So, you already think I’m insane. I get that, and I proudly own it. So, while I’m at it, let me reinforce it. This trip had been (unusually for me lately) booked several months ahead of time. Three weeks prior, I was in Switzerland for work, and some issues arose which necessitated an urgent trip back.
I looked at changing my vacation ticket to just go DC-Geneva a few days earlier with a layover, but due to the craziness of change fees and one-way fares it was actually a better deal to book the roundtrip to Geneva and then…um…
Yeah, I got home from Geneva on Friday afternoon. Turned right around Saturday night…back to Geneva.
Ok, yeah, moving right along….every great trip begins with…well, scratch that, not DC Metrorail, but it’s always fun to document the first leg of the trip!
Nothing interesting until I got to the United Club, where the same bartender as four days prior was working. He was like “I remember! Back from Switzerland so soon? Where to now?” Probably should have said Chicago or something so I didn’t reinforce the perception I’m crazy. Or maybe it scored me pity points…because somehow my (non free United Club plonk) wine magically refilled without asking…
You need something to wash down what passes for snacks in the Dulles United Club these days. United brags about the Polaris lounges, while in DC we get the big middle finger…not even a couple of premium drink coupons. Not feeling the love.
Soon enough it was time to board, and I was glad I’d made an effort to get to the gate for the start of boarding. It was clear this was a very heavy infrequent traveller flight, and Group 1 was being swarmed by people on the “trip of a lifetime.” Given that 767s are a little short on overhead space to begin with, I was glad to not have to fight for it.
After boarding and listening to chatter, it was evident it was a large group from DC going to Europe for a package tour. Hopefully that wouldn’t mean lots of excited chatter all night long…
United flight 974
Washington, DC, Dulles (IAD) to Geneva, Switzerland (GVA)
Depart 17:30, Arrive: 06:25 next day, flight time: 7:55
Boeing 767-300, Registration N651UA , Manufactured 1992, Seat 9A
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 175,829
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,868,417
After going 19 for 20 in not getting United Polaris reconfigured 767s this year so far, I finally lucked out! Given that nearly 60% of the fleet is reconfigured, I’d had some seriously bad luck up until now!
One of the best things about flying at this time of year is that transatlantic flights leave right around dusk, so you tend to get some amazing sunsets as you break through the clouds. Tonight was one of the best!
As usual on United things began with some very salty mixed nuts…and for me a glass of wine.
Tonight featured a spinach salad that was much better than the normal salads out of Dulles lately, but unfortunately it also featured the extravagant two shrimp appetizer. Ugh. But there was a pretzel roll and garlic bread, so all was not lost!
This meal has been around on and off for over a year now, but I always smile a bit when it’s on the menu. I think the spicy chicken is the best meal United has going, even if I do manage to splash the broth on my shirt every single time! (This time being no exception.)
As usual, cheese and a sundae for dessert. The cheese was much better than average, and the sundae was…well…a sundae. In my quest to be healthier this is really a course that needs to be eliminated from my indulgence entirely.
Fortunately, I managed nearly four hours of sleep, which is a transatlantic record for me lately. For years I had no trouble passing out for 5-6 hours on most flights, but that was also when I would take 10pm flights out of DC and it was a more normal time to sleep. With the 5pm flights they tend to land at around midnight or 1am DC time, so I’d much rather book another night of hotel and take a 4-5 hour nap upon landing. Unfortunately, with connections this trip, that wasn’t an option, so I was glad to get some rest!
Speaking of healthy, I just asked for a Diet Coke. The lovely crew insisted that I needed a cinnamon bun as well. This was also the best crew I’d had out of Dulles in ages, and it’s amazing what a difference it makes when the crew enjoys their jobs!
I had a few hours to kill in Geneva, and since I had to go through immigration anyways (since my next flight was “domestic” to Frankfurt) I figured I might as well leave security as well. And get coffee. For science. To prove Starbucks in Geneva tastes the same. As it did 40 hours prior. LOL.
