Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Day 17: Home at last

Uh, it's done. Back at home. The end of the trip went relatively smoothly. The only aggravations were the fact that the flight to Tallinn was 40 minutes late (hm, why did Estonian Air made as much loss last year as they had made profit a year earlier?) and that for some reason none of the lounges at Gatwick granted admittance based on my Eurobonus gold and economy ticket to Tallinn with EA. I have always been there and it has been one of the main reasons to get my gold card at all and till now I have not had any trouble on any airport with a Star Alliance flight to board. Strange, shall investigate.

Ah, home sweet home. Boarded my flight home and the first sign was there. During all my flights with all those various airplanes and all those different people for the first time my personal space was invaded mercilessly. That was not done by a 200 kg British bachelor with a couple of pints under the tie (which I would have at least understood) but by a normal-sized Estonian girl in late teens. She quite obviously _needed_ to open that newspaper as wide as possible and obviously needed to have her elbows reaching exactly as far as she found comfortable. Not in a condition to pick a fight I drew to a corner and tried to sleep.

Second thing about home were the newspapers. The main articles of "Eesti Päevaleht" were about a bear cub growing up in a refuge, an essay about history of parliament in Estonia (inspired by a three-week old incident where a member of coalition was given a beating for targeting a question towards the member of government) and endless ravings about Pronkssõdur (a bronze statue of a Red Army soldier that represents the glorious victory of Soviet Union over fascism that has been turned into a pilgrimage site and a source of international turmoil by reckless actions of the government). Oh, there were also a couple of paragraphs on elections in Nigeria and France, but that was about it. How come there are thick interesting newspapers produced every single day all over the world but the ones in Estonia are full of week-old crap plus selected international news.

After arriving in Tallinn, I was greeted by a huge passport check queue. You see, only one officer was there to do the work. And so, my arrival to Estonia took longer than my admittance to the US of A. Brilliant, welcome to Elbonia!

Day 17: Going home

The day started off with a packing frenzy. Had to open my bag three times to accommodate forgotten items and the it now looks like a particularly round pig. Checked out from the hotel (albeit having a nasty habit of sometimes hiding my pillows and complaints when they were not able to do room service 0830 AM it was OK. Not good, but OK) and headed towards the Marine Headlands.

Was driving happily along US-101 when the Hertz Neverlost (tm) thing went "proceed to the route" and positioned the car on its on-screen map somewhere near the eastern border of the State of California. Frustratingly enough it kept doing that for the rest of the day. Sometimes coming to its senses immediately, sometimes requiring somewhat longer to recover. Very strange.

Marine Headlands is such a beautiful place. Spent what was left of the day on a beach (should look up its name) that was a such a peaceful place. Strangely, the fact that it was pretty crowded did not change that impression. The ocean, cliffs on both sides of the beach and rolling hills in the background. Beautiful. There were surfers in the water but for some reason (being lame?) they didn't do much actual surfing, I only saw two guys manageing to stand up for a couple of seconds.

The place was also a paradise for dogs and those were present in all shapes and sizes. From a tiny chiuaua in lila outfit two a rather large rotweiler. Made acquaintance with most of them, took as many pictures as I could (yes, Margus, your new lens is perfect for dog-shooting) and exchanged smiles and a couple of words with the owners.

At some point I felt tired. Just bloody tired, hungry and homesick. Farewell to California it was, then. It managed to grab me for the last half an hour when a huge grey waterbird (could not make out what exactly it was) flew across the road just in front of me and landed in a pond nearby. In an attempt to get closer to it I discovered a dragonfly heaven and was stuck for some photography. The light was very harsh (it was close to midday) but there's a hope for some imagenary. Got one of a big dragonfly munching away on a smaller one, lelt's hope my hand didn't shake too much.

Then it really was it and after a futile attempt to find a parking space in town for some food I headed towards the airport.

You've got to love the San Francisco International Airport. It's international terminals are big and airy. It is never too crowded, there are plenty of places to charge your laptop and even food both in and outside the security gates is tasty.

