Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Sleeper Train to Venice versus EL AL airlines


From the inconceivable to the incomparable 
[I’m still blogging on about holidays - Sorry!]

The inconceivable is what I think about the Sleeper Train to Venice. I’m terrified of flying so when, in 2009, we planned a holiday in Venice we decided to take the Sleeper Train from Paris. I thought it would be romantic to travel across the Alps by night and arrive in Venice next morning. I was wrong!

Firstly it was pitch black and you could see none of that beautiful scenery. Secondly, this was no Sleeper Train. This was a Wide-Awake-Screech-Lurch-Clang Train with cabins that were hardly big enough to stand up in.
[Mr A has just asked me to point out that the only thing stopping him from sleeping was me moaning about not being able to sleep!]
The only compensation [and it was a massive compensation] was that this was our view of the Grand Canal as we had breakfast every morning on the hotel terrace.



On the other hand, the incomparable is my view of EL AL airlines. Like I said, I’m terrified of flying so when we planned a holiday in Israel we decided to fly by EL AL, the Israeli airline. It’s more expensive than a package flight but I suspected that it would be money well spent. I was right!


Boarding an El Al flight was like entering a crazy village. I forgot that we were about to be suspended high in the air with no safety net. I didn’t even notice that we were over an hour late taking off. This was gold standard people watching! When the staff tried to get us to prepare for take-off few of the passengers saw the need to sit down, or fasten their seat belts, or turn off their phones. The airline staff were very patient. They’d obviously done this before.

Once in the air there were cots to be assembled, babies to be fed and changed, prayers to be said by the men gathering at the back of the plane, not to mention the drinks, nibbles, trays of food and, at the end of each aisle, drinks machines and snacks.

I’d been told that some people never fly to Israel. They walk and now I understand. This was a large plane with two aisles. A number of the passengers spent the entire flight walking up one aisle and down the other... even when we were coming in to land. On the flight home, as we were about to touch down at Luton airport, a lady casually wandered to the toilet as if she were in a cafe. That’s what it was! It was more like sitting in a cafe than being on an aeroplane and it was the first time I’d stepped from a plane with a relaxed smile on my face. As I said, El Al are incomparable.


22 comments:

  1. Please don't apologise for blogging about holidays. Those of us coping with misty November in the UK need to live vicariously at times.

    And Night buses can be interesting - I went on one in Vietnam, when everyone was trying to get home for the Chinese New Year, the toilet broken, people sleeping on the floor as well as the 'berths' (more like sleeping in a coffin). We crossed the mountains, so the road was unpredictably interesting. I count it as a success that I didn't fall out of my coffin!

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  2. How fascinating! I love cultural experiences like this. I'm glad your curiosity made you forget about your fear! :)

    Amy

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  3. I'm so glad you enjoyed your flight. I'm surprised that the flight attendants allowed the passengers to be up and about while they were preparing for take-off. I remember them being very strict, and adding a sarcastic PLEASE at the end of every sentence. But I haven't flown on El Al in over 20 years, and it was definitely worth it, as I've never felt safer. Julie

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  4. Ros, You've captured the atmosphere on El Al perfectly.
    Everyone wanders around looking for -and finding- old friends from school/ college/ the army / - and all the mothers go around offering tips and advice to all the flying mothers and there are many many babies on El Al flights.

    No one understands the meaning of 'turn off your cell phones'

    It's well known that Israelis go abroad to shop, shop and shop some more. I was once on a return flight toIsrael from England when the pilot's voice came on the louspeaker saying " Ladies and Gentlemen I'm really sorry for this long delay but everyone on the plane seems to think they can bring back 3 times the permitted weight in luggage and getting you all sorted out takes a LONG TIME.

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  5. It sounds like a marvelous experience. That sounds like my kinda flight, too.

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  6. That was a sweet plane ride.... everything but the dancing girls. :)
    I thought of you as I was watching an old movie on TV... Sweet November. She was cooking in the kitchen and put a pie in the oven and it was a "cooker" as you described. I didn't care much for the movie, but I was happy to see the cooker. :)

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  7. That actually sounds like fun, not a word I usually associate with flying :-)

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  8. I have loved all the flights I have been on but that sounds like something very special!

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  9. Oh, Blogger ate my comment. What I meant to say was that you've shattered all my illusions. I always believed travelling on the sleeper train from Paris to Venice must be so romantic. Ah well.

    I love the idea of walking to Israel. That flight sounds great.

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  10. What a great flying experience. And that view of the canal is awesome!
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

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  11. I would never have thought about taking a train at night and not being able to view the scenery! But the whole trip sounds amazing.

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  12. I love your description of the plane! It makes me want to fly on one just to absorb the ambience :)

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  13. Wow...I've never heard of an airplane like the one you flew on. How strange and different from the ones here in the U.S. I need to get out more...but that requires money. I'm working on that I guess lol.

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  14. Hi Ros .. Interesting comparison .. and El Al seems the way to Israel .. I'm not walking! Cheers Hilary

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  15. El Al is incomparable - their security is quite incredible too. I even had to unwrap my small Christmas present my Mom had slipped into my suitcase...I was horrified to discover (in front of all the brawny, hunky El Al security men) that she'd chosen frilly, flirty underwear (it was my honeymoon trip as well as a Christmas holiday) They were very sweet about it, and re-wrapped it before letting us through!

    Judy, South Africa

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  16. I am not fond of flying, but prefer it over a train. Trains are a nice way to travel, but slower and rock too much for me. It has gotten to the point that traveling is not enjoyable anymore. Security is awful.

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  17. It is just me again. I forgot to respond to y our most welcomed comment. Yes, that is the actual color of those birds. I was in Colorado when this was taken. So many pretty birds and animals there.

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  18. I'm glad you're still blogging about your holiday because I haven't been anywhere for ages and the blogging posts showing pictures of faraway places that everyone has visited are keeping me sane.

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  19. Hi Ros - just catchng up on your fabulous trip. I think Venice must be worth it no matter how you get there. I would love to go back. Your El Al flight story is great and also encouraging. I don't mind flying but will be setting off to Dubai in December on my own which suddenly feels quite rash. I also have a 'transfer' in amsterdam and have never had to negotiate unknown airport with a time limit! Hopefully will come back with memories and pictures to see us all through the winter.
    AliB

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  20. ha ha brilliant... love your description of El Al - its making me wonder if I should plan a holiday to Israel just for the onboard entertainment

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  21. I've never been on a plane that made me think of a crazy village. Interesting thought, though. =)

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