THURSDAY, JULY 23RD – CAIRO TO STOCKHOLM:
I didn’t get to work out because I got in bed so late and had to meet Iris so early. The beds at this hotel are awesome. It’s a huge king-size bed with six huge down pillows and a down comforter. Reminds me of the terrific beds at the Ritz Carlton near the Pentagon.
Our driver from the tour agency was waiting for us at 10 am as scheduled. He drove us downtown and found a place to park which isn’t easy. We noticed that none of the shops were open. Moody had told us everything opened at 10 am but obviously he was mistaken. No one – including our van driver – spoke a word of English. We did not want to get left down there for an hour when none of the shops were open. We finally managed to communicate with the van driver that we wanted to go back to the hotel. There were a couple of little shops open there and Iris bought a pair of shoes. I bought a t-shirt for someone and had to buy another post card. The one I purchased yesterday is too small to put the two huge stamps on without covering up the address! I was upset that I didn’t work out since I would have had plenty of time. I didn’t want to go to the health club at that point because it would have meant unpacking and taking another shower.
We asked Guest Services what time the shops around the corner from the hotel opened. She said “Normally at 10 am but today is a holiday, so most shops are closed!” Mystery solved. Evidently July 23rd is some kind of “Administration Day” and a national holiday.
Went back to the room to work and was surprised to see “Warfare by Remote” on CNN’s “World’s Untold Stories”. I’d been seeing advertising for it for weeks and wanted my office to tape it for me but they couldn’t find where it would air in the U.S. It was pretty awesome because I could relate to all the information they discussed.
I had paid my bill and checked out earlier. Talked to the bellman and told him what time I needed help. He told me to call 5 minutes before I was ready to go and he would have someone up there immediately. Yeah, sure. I called 20 minutes early and 15 minutes later, still no bellman. I called again, waited another 10 minutes and then left pulling my two huge bags behind me. I never take more than I can lift myself because I know most of the hotels in Norway do not have an elevator.
Our driver was waiting and because today is a “holiday” there was hardly any traffic. Instead of taking an hour to get to the airport, we made it in 15 minutes. Wally had also arranged for an “expeditor” to meet us and get us checked in. Iris was going to try and upgrade with her miles again but they told her she needed her PIN number. When her bag was stolen last week, she lost all her cards and her PIN number was written on her Swiss Air mileage card. She couldn’t remember it and they wouldn’t offer her any other suggestions on what to do. She called her travel agent in Zurich but it was lunch time and no one answered, not even the cell phone. I got checked in quickly and we went to Passport Control. I made Iris pick the line because I always get the one with the person who has to have a security check! There were two people working the desk and the way it worked is you walked up and the first person prepared your paperwork and handed it off to the lady sitting to her left. Then the passenger stepped over to that person and the next person in line stepped up. Iris was with the second lady and the first lady motioned me ahead. I stepped up and she took my passport. Then the man behind me, pushed around me and walked up to the lady that was actually stamping the passports. She told him he had to go back in line and start with the first lady. He just stood there. When the first lady finished with my passport, I couldn’t move over to the second lady because this rude guy was still standing there. I politely mentioned that he needed to move behind me and he said, “Yeah, yeah!” rudely and pushed past me again. Nice guy, huh?
I was given a lounge pass because I’m in business class so we went in search of the lounge. We were going to try and get Iris’s upgrade there as well. There were signs pointing to 4 lounges in the direction of our gate, so we headed that way. The first lounge doors were covered with wood and a “closed” sign was hanging on it. Walked a little farther, same thing with the 2nd Lounge. Walked the entire corridor and all 4 lounges were closed for construction. The gate area looked “new” so we assumed that the lounges just weren’t built yet. We backtracked all the way to where we first came in and found a Star Alliance Lounge that was open. The ladies working that lounge said she couldn’t come in and they didn’t have a Swiss Air representative that could assist. We gave up and went to the food court and had a salad.
As we were walking from the Food Court to our gate, we noticed a lot of men wearing towels and slippers that were obviously from a hotel. They had one towel wrapped around their waists and one around their shoulders then nothing else on but the slippers. They looked like they were either going to or coming from a Spa. But we never saw a “Spa” in the airport.
Iris’s flight began boarding a full hour and 30 minutes prior to her departure time. But, it’s one of those gates where you have to go through a security scanner and then sit in another lounge for a long time before boarding the flight. I didn’t want to make the long hike back to the Lounge, so I sat outside my gate area until they started boarding. As I was standing in line waiting to go through the security scanner, a local lady covered from head to toe walked up beside the scanner and started talking to someone on the other side. Then she by-passed the scanner and squeezed through to the other side. She had a bottle of water and a small bag with her. Freaked me out that the security guard didn’t say anything to her and I thought I was going to have her on my flight. As I got closer, I realized that there was another lady dressed similar to her sitting at the end of the scanner as the bags came out. Evidently this lady was going to replace her at that job. My bags went through security and they let me carry my bottle of water through which I thought was really strange. Then when I picked up my bags from the belt, the lady sitting at the end confiscated my water. J
Flight boarded on time and it’s of the “reconfigured” Lufthansa planes. Business class is awesome with seats that fully recline. The flight attendants have been nice although they don’t understand English very well.
