Monday, June 17, 2013

Early Start to Japan

I promised this trip would include some blogging. So away we go….

After nearly two years of talking about it and dreaming about it, we are now on our way to Japan. Even as we sit here in the Air Canada airplane on our way to Vancouver for a quick layover it still doesn’t seem real.

Many people have asked “Why Japan?” Fair question since this was never on our bucket list of places to visit. After all, it is very far away and I don’t speak the language or even recognize its words. The seed was planted by our friend Masumi who works for Tokyo Disney. We met Masumi during a trip to Disneyland (California) and became friends. A year later we met up at DisneyLand again. Unfortunately the timing of that trip coincided with Hurricane Irene. Our flight was significantly delayed and we almost didn’t see each other. We made plans to meet up in Florida at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios (one of the perks of the Comcast and Universal merger was a one-day one-park pass to Universal Studios). It was on this trip in January 2012 when Masumi finally talked us into going to Tokyo.

The plan had been that in 2013 we would go to France to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. The trip would include a stop at EuroDisney (now known as Disneyland Paris). Disneyland Paris. Tokyo Disneyland. Same thing, right?
Masumi graciously offered to be our tour guide. She speaks excellent English, and is extremely sweet.

It has been a long planning process. First I had to create my list of “wants,” then we had to narrow down my wish list to what was possible to do in two weeks. That meant my wish to visit Hokkaido was scrapped as that would have required a 6 hour flight, which wasn’t cheap.

Then we had to decide on dates. We went back and forth a good bit on this. We knew it had to be during Ashley’s summer vacation, but not during Don’s busy time of the month, plus I wanted to be home for the Fourth of July. Pros and cons to all dates. These dates meant missing out on Art AllNight, and it meant starting our vacation as soon as school ended.

So here we are in the airplane. We spent the night at my parents’ house. They graciously agreed to wake up at 3 AM to drive us to Newark Airport for a 7 AM flight. We made it in plenty of time, so much so the ticket agent was not yet at work (we had issues with printing the boarding passes from home). As we told Ashley, the old “hurry up and wait game.”

We made it to our gate with an hour and a half to spare. We heard a small child screaming his way through security and even as he waited for his flight to Florida. Happily none of his “friends” seem to be on this leg of our journey. Hoping we are just as lucky on the next leg.

It is our first time flying Air Canada. We are usually diehard Jet Blue fans, but must say this is giving them a run for our business. The backs of the seats have an outlet and a USB port so we can charge our electronics as we fly. The in-flight entertainment includes TV, movies, games, and music – all for free (JetBlue charges for movies). There seems to be more legroom than I had anticipated. It also helps that the section around us (by the wings) is fairly empty. Most of the people slept for the first half of the 6 hour flight. It is a very quiet flight.

We were not as fortunate on the second (and much longer) leg). The flight included a screaming baby. Fortunately the baby settled down for most of the flight.

For me the highlight of the Air Canada flight was being able to watch French movies with English subtitles. As the French say “Super!” I saw “Camile Redouble,” “Haute Cuisine,” and a Belgian / Quebec film called “Congorama.”

This plane was much larger than any we have flown – it was 50 rows long, and had 2 seats, then 4 seats, than 2 seats. The seat next to Don was empty so Ashley toggled between next to me (by the window) and next to Don. The flight was nearly full.

What I love about International flights, and miss with regular domestic flights, is being fed and having a blankie and pillow waiting for you. Our first leg to Vancouver did not include these benefits because it was considered a North American flight. Boo hiss! Don and Ashley appreciated the two hour leg stretch at the Vancouver airport, and lunch at the A&W. Yes, I ordered a root beer with my meal.

This was our first time crossing the International Date Line. Remarkable only in its non-remarked upon status. I still don’t understand how it works, but I am on the other side of it. Maybe someday a trip will take us to the other side of the equator.

We slept a lot. The food was tasty. If the person in front of me did not insist on leaning into my lap, it would have been perfect.

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