Lisa here… I’m slowly recovering from my January trip back to North America (mainly the email backlog and change in temps; no problem with jet lag really). For those of you who weren’t aware (though you should have clued in while reading the idiotic posts Dan got away with in my absence!), I traveled to the US and Canada for work for 2 weeks in mid- to late-January. We thought it might be interesting to share my travels, as this was my first time “visiting” Canada since moving to Australia (Literally! More on that in a bit).
My trip started with an early morning flight out of Wagga, to Sydney. For the first time, in all of my years of flying, the ticket agent asked to weigh my cabin baggage (carry-on, in Canada-speak). I have had a set travel kit for all flights more than 4 hours, for years; toiletries, change of clothes, laptop, iPod, chargers, etc. All of these items fit Air Canada’s limits, but apparently Qantas (not a Star Alliance partner with AC, but one of only 2 companies flying out of Wagga) is clamping down. I spent the first few minutes of my travels repacking, putting items deemed non-essential into my checked bag. Interesting that I didn’t have this problem in Sydney on the return flight! I think it’s just a typical small-town “look at us! Our airport abides by all rules, even those that are NOT listed on the company’s website or part of the other airports’ regulations” mentality. This does not bode well for the advent of security at WGA.
There was a long layover in Sydney, saved by the pancake machine in the Air New Zealand Lounge (an AC partner). The flight was long (13+ hours), but I scored big with an entire row of 3 seats to myself! I had a seatmate, but he got bumped to business; other people missed their connection… I felt sad for them, as I stretched out, pulled up my blanket and napped. This was a clever strategy (also employed by the guy in front of me). When you have open seats, the other passengers in the horrible middle row start salivating, thinking they’ll be able to jump to the window. Well, no bloody way! Those seats were mine, dammit! Even the older lady 1 aisle up was not going to appeal to my softer side. The skies are a no man’s land…normal Canadian/Aussie politeness go down the vacuum toilet once we take off. Needless to say, I had an awesome flight! Watched the entire first season of The Killing (recommend it!), between “feeds” (as the Aussies say) and sleeps and arrived at YVR feeling rested.
Worst part? Getting off the plane, going through customs, walking all through the airport (or so it seemed), only to get back on the same plane to go on to Toronto (technically, the same “direct” flight). Strangest part? Having to go through the non-resident “visitor” line while all of my Canadian peeps went to another line (sniff)! Worst part #2? We were behind a huge flight in from China, with only 2 agents working and 0 translators. Funniest outcome? AC had to hold the plane for one hour while about 25 of us worked our way through the line.
After sleeping for most of the Toronto flight (post-feed), I then had a lovely layover at the AC lounge. Lovely because they have showers! I was catching a late-evening flight to Dallas Texas for a conference (didn’t arrive until almost midnight), so the shower was a welcome treat. Then, a glass of wine and some good conversation (met up with a colleague from Edmonton at security – small world) and I was ready for my final flight. So, are you keeping track? One hour flight WGA to SYD; 14 hour flight to YVR; 5 hours to YYZ; 3.5 hours to DFW. Plus airport/layover time. Total travel time? About 36 hours. Calendar time: about half that.
Conference in Dallas was great! Saw lots of colleagues, told all about the wonders of Oz, met with potential candidates for a CSU position, chaired a session, hosted a round table discussion, and shopped like mad! Had a great time with HJ… Really have missed our wine dinners, shopping, etc. since we both left Edmonton for warmer climes. Thankfully, we will have lots of conferences in the coming year.
Next it was back to YYZ (another 5 hours of travel), where I did a workshop at CSU Ontario. Great to meet my new colleagues there! Then, my brother JB picked me up to take me to Owen Sound (another 2 1/2 hours) for a visit with family. This was wonderful! Played lots of cribbage with my parents, spent time with all my sibs, met my new grand-niece, and had a lovely lunch with the extended family – which turned into a surprise birthday feast with cake and everything! My birthday’s in February, so close enough for a party. Had a great day/dinner with (most of) Dan’s family too. Thanks again B&D for a lovely meal!
Then, it was back to work! JB drove me back to YYZ so I could catch a flight to Montreal, where I met a colleague from Alberta and we drove to Mont Tremblant for meetings (3 hours). Stayed at the Fairmont…which is so luxurious! But we arrived late, had a lot of meetings then drove back to Montreal that night. We were supposed to stay on for a working dinner, but my intrepid traveller self knew to check the weather forecast – this is Canada in winter, people! There was a massive storm coming and we did not want to get stuck in the mountains of Quebec. So I didn’t really see Mont Tremblant. Back in Montreal, I stayed with a colleague; we worked in the day, had fabulous meals at Holder and Le Local and lovely French wine at night (there are a lot of great Aussie wines but we miss the variety of international ones that are hard to get here). We also spent time planning her trip to Wagga as she’ll be our first visitor, later this month!
My last day in Montreal (Saturday) we went to the Fairmont, where I had a lovely mani-pedi in anticipation of the long return flight (and to prepare for sandal season again…I hated having to wear boots in Canada…it has been months since I’ve even put on socks here!). Then it was off to YUL for the return flight to YVR, SYD and WGA. Got an upgrade to business class as far as Vancouver, but just a regular window, economy seat on the long haul. Best part? I was seated next to 2 young women from Calgary and Nova Scotia, on their way to Oz for a Uni exchange. They were so excited… And I provided lots of tips, just like the “local” I’ve become. One of my most important tips? No, you can’t take those oatmeal cookies your mom made for you (how sweet!) through customs, as quarantine officials will confiscate them! So, we stuffed our faces as we taxied up to the gate. Nothing sweeter than Canadian home cooking as I arrived back home in my new, adopted land.
And the final tally on travel time: around 85 hours! Welcome to my new world.