We were all fired up about our trip to Portugal’s Azores Islands to film over the Memorial Weekend Holiday.
Weeks of planning had taken place and the Visit Azores folks had everything set for us and put together an excellent itinerary. This was going to be a great couple of episodes, but first, we had to get there.
Azores Air flies direct to the Azores once per day out of Boston Logan Airport at 9:05PM. Our flight was scheduled weeks in advance and was to leave on Thursday.
I had lunch with our Providence affiliate, WNAC Fox 64 and MyRI 64.2, so I decided to drive up from NYC via a rental car from Avis/Budget which has an office near where I live in Manhattan.
I booked a flight for the film crew on Delta Airlines leaving from JFK in NYC at 3pm and arriving in Boston Logan a little after 4 PM. Our plan was that I would meet them there around 5 PM after my lunch and a couple of afternoon meetings in Boston.
I was worried that the crew would be exhausted waiting around Boston Logan before catching our fight out hours later as we were to begin filming immediately on arrival to the Azores the following day shortly after 6:30 AM, so we’d all be sleep deprived.
Turns out, my worries were misplaced.
I began getting texts from the crew around 2 PM that Delta Airlines was postponing the flight. I began to get worried because I know things can go south quickly when this begins to happen. It was a rainy, dreary day but a little light rain shouldn’t be enough to cancel flights, especially a shuttle flight from NYC to Boston which are pretty much every hour on the hour. I’ve made that same commute many times myself.
After receiving notification that the flight was going to be really late getting into Boston Logan, I decided to pull over at a rest area about 70 miles and 1.5 hours outside of Boston Logan to make some calls.
I alerted our travel hosts at Visit Azores and called Azores Air to see what our options were.
They indicated the crew should be at the gate no later than 8PM. Delta’s new ETA for the crew’s flight into Boston Logan was now 7 PM (or at least as best as my crew could decipher from the reportedly un-helpful gate agent at JFK’s Delta terminal).
At that point, I could have booked the crew on the following evening’s flight on Azores Air out of Boston as the ticket agent told me there were exactly 3 seats available. But those 3 seats would go fast and the Azores ticket office was scheduled to close soon.
I decided against it assuming Delta would make the flight happen. Bad decision.
To complicate matters, after visiting the restroom at the Rest Area, I discovered my rental car had a flat tire and, surprise, surprise…the car did not come with a spare tire.
Roadside Assistance was called but the folks they arranged to tow the car were 1.5-2 hours from being able to assist me, so now I was in danger of missing the flight as well. David, the very nice telephone agent at Roadside Assistance, advised me to abandon the car and get an uber to the airport if I could.
I set about arranging for uber pick up and was in luck as one happened to be in my area. Uber driver Keith swung by to pick me up and we were on our way, albeit in heavy traffic.
Minutes later I get a call from the crew informing me that the JFK flight had just been officially cancelled. Delta gate agents then suddenly became helpful and booked the crew on a flight out of LGA to Boston that would get in around 7:30 PM, it would now be really, really tight but we could still make it. The Domestic Terminal was a 15 minute walk / run from the International Terminal I was told.
I instructed the guys to sit up front as much as possible. They already only had carry on luggage/gear.
But flying out of LGA is especially nightmarish these days, with construction going on. I was afraid the crew’s taxi wouldn’t make it on time with car traffic a mess there.
They actually did, but it didn’t matter because as soon as they arrived the LGA Delta Flight to Boston Logan began getting delayed, and eventually cancelled.
Unfortunately for us, all this happened too late, the 3 seats were no longer available and the ticket office for Azores Airlines was closed.
When I arrived to the airport (1.5 hours and $96 poorer from the Uber ride), I promptly checked in and received a call from my Azores Tourism contact, who, was working into the wee hours of the night there to try to accommodate us and save our trip. I felt so guilty.
