#920636 by honey lamb
29 Apr 2016, 20:46
This was my first visit to Chicago, apart from connecting there in 2003, and in spite of the rain, snow and biting cold (-2C), :-O I really enjoyed my trip there especially as my travel buddy, Chris, joined me for a couple of days. We hadn’t seen each other for almost 2 years so there was plenty of catching up to do as well as some forward planning. I had taken a hop-on, hop-off bus trip for the first day and then, after his arrival we explored the city which included, on the advice of a friend, cocktails on the Lounge at 96
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in the John Hancock Tower rather than paying for the 360 degree experience two floors below. Nice friend.
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The people we met were lovely. I accompanied Chris to the nearby CTA station for his return to ORD, mainly to scope it out for myself the following day. While I was there it started to rain and as I was exiting the station, a lady expressed concern that I had no umbrella and insisted that I take hers. After a few minutes I realised she was one of the front desk staff in the hotel and accepted her offer, bless her. Nearly everyone else we met were as friendly. There was however, one blight to my trip. A couple of days before I left my sister-in-law had been admitted to hospital for tests and on the Saturday, I learned that she was sicker than we had originally thought and the day I was due to leave, her daughter sent me a message she had only weeks to live. ;-(

I had intended to spend my final morning buying gifts for friends and colleagues before heading to the airport, but the news had I had received had sent me into a daze so nothing was purchased and it was with a sense of almost relief that I headed to ORD on the CTA. Arriving there I followed the signs for the International terminal although at one point they seemed to disappear and I and another guy who was headed there, shrugged our shoulders in bewilderment before following our instincts which served us well and soon we were there. The Aer Lingus desk was almost opposite the entrance and with confidence I approached the Business Class desk with documentation in hand. Now the protocol is that the ticket is taken, the duty manager is contacted and Bob’s your uncle unless the loads are heavy but I had been assured that the loads were light and all cabins were wide open. I produced the necessary documentation but it wasn’t enough for yer one. She demanded to know certain aspects of my eligibility for the ticket and then produced a boarding pass saying that I would be assigned a seat at the gate. I queried this since the business upgrade had been paid for but she was insistent that I would not be upgraded unless economy was full. I was equally insistent that I was entitled to the upgrade unless J was full. No, it was wide open as was economy. I cited my travels to and from SFO and JFK where this had not been a problem and stood my ground. At that point Aer John happened to text me to see if I was at the airport and was everything OK. I told him what was happening and he weighed in with his tuppence worth and I Iet her see this. She then decided to contact her supervisor who was not answering the phone (it was within the lunch hour period) so she gave me the option of going to the gate or waiting. I elected to wait and retreated to a seat against the wall but within sight of check-in. As I sat there the stress of what was happening about my seat and the news of my sister-in-law hit me and the tears just streamed down my face. Aer John kept in touch with me saying that there should not be any problem and in the fullness of time someone fetched up at check-in who seemed to be in a supervisory role but there were a few at the Business line that had queries/problems to be dealt with. Eventually I was waved over and the supervisor looked at the details on screen and told the agent what to do and in a couple of swift key strokes I was through. In fairness, she apologised saying she had never processed one before, made amends when I asked for a window seat in giving me 6A instead of 7A as on my outbound and directed me to the lounge. I, for my part, apologised if I had been a bit snippy as I was aware I wasn’t in my right mind and might have been more forthcoming (in other words - rude) than I might have wished. We parted amicably, she directing me to the BA lounge which Aer Lingus now use, having eschewed the Air France lounge.

Oh dear, The BA lounge! God alone knows what the Air France lounge was like but this was woeful! :-O I was pleasantly greeted and told there were Irish newspapers there (there weren’t) and to have a pleasant stay. I passed the area where the loos etc., were and entered the main lounge. OMIGOD, I have been in better bus stations! This was the worst lounge, bar none that I had ever been in. Immediately in front was a bar with various nibbles etc., and to the left on entering was a beverage area with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Around the wall was padded seating and further back was an area with various seating around a table. There may or may not have been work stations. I don’t know because the whole place was chock-a-block. For the first time I wished I had taken the check-in agents order to go to the gate and wait my seat assignment. I helped myself to a G&T - at this stage I was in dire need of it and shortly after a flight was called. It wasn’t a BA one but one of the One World carriers. I can’t remember which but it emptied the lounge. I poured myself another G&T and, as Sod’s Law would have it, the minute I did so, they called the flight. Well I had jolly well earned this drink and I was damn well going to have it!!

