kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
2017-08-20 09:47 pm

Worldcon 2017 Trip Day 14: Last Full Day in Iceland

This was our final full day here in Iceland, and essentially the final day of the "vacation" part of the trip, as the remaining days are travel to get home, with two stopovers scheduled. Knowing our limitations, we scheduled nothing today, set no alarm, and stuck to Reykjavik.

Althing Gardens )

We were unable to find in any of the stores any rain jackets that were (a) our size, (b) our desired color and style, and (c) not Made in China. In fact, we only managed to get (a) and (b) to match once. There were way too many things with DESIGNED IN ICELAND in big type and "made in China" either hidden in small type or left off entirely, where you had to ask the staff, who would admit that despite the way the stores' signage suggested, the goods weren't really made in Iceland, or even within the EU economic zone. Annoying. It looks like we may have to go back up to Salem, Oregon, and have some coats custom-made from a place we know there.

We did, however, find a pair of work gloves that was not Chinese made and will come in handy moving wood when we get home. Nearly all heavy work gloves I can find in Fernley and environs are all Chinese.

More about Parliament Square )

We walked back to the hotel and had a "picnic lunch" in the room, eating up the last of our supplies purchased over the past few days. I was also a Very Bad Diabetic. Just across the street outside our hotel window there has been a Waffle Wagon every day. Today I broke down, went over there, and bought a chocolate-and-cream covered waffle, which I enjoyed over a coffee back in the room. (The hotel won't let you eat outside food in their common room.) It was excellent. I'm rather glad I won't get another chance to have another one now. Mind you, with over 33,000 steps walked in the past two days, I'd like to think I've earned a few indulgences.

Last Dinner )

After that big dinner, and especially the desserts, we took one last long walk around The Pond, and then up the hill to our hotel. We took a different route this time, which took us by the British Embassy (housed in the same building as the German Embassy), then past a cafe located in what a streetside plaque said was once called "Red Square" because the coffee-house was a center of Communist organization in past days. For what I expect is the final time, we climbed up to the top of the hill and returned to the hotel.

It has been an interesting four days here. We've booked our reservation for the prepaid return bus transfer to Keflavik Airport tomorrow at Noon, which will get us there a little earlier than strictly necessary, but we want extra time. Our return ticket is KEF-MSP on IcelandAir Saga class, then MSP-SEA on Alaska Airlines first class, all using Alaska Airlines miles. The first leg leaves KEF at 16:45. I checked with IcelandAir, and there's a direct KEF-SEA flight at 17:45 that has plenty of room in Saga class. However, over the phone, IcelandAir won't change the ticket because it was issued by Alaska. The Alaska agent with whom I spoke said they can't change the ticket either, despite the availability, due to the limitations on how many IcelandAir seats Alaska can sell. They both said that my only hope is to show up at the airport and see if the folks at check-in can see some sense and book us directly to Seattle, saving a great deal of hassle and transfer at MSP. Fingers crossed that is works.

There's a pretty good chance that I won't be online here again until we get to Seattle on Monday night, after a very long day in the air no matter how you slice it. Knowing that we could only get Saga class one direction, we deliberately scheduled it for the return trip. At this point in the trip, I really hope I am able to get some sleep on this portion of the trip, albeit not so much sleep that I'm ruined for returning to Pacific Time.

So long, Iceland. It's been fun. I don't know if I'll ever get to come here again, but I'm glad we came. I think I can see now why certain persons were trying to goad some of us into bidding to hold a NASFiC here.
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
2017-08-19 08:50 pm
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Worldcon 2017 Trip Day 13: The Golden Circle

Today was our really big tourism day in Iceland: We booked a relatively comprehensive "Golden Circle" tour of some of the top scenic highlights of southwestern Iceland accessible in a single (long) day.

To the Geysir! )

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Shortly after 9 AM, our Extreme Iceland bus picked us up and our friendly driver headed out for a full long day of seeing the sights. This is probably just as well because today was Culture Day in Reykjavik and the city was very busy.

Geothermal Power Plant Tour )

After the power plant, we continued to our next stop, which involved a hike around a volcanic crater, followed by a preview of the larger waterfall we'd see after lunch.

Hiking the Crater )

Geysir was also our lunch stop, where Lisa and I got the lamb soup, which we like. (Some books complain that this is the main dish at too many places. We don't complain. It's filling and we've enjoyed every bowl of it that we've had so far.) From here it was on to the big waterfall.

Golden Falls )

After the falls, we made a short stop at the Efstidalur farm, where I indulged myself in one scoop of blueberry ice cream made from milk from the cows on the farm. From there, we continued for what turned out to be something of a research trip for the question raised by WSFS's action last week when we clarified that (in effect) Iceland is not part of North America for NASFiC purposes.

