Thursday, September 27, 2012

Poland Departure and UK Arrival

Although Wednesday was my last official day in Poland, it was pretty much going to work and then waiting for the plane to take off.  My group at work got me a t-shirt, though, and that was unexpected and sweet of them.  Other than that, the day was pretty typical.

My last night in the city center of Kraków, on the other hand, was Tuesday evening.  I had dinner with John at the Sukiennice terrace restaurant on this clear, barely-autumn evening. The terrace restaurant provides a great view of the eastern half of the main square.  It's so good that during the day they charge a cover, otherwise it would be overrun with tourist-photographers.  During the evening, though, it hardly seems like anyone knows about it.

After awhile, John's sister-in-law Ewa and cousin-in-law Karolina joined us at the restaurant, where I was able to get this picture of the four of us together.

I flew Ryanair to Stansted airport (28 miles north of London) at 10PM on Wednesday.  Ryanair is a low-budget Irish airline known for advertising stunningly low fares and then giving you every fee known to mankind in order to get the ticket up to what it should actually cost.  They would be great for weekend trips around Europe.  I got away with only one fee (a checked bag, but within the weight limit), and so my fare, in total, is still pretty good.  However, one cannot, say, reserve a seat without paying a fee for it.  Thus, you just get on the plane and find a seat.  Also, forget about anything free during the flight.

On Facebook, I posted that "flying on Ryanair is like browsing the internet without a pop-up blocker."  If you've flown on this airline, you know exactly what I mean.  If not, let me explain:

  • The inside of Ryanair's plane had many advertisements.  The overhead bins were covered with ads for a visit to Rome and the drink cart.
  • When I first boarded the plane, I was surprised to hear one of the Brandenburg concertos playing over the speaker.  Then, periodically, the nice music was interrupted for an announcement, usually regarding the upcoming drink cart service.
  • There wasn't just a (pay) drink cart offered during the flight.  In-flight sales pitches for food and drink, perfume/aftershave, and scratch-off lottery tickets all happened for roughly the first 75 minutes of the flight.
  • The landing was immediately followed by (loud) trumpets and an advertisement explaining why Ryanair was awesome and you should never fly with anyone else.  Sure.
You could tell the flight crew had basically been beaten into submission of all this shameless advertising.  I mean, they have a captive audience that just saved a bunch of money on their fare, surely they want to buy some scratch-off tickets whilst flying.  I will never complain about Delta's SkyMall again.

Also, the seats were very, very cramped.  For my shorter friends, this would have been fine, but there was basically no way for me to sit without my knees hitting the seat in front of me.  Fortunately, the seats do not recline.  I expected this flight to be less-than-fun, but it came out pretty well, actually.  I was still happy to stand up after two hours.

As I was walking into the UK airport, I kept thinking, "it's in English!  All the signs are in (only) English!"  Then I was introduced to a very important British word: queue.  The queue (line) for the immigration was painfully long.  It was also like 12:30 AM for me, so that made it seem longer.  I got through, despite filling out a couple lines incorrectly on the form, and the immigration agent was very pleasant and helpful for it being almost midnight.  I'm pretty sure he thinks I'm making up that I'm an actuary, though.

I stayed overnight at the Radisson Blu hotel attached to the Stansted airport.  Although it's slightly (~$20) more than other hotels in the area, I knew I would be dead and need to basically fall over into a bed.  Radisson may have actually given up on my coming there, as it appears they gave away all of the type of room I booked.  Then, they became awesome, because they upgraded me to a suite for no cost. I basically have two rooms to myself.  Here are some pictures (sorry for the mess).

Radisson wins.  I'm impressed.  I owe them another stay at one of their other hotels.

Today is mostly a travel day.  I have a late-morning train which takes almost six hours to get up to Edinburgh (pronounced "Edinburough"), and I'll arrive there a little after 5PM.  


Courtney (Quartny) Thornberry said...

Let the UK experience begin!!
See you soon!!

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