Wednesday, December 20, 1995

1995 Israel (12/18-20/1995)

Monday, December 18, 1995
Our trip to Israel began just after 21:00 today, when American Airlines called us at home to inform us that our planned flights for tomorrow (Providence to JFK at 14:15 and JFK to London at 18:30) were cancelled due to the impending snowstorm. We could be rescheduled for later, but those flights were likely to also be cancelled, or we could reschedule earlier! We were booked for the 6:45 flight tomorrow from Providence to JFK, and a 9:30 flight from JFK to London. We would have to spend the night in London, then take the planned flight from London Gatwick to Tel Aviv. We scrambled to rearrange our lives. I wrote a note to Brynne’s teacher, Mrs McCarthy, and drove to the Walshes, as Erin would take the note and the gift for Mrs McCarthy to school for us. Kent called Lisa, and I drove over with some items and the keys, as her kids were going to watch our house while we are gone. I also picked up a notebook for Brynne to keep a journal of the trip, because she would miss being able to pick up school work tomorrow. I left a message at Fallon School that I would not be in as planned. In our hurry, we forgot to tell Tessa and Carys we would not be there to escort them to the bus stop, until it was too late to call. Final packing, plus helping Santa be ready for Christmas Day!

Tuesday, December 19, 1995
Up at 5:00, packed the toothbrushes, set the thermostat and did a final once-through the house. Left about 5:30 to drive to Thrifty to park the car. Took the courtesy bus to the airport. Checked in at American, where we had to be re-ticketed. We went to the Food Court for breakfast from Dunkin Donuts, getting a donut for Brynne and a blueberry muffin for me and Kent ($4.33). Kent had coffee and I shared a chocolate milk ($1.55) with Brynne. Somehow we got an extra donut! Through security to wait at the gate. We boarded about 6:35 the Saab commuter propeller plane, sitting in the three seats across the plane (one and two across the aisle). We sat and sat, before being told there was a technical problem that maintenance needed to look at. Later the pilot said his altimeter read 58,000 feet and could not be reset. We had to get off the plane so they could shut it down to reset the computer. It was getting late enough to worry about missing connections, and Kent got in line to see what was being done. We learned they decided this plane could not be flown and cancelled the 6:45 flight. We were put on the 7:40 flight and were assured we would make the 9:30 connection to London. So we waited, and waited. The time of 7:40 came and went while they said they were still readying the plane. Kent went to ask if we would still make our connection, but by then they announced that this plane had technical problems. With us, they rescheduled our flight to the 12:15 flight to Chicago (since everything in New York was being cancelled now) and then a 17:00 flight to London Heathrow arriving at 6:40 tomorrow. And back to the plan where we would have to take a shuttle to the Gatwick airport for the 9:00 flight to Tel Aviv. As it turned out, I had forgotten to pack the grated cheese the Ls had requested, and because Lisa was home sick, Kent had a business errand to run. Also, Brynne was disappointed she did not get to school today. So we went to get the car from Thrifty (no charge!) and drove first to Kent’s office for him to pick up an order to deliver to American Trophy. As we were leaving Senergy, the owner, Joe Vuono came running out to wish us 'bon voyage' and Merry Christmas, and handed Kent a bonus check! American Trophy was closed, so we went to Brynne’s school where we had to explain to Mrs Baribeault, Mrs Walsh (who was subbing at Francis School), and Mrs McCarthy! Let Brynne stay at school and we went to the house to pick up the grated cheese and a couple other items to pack. Kent made work-related calls. Then I dropped him off at American Trophy, deposited the check, and picked up Brynne and her homework folder, stopped at the RX Place for a gluestick, and finally picked up Kent. Driving back to Thrifty, a Lincoln-like car passed a truck, then pulled right in front of the truck. The truck driver hit his brakes and veered into our lane. I veered into the high speed lane, but a car was speeding along in that lane, so I sped up to pull back into our lane, now past the truck. A very close call! It seemed three instances of bad luck (having to reschedule, disabled plane followed by another disabled plane) were offset by three pieces of good luck (chance to get grated cheese, bonus check, and no accident!). Now we hoped things went according to plan. Parked at Thrifty, and the same courtesy bus driver took us back to the airport. American had given us a $15 voucher for food, which we used in the Food Court for a pepperoni pizza, a ham sandwich, a pear, a banana, a milk, and two waters totaling $14.55! Headed to the gate and boarded quickly. We were seated in First Class (!), Brynne and I together in the first row and Kent across the aisle. We were all pretty tired and did not take advantage of the pre-flight drinks and snack. Left at 12:30, heading west to begin a trip to the east! Beverages (ginger ale for me, beer for Kent) and peanuts or pretzels, then a steaming cloth to clean up. For lunch we had chicken focaccia sandwich (with chicken breast, cheese, and artichoke on grilled bread) with pasta salad and an olive roll (very olive-y!). The flight attendant gave us a bag with tortilla chips for Brynne, which she ate as we descended into Chicago over Lake Michigan. Leftover snow, frozen ponds. Landed just before 15:00/14:00 local time. Went to the Admirals Club during our layover. Kent bought drinks for him and Brynne, and they got a bowl full of free snacks.
Brynne and Kent in the Admirals Club
There was an electric shoe buffer in the restroom. They are predicting 12-18 inches of snow in Rhode Island, with high winds. Brynne was bored with the Admirals Club, so we made our way to the gate. There was a long line to check in, but we were already set. Boarded the MD-11 plane at about 16:40, having three seats in the middle of a row of five seats, three rows back from the bulkhead behind business class. Due to leave at 17:05, it was closer to 17:20 when we took off. Free headphones, beverages and peanuts. Later dinner was a choice of steak, grilled chicken, or pasta. Kent and I had the chicken, and Brynne had the ziti pasta (pronounced with a short ‘i’ by the flight attendant, like “zitty”). Meals came with a salad and dressing, roll and butter, cheddar cheese and crackers, carrots and string beans, corn pancakes, and mint chocolate ice cream. Tried to sleep, but Brynne was jumping up and down. They showed CNN news for an hour and Brynne was anxiously awaiting the movie, “The Amazing Panda Adventure.” It was late when they started the movie, and Brynne fussed over her headphones not fitting properly. So we put her down to sleep at 23:30 home time. She slept for two hours, through the breakfast of cranberry muffin, banana yogurt, and orange juice. After the “Panda” movie they showed anther short movie.

