City Code Snapshot: YVR

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If this all sounds familiar, it’s hopefully because you remember this post from last year, and not because all my posts about flying sound the same (although I suppose that would be its own commentary on the nature of the gig these days…).  I’m reposting this Rhapsody in Blue and Green about my favoritest of all airports for the benefit of those among you who may wonder why (or, for that matter, how) I set my upcoming erotic romance almost entirely on Vancouver International Airport property.  You Again? is a short, sexy love story about When Henry Met Zack that gets kinda hot kinda right away.  Sure, to the casual reader, it’s about sex, it’s about expectations, and it’s about beauty and the eye of the beholder.  But if it’s True Romance you’re looking for, remember: Greater love hath no man than a flight attendant for his favorite airport. 

YVR totemWhen last I featured a City Code Snapshot, it was of our isolated airport layover in Houston.  I am a frequent and vocal critic of — OK, whiner about — lengthy airport layovers and their high boredom factor, as you will by now have noticed.  Thus I feel like there is a certain amount of poetic justice in the fact that my very favorite of all airport layovers — the one for which I single-mindedly bid to the exclusion of any other factor, and for which I shamelessly whore myself on the trade board — is in one of the most glittering and glamorous cities in North America.

I don’t care if I never see downtown Vancouver on a layover again, as long as we continue to luxuriate in these posh airport digs, and from me that’s pretty big talk.  The five-star hotel is not just attached to the airport, but is perched feet from the USA Departures terminal, and the view from the relaxation chamber that other hotels might try to pass off as a mere “room” is very often of the airplane that has delivered you there.  But not to worry: if this reminder of your fast-approaching a.m. departure threatens to foul your mood, the blinds are easily closed, noiselessly and automatically, at the push of a button beside your comfy bed.  Continue reading

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City Code Snapshot: IAH

I haven’t featured a City Code Snapshot in a while.  What little flying I have been doing of late has been of the straight-to-the-hotel-straight-to-bed-straight-back-to-the-airport variety, which is generally pretty efficient, and helps me maximize my time at home, but offers precious few snaps worth shooting — how many Airport Marriott rooms are you really hoping to see?  (If you’re like me: not that many.)  Our Houston layover actually falls into this same category, with the added Boredom Bonus that the hotel is attached to the airport — we don’t even get to stand around and complain about Where’s the Van? for ten minutes, which is usually quite a popular layover activity.  Especially late at night.  Especially when there’s snow.  Here we just walk from the plane to our room and back again, fingers fervently crossed that there will be time on one end or the other to stop and grab some Popeye’s.  (Note to America’s airports: you wanna start winning awards, travel magazine reader’s polls, and acclaim on misterstewardess.com?  Get you a Popeye’s.)

Everything’s Big in Texas (Hey, Boys), and Houston — the fourth largest city in America, behind only New York, L.A., and Chicago — is no exception.  They have a Ballet.  They have a Fine Art Museum.  They have a house sided with beer cans.  We get to see none of these things, because they also have two airports, and we stay at the giant one, way out close to nothing.  But what we do get to see, besides runaway electric carts, cute boys at the E Gates Starbucks, and the occasional Emirates A380, is this giant cow in a cow-patterned space suit planting a Texas flag on the moon.  Conceptually, there’s kind of a lot going on here, what with Houston’s connection to the space program, and cows jumping over the moon, and if there’s a companion sculpture of a dish running away with a wooden chili spoon, it hasn’t been installed yet, but I still feel like this cow deserves her moment in the spotlight.  I work for a conservative, business-oriented airline, where touches of whimsy are few and long-and-lonesome-Texas-highway far between, and I’m a sucker for a good non sequitur.  For all that I love to complain about airport layovers and painstakingly enumerate the reasons I’d rather go downtown, if you’re gonna give me Popeye’s chicken, hot guys pouring coffee, and zany public art?  Houston, we got no problem.

City Code Snapshot: MCO

It is my personal experience that Orlando has little to offer the traveler who is not 8 and counting the seconds to Disney World.  Not that I wouldn’t have a ball at Disney World — the minute my youngest nephew is old enough to walk the entire park without need for a stroller, we’re there, budgeted to load up on churros and Phineas and Ferb souvenirs.  But if you’re not on a theme park mission, or on a quest to eat every meal for the rest of your life at Chili’s, Orlando can be kind of a dud destination.  When we used to layover at the hotel that seemed to host every college football team that came through town, entertainment was no farther away than your pool-facing balcony, but we haven’t stayed there in ages, and now there’s little to which to look forward.