She suggest I fly in (it’s not like I could just turn around and go home as I’m now in Boston, live in NYC and had abandoned my transportation due to the flat tire/no spare scanrio) and then we either try to get the crew on the next flight in the following couple of days, or I could scramble and try hire a local crew there. Either way, hopefully, I would still be able to shoot something.
Alas, after the Azores Airlines flight at was on the taxi way at around 9:30 or 10PM, we received word from the Captain that the flight had been cancelled due to a technical problem with the plane.
After waiting what seemed like hours for my checked luggage, I did a quick online search only to realize there were no hotels to be had in Boston as this was Harvard Graduation week. I had not graduated from Harvard, but even dumb little old me could figure out this was not my time to visit the Azores.
I could hang out in the Boston Airport for more than 24 hours and hope to catch the next flight to the Azores or take a train home (I was already exhausted having been awake since 6AM and it was now 12:30 AM the next day).
I ended up sleeping (or trying too among the bright lights and constant airport announcements of “if you see something, say something” and “Lexus the official car company of Boston Logan” or some non-sense announcements) at the Boston Logan Airport before taking the 5:05 AM train to NYC.
The Amtrak train home was by far the most pleasant part of the journey.
A lot of sweat equity and money was wasted on a trip that never materialized thanks to bumbling, fumbling travel corporations that dropped the ball and just plain old lady luck.
I also share the blame because obviously, in retrospect, I should have never relied on airplane travel or even car travel, I should have just trained it. But with Amtrak’s own woes of late, that carries it’s own risk.
Is there a boat service up to Boston that anyone is aware of?
I’ve included some photos and a short video of the entire experience. I hope you can enjoy it because I sure didn’t.
P.S. Be on the look out for this and more misadventures in Season 5 when we premiere “When Travel Goes Wrong” in February 2018 and here’s hoping the Azores trip gets rescheduled. Stay Tuned.
6/10/17 POST SCRIPT:
Today I received this bill from Avis/Budget Rental Car for $182.04 for the Roadside Assistance and Towing.
Remember they didn’t provide a spare tire in my car rental and advised me to call RA and take an Uber to the airport as a result. So let’s see
(1) Original 1 Way Car Rental Cost NYC to Boston = $115
(2) Uber to Boston Airport = $75
(3) Roadside Asst. Cost = $182…
so my $115 Car Rental Tab is now $372.04 for a trip. Ouch. Talk about adding insult to injury.
People say I have a great “job”, and I do, but producing Raw Travel is also a ton of work and sacrifice. I’m 99% sure I could make more $ doing something else, but I figured out a while back that old cliche about $ and happiness is actually true. The impact of the show and feedback from viewers is one big part of the reason we carry on. At times I wonder if the show is having an actual impact other than entertainment, but then I hear stories like this Toronto gentleman who saw Raw Travel last year (we’re not licensed in Canada so I assume he saw the Buffalo or Detroit feed).
After tuning into our story on Care For Wild Africa/ African Conservation Experience this gentleman booked a trip to volunteer for them in South Africa and has returned a changed man. He’s telling others about his transformation and about this critical issue as rhinos near extinction. Here is his story and I thought I’d share it. P.S. You can see our segment on the CFWA again this summer in “Amazing Animals” July 1st-2nd, 2017.
A link to his story can be found HERE:
Lima Peru is one of my favorite international cities. Yes, it’s large and congested, but the atmosphere is relaxed, people are friendly, the food is amazing and there is loads of culture around every corner.
But of course, like most of Latin America, there is also crippling poverty. To me at least, poverty is especially heartbreaking when it impacts children.
However, in all my travels, even in brutally poor areas, I’ve found that the youngest children do seem outwardly happy, even in what we in the developed world consider mind-numbing poverty.
They are born incredibly resilient and their needs are pretty simple. Something as simple as a bag on a string or a discarded roller blade, can serve as a distraction.
But as they get older, the temptations in poor areas are intense as the reality of their situation begins to dawn.
There are estimated 120 million children living on the streets around the world with almost half estimated to be living in South America.
