Welcome to South Africa

photo(1)The airport in Johannesburg was not quite what I expected.  From what others had told me, I was bracing for an atmosphere of controlled chaos, like the  international terminal at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport. But my information was seriously out of date. The O.R. Tambo airport is clean and bright and efficient, featuring high-end shops like Gucci and Montblanc.  It feels just like dozens of other international airports across the world; the only sign of Africana was a large plastic elephant in one corner of the concourse.

The team of the No. 1 Ladies’ Opera Festival traveled in two separate groups. Bogdan Dulu, our star pianist, was flying on his own from Vancouver to Johannesburg. But I was traveling with Nani Sinha, our fabulous mezzo, and my mother, who is helping to coordinate the music program for AIDS orphans in Gaborone.

Weflew from Los Angeles with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (or, as I like to call them, “the Flying Dutchmen.”) The seats were a bit cramped, but there was a wide selection of movies (including a performance of Aida conducted by Zubin Mehta) and copious amounts of airplane food. We spent twenty-one hours in the air, not including a dangerously tight connection in Amsterdam. I slept most of the journey, but fortunately I was awake to see the sand dunes of the Sahara Desert from 30,000 feet!

Meanwhile, Bogdan had a very different experience on British Airways — on his way from Canada to South Africa, he managed to spend a snowy day in London!

When we finally met up, it was almost midnight in Joburg, but we celebrated the beginning of our festival by going out for pizza. To our delight, we discovered that the pizzas at Cappello Pizzeria were named after world leaders! Check Nani’s blog if you want to know whether we liked the Obama pizza better than the Mandela pizza. After the global-leader-pizza-party, we called it a night.  There is much to do in the next few days.

The adventure has begun!

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Luggage Personality Quiz

What’s your luggage personality?

You can tell a lot about a person by looking at her luggage. Having spent a lot of time in airports, I’ve become an expert at luggage profiling.

Parents with small children carry a ton of extra gear when they travel. Backpackers stuff everything into one (ginormous) khaki pack. College kids have more technology in their pockets than you can find at an Apple Store. Business folk carry a laptop in one hand and a Starbucks cup in the other. And opera singers pack a bunch of “extra” ballgowns… bet you didn’t know that.

So how about you?  What’s your travel type? Take my quick quiz:

1. When they unzip your bag at customs, you blush because you know you packed too many…

a. handcrafted Aboriginal beads

b. diapers, LEGOs, Spongebob toys, remote control dinosaurs, doll clothes, pack-n-plays, pipe cleaners and hamster pellets

c. iPods

d. ballgowns

2. When you empty your pockets at security, you find:

a. a folded street map of Vladivostok

b. crumpled receipts, loose change, bubble gum wrappers, and one yellow sock

c. your wallet

d. something with rhinestones on it

3. When buying luggage, you ask:

a. “Does this have a compartment for my collection of collapsible hunting knives?”

b. “This suitcase isn’t big enough. Do you have a steamer trunk?”

c. “Do people still buy luggage?”

d. “Does it come in pink?”

4. When the airline attendant tries to check your carry-on because there’s not enough space in the overhead compartment, you reply:

a. “Can you check it all the way through to Abu Dhabi, or do I have to re-check it in Amsterdam?”

b.”It’s heavier than I am. You’ll never get it off this plane.”

c. “But it fits right under my seat!”

d. “Je m’excuse! Je n’ai pas compris, madame. Parlez-vous français?”

5. When the lady at the check-in counter tells you that your luggage is “overweight,” you reply:

a. “This one bag contains everything I need for the next 189 days.”

b.”Yeah, my suitcase always gains weight on vacation.”

c. “It only weighed 16 ounces at home. You must be leaning on the scale.”

d. “I’m carrying the full orchestral score of the greatest opera ever written. Can’t you make an exception? The world needs this music.”

 

ANSWER KEY:

If you chose mostly A’s, then you’re a SUPER NOMAD.  You can travel the world with a few handy items and the clothes on your back.  I would be just like you, except that I wouldn’t know where to put my extra ballgowns. But you should check out this post about how to pack for the Western Sahara.

If you chose mostly B’s, then you are a BLOATED FLOATER.  You have a lot of baggage, and I mean that literally. Are you traveling with young kids?  (If so, you’re doing great! Keep up the good work.)  Are you setting sail for the New World with all your worldly belongings?  (If so, you’re doing great! Keep up the good work.)  But if not, then you’ve got way too much stuff!  Before you park your U-Haul at the airport, think about what you really need.  Organize. Simplify.

If you chose mostly C’s, then you’re a CARRY-ON CAPTAIN.  You know how to fit everything into a compact space.  You breeze through security with no extra hassle, and you disembark a full thirty minutes before that poor family with the twin toddlers.  I envy you.

If you chose mostly D’s, then, congratulations! You are a true JET-SETTING DIVA.  You understand that luggage has to be both functional and fabulous. Your suitcase might be heavy, but at least it’s pink. You are a savvy traveler with a sense of dramatic flair. You should probably order this passport cover by Sicura.

Now that you know your luggage personality type, you’re ready to board. PanAm image courtesy of ScreenRant.

Pavarotti Airport

A few minutes ago, I landed at the Lindbergh Field San Diego Airport.

And that got me thinking about cool airport names. Why stick with a prosaic name like LAX when you could name your airport Sky Harbor (Phoenix) or Le Bourget (Paris)?

Many airports are named after military heroes. Consider Charles de Gaulle Airport (Paris), King Shaka International Airport (Durban), and my favorite, Alexander the Great Airport (Skopje, Macedonia).

Just occasionally, airports are named for artists. There’s Charles Schulz M. Airport in Sonoma. And in Malaga, they named one of their terminals after Pablo Picasso (c’mon, doesn’t the guy deserve a whole airport)?

The Italians certainly know how to name their airports.  Leonardo Da Vinci Airport (Rome), Cristoforo Colombo Airport (Genova), Galileo Galilei Airport (Pisa), and of course, Giuseppe Verdi Parma Airport are great examples.

Hey, want to play some airport trivia? In which cities would you find these airports:

a. Mohammed V Airport
b. Franz Josef Strauß Airport
c. George Bush Interncontinental Airport
d. Chapatri Shivaji International Airport
e. Bob Hope Airport
f.  Robin Hood Airport

{You’ll find the answer key below. Just scroll down.}

Some great musicians have also been “airported.” We have Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, John Lennon Airport in Liverpool, the Warsaw Chopin Airport and, best of all, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Airport in Salzburg.

But here’s my question: why not name airports after opera singers? After all, opera singers spend a lot of time in airports! And we sing stratospheric notes! Besides, naming an airport after a diva gives it a touch of class. Just imagine the dramatic effect of a Maria Callas Airport in Greece. Or a Joan Sutherland Airport in Australia. Or … how about the Luciano Pavarotti International Airport of Modena? Wouldn’t that be cool? Dare to dream!

Answer Key:

a. Casablanca
b. Munich
c. Houston
d. Mumbai
e. Burbank
f. Doncaster/Sheffield (you guessed Nottingham, didn’t you?)

Well now it’s time for me to fly to an airport that was once called the Great West Aerodrome… located in a little English hamlet named Heath Row.  😉