This dispatch comes to you from a quiet part of the A terminal at Dulles Airport, about one hour and fifty minutes before I am to board a KLM flight to Bergen, Norway, connecting through Amsterdam. I'll have a few airport /travel nuggets for you later, but first let's get acquainted with why exactly it is I am going to Norway.
The short answer is that I'm going because I was invited. The good folks in the Norwegian Navy reached out and asked me whether I'd like to join them for their annual seapower symposium, all travel paid and as Carl the Greenskeeper says, "a little somethin' for the effort". I have been asked to give an American view of European naval power, with the suggested title "Are the Europeans Up to It?" Adopting a faux Clintonian approach, I indicate that the answer depends on what you believe "it" to be. Although if "it" involves anything to do with the defense of Western Civilization, the answer is unfortunately, no. And so I will aver.
The great thing about this strip is the pace....I have really only two things to do--show up Tuesday night at a dinner, and then spend the day Wednesday at the conference (including my speech and a "panel debate" later in which ostensibly the Euros will beat me up about global climate change and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea). I'll arrive in Bergen around noon locally (six hours ahead of you lucky East Coasters) Sunday and then have Sunday afternoon, Monday and Tuesday to pursue my own agenda. I don't return home until Friday, and so I get to do the same Thursday. I figured as long as they were going to pay to get me there and pay for a couple of nights hotels, I could swing a couple on my own and use this as another work/play trip, a la my jaunt to Jamaica earlier in the year.
So the way things are looking, I'll work from my room on Monday and then take a day-long train and boat tour on Tuesday--which conveniently appears to be the best weather of my stay. We're looking at temps in the forties and fifties throughout, though one forecast sees a balmy 60 on Tuesday.
I am wearing standard travel rig, track pants, trainers (I love writing that), a yellow polo shirt and the suitcoat for my plain blue suit which will do double duty as sportcoat for the dinner Tuesday and suitcoat for the speech Wednesday. All is tucked neatly into a carry-on, with a computer bag along too. I've become a huge believe in Cube Packing methods, and so was able to easily accommodate everything I need for the next six days in two thirds of my carryon, with the other third devoted to two additional pairs of shoes, non-liquid/gel toiletries, and the various power cords, re-chargers, and power transformers required for modern, connected, international, travel.
The plain from Amsterdam landed ten minutes ago, the one turning around to take me there at 1745. It is a comely shade of blue, which portends a good flight I believe. I have my laptop for work, my iPad for play, a couple of vast right wing conspiracy mags, noise canceling headphones, a mask and earplugs. This flight is a 2-4-2 configuration, and I am on the starboard outboard side, aisle. I interceded an paid a few Krone to upgrade myself to some variant of Gucci economy, probably paying ten dollars per additional inch of legroom. My plan is to drink nothing but water until I am asleep (no more coffee); I'll stay awake long enough to enjoy whatever dinner it is they send my way (the protein and fat portions, that is--though I do have a fat 1110 calories to mess with for the rest of the day). I will then watch a movie--either something provided on the in-flight entertainment, or one on my iPad--probably "I Am Legend", a movie of which I watched fifteen minutes the other night and it hooked me. I'll probably skip breakfast on the plane, try and just drink coffee in at Amsterdam, and then get lunch when I get to Berger mid-day.
I'm staying in a hotel right down on the scenic port (photos to follow) for the first two nights, and then switching to another hotel on the port for the conference itself and the final night. I had a ton of Hotels.com cred built up, and so I put it to use on this trip. I know virtually no Norwegian language, no do I have a good sense of what I will be doing for food while there. But the Norwegians I've seen all seem to be lean and handsome creatures, so I figure what's good for them is good for me.
A little travel curmudgeonry for you?
1. Not nothing destroys my spirits when traveling faster than coming up to a security screening line and being behind a clueless family with young children and an urban assault vehicle pram. Such was the case today, but luckily, the line split and I was able to alight ahead of them to avoid their inefficiency. Frequent readers are already familiar with the steps I take to ensure efficiency, but nothing will destroy all that planning faster than a clueless bunch with an infant.
2. Here's something I don't understand. I signed up for the Trusted Traveler program with the US government, which allows me to use TSA "Pre" security checks. Said security checks are administered by officers of said U.S. government. However, KLM is not a "partner" in the program, which means that I had to pass through security with the plebians (see #1) rather than speeding through with the global elite. Again--as luck, laziness, or randomness would have it, I was ushered into a lane in which all the TSA Pre niceties were followed, and so I did not have to disrobe, de-shoe, or unsheath my laptop and liquids. All worked out for the best.
3. Should you be reading this and be a traveler who actually uses a backpack for his or her carryon and WEARS it as a backpack (hard to imagine any such people reading this blog, but hey, maybe), you must begin to consider that when wearing it, you are approximately twice as wide, and when you twist from side to side, that load on your back becomes a protuberance subject to impact with your fellow travelers. Pay heed.
4. The woman whose family was ahead of me in the security line (see #1) exposed me to something very new today, and that is the wearing of yoga pants (often times, a plus), while seemingly also wearing some variant of an adult diaper. How--you may ask--did I know? Let's just say I have a keen eye, shall we.
5. The number of air-traveling dogs is exploding. Little dogs in little bags, bigger dogs to provide "comfort" to their owners. Rare indeed is the "seeing eye" dog of the past. I'm not sure I approve.
Ok, that's enough for now. I imagine I'll get back to you tomorrow afternoon/evening from my room in Bergen with some initial impressions. Tune in then.