Travel TopOfBlogs Past and future wanderings of a travel bug . . .

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Ticket to Nowhere...Exploring the Expansion at the EIA

I got up and out of the house early (for a Saturday) and headed to the Edmonton International Airport.  This probably doesn't sound particularly unusual after all this is meant to be a travel blog so surely I've been to my local airport before.  True enough.  Usually however I go to airport because I am going somewhere or at the very least picking someone up.  Today however this was not the case.

As part of a group of over 1300 "passengers" arriving today I was there to help the EIA to trial the flow through of the new terminal that will be used for departures to the U.S.A. starting on February 11, 2012.  In the fall of 2011 I had seen an article in one of our local newspapers requesting volunteers for the simulation and had thought that it might be interesting to get a sneak peak at the new terminal.  I wasn't disappointed.

No my name isn't really Margaret
A short while after arriving at the special event parking and boarding a yellow school bus I entered the new terminal where everyone was being given their passenger script enclosed in a brightly colored file folder.  Script in hand I was directed up a flight of stairs to the departures level.    After taking a moment to review the information I headed down the hall as directed to collect my boarding pass and luggage.  I was handed a first class boarding pass to Phoenix!  And since I was a first class passenger today my "luggage" had already been checked for me.

Headed to the U.S.A.!
Next stop: security.  Nothing really all that different here.  The usual bag, keys and change in the bin.  I carried on without incident.  Since this terminal will be servicing passengers traveling to the United States the next logical stop was the Customs Hall.  Since today I didn't even need my passport this was a breeze too.  I wasn't even asked if I was traveling on business or for pleasure.

The hard part was over.  Now to head to gate with plenty of time to relax before it was time to board.  It's a bit of a walk to get to the departures lounge so passengers can choose to walk twice as fast along the moving sidewalk.  Now I've encountered these before in many larger airports but I think think that the ones here are the first in an Alberta airport!  There is some lovely art on the walls along here including a mosaic of what appears to be Edmonton's lovely river valley.

Before you settle in to wait for your flight you may want to stock up on all things Canadian (and other luxury goods) at the Duty Free.  The Duty Free store is located just before you reach the departures lounge.  The passage through here was quite narrow and depending on how busy things were there could be an issue with bottle necking.  Today I didn't stop to shop but proceeded straight through.  Since I wasn't actually leaving the country I was pretty sure we wouldn't be allowed to buy anything here anyways!

By the time I arrived here I had realized that I forgotten the notebook that I normally travel with and since I had wanted to make some notes for this post I went in search of a new one.  At present there are a few shops available with more to come.  I checked out Relay and while they had lots of popular reads I didn't come across a notepad or book.  I settled on a couple of postcards.  After all I just needed a blank surface to write on so the $1.80 I spent was well worth it.  Now if you are feeling a bit peckish before your flight you are in luck.  For the time being there are four food establishments in operation:  Starbucks, Quizno's, Wings Tap & Grill and a Chili's express.  For the trial today free samples were on the menu.  While everything looked tempting (especially the wings) I had skipped breakfast so I tried a mini cupcake and a coffee from Starbuck's.  This morning that fit the bill.  I had about an hour and half in the area before it was time to "board" my flight so I wandered around checking out the amenities.  In addition to the usual seating at each gate there was a variety of other seating in the central hall  including one area that doubles as art.  Power outlets for those traveling with anything they might need to recharge before the flight were plentiful in the seating area.  Add to this free WiFi and the flash-packers among us should be a happy bunch.  There was lots going on during the trial with musicians, jugglers and stilt walkers circulating among the crowd--now I probably won't see this next I'm here but today with the many families with young children taking part I found it very fun and appropriate.  There were definitely people from all walks of life taking part which was great to see.  Additional simulations were taking place around me including a situation with a lost ipod and a mock medical emergency.  Other than the entertainers the only thing that made this scene seem out of the ordinary were the brightly colored file folders we were are carrying with us!

Time to go!
After collecting the delicious lunch that was provided by Krave, a local catering company I was off to wait by my gate.  After all it was nearly 11:30 and since my "flight" left at noon it was almost time to board.  Since today I was "flying" first class I was able to "board" first.  As I exited the departures lounge I was quite amused when I overheard one of the EIA volunteers ask the couple in front of me if they had gotten their lunch (which was over at Gate 74 and if you wanted it you needed to collect it before you left).  The couple insisted they had to board their flight.  To which the volunteer tells them that the have a "ticket to nowhere".  I chuckled at this statement a little as the couple headed back upstairs to collect their lunch.

