When you travel as much as we have, you enjoy a variety of experiences; almost all a joy, some a little tense, and a few that cause a chuckle, particularly looking back on them.
We arrived by train from Toronto and followed the signs downstairs to get a taxi to the Fairmont Hotel. There was a short line; and when our turn came, we jumped into the back seat of a cab. The driver put our luggage in the trunk popped behind the wheel and in French asked where we wanted to go.
We said the Fairmont Hotel. He looked confused and asked us again in French. We had an impasse. Since we were holding up the Taxi line, the dispatcher came over and listened to the driver’s explanation of the delay. He then opened the back door and asked us where we wanted to go. Again, we told him the Fairmont. He looked at us a bit incredulously and said, “If you walk over and take that escalator up one flight, you’ll be there.”
Two Schwartz’s on a Plane
We were on our way to a consulting assignment in Romania and realized our seat assignments were in different places. Gabriele went to her seat and found a passenger named Schwartz as her seat mate.
Delta didn’t get their Schwartz’s straight but it all worked out. The other Schwartz was agreeable to trading seats with me.
Soup in Hawaii
We were in a bar/restaurant in one of Hawaii’s top hotels. I asked the waitress if the seafood chowder had cream in it. She checked and said, “Yes,” it did. I am partial to red (Manhattan) chowder. I don’t like cream.
Well, I noticed they also had tomato soup on the menu, so I asked if they could put the seafood from the white (New England) chowder in the tomato soup.
The waitress again sought out the maitre-d/manager and came back to say, “Yes,” they could do that.
What arrived was two bowls of soup; white chowder with seafood and tomato soup along with a bill for two bowls of soup.
Jacket at Dinner
We made a reservation for dinner in the main dining room on the Seabourn Cruise in the Adriatic. When we arrived, the maitre-d explained that all gentlemen (I don’t know why he thought that included me) had to have a jacket.
I never bring a jacket on vacation and won’t book a trip that requires one.
After a short, heated discussion, I said, “Let’s go,” at which point one of the maitre-d assistants brought out a jacket. I won’t describe it but I certainly did not want to put it on.
We were escorted to a table with the jacket carried by the assistant maitre-d and placed on the back of my chair. I never touched it. If you think that was dumb.
The dining room opened at 7pm but you could not make a reservation to sit with another couple before 7:30pm. Bye, bye, Seabourn!
My Double in China
We were on a day cruise on the Li River outside of Guilin, China. It was an interesting cruise past fertile farmlands and those rounded top hills you see in Chinese paintings. I was amazed those round hills really exist.
At one point, we were standing, talking with a small group of people. When we introduced ourselves, one woman said, “Are you putting me on? I just met Arthur Schwartz. He’s standing right over there.”
You can imagine my surprise. I went over and introduced myself to the new Arthur Schwartz. He was from Palos Verdes, California, just a few miles down the highway from us.
Travel Dynamics Goofed
We took a cruise across the Great Lakes with this small cruise line. We had trouble communicating with their New York office, but the trip was great.
I subsequently noticed they had a cruise down the west coast of Africa, ending with a land tour in Mali that went to Timbuktu.
Ever since grade school, I was enamored with a somewhat romanticized vision of Timbuktu on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert.
I was talking with the cruise line’s N.Y. office in October 2010 and trying to get information on their trip for December 2011. It was a struggle, but finally, with the help of my travel agent, I said, “Okay, we’ll make a reservation.”
When the paperwork arrived, the trip was for December 2010, not 2011.
So after a lot of scurrying around and making some changes, we decided to go that year, not the next.
It was a fortuitous mistake and the right decision. In addition to being a great trip, by 2012 you couldn’t go to Mali as well as a number of ports in West Africa because the Islamic fundamentalists had erupted.
Fun in Romania
I mentioned our plane trip to Romania with Gabriele sitting next to another Schwartz. The fun really started when we got there.
We overnighted in Bucharest in late September 1996. We were on the way to Baia Mare, a small city of 150,000, near the northern border with Ukraine.
In Bucharest, you could see all the bullet holes in the government buildings where the communists had been routed. The only place to eat with a menu in English was at the Pizza Hut which also had soft serve ice cream.
At the Baia Mare airport, we were surrounded by a group of AK47 soldiers. What did they think we were going to attack in that place?
In Baia Mare, several hundred miles from the Black Sea, there was no milk, but bananas in every tiny grocery. Never figured that out!
We stayed in an apartment on the 9th floor of an apartment/business office building. The elevator didn’t work too often so we got a lot of exercise. The gas heat had not been turned on yet because the bill had not been paid. There was an electric heater in the living room. That helped take the chill out in the morning.
The towels were polyester, so they wouldn’t absorb much water.
We had a single burner hot plate and water passing through an electric ark to have a hot shower. When all three devices were turned on one morning, we blew the fuse and unable to dry ourselves, we were ready to go home.
There was a small foyer when you entered the unit with three doors. On the left was the bedroom, straight ahead was the living room, and on the right was the entry to the kitchen and shower area.
One night late in our stay, there was a festival across the street and bands playing ‘till all hours. We couldn’t sleep so we took our mattresses and propped them against the walls in the foyer. They were too big so we had a lot of laughs and still couldn’t sleep.
Romania was a hoot and a holler. What a memory! Oh, I forgot we were very disturbed after a week or so when we got very sleepy sitting in the living room each night. We inquired about seeing a doctor, but they told us we didn’t need to. It was the lead smelter in the center of town.