At the Rift Boundary )

Thingvellir was the final stop before we returned to Reykjavik. We were frankly a bit worn out by then, and were happy to get back to our hotel. With the city alive with Culture Day, we weren't inspired to go very far. We counted ourselves lucky to get a seat in Cafe Loki (just down the street from our hotel) and have another couple bowls of lamb soup before turning in for the evening.

This tour was excellent, but we're so tired that we're not at our best for this. That's the problem with putting our touring post-Worldcon; however, Lisa says, and she's right, that I'm hopelessly preoccupied during the days running up to Worldcon and I can't relax until the convention is over. Therefore, unless we schedule the trips this way, I'm impossible to deal with because I can't concentrate on what we're doing. Not concentrating when walking around steep cliffs and slippery rocks is not a good idea.

We have one more full day here in Iceland before we begin the trip home, which may prove to be a different adventure, and not necessarily a fun one.
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
2017-08-18 11:10 pm

Worldcon 2017 Trip Day 12: Wandering Reykjavik

Today was an unstructured day exploring Reykjavik. We had no idea what we would find.

Surprising Ourselves )

After our morning and early afternoon exploration, we got back on the bus. Joining us at that point were a German family heading back to the cruise ship we had seen earlier in the day. Lisa hit it off with them right away. We rode back to Hallgrímskirkja, bade the Germans bon voyage, and went back to the hotel for a break and a cup of tea for me and hot chocolate for Lisa in the hotel common room before making another walk downtown to explore more.

To the Center of Reykjavik )

Thanks to that huge lunch, Lisa and I were still not terribly hungry come 21:00, so we once again picked up some sandwich stuff and cold drinks (alas for no refrigerator in which to keep them; everything has to be eaten when purchased) for another "picnic dinner" in the hotel room.

Tomorrow is our big excursion: our "Golden Circle" tour, one of the must-not-miss parts of a trip to Iceland, or so everyone says. Fortunately we don't have to be up at the crack of dawn, especially given how early dawn is here at 66° North.
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
2017-08-17 07:02 pm
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Worldcon 2017 Trip Day 11: On to Iceland

We had an 8:45 AM flight out of Helsinki this morning, so after much too little sleep we lurched out of bed, completed our packing, checked out of the hotel, and got a train to the airport. We are very grateful to the extremely frequent airport trains, because we missed the first one we planned to catch, but there was another one coming along in just a few minutes, so it did not matter.

We're in Saga class for this trip (hooray for Alaska miles), so we had access to the lounge and therefore didn't have to buy breakfast. OTOH, my unfamiliarity with the airport cost us €5 because we didn't realize where to go to cash in the one tax-rebate purchase we made, and by the time we realized that the refund place was as the other end of the terminal, it was too late because the flight to Reykjavik was already boarding.

The flight itself was routine and comfortable, with complementary noise-canceling headsets (I forgot to bring mine, which was annoying on the trip out) and another breakfast. To save some standing in like at KEF, I pre-bought the FlyBus airport-to-city transfer tickets. By the time we got to baggage claim, our bags were waiting for us, and we walked outside and found the FlyBus. We got the front two seats for the 50 km drive to Reykjavik. At the bus terminal, we had to get out and wait for a mini-bus to collect us and take us to the stop near our hotel.

Easy to Find Landmark )

If you cannot handle stairs, never stay at this hotel. You need to negotiate stairs simply to get into the front lobby from street level, and there are no lifts. Normally for us this wouldn't be a problem, but Lisa's knee has been troubling her during this trip. She can walk on flat ground okay, but stairs give her trouble. And we have a lot of luggage. (Fortunately, our room was only on the second floor (of four), so I only had to carry luggage up one flight of stairs.)

As we expected, we were vastly early, but the hotel staff were nice and let us store our (substantial) luggage behind the counter. Tea/coffee/cocoa are available at all hours in the lobby (and you can take it back to your room), so we sat and had some tea while we repacked our bags and made plans for today. After putting most of our stuff behind the hotel counter, we set off to explore and kill time until 2 PM when our room would be ready.

Tiny Room and High Prices )

This is something of a letdown after the ten nights in an Executive Floor room at the Holiday Inn Convention Centre in Helsinki. I do really wish that IHG had properties here. But we'll make the best of it.

We Have Been Warned )

We'd been warned about the high prices in Iceland, and high they are. We'll be here four nights and most of five days, and we'll need to keep costs down where we can. Tonight we decided to just buy some groceries and eat them in our hotel room. There's no refrigerator, more's the pity, but Lisa had a can of tinned fish left over from Germany, I got some salami, and we made sandwiches. They don't allow outside food in the downstairs breakfast area, and as I said, the rooms are tiny, but we made the best of it, watching a train video that Lisa had on her computer.