Wednesday, December 20, 1994
Dozed fitfully. Arrived in London about 1:40 home time/6:40 local time, and it was rainy in the mid-30 degrees F. Still dark when we woke Brynne up. When we came out of the ramp off the plane, a man standing there had a sign with a list of passenger names including 'Stumpe x3.' We reported in and were asked to show our tickets. We were then given directions to follow signs for Arrivals, and look for the Speedlink to Gatwick Airport. We passed baggage claim and stopped at passport control. Through the green lane with nothing to declare/customs and out into a large hall. Kent asked at a taxi kiosk about the Speedlink, and we were sent to a ticket counter where the agent would be back in five minutes. Made Brynne go to the bathroom, since she had not gone since the Admirals Club in Chicago! Kent learned a taxi would cost 70£, and the Speedlink would cost us 39£. I had changed only $50 to about 30£, so Kent had to change another $20 to about 10£. So Speedlink cost us nearly $70! Another ticket agent informed us if we were paying in cash, we could go out to bus bay #8 and buy our tickets there. When we arrived, a touring bus pulled up, and we purchased tickets from the agent, 15£/adult and 9£ for Brynne, with 1£ in change! We boarded the bus that had little tables at the seats. We sat in the last row because there were three seats in a row. The bus left about 7:20. We stopped at another terminal, then headed out on the road, on the “wrong” side! There were hostesses to serve complimentary hot beverages; Kent had coffee. Brynne fell asleep as it slowly got light outside, though still very gray. Passed bucolic pasture land. Some cattle, some horses, and also sheep, looking like dirty cotton-balls in green pastures. At about 8:20 we arrived at Gatwick, a newer airport. Kent asked the hostess which terminal was for British Airways, and it was the North, or second stop. Had to wake up Brynne again, and disembarked from the bus. In the terminal, we determined we had to check in at Zone G, in the back corner. We went through security check/x-ray, then passport control. We used restrooms, found our gate and checked in again. At each check in we had to show our passports. As we waited, two men wearing bullet-proof vests and carrying sub-machine guns came to stand by the gate (?). A girl announced that passengers should go through the gate, down the walkway, and board the coaches to go to the plane. I stood up, but apparently was the only one who understood! I sat back down until the announcement was repeated! The coaches/buses drove out to a 737 instead of the 747 sitting right by the gate! Had to wait a few minutes for the steps to be put in place before we could board. We went to the rear stairs as we were in Row 19. Immediately the “Jewishness” of the passengers became evident. Or was it “New Yorkishness”?! A couple complained about their seats being too close to smoking, and the woman went to sit a few rows up. She came back, but found she had misplaced her eyeglasses. She found the case in the forward seat, but had the crew make an announcement to look for the glasses, which she later found herself. When Kent was standing to put our things in the overhead bin, Mr Eyeglasses pulled his jacket out of the bin, whacking Kent in the eye with the stopper on a drawstring. He did not even notice how he had injured Kent. The Eyeglasses couple just could not understand why we were so late, even though they had announced we were waiting for delayed flights so that passengers could make their connections. People were playing musical seats and not bothering to sit in their assigned seats. Once the plane started moving, people were still trying to change their seats, and the flight attendants had to admonish people to stay seated until the seat belt sign went off. This was repeated several times throughout the flight. The flight attendants did their best, but became short with the demanders/complainers. One man had a particle fly into his eye, and the flight attendants were very attentive to him, using an eyewash solution, etc. We were due to leave at 10:00, left at 10:35. Mr & Mrs Eyeglasses were also complaining about the landing cards, as if the flight attendants should know all the information, when it is the debarkation country government that wants it. Brynne was feeling better and had the banana from breakfast. She decided to sit in the middle seat. We flew over a cloud cover for most of the flight, but in a clear area we saw Lake Balaton, half of which we circled when we went to Hungary in 1993.
Somewhere over SE Europe
