Thursday, May 31, 2007
Part I: London
Let me start out by giving props to my peeps Tim and Erin, for waking early after an outrageous party to drag my ass to the airport. They are the best surrogate parents a girl could have. I hope they spent the next week sleeping it off, but I doubt it.
Sunday, all friggin’ day: travel. The most exhausting work you can do sitting down.
Monday: Arrived in London around 6:30am local time. After an initial round of confusion with our pick-up guy, 29 travelers reached our hotel (the Thistle Kensington Park) nearish 8am to meet with our tour guide, Chris. Ten more travelers, including Mandy, were to join us from later flights. Many thanks to the folks at the Thistle for having our rooms available so early. The nap felt great! Mandy and I explored, on foot, a bit of Kensington High Street and Kensington Gardens/Hyde Park (getting totally turned around) before heading back to the hotel for a beer and then to dine with the group at Launceston Place.
Tuesday: Up early for a guided bus tour through London, with brief stops at St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. The bus dropped me and Mandy off near Harrod’s, so we could get a bit of touristy shopping done. We lunched at Wagamama for inexpensive and delicious noodles served by a cute waiter. We stopped at the Victoria & Albert Museum on the way “home” and had as long a look at some of the fashion collections as our tired feet would allow. We figured out the buses and grabbed some yummy sandwiches from Marks & Spencer/Simply Food on the way to the Apollo Victoria Theatre to see Wicked.
Wednesday: Our plan was to head directly to the Tate Modern, but we ran into some fellow tourists on the “tube” and decided to first join them at Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard. It was a beautiful, sunny-ish day and we enjoyed walking through the park and hanging around the palace. We did eventually continue on to the Tate Modern, but not before stopping to gape on the Millennium Bridge and to picnic on some tasty sandwiches from a vendor outside the museum. We had our dinner at a proper pub, and managed to just about use up all of our Pounds and Pence before heading back to the hotel to pack for our early morning trip to Paris…
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
I haven’t forgotten
I promised to discuss my vacation adventures in detail when I was no longer sick. Alas, I’m still hacking up lung tissue (okay, maybe not, but it feels like it) and it interrupts my typing. Mandy has renamed the culprit city ‘Amsterdamp.’
Apologies to my readers, with a special shout-out to Drew. I’m not ignoring you on purpose.
Must take more sleepy-making drugs…
Friday, May 25, 2007
Vacation, all I ever wanted
Photos are posted. Descriptive blog to follow. Eventually. Sick with icky cold right now (I blame the cold, damp, unfinished hotel room in Amsterdam) and don’t feel much like writing.
Currently watching :
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
I’m back in the saddle again
And I am incoherent with sleepitude. And while I do have my trusty camera with me, the dock that enables me to download is packed in my luggage… which is still with the friendly folks at United. But I promise to post a dull-to-everyone-but-me flickr album eventually.
Must. Not. Sleep. Yet.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
gotta take the good with the bad
This morning I rec’d the phone call I was waiting for. My passport app was being held at the Expedite Suspense Desk because they didn’t like the background color of my photos. But because I’m not one to sit on my ass while I watch an amazing vacation fall out from under me, I had already called the “regular” oh-my-god-where’s-my-passport line, and managed to finagle an 11am appointment at the regional office. I also verified that my 20-year-old passport would be adequate Proof of Citizenship.
Many thanks go out to everyone who had anything to do with my successful renewal today, from the lovely woman at Walgreen’s who developed my new passport photos in 10 minutes, to the security guard who, in a friendly way, laughed at my 20-year-old photo, and called another guard over to look at it as well, to the uncharacteristically non-bitter government workers at the regional office. I was sincere when I said thank you to everyone, and I really do plan on sending the office a postcard from abroad.
Now I need to pack, and finish my outfit for Erin’s party, and take my mom out to dinner for Mothers’ Day. I need another day!
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Because the world needs to know my pain
To recap for anyone who might not be up-to-date with my passport saga…
Late February: Learned that passports are now required to be valid for six months beyond planned travel dates. Mine will expire a mere four months beyond my travel dates.
March 2: Applied for passport renewal; official web site estimates 6-8 week processing time
April 30: Passport status site simply says “being processed” but because I’m now within 14 days of my departure date, there’s a phone number that I am “allowed” to call. When I do finally get through to someone, Peter informs me that he can see that my application is in the New Hampshire office, all of the required paperwork is okay, and that he’ll put an “expedite” on the application which should speed up the app and includes bumping the shipping from Priority to Overnight. He tells me to call back on Friday. (site now estimates 10 week processing time)
May 4, Friday: After 35 minutes of hold music and assorted “you’d better be within 14 days of departure if you dare to call this number” messages, Chelsea finally takes my call. She can see that the “expedite” has been filed, but my app is still listed as being processed. She tells me to keep checking the status on the web site, and to call back if it doesn’t say “shipped” with a tracking number by Tuesday. Chelsea also suggests that I make an appointment at the regional passport office, which happens to be in Denver, and re-apply in person. I’ll need new photos, a DS-11 form, a photo ID, the fee, and my birth certificate. I don’t have a birth certificate. It was lost in a fire a few years ago, and I never had it reissued because I’ve always had a valid passport. But that’s okay, because the earliest available appointment at the regional office is May 21, a week into my planned trip. Does me no good anyway.
May 8, Tuesday: No name from the operator this time. He looks me up, verifies that the expedite had been placed, and tells me that “they’re working on it today.” He suggests that I call back on Thursday. I note that I’d already called back twice, and ask what calling back actually does. His reply is, “Fine, then don’t call back.”
Frustrated beyond belief, I call my congressman’s office at a co-worker’s suggestion. While Carter ultimately isn’t able to get any new information, she assures me that they deal with this kind of thing all the time and speaks to me in a soothing voice. That counts for something. She suggests that I call her back on Thursday if I still don’t have my passport, and promises to get me into the regional office for an on-the-spot passport if necessary.
May 9, Wednesday: I step away from my desk and miss a call from “The Passport Expedite Suspense Desk.” Suspense, huh? Well, they’re doing a great job of that. I call back the given number and reach a recording promising that my call will be returned within 24 hours. A quick web search for “expedite suspense” turns up only a guy who was looking for their fax number because his app had been put on hold until he got them another copy of some form.
Panic does not BEGIN to describe where my head is right now.