Tomorrow we hope to take things relatively easy and not overwhelm ourselves. Aren't vacations supposed to be restful?
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
2017-08-16 09:02 pm

Worldcon 2017 Trip Day 10: A-Viking We Will Go

After returning to the hotel with our purchases, Lisa and I stopped to have one of the sodas we bought and rest our feet. I checked messages and saw on Facebook that Kevin Roche and Andy Trembley were back in their hotel room as of only an hour earlier. I called Kevin and asked if they would like to meet for lunch, and they agreed, so we collected our things and headed back downtown.

A second reason for going back to the hotel was that I had a poster tube with the small vinyl WSFS banner (made by Sasquan) that hangs from the front of the Business Meeting table with me, and I wanted to mail it home rather than somehow try to fit it into my already overloaded luggage. The post office is downtown between the train station and the Sokos hotel where Kevin and Andy were staying, so this worked out well. The trains are running again, and there were no queues at the post office, so we managed to connect with K&A roughly on time to head off on a Viking Expedition.

We're Gonna Starve! )

After lunch, we bade K&A goodbye because we were aiming for one more hobby shop for Lisa to look for trains. It was a longer walk than I thought it would be, partially because I rather unnecessarily went up and down hills getting there. We didn't find anything Lisa wanted to get, but we found yet another person who described herself as a "con-goer" who had known about Worldcon but had not gone. We told her that Worldcon would be in Dublin in two years and she sounded interested.

Given our location, we took the opportunity to ride the Helsinki Metro. Because Cheryl's friend Otto gave us a lift from the ferry terminal when we arrived and our other trips didn't take us along the axis of the Metro, we'd never had a chance to sample it. This was more of a joy-ride, but when you've bought a multi-day unlimited transit pass, you have the ability to hop on and off systems like this.

<a data-flickr-embed= )

An afterthought from this morning: We had an interesting piece of equipment follow us down the tram tracks when we first set out for our first round of tourism and shopping.

A Tidy System is a Safe System )

After a brief recovery time in the hotel (and a final short grocery stop for a snack for tonight and for tomorrow morning), Lisa remembered something she had seen in Stockmann's department store downtown, so we made one final round trip downtown. I think we got good value from our transit pass.

Returning from the last trip, we threaded our way through the latest batch of tourists trying to figure out the elevators, Lisa took a bath, I composed journal entries, and we continued our packing. The alarm for tomorrow is set for 4:15 because we need to take an early train to get out to the airport for the flight to Iceland tomorrow.

We have had a wonderful time here in Helsinki. I would love to get a chance to come back here someday. Everyone was so good to us, and we enjoyed ourselves immensely.
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
2017-08-16 08:42 pm

Worldcon 2017 Trip Day 10: Up and Down and Around and Round

Today was our final full day in Helsinki. We had no big tourist attractions left to visit. Lisa wanted to do some shopping, and she also was looking for us to track down a transportation oddity that she wanted to see.

Riding the Paternoster )

After our Adventure in Elevators, we had a "target of opportunity," in the form of a train hobby shop just a couple of doors down from the first stop. Lisa had a look through the store but did not find anything that caught her fancy.

Next was a search for an electronics store to which she had been referred in search of a particular kind of power outlet that the hardware store didn't know about. That turned out to be fruitless as well, but it was interesting to walk around and see new places.

As we were riding the #7 toward that electronics store, Lisa spotted a small appliance store and we rode back up the line to continue her search for an electric kettle not Made in China. This time, we succeeded!

Fine Czech Manufacture )

There are still a handful of Worldcon attendees staying in the Holiday Inn, and we saw a few of them in the lobby when we headed out this morning. However, now the hotel is mostly full of Chinese tour groups.

Elevator Clog )

We had to go back to the hotel to put away Lisa's newly-acquired kettle, which actually does fit in her luggage. (She says she can make it fit by putting some of her clothing inside the kettle, so the total additional cube doesn't increase that much.) That led to our final meal excursion of the trip, but that's another story.
kevin_standlee: (To Trains)
2017-08-14 08:06 pm
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Worldcon 2017 Trip Day 8: To the Trains

Here I restart the numbering of the days in our Worldcon trip, not including the five days of Worldcon itself.