Young boys (typically ages 5-17) in particular are drawn to gangs, violence and drugs. Many, for whatever reason, either run away or are abandoned by their parents and become street children, forced to try to get along with their peers on the harsh streets of Lima Peru. They are young, vulnerable to abuse and scared.
Many of Lima’s street children live along the Rimac River. In 1999 a young French student traveler got to know some of these children and decided to do something about their situation. He created the Ninos Del Rio (Children of the River) organization in 2000.
Today, years later this Paris & Lima based non-profit association continues to works with street children, establishing trust, providing food, shelter and mental counseling and when the time is right, promoting their return to their own home or reintegration into another home.
They also work with the children currently on the streets in the district of San Juan de Miraflores, and help provide these kids an afternoon or so of diversion, where the kids can be kids.
We were able to stop by and meet some of the kids at the shelter, local staff and (mostly) French volunteers during our final day filming in Lima. I’m used to seeing young children in various situations in my travels, but I was surprised at moved I was by meeting these adolescent, teen boys.
Despite their harsh situation and past, I could literally feel their need for love. It was a similar feeling I’d had when visiting the really young Restavek (Child Slaves) at Freedom House in Haiti.
Kids need food, shelter, medical care, structure, discipline…. yes, but mostly they need love. Without it, their future is bleak. With it, their lives can completely change to a future capable of anything.
Ninos del Rio is a non-profit so they rely on donations and volunteers.
If you’d like to volunteer or donate please visit HERE. (Their web site is in Spanish but Google Translate can translate to English for you).
I’ve seen first hand the good work the folks at Ninos Del Rio are doing. I can tell you that I don’t think you’ll regret helping.
I know I don’t regret visiting, and I hope I can come back soon and spend more time with these brave kids and the big hearted staff and volunteers.
Look for our “Give Back” segment on Ninos Del Rio coming up in our Lovable Lima episode set to premiere in the USA in May 2017.
A little update from our DIY Voluntourism segment in Peru.
For those of you who so generously donated to our fundraiser for school supplies for the elementary school 1.5 hours outside of Pisco, Peru, yesterday was a big day when the supplies were delivered.
Most of the kids were off on summer vacation, but some came in anyway along with some very dedicated teachers to get their gifts. Each and every student will begin school next month with pens, pencils, paper and other basic school supplies thanks to you.
This special “Give Back” segment will be part of Raw Travel – “Peru’s Southern Coast” episode which is going to kick off our 5th Season (Yep, can’t believe it either) 9/30/17.
In the meantime, enjoy the photos and if you weren’t able to donate, don’t worry, your support and encouragement helps us keep doing what we’re doing, so feel good about yourself, you deserve it!
And besides, you’ll get another chance to make a difference, I promise.
Big Mil Gracias to Sascha Rossaint who took these photos and to his wife and her friends, who coordinated this effort. Giving Back is not as easy as it sounds sometimes, but I think the smiles on these faces are worth it don’t you?
Visit HERE for more photos and how you can help these kids.
First time filming in Houston, Texas and what an AMAZING experience. Visiting Houston is like visiting several destinations in one swoop.
Like the state where it resides, Texas, Houston is BIG. Massive actually. It’s literally the size of a small state.
But what many may not know is that it’s also very diverse.
We ate a scrumptious Viet-Cajun feast, got outfitted in a custom cowboy hat & boots, participated in a ancient Chinese calligraphy and a tea ceremony in Chinatown and I learned to dance to Zydeco music with the “Queen of Zydeco” at a cajun honky tonk all while taking in some of the quirkiest art scenes I’ve ever experienced and eating some of the most amazing internationally influenced cuisine I’ve ever had the pleasure of trying.
It was unusually cold (my lips are still chapped), but the people were so warm and hospitable I didn’t feel the chill.
Thank you Houston, for your hospitality and for your kindness and yes for your diversity and quirkiness.
Be big…be Houston…but please don’t ever change, ’cause I love ya just the way you are!
Here is a clip from my appearance on KPRC – NBC 2’s “Houston Life” . Enjoy!