The journey started pleasantly enough - my mother dropped me off at the airport and within a few minutes I found my traveling partners without a problem. We left plenty of time to spare, and ended up with an opportunity to take down some Q-doba before boarding our Boeing 747-400 serviced by Delta. The plane itself is quite a spectacle - I had never flown internationally before, so this was my first time seeing 7 seats per row on a plane, spliced by two columns. Even more amazing was the fact that I was able to stand safely in a fully upright position on this plane, without having to resort to the Neanderthal pose that I usually occupy while pacing airplane aisles.
Once seated in the plush leather seat, I was greeted by a screen on the headrest of the seat ahead. Immediate reaction - money maker for Delta. Upon further exploration, however, I found that there was a plethora of free content available on this wonderful little touchscreen that would, as it turned out, serve as a sanity saver.
This screen brought me many various pleasantries, including watching Jim's brilliant faxing prank on Dwight (The Office) and a very enjoyable In-Flight trivia game in which yours truly, seated in 39F and carrying the nomenclature "TALL", brought home the victory. It was a high point of my traveling career, and we hadn't even lifted off yet. This fact was due to the 5 hour mechanical delay that I've neglected to mention until now. Boy I tell you what, Delta had no idea what it was getting into when it decided to make sure that our starboard engine was fully functioning before clearing the 747 for takeoff. When our loyal Captain announced the delay, the reaction was one that almost seemed to favor taking off regardless of the engine condition. "This is just ridiculous... hurry this **** up already" was heard from a few especially cranky older couples. Yeah, that's a good idea, these engine repairs don't really require as much care as they think - simple machines really, jet engines...
Once in the air, the flight was smooth as the ever referenced and only-recently-because-of-Michael-Jackson balked at Baby's Bottom. A buttery landing topped off what was really an enjoyable experience, complete with me dosing off for a few hours while watching a not-as-entertaining-as-the-preview-promised Breach , but at least it was free thanks to Delta's headrest monitors.
Once in Milan, we were greeted by the fact that we had landed a full 3 hours after our connecting flight to Tel Aviv had taken off. Given the absence of time travel technology in Italy (when will they ever catch up?) we were forced to make other arrangements, the most feasible of which being a flight serviced by Alitalia which left at 11:00pm. So, we were faced with a 10 hour layover, and the three of us were overjoyed. We now had the opportunity to experience one of the most romantic cities in the world with all-male company and our carry-on baggage.
We set off for Duomo (wiki) via public transit, a feat we accomplished through the questioning of no less than 8 friendly (and 2 quite unfriendly and awfully rude) Italians along the way who eventually guided us to the incredible cathedral. Inside it seemed even larger than it looked from the outside, and we were in awe over how something this size could have been constructed using 16th century technology. I then reminded my companions that the diesel engine, so popular in Europe today, was actually invented in the 1400's by a group of Italian painters who were experimenting with new techniques, and thus probably aided greatly in the hoisting of the Duomo marble and glass.
After lunch we headed back to the airport, following the bread crumbs that we had dropped along the way. Our flight to Tel Aviv this morning was relatively uneventful, with a nice bonus of 3 exit-row seats being available for us. Those of you under 6'2" tall may not know this, but emergency exit row seats are just one more bit of proof that God loves us - twice the legroom, no more cost, and usually available because most passengers do not know to check right before the flight.
We arrived at the magnificent (really) Tel Aviv airport on-time, and made our way through passport services and customs with no delays. One of the cleanest airports any of us had seen, Ben Gurion International Airport is standing evidence that Israel is truly a modern country and has every reason to be proud of its progress. (In addition, free use of luggage carts!)
We were greeted shortly by another young man who is playing in the IBL and was commissioned to pick us up at the airport by one of the league officers.
All three of us. And our luggage. In a very common-in-Israel compact 4-door hatchback. 3 large males with 2 months worth of luggage, plus a driver.
So we sought the services of a local taxi, which took myself and Daniel on a harrowing ride through northern Israel here to Hakfar Hayarok, a youth village which will be our home-sweet-home for next two months.
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