Lisa and I intended to go to the Finland Railway Museum originally on Tuesday so that we could sleep in today; however, the VR (Finnish Railways) drivers union had other ideas. They called a strike to start at 18:00 Monday through 18:00 Tuesday. Therefore, if we were to go up to Hyvinkää where the museum was located, we needed to do it Monday (and get back before 18:00) or Wednesday, the day before we leave Helsinki. We decided to do it Monday. However, that meant we were running on maybe four hours of sleep when we made our way over to Pasila this morning.

To the Trains! )

We continued on to the downtown shopping center and found what to us seemed like a bargain, in an all-you-can-eat sushi/Chinese buffet for €10.50. We ate our fill. I wish this place had been near Messukeskus!

Escaping the Strike )

We boarded our Helsinki-bound train and found a pair of facing seats. Fortunately, we were going counter-commute, and people had apparently also been making alternative plans because of the strike. Initially, we thought we might ride all the way into Helsinki and then after getting dinner ride back to the hotel on a tram (the trams/buses are unaffected by the strike), but both Lisa and I kept falling asleep on the train, and Lisa said we should just go back to the hotel and go to bed.

The Elevator of Doom )

Lisa fell into bed, and I admit I almost did so as well, but there were some groceries I wanted, so I took my tote bag and went back down to the lobby. Although most of the fans have moved out, the place is filling up again with tourist groups and tennis players (an ITF tournament is in town this week). I ran across some of us late stayers (including Dave Lally) in the lobby, and ended up sitting down and shooting the breeze for a lot longer than I intended before I walked down to Lidl for more supplies. By the same I got back from the store, I had some second wind and thus decided I'd better get these photos online, including the Finland Railway Museum album.

Tomorrow we're in Helsinki. We're considering our plans, which probably include going to Suomenlinna, which is accessible on local transit because the ferry is included in transit passes. However, I'm going to see about not setting an alarm tomorrow morning. We need a recovery day.
kevin_standlee: (Worldcon 75)
2017-08-14 12:15 am
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Worldcon 75 Day 5: Hand It Over

I decided to go claim a seat in the Closing Ceremony early, because I was supposed to be there as one of the representatives of Worldcon 76 San Jose. (I had changed into my Worldcon 76 "bowling shirt" before lunch.)

Close it Down )

And so officially ended Worldcon 75. There was still a bit more to do. But first, Lisa and I needed to get dinner, which led to a separate unwanted adventure.

It's a Trap )

After our "ordeal" on the elevator, and after determining that the hotel restaurant had a one-hour wait, we decided to simply get on the train and go downtown, where we ate at the same Italian restaurant across from the train station at which we've eaten earlier. Robin Johnson was dining there and recommended the moosemeat with gnocci, which Lisa had. (She called it "interesting.") I had salmon over pasta with pesto sauce, which I enjoyed. After a good meal, we went back up to Pasila, where we had one more party to attend, and unlike most of the social functions at this convention that were something of a chore, this one would be a pleasure.
kevin_standlee: (Default)
2017-08-08 11:16 pm
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Worldcon 75 Day -1: In Which We Are Honored

Lisa went on the Nuclear Power Plant tour today, so I was on my own. I ended up doing a lot more wandering around than I originally expected. (I logged more than 25K steps!) I had a great time, and I thank Cheryl Morgan (who has been here numerous times) for showing me some of the better places to go and see. I got full use of my transit pass, riding back and forth between downtown and the hotel on the trains and also getting some tram rides.

Come about 17:00, I returned to the hotel and changed into my business suit to attend a reception being hosted in the Worldcon members' honor at City Hall. They invited selected members of the convention (weighted apparently based on our participation in the convention as staff or programming participants) and hosted us in a large room in the city hall, which was originally a hotel during the imperial Russian period.

Feeling Welcomed )

After the reception, I returned to the hotel, where it was at last possible for pre-registered members to collect our credentials. Thanks to being personally recognized by Eemili Aro, I was able to collect not only my badge, but also Lisa's (she hadn't returned from the tour yet), and that's a relief. With more than 5,000 attending members already pre-registered, I didn't want to be in the queues on Wednesday.

Lisa got back late, and we made an effort to go downtown for dinner, but found nothing that both suited us and was open, so instead we bought some groceries and took them back to the hotel. The Holiday Inn helpfully had emptied the mini-bar so we could use it to store perishables.

Tomorrow, when the convention starts, we have no early commitments (unlike the other days of the convention), so we'll probably pay for the hotel breakfast buffet (not included in our free-with-points room). The other days, we won't have time for that. We're still considering our options.
kevin_standlee: (Go By Train)
2017-08-07 11:36 pm

Worldcon 2017 Trip Day 6: Trains, Trams, and Dinner

This evening, we made plans to take Chris Carson out to dinner for his birthday. We were to meet at Japanese restaurant northwest of Helsinki Central train station. The most straightforward way to reach it would have been a bus ride from the convention center, but Lisa and I, having already purchased a day pass on the system, decided to ride the train downtown, then walk to the restaurant.

