Nagoya -> Moscow
It started at 5 AM. All my items were downstairs in the entrance, so Eriko and I spent some quiet time together before heading down. The "airport limousine" (shuttle van) was right on time - 5:30. It picked up three other passengers, although I wasn't awake for the last one. We arrived at Japan's Central Airport about 6:30 - plenty of time to make my 8 AM flight. I waited for about 15 minutes in the check-in line for ANA. After I arrived at the counter, I found out my flight had been cancelled! The airline refunded the ticket and gave me instructions for taking the shinkansen to Narita. Of course, those instructions had me boarding a train that left in 10 minutes! I hurried to find the train station and bought myself a ticket to Nagoya Station. That was no problem. The instructions, however, said that I should take the shinkansen which left at 7:58 - but the first train didn't arrive at Nagoya until 7:49. Alas, I could have purchased the entire trip at the CentralAir station but did not - so despite rushing through Nagoya Station at high speed (with my luggage), I missed the desired shinkansen since I had to wait in line to buy tickets.
The next one came a mere 15 minutes later, but it forced me to take the next Narita Express train (which only runs once an hour.) I called Eriko and let her know that I was boarding the shinkansen and I would call her again if I made the plane. I settled down for a smooth 2 hr shinkansen ride. The nice thing about the delay between the shinkansen and the Narita Express was that it took about 15 minutes to find the platform - Tokyo Station is very big and I had to walk quite a ways. Once there, I had 30 minutes to kill. On the Narita Express, I was starting to get pretty nervous. The anticipated arrival time at Narita Terminal 2 was 11:56 and my plane departed at 13:00. However, for the first time in my experience, the train was late! It didn't arrive at the terminal until about 12:10. I was rushing... I had to go through a passport check and up 3 escalators, around some curves ... I made my way to the Aeroflot check-in counter and saw a line of people with bags! Luckily, they weren't waiting for Aeroflot and I was checked-in in just a matter of minutes.
I had about 10 minutes until the plane started boarding (at 12:30) so I didn't lolly-gag; I went through immigration very quickly (they were very efficient) and was soon at the gate. As the plane started boarding I bought a few souvenirs for my friends in Moscow and gave Eriko a call.
On the plane, a Boeing 767-300, I sat in an aisle seat in the center - and there was nobody in the middle seat! How nice. Aeroflot was interesting; the seats, cushions, cups, etc. all share the blue and orange color scheme - I didn't expect that. The service was nice, the food was decent, and the flight wasn't too bumpy. I watched several episodes of Star Trek and took a nap. We arrived in Moscow after about 10 hours of flying time, at approximately 5:30 PM. I made my way through immigration without much delay and collected my bags.
Dmitry was waiting for me outside customs and we walked to his car. He didn't want to pay the parking fee so he parked outside of the lot; I had to wait a few minutes for him to retrieve his car. We caught each other up on the holidays and work on the way to Tverskaya Hotel. He dropped me off, made sure that I was checked in OK, and arranged to meet me tomorrow at 10.
I settled into my room, unpacked, had a beer, and then realized I didn't have any toothpaste. I needed to pick up my passport from the front desk anyway (the Russian government requires registration) and I decided to check out the fitness center on my way down to the lobby. The fitness center was nice -- too bad I didn't bring any workout clothes. I picked up my passport and headed outside. I tried to enter an ATM (the machines are enclosed and the card opens the outer door) but it didn't work. A Russian asked me for directions before realizing I couldn't understand him. I wandered down the street to the "most-expensive supermarket in Moscow" (according to Dmitry.) I figured they would take plastic - and I was correct. I just wanted toothpaste, but I didn't know if they had some minimum purchase limit on credit cards and didn't want to have to deal with the communication barrier - so I also purchased instant coffee and milk.
I didn't know where to check-out... the kind security guard (they have them everywhere) gave me some curt instructions in Russian and with some hand movements, I found my way to the cashier... and then I didn't know how to leave. Again, my friend (the security guard) directed me back to where I was and I located the exit sign. On the way back to the hotel, I tried another ATM machine and it worked - not only that, but they had a menu in English! (The last time I was in Moscow, we guessed at the menus.) I retrieved 3000 rbls (about $110) and soon I was back in my hotel room. I spent some time on the computer and now it is time for bed.