Monday, February 6, 2012

Eurotrip 2011, Day 17: Frankfurt to Charlotte & a Brief Recap

We awoke on time on our last morning and were out of the hotel before 8 AM; unfortunately we missed the train to the airport by just a minute or two and ended up having to wait twenty minutes for another one. Thankfully we had allowed ourselves plenty of time, but honestly it shocked me that even getting up not much after 7 AM and getting to the train station around 8 still left us barely enough time to check in, get through security and board our flight.

Basically, we arrived at the airport around 9. We checked in using the usual kiosks and then got in line to check our bags. The man who checked our passports and boarding passes at the front of that line seriously played 20 questions with us! Among other things, he asked us where we were from and I swear he tried to trip Steve up by even asking him the location of Rhode Island (saying something like "Isn't it down below New Jersey?" - which led to us giving each other incredulous looks and explaining that he was probably thinking of the other very small state, Delaware, and that Rhode Island is up in New England between Connecticut and Massachusetts.)

Before we checked our bags the man even made me open mine and poked through it. He found my pepper spray - which I didn't have a problem bringing to Europe, and yes, it was the type that was legal in the States - I bought it at the Academy Sports store where I live. He insisted on confiscating it, which didn't make sense to me considering it was (a) legal and (b) in my checked bag, but I honestly think that he just wanted to feel important ::rolls eyes::

We finally got our bags checked and by now it was pushing 10 AM, no lie. We had quite a long walk between the check in area and our gate, and in that time we got stopped again (though this time the line was fairly short) by someone checking passports and boarding passes. Once through that checkpoint we ended up on a stairwell with a pretty scary (read: long) security line ahead of us. It moved fairly quickly, but again, our flight was scheduled to leave a little after 11 - so it was a bit concerning when it was already 10:30 before we finally got through this main security check (you know, the x-ray machines and all).

First things first we were hungry and thirsty, but there was only a crappy little kiosk serving muffins and sodas on the other side of security! We were basically in a large room with glassed-in areas on either end - one for each of the two gates. I didn't even think about a bathroom at the time; we simply grabbed some food and sodas and walked toward our gate...but before we could enter the glass-walled area, guess what? Another passport check! At this point, tired hungover hungry thirsty Tara (who also had to pee) made a frustrated comment: "You've got to be kidding me."

At which point a security guard approached me and said, "You seem to be distressed, ma'am." You know, with that look on his face that said he obviously thought I was a terrorist. I basically stared at him blankly and Steve was forced to reply, "Well, we just showed our passports three separate times, went through official security, and now we have to get them out and show them again? Of course we're annoyed." The guard obviously thought we were hoodlums of the worst sort, but as we hadn't actually said anything shady or dangerous he was basically forced to let us past.

Once we were in the glass-walled area, though - there were no bathrooms. And we weren't allowed to leave said area to use the bathrooms that were in that center area between the two gates! There was a vending machine but it was charging something like 4 or 5 euros for a bottled water...which was something like $5.20 - $6.50 US with the exchange rate at the time. So...no bottled water for us :-/

Steve and I literally had no more than 10 minutes between when we sat down in the glass-walled area and when they started boarding our flight. We had to take a giant bus out to the plane (basically as per the usual with European airports, at least on this trip) and then once we were on it they actually waited for people who were missing, which meant we took off about 30 minutes late. The flight itself was uneventful but was also the longest I've ever taken - about 9.5 hours, I think, whereas previously the longest flight I'd been on was about 8.5 hours from Barcelona to Newark, New Jersey. The movies were the same we'd had on the flight out, which sucked a bit, and of course the food was awful but the flight attendants at least did plenty of "hydrating" trips up and down the aisles.

We did have to take a slightly longer route thanks to some weather or traffic or something of the sort, which led us to land about 45 minutes late. Customs was quick and easy and we were back home in Greenville no more than two hours after we landed in Charlotte, and though we had an amazing trip we were definitely glad to be home - where we could eat light, home cooked meals and drink water with ice in it and enjoy proper air conditioning and our giant comfy bed ;)

All in all? I had questionable feelings about Berlin while we were there, but in the end realized it was one of my favorite stops on this trip and that I'd love to go back someday. On the other hand, though I had been extremely excited to visit Prague, as a whole I wasn't very impressed with the city or the people :-/


Vienna was amazing and I will go back someday, for sure! Budapest was decent - I don't feel quite as disappointed with it as I was with Prague - but I think I'm all set on that front for now.

Marseille, of course, was what it was. Not a place I'd really suggest one to visit, but it was awesome for me in its own ways because I was with Steve and he had lived there. Aix-en-Provence was really the highlight of the France portion of our trip, though :)

And as for Frankfurt...it's not a bad city by any means, but one certainly would not need more than two days there...and even then I wouldn't say it's any sort of "must see" in Germany. If you're traveling through and have a chance to visit it without missing any other place, such as in our case, that's great...but no need to go out of one's way to check it out.

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