Welcome to Edmonton!
Meanwhile I proceeded downstairs to the arrivals level as  I was now an arriving passenger.  The second part of the simulation was much less involved--it was just a matter of walking through the terminal, being welcomed to Edmonton by a friendly volunteer, turning in the provided questionnaire and leaving with a parting gift before being shuttled back to our vehicles.  Unlike in real life there was no luggage to collect and no stern looking Canada Customs officer scrutinizing what I was bringing back home!

All in all I think EIA has given Edmonton a new facility to be proud of.  It's world class and will serve the airport's growing number of passengers well.  The simulation seemed to run smoothly as well.  I'm looking forward to flying through the new terminal in March when I'll be headed to Phoenix for real!

If you are interested in what's going on with the EIA expansion you can find more here or you can follow them on Twitter: @flyeia  or find them on Facebook:  Edmonton International Airport.  If YouTube is your thing check out the videos about the expansion here.  Have you seen this for yourself?  Tell me what your take on the new terminal is!

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Time to Honour and Remember all Veterans and Those Who Still Serve

Remembrance Day is important to me.  I'm not a religious person so today trumps even Christmas.  As a Canadian I am free to travel with little restriction to many places in the world.  For this I am ever thankful.  I've had the opportunity to travel to many places significant in past conflicts and the older I get the more important I find this day.

This year I attended services in my home town with a close friend and colleague along with some friends of hers  one of which is a British military veteran.  This year being the first year in 10 where Canadian troops have not been on the front lines was particularly memorable.  I found myself moved to tears several times during the service knowing that the freedoms I enjoy everyday are the direct result  of the efforts of many of those in attendance along with those who have given their lives and the men and women who are currently deployed in places such as Afghanistan.

Our local service was followed by a shorter version at 11 o'clock at the local cenotaph where we heard The Last Post again and another 2 minute silence was observed.  To conclude the service one of our veterans read this article which I must confess I did not wholly agree with.   It's entitled "The country the world forgot - again".  Now I understand us Canadians despite being proud aren't always concerned with taking credit even if it's due.  I also understand that our military and peacekeeping contributions in many conflicts have been sizable as well and that is not always recognized.  Add to that the issue of our national identity being lumped in with that of our neighbors to the south and it might be true that we as Canadians are often forgotten.  My issue with this article however being read at Remembrance Day services had to do with a couple of comments within the article that to me seemed to take shots at the British and the Americans.  Today is not the day to disparage our allies of all people.  They too have given and continue to sacrifice lives to gain and protect the freedoms that  we hold dear.  As I stood along side my friend and her friend in his British military uniform I cringed as I listened to one of our Canadian vets read this passage including these criticisms.  I found that I felt quite offended.  I'm sure no offence was intended, and certain parts of the article were apt but in its entirety it felt inappropriate.  The service concluded on this note and on the walk home I felt compelled to seek out this article and read it for myself.  I was somewhat surprised to find that it had been written by someone in England in 2002 in response to Canada's involvement in Afghanistan.

In truth my experience today reinforced that today is not only a day to recognize my own country's contributions to conflict past and present but also to honour all men and women around the world who pay the price for freedom with their blood, sweat and tears.  All those around the world who fight in the name of the freedoms we take for granted deserve our gratitude today and everyday.

Lest we forget.

Last year I wrote about some of the sites I visited in Europe that were touched by war.  Read my blog post from last November 11 here.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

P is for Procrastination

Are you a procrastinator?  I am.  I admit it.  It's awful.  A couple of months ago I started thinking about making my summer vacation plans.  I researched a couple of small tour operators, I looked into flights and buses and trains.  And I booked nothing.  Partly because I was waiting for the next seat sale.  It came and went.  And so did another one.  And still I couldn't commit.  Am I afraid of commitment?  Well, yes and no.

I've been working a lot lately.  And I have had my eyes on the prize--that being exploring a part of the country I haven't yet been.  Sigh.  If everything worked out I was going to check out Moose Travel Network (East) and Salty Bear Adventure Travel--both look like they would be a blast.  And now Air Canada may be about to strike.  I've spent some time on a picket line myself so I am not enamored with the idea of crossing one.  I'll fly Air Canada again once things are resolved.  In the meantime I am sort of glad I'm a procrastinator.  Usually it seems to work in my favor.  Maybe I'll find a fantastic last minute getaway instead.

For now my summer getaway is back at square one...oh well.  Guess I should start thinking about booking the time off....
Real Time Web Analytics