December 26 - America Last

We both slept pretty well until around 02:00, when it became spotty.  We both were permanently up around 04:00.  Crystal got a message around 04:30 that our driver was already here, so since we were ready, we just went downstairs.  Our Uber/Taxi was a Mercedes E Class.  We got up to 168 shortly before getting to the airport, after the speed limit had gone away.  We finally got to go to the Austrian Airlines Lounge, which was never possible on prior trips since our flights were just after 06:00 and the lounge didn’t open until 05:30.  Today our flight was a little after 07:00, and we arrived at the lounge at about 05:20, and we had to wait for it to open.  It was a pretty nice lounge, very quiet, and we got to pour our own drinks.  Justin also had some food, some bacon, hash browns, and a cinnamon roll.

The gate was nearby, and shortly after we arrived they called up a number of passengers, including us, to check if we had the negative test results necessary to travel to the US.  They took a quick glance and that was that.  There was no light until right as we were taking off.  As we left the city, the snow just outside of the city was very visible.  It was a short flight to Frankfurt.  In Frankfurt, we are now intimately familiar with the drill.  At immigration, it took the agent a while to find our Europe stamps from (this) entry.  He probably saw around 10 stamps from Frankfurt, plus a ton of other stamps and visas from around the globe.  The lounge in the Z terminal is more-or-less back to normal, albeit with a vaccine check before entry.  In fact, we used a specific table we’ve used before, and chilled for an hour or so.  We got to pour our own drinks here, too.  Justin took a bonine just before we left, so that he’d hopefully sleep on the plane.

There were no issues boarding the flight, but there were issues nonetheless.  There were two very young kids in front of us, with Mom and Dad in the aisle seats in our row and the row in front of us.  Crystal had no room, as the guy was taking up some of her space, and this became even worse after the younger daughter came to sleep on his lap.  Meanwhile, Justin got to deal with the people behind him, maybe playing a game or something, where they were constantly poking the headrest, which caused the seat to consistently shake.  After about 20 minutes he turned around and asked them to stop, which thankfully they did.  The guy in the aisle seat, with the small kid on his chest, got up once all flight, so that meant that we got up once all flight.  We passed the time with podcasts for Justin (who did get some sleep the first couple hours) and reading for Crystal.

The door wouldn’t open when we landed, and we really wanted off the plane.  Eventually we got off, and getting through immigration and customs was thankfully a breeze.  Once back into the guts of the Denver airport, pre-check was also pretty easy, and we took the tram to Terminal B - it reminded us of the Paris Metro with how full it was.  In Terminal B there was a line to get into the United Club, probably since one of the other lounges in the terminal was closed.  Whilst we were standing in line they must’ve pitched the “pop up” club at least 5 times.  Perhaps because of our lack of sleep, and/or the long flight, we were tired of everyone and everything, found every conversation annoying, and noticed every person doing dumb crap (e.g., taking off mask to talk on phone or to cough or sneeze).

We had an unusually long layover, as flights to SAN were either at 13:30 (not possible, since that was roughly when we landed) or 19:10 (what we were on).  Justin used the time to re-write the past 24 hours, as Google had somehow lost that, which was odd since we had worked on it over Wi-Fi at the Frankfurt Airport, plus it auto-saves constantly.

We made a half-assed “Welcome…back” toast, as we were already sick of the US after less than an hour of being in it.  This reminded Justin of a conversation he had with Dean, a fellow palm enthusiast on the Big Island, who slowly got sick of California and more fond of Hawaii, and decided to move permanently.  It seems every time we go to Europe, and moreso every time we return to the US, we notice the stark differences.  Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before we can (finally) be gone for good.  Vamos a ver.

Our gate for our San Diego kept changing locations throughout the afternoon.  When we left the lounge we were supposed to go to B29, basically just outside the lounge, but we never boarded.  They didn’t give us an explanation of why we didn’t board, only that we were delayed.  So we went right back to the lounge.  45 minutes later we walked over to B20, but there was a plane going to New Orleans there.  Supposedly we were going to leave 15 minutes later, but that made no sense.  We stood around until 20:00, when they told us to go to B41.  Everyone was irked and tired, including us.  We eventually did board, and both went right to sleep.  We woke up about 2/3 of the way through the flight.  From the air we could make out Palm Springs and Idyllwild, even at night.  Crystal’s parents were kind enough to pick us up and drive us home, and the dogs were both surprised and excited to see us.  We went straight to bed.

The Executive Summary is that everything ended up working out in the end, despite the multitude of changes and the extremely challenging circumstances.  If (probably when) we go again during the Holiday Season, we’d benefit from having guests with us and/or checking out new places, so as this to not become banal.  Vienna and Cologne have the best Christmas Markets, and the Rathaus in Vienna is the clear best single market.  We prefer warm weather to cold.  We prefer Europe to the US.  Duck legs are really tasty.  Between the two of us, we can speak 4 languages half (maybe a quarter) decently.  Dutch and French are not amongst those 4.  We want COVID to be over.  Even a bastardized, partly last minute trip to Europe in freezing weather in the middle of a pandemic is really enjoyable.

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