It is a short flight – 4 hours – so I worked and then decided to try and sleep for an hour. I didn’t really feel so good for some reason and then we hit severe turbulence about 40 minutes before landing. By the time we landed, I knew I was in trouble. I spent the entire two hour layover in Frankfurt lying in the floor of the restroom at the airport. NOT a fun thing to do. I guess I got food poisoning from the salad I ate at the airport before flying out of Cairo. I was so, so sick. I told the gate agent I didn’t think I could get on the flight to Stockholm and they might want to be prepared to pull my bags off. If the flight had not been delayed due to a severe thunderstorm, I would not have made it. I started feeling a little better and basically crawled onto the plane. The flight was really, really turbulent but for once I was so sick, I didn’t care. Dying in a plane crash seemed preferable to dying with food poisoning.
Made it to Stockholm and my hotel is “in” the airport. I spent the 4 hours I had there in the floor of that bathroom. Was able to get up and meet Rosanne’s flight this morning but I look pretty “rough”. Hoping I’ll start feeling better soon.
FRIDAY, JULY 24TH – RATTVIK, SWEDEN:
Sure didn’t feel like meeting the flight but made it through the process. I called our driver and he met me at Arrivals a few minutes later. Everyone arrived on time with all their luggage and gear. Rosanne and her group are so sweet. The weather is not looking good for her performance and it’s an outdoor venue. I’m afraid the crowd will be very small. As I’ve mentioned many times, this is the most beautiful venue I’ve ever worked in. It was an old rock quarry and the permanent stage is located at the base of the rocks. There’s a small “lake” (moat” around the entire stage and then the audience sits in permanent seats on the slope. Our drive from Stockholm to Rattvik was 3 ½ hours but we had a really large, nice tour bus. I slept most of the way. We made one stop halfway through at a restaurant. I still couldn’t “look” at food and tried to find some ginger ale and crackers but couldn’t find anything even “similar”. I decided to walk next door to a gas station and check it out. There were several guys standing around outside the station and one of them was wearing a helmet. As I walked by, here’s the conversation that transpired:
“Did you just get off that bus (pointing to a large tour bus by the station)?”
“No, I just got off the other bus”
“So you don’t live in Sweden”
“No, I’m from the USA”
“Well, I’m very famous in Sweden. I drive one of those (pointing to a poster which was all in Swedish and didn’t have any photos on it)”
“How nice. Well, it was nice to meet you.”
And I walked into the store.
Didn’t find crackers but found a diet Sprite and some potato chips which should be okay in small quantities. As I walked out of the store, the “famous guy” was waiting for me and here’s that conversation:
“Would you like to have my autograph? I’m very famous.”
“Okay, sure, but I don’t have anything for you to write on. There’s a young boy with us on the trip who I’m sure would like to have it.”
“Oh, well, okay. Nice to meet you anyway”.
And he was off. So strange. Like a magnet!!! J
The hotel had our rooms ready for us and I managed to answer a few emails once we arrived. Then I slept again for a couple of more hours. Woke up feeling a little better but not at all hungry. Went down and had dinner with the group but only ate a couple of bites. It was a superb meal and very elegantly presented with lots of “sauces” and “colors”. Rosanne and her group loved the food and were surprised to find a meal like this in the “wilds” of Sweden. I would have paid big money for something “bland”. We finished dinner early and I went back to email but managed to get in bed relatively early for me. J
SATURDAY, JULY 25TH – RATTVIK, SWEDEN:
Got up at 7 am and felt much better. Was actually hungry for the first time in two days. It looked like it was going to rain, but I decided to try and run into town. Got about ½ mile down the hill and it started pouring. So, I went back to the hotel and used the treadmill and broken down little nautilus machine in the hotel. Better than nothing.
Ate a blank breakfast of yogurt and scrambled eggs. It’s still raining and is supposed to rain all day, darn it! Every year this happens. The audience sat through Dwight Yoakam’s and Carlene Carter’s performances so I’m hoping they will show up tonight as well.
Drove over to the venue at 11:45 am and as I guessed, everyone was “awestruck” by the beauty of the venue. The staff and production there are first class, so sound check went very quickly. I went back to the hotel at 12:30 pm to pick up Rosanne and her son. Lunch was catered backstage..lasagna and salad. Normally, I’m the salad-eater, but not this time. Got to forget about the salad in Cairo before I can eat salad again. L
We were back at the hotel by 3:30 pm and have to go back over at 6:45 pm because of the traffic from the Classic Car Convention. It is still raining and predicted to rain all night. Definitely not good weather for an outdoor concert.
I met the opening act —Cookies and Beans. It is 3 girls with guitars. We heard a little of their singing right before we left and it’s really beautiful. Acoustic and great harmonies.
With any luck, I’ll be back by midnight but have to get up at 2:30 am tomorrow for the drive to the airport. Short night.