Spot the Bear )

After dinner, we once again could have taken a bus, but we preferred tram (Line 4) to Central Station. Line 7, which would have taken us straight to the convention center, is replaced by the 7x bus due to construction of Pasila Station. We'll take buses if we must, but we prefer rail transit even if it's not the shortest journey.

A Couple of Train Station Photos )

Four minutes after departure, we got off at Pasila. We'll be on the trains again tomorrow. We wish we'd done a bit more research over the cost of transit passes. A 1-day pass (which you can buy on board the trams and buses) is €9. A 2-day pass (which you must get from a ticket machine at a station) is €13.50 and is obviously a much better value. All Worldcon members will receive transit passes good for the convention days, but that does us no good on the "shoulder" days like today and tomorrow.

The restaurant? Well, I can't say as I recommend Umeshu. I've had much better. It wasn't bad, but I don't think it was all that great, either. But we enjoyed the company.

Between the past two days, I've logged more than 20K steps, but 3/4 of them were today, because of the semi-enforced idleness on board ship. My feet already hurt, and we're only at Worldcon day -2.

Now I hope I can get some sleep because we have to be up early to get Lisa back downtown for the 8 AM departure of the tour to the nuclear power plant.
kevin_standlee: (FinnCon)
2017-08-07 03:44 pm
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Worldcon 2017 Trip Day 6: Welcome to Helsinki

Possibly because I had a nap yesterday afternoon, I woke up around 3 AM and dozed fitfully thereafter before giving up around 5 AM, showering, and going up to the deserted lounge where I got a tiny bit of online work done. I'm surprised that Finnlines doesn't open their cafe at 6 AM on the final morning at sea. Lisa and I were among the first in the queue for the "Sea Breakfast" (a somewhat cut-down but still generous buffet) in the main restaurant that opened at 7:30 AM as the ship approached Helsinki.

Approaching Our Destination )

We arrived about fifteen minutes early, and around 9:15, walk-on (i.e. without vehicles) passengers like us were allowed to disembark. Courtesy vans shuttled us to the terminal. Cheryl Morgan was there to meet us, with her friend Otto, who had kindly agreed to collect us and drive us to the hotel, saving us having to negotiate bus-metro-train connections with eight pieces of luggage. Cheryl also had helpfully obtained for me a SIM card for the mobile phone I had in 2014 at Loncon.

At the hotel, we were very early, but the front desk was very helpful and told us that the previous occupant had checked out and that housekeeping would do our room next. We waited in the lobby and Cheryl helped me activate my mobile phone. I now have a Finnish (+358) telephone number usable for the duration of our stay here. (Write to me directly if you need the number for some reason.) We bade Cheryl and Otto goodbye, and shortly thereafter, our room was ready for us.

Settling In )

We are pleased with the hotel room. I am very pleased with the internet connection. Not only do I get upgraded premium wi-fi, but there is a wired connection in the hotel room (and I brought a cable). The speed is 12-15 mbps both download and upload, which bodes well for us getting the official Business Meeting recordings online relatively quickly.

Today is not only move-in day, but also a "maintenance" day. Our plans called for us to get some laundry done. In addition, Lisa was looking for a hardware store because along the way, a screw had worked itself out of one of her pieces of luggage and she hoped to repair it. It turns out that we could get several errands done simultaneously.

While we were moving in, so was rain, and it was raining heavily by the time we had our laundry bagged up and ready to go. The hotel, however, helpfully provided us with loaner umbrellas! The #9 tram stops directly across from the hotel, and because it's a terminal loop, you don't have to worry about direction: all trams are going toward downtown. We bought a pair of day passes (€9 each) and rode the tram to Fleminginkatu. That put us at the S-Market (grocery store) which has a 24 Pasula coin laundry inside.

One Stop Shop: Laundry, Shopping, Hardware )

After completing our errands, we returned to the hotel, where Lisa attacked her luggage and power cords to affect repairs and alterations, while I painted my fingernails. I had vowed that this would be the first Worldcon in about ten where I didn't crack a fingernail, so I used the kit I'd packed in the hold luggage (lest I be tempted to try hijacking the airplane with a nail file), trimmed my nails, and coated them with clear nail-hardening solution.