So it is done now. Gave the car back to Hertz, checked my bulgeing bag in and am sitting at the gate. Even the US Government knows that I'm about to leave the country.

Time for conclusions, then.

The car, Mazda 6 from Hertz, was good. The steering felt strange till the very end and it was surprisingly sensitive to side-wind on one occasion on the coast. However, the gearbox was very good, ergonomix spot on and fuel efficiency reasonable. What did they do to the poor v6 under the bonnet, is unclear, however. If felt like it was missing a pair of cylinders: below 4000 nothing was going on and even above that there was no real shove. All in all, it was OK. The navigation system was also good despite the hickups and I actually prefer its graphics to the one from Garmin.

Travel arrangements were terrible. There's no other word for it. Jüri and Bertrand were forced to spend a night in Frankfurt, also courtesy of Estravel. Maybe next time I'll just go and book the whole trip through the internet myself?

People were generally very kind and the meetings I had were very useful. I'm proud to work with these guys.

Weather was not so good. The rain on Saturday and the cold cloudy wind in Washington should have not been there.

Photography was good. How good exactly, shows when I get home to my big monitor and can do some sorting. In general, I think that the second time on the Big Sur yielded some spectacular images. The Washington zoo was cool, too. What is obvious, though, is that my 10D is not cutting it any more. It's slow on bursts (the Lexar card, despite being a 133mhz one, is also of the slow sort), takes far too long to start up, the screen is too small, the sensor magnification is limiting (you shouldn't have to lug an additional ultra-wide zoom around every time there's a chance for some landscape-worthy light), minimum ISO is 100 instead of 50 and above 400 only black and white images can be produced due to the noise. It's time to start saving for the 5D or whatever will have replaced it by the time I get the funds together. The fact that I now own sensor-cleaning equipment (Sensor Swabs + accompanying liquid) is pleasing: some of the shots from Washington were ruined because of dust on the sensor, this will not happen in the future, I hope.

As a summary, I'd say that (although am not home yet, any of the airlines could still loose my bag or I could still be late to the flight home despite 5-hour delay) the trip was a success. Both personally and for the business. This blog will now revert back to it's normal, more photography-oriented self and your's truly hopes to start publishing on humararchitecture.blogspot.com on a more regular basis once the jet-lag has worn off.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Day 14-15: The end is near

Day 14 was nothing spectacular: the usual work thing and in the evening the folks down here took us out to an excellent sushi place. Can't remember the name (it's only a couple of blocks from our south campus) but the atmosphere was very homely and sushi excellent and plentiful. Thanks, guys!

Today we planned to go out and play with Jüri and Bertrand in their hilariously large rental car. It's a Mercury Grand Marquis and a quite new one. The fake wooden inserts! The uncovered wires leading to rear screen heating! The ancient green lighting and only a little younger buttons on the dashboard! I have heard, that American cars are poor on packaging but this was just ridiculous. The car is actually bigger than a long wheelbase 7 series BMW (5361 vs. 5179 mm) but has no more legroom in the back than a 5er. How do they do that? Also, I'm highly suspicious of cars I can push down 10 centimeters with one hand and that have bumpers that actually bend while I do so.

Anyway, we started off to a place called Fry's that was literally jaw-dropping. It's the single largest electronics store I have ever seen, roughly the size of a really big supermarket back at home. Very good selection, too. However, they didn't have, and apparently did not know of, the IR-blaster thing I was looking for (allows your media center to control an external device via its infrared sensor). What they did have was an xbox 360 with Guitar Hero running on it and I was instantly hooked. Hooked, I tell you! They also had Lego Mindstorm but I could carry myself out of the place before forgetting the size of my luggage and the limit of my credit card.

After that, it was back to the cool photography store I had discovered and after finding out that stuff actually costs 30% less than in Tallinn, severe shopping was done. Excellent.

