After spending almost three months preparing for our trip, our big day finally arrived. We were still in panic mode for the most part. No matter how much you plan and tell yourself that you are going to have everything all set, it never works out that way.
All in all, though, it wasn’t all that bad. I had a small errand to run in the morning, and we were packing up to the minute that my brother-in-law arrived to drive us to Newark, but we finally got to the point where we just said that if it wasn’t done by now or if we forgot something, OH WELL…
Our travels this day would start at Newark International Airport and take us to Copenhagen, Denmark, before arriving in Gothenburg. Our drive to Newark was uneventful, arriving almost 3 hours before our scheduled departure. Since this was our first international trip, neither of us knew what to expect from this point forward. Sure, we knew the security screenings to which we would be subjected, but other than that, we were flying blind (pun intended???)
We checked in and got our boarding passes – so far so good. Next, we had to check our baggage. Again, no problem. (We WERE concerned about the weight of our checked bag – but it came in 3 kg under the max… WHEW!) The final hurdle was security – nothing surprising here for anyone that has traveled by air in the last 10 years or so. Got through the lines fairly quickly without incident. At this point, we could start to relax since we still had about 2 hours until departure.
We found our way to the SAS Business Lounge (THANKS VOLVO!!!) and all I can say is that I could get used to that very easily. It was so nice to be able to sit down, grab something to eat, and enjoy an “Adult Beverage” or two while waiting for our boarding time. We connected to WiFi, and sat in the lounge for about an hour and a half before heading out to the gate. DEFINITELY this was one of the best perks of our trip.
Once on the plane, we got settled in our seats and tried to get comfortable. This was the largest plane we have ever flown on. It was an Airbus A330, which seats 8 across: 2 seats, then an aisle, then 4 seats in the middle, another aisle, and then 2 more seats on the other side. We were seated in the middle section for this flight. On our trip back we get 2 seats by the window. We thought about upgrading to Economy Extra too late.
One of the first things we noticed is that all announcements made by the flight crew was done first in Swedish, and then in English. It still amazes me that anyone can switch seamlessly between two languages – this is a skill that I have never been able to come close to mastering.
We took off just about on time, and once airborne our pilot informed us that we would be ahead of schedule, and would be landing in Copenhagen about 15 minutes early. Good news – this would give us an additional few minutes of buffer time once we landed.
One of the coolest things on the plane was the personal entertainment system at each seat. In addition to the typical movies/videos/music selections, it ALSO included two external airplane cameras – one showing the view out of the front of the airplane, and one showing the view looking down at the ground from the plane’s belly. As someone who loves flying (and has taken two lessons) this was just the coolest thing since sliced bread… Watching the ground drop away as we lifted off was fun for me… I even snapped a couple shots of my screen with my iPod Touch.
Looking Out the Front of our Plane During Takeoff
Looking Down from our Plane
None of the in-flight movies were working at first, but the flight attendant rebooted something and got them working pretty quickly.
Shortly after liftoff we were served dinner – which was tasty considering it was airplane food. But the biggest surprise for us came when we were getting our beverage service. Again, having never flown internationally before, all we have experienced is domestic flights and their policies. Because we both figured we would have some trouble sleeping on the plane, we both opted for additional “Adult Beverages” in the form of wine. I pulled out $20 to pay for our two small bottles, and was VERY pleasantly surprised to learn that there was no charge, even for those of us that were flying Economy. AGAIN, this is something I could get very used to… I even opted for another bottle a while later. I am not sure if this is typical of all/most international service, or if it is just SAS’ policy, but I certainly like it!
The choice of movies was pretty good, and included “The Next Three Days,” “Gulliver’s Travels,” “North by Northwest,” “Pirates of the Carribean,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1,” “The Dark Knight,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “Little Fockers” and a few others. I opted for Harry Potter, twice, in fact. Apparently I did doze off for a while, but certainly not long enough. Unfortunately, Paul only got about 30 minutes of sleep, even with the wine-sleep-aid.
About 90 minutes before touching down we got our morning snack. I have to say that what we received was a bit of a surprise for me – we were given a small (~4″ in diameter) ham and cheese sandwich. I was expecting a bagel or something along those lines, but I suspect this is a cultural difference. The sandwich wasn’t bad, just not what I typically would have for breakfast. Although, they did also include orange juice and yogurt.
Once we touched down in Copenhagen, we let most everyone else deplane before we gathered our stuff. We followed the signs for “Arrivals” initially, followed by “Departures,” since we needed to board a connecting flight. Apparently, all flights between members of the European Union are considered “domestic” so we had to change terminals which involved going through security again. The primary difference between the European security screening and our security screening is that the EU does not require removing your shoes. Definitely a plus. Once Paul got through the screening, one of his bins was selected for a “random” search – and his Scottvest jacket (you know, the one with the gazillion pockets) happened to be in the selected bin. It was quite amusing watching the security lady work her way through all the pockets, emptying them along the way.
Also, apparently something I was wearing set off the detector, so I had to be patted down – no biggie… after about 45 seconds it was over. All in all, it amounted to about a 5 minute delay – again, not a big deal.
After grabbing a couple bottles of water (our first European purchase!), we worked our way through the airport to Terminal B… all I can say is that portions of Copenhagen’s Airport looked more like an upscale mall than a traditional airport!
Airport or Mall???
We finally got to our gate, and were one of the first people there. The two hours went by quickly (I was reading my Nook, and Paul the “USA Today” he picked up as we boarded the plane in Newark.) The plane for this leg of our trip was much smaller (4 seats per row as opposed to the 8 seats per row on our transatlantic leg) but it was comfortable. (For the aviation fans, it was a Bombardier CRJ900)
As we lifted off, the first thing that caught my attention was a windmill farm just offshore from the airport – and there were numerous additional windmills all along our flightpath. I was impressed by this and couldn’t help but think that Denmark was so far ahead of the States when it comes to embracing alternate forms of energy generation.
The view from our plane was breathtaking once we crossed over land again. Of course, it helped that the weather was perfect! This was a very short flight, and before we knew it we were touching down in Gothenburg. Down to the luggage claim to get our big bag, and then we saw this very large sign, which told us we were in the right place!
Volvo arranged for a driver to pick us up at the airport. Because this was Easter Sunday, it wasn’t the usual Volvo S80 stretch limo, or even one of the many “Volvo Logistics” vehicles (V70s and XC90s). Nope, we got picked up a a cabbie driving a VW Jetta wagon. But he was very polite and good at his job – and most important… he brought us right to the hotel.
When we walked into the Radisson Blu Scandinavia, my jaw dropped – this hotel is QUITE impressive. It has a beautiful atrium with five floors of rooms surrounding it.
Cool Hotel Elevators
The staff could not have been friendlier when we checked in. All we had to do was give them our names, say that we were visiting as part of the OSD program, and hand them the voucher Volvo had sent as part of our confirmation package. Our room is on the top floor overlooking the Atrium area, and is probably one of the best rooms in which we have ever stayed. The bed is comfortable, but more important – the room is amazingly quiet. We have yet to hear any sound from the hallway, the atrium (five floors below,) or either of the adjacent rooms.
Volvo, you certainly know how to treat your customers – you are a class organization, and we cannot thank you enough for our trip so far.
If you are interested in seeing all of our pictures from Day 0, Trip to Gothenburg, you can find them at the following link, and look in the folder labeled Day 0.
Just a heads up – there are going to be LOTS of photos posted, so be forewarned.
Also, we are a bit behind – but hope to catch up in the next day or so, so keep checking back…