Somehow we both woke up on our own at 3:50, just before our 4:00am alarm.  We did some last-minute clean-up and packing, and were on our way in 10-15 minutes.  The 30 seconds outside before descending into the corridors was bitter cold, with a strong arctic breeze, but thankfully it was only 30 seconds.  No one was in any of the corridors connecting the hotel, the car rental spot, the train station, and the airport.  We checked in at a kiosk, but it would print tickets only for the Vienna to Zurich and Zurich to Dublin part of our trip.  There were no issues with security, immigration, etc., aside from the fact we weren’t awake yet.

Stuff was just opening, even the Duty Free shop.  Even the airline lounge wasn’t open yet.  We had to wait for our gate to be announced, which was stupid since the plane was obviously there already and not moving.  Eventually the board showed which gate we needed to walk to, and we just plopped down and waited.  Around 6 we boarded – the plane was only half full.  We slept most of the way to Zurich, but it was a very short flight.  Zurich looked to be a very nice airport, very clean, with lots of shades of gray for the granite, marble, etc.  We went into the airport lounge to get some food, since we hadn’t eaten dinner last night.  We got some pastries – one of the glazed donuts was particularly tasty.  We did our best to avoid watching the TVs showing CNN.

It was a fairly short flight to Dublin as well.  There were some really nice looking mountains just after takeoff, but then a lot of gray clouds.  Justin slept a bit whilst Crystal stayed awake the whole time – this is almost unprecedented.  Dublin looked green coming in, which isn’t surprising since that’s one of the things it’s known for.  There were also some really cool rays of light coming through the clouds just as we were coming in for landing.  The airport itself was not cool, it was a travesty.  After getting off the plane we had a very long walk past everything, including baggage claim, for the connecting flight wing.  When we got to the immigration desks, there was a woman getting the third degree from multiple agents, basically interrogated about coming the country for improper purposes, and she was moved to a holding cell with a couple other people.  We thankfully got through with no issues.

But after getting through immigration we went to the connecting flights area only to be told that the corridor was closed, and that we’d have to exit the airport terminal, walk outside to a different terminal, and then check in and go through security as if we’d been in Ireland for two weeks instead of just connecting on the way home.  Once inside that terminal, the kiosk wouldn't print boarding passes for us, so we had to get in line.  The Aer Lingus line was well over 100 people long, and was barely moving.  Justin was sick of this crap and said pretty loudly "I didn't book a flight to ****** Dublin."  While Crystal got in line, Justin went from kiosk to kiosk, and eventually found one that would print a boarding pass for us.

At this point, we thought we were home free – nope.  There was another long walk, and then we had to go through security, which was a pain but not totally unexpected.  After going through security, we tried the Aer Lingus lounge.  The woman working there told us they weren’t affiliated with United, which was odd since we booked our flight using Star Alliance points.  So then we had the "privilege" of going through USA Customs & Border Patrol, going through security again right after going through security literally 5 minutes earlier.  This whole fiasco made us long for Kuala Lumpur.  Once finally in the "USA approved" section of flights, it was crazy crowded, there was a single restaurant, all the seats were taken, and in Crystal's words "everyone just looked defeated."  We were likely among them.  USA, USA, USA!

We spotted what appeared to be some other lounge that serviced United, but inside, no.  But for $40, we could avoid the dregs of humanity that our BS "security" system had created.  We just paid the fee, went inside, and chilled out a bit.  We got our drinks (we figured we might each drink $40 worth, so this was actually “cheaper” than just hanging out in the terminal), and Justin toasted to Crystal for putting up with him being an asshole whilst traveling the globe.  The drinks came in glasses about 2/3 full of alcohol, and we probably got our $40 there alone.  There was some food, including some cured meats, breads, soups, and fish.  Justin told Crystal not to eat the fish – it looked like it had been out at room temperature for quite some time, and getting sick right before a Trans-Atlantic flight sounded awful.  We spent the next few hours (we had something like a 5 hour layover, only 1 to 1.5 was wasted on the connection that should’ve taken five minutes) catching up on the trip log, charging our devices (including borrowing a plug that fit the Ireland plugs) and looking out the window at the runway.

On the plane, somehow we ended up with awful seats, the middle two seats in a 2-4-2 configuration.  How neither of us ended up with either an aisle or window seat is beyond us.  Adding insult to injury, in the row behind us there was a single mom and two twin boys (maybe 5 or 6 years old), with the two boys sitting behind the two of us.  The one behind Crystal was more or less behaved, the one behind Justin alternated between kicking the seat, shaking the seat, and getting yelled at by his mom.  Needless to say, nothing to do with the Dublin airport left a good impression.  The seatbacks at least had movies, and we watched movies, listened to podcasts, and slept for different portions of the flight.  Justin also grabbed some of the best photos from the trip to include on his “Year in Review” which he wanted to post tonight, before the clock struck midnight.

In Los Angeles, things were easy since at least we’d already passed through customs and immigration in Dublin.  We just got off the plane, turned left, walked out of the terminal and got on the bus to the rental car location.  Even though it was cold for LA (mid 50s), it was downright balmy compared the last couple of weeks.  At Alamo, of course the kiosks for our reservation didn’t work, so Crystal stood in line for close to an hour whilst Justin did his best to not murder anyone.  Once we got the car, there weren’t many people on the road, as it was around 7pm on New Year’s Eve.  The drive south was pretty straightforward.  We stopped at a Popeyes in Orange County, where we noticed the wind was blowing close to 50 miles an hour.  We hadn’t noticed in on the road, we just thought the car didn’t handle that well.  But this wind was insane – trees were blowing around everywhere, and branches and other debris was all over the road.  After dinner the drive back we listened to a KROQ countdown of its top songs ever, and actually did a pretty good job of guessing the top songs, including picking each of the top 4.  We got home around 9:30 or so.  Crystal noticed that the fridge had a bottle of Taittinger rose – after seeing how much she raved about in Vienna, Justin had asked Heidi to grab a bottle and leave it in the fridge, which she kindly did.  We toasted to 2018, and then got ready for 2019.

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