Next item on the agenda: Mythbusters. Finding their address was easy (do your own googling, will you?) and getting there was a toddle thanks to the Garmin device Avis had given to the guys (not the hideous Motorola I wrote about earlier, must check it out). We got there, I took the camera and... no CF card. Checked the bag, no CF card wallet either. Damn. This is just me: you go off for a day full of photography and you forget all of your media. Jüri had been more considerate and I hope I will get a picture of me and the M5 Industries logo. From the moment on, me and Bertrand shared a quest to find compact media (he had just bought a camera) which we completed at Ritz Camera on Market street completely blowing my photography budget in the process.

By that time, our adventures had made us hungry, the next stop was for some steak (Joe's Grill, near Union Square. Questionable service, questionable prices, questionable steak, not recommended). After we had finished, it promptly started to rain heavily. Which destroyed my hope for photography and the need for that 2 GB Lexar card I had just purchased. Oh well, you can't have too much storage these days. We headed back to base.

Decided to spend the evening at the movies. Hot Fuzz was supposed to be good and, guided by google, I ended up at Century Berryessa 10. Admittance cost reasonable $10 (wee bit cheaper than in Tallinn, would not dare to compare standard of living, though) the medium-sized popcorn was humongous and so was the mid-size coke. The movie itself was a mediocre one. Good old English language, good old English countryside, a tad weak storyline and some good action sequences. Good laugh, though.

Tomorrow I'll be off to Tallinn. I do think I will find time for some closing thoughts during my 8-hour stay in London but you never know. Seeya!

P.S. Some idiot has started posting spam into the comments here, will switch moderation on.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Day 13: US is getting to me

The day consisted mostly of work-related meetings that were tiring (people loved my presentations, though, which was nice). So nothing spectacular there. However, later when I went out to have some dinner and discuss situation with Jüri and Bertrand something happened. My Hertz NeverLost (tm) thing broke down. It went "acquiring satellite" and just did not get anywhere. Figuring that it would come to its senses sooner or later I drove off, towards a random highway. Still acquiring. Pulled over, shut it off, then back on. Nothing. Turned off the ignition, nothing. At that moment it hit me: I am god knows where without a map, without clear understanding of where my hotel was or where I was going to and I didn't even have a compass. These are all the things I used to have when I drove in the States before I started renting GPS systems (Well, this, and maporama. Used to print out routes to and from all the places I was probable to go and just have a huge stack of paper in the car). Anyway, the luck turned, and after some waiting with ignition off the darn thing did a reboot and after asking my confirmation to "thou shall not use me while driving, you idiot!" displayed a route. Thank you. Next time, will have a map, and Lonely Planet, and compass and important routes and will study the map to understand the basic topology. A promise.

There was this horrible massacre in Virgina Tech at the beginning of the week and this brought me to two thoughts I'd like to share.

Firstly, it was the press coverage. Was sitting on my bed at the hotel watching CNN (or fox or cbs or whoever, they all had the same basic information) when they were about to reveal the identity of the shooter. Went and checked upon Estonian news later and turned out most of the bigger sites had published the news about the identity a couple of hours before CNN had it. Heck, they even knew it was because of a unhappy love story. Makes you wonder, how come an Estonian newspaper had news like this before any of the big US stations that were on the story like ravens. Until you read the Estonian articles more thoroughly. One of them said the guy was Korean at the beginning and Chinese at the end. The other said that each of the victims had at least 3 "showers" of shots ("valang" in Estonian) which the gun the man was using is just not capable of. So my theory is that they just acted upon some rumor going around and not facts that the US stations were waiting for. Used to think that Äripäev was the only crappy newspaper in Estonia but seems the general level of journalism is way lower than what I thought.

