Saturday, February 15, 2014

Australia Day 0 and Day 1: Travel and First Impressions

Salt Lake Mountains and The SLC->Lax Flight
My trip started around Noon in Salt Lake City. I took the new green trax line directly from downtown Salt Lake to the airport, which was relatively painless and cost two bucks instead of the normal twenty five it costs to take a taxi. After all my boasting about efficient packing methods, I panicked at the last moment and decided to put my bag through baggage instead of dragging it around for my time in the Los Angeles airport -- a decision I would later regret, but more on that later.

The flight from Salt Lake to Los Angeles was short and bumpy and typical. Arrival in Los Angeles was met with the realization that I would be spending the next eight hours in the airport. The large layover gave me time to appreciate the giant suck-salad that is LAX's terminal system. My co-worker Tony put it nicely by saying that LAX is not one big airport, it's eight little airports holding hands. There is no way to get from the domestic terminals to the international without not only leaving security, but literally leaving the building entirely and walking along the sidewalk to another building.

Fancy Digital Screens at Tom Bradley Intl Terminal
LAX's brand new Tom Bradley International Terminal is a thing to behold. Its got all the flash of a upscale mall, all the stores that no one feels particularly comfortable shopping in, giant digital displays cultural video installations, and a caviar and champagne bar because -- LA.

 I paced around the non-mall for about 3 hours waiting for the rest of my team to show up, and then we had our first food experience of the trip -- Umami Burger. Overpriced, high-concept burgers, flavorful and a bit overwrought. I didn't manage to take any pictures because I was so burned out waiting that I was devoured the social interaction with my coworkers more than I the truffle burger with sweet potato fries. (It was good, so, there you go.)

Fancy Lights in Virgin Australian Flight
 Another 3 or so hours and we finally got on the plane. Ah, Virgin Airlines. I had fond memories of Virgin from my trip to London in 1999, and they didn't disappoint this time either. The jet was huge, new, roomy and clean. The two highlights were the seat to seat chat program that let me and my coworkers chat to each other through the trip and the plane's lighting system, which transitioned between different colors and intensities during the trip to coincide with the sunset, sunrise and sleep cycles.

The flight was 15 hours. If you haven't been on a flight like that, there's no describing it. You get into a zen state of numb anticipation...of waiting, contemplating the various parts of your body going numb, and thinking about when the next meal service is going to be, regardless of the quality. I stayed up until LA time 4 am so I could try to force myself into Australian time. I played a lot of video games, watched some movies, the usual thing.

When we finally *did* land in Melbourne, we had to wait for about 20 minutes on the tarmac for another flight to clear out of our dock. Then we exited into immigration, where we were met with a *monstrous* line that could have easily held us up for 3 hours. Fortunately it was for people that didn't have our lovely modern chip-based passports and we got to subvert the entire process and walk right through to baggage claim.

Baggage claim. Damn the words. People that know me know that I don't normally put bags through baggage claim at all. It's a torturous process waiting for the bags to come tumbling down the chute one at a time, and somehow, against all the odds, your bag is always the very last one, isn't it? I know It sounds like hyperbole, but this very thing happened to me this time. I decided to check my bag because I didn't want to drag it around LAX. It was the *LAST* bag to come down the belt, on a flight with hundreds and hundreds of bags. Ryan, I say\id to myself -- that was the last time. Never, ever again.

My coworkers and I shared a cab to St. Kilda, the beach-side neighborhood of Melbourne's central business district where both the hotel and the game studio at we are training are located. The hotel is the Seasons Botanic Gardens, so named because it is located across the street from the Melbourne Royal Botanic Garden.

Shrine of Remembrance in St. Kilda
In an effort to stay up, I walked over to the Botanic Garden and the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne's tribute to Victoria's fallen solders of WWI. Since the shrine is a 2 minute walk from the hotel, chances are I'll be taking a lot of pictures of it . Also I'll try to explain more about it when I'm a bit more rested and I can do some research.

This blog entry is the last brain-flexing activity I will do today. I feel like I've been up for 48 hours, and considering how well I slept on the plane, that might be close to accurate. I have my photo editing software on my laptop, so I'll be posting images more as I go this time.

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