John Chew (poslfit) wrote,
John Chew

Toronto to Malta

Thu 5 May 2011 05:15:18 EDT

I'm off to Malta for the European Open and the Malta International
Scrabble Open, then to visit friends in Cambridge for a few days!

I arrived at London Heathrow Terminal 3 after a relatively uneventful
trip. I was sitting in the forward economy cabin on an Air Canada
B-767; the seat was not uncomfortable, and I didn't particularly
regret not upgrading to Executive First: the flight was only six
hours, mostly during early evening hours, and I wouldn't be able
to sleep soundly even if I could recline fully horizontally. I was
sitting next to two Arabic-speaking boys a little older than Jamie;
their dad was keeping a loose eye on them from the row behind, but
he had his hands full with two more kids, so the stewardesses kept
asking me what my boys wanted. Both boys seemed to be suffering
from flu-like symptoms, but kindly refrained from spilling anything
more than water on me until we landed, then narrowly missed bevomiting
me when I got up on landing.

On the on-demand video, I watched Green Lantern (more fun than I
thought it would be), The Mechanic (less fun), and three episodes
of Hawaii 5-0 (I should probably get the whole series, but then
what would I watch on planes).

I have mixed feelings about London Heathrow Terminal 4. On the one
hand, they do a good job of moving people at a steady pace from
point A to point B. Signage is clear, and if you stand still
anywhere for more than a few minutes, someone will approach you and
ask you if you need help going somewhere else. On the other hand,
if you don't want to go anywhere, say because you're exhausted from
a trans-Atlantic flight, and check-in doesn't open for your connecting
flight for a few hours, there's not enough seating, none of it is
comfortable, the WiFi costs money (though I get it for free with
my Boingo subscription), and there are very few electrical outlets
outside of toilets. If you want to sit and wait for your check-in
counter to open, you're out of luck. There is no seating of any
sort with a line of sight on the check-in counters. And you needn't
rush to go through security: the gates are arranged along a straight
corridor more than 500 metres long, and they won't tell you your
gate assignment until a few minutes before boarding commences. This
appears to be intentional, as there is insufficient seating at each
gate, so if they did announce the gates early, there would be unruly
mobs standing around waiting at each gate. Instead, you get thousands
of tired, cranky travellers, being herded from one end of the terminal
to the other, by cheery, efficient airport staff.

So in the end, I walked to the Starbucks, confirmed that they still
have not heard of matcha green tea, then found a miraculously
unoccupied hard wooden bench in a noisy part of the terminal to
stretch out on for half an hour.

Thu 5 May 2011 16:52:47 EDT

I arrived at Luqa Airport in Malta somewhat refreshed from an unknown
number of twenty-minute naps. The flight from Heathrow was on the
usual Air Malta A320 full of British holidaymakers, somewhat in
need of redecoration (I think I'm referring to the cabin here), but
with friendly, efficient staff. I might have been able to stretch
those naps out to thirty minutes, but didn't notice that I had been
assigned a non-reclining seat just in front of the exit row.

Geoff and Theresa picked me up in their new car, which was spacious
enough to transport the three of us, a substantial quantity of tournament
equipment, and my luggage. We chatted about Scrabble politics around
the world on the short ride to the Suncrest Hotel, where they helped
me check in (saving me about EUR 60/day on WiFi). I arranged with
TD Amy Byrne that I would meet her for dinner if I didn't sleep through
it. Since by this point my body was starting on what it thought was
a day following a missed night's sleep, I wasn't entirely sure how
long I would sleep after I unpacked and bathed. As it turned out,
I woke up at 22:00, after the hotel's last food service closed, but
that gave me an excuse to stretch my legs and walk to the cafe at the
adjoining resort, the Qawra Palace, where I have just finished filling
myself up on my favourite Maltese pea and cheese pastizzi*, while
planning out what to do in the twelve hours or so until tournament
setup time.

(Thanks to Craig for proofreading.)
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