Secondly. You see, every liberty a society enjoys, has a price attached. You get democracy and you also get the chance that a charismatic idiot gets elected. You get freedom of speech and you also get people claiming there was no holocaust. You get freedom to carry a gun and you also get lunatics running amok with them. And there's the unfortunate catch. With the last one, the people who actually enjoy the liberty are not the ones paying the price. Because, well, they own a gun and are therefore pretty unlikely to get shot at (or at least can retaliate rapidly). Instead, kids at school and people on the streets will suffer. Just stating the facts here, people in the US have to make that choice.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Day 12: A lot of work and some play

Most of the day was pretty much as yesterday: a lot of work that I can't really describe here. But, after I was finished with all of it, I headed to the Big Sur. Thing is the previous time I was there a mysterious hair (turned out to be a hair from my blower brush) ruined a couple of good shots. So, since I had got some Sensor Swabs from an excellent photo store and removed most of the dust, I could hope for better quality. I ended up spending (again) most of the time on a strip of coast a couple of miles south of Point Lobos. I just did not want to leave, just didn't. At some point, however, the sun went down and I headed back. This place definitely makes my top 3 favorite places:

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Day 11: Working hard

No news here, move along, people. Move along, will ya?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Day 10: The works

Finally a solid day of work. Very good, but nothing to write about.

Got a real good hint today: besides the gym on our campus, there is a nice running/biking trail close by. And true it is: go along the Hamilton, cross the Bascom and before the bridge go down the stairs. There you go, Los Gatos Creek Trail. According to locals, it goes basically on for ever in both directions. Certainly was long enough for me. Whether you prefer that to the running mill in an air conditioned gym is a different story, though.

Saw a new BMW 3rd series cabrio in the parking lot. Saw new x5 near a mall yesterday. Why is it that the people here get new beemers before we do? Something seems to be wrong with the concept of Americans knowing nothing about cars, too. Saw a Porsche Speedster 1600 super, a Diablo, couple of Miatas, old Porsches and every man and his dog seem to drive a 350Z. Weird.

One other thing. Why the heck do they build showers like this? Donald A. Norman is clearly not popular around whoever designs these things. Imagine a clock that has "blue" written from 6 to 10 (left side) and "red" from 2 to 6 (right side). Now imagine that the long hand is pointing at 6 and the short one on 12. Of course, the hands are fixed to a line and are part of a knob. Now, where do you turn this thing to get a warm shower? To figure it out, you need to make following assumptions:
  1. You can't adjust the volume of water, just temperature. How would you know that?
  2. The shower will start to spit out cold water (not hot) as the first thing. A splash of ice cold water, anybody?
  3. The temperature is indicated by the _short_ not long end of the knob
None of which matches a mental model a normal person has about a shower. Just incredible.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Day 9: California dreaming

Woke up this morning into glorious Californian sunshine. What a treat! Started off with some shopping. First was the Discovery store at Westfield mall which also didn't have any actual Discovery-related stuff in them so that chain is official given up as of now. Then my traditional target of pilgrimage, the Oakley store at Santana Row. Was initially going to look at "Unknowns" but those turned out to be far too small. However, just beside them sat a pair of Ducati Monster Dogs which happen to be my favorites: after spotting them in a bizarre small store in some Spanish airport a couple of years ago I have failed to find anything else that fits my big round face. Have been living in fear of loosing, scratching or breaking those ever since so ended up getting myself an identical pair, just to make sure.

Just beside the Oakley store, the is the local Borders which had a section dedicated to Kurt Vonnegut who has recently passed away (his Slaughterhouse 5 was one of the most influential books I read in my teenage years). "Breakfast of Champions" is now here on the table. They also had a massive two-volume The Complete Far Side (~$120) which was deemed very desirable but too expensive and heavy.

Then it was off to Monterey Aquarium which I have sought to visit several times in the past but always something happened. It was not such a big deal. Surely, they had penguins and otters and _three_ gift shops and approximately gazillion educational games for kids but all in all nothing very spectacular. Also, they had some sort of Mexican day which meant there was a large band of youngsters playing Mexican music in the center of the aquarium. I have never ever heard three people sing and so utterly miss each other and Greenpeace ought to look into what was done to these two trumpets.

