After a good dinner and sleep the night before I woke up with a nasty cold developing. Head congestion, runny nose, the works. Blech. The way I’d been running myself ragged the last 6-7 weeks it was hardly surprising, but after the mild cold I had just under two weeks prior in New Zealand to now get a full-blown one sucked. Oh well, the small price to be paid for an amazing time!
…and the view out my room at the Sheraton was amazing as well:
Task number one was coffee. The Sheraton Executive Lounge had a nice breakfast spread, and after stuffing myself with several espressos, fruit, hummus, and cheese, I gave into the temptation of the beach:
It was a lovely 70F/20C out, and there were shirtless runners everywhere and people playing in the ocean. Um, it’s a little cold for that I think, but hey, A for effort people! With the major head cold making me dizzy and hungover feeling I decided the best thing I could do before changing climate again was to walk off as much of the cold as possible. I took a 3 or so mile walk up and down the beach people watching and basking in the sun.
After my walk it was time to head back to the room, pack up my bags, and head to the airport. The hotel arranged a taxi for me, and my driver was very chatty, wanting to have a talk about the world with me. His English was pretty poor so we settled on French, and had a nice talk about what was going on in the world. Ebola, ISIS, the first black president of the US, this guy was sharp and on top of current affairs. I guess I’m used to it living in DC, but I find so many taxi drivers to be worldly and interesting people. It makes me wonder how they ended up driving taxis…and it kinda makes me want to drive for Uber 😉
Got to TLV and it was time to see what the much-vaunted Israeli security was all about!
First task was to check in. Before you can even check in, you have to queue up to talk to a security agent before going to the check-in counters. The wait was about 20 minutes, and then I had a nice little chat. He wasn’t really interested what I’d been up to in Israel (thank God, because I’d hate to have to explain getting teargassed in Aida and visiting Ramallah) but he took quite an interest in all the African visas in my passport. We had a nice little talk about Ebola, what I was up to in Africa, etc. Fortunately this passport didn’t have any SUPER-interesting stamps like Middle East, Afghanistan, etc, so it was the Africa angle he focused on. Barcode on the back of my passport, and I was waived to check-in.
The barcodes on the passport start with a different number to indicate the further screening you will be subjected to. Mine was a 5, meaning I’d get everything short of the full cavity search. No, seriously, it just meant a longer wait at security and a full hand search and explosives swabbing of all my bags.
Check-in took two minutes, and the it was off to security, where I waited 30 minutes for the honour of having my bags xrayed and then hand searched and fully swabbed for explosives. All of this took nearly an hour, but I took it in as part of the experience and it went by quickly. As a single male, traveling alone, with unusual stamps in my passport, on my first visit to Israel, I think it was a good call on their part…even if I didn’t come across as sketchy. This is security done right, people!
Stopped by the DAN lounge for a few minutes, mainly to get a small snack (more hummus…yay!) and a diet coke before heading to the plane.
This is where the disappointment really started. Originally, the flight had been scheduled for a proper A330, which was the whole reason I booked this routing as opposed to via FRA or somewhere else. The morning of they downgraded it to an A321 with crappy Euro-business seats. Talk about a major downgrade, but of course no compensation at all was offered because “aircraft type is not guaranteed.” Meh. At least I had a row of 2 so the seat next to me was blocked. I’d love. I would have just preferred to blow my nose every two minutes in peace!
SWISS flight 255
Tel Aviv, Israel (TLV) to Zürich, Switzerland
Depart 15:55, Arrive 19:15, Flight Time 4:20
Airbus A321, Registration HB-ION, Manufactured 2013, Seat 9D
An announcement was made apologizing for the chance in plane, and we were assured that “the same high level of service will be provided on today’s flight.” Well, that’s reassuring at least!
So, what’s to eat?
Nuts in a bag. The one area United still does ok, even if they are cheap split cashews.
The veal. Quite an impressive meal for a regional flight, and much tastier than it looked:
Other than that, it was a pretty chill flight. Refills of Swiss red wine were offered a couple times, but after two the crew disappeared. Later, I found out why. It appeared that a passenger with, um, intestinal issues, had infiltrated the business class lav from coach and, um, made an extreme mess of things “all over zee walls” as the purser told me. Yikes! As an apology for the crew being too busy on biohaz duty, he apologized profusely for not being able to provide wine refills…but not to worry, it was ensured I would have plenty of wine upon getting to my hotel…if you catch the drift. 😉
Immigration was a snap, and soon I was trying to figure out the train to get me to my hotel. I’d done some research on google maps so I knew what train station I needed to get to, and figuring out the trains wasn’t that hard. Even the automated ticket machine was easy, but OUCH, over $7 to go two stops and < 10 minutes. Yikes.
I was staying at the Sheraton Zurich, which was a pretty typical Sheraton property in what appeared to be an extremely sleepy neighbourhood. It was about a 10 minutes walk from the train, and the cool air with my mild feverishness actually felt good. However, temps of 2C/35F were much colder than Tel Aviv, and I think at this point my body was pretty pissed off at me.
I was upgraded based on SPG status to a nice corner suite which was very cool and modern and felt much more like a Westin. I really liked this hotel. There was a handwritten welcome card in my room, offering either a starter or glass of wine in the café/bar, or a “culinary delight delivered to your room.”
I decided to check out the lounge first, where happy hour was just winding up, and I had time for one glass of wine before it closed. Then it was down to the bar for dinner and to enjoy my complimentary glass of wine.
I was pretty hungry at this point, despite the meal on SWISS (what’s the saying? feed a cold, or starve a cold? who knows…I’m HUNGRY!) so I asked the bartender what he recommended. He said the ham pizza was amazing, and true to his world it was. An ice cold Paulaner to wash it down, and I was full, happy, and ready for bed. It would be an early morning to trek back to ZRH to start my trip back to DC…for 24 hours.