Thursday, April 25, 2013

Norway: Energizer Bunnies

Back at it again, and violating the rules of starting a new trip before the blog of the last one (and the one before that for that matter) is finished, but oh well.

We began Tuesday evening with a relatively easy, low drama flight to San Francisco.  We overnighted at the Hyatt Regency airport where we used a suite upgrade to upgrade to the super large, very nice, yet subtly weird suites they have there.  The suite has an enormous living room (or parlor, as the check in agent called it) connected to a bedroom with 2 double beds that is a normal hotel room.  The weird part is that all suites are apparently on the 2nd floor (of 9).  Some have balconies that are shared... with the next room.  The room next to ours was inhabited by someone else - don't walk out of the bathroom naked or anything....  This particular suite has magnificent views overlooking the back of the lobby bar/restaurant, with such sights as the garbage can rack, the pop fountain, and those elaborate restaurant cash registers.

But I get ahead of myself.  Let it never be said that I am the only one who makes mistakes - my husband left the our checked bags at the shuttle bus stop at the airport and had to frantically ride back around with the hilarious and helpful Chinese driver to get them ("Next time you count bags!  One! Two! Three! Four!")  Meanwhile, I showed up at the Diamond check-in counter without the Diamond in tow, but with a boy on my shoulders and a sleepy girl in the stroller.  Checking us in was no problem (she never even asked for my ID, let alone T's, which I was carrying).  She was making eyes at Andrew, and offered us complimentary cookies and milk, which I readily accepted.  She said, "Tell your husband I'm giving him the bonus points as well as the food amenity."  I thought she was talking about the cookies, but she then handed me the standard Diamond amenity selection card!  So we got chips, dip, hummus, and two iced teas in addition to our cookies and milk!

After winding down, sleep there went pretty well with D and T in the bedroom beds and C and I in the living room (uh, parlor) in a pack and play and the pull out couch, respectively.  It was a short night, though, and we woke up tired.  I figured this would help us on the ensuing red-eye (ha.).

We'd been worried about our tight connection in Chicago (like 36 minutes) so we were debating how to request a reroute, when it appeared that there'd been an equipment swap to an international 777 on SFO-ORD.  And we weren't on the upgrade list (thanks, SHARES).  It took T about 45 minutes of haggling at the check-in counter to get them to add us to the list (which should be an automated process) and get three of us upgraded instantly.  Then after hurrying to the gate, C appeared as #2 on the upgrade list with two seats remaining.  We advised the gate agent that we were present and accounted for whenever she was going to clear that upgrade, and then got read the riot act about something having to do with being entitled elites who expect the upgrades (which sounded to me like quite the Continental attitude coming from this PMUA gate crew - the assimilation is working?).  This then turned into the agent insisting that C was actually #7 on the list, refusing to even look at the monitor, telling us that the computer systems aren't synced up (? - this give me great confidence in the airline right there), and eventually forcing us to board with C as a lap child after all.  Drama.

It wasn't over though, because we got to Chicago and our ORD-YYZ flight was already delayed so that our tight connection in Chicago was now fine...  but robbing Peter to pay Paul means that we now were going to have a tight connection in Toronto.  We huffed it over to the ORD-FRA United flight to beg to get on it, though it was closing in a matter of minutes.  After a few minutes of giving us the Easy Answer ("Nothing we can  do... can't be separated from your bags...  FAA."), it finally clicked in one agent's head when T said, "So who do we need to talk to when we misconnect in Toronto?" that this really was about to be a huge mess, so she called Luthansa to get the ticket endorsed over to United and put us on the flight.  So we were Those People who boarded last and clearly were the cause of the flight delay.  (Can't blame the sequester and the cuts to ATC for this one!)  But with the tail winds, the flight was a fast one and we all got in an hour early anyway.

The flight started well enough with meals and shows and all that.  We put the kids in jammies, and expected the best after our short night previous.  But C wanted to climb me like a rock climber on a crag, and D fell asleep for about an hour before just watching Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood over and over for the rest of the flight.  And I got a migraine, which was miraculously the first time that had ever happened on an international flight.

When we hit the ground an hour early in Frankfurt, we realized that we had the chance to make it on the morning flight to Bergen - but we'd have to hurry, we had just over an hour to make it happen.  The alternative was a 7 hour layover in Frankfurt with non-sleeping babies, so I'd say we were sufficiently motivated.  We found an angelic United agent who changed the flights and wished us luck, then had to stop at the Lufthansa transfer desk to get boarding passes.  While T handled that, I asked the information dude the fastest way to get to A52.  He said 'where are you going?'  I said Bergen.  He said, "That flight is going to close at 10:00.  It's 9:40.  Ma'am, I must advise you that with your family, it will take 30 minutes at least to get there."  I simply said, "We'll run."  He tried again: "Ma'am, you don't understand.  This isn't an American airport.  This is like a small city.  To go that far in this amount of time.... impossible."

Well... you should know not to say the word "impossible" to any American, let alone a member of this family.  We took off like a shot.  Through passport control, over to Concourse A, through the family security checkpoint, where they are without fail the nicest security agents ever (they held C for us through the whole process!), and into Concourse A.  As we rounded the corner into the A50-A69 hallway, the clock read 9:52.  I thought - "We're golden!"  T grabbed our stack of boarding passes and ran on ahead to the gate where they accosted him with "Where have you been?  In the lounge??"  (T:  "Does it LOOK like I've been relaxing in the lounge *while wiping the sweat from his brow after a not-quite-all-out sprint through 3 terminals!*) but they shooed us onto the bus which rolled up to a little CRJ-700 parked out far out on the tarmac right next to... the United 777 we had just disembarked.  Hot, sweaty, exhausted, and headachy, we were completely triumphant.

The flight to Bergen was as pleasant as it could be under the circumstances.  Considering we were supposed to be on the afternoon flight, the whole situation resulted in us getting in 6 hours early!  We easily arranged for our poor misconnected bags to be delivered to the hotel and then found the bus to the city center.  We found our hotel and all four of us were tired enough to delightfully crash all at the same time for a few hours, and had high hopes of this being "nap" and being able to go to sleep at an adjusted time.

As I write this it is currently 12:15am in Bergen and our kids are showing no intention of slowing down.  One hour of sleep last night, what?  No!  Let's play trains!

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