After a small unhealthy lunch of some pastry and apples the sun was low enough for some photography so I headed for the Big Sur. As usual, I did not get far and got stuck quite soon at some breathtaking bay where I sat and took photos for almost three hours. Got almost swept away by the incoming tide, too. Despite the relatively low wind the waves were spectacular, hopefully some photos will escape the bin. This one is a good candidate: A nasty hair has appeared on several of my pictures, need to get a sensor cleaning kit ASAP.

Day 8: The flight

There's nothing much to say about that day. I was supposed to leave to San Francisco on a 06:20 flight from Dulles. Upon arrival, I was greeted by huge queues and a horrible mess with check-in counters. After spending 40 minutes in a queue, I was told that my flight (and, in fact, the next one to SF) were canceled and I was to go to a queue ironically enough labeled "additional services". After spending almost an hour on that queue I was told that there was absolutely no way I was going to SF that day. There were waiting lists, but nothing was certain. After making various loud noises and pointing out that I was absolutely not spending another day in Washington the man behind the counter looked closer and went "oh". Turned out, that as my flight was originally going to be a business class one, somebody had already re-booked me to SF. Through Chicago. On a flight that was leaving in the afternoon Having no alternatives, I took the chance and spent next 9 hours watching movies and working. Finally at the gate, I was upgraded to first class (a first time for me) without any explanation. Unfortunately the flight only takes less than two hours and the plane was a battered old 767 so no bar, no massage, no flat-folding seats.

Landing in Chicago is truly magnificent: You can see the whole town with a tiny island of skyscrapers on one end and the rest is just a featureless checker board of suburbs as far as the eye can see. Scary. If you step out of the plane, you immediately sense the difference from the Dulles airport. Where the latter is a fairly dark, gloomy and joyless place the former surprises with light, room and happy people. The biggest difference, though, is food. In Dulles you can't find anything better to eat than hamburgers and sweet mass-produced pastry. In Chicago, there is a outlet selling apples, bananas, yogurt and such after every 50 meters. Very nice. After spending three more hours in that relative weight-watchers paradise, I was finally off to San Francisco where we landed 4 hours later. Then, after waiting for my bag for an hour (some idiot had put a set of random bags aside in a far corner behind the carousel) I rented a car, drove to the hotel and immediately fell asleep. From hotel to hotel, the total trip duration was 22 hours. Usually, it takes roughly 19-20 hours from Tallinn to SF via Frankfurt!

Ah, car rental. Decided to choose Hertz over Avis this time as the Avis GPS thing (its sort of a mobile phone with GPS inside that talks to a server that calculates routes) really sucks whereas Hertz Neverlost thing is a decent big-screen Magellan unit that actually works and has a usable interface. Turned out that besides this, Hertz has a very nice selection of cars, too. In the parking lot, there was a nice row of Z350s, a Corvette, some Volvo S80s and nice Caddies. Next time I'm here I'll pay the difference and take a 350. Wheeee! Not this time, though. Have to do with a Mazda 6 which is a huge improvement over the Jeep monstrosity we drove last time. It has decent suspension that actually stops wobbling after you leave the steering alone (not so the Focus I once drove) and a smooth 6-speed auto (as opposed to hideous 4-speeders American cars usually get). The steering is strangely over-amplified and feels very artificial. Could that be a US-thing as Brits have gave Mazda6 very high grades for the whole drivetrain.

One more thing I have to get off my chest. It's the Dulles airport. I just can't figure it out. The thing is that you travel between planes and the terminal and between terminals using very strange buses that are short, wide and can be risen up to the second floor level. So to go to terminal C, you step into this thing, it is lowered to ground level, driven around the airport and then risen up. Didn't it ever occur to the designers of this thing that if they built the whole terminal on _ground_ level, they could make do with standard buses and not these undoubtedly expensive custom developments?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Day 6-7: The messup