So we're mostly settled in for the long haul through Worldcon and beyond. Tonight Lisa and I will be taking her friend Chris out to dinner for his birthday. Tomorrow Chris and Lisa head off to the Nuclear Power Plant tour, while I see what can be done on day -1 of Worldcon.
kevin_standlee: (FinnCon)
2017-08-06 09:27 pm
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Worldcon 2017 Trip Day 5: Our Day At Sea

This trip on the Finnstar has been very nice. Comfortable bed in a cabin that is more efficiently arranged than our hotel room in Hamburg, good food — and I say this as someone who partakes of quality hotel buffets in Reno regularly — and good company with our fellow fans. It's been quite restful. Internet connectivity has been somewhat spotty (we knew that would be an issue), and consequently I haven't had bandwidth to put all of our photos so far online or to annotate them. I hope I manage to get that done, but experience shows that this is doubtful.

We're scheduled to arrive Helsinki tomorrow morning, disembarking about 9:30 AM. Our final meal at sea starts serving early due to the early arrival, so I anticipate getting to bed soon. Lisa and are both very happy that we arranged the trip this way. A couple of days of relatively enforced rest has been good for us. Like a vacation, even.
kevin_standlee: (FinnCon)
2017-08-05 11:45 pm
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Worldcon 2017 Trip Day 4: Hamburg to the Ferry

No time to really write about it now, and I hope I'll be able to get the photos online tomorrow while the ferry is at sea, but we had a good time in Hamburg for our one day here. We did have a miserable train trip from Hamburg to Lubeck and a complete waste of a first-class fare for which I'm going to ask DB for a partial refund, but we made it. Indeed, we got here 4 hours early, which is a bit of a waste, but we had dinner in the ferry terminal cafeteria and were there which Chris Carson and his traveling companion joined us. Soon thereafter, we had a bit of a mini-pre-Worldcon party going on with the people on their way to Worldcon, which continues as I type this in the lounge on board the Finnstar. (We have to wait for the cabins to be cleaned and prepared for us before we can go to them.)

I have wi-fi on the lounge deck of the ship, but probably not in our cabin. Don't know how much I'll be online during the trip yet. Tomorrow looks like a good day to rest. The ship's meal schedule is very civilized. Due the 0400 sailing, breakfast doesn't even start until 0930.
kevin_standlee: (FinnCon)
2017-08-04 07:31 pm

Worldcon 2017 Trip Day 2+: SFO-PDX-KEF-HAM

Today was the longest day. We got up about 7:30 AM on Thursday, August 3 in Millbrae and I'm going to bed in Hamburg around 7:30 PM on Friday, August 4 (about 10:30 AM Pacific Time) with no intervening sleep. But while there were negatives (like not getting any sleep), it was otherwise a pretty good trip, and we're now safely in Hamburg for our "flying visit."

SFO Security Theatre )

The Alaska flight up to PDX was no fun at all. Fully loaded, and I was in the middle seat. But it was less than two hours, and the flight was on time. As we came in, the flight attendant made an announcement for those of us going on the Reykjavik on IcelandAir, noting that there were 17 of us on the plane. As it happens, I only recognized two others besides me who were going to Worldcon: Charlie Jane Anders and Annalee Newitz, who we spoke to briefly in the departure lounge at PDX before the flight boarded.

Upgrade Jackpot )

We landed in Iceland, where we found that the airport is under significant construction, but fortunately, it wasn't raining.

Upgrade Part Two )

While on this last leg of the flight I could have possibly slept, I decided that it would be a bad idea to do so if I wanted to get onto the correct time zone, so I drank coffee to stay awake into Hamburg. We landed at Hamburg and spent a while trying to find a working DB ATM (because they are partners with Bank of America and thus I wouldn't be hit with an extra fee). We got it eventually and unlike the Barcelona trip, the ATM processed the request with no incident. That is good, because as we found, cash is still king here in Germany. Also, my credit card is US-style and doesn't have a PIN, which makes it impossible to use on automated terminals like at the train stations. I was worried that we'd dawdled on our errands, but as it happens, luggage was just starting to roll out when we got to baggage claim. We picked up our bags and cleared customs (a single bored-looking guard), then found our way to the train station.

Training into Hamburg )

When we checked in to the Holiday Inn Express Hamburg, we had a surprise.

That New Hotel Smell )

After getting moved in, doing some unpacking, and confirming that I could raise the wi-fi on my phone and computer, we set out to find some dinner. We knew that we needed to stay awake until early evening in order to have a chance to stave off jet-lag. We headed off a different way than we came, and almost got caught in a rain shower, but fortunately Lisa spotted a model train store, where we popped in until the rain cleared. Unlike Tokyo and Osaka in 2007, where we had to buy an extra piece of luggage to carry all of the gear she bought at the Kato Model Trains factory outlet stores, Lisa restrained herself to a single car: I nice N scale fire truck.