When I arrived at the gate area boarding was well under way. There was no separate lane for priority boarding but I wasn’t fussed about that and simply joined the queue for whatever zone they were boarding. At the door I was pleasantly greeted by name and directed to my seat and almost immediately was presented with a glass of champagne. The cabin was much busier than my outbound flight with nine of us present. Just before the door closed I realised that the throne seat of 5K was vacant and asked if I could take it, which request was immediately granted. This time the procession went through the front galley so no economy passengers were harmed in my change of seats. At this point I really don’t know why I requested the change other than for the sake of it. 6A was perfectly adequate especially as I was going to sleep for most of the flight.

We took off on time and within minutes were soaring over the city with some stunning views of Lake Michigan.
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Shortly after there was a round of hot towels followed by the drinks round and the most disgusting canapés ever - a chunk of fatty boiled bacon (perhaps saved from the lack of takers of the bacon and cabbage option on the outbound), a slice of beetroot and some olives both of which I dislike. :mrgreen: For God’s sake give me a bowl of crisps - even Taytos!! The meal then followed and to be honest, I have no memory of what was on the menu for the simple reason that I forgot to photo either that or the menu. Sorry folks. I rather think it was a red meat option that I chose, probably washed down with a nice red but I really don’t know. Once the meal was over I settled down for the night. I hadn’t really slept that well when in Chicago waking every morning at about 4am and I never really adapted my body clock. As a result, I slept soundly waking up only after we had crossed over County Mayo, my ancestral home and were on the point of our descent into Dublin.

On arrival I was quickly off the plane and soon I was waggling my passport under the bleary eyes of the Immigration Officer who had drawn the short straw of welcoming the 5am arrivals! My bags came through almost immediately and then I headed to a new innovation in DUB - an arrivals lounge. I was pleasantly welcomed and directed to a shower room which was perfectly adequate and I luxuriated in its warm spray. However before I showered I took off the Jerusalem cross which I bought in Bethlehem and put it into a safe place. From that day to this, I have not found it!! :-( Delightfully fragrant from the shower I headed to where there was a coffee machine and croissants on offer. VS Revivals it was not, but the coffee and croissants revived me and, at the moment it seems to be a hidden jewel as I was the only person there for the longest time and in fact only one other person from another flight came in while I was there. There was also a secondary advantage to the lounge as, when I was ready to leave, there were no other flights arriving and the baggage hall, including customs was deserted. I could have wheeled a lorry load of gin through! Damn!!

I trotted over to the Airlink bus to take me to the train station (not wanting to disturb Aer John from his beauty sleep) and bought a ticket reflecting that the total cost of the trip to and from Chicago for me had been exactly €12 to and from the airport to the station!! As I moved from the ticket machine a bus approached but obviously did not see me as he sailed past the stop. Grrrrrrrr! Not to worry. Fifteen minutes later another bus appeared, and with me as sole passenger proceeded to take me on a circuitous route to the station before depositing me in nice time to catch the 8am train to Cork which would connect me nicely with a bus to my home town.

The train was pleasantly uncrowded and I happily sat there enjoying the free wifi catching up with all that had happened in cyberspace until halfway through the journey when I received the worst possible news. My sister-in-law had died.

To be continued……..
#920652 by TimCrawley
30 Apr 2016, 09:28
Really enjoyed the outward and return TRs, thanks for posting, apart from the very sad news of your sister-in-law being so suddenly seriously ill and then passing away so quickly .... many condolences to her family & friends at such an awful time.

The TR should inspire some to try the Aer Lingus TATL crossing in Business, with the pics of Chicago too I might be tempted into a proper visit there (only ever done a couple of cigarette breaks there on the 2+hour layovers for immigration stuff on TATL crossings to/from LAS with AA from BRU some years ago).
#920653 by pjh
30 Apr 2016, 10:06
How you still have the energy to put together this TR given the circumstances and the trip that followed amazes me.

Glad the trip was good and otherwise largely incident free, though the stressing at the check in and having to bolt a g&t in what seems to be the US equivalent of Huntingdon station's buffet can't have been much fun.

Thanks for including the pictures, though none of deep pan pizza I notice. :) We enjoyed Chicago when we went a few years ago; our first complete family trip in PE and our first experience of the LHR Clubhouse.courtesy of an access trial being run at the time.

As to the seating, sounds like you played the Game of Thrones well....

....I'll get my coat...

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