At about 12:30 London time/14:30 Israel time, we were served lunch over Bosnia! Had chicken Marsala (?) with carrots, green beans, pearl onions, mushrooms, and green gnocchi, roll and butter, sautéed veggies with cream cheese, yogurt, cream puffs with chocolate sauce, and a bite-size Lindor chocolate. We let Kent sit by the window and Brynne by the aisle. We could see patches of landscape, and mountains sticking up through the clouds. The Eyeglasses couple have misplaced a bag and a jacket. They have had specific drink requests. The flight attendants have apologized for not being at their best because it is a long day for them, and also that this was not their favorite route (!). Read a little, tried to sleep a little. After crossing the duty-free Mediterranean Sea, we could see the coast with a little peninsula (Haifa?). Arrived in Tel Aviv about 17:00 local time, two hours later than London time of 15:00. As we stood up to leave the plane, the couple behind us were suddenly in front of Kent and pushing towards the front of the plane. There was an announcement that the back exit was open, and suddenly the couple were behind Kent and on their way to the back! We filed out and crowded into coaches to be driven to the terminal. At passport control, our passports were stamped with visas without question. We changed $200 into shekels at a rate of 2.9 and used the restrooms. Through baggage claim and the nothing-to-declare lane, and out into the terminal with loads of people waiting, many holding signs. One woman asked on which airline we had arrived, and another asked if we had come from New York. Outside we asked at a taxi info stand where to catch the “sherut,” then followed signs for the shuttle to Jerusalem. We immediately were squeezed into a van, which held four in the back row (Brynne on our lap), three in the middle and a passenger up front with the driver. We had the Ls’ handwritten address, so the driver could figure out where everyone was headed. There was traffic until we got on Route 1, and then we moved right along. Things seemed quite modern, the airport, the cars, the well-lighted roads, so that we felt like we had arrived in Florida with palm trees, although it was cool. Stuffy in the van, however. We turned off at an exit to drop off a pair of Americans, door-to-door service. A woman had asked to be dropped off first, but did not complain when we dropped off the couple before reaching Jerusalem. She was actually the third stop, although she tried to tell the driver it would have been easier for him if she was dropped off first. The driver insisted he knew what he was doing, and they went back and forth until she was let off and he left her at the curb with many bags. The fellow next to us started a conversation and gave us a card. He was a Palestinian from Bethlehem, and invited us to visit. We were dropped off at the Hagdud Haivri address, and were charged about 78 shekels plus two for a tip (29 per passenger and less for Brynne). According to instructions we received both through a telephone message from Dot and a note on the door, we buzzed #3 where a neighbor, Ronna K, buzzed the door to let us in to the apartment building. We took the elevator to the second floor where Ms Katz waited to let us in to the Ls’ apartment across the hall at #4. Dot had left notes all around the apartment. It was like a fun scavenger hunt! A welcoming note, a note about dinner, notes on the sink and dishwasher, on the bathroom door, in the bedrooms. We had arrived about 18:20 and Kent put the dinner in the oven. Not much later, Dot arrived home. Tom was scheduled to have angioplasty today, to balloon a couple veins in his leg, but once at the hospital in Tel Aviv, an angiogram was done, and the doctors felt a decision had to be made whether to do the angioplasty or surgery. The Ls felt the decision had already been made, and were discouraged to have Tom sent back to the hospital in Jerusalem with nothing done a second time. (Surgery was cancelled last week due to a medical emergency for the surgeon.) Dot did not join us for dinner of goulash (ground beef and rotini pasta) and bread. We did not have the salad. We brought out the grated cheese and learned Margaret had brought some in November, but that was half gone already. They could use more! We then brought out all the car information we had researched for them, and they seem to have decided on the Saturn and would be communicating with a dealer in Williamsville. They were thankful for the detailed information on Saturn prices including servicing fees.  We showered, and Brynne enjoyed the hand held shower head. Tried to get to bed and Kent fell right asleep, but Brynne was still running around. Finally to bed at 23:00 or so.
Next: Jerusalem I.

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