Well, many days later than I'd expected, here I am finally posting my first blog and pictures! I really am sorry about the delay, but even though I knew it would happen, I'd forgotten what jet lag and adapting to a new country would do to me. In any case, the plan is to start posting every couple of days this list of things I thought would amuse, intrigue, or even inform--or at least I thought so when laying there with my eyes closed on a LONG, sleepless series of flights!
That being said, the whole flight worked like a charm. Michele and Kevin were very kind to drop me off at the airport--thanks, guys!--and other than an officious bag check clerk, who insisted on charging me extra for one heavy suitcase when the other was well underweight, checking in was REALLY easy. In fact, no one asked to see Ted's papers; all they did was say something like, "You know, you need documents to get him into Europe, right?" (Ignoring Ted's paperwork became a theme for the trip!)
Once we got through security--6 boxes later but no beeping from my bra, so I guess that's a plus--we settled down at the gate for the first of our long waits. As you might imagine, Ted was quite the hit. People kept asking us if he was going to Frankfurt, and the kids thought he was a giant fuzzy toy. You can see here that Ted really thought this whole thing was rough.
The funny part was just starting, though. The gate check person decided that it would be nice if we had a whole section to ourselves, rather than just the seat I'd reserved. Some rearranging and very nice passengers and staff later, and Ted and I were doing rather well for ourselves: a whole row in the first class section of the plane. Ted must've had a 5' x 5' area to stretch out, and I sure didn't suffer either!
By the way, the harness, polo shirt, etc. is our uniform when we're flying under the rubric of the HOPE AACR (animal assisted crisis response) group, and I really appreciate their willingness to endorse this flight as one of our training flights.
In any case, Ted quickly became the hit of the flight, and what I thought was especially funny was all the personnel taking pictures of Ted (in fact, the captain is responsible for the photo above). He actually thought having Ted on board was great and immediately took a picture and posted it to his Facebook site. After about half a hour of Ted photo ops as the flight was getting started, I finally just had to take a picture of the whole process. Here you see Ted getting his picture taken by one of the flight attendants with one of the pilots--and, yes, he's wearing the pilot's cap.
That meant that I was exhausted when we arrived in Frankfurt, although Ted was ready to go. Once I piled all my bags into the baggage cart (love those free ones European airports provide!) and a nice USAir flight attendant helped us through customs (where they barely looked at Ted's paperwork), then began the project of trying to get our connecting flight and giving Ted a bathroom break. You haven't lived until you've heaved a 90+ lb dog into a flowerbed because he's too delicate to "go" on anything other than greenery! Then it was through yet another cursory security check--the highlight of this one was watching 4 German security guards harass the screener into letting me keep the big water bottle I'd mistakenly bought for Ted--and more collapsing at the gate.
By this time, even Ted was calming down, although he perked up when this lovely family from Bangalor came over the pet him. We both crashed for a few hours on the short flight to Finland and woke up just in time to see the enormous number of small granite islands that seem to be just off the coast. I've since learned that southern Finland seems to be built on granite--there are outcroppings all over the place!--but the sheer number of small islands just astonished me.
When we finally landed both Ted and I were ready for dinner and bed, although not necessarily in that order, but first we had to find our bags. It turns out that Helsinki airport has 3 different locations to pick up bags, so the two of us and our lovely Bangalor family wandered back and forth the length of the airport until we found our stuff. As the culmination of our non-existent security checks for Ted, there wasn't even anyone staffing Finnish customs when we went through! (Why do I think American customs will be the opposite extreme?!) Then it was back the length of the airport to the hotel, where I collapsed on the bed and, as a last foray into Americanness, ordered a hamburger and fries for dinner. Don't worry; Ted got most of the fries.
The next day was discovering Töölö Towers (Töölön Tornit in Suomi/Finnish), but that's for the next post!