This one goes out to the fine people of Estravel. Last morning I checked out from one hotel and into a new one. The cab driver dropped me off at the wrong hotel, but that didn't even aggravate me much. Checked in for one night and ordered a car for transfer to the airport next morning. The car arrived (a long wheelbase Lincoln Towncar that amazingly cost $60 vs. $52 for ordinary dirty taxicab) and took me to Dulles. Where I found out that my plane is to leave on 15th not 13th. And this is why: apparently, Estravel had done another two booking in another hotel for the last two days of my stay. As I had done the planning a long time ago and did not see these bookings in the pile of papers and tickets the sort of trip requires I figured that my check-out date from the hotel is also my departure date. This would have undoubtedly surfaced earlier, but Estravel DID NOT GIVE ME ANY INFORMATION WHATSOEVER UP TO THE POINT WHERE MY PLANE WAS ALREADY LEAVING. Who would have thought that a 7-day stay in Washington would need FIVE different hotel bookings in two different hotels?

I'm still angry but about to go jogging which usually calms me down a little bit.

Spent the day sleeping and shopping. Went to a mall at Pentagon City with a hope to find a Discovery Channel store and maybe some place to get something to clean the extremely dusty sensor of my D10. Found the former (which was almost devoid of any Discovery-channel related stuff, no Mythbusters t-shirt this time unfortunately) but not the latter. At the mac store I stumbled upon Bose headphones attached to an iPod. Boy, are they good. I have never ever ever heard such audio quality and the noise cancellation is amazing: the whole background rumble of a big mall just went away on a flick of a switch. They are portable, too, which is important for me. But they cost $300. Still longing, but at the moment, they are just too expensive.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Day 5: still gathering

Washington at dusk. It's raining as I'm jogging towards the White House with Sepultura "Criminals in Uniform" blasting in my ears. Two police cars pull over right next to me with their lights flashing.

The rest of the day started off in a very slow and jetlagged manner. We were given a tour of the Jefferson building and I honestly tried to take pictures. Just nothing I came up with didn't do the place any justice so here's a picture of the neighboring Supreme Court instead. Aren't we just ants?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Day 4: the gathering

Finally got to what I was sent here for - the Seminar. It was extremely tiring (9 hours of alphabet soup could kill a horse) but useful. And the venue! Jefferson building of the Library of Congress. Just fabulous. However, I did not bring my camera which meant I could hardly take advantage of the glorious morning and evening light with no tourists around. This is something that shall be righted today.

Oh, one more thing. The basic message of Washington seems to be "if you don't live here, you don't belong here". Hadn't I protested the hotel would have made me move rooms for just one day. After which I would have stayed in another hotel for one day. Why would anybody do that? Also, the metro is just driving me nuts: the ticket machine is happy to sell you a day pass 8AM but nothing indicates that these things do not work till 0930. The fare system is also quite cool: when buying a ticket, you need to enter the price of your journey. Which is not indicated anywhere. After talking to the guy in charge I learned that my trip would cost me $1.35 (at least it's cheap), thank you very much.

Another day of the seminar awaits, and this time I'll bring the camera.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Day 3: The zoo

The jetlag is still there. The hammer comes down around 7PM. But before that, the day contained my first business meeting here (quite a strange experience to talk to a guy who has his name in the name of a law firm in downtown Washington) and a long walk in the zoo.

To get to the zoo, I decided not to walk but try out the metro. Boy, is it different from the one in London. Where the tube is a tight but somehow light and lively and vibrant place, Washington metro is a huge, gloomy, dark place without any decorations: the walls are plain concrete.

The zoo rocked. It was run by the Smithonian Institution, like all of the museums around the Mall, and was free. Turns out in 1826 mr. James Smithson figured donating his legacy to "increase and diffusion of knowledge among men". Well, there's a plan that has worked out just fine. Although the place was a tad cramped, the exhibition was well layed out and nicely accessible. Even photography was possible (which is not true in Tallinn, for example):

I was especially impressed by the giant pandas and the place where they keep the butterflies. Fabulous!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Day 2: cold, very cold