Something Fishy This Way Comes )

It was after 7 PM local time when we got back to the hotel. Lisa got ready for bed as soon as she could. Once I get this posted (which hasn't been proofread well, so I may end up having to make a lot of edits later), I'm going to bed as well. Tomorrow, the included breakfast runs until 11 AM, which is a great thing because it means we don't have to be up early to get fed. We have one day of looking around more of Hamburg before we head for Lübeck and Travemünde.

I'm very tired, but happy to be here.
kevin_standlee: (FinnCon)
2017-08-03 08:57 am
Entry tags:

Casting Off

The shuttle to the airport (which picks up right outside of our room) leaves in about an hour. We're about to pack the stuff we don't need on the trip into the back of the minivan and leave the keys with the hotel, which will park the vehicle off-site and bring it back for when we return.

In response to someone who pointed out less expensive parking options: Yes, if we were just parking, we can do better. But we have a 300 mi/500 km drive on both ends of the trip, and knew we needed a hotel night on each end of the trip. Therefore, what we're doing makes more sense to us, because it's not likely we could have had a less-expensive total package (hotel+parking) otherwise. Twenty years ago we might have been up to getting up at midnight, driving 500 km to SFO, then flying 15 hours to Europe, but we're older now (and frankly, better off financially).

If you say, "Why aren't you flying out of Reno," the answer is "We couldn't put together a routing that worked with IcelandAir and using frequent-flyer points to fly home in first class." So we add some inconvenience and expense in some places in return for a nicer flight experience.

I do not expect to be online much until we get to Hamburg sometime tomorrow, and maybe not much even then. After all, we're supposed to be enjoying ourselves on the one day we have in Germany while also trying to adjust to a new time zone, not huddling over a computer.
kevin_standlee: (Default)
2017-08-02 09:45 pm
Entry tags:

Worldcon 2017 Trip Day 1: And It's Cool

Things at Day Jobbe went well this morning (and I did extra stuff on Monday and Tuesday), so I was able to log out at Noon today, and because we'd been doing packing and planning for days, and because we've developed a checklist for securing the house, we managed to get away before 1 PM. We stopped to grab some burgers at Sparks and headed west. That's Lisa's last solid meal until we are air-side tomorrow, because chewing exacerbates her tinnitus and she has to spend time without her white-noise blocker thanks to our oh-so-wonderful TSA and Security Theater. So she's on smoothies until then, and so we stopped at Jamba Juice in Rocklin. Normally I would stop to see my sister, but I did send her a card for her birthday (which is Friday) telling her we'd stop by on our way home, and I really wanted to get down to Millbrae. We made pretty good time, getting to the hotel before 8 PM. Compared to the 40°C weather in Fernley and the hotter-and-stickier temps in the Central Valley, Millbrae was lovely and cool. Lisa and I luxuriated in the comfortable weather.

I nipped out and got Lisa another smoothie for her dinner, then got myself something more solid while she took a bath. By the time I was back, she was already asleep.

The hotel we're staying in is on a "park and fly" deal. Because we're staying here on the night we get back to SFO, parking for the entire time we're gone is included. In effect, we're paying $20/day for long-term parking with two hotel nights included.

Tomorrow is likely to be the worst day of the trip, because it's flights SFO-PDX (Alaska), then PDX-KEF-HAM (IcelandAir), for roughly 15 hours of travel, and I think it will be about 0300 on our body clocks when we get to Germany. I hope we get some sleep on the flights.

Inevitably, we forget something on these trips. Around Sacramento, I recalled that I'd forgotten to pack my Bose noise-canceling headphones, which is a pity because they make these long airplane flights much easier. However, if that's the most significant thing we forgot, I will count ourselves lucky.
kevin_standlee: (FinnCon)
2017-08-01 05:14 pm
Entry tags:

Upgrade Time

Although our flights back from Helsinki will be in IcelandAir Saga (business/first) class thanks to Alaska Airlines frequent-flyer miles, the outbound trip we purchased in Economy. IcelandAir has an offer where you get to "bid" on an upgraded Saga or Economy Comfort seat. (Economy Comfort is three seats for two people, with the middle seat blocked out.) A few days ago I put in bids and yesterday I learned the news: I hadn't bid enough for Saga, but both legs of the trip got upgrades to Economy Comfort. Now this roughly doubled the cost of the outbound trip, but it's still less than the E+ seats would have originally cost to purchase, so that seems to be a win to us. We pointed out to Kuma Bear that we more or less paid as much for his "seat" as for Lisa and me put together.

