All in Travel
Forget the fact that LaGuardia is dirty, run down and staffed by mostly churlish service staff, it is managed like a poorly run factory. Returning from New York today, I was turned back by security at LaGuardia (the most surly, unpleasant security people in a cohort of service people who are not known for their charm) because I was carrying a small tube of Kiehl’s after-shave cream in my carry-on bag. It was apparently too large for LaGuardia’s standards, although not for the airport in Toronto at which I had no problem with the same bag and the same tube. (Would cooperation across North America among airport authorities on standards not be attainable in some fashion?)
I had to return to the Air Canada desk to check the bag. But it turns out that under a new Air Canada ticketing policy, you have to decide at the time of ticket purchase whether you are checking bags. Since I was going to New York for about 24 hours, of course I had not intended to check a bag. So, what does Air Canada make me do? Pay an additional $75 to have the bag checked. Remember, I managed to get through the Toronto airport without a problem. Having agreed to pay the $75, the Air Canada computers went down. I waited ten more minutes while that problem was solved.
Okay, it continues. I asked the Air Canada desk clerk for a complaint form. (Why bother I don’t know because Air Canada hasn’t answered my complaint from last April.) The clerk couldn’t find any, so he disappeared for another ten minutes to look for one. Finding none, he did manage to give me a number to which I am now supposed to fax a complaint.
I’ll complain, but until more of us do, nothing will change.
Try the Cookshop restaurant at 156 10th Avenue. Great duck breast; fabulous spicy fires, and even more spicy squid. The feeling is youthful; the price manageable.
The streets of London on a Saturday are thronged. Imagine Fifth Avenue on a warm spring evening, and then double or triple the number of people shopping. And it's like that wherever you go in this city. Every restaurant and pub seems packed at lunch time. People stand in groups outside pubs sipping pints in the warm sunshine. (No way that would be allowed in Toronto.) Others sit in outdoor cafes nursing espressos, lattes and, of course, cups of tea even though the temperature is only about 11 degrees celsius. Even walking alone, it's hard to feel lonely.
I also took some pictures some of which I will post when I get home. They aren't the standard tourist shots . . . a close up of the London School of Economics (LSE) which, were I younger and not already over-credentialed, would be my destination for another degree; a shot of the Fleet Street and Old Bailey street signs; a view of the Covent Garden market.
The only drawback to London is the cost, although there are some good sales on right now. Let me give you just one example . . . a taxi to Heathrow comes in at about C$120.00! Steak in a good -- but not luxurious -- restaurant costs upwards of C$35. I guess that's why everyone seems to eat a lot of pub food.
Not sure what it means . . . but I do love football (soccer) and I have bought the Dawkins' book to read on the flight home.
I am not going to let this go . . . so I hope that Air Canada is using Technorati to track blog references and that the airline eventually figures out that someone should get back to me with an apology -- and explanation -- as a minimum.
Once again the feeling is the fault of a film, a sad little Spanish film by Imanol Uribe called Carol's Journey set during the Spanish Civil War. Nothing about it should really drive memories of France, except the cobblestones, the exquisite old buildings, the sense of an immediate past . . . but it does.
I don't intend to malign the three b's of North America -- backyards, barbecues and beer. It's just that there are more complete ways (and places) to live, where history has intense and personal meaning, where food and wine sing.
The fact that I nearly always choose an Air Canada flight makes no difference to the airline or its customer service and retention policies. I'm never "upgraded" as I sometimes am in hotels. They offer no perquisites; no special recognition gifts; not even a slightly better meal nor the occasional free glass of wine.
But a real test of its customer service is now underway. On a recent flight to London I was served a gluten free meal, as I must because of an intolerance to wheat, rye, oats and barley (Celiac Disease for those medically minded). The gluten free meal is usually more tasteless than even regular airline food, but on a seven hour flight you need something to calm the grumbling.
The gluten free meal on this flight was the ubiquitous dry chicken on a bed of PASTA. Of course, I can't eat pasta as you know it. So I assumed this was rice or corn pasta, which I know are both available. The meal was plainly labelled gluten free.
NOT. Within one hour of eating it I threw up three times. The flight attendant told me to fill out the airline's standard complaint form (not offering me anything by way of compensation), which I did and mailed it on my return. (You have to pay for postage!) . . . Now I wait!
By the way, the meal on the return flight was super. It even included a real dessert (instead of the usual tiny, and immeasurably boring, fruit cup) some delicious dense rice bread and gluten free chocolates. I was the envy of my seat mates.
Oh yes . . . that return flight was on Lufthansa from Frankfurt.
A little prosaic I guess, but not a bad agenda for a 36-hour business trip on a Sunday and Monday in January. Oh yes . . . of course Bloom's Jesus and Yaweh: The Names Divine comes along for the plane flight since I am still wading through it!