Christmas morning and we were up before the sun… thanks to the wake-up call we’d requested the night before.
This was the last day of our trip – the final chapter of the gift we gave ourselves. The trip to Germany and Austria represented our Anniversary and Christmas gifts to each other, and it was a fantastic gift.
But we still had to get home!
We knew the train would take approximately thirty minutes to get us to the airport; we just didn’t know the time-table. Thus, we had already decided to get moving as early as possible, get to the airport with plenty of time to spare, and then worry about breakfast.
We checked out of the Imperial Riding School (although I never did see the horses) and headed up the road to the train station. Our wait was less than five minutes and we were at the airport before 8:00 AM.
There was only one position open at the KLM check-in desk, and the people in front of us were taking forever. Suddenly there were about fifty people behind us in line. They must have been part of a tour group, and once one couple discovered the self-serve kiosks, the entire swarm moved over to gather around the six or seven terminals.
Suddenly it was our turn to check in. Sadly, we were informed we had to use the self-serve kiosk first. Dang!
It took a while to get our turn and once we did, the system was most uncooperative. I had a choice: I could scan our passports or key in the Reservation code. I tried both and was told I had no reservation.
Finally a young lady from KLM came over to assist me. I still have no idea what I was doing wrong, but she worked her magic and we now had boarding passes for both flights. (Our itinerary had us flying from Vienna to Amsterdam, and from Amsterdam to Atlanta.)
We then got back in line and worked our way back to the check-in counter. The only bag we checked was our handy-dandy collapsible Holland America bag that was stuffed with our dirty clothes. That gave us room for the Christmas ornaments we’d bought for our children and grandchildren.
We then made our way to the food court and had one more Continental breakfast. By the way, a true Continental breakfast includes cold cuts, cheeses, fruit, cereal, various types of bread and rolls, herrings or kippers, and coffee, tea, juice, and milk. The next time that hotel in the US serves you Danish and coffee; ask them where the rest of it is.
We still had to go through security, but we had plenty of time.
Surprisingly, security at the Vienna airport did not require us to remove our shoes. Nor did they insist on a full-body scan or pat-down. Think back to what we went through prior to 9/11.
Soon we were squeezed into a plane and on our way to Amsterdam. I think this is what surprised me most about our trip. I’d expected very few people to be flying on Christmas Day. Perhaps that was true and the airlines simply cut back on their flights. In any case, both of our flights were absolutely stuffed with travelers.
A few years ago Lu and I had passed through the Amsterdam airport, so we knew what to expect. Instead of having one centralized security point, they have one at every gate. Perhaps the original design of their terminal gave them no choice.
At this checkpoint, we did get the pat-down. They had no multimillion dollar scanners, so they had no choice. The American government insists that anyone flying to the US be frisked. The gentleman who frisked me apologized and said people flying to the US were the only ones treated to this special service.
Aside from being unbelievably cramped in a jumbo jet, the flight was uneventful – just long… very long. In reading the KLM in-flight magazine I discovered that they had changed the configuration of the plane’s seating and made the first several rows in economy class a bit more inviting – and expensive. They’d added 10 centimeters of leg-room to each seat.
That’s about 4 inches.
Now, I have to ask, where did those 4 inches come from? I’m sure at least 3 of them came from my allotment.
I had my special circulation-inducing socks on and I did my best to exercise my calves from time to time, but I was thrilled when the plane came to a stop and I was able to stand up. We had arrived almost an hour early, but that created a problem – there was no place to park! We had to wait until the plane that was loading at our gate completed the process and moved.
Finally we were able to disembark. Now, we had to go through customs and pick up our luggage (dirty clothes).
I thought we were home free at that point. Wrong! We had to pass through US security once more. I’m still not convinced of the necessity of this step, but off came the shoes and belt, out came the computer. I walked through the metal detector and, even before the alarm sounded I knew I’d blown it. I’d forgotten to take the cell-phone out of my pocket.
Surprisingly, the TSA agent allowed me to step back, put my cell phone on the conveyor and try again.
Perhaps that was his way of saying “Merry Christmas”. In the past when I’ve forgotten to remove a belt or something else obvious, I was not permitted to step back and have a do-over. The TSA agents I’ve encountered in the past seemed to relish such situations. All I can say is I am deeply grateful. We were soon on our way out… into the snow.
We had parked at the Crown Plaza and I called to request their shuttle. I figured that their regular schedule would be pushed aside on Christmas Day. Once again I was wrong. I was informed that there should be one arriving within minutes.
Sure enough it was arriving as we got to the pick-up point. The snow was falling harder now, but I wasn’t worried… yet.
It didn’t take long to clear the snow off the car and within a short time we were on our way out of the parking lot. I followed the instructions at the electronic gate and was instructed to insert my credit card to pay what I owed. I figured I might be an hour or two over what I had previous paid, but was not prepared when the $98.00 figure flashed before my eyes.
After a relatively calm discussion with the folks at the hotel’s desk, we were again on our way.
We live approximately sixty miles north of the airport. The Interstate south of Atlanta was wet, as was the highway through the city. However, once we left I-85 and got onto Georgia 400, the wet pavement turned to white pavement.
We pressed onward and I was thankful for the meal KLM served about an hour prior to our landing. Had we needed to stop to eat, we may have spent the night in a Waffle House.
The roads grew progressively worse as we neared our home and I began to wonder if we’d be able to make it up our driveway.
We did, and sad to say, that was the end of our Wonderful Winter Vacation.
I realize I did not include many photos in this section, but since I have lots I have not yet included in this series of articles, I’ll add some now.
In the meantime, watch this space. Now that I’ve gotten back into the habit of writing, I plan on doing it on a more regular basis.