Let me be honest from the onset: I love to travel (I bet you didn't know that.), and a lot of my whining is just getting the little agitations off my chest. To tell the truth, life would be quite boring if everything were perfect, wouldn't it?
As you might remember, this week, Aer Lingus upgraded me to business class for the overseas portion of the trip. It didn't come without cost, but the cost was minimal, and I was more than willing to pay it since my body is still recovering from my fall last week. All I could think of was the fact that I could stretch out and lie flat during the overseas portion of the flight.
Mike was a bit more concerned with what I was going to eat. In addition to the new 7:10 AM departure time, I also am still having a problem chewing. Mike packed me a few mini donuts that I could gum, but he was worried that I wouldn't find anything during the stopover in Chicago.
Well, enter the perks of business class with Aer Lingus! Included was the business class lounge (for several airlines) and a "help yourself to anything you want" allowance. Included were a bar full of breakfast items (that included hot soup) and coffee, cappuccino, latte, and espresso; two refrigerators stocked with drinks (soft, white wine, and beer), sandwiches, salads, yogurt, pudding, cheeses; a bar stocked with about 20 liquors, wine, ice, cheese, crackers, peanuts, and more; and magazines and newspapers from around the globe. Wifi was free, too, and the seats were comfortable.
(Note to myself for the next trip anywhere: Use the wheeled backpack and save your shoulders, arms, back, and neck.)
At any rate, being in the lounge was great for several reasons, not the least of which was people watching. If you look at the photo below, you'll see an older woman on the left, and a gal in blue shirt getting something out of the cabinet. They're both concierges in the lounge, and I swear that if someone took one pack of cookies or peanuts from a bowl, they immediately replaced it. There was another person who stocked the refrigerators, and when someone took a beer or sandwich, he immediately put another one in its place. When a passenger put dirty cups or dishes in the bin, one of the concierges grabbed them and took them away within two or three minutes.
The seats alone (with the Bailey's, of course) made the whole thing worth it for me. Apparently, Chicago O'Hare hasn't figured out that their long-haul overseas flights are pretty booked, and there are not many seats at the gate. When the people in the lounge announced that our flight was boarding, we walked to the gate and found about 100 other passengers sitting on the floor or standing against the wall since there weren't enough seats for them to sit on.
The business class seats on Aer Lingus are a little different than on British Airways, the only other plane on which I've flown business. My pod (above) had a side table (You can see my computer and other crap on it.), a storage compartment, a pull-down table, a TV screen (See photo below of seats across from me.), and a seat that not only reclines fully but also has massage capability. The blanket that they give you is actually a comforter, and the pillow is larger than the normal airline pillow.
As soon as we boarded, the flight attendants took our jackets, hung them up, and brought us champagne, dinner menu, and a wifi code. After we took off, they did bar service—anything we wanted, so I took more champagne—and gave us sushi which I didn't want. Aer Lingus touts its business class dining saying that its chefs are world-reknown and the great food comes to us on trays covered with linen and on "real china." The three entree choices that we had were beef stew braised in Irish whiskey with peppers and potatoes, cider-braised chicken with rice and peas, and salmon with something or other. Gumming chicken is easier than gumming beef, and fish doesn't pass my lips, so chicken it was.
Looks tasty, doesn't it? (See photo below.) No offense, but when the flight attendant put it in front of me, I thought Riley had been in the Aer Lingus kitchen and given them what he'd had for supper the night before. The stew, which the guy across from me had, looked like a huge hunk of molten dark chocolate on chunks of something (You thought I was going to say something else, didn't you? Admit it.). I think I got the better deal. I closed my eyes and took a bite of mine, and it wasn't as bad as it looked. I probably enjoyed the rice and peas the most since I couldn't eat the salad.
If there is one thing I can complain about, it's Aer Lingus's lack of video offerings. I think that, in total, they had about 40 movies (all pretty old ones) and some TV stuff. Air Emirates, which I flew in May and July, has more than 2000 selections in coach. During dinner, I watched the Bourne Supremacy for, as Mike laughed, the 100th time, and then went to sleep.
The flight over the Atlantic was only about seven hours, and I'm not sure how much I really slept, but when I woke up, it was already close to 3:30 AM in Ireland. They gave us a breakfast snack and coffee (again on real china and linen), and as they cleared service, the coast of Ireland came into view (below).
Dublin Airport is a charming little place (compared to Las Vegas, Chicago, JFK, Heathrow), and the connection and all were easy. What amazed me was the fact that every restaurant and shop that I passed on my way from one terminal to the next was open. Open at 4:30 in the morning.
"They're not mine," I assured him.
"Are you sure? They're right where you are," he continued.
I stink-eyed him, opened the zipper on my purse, and flashed my passport at him. "I'm quite sure," I said and softened. "Thanks for your concern."
As I walked to my gate (305A), I noticed an older woman following me. She was quite confused. There are three gates at 305—the main one, and gates A and B. The main one is upstairs, and A and B are down two flights of stairs. The little lady hauled her baggage down the steps and into the A waiting room after me.
"Is this the gate for Naples?" she (American) asked me and the other woman (Irish) in there.
"No," we both said. "Milan."
"Are you sure?" the lady asked. "I'm sure my gate is 305A. That's what the sign said."
"This is the gate for Milan," the Irish lady said.
"I'm sure it said Naples was here," the American woman said as she started to open her purse.
"I think you read the wrong line," I said. "Milan was just above Naples. If you want to go upstairs and check, I'll watch your luggage." American woman was pulling everything out of her purse at this point.
"Oh, my GOD," she screamed. "I lost my passport and boarding pass." She was frantic.
"Did you go into a little store down the main hall?" I asked her. She nodded while she tore through her now-empty purse. "It's still there on the counter," I told her.
She stuffed everything in her purse haphazardly and hurried back up the stairs, dragging the luggage up a stair at a time while she swore loudly. The Irish lady shook her head. I shrugged my shoulders.
And I silently thanked heaven that I was awake enough to not have done the same thing.
Tomorrow: Back in Italy