Who would have thought that there is a place where it's actually colder than in Tallinn? It was -2 (was supposed to feel like -6 according to weather.com) this morning when I stepped out to make my rounds with the camera and find some food. Real, bitter, windy, cold. The light was pretty nice, though: the sky was mostly cloudy but not the grey damp uniform mass you get in Estonia but rather a moody changing sort of thing with small gaps for the sun to peak through. Like this:
After I had frozen my butt off taking pictures of all the landmarks of the Mall (could not figure out a way to properly picture that corner of the Reflecting Pool where Forrest met his Jenny, seen far right on the picture above) I declared retreat and went to the National Air and Space Museum. Which was very cool. It did not contain a SR-71 Blackbird but there was a real U2 barely fitting into a huge hall dedicated to all sorts of espionage affairs. The coolest parts of the museum were various places where one could try out different laws of physics that apply to flight and astronomy like see how various telescope systems work and how wind angle affects the turbulences . None of them could have cost much but boy, were they cool! Why the heck can't every darn school in Estonia have at least some of them? Four laser diodes, 6 lenses and 4 mirrors can't be that complex to obtain, can it?

Anyway, Spaceship One was also there in it's full glory right beside The Spirit of St. Louis. On it's tail, a writing: "a project of Paul G. Allen". Dang, you might be rich and all and sponsor numerous cool undertakings and what not but this ain't a show'n'tell back in the elementary, you know. Unbelievable!

Anyway, here I am, totally exhausted from the day (of course the clouds disappeared at once after I had arrived at the hotel making for perfect evening light) and ready to hit a very early jetlag-induced sack. The trip indeed did take a turn for the better.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Day 1: Sometimes travel just sucks

It actually started before I even left Tallinn. Estravel (greetings!) could not confirm my flights until one working day before the departure. Oh well. When they were eventually confirmed, it turned out the only way to get to Washington from Tallinn was to go through London and change airports. Luckily enough, they had left plenty of time for that. Eight hours to be precise. Last year I flew Tallinn-San Francisco repeatedly through Frankfurt with the whole trip taking just 16 hours. To be fair, they also offered an alternative route using Finnair, but that company is liable to loose your baggage about 80% of the cases (an observation most of the people in the office share) so I chose not to.

Anyway, the next step was booking a hotel. Turns out the only way to stay in Washington is to change hotels, too. Oh well.

Having digested all that I figured that an upgrade to business class using the points on my EuroBonus card would sweeten the plot up. Not so. Turns out you can only do that when a) you fly SAS b) they have free places in business class c) for some reason they also have more supplies available than the passengers need (why would anybody do that?). So economy it is.

Being pretty much in peace with the situation, I arrived at the airport in an ungodly hour. To be greeted by a sign at the Estravel office that stated that due to the Eastern they would not open before two hours after my plain has left. A few panic-laden phone calls later (sorry, Triin!) I was given my tickets and could finally get some shuteye on the plane.

The take-off did not wake me. However, a Russian company occupying two rows right in front of me decided that the best thing to do 7AM on a Saturday morning is to drink cognac and have a jolly loud good time all over the plane. Which indeed woke me.

Arriving at Gatwick I figured the safest thing to do is to find a way to get to Heathrow and settle down there. The next coach would leave in 40 minutes and take an hour an twenty minutes to get there. A quick calculation (30 minutes Gatwick Express, 20 minutes tube, 15 minutes Heathrow Express from Paddington) yielded a promising chance of some quality photography in Hyde Park with not much more time spent. Not so. Turns out there is nowhere to leave your suitcase in the Paddington station. So much for photography and soon I was on my way to Heathrow.

So here I am, waiting for the check-in to start, sitting in a Cafe Nero that charged me 10 pounds for a coffee, sandwich, yogurt and cookie, writing this post in a good hope that there is a turn for better somewhere around the corner.

Friday, April 06, 2007


This blog is going to turn into sort of travel-picture-diary sort of thing as yours truly is going to spend next two weeks (actually slightly more) traveling in the United States of America. Be good, then and do not cause too much trouble while I'm away!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Casualties are inevitable

Nõva, spring '07

Monday, April 02, 2007

Dereliction in Brussels

Brussels, June '05