be free.
A quick hour flight to LAX, another free drink and two packages of honey roasted peanuts later, we were done with our Southwest portion.  Again, on time.  Again, I ooze Southwest love.  My wonderful frugal husband immediately went out to the parking area to retrieve us two smartcartes for free.  No five dollars a carte for us.  I told him they should make you deposit a quarter like they do at Aldi and they might get people to return them to the place where you have to pay five dollars again.  He pointed out that a quarter would probably not be enough incentive for people other than us.  I guess that’s probably true.  We loaded up our carts and since it was a lovely 70 degrees outside, decided to just walk to the Quantas Terminal—the farthest terminal from the one we came in at.  It took us about a half an hour, especially since we can’t read maps and started in the wrong direction.  Then it turns out that Quantas leaves from a special secret terminal that’s a guy’s name, not a number, and involves going to a third level and a walkway.  We had to get directions twice.  Still, we had plenty of time and were enjoying the weather and exercise before a 16 hour flight.   
We arrived at the Quantas Counter and were greeted by a Frenchman.  That really should have been our cue to run.  Actually he was exceedingly polite for a French person, but you could still tell we were trying his patience greatly.  We were informed at this point that our 50 lb/23 kilo bags were fine, but did we know we could only have one carry-on and it couldn’t exceed 7 kilos?  Noooooo we did not.  I swear I read through all the Quantas baggage stuff, but somehow this did not come up.  My bag weighed 14 kilos and Daniel’s weighed like 12 apiece.  We are now both drenched in panic attack sweat and trying to figure out what to do.  Checking a bag meant another $180.  However, he was kind enough to point out that if we put 10 kilos worth in one of our bags, an overweight bag was just an extra $52.  We still had to go back and forth several times asking is this light enough now?  Does my Cimzia cooler count as a separate bag, can Daniel have two if they are both lighter?  So on and so on until I’m quite sure we had reached the very end of a Frenchman’s very limited amount of patience.  I kept thinking, “Where’s the Aussie agent telling us, ‘No worries, mate,’?”  Once we got even close to 7 kilos, he was like, that’s fine, just go. 
By this time we are really freaked out, especially since we still haven’t gone through security, and he was very skeptical about my Cimzia getting through.  I guess I might still have trouble in Sydney, but the LAX TSA agents so did not care.  Again, didn’t want to know about it, didn’t want to look at it.  They were even cracking jokes.  I asked if I needed to go through the metal detector or the x-ray, and one agent told me, “Aw, you can just crawl under that table there.”  The other went “beep, beep, beep,” laughing while I went through the metal detector.  I think they realized at some point that I was too keyed up to appreciate the humor, because they just waved me on. 
We sat at our Quantas gate for about an hour and half before we boarded one of those huge planes that has two levels.  I never got to see the second level.  We were in steerage.  Actually, it was nice.  It was a tad more leg room, slightly wider seats, and these sort of positional wings at our heads so you could lean to the left or the right while you slept.  We were the back row of the first section, right next to a bunch of bathrooms, so we didn’t have to climb over anyone, and we could have reclined all the time and not bothered anyone.  The crew was nice enough, and the food was pretty good for airline food.  Daniel and I were both enamored with the tea.  It was so good.  He kept asking how they did it.  I said it probably had something to do with staying with the commonwealth.  If we hadn’t thrown tea in Boston Harbor, we would probably know how to brew a decent pot, too. 
Other than a really awful nauseous migraine right when we boarded (which thankfully phenergan took care of), it was pretty uneventful.  I actually slept at least 9 hours of the 15.5 hour flight.  They served us dinner at what was around 2:30 am our time and then breakfast at about 4:00 am Sydney time.  Neither made sense when you thought about it, but they were the right times according to my stomach.  I only even got in one movie and one episode of Glee on our little personal video databases.  This one was especially cool because in addition to lots of movies, tv shows, music, and video games you find on those things, this one also had books (both read to you and you could read on your screen), and lots of good travel information.  I watched a tourism video on Sydney and Adelaide, as well as looked through an abbreviated version of a Lonely Planet guide book.  It was a good refresher course since hadn’t looked at a guide book in months. 
We arrived in Sydney and went through our first customs check fairly quickly.  I have another stamp in my passport!  We had to declare our medicine and that some of our shoes were dirty and that we had been to a rural area in the last 30 days.  That trip to Indiana actually slowed us down way more than my Cimzia.  As an isolated island where agriculture is important, they are much more militant about whether you are tracking in insects or plants than anything else it seemed.  They even have dogs trained to sniff out produce and dairy and stuff like that. 