Except for ZaZa, the Cuban coffee oasis ensconced in the back of a stereo store at the Orlando airport (note the complete absence of anything even vaguely cafe-ish in the photo).  While the prospect of an 18-hour layover at our airport-adjacent hotel holds little appeal, I thrill at the opportunity, such as I had yesterday, to pass through Orlando en route from Point A(re we there yet?) to Point B(e serious — we’re still not there?).  Like so many of Life’s Pleasures (ahem!), the coffee is hot and dark, strong and sweet.  Almost inky — much like my favorite guy behind the counter, who wears a neoprene sleeve under his t-shirt to cover a tattoo that I am dying to see.  I always smirk inwardly at the company policy that no doubt requires him to cover in this manner, drawing, as it does, ten times more attention to the fact that he’s got a giant tattoo than the tattoo itself probably would in this day and age.  And so I wonder, is it especially “offensive?”  Has it been deemed inappropriate for kids (with which this particular airport, obviously, is infested)?  Is it overly sexual or violent in nature?  He’s the nicest guy — a little bit cheeky (he always calls me Papi) but ever-ready to be of service, and he always remembers my order, even if it’s been months between visits — and so I wonder How bad could it be?  Would it shock me with its theme?  Amaze me with its artistry?  Its lack thereof?  Is his manager being overly officious, or is it really some kind of Big Deal?

Maybe he’s become the draw.  As much as my afternoon is improved when punctuated with a swirling shot of cane-sweetened oil slicky goodness (with a shot of milk, just because it’s fun to order a cortadito), here in the Town That Disney Built, where every place that isn’t a tragically predictable chain restaurant sells Tinkerbell t-shirts Ten-for-Ten-Dollars!, it’s well worth the three bucks to be served a cup of coffee — or anything, really — with a dollop of mystery.

City Code Snapshot: DSM

So, look who’s psychic:  In the Lima edition of “City Code Snapshots,” I predicted I’d have a lot to say about Iowa here in this space, and where did I go on my very next trip?  That state’s own capital city, Des Moines.  Land of the Big Blond Bumpkin, and home of the Tastiest Hotel Cheeseburger in the U.S.A.  The State Fair was on when we were there, which would ordinarily easily be able to provide me with a day’s entertainment — I love a good corn dog — but I never know where my next downtown Des Moines layover is coming from, and I was on a lunchtime mission.

A couple of months ago, I flew with this Chicago-based girl I’d never met before, and we fell into a conversation about food; specifically, about our favorite places to eat on layovers.  And she blew my mind telling about this place in Des Moines, Iowa, of all far-flung locales, where she had stumbled upon a crab rangoon pizza.  I am a mad fan of all things crab/cheese wonton, and sometimes order whole Chinese dinners just to have an excuse to summon them to my door, and I am also a huge fan of all things pizza, and sometimes order whole pizzas just to have an excuse to, well… eat them.  Knowing that there was a place that these two worlds collide and then they let you eat the results was more than I could resist.  It’s not like we don’t have State Fairs in Colorado.  (And in fact it starts on Friday.) Continue reading

City Code Snapshot: LIM

There are many compelling reasons to visit Peru, famed for its sky high ruins, ancient cultural traditions, and for bringing the world the potato, but our 25-hour Lima layover leaves scant opportunity to venture beyond the teeming seaside capital.  Mind you, with 43 distinct districts and a population of 7.6 million, and a history stretching back to the sixteenth century, there’s still plenty to see and do in the world’s 40th-largest city.  All of which any guide book from your local library can fill you in on.  If it’s info on sights, tours, and local currency that you seek, get thee to Lonely Planet.com. 

When I’m at work, cities where people live, work, and frolic on vacation are reduced to a series of three-letter codes in the computer that are paired up to tell us where we’re going, what time we’re supposed to get there, and nothing else.  And often that’s all we care about — Tokyo and Toronto are strikingly similar cities when seen from inside an airport hotel room.  Here, in a new Mister Stewardess Feature, City Code Snapshots will occasionally give you a quick glimpse of what stands out to me as the highlight of a given destination when seen through the eyes of working crew, just passing through with little time and even less money.  And since I hardly ever fly international any more, and will probably talk a lot about Iowa in this space, we’ll start big with last week’s trip to Lima. Continue reading