Day 1: Cobble Hill to Vancouver Airport - Grampies Cross Europe Germany to Spain Fall 2023 - CycleBlaze

August 27, 2023

Day 1: Cobble Hill to Vancouver Airport

Today began (paradoxically) last night, when Condor airline emailed to say that they were ready for our online check-in. Condor, who are experts at the nickel and dime game will charge extra if you try to check in at the airport. They also like the online check in, because it is one more chance to sell you extra services. We already had a page for whining about this, but now we really got to see how annoying it can be. Like all airlines these days, Condor wants to sell you a seat selection. Well ok, we know we have to get off the plane promptly in order to go catch our train in Frankfurt,to Leipzig. So we were willing to pay 15 euros x 2 for seats near the front. We have already paid about 60 euros x 2 (120 euros- 175 Canadian dollars) for the right to carry on two small bags for the overhead storage. But now, after seat selection, they showed us a map of the overhead compartments, for which they are selling reservations at 15 euros each! And,it is not too likely that the overhead you reserve can be at the seat you just chose. If the overhead is way back in the plane, then you really are not getting off quickly, because you can not fight your way backwards from your seat up front, to get your stuff! Also, if there does happen to be a compartment shown by your seat, that's only one. Where does a couple's second bag go?

We phoned Condor customer support (yet again) and got the customary semi-hostile response to our semi-hostile question "are you guys serious?". Net result, we have paid them  another 60 euros for seats and storage reservations, without even knowing if we will get any benefit from it.

Some airline bean counter stayed up late to figure an additional way to sell that overhead storage. Note that the storage by the black and blue Grampies seats has already been sold to someone else. "Interestingly", by the time we worked our way through the lengthy check in process, they had already sold those seats as well, so we had to start the process all over again. Now we are sitting way back in the plane. Ain't this fun!
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Oh, here is a fine point. That storage by the Grampies' chosen seats  had not been sold, but was merely "not available". I feel better about that!

There should be something cheery on this page, to offset what seems to be a continuing story of travel hassle. So here we mention that our friend Sandra came to whisk us to the ferry. Seeing Sandra is always a plus!

We half expected BC Ferries to cancel the sailing we would need to get to the plane at Vancouver on time. That's because their boats (made in Germany) have been breaking on them of late, resulting in lots of cancellations. This time they didn't cancel, but their 10 o'clock sailing was 42 minutes late. That was in fact a slight advantage, because we got on that, rather than our targeted 11 o'clock.  While pondering the possibility that they would cancel, last night, we considered taking a taxi to the airport here and flying to Vancouver, if necessary. But the airlines had seen the Labour Day weekend coming, and had tripled the prices! Gulp.

The airlines were calling things correctly (for them) as we could see the huge number of people using the ferry. This really is a busy time of year.

Ferry walk-on traffic
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We are not actually crabby at this stage!
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What was to be our boat is just arriving, but we are leaving!
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On of the cute smaller ferries used in the surrounding islands - made in Poland.
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The bus from ferry to airport also had a long line of people, but we were glad to find them in good spirits and cooperating with each other.

Three busses of people were heading from the ferry to the airport.
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At the airport we found that had we paid big bucks to fly, so as not to miss the plane, we needn't have worried.  Condor was delayed 2 hours!

Although we already had our online boarding passes, Dodie surmised that Condor would take the chance to give us grief over the size or weight of our carry-ons. So we lined up for their counter, and sure enough they checked the size and weight, before awarding the coveted carry on approval. One unexpected thing - they said Condor might consider reimbursing our train ticket, since their delay will cause us to miss our train in Frankfurt. We'll see about that.

Condor wants to intercept billable luggage at check-in, rather than wait for the gate, or even (horrors) give people a break. I think the sign might loosely say "Don't fly outside the box".
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Security was up next. I assured Dodie that without the controversial e-bike batteries, this would be a breeze. Hah! They must have sensed that Dodie had spent hours carefully Tetrising our stuff into the bags, to beat the Condor size limits. So CATSA diverted three of our four bags to rip apart - looking for ...what?  The first thing they questioned was a plastic container holding a yellow cloth.  Perhaps yellow symbolizes acid for them?  Next was two packets of wet wipes. Now wet is like "liquid", so maybe that was their concern.  Entirely reasonable to suspect that the Grampies have learned to weaponize wet wipes. Parents with slobbery babies, take note.  (We kept the wet wipes). Finally, they found  ten individual hand warmers. We have these because with poor circulation in my hands, cold November rains can cause me a lot of pain. But CATSA said we had "too many".  Clearly they have never cycled in November! They felt a lot better when we told them ok, half for me, half for Dodie. We kept the hand warmers!

CATSA now feels safer, but our bags are a wreck.
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Now I am happily sitting at the gate (only three hours more to wait for the flight) with a coffee and some chocolate chip zuchinni bread that we brought. I am feeling fortunate to have the home made  zuchinni bread, because it is a little too moist in the centre, and CATSA missed it. And if those chocolate chips get messy, at least I have all those wet wipes!

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Gregory GarceauREAL condors are ashamed to have that airline named after them.
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1 month ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Gregory GarceauUnfortunately that is so true. All our German friends laugh when we tell them we flew with Condor. They claim it is "just for tourists".
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1 month ago