Ok there are fast trips and FAST trips. This one was quick!
My Dad’s side of the family, Franchini-Herweck, was having a reunion. As many of you know, I am in treatment for breast cancer, so I wasn’t sure if I could make it. But, my Mom arranged for DS and me to fly in on Thursday (after my Wednesday chemo) and fly back again on Monday night (to arrive on Tuesday night here in Germany in time for my Wednesday chemo). Please see my other blog for the cancer side of the story. But, this is the right place for the Journey itself.
The Trip There
This time we opted to try something new. Many of the airlines have pulled out of our little local Strasbourg airport. The flights that are available are at awkward times (6:15 AM!), have multiple stops, and universally run by Air France, which hitherto has not been our favorite flying choice. So, when I noticed that Lufthansa had a bus service from Strasbourg to the main hub airport in Frankfurt, I figured, Why Not?
We arrived a little before 8am for our 8:30 bus from Strasbourg airport. Only to discover that the bus does not actually run from the Strasbourg airport! Apparently that little XER on my itinerary was supposed to alert me to the fact that bus leaves from a bus stop outside of the train station! WTF!? A rather annoyed looking Information Desk attendant at the airport gave us the news, barely managing not to roll her eyes at our idiocy. We hopped in the car, raced across town through traffic and just hoped that we would catch a break and find the “bus stop near the train station” in time. David was fully convinced that he would need to drive us up to Frankfurt- and had even switched our Garmin over to give directions to the Frankfurt Airport when DD spotted a rather nondescript bus parked in a little alcove just down the block from the main train station. Whew! It was running slightly behind schedule and we made it by the skin of our teeth. DS and I were unable to snag seats next to each other, but safely on board, we were on our way!
After a 3 hour layover in Frankfurt’s massive (and well-equipped) airport- just enough time to go through customs, get some lunch, and catch our breath- we were neatly situated on board a snug, but comfortable plane. (Side note: through a series of administrative snafus, we never got the Port Passport, but it turns out we didn’t need it. They just patted me down and all was good). Because I had failed to specify that we wanted an aisle seat, we were stuck in the middle of a four-person row, two older ladies flanking us. The video offerings were unimpressive, but served to pass the time. And the lady to my right was downright amusing when she balanced her petite frame standing up fully on the armrest to… get her cane down out of the overhead compartment! Hee!
On getting off the plane we discovered that not only was baggage claim extremely slow, but for some reason Customs was completely overrun. The line to get checked out of the airport went entirely around the entire terminal! DOH. People all around us were whining loudly. But, luckily, the officers started just zooming people through just as we finally made it into the line with our luggage. In the end, we were only slightly late getting out.
Mom, Mark, Raquel and Ivy
The next leg of the trip was off to Mom and Mark’s house. Mom met us at the airport with a little surprise- she had shaved her hair off in solidarity for my chemo hairloss! Unfortunately we hit traffic, so it took a couple hours to get to her house in Riverside, where we met up with Mark, dog Ivy and my friend Raquel who flew down from No Cal just to see us on our trip. We all went out to Chinese food (not as readily available in our area) then collapsed into bed. The following morning, DS and Mark took Ivy to the dog park while Raquel, Mom and I went to the hair salon to get my head shaved by a pro. And the rest of the day was spent shopping and eating out (Monte Cristo Sandwich! Japanese Food!)
The Big Event
The following day was The Big Event. We started off eating donuts. Mmmmm… Donuts. Then got ready and headed out to my cousin Diana’s Big house with the park-like yard. Perfect location, perfect hosts, and fabulous reunion! I am not even sure what to say other than that I am finally of an age where every bit of this is wonderful to me. I love hearing all the old stories. I love catching up with family that I see too rarely. I love watching the kids play. I love looking at photos and reminiscing and eating and chatting and getting to know new folks and the whole deal. I think living away helps bring the important things into perspective, and it was seriously just entirely all good!
Raquel took off from the reunion and the rest of us headed back to Mom and Mark’s place for the night. Next morning was breakfast and seeing Grandma Connie and Uncle Keith. Then my cousin Amy picked us up and took us to Dad & Connie’s house where we met up with his two siblings- Don and Sue and Sue’s hubby Floyd. Also, Dad and Connie’s pets- cat Wilson, and three dogs Shelby, Murphy and 6-month-old Piper. OK, yeah, we were getting a bit tired at this point, but it was still terrific. More chatting, stories, a few tears, lots of laughter, good food (lasagna and ice cream sandwiches!) and a lovely comfortable day.
Monday morning Dad, Connie, DS and I had more donuts (YAY!) and then went into downtown Long Beach where Sue and Floyd were staying to check out the local scene. Again, the weather cooperated nicely. We wandered around by the Aquarium and Ports O’ Call. And, we even checked off my final Food Desire for the trip by getting some Crab at Bubba Gumps! Crab is not something we see, well, ever in these parts. So, I miss it terribly!
Then we searched long and hard to find suitable pants for my husband. We discovered that Dickies are widely available in Long Beach, but Dockers, not so much. Finally, it was off to the airport. We arrived on time, and got checked through fairly smoothly. The put me through the scanner then patted down only my left side (the side without the port).
Our unpleasant shock came when we got on board and realized that the plane was equipped with old, cramped, non-video seats! The man in front of me literally was laying in my lap the entire trip. The nice older Greek gentleman to my left tried to give me room, but largely failed whenever he fell asleep and he elbows drifted into my seat area. And the only entertainment was on tiny overhead viewers that we were all forced to watch in tandem. Despite wearing support stockings, my feet swelled up about double. This was not a comfortable trip.
At least the bus ride was easier this time. The bus was parked outside the terminal for over an hour before we needed to leave so we knew exactly where we had to be. And, honestly, it was a LOT more comfortable than the airplane had been. In the past, Lufthansa has been far preferable to Air France. But, I have to say that after this flight I am not sure I can recommend it anymore. We may have to check out the service out of Zurich or Amsterdam next time.
Home Again, Home Again
When we got back to Strasbourg there was a pair of police officers pulling over cars into the lane where the bus had parked. I was briefly worried that David would get caught in whatever the sweep was, but he managed to avoid whatever it was. When he drove up, I noted that he had also gotten a solidarity buzz cut! I have way too many people in my life who look far better with no hair than I do!
The other nice thing about our return was that I discovered David had counted out our change drawer and deposited over 600 EU of coins into our account! Whoa! It pays to use your coinage in Germany! Good things come in relatively small packages!
So, altogether lets see how that trip measures up by the numbers:
- 22.5 hours on airplanes
- 5 hours on buses
- 8 hours in cars
- 6 hours layovers
- 41.5 total hours travel
- 98.5 hours on the ground in the US
- 45ish people visited with
As Always: You must click on the page number below to see each page of photos- and you must click on each photo to see the captions. Enjoy!