Zen (or not) and the art of international air travel and food

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    There is nothing like travel to broaden the mind. After an excruciating trip which entailed going through immigration once, 3 security checks involving removing all fluids from hand luggage and putting computers and tablets in trays, and, depending on the country, removing shoes, although I never left the airport environment the whole time, after opting out of having a full body scan in those vertical MRI like machines ( no longterm safety data on those machines, I’m not just being ornery, they used to xray feet to do shoe fittings, until radiation risks became known)   leading to a friendly full body pat- down, truly expertly performed by a taciturn Floridian, who talked me through the procedure every step of the way. Well trained. Although sentences like “ma’am I will now pat down your buttocks..” Made me, an eternal teenager at heart I guess, want to giggle ( or maybe I was just tired. After checking in my luggage twice and filling in all my information using a friendly machine, thinking this will speed up the process, only to find myself at the back of a queue of about 200 people clutching a computer print-out, certifying my fingerprints have been taken and bearing a black and white image of a startled me after  12 hours of plane travel. Using the machine only to then have to hand in the paper to a border guard after queing, and wondering,to myself, why the machines are there, if I still need to talk to a person…I finally  arrived in sunny Florida ( well it was dark, but the air was balmy). Another 30 mins queuing at avis and another 30 minutes and a phone call to my bank at 4 am european time  in order to figure out how to get money from suntrust ( us atms dont recognise european cards which have more security features than their us counterparts ( said my bank lady! Don’t shoot the messenger) I managed to get money from an atm for the tolls I’d need to pay according to the nice young man at Avis – there were none en route to my hotel…) another 40 minutes to get me a new gps because the first one i got didnt work, i was on my way.  15 hours door to door and i am here! Voila!  I thought my troubles are over till I tried to get breafast – coffee ( what size madam?) – soy milk, no problem,  caesar salad ( my body tells me its 3 pm) and salad dressing. Me ” can i get olive oil and vinegar?”, the nice lady in the cafe ” italian dressing?”, me “no just olive oil and vinegar, thanks”, the nice lady ” ok, italian then?”, me “no, can I just get olive oil … Never mind – italian is fine..”. The dressing contains olive oil and vinegar and sugar and soybean oil. Fittingly to eat my salad i am sitting under a coupola, next to a fountain ( plastic rocks..) in a food court that is an imitation of an Italian Square ( cotto fiorentino tiles)  if an Italian square were airconditioned.. I have tried to find a botanical garden or a park, the concierge redirected me to a) a real park 1 hour drive away b) swim with dolphins, all food included, theme park with some walks c) gator land – real live gator wrestling (…….) – quote it’s loads of fun ( I smiled very nicely) d) action park with ropes and other fun things … I found an orchid garden and asked about that –  its 40 minutes away – she said apologetically, round here it’ s all entertainment, if you want nature you’ ll need to drive at least an hour…….when asked about shopping, back on terra firma, she brightened visibly. So hiho hiho it’s off to shop I go ( cannot face gator wrestling).


23 thoughts on “Zen (or not) and the art of international air travel and food

  1. My, Florida is going to be a shock to the system.:) Theme park heaven. It is college spring break time so may be best time to avoid some of the major beach towns unless you want to see young American college students on their worst behavior.

    • 🙂 – ive been before – twice or even three times 2 conferences, once holiday in key west, everglades beautiful and key west has a quiet charm, visited disney world, too, since sleeping a bit and finding some stuff i cant buy in europe im feeling a lot more cheerful 🙂 – students on spring break ( plane was full of them, would hate to be the parents worrying about them 🙂 – and you are right – avoid at all costs !! Thx for stoppong by and commenting greetings from a sportsbar with the biggest screen ive ever seen and another salad with sugary sauce 🙂 but lovely staff !

  2. I’ll be honest, all of that just adds to me being quite happy staying in my own home and space!!! Since my last trip to Abu Dhabi in October, I could very happily never fly again!
    I hope it keeps getting better xx

  3. Ugh! Not the greatest sample of America. Between strip malls, chain restaurants, and the election cycle you’re in for a real “treat” (said with much sarcasm and disappointment.) Hope you are able to find some authenticity as well as extra virgin olive oil and vinegar! 😉

    • truly not – although apparently it’s a prime vacation destination and I keep meeting people who came here for their honeymoon so overall it does seem to be well loved. Chain restaurants – true, I made the mistake of not going to a place called the rusty spoon, in favour of texmex…in a Walt Disneys Celebration – nothing to celebrate sadly…but as always it’s the people that make a difference and i’ve met some really lovely individuals and so am reconciled to the fact that i am staying in a hotel with fountains and manicured tulips under a glass cupola and gators (feeding tuesdays and sundays at 6.30) – that could be anywhere in the world…:)

  4. Oh Poli– I agree with Elaine– it’s enough to make you want to just stay home!!! Hope the rest of the stay in Florida was warm and wonderful! Keep coming west to my house. I’ll give you oil and vinegar!

