Being There

Summary: We’ve had two arduous days of transportation. We left the house Monday at 2 pm, and three hours later were in the air on a 10-hour flight to London. After a nice afternoon nap, we had a delicious Indian dinner with a friend; we stayed at his house an hour and a half, and it took us two and a half hours (bus, tube, bus) each way to get across town. This morning we got in the hotel shuttle at 7:30, and after a three hour flight and a six hour train ride, we arrived in Iasi, Romania at midnight. The next four days should be a lot of fun, though — a continuous wedding party. It’ll be nice to sleep in tomorrow and not go anywhere, except out to eat and drink.


The flight to London took off on time or maybe a little early, flew up just north of Bozeman against a negligible headwind, and about at the Canadian border, slotted itself into the jet stream which was turbulent but supplying a tail wind of 165 mph. Our ground speed was very close to the speed of sound, well over 700 mph at times. Eventually it smoothed out and we rode it across Quebec and over Goose Bay and out over the Atlantic. Sometime after Kap Farvel it seemed to die down but it picked up again and we landed early by a half hour. The British Airways terminal 1 has a primitive and uncrowded immigration station and we were through that in ten minutes.

We called the hotel shuttle, on a phone that costs $1 a minute and $3 to Romania because the phone card activation never arrived. While waiting, Ray went to British Air and got window seats for the flight to Romania – the shuttle came 40 minutes after calling and took us to the Heathrow Lodge. It’s in a nice residential neighborhood. The principal drawback is that the bus service to London is spotty and slow and buses that are full pass you up and the 81 only comes once every 20 minutes and the last service from Hounslow West is at 11:53.

We took a nap and then went to David Kaplowitz’s house for takeout dinner from the same Keralan restaurant as the last time. They hadn’t been there since then either; they’ve moved. Ray berated David for having bought a house — he told him he’d have to choose between his house and his son for attention. After dinner and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (which is exotic in London) they played a game called “Shopping Cart” with Zach who lost interest before the adults, of course, and then he walked us to the bus back to the tube and to bus 81 back to Heathrow Lodge. Got a wakeup call set up, and the phone and the travel clock alarmed.

We got up at 6 AM anyway before they’d gone off. We boarded the bus after talking with a BA flight attendant on his way to Nassau today. He explained that the UK no longer banned all carry on, it was now just like the US (until the next threatened outrage…) We ate breakfast at the airport. — no fresh squeezed juice to be had. The plane was a half hour late getting off, it seemed to have to do with takeoff slots. We flew at a very low altitude all the way to the Channel, then ascended to the same jet stream (it seems to have a name even, the paper this morning talked about “Bachan” and it develops in May) where we had a less bumpy but still fast ride to Bucharest, where we arrived early. The flight is about 2 hours and 20 minutes and they allow 3 hours and 15 minutes for it, mostly because it’s Heathrow.

We hang with such celebrities. Dave picked up a free copy of The Times on the jetway to our flight to Bucharest. In it were allusions to two friends: a food designer for a chocolate company related that he had been inspired to his career by reading Ray’s college friend Hal McGee’s book; and some columnist whose greater purpose I can’t make out had stumbled upon Wickerpedia (made by our friends Skot and Tollef) and found it pointless.

There was minimal confusion buying tickets at Gara du Nord. Everything is quite smooth for being so quick. This train car we’re in wasn’t built the last time Ray took this train, in November 2005. It’s fantastically spiffy, very roomy and airy and big seats. It’s getting dark now and the power must be running low on this computer.

In Iasi, Andrei and Radu and Stef and Butza are partying already. We went out for a beer after the traditional dinner of fresh cheeses, polenta, and chicken; and it’s now 3 AM and we aren’t asleep yet.

I thought of another possible theme for the trip: in school I learned that there were five Romance languages, and it occurred to me today that on this trip we’re going to the home countries of all five: Romania, Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. (Ray said “what about Catalan? and Neopolitan? etc.” So much for my education.)