winter weather escape

waiting for security to open at DCA

at the end of February, I went to the Florida Keys for the first time. it was also the first time I’ve been on vacation in the winter with the expressed intention of escaping the weather. for the most part this winter has been eerily warm but, as if to mock my attempt to “get away to someplace warm,” one of the worst storms of the season swept through the Midwest and completely knocked out Chicago. and O’Hare. due to a transposition error on my part, we got to the airport later than intended and the shuttle bus to Chicago (which was ferrying passengers on our canceled flight to O’Hare to, theoretically, make their connections) had already left.

really, the whole situation turned out for the best since by 2:30 Thursday afternoon most of the Friday flights out of Chicago were already canceled. after dealing with one of the oddest (but surprisingly competent) gate agents to figure out a solution that wouldn’t leave us stranded in Dallas or Denver overnight with no guarantee of getting out in the morning, we found a workable solution that gave us about six hours of sleep in Washington D.C. unexpected layover (which, on balance, turned out much cheaper than making it to Key West as intended) in unseasonably warm weather! besides, seeing that skyline at night is really something.

it was also nice to be able to enjoy the drive down the Keys in the daylight, too, rather than arriving after midnight on Thursday. traffic in Miami was about as gnarly as I expected (due mostly to construction re-routes, delays, and related accidents), but once we were away from the airport and Dolphin Expressway it was smooth sailing. I had my first iced tea of the season and, perhaps more than anything else, I wished to bring that seasonal feeling back with us. I miss the fact that I could enjoy my iced teas at the Coffee Bean year-round when I lived in San Diego.

forget the map

I’m at something of a loss as to where to start with my Czech posts, to identify some theme that ties my experiences together, that might provide an underlying structure upon which I might build my posts. so I guess I’ll just dive into it as I dove into Prague; drop my bags at the door and head out to explore the city, see where my feet (or fingers) take me.

despite the interminably sluggish, dragging day of travel it took for me to get to Prague (arrived at ORD at 4:00 a.m., six hour lay-over at JFK, three hour delay on the tarmac waiting out a thunderstorm), the overnight flight had its benefits. for many years, I wasn’t able to sleep on planes, even ones traveling overnight to Europe. (on my first trip to France, I slept less than an hour over a 36 hour period and while I crashed hard around 9:00 p.m. after an afternoon of sightseeing and slept straight through to the morning, I’m sure I wasn’t much of a pleasant travel companion.) while not great, the four or five hours of sleep I got on the flight to Prague, however, was sufficient to keep me going through a full day of wandering the streets of the city — from Old Town to Wenceslas Square to Charles Square to the castle to New Town and back.

I set out without any particular destination in mind and, over the course of several days in Prague, came to understand that it’s much better to head off without the intention of getting anywhere in particular. streets curve in such perplexing ways that you won’t end up where you think you will end up, you won’t get to where you mean to get to, but you will still see some incredible things along the way. and after a full day of wandering around the city and staying out till well past dark, I slept through to the next morning with only the normal challenges associated with hostel dorm accommodation.

View First Day in Prague in a larger map


survived my flights. the guy sitting next to me on the flight from ORD to FRA was Muslim and took time out and prayed twice during the flight. the Frankfort airport was unlike anything I’ve experienced in Europe before, but maybe I just don’t travel enough in Europe (many of the gates are just ‘gateways’ and you take a shuttle out on the tarmac to actually board the plane — more like what I experienced traveling to Venezuela).

took an earlier bus to Belfast, so I walked around the city centre while waiting to meet up with Nico. the City Hall is still under renovation, so there won’t be a tour tomorrow. the bus centre is behind the Hotel Europa, which is/was the most bombed hotel/building (the language is upstairs at the moment) in Europe during the Troubles. Wouldn’t necessarily know it now, though I didn’t go inside. the two French girls staying in the same room as me say that central Belfast is pretty standard as far as city centers go, and it’s once you get out west of the city that things get more interesting — Shankill Road, Sandy Row, etc. saw one Loyalist mural near the bus depot, and i’m planning to head out to Falls Road for a bit tomorrow.

went to the bus centre to meet up with Nico at the time the bus i was *supposed* to be on got in. waited about 50 minutes but she didn’t come, or i didn’t see her. caught a cab down here and booked a bed. the place is clean, but more ‘hotel-y’ than ‘hostel-y’, as the French girls observed. they spent 12 days traveling from Derry to Belfast by thumb and it sounds like they had a great time. not necessarily something that i’d ever want to do, but all the positive things they had to say about all the people they’ve met give me cause to think this will be a great two weeks.

hasta … ?