I called IcelandAir this afternoon to check on our seat assignments and to make sure that we were on the left side of the plane. (Because of Lisa's bad left ear, she prefers to sit with her left ear against the outside of the plane so she can hear me without having to turn her head.) I checked the assignments against what SeatGuru says the cabin arrangements are for our two flights (PDX-KEF and KEF-HAM), and I'm a bit puzzled, because according to those, we might actually be in Saga class seats. Not that I'd complain about that, of course. However, SeatGuru's maps may be out of date. Another nice thing sabout the EC seats is that they have power outlets, too.

The opening leg is SFO-PDX to get to the IcelandAir gateway, and that's a 737 that's showing packed, with me and Lisa in 30AB. That's not going to be fun, but I've done the flight a lot of times and I'll survive. Glad I've been continuing to lose weight.

Packing tonight. We're trying to not over-pack if we can avoid it, but it's a challenge, since we have to do things like fit the medium tripod in with my stuff, for instance. We'd like to leave room to carry things back. OTOH, since the return trip is in Saga class (with an extra checked bag each), if we must do so, we can buy some more luggage in Finland and carry the extras back that way. We did that on the Japan trip, and got a surprisingly good piece of luggage in a back street in Tokyo on the way to the Kato model train factory outlet store.

One more day at home. We leave tomorrow as soon after Noon as I can manage with the Day Jobbe.
kevin_standlee: (Fernley House)
2017-07-30 06:46 pm
Entry tags:

Calm Before the Storm

I only had a few things to get done today with Worldcon trip prep. I'd love to start packing, but it's too soon. Because I won't be able to rely on my smartphone (no way I'm going to set myself up for $$$$ in roaming charges), I've been printing out maps and directions to things we plan to do in Hamburg and Helsinki, and details about getting in between places like the train from Hamburg to Lubeck and the bus to Travemunde to catch the ferry. It's rather astonishing to realize how many trains there are between the cities, and how there are three different bus route with useful frequencies from Lubeck over to the ferry terminal. I'm just too used to working with train and bus schedules that are inconvenient and sparse, I guess. I expect that we'll show up earlier than we really need to do, if only to reduce stress should we miss a train or a bus along the way and have to wait for the next one.

Now I have to concentrate on working on the Day Jobbe for the next three days before we leave for San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon.
kevin_standlee: (FinnCon)
2017-07-27 03:39 pm
Entry tags:

One Week to Go

A week from today as I write this, Lisa and I should be in Portland changing planes for our flight to Reykjavík and then on to Hamburg. A week from yesterday we leave for the Bay Area, because the trip starts from there. I dropped off the vacation form with the local Sheriff's department today to schedule extra home checks. Lists of things to finish before we can leave are getting checked off. I alternatively want to hurry up and get going and am terrified that there's not enough time to finish everything. But I must say that I'm looking forward to only having to worry about travel logistics and Worldcon stuff for three weeks.
kevin_standlee: (SMOF License)
2017-07-13 07:14 pm
Entry tags:

License Renewed

I got the postcard reminding me that my driver's license was up for renewal the afternoon we left Fernley for Tempe. Had I been reading it (and the Nevada DMV website) closely enough, I would have realized that I could have renewed at the Tonopah DMV office — which is in the same building as the Tonopah Station Hotel where we spent that night. But I misread it as saying that I must bring a bunch of documents I do not carry around with me casually (birth certificate, house deed, social security card, tax records, etc.). That's only if I wanted a REAL-ID Act-compliant driver's license. Although I do have all of those documents (but it's a right hassle to pull them all together), I don't see the need for such an ID, because my US passport does just as well for all of the reasons stated for needing the super-duper ID card. Anyway, I skipped renewing at Tonopah, and after I got home, I read more closely and realized that I could just do a standard renewal without having to provide a dozen different additional documents.

This afternoon after my normal-these-days end of work (3 PM PT; an advantage of working Central Time Zone hours), I drove over to Fallon. Fernley doesn't have a DMV office; either you drive to Sparks or Fallon. We discovered by experimentation (apologies to Lisa, who was the experimental test subject) that waiting times at little Fallon are generally much shorter than those at the large office in Sparks. Sure enough, I had a five minute wait to pay my fee, hand over the form, and have my photo re-taken.

A sign of age: I now have the "must wear corrective lenses" endorsement, for I can no longer read the line of text without my glasses. Well, 51 years was a pretty good run, I guess.

I may have my new license before we leave for Europe, but it doesn't matter that much because I do have my passport (which I will of course need to even board the plane since the airlines sensibly won't let you on if they think they'd just have to carry you back on the next available flight), and we get back to the USA a week before my existing driving license expires. And I don't have any plans to drive a vehicle while in Germany/Finland/Iceland anyway.