Monday, April 25, 2011

Awake (New York edition)

I'm in the Big Apple, in a moderately lousy (but also moderately priced) hotel. I woke just before 5am local time, 11am my time, after getting to sleep around 6am my time. I'm unsure whether or not to call this "insomnia", but it is far earlier than I hoped to rise.

I have to give a kick in the head to the airport bus service (can't remember the name, will update this if I do) for lousy service. The driver put people down near, not at, the stated destinations, e.g. one block east of Grand Central Station. In the rain, mark you. For Penn Station the miserable son of a bitch actually dropped us at Times Square! I took a taxi the nine blocks south to the hotel, grumbling all the while. The driver was cool about the short fare, fortunately; he left the meter off and just charged me a fiver.

My parents are arriving today (with the rest of the opera tour group), I'll move to our common hotel and then go to the airport to meet them. The tour operator has apparently stopped providing transport between airport and hotel, which seems to me a pretty stupid decision given their customer profile (elderly and rich). The justification was that it was too difficult to arrange, but that sounds like horseshit to me: the world is full of bus companies. I suspect the company that does the actual grunt work is getting lazy and the coordinator/guiding light/überboss, himself elderly, has chosen not to spend his energy on disciplining them. So there are going to be two dozen elderly Canadians standing in the taxi queue for hours and hours, wrestling with their oversized luggage and foreign manners and diction. Meh. Anyway.

I flew over on an Airbus 380, for the first time. It really is huge, but one doesn't always notice this because its proportions are similar to a Boeing 727: it can look like a small plane if you don't notice the details, for example that the tailfin is in fact larger than a 727's wings, or that when you are seated and looking out the wing obscures the three-storey buildings beside the taxiway — and I was on the upper deck, so in theory I was looking down on the wing.

It's a fine plane, the ride is very smooth. But in the end it's just air travel. There is no fantasy or romance in the A380, flying to NY in one is like spending the day at a tedious conference in the meeting rooms of a pretentious-but-only-middle-range hotel. The seats are the same as on any other Lufthansa plane, the food is the same, the general discomfort and annoyance before and after the flight are surely the same. Actually, having said that: Boarding and disembarking were quick and easy, and I got my luggage within 15 minutes of the plane landing. I should give some credit there.

The coolest thing about the A380 is the live camera views on the entertainment system. There are three low-resolution videocameras built into the aircraft: in the nose pointing forward; in the belly pointing down, and at the top of the tail looking forward over the back and wings of the aircraft. The latter plays on the overhead monitors during the flight. The belly camera is pretty useless, to be honest, the low resolution and the air haze make the ground images close to worthless. Should have hired a photographer-consultant to tell them about polarizing filters. But the view from the tail was cool, and it was quite exciting to be able to watch the plane landing and taxiing to the gate from the nose cam POV.

I'm going to try to sleep a little more (no hot chocolate for me, alas; it's typical of the Hotel Pennsylvania that while there is a minibar, it's empty. There is an ironing board and iron in the closet, but no kettle. My recommendation is to avoid the hotel unless you are stuck for a place to stay. It is at least clean and central, but has nothing else going for it.

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Blogger JoeinVegas said...

My goodness, you do travel a lot. Hope the rest of the trip is more fun

April 25, 2011 at 8:36:00 p.m. GMT+2  

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