Tuesday, January 19, 2016

10/3 - The trip home, post-trip reflections, tips and tricks for next time

10/3 - The trip home
We decided we are not fans of Luftansa – despite booking all these flights with them, the leg from Dublin to Frankfurt was the only one actually operated by the airline. Their online check in would not complete. Their airport kiosks for check in were all broken (there were only 3 to begin with). We stood in a long line with many people slowly checking bags, just to get our boarding passes printed. We tried to use the empty Business Class line – which had worked great for Aer Lingus when a similar printing-boarding-pass situation came up, but Luftansa was firm – despite having operators doing nothing in business, we had to join the 80+ people checking bags for economy to check in. Boo.

The rest of the flight time was uneventful – and that’s a good thing! We had a brief layover in Frankfurt but no real food was available despite being dinner hour. We had snacks instead – pretzels, german beers, and a small Panini from the coffee shop. The larger plane for our cross-atlantic flight was a luxury, and United stuffed us with food along our nonstop flight to SFO.  But even the nicer plane was hard to sleep on – at least we had room in the back to stand up and read the news, look out the window at Greenland’s fjords, and stretch (or introvert hidden behind the newspaper in my case). We also had overhead screens for movies, phew! The movies were just right – interesting enough to watch, but nothing mentally taxing (Inside Out, BBC wildlife documentaries, and Spy. If you are really tired of traveling, Melissa McCarthy is just the ticket).

SFO customs was a bit redundant but fine. We had to fill out forms on the plane, and then were told the forms had been abandoned years ago by the customs agents. Our airport is not nearly as welcoming or interesting as others we visited. Dublin has a great program to pre-clear customs in Dublin Airport (while you are waiting for your flight anyhow), but because we were landing in Germany along the way, we couldn’t use it and had to stand in line with everyone else. The customs agents were tired, bored, or defeated – maybe all three. It was a sad reminder of American work culture.

Lauren picked us up at BART and took us to our car at Patrick’s. We chatted deliriously about the trip, then attempted to drive home. I was a wreck and had to have Ty finish the drive. He seemed to switch back to stateside driving pretty well. We may or may not have caved for Jack in the Box on the way home. We had a sweet and tender reunion with Tana when we got back – all three of us piled on the stairs and snuggling way more than she usually lets us.

Post Trip Reflections
The full breadth and depth of the trip took a good long while to unpack. We did so much and saw so much – and yet still missed so much! We watched The Silent Man when we got back, as well as Michael Collins, which is an interesting look at the IRA story with a star-studded cast. It was of course not nearly enough of the full story but well acted and worth a watch.  I also picked up the book Ireland by Frank Delaney. The plot of a young man searching for the wandering story teller he met as child includes quite a lot of Irish history and folklore storytelling, and is an easy but interesting fiction tour through Irish identity.

Tips and Tricks for next time
Don't assume there will be entertainment on the flight. They expect you to use a mobile device now but log in is spotty. Airports have wifi!

You won't read your magazines, do the crosswords, or listen to Rick Steves. Do Rick Steves before yo leave, and leave the rest at home. Maybe bring one book. Long drives are for navigating and finding food, not for listening to pod casts. 

Laundry facilities are probably wash and fold, so don't bring detergent. You can always use shampoo and the sink if need be. Laundry frequency is defined by undies and socks. Everything else is negotiable.

Medicine and toiletries are hugely expensive and hard to find. Make space for these when packing.

Power bars are worth bringing for flights alone - airports do not keep food courts open 24 hours. There's no way to check on meal service ahead of time either. 

Even if the time change coming home means you'll leave the airport "midday," you'll be tired from the flight and delirious from the time change, so your body will be confused by the darkness. 

Don't assume you can get food outside of regular dining hours. Remember Sunday is home day or closed day for stores and restaurants. Street vendors aren't a thing in Ireland. 

People outside the US really are more friendly and help than here, but you have to initiate. So ask. 

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