I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. My iPhone has become an incredibly useful tool. I use the map app as GPS for road trips. I can search the Urbanspoon or Trip Advisor apps for restaurants close to my location. If I need to jump online to find the nearest whatever, the iPhone makes it a snap. Now that I am used to having all of this information at my fingertips, I wanted to make sure it worked on WiFi in Europe without coming home to a giant phone bill loaded with data roaming charges.
I called AT&T and talked to Amber, an international rep. I told her that I did not want to be able to get phone calls while we were in Scandinavia but wanted to be able to connect to free WiFi hot spots. I’ve heard horror stories of people coming home from overseas trips having racked up thousands of dollars in charges. Amber explained that my phone was already capable of working internationally so she would have to make it unable to hit international cell towers.
Several minutes into the conversation, she asked me if Scandinavia was in Canada! I was surprised at how patiently I explained that no, Scandinavia was not in Canada. It was actually made up of four countries, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. In my head I was screaming, “You’re an INTERNATIONAL rep?” Do they teach geography in school anymore? My confidence level in her ability to accomplish what I needed her to do plummeted.
After several more minutes repeating how I wanted everything configured, we hung up. Thanks to AT&T Amber, we now had a very appropriate name for our trip – Scanada-navia. It was perfect since after the Scandinavian leg we were visiting my cousin in Buffalo and then cutting across southern Canada to visit family and friends in the Detroit area. Scanada-navia. I like it! It was a fun send-off.
We board the plane for our 8 ½ hour flight to Oslo, Norway and I have to perform my pre-flight ritual. I whip out my travel size of Clorox wipes and clean all surfaces – trays tables and latches; armrests; light switches and air flow mechanisms; the wall by the window; the seat belts and the leather headrest. Everything that I might touch. Part of the ritual includes taking an Airborne tablet dissolved in water, something I did not do for this flight.
I used to get sick every time I stepped foot on a plane, especially on long, overseas flights. That stopped once I started doing the ritual. None of my seatmates have ever complained. I mean really, how well do you think those planes get cleaned? Ugh. Don’t think about it or you’ll never set foot on another germ tube again. Buy a pack of disinfecting travel wipes and you’ll be free to roam, hopefully remaining healthy.
Oh, LAN Airlines, we love you! The personal TVs; GPS; free Chilean wine; scrumptious dinners; eye shades, ear plugs and all in coach! US Air, for the price, the seats aren’t bad but you’re not LAN. That said, our $89 coach seats really were quite nice – the middle seat was empty so we had a row of leather seats to ourselves. We passed on the $5 headsets. Of course I didn’t bring the ones we had thinking that surely on an international flight they would give out the headsets. Wrong! Note to self – ALWAYS bring them when flying US Air. The flight was a bit bumpy – we had to fly south to get around Hurricane Igor so it added extra time.
Two hours left in this flight and I’ve managed to squeeze in about 3 ½ hours of contorted sleep while keeping my seat belt fastened. Thanks to Igor, the flight has been bumpy but not to the point that I am queasy. The sun is up with lots of pointed clouds but no sighting of European soil yet. As far as I can see, it looks like a mountain range of clouds. I have the window seat and have spread out so my legs are hogging most of the middle seat. Mike is on the aisle snoozing. I anxiously await the moment that I can wake him up and tell him, “Land-ho!”
At 9:17am local time, LAND! I spotted waves through the breaks in the clouds and knew it would be only moments before I could see the shoreline. The clouds parted a bit more and there it was – whatever it was. An hour before our scheduled landing in Oslo, maybe it’s Ireland. Scotland? Probably somewhere in the British Empire but I can’t be sure. There is lots of rolling green countryside. We’re definitely flying at a lower altitude, almost scraping the belly of the plane on those pointy clouds. It looks like white cotton candy and if I touch it my hands will get sticky. We start to bank to the right. I am on the left side over the wing. I can only see clouds. The anticipation builds even though I know that we still have a half an hour left for this flight. Finally we descend into grey clouds and land without seeing much of the land below and touch down in country number 41.
We had a three-hour layover before our flight to Stockholm. After snaking through the lines of immigration and customs, we explore the cool architecture of the Oslo Airport as we stretch our legs. I take my iPhone off “airplane mode” and the free public WiFi system pops up. I think, “Cool.” Then it starts searching and searching and searching. It won’t connect. Of course my phone has been disabled so I can’t call AT&T to fix the problem and I can’t connect to the Internet or e-mail. Damn you AT&T Amber! I think I hate you.