    • Hi Rhonda – thank you :)! it is enough to make you want to stay at home, a Floridian recommended I go to a shooting range to experience true Florida (he was joking) but I gave that a miss too. I once shot a machine gun in Israel (in the desert at rocks) and still remember the kick back and the force and the fact that it really scared me. Good experience to have though (always provided you are not shooting at people), makes the whole gun thing less abstract. I did end up finding olive oil and vinegar – and will restrict my flights for pleasure to the east or the west coast, or utah where I have some friends or if I am in Florida, it’s going to be Southern florida – everglades key west and such. Take care and have a wonderful Easter. Poli

      • Traveling is always an interesting experience (and gives you stories to tell!). And I’m impressed with the machine gun story!! I’ve never been within arms length of a gun. — Hope you have a warm and wonderful Easter there… blessings. xo

      • Stories to tell – true – I met some lovely people on my trip, as always, even queuing on the way back at British Airways and having to wait until I was issued a handwritten boarding pass (their computer systems were down, they were upgraded 1 year ago and since then they crash at regular intervals..) I met some great people! Regarding guns – I’ve been close to 2 – one in the desert and another one in Israel where the army owner showed me how to take apart for cleaning and put back together – both times I found them frightening. we still have my granddads Swiss Army rifle in the basement too – all polished wood, it’s so much of an antique that it’s not really scary..

  5. Welcome to US, Poli – yes, many things are not ideal here (all the airport security and customs are some of the worst, unfortunately). Depending on where you are, food etc. options will vary dramatically – overall, it is significantly improved over the past few years and if you want to eat organic/vegan/vegetarian, you will find lots of choices.
    By the way, I do like Gator Land – you can skip the crocodile wrestling, but as a nature sanctuary, I find it quite interesting. Also if you like nature, Everglades are highly recommended.
    Are you going to make it up the coast may be to New York?

    • Hey there Anatoli – I felt bad commenting and I was really tired – I know there are some great spots in the US – California has one of my favourite little restaurants – the Plant cafe in SF, SF has some wonderful food – and people, outside the so called service industry, are really helpful (a man helped me pull my luggage at the airport, I could have done it myself but he kindly offered, which I found touching) – some aspects of life just seem solidly stuck in the stone age – processing queues at the airport is one of those – my mind always balks at this considering the fact that the US has some of the most advanced technologies and research in the world in many areas….I have been to Key West (which is gorgeous) and the Everglades, very beautiful and I would like to go back some time. had I but asked you all for recommendations before I flew I would have gone to visit gatorland…ah well, if I am not lucky I will end up at another conference in Florida in the years to come and I will then prepare earlier. Sadly just quick flight there and back this time, although NY is always worth a visit – oh the food .)!!

  6. Dhahaha! You made me laugh! I am in South Korea now after two long haul flights, trains, taxis and at last my daughter’s face after 39 hours travel. Yup! And not in an English speaking country. I will not try for olive oil and balsamic, no, no too tired. I have tried to order without raw onion, raw egg and half a bucketload of garlic but even though the reply is always friedly, I have yet to manage. Google translate is helping. Sometimes. Enjoy the sun and the shopping. And of course the Italian dressing. I suspect airport security will become more tedious with all the goings on in this here world of ours.

    • Hey – 🙂 great for you. S korea sounds like the US (florida at least). Replies always friendly but achieving goals is a struggle – queued business for one hour and a half – because IT system was down, they wrote the boarding pass by hand – I kid you not. Business line didnt move until i pointed out we were cordoned off (while eco was zipping through). Flight at 9pm at airport at 6 pm took me until 8.30 to drop bags and clear security. The day started out with me asking for late checkout ( i tried calling reception last night to ask but was told sweetly – sorry we cannot say yes or no for late checkout till tomorrow ( it was 11pm..) you must call us in the morning… This morning I was told sweetly – of course we can give you late checkout- instead of 11am we will give you a complimentary extra hour till noon… I pointed out that noon is regular checkout in most of ex-us and that the usual process for late checkout is, in many hotels that consider themselves “high class and customer focused” – starts with the question : what time would work for you madam..
      I know losing the battle. I will add more in a postmortem blog – florida license plates read ” in god we trust” – considering the dismal state of affairs I ve experienced in the past 5 days I fully understand the sentiment, under the circumstances, its the very best approach to trust in a higher power. ( if course its always the best approach but seeing as little seems to work seamlessly here faith is ubdoubtedly the way to go 🙂 – God willing i will board my flight in 20 mins have a drink and go to sleep and hopefully arrive home soon and safely!

      • So glad you are safe. Paranoid but what can we do. Tuesday my turn to return. I go in the ” i am definitely not flying in this thing” mode. Have a stunning Easter weekend. We are off to Seoul in the morning.

      • Thank you – I was at the airport in line, when we suddenly noticed a lone backpack near us. A woman in line with me said – it was a young man, he sat eating a sandwich and then walked off..we stood there thinking – probably nothing, but what if it is something? Do I stay here, or not? At some point a teenager saunters back with inimitable nonchalance and picks up the pack (obviously hasn’t read any recent newspapers..) – I know you don’t like to fly either – for me it depends on stress levels, if not overly stressed by other stuff it’s ok. I hate being in small spaces – I fly myself business – which makes the whole thing better. Also fast track makes it all more livable. The whole queueing with the hundreds is too overwhelming…..have a peaceful and safe trip too. Take care Poli

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