You Get What You Pay For

It began with a couple of email alerts, informing me that I would be flying on a different aircraft than originally planned, and thus my flight from San Francisco to Reykjavik would depart earlier than normal; this, in contrast with what SFO's website said. That was the first warning.

Ultimately the scheduled departure time was irrelevant, because the crew inexplicably rolled up an hour late, and without them we couldn't board. Once seated, however, we had to queue on the runway before taking off. I was due to catch a connecting flight to Berlin at 6am local time (at that point our estimated arrival was 5am). The other two passengers in my row had connections to Amsterdam and Paris, all slated for about the same time as mine.

I asked a crew member partway through the eight-hour flight whether those of us needing to make connections could disembark first. He claimed that it wouldn't make a difference (false) because Keflavik Airport is small and only takes "10 minutes" to pass through security and passport control to get to the other gates (also false), and since the flights were operated by the same airline (Wow Air, a misnomer if I've ever heard one), they ought to wait for us (true for some passengers but not me).

In Keflavik, a former US military base.

Shit really hit the fan, though, when the captain announced that we would need to stop to refuel, adding another forty or so minutes to the delay. I didn't catch the name of the airport, but it was somewhere in Canada so remote that I didn't have the cellphone service required to confirm our location.

We finally landed in Keflavik, strong winds gently rocking the plane like a boat while we anxiously waited to disembark and learn our fate. I'm fairly certain my seatmates made their flights. The unlucky ones, myself included, were treated to a series of conflicting instructions from the airline staff. First we went to the service counter inside security, as per the cabin crew's advice. There, they told us to head to baggage claim, where the staff said to head out through customs, where a staff member would meet us.

Eventually an agent arrived with a stack of vouchers for us to spend the night at a nearby hotel and have a few meals, as the next available flight out was the following morning. It took the taxi driver a solid five minutes to get the barrier to raise allowing us to exit onto the main road (picture the car approaching and reversing repeatedly like in a Looney Tunes cartoon). 

Near the hotel we stayed at for the night.

By the time we reached the hotel, nestled within what used to be an active US military base, it was 8am. Check-in was not officially for another six hours, but the receptionist took pity on us and gave us rooms as they were cleared by housekeeping.

I've often said that while my anger passes quickly, my disappointment can last forever. So, yes, this morning I was absolutely prepared to curse people out (which is embarrassing and shameful because I also work in the service industry), but ultimately resigned myself to the new circumstances beyond my control. It was my choice, after all, to book through a budget airline, and when you skimp on cost like that you welcome unreliability. 

 

 

Dearly Beloved

Three years ago, today, my grandmother passed away. Of course she lives on in our hearts and memories, but in terms of the tangible - evidence of a life well-lived, there isn't very much left.

For Christmas we gave my grandfather a collage frame that holds seven photos, and only when we were trying to fill it with pictures of her did we realize just how scarce they are. Oh, we had photos from her youth, and when my brother and I were children, but none from the last five years of her life.

I'll never forget her soft wrinkly skin, bright lipsticked smile, and snowy white hair, but I wish that I had something to hold and to look at instead of closing my eyes and willing my brain to conjure a likeness that inevitably becomes less accurate as time goes on.

Junior or senior year of high school my best friend and I went to California to visit Stanford's campus. I had recently purchased my very first DSLR - the Canon Rebel XTi, whose myriad megapixels I quickly discovered was able to elevate even the most uninspired scenes into something passably interesting. Consequently, I shot everything and anything. 

Here we are in the dining room of my grandparents' house. The fluorescent lighting was - and still is - shit. But she was laughing, demure as always, asking me why I was photographing her. I remember the entire incident and the resulting picture so vividly. And yet, my mind is the only place in which it exists now.

I fired up my old Macbook, hoping against hope, that the hard drive held a copy of the photo that Facebook and Flickr did not. But, no, clearly I must have deleted it at some point.

I would gladly give up the hundreds of photos from my travels around the world just to have that one back; to be able to print it out and place it in the collage frame.

We take so much for granted these days - that everything is automatically backed up, fail safe and fool proof but, most of all, that there will be more time. So even though my brother and I are on a campaign for our parents to reduce the amount of things in their house, I made a photo book of our Europe trip for my dad.

Because at some point there won't be any more tomorrows. Tomorrow is today, and today is for holding your loved ones close and telling them how much they mean to you.

The 3 C's

1. Caernarfon, the first stop after leaving Holyhead Port in northern Wales. 

Of the many castles built in the late 1200s by the English, Caernarfon's is the most impressive. Most of the towers are accessible via tightly spiraling stairs with tiny steps and a rope to hold onto, as are the ramparts around the perimeter.

View of Caernarfon Castle.

View of Caernarfon from the castle.

2. Conwy, the walled market town near our accommodation.

Most of the wall remains and is accessible. Fun fact: it was built by the English to protect themselves from the locals (i.e. the Welsh lived outside the wall). Conwy Castle is more well-preserved (archways and windows remain) than the others, but smaller than Caernarfon's. Other places of interest within the old town include the smallest house in Great Britain and St. Mary and All Saints' Church.

We also spent a lovely afternoon strolling around Bodnant Garden, an 80-acre property founded in 1874.

Portion of the wall surrounding Conwy.

Manor (still privately owned) and pool at Bodnant Garden.

3. Caer Rhun Hall, the Grade II-listed manor that was home base for this portion of the trip.

We originally booked two separate singles, but dad got upgraded to what we surmise was the honeymoon suite replete with bay window with love seat overlooking the gardens. (I let him have that one because he took the foldout couch at our Dublin Airbnb). At this time of year there weren't many other guests, though at breakfast we met a long-term resident - a local woman who was staying there while her house was being repaired.

It's also a popular wedding venue.

Lobby near the entrance.

See more photos of Conwy and Caernarfon here.

Dublin in Photos

When establishing the itinerary for this trip I had to choose between Dublin and Edinburgh for our starting point. I don't remember why I chose the former (maybe flights from Stockholm were cheaper), but I'm glad I did.

I was expecting a smaller version of London with nicer people and weirder accents, but oversimplifying the Irish capital that way would be doing the city a disservice. It's grittier than Stockholm, for sure - we may or may not have passed a trio huddled around a lit candle doing crack cocaine on the sidewalk one afternoon, but charming and beautiful in its own way what with all the cute houses, brightly painted doors, and sweeping public parks. The gaudy nightlife mecca Temple Bar is much less quaint, though I did enjoy catching a screening of The Killing of a Sacred Deer at the Irish Film Institute there. Most of the city's main attractions are within easy walking distance but, for the ones that aren't, the bus system is one of the best I've ever used. (And the buses have free wifi and charging stations!)

Dublin's food scene is much more Seattle or Portland than San Francisco, which I dread returning home to now that I know that there are places in the world where I can get just as good a meal at a fraction of the price. Highlights: beer-battered fish and chips at Fish Shop, classic pastas at Terra Madre, and the three-course prix fixe dinner for €27 at Camden Kitchen (because nearby Richmond was fully booked).

Some photos below. See the rest on Flickr.

Statue outside Christ Church Cathedral.

John's Lane Church, near our Airbnb.

John Dillon Street.

The Long Room at Trinity College.

St. Patrick's Park.

Interior of Kilmainham Gaol.