After the first customs gate, we collected our bags and discovered smart cartes were free, so we didn’t even have to debate whether or not we should pay for them.  It was a good thing, because we had to wait over an hour to get through the long line at quarantine.  They confirmed I had medicine, but didn’t ask what kind and didn’t care to see Cimzia, prescriptions, or anything.  They just said, okay, and sent me on.  They did ask Daniel what kinds of medicine he had.  He rattled off three or four, and they said, “We don’t know what any of those are.”  He informed them they were antidepressants, and they waved him on, too.  The longest time we spent in quarantine was actually for the mud on our shoes.  They actually took them away and hosed them down thoroughly.  I guess I can’t complain about a free cleaning off of caked on Carolina clay.  However, if the little space heater doesn’t dry them soon, I may have to look like a German tourist with my socks with sandals.  They said because there was a chance that some of the dirt might have been picked up in Indiana that they had to hose it down, even though we assured them we didn’t actually come in contact with any livestock.
Dirt free, we exited to the main part of the terminal.  We looked for Liam, the son-in-law that might or might not be there to pick us up.  All told, it was now 2 hours past our arrival time, so it was not shocking that we didn’t find anyone holding a sign for us, if he had ever been there.  We felt like hobbits, so we had second breakfast at McDonalds.  We had the Mates Brekkie Box, which was two sausage mcmuffins, hashbrowns, and coffee for me and soda for him.  I realized I forgot to ask for cream or anything, but I guess there coffee automatically means latte, so I was fine with that.  Our friend Elizabeth told us the meat tastes a bit different here, and it did.  I don’t know if it was just beef sausage or the different kind of beef she was talking about (slightly more gamey—think venison).  Still it was plenty tasty.  We got in line for a taxi.  This felt very much like America as it was an immigrant driving a big old Ford.  He was nice, and charged us what my research said he would charge.  The very first restaurant we saw outside of the airport was a Krispy Kreme.  That was a shock, but certainly a pleasant one.  We don’t even have those in the Northern part of the States, so I was taken aback that it was here.  Lots of McDonalds, KFC, and all those other fast food chains we are familiar with, too.  It was rainy and a bit cold—probably 50s.  Sydney reminds me a lot of LA.  Large sprawling city with palm trees and Spanish style architecture—again, a surprise.  Cronulla is a southeast suburb, and looks pretty much like any suburb.  We found the apartment and got the keys from the letterbox without incident. 
I have showered and feel human again.  Daniel is snoring away in bed.  The apartment is simple and clean and will do us fine.  However, if there is a thermostat to turn on the heat, we can’t find it anywhere.  There’s plenty of blankets and a down comforter, so the bed is warm, and there’s a little space heater for the living room, but it’s a mite chilly.  I’m glad I packed my slippers at the last minute. 
I had fun rummaging around the kitchen.  When I left, I had oyster sauce and shrimp paste in my fridge, to name some of the weird ingredients I have on hand.  I was very surprised to find oyster sauce and shrimp paste in the fridge here, too!  We both apparently have a passion for Asian food.  In fact, most of her ingredients are for Asian or Indian food.  It’s a good thing I know what they are, because half of it isn’t labeled, and I’m not sure too many people would know what black mustard and fengueek seeds look like.  She’ll have a good time with my kitchen then, including my entire cabinet of Indian spices and 660 curries cookbook.  No cookbooks here, so we’ll see what I come up with.  She does have a couple Bill Bryson’s I haven’t read and CDs I actually like (Harry Connick, Jr. and Michael Buble).   There’s even Chris Issak and Roberta Flack for Daniel’s somewhat eclectic taste.   Oh, and I had to mention, Lindsey, that there is Vegamite and it smells disgusting.  I’ll try to be brave and try it at least once.  Amber, you’ll never believe it, so I took a picture, but she has Grandma’s molasses in her pantry.  I guess you could live here.
Well, this is already astronomically long.  A prize to you if you made it all the way through.  Daniel should be up soon, and then we can go grocery shopping.


  1. I've been checking your blog all day to see if there were updates - I'm glad to see your pics (and Daniel's sleeping head) so I can get an idea of where you are. It's way past my bedtime, so I need to read the blog post tomorrow. I already miss you tons.

  2. Such a fun travel recap! I love your humor and can picture your fun walking to the terminals, enjoying the tea, and dealing with security. I hope the credit card tickets work out. Have fun acclimating and exploring!

  3. Here, here - Southwest love!
    And I am a fan that McD in Australia has something called "Mates Brekkie Box". I'd love to see a picture if you come across it again.
    Congrats on making it through the shoe hose-down. TSA is funny about what they care about, when they're super-serious, and when they're acting like teenagers. I love the Segway-riding TSA agents in San Jose, CA.

  4. Sarah, a Brekkie Box, sometimes spell Brekky contains 2 sausage egg mcmuffins, 2 hash browns, and either a latte or a child size coke. They also have lunch/dinner Mates boxes. They include an Angus burger, a quarter pounder with cheese, tray fry (think even bigger than a supersize), and 10 chicken nuggets and 2 child sized drinks (that's pretty much the only size they have, no refills). I have no idea why they throw in the nuggets, but I'm not complaining.