The attendance was not what we wanted at the event and the rain did not end. The opening act was really good and the people who did attend enjoyed themselves. Rosanne and her guys put on an amazing performance. She is so unbelievably talented. She sang several songs from her new cd and I can’t wait to get a copy of it. It’s the first time she has ever sang “cover songs”. She said her Dad gave her a list when she was a teenager because she was growing up in LA and he was afraid she would be too influenced by Pop and Rock and forget her country “roots”. The list had 100 songs on it that he told her to never forget. She kept the list for 35 years and has not recorded 12 of those for her new cd. She has duets with lots of other famous entertainers on the cd as well including Bruce Springsteen. Go online and buy a copy. You won’t be sorry.
Got to meet with Hakan, the promoter, and get the scoop on the light attendance and how to try and circumvent it in the future. He’s great to work with and I hope we can come up with a solution to the attendance.
Going to sleep for 2 hours now and then fly home to Nashville for one week – via Amsterdam and Detroit!!! J
SUNDAY, JULY 26TH – SWEDEN TO NASHVILLE:
Can’t believe I get to go home for an entire week. Woo-hoo!!! J
Two hours sleep is not enough especially when it takes me half that time to go to sleep. Tried to sleep on the bus ride to the airport but it was “intermittent” to say the least. Ah well. I hope I can sleep on the plane.
We arrived at the Stockholm airport in 3 hours – exactly at 6:30 am. By arriving just that 30 minutes early, we avoided the long lines checking in. Grabbed some coffee at the gate and my flight to Amsterdam left on time. The weather is beautiful here and I’m hoping it stays that way for the entire journey. I thought I’d sleep the entire 2 hour flight but never could. I had the entire row to myself, too.
Had to “run” through the Amsterdam airport to make my connection because I had to go through passport control and security with only one hour to make it. Passport control lines are always long and slow and I always pick the slowest one. There was a lady in front of me with two young boys and a young girl. They were obviously not Americans but I couldn’t really tell where they were from as they were speaking English. She was speaking softly and telling them not to mention that they were not Americans. She was in the line for people with “all passports” rather than people with “EU” passports. She kept whispering instructions to them and the oldest boy would answer her with (loudly as children tend to do) “so will the police come take us away?” I couldn’t figure out what she was telling them but I sure wasn’t happy about being in line behind her. Thankfully, when we got up to the counter, the line split and I was able to get in the one next to her. When I left, she was still standing there with her kids talking to the passport agent.
I made it to the gate in time and we boarded and departed right on time. It was a Delta plane but a NW flight. The flight crew was super sweet and the food was excellent – the little bit I ate. Still not able to get very much down but that’s okay. I can afford to lose a few pounds after a month of ‘eating out’ in Europe. Business class was full but comfortable. I watched a strange movie….”Two Lovers” with Gweneth Paltrow and Joaquin Phoenix. It was about the best choice I had. Read for a while and then managed to sleep for a couple of hours. One of the bathrooms in business class was “taped up” and out of order the entire flight – even before we took off. Can’t believe we left Amsterdam with it like that for a 9 hour flight. That meant we had 32 passengers about 8 flight attendants and the pilots and flight crew all trying to access one toilet. And, it was the one by the cockpit where they don’t want people to congregate and right in the middle of the galley where the flight attendants are working.
There was a medical emergency about an hour out of Amsterdam. I was waiting (for 14 minutes for an Asian man to come out!) for the lavatory and heard the flight attendant tell one of the others to let the pilot know that the man was okay. He was 73 and they gave him oxygen and were going to “cool down the plane”. It was already freezing on there so I stayed bundled up in my blanket the rest of the flight. Landed on time in Detroit and this time got nailed by Customs. The guy asked me how many times I had been out of the country the last 12 months and I told him at least 10. He wrote it on my slip and I had to go through the scanner for my luggage again. I knew there wasn’t anything suspicious in there and all it did was delay me by a couple of minutes. When I finally cleared security and headed to the gate, I found my flight that was supposed to depart at 7:10 pm wasn’t leaving until 8:30 pm. Went to the Crown Room to find out what was going on and all they could tell me is that they were waiting on the incoming aircraft. So, I’ve been answering emails and returning phone calls for hours. The departure has now been moved up to 8:10 pm which is a little better. J
They kept delaying the fight supposedly because of traffic at LaGuardia where the plane was departing from. We FINALLY took off at about 9:45 pm and I got home at 10:30 pm…exhausted. The little jet turned out to be great. There were first class seats –one on one side and two on the other and it was a really long plane. The ultimate ending to the tour was when we de-planed in Nashville. As we walked into the jetway, we were met by the gate agent. There was a siren going off and he said, “Well, folks, we’re locked in the jetway and there’s a policeman on the way”. It was about 150 degrees in the jetway and I was about to get back on the plane when a policeman opened the door. He looked startled to see the passengers standing there and said, “Oh my God”. Then he asked where the gate agent was and I told him that he was locked in the jetway with us. His only comment was a shake of the head, and “Oh Good Grief”! Welcome home. J