A Comedy of Errors

A two-destination, five leg, international trip? What could go wrong? So much that the experience became, in the end, a Comedy of Errors (credit to William Shakespeare).

The itinerary was ambitious, particularly in the time of Covid 19: Boston-Ft. Lauderdale, then on to Monaco via Newark and Nice, return via Newark to Boston.

Boston-FLL on JetBlue went reasonably well, only slightly late. The hotel was clean, convenient and orderly only under renovation. The Miami F1 Grand Prix was delightful, my first in-person F1 event since Phoenix in 1991. Plenty of time to get back to FLL on Monday for the United flight on Monday.

Which was good, because the flight was late arriving putting the short layover in Newark at risk. The pilots stepped on the jet fuel and made up most of the delay, however.

But when we arrived in Newark we sat, and sat on the taxiway for 55 minutes due to congestion at United’s under-renovation terminal.

Dash through the terminal (from one end to the other, of course) to arrive at the Nice flight … only to find that the plane wasn’t even there yet. Okay, no problem, we have all night to get to Nice and the flight was nearly empty so there were plenty of empty seats to stretch out on.

The Nice airport is built on land filled out into the Mediterranean Sea with definite runway lengths and a watery runoff. Barely before touchdown in the lightly loaded but big Boeing 767 … the landing gear came up and the plane climbed out. On the seatback video screen map it showed us heading for Corsica. The pilot eventually told us, “We had a problem with the flaps that we’re trying to fix.” It took about an hour flying over the beautiful Mediterranean before making another approach and using all the available runway to stop.

There were fire trucks posted next to the runway for us.

Passport control was a breeze and the express bus to Monaco (€30 round trip) was outside the next terminal. But we were now late and I’d arranged early check-in at my Airbnb.

However my host also was late arriving to give me the key and show me the apartment. We arrived virtually simultaneously at the apartment, only two blocks (both horizontally and vertically) from the Monaco Tourist Center bus stop.

It was the first of many vertical feet up and down the Monaco hillside. At the end of six days I’d left six pounds of useless body weight on the Monaco hillside, which explains why Monaco residents are slim, fit and toned, as well as really rich.

The Airbnb was clean, spacious and airy. The water (“There’s been a leak in the apartment below”) was turned off: The valve was, curiously, outside the kitchen window.

There also was no hot water which I discovered upon waking up on Wednesday for a morning shower. Airbnb emails ensued with obtuse instructions like:

“You need to light on the gas in the kitchen, there is a boiler”

“To start the water heater: 1) open the gas if it is closed 2) turn the choke level on the heater to the right and hold it for 30 seconds, then turn the level again, you should hear a click and see a spark and the boiler is on. If not insisted a couple of times”

And, finally,

“We will come to see tomorrow”.

No shower, nor the next day, nor clean clothes from the washing machine. Finally, on Friday, four days after arriving, the building manager turned the gas on.

Wifi? There was no apartment manual with the password. Another email came with a photo of a now-removed password label which when entered produced:

“Connected. No internet connection”

I think they forgot to pay the bill, the apartment having been empty for some time.

The Bonhams and RM Sotheby’s Monaco auctions, however, went off without a hitch. The weather was gorgeous … as good as it gets. The Automobile Club de Monaco had moved media check-in to a more accessible location on Quai Antoine I from 2018’s outpost at the end of the Port Hercule pier and the GP Historique cars were as delicious as ever.

Monaco is a beautiful place: Clean, tidy, manicured and posh.

Bonhams auction is now in the Fairmont Hotel at the GP circuit’s tightest hairpin. A hamburger (with frites) at the lobby lounge was only [sic] €34.50. Up Avenue Spelugues from the Mirabeau Haut turn le tip top (open until 5 or 6AM) offered relief in the form of half a dozen escargot for [only] €13. RM is at the Grimaldi Forum on the waterfront a block from the circuit’s Portier corner.

There is a public elevator across the street from the Forum that makes short work of the climb from the waterfront Avenue Princesse Grace to Boulevard des Moulins just a few blocks below my Airbnb. But beware, the ascenseurs close late in the evening. Elevator crime seems not to be a problem in Monaco. This being Monaco there is NO graffiti.

The GP Historique on Sunday was long, but rewarding, with great old cars being driven with style, skill and intensity. Up early on Monday for The Return Home.

The Return Home

Totally screwed.

Online resources quoted a 72-hour negative Covid test to get back into the States. United politely but firmly declined my Saturday negative test and sent me back to Nice Terminal 1 for another (€29) on Monday.

I passed.

The plane from Newark was (surprise) late (gate delays, they said, which was no surprise.)

Then, watching the seatback display map, we began to make racetrack ovals over the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts. The pilot explained there was a line of thunderstorms and they couldn’t get into Newark and had been fueled in Nice for two extra hours.

More racetrack loops over Connecticut as those hours were eaten up. I began to hope for diversion to Boston where I would debark, find my car and arrive home early.

No such luck.

We landed late in Newark. The booked connecting flight to Boston was canceled, as were two later connections.

Stranded, along with hundreds of others.

Coming down an escalator I noticed the Nice-Newark pilot next to me and I said, “It was an enduro.” He said, “We nearly diverted to Boston.” “That would have been OK with me. That’s where my car is.” He said, “You would have been the only person on the plane who was happy about that.” And I would have gladly traded my satisfaction for dozens of disappointments.

United offered no help, no later flights, but my brother, Jeff, was my ace in the hole. I could stay with him and his wife, Liz, in Montclair.

Only an $80 cab ride from Newark.

Discussion ensued and since there were no United alternatives Jeff and I took the bus to Manhattan and I walked down 8th Avenue seven blocks to Penn Station to take Amtrak to Boston.

Having bought a ticket on the 12:30 Amtrak Regional, I took a break outside the new (and very sharp) Moynihan Amtrak terminal to kill some time and have a cigar. That’s when United emailed “You haven’t checked in for your 1:45 flight to Boston.”

What 1:45 flight? It was the first I’d heard of it.

Talk about a day late and a dollar short.

Gratification came when I arrived at South Station Boston on time at 4:36PM and took a cab ($30) to off-airport parking where my car awaited. The next day FlightAware reported that the 1:45 Newark-Boston flight arrived at Logan at 4:39PM, only [sic] two hours late.

From the time I left the Beausoliel Airbnb until I walked in the door in Thompson it was forty-three hours (including time zone changes) since I’d left Beausoliel.

Planes, trains, automobiles, busses, taxis … the only transportation overlooked was a ferry boat.

That is travel in 2022.

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