After not having any water back home, I arrived in Knoxville to discover that my shower has a steady trickle of hot water... yet to be fixed by our landlord, but it was very welcome. I also discovered Santa Claus had forget to redirect his packages to Dundonald, so I discovered a bottle of Ribena, and a packet of Arabic Broad Beans from Egypt in the freezer. Santa knows that I have been trying very hard to find broad beans here, I can't even find them in a tin or in the freezer section... and I suspect from the packaging that Santa had to go somewhere special to find them... and they won't last long!
I confess it is nice to be home in Knoxville. I refer to home, because I guess it really is my home away from home. I absolutely adore my apartment to pieces. The journey this time was probably the hardest journey I have taken. I did not go to bed on Thursday night, because I was running around trying to find someone that would be mad enough to mind my dog... and luckily it worked out very well, a friend who seems to always come to the rescue recently, and definitely a friend that you cannot take for granted. I just hope that the little bladder problem Mollie (yes - Elizabeth... with an 'ie' ) doesn't get to bad!
So I packed in the small hours of the night, leaving my house at 330am for the 4am bus at the Europa. As we all waited in line for the bus, we suddenly noted the time was 410am, and so after waking the bus drived with a loud tap on the bus window...we got on route to Dublin Airport. Arriving just after 6am, I joined the already long queue, to check in. For those people that have never flow to America before from Dublin, it was certainly an experience... Firstly, to join the checkin line, you must present you passport which gets scanned on a portable laptop. The checkin lines are secure areas, so only those travelling are allowed in the line. After a 30 minute wait... I approached the desk, to be told my bad was 26kilos, 3 kilos above the free 23 kilo limit. I would have to pay either $200 or take 3 pairs of jeans out of my bag. As you can imagine, I had already crammed everything I could into my hand luggage. And so I had to open my luggage, and put a second jacket on to wear, and strap a coat and a pair of jeans to the top of my carry on sports bag.
As you can imagine, security was a nightmare. It took 4 trays for my belongings. Shoes, belt, laptop, 3 jackets, jeans, travel documents, - they all had to go through the xray machine. And then I held up the line as it took me at least 5 minutes to gather my stuff again.
Next I went to gate 306. A man checked my customs declaration form, and I went the stairs to the 'US Immigration and Border Control' where I joined a line and got interviewed on my purposes for travel, my visa verified, my fingers all digitally printed, and a photograph taken. The immigration office stamped my passport, and marked D/S which means I can stay for the Duration of Status of my visa, and I then entered gate 306 which had a sign saying 'Welcome to America' - now... that was very peculiar indeed.
|Delta Airlines Boeing 767's at the gate in Atlanta|
The flight, scheduled to leave at 850am, actually departed at 10am. The we had chicken potatoes and vegetables and fruit for breakfast. I was amused that the flight attendant I was 6ft woman with what appeared to be a wig, and man hair on her knuckles and arms. Most of the flight was uneventful, and we had plenty to drink and movies to watch. After pizza and ice-cream, landing came as a very very bumpy experience, but 20 minutes ahead of schedule! After slipping past immigration lines like VIP's I waited to collect my bag from customs. After what seemed like ages I spotted my bag... on a trolley, being wheeled towards the exit by a 30 year old man! I quickly approached the thief and verified my name on the baggage label! Then I joined the customs line, which after I cleared, had to then place my bag on the 'connecting' flights carousel. I then took the underground train to Terminal E and made it just on time for my second flight, which had already began to board! That flight was uneventful, and an hour later I arrived in a rather wet Memphis Airport, where I sat at gate A27 for three whole hours.
During those 3 hours, the only person I saw was a Muslim lady who had obviously wanted to find a quiet spot in the airport to pray. She had a beautiful green towel to stand and kneel on for her prayers. This was probably the moment when I realised that the lack of people meant I was probably at the wrong gate. I was supposed to be at A20!! I logged onto my computer and watched live the London New Year Fireworks, and immediately after they finished, proceeded to board my last flight to Knoxville.
That was probably the worst flight. I was feeling tired, and I wanted a sugar rush badly. So as you can imagine I was annoyed that our small plane, which sat only feet off the ground was bobbing around in turbulence and lightning not experienced before, and our one flight attendant announced that the seatbelt sign would be on for the remainder of the flight... and there would be no trolley service! I was certainly glad when I got to Knoxville, made it back to the apartment, had a welcome shower, and went for a wonderful dinner at Regas Restaurant, which was closing down permanently at midnight. Lemon Chicken was on the menu, and the atmosphere was wonderful, with a live pianist, who was occasionally joined by a drunk singer, and couples slowly dancing to light music on the stage, beautifully decorated with large presents and ornaments for the occasion. Sadly my camera was at the bottom of my bag.
Right now though, I must go and begin my washing and make final preparations for picking up mum at the airport around 11pm tonight. New Year Blessings to you all, Simon
P.S. Would you believe that I smuggled a Terry's Chocolate Orange in my hand luggage all the way, purely not realising! I thought that kind of thing was not allowed in you bag...