Back through security where there was absolutely no line, and I’ve been through Geneva so much this year that I know all the little nuances that can make security more of an experience (keep your phone til the last minute, don’t put it in a bin – they’ll need to scan your boarding pass before your bags go in, etc.) and even had a little time for the lounge.
I was starting to feel the jetlag a bit (that heavy airline meal and alcohol probably didn’t help) so stocked up on lots of water in the lounge and some orange juice to keep the blood sugars happy. Then, it was off to the gate, where of course things were running a little late due to some fog as crew stuck in traffic…which is odd because you would think this crew would just be a turnaround from Frankfurt….
Lufthansa flight 1213, op. by Lufthansa Cityline
Geneva, Switzerland (GVA) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Depart 08:50, Arrive: 10:05, flight time: 1:15
Embraer ERJ-190, Registration D-AECH , Manufactured 2010, Seat 1D
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 176,115
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,868,703
Shortly before takeoff the fog in Geneva turned to an absolute torrential downpour, but that apparently didn’t have too much impact as we had little wait for takeoff and soon shot into the skies.
Despite flight time only being 55 minutes there was a meal served. Often Lufthansa serves a small plated snack even on flights this short, but today it was just a packaged half-sandwich and a small snack bar. I had a few bites, but wasn’t hungry enough that I bothered with the rest – it was unremarkable.
The best part of taking off in a downpour for a short-ish flight and a small-ish storm is that occasionally, on descent, you get amazing rainbows. Today was extra-awesome descending into Frankfurt:
Fortunately, my flight today was leaving from the B Terminal at Frankfurt, but we arrived at the very end of the A Terminal which meant a rather lengthy walk to get there.
I was rewarded, however, by a nearly empty Lufthansa First Lounge in Terminal B, which meant that I could have a shower and relax with a glass of champagne before considering lunch.
A bit after noon I decided I was hungry enough to wander over to the dining area for lunch. I still wasn’t really hungry, and definitely didn’t need much, but as one tends to do when offered the delights of the Lufthansa First Class Lounge I threw caution to the wind and ordered the wienerschnitzel. Along with the potato salad, it was delicious as always.
…and a second failure at behaving. Because: apfel struedel! Yum!
Time passed (less than I should probably admit) and while doing some work and waiting for my life to board I decided that it would be a shame to let the Lufthansa First whiskey selection go to waste, and had just one class…ok, and maybe a berry tart to go along with it…
Finally off to the gate, where it was time to board what appeared to be a very packed A320 to Tunis. Quick look at ExpertFlyer confirmed the flight was still J1, and it appeared the only empty seat in “business class” was in my row…could I be this lucky yet again?
Lufthansa flight 1324
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Tunis, Tunisia (TUN)
Depart 14:55, Arrive: 17:10, flight time: 2:15
Airbus A320, Registration D-AIZY , Manufactured 2013, Seat 1A
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 177,029
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,869,331
When the door closed on a very full flight with one empty seat (plus the middles in “business” of course) the one empty was indeed 1A in my row. I slid over after the door close and had the entire row to myself. This is living! If you have to fly EuroBusiness, having the whole row at least makes it much nicer!
Despite the short flight, a full linner service was offered, with multiple choices of main course. I obviously wasn’t very hungry, but accepted in the name of being able to take a picture for everyone…you’re welcome.
Of course, I ate way more than I needed to, but hey…that’s what happens. Side note: I’ve never liked gravy or sauces on my beef or veal, so why is it when there’s Spätzle it suddenly becomes magical? I mean, Spätzle and burrata? How can you say no!
Flight was pretty quick, and there was absolutely no queue at immigration when we arrived in Tunis, so it was a pretty painless process. Except the immigration guy who insisted on using his 10 words of English on me instead of speaking French. I couldn’t tell if he was just proud of his limited English, it was an “anti-colonialist” thing re: French, or what…but it was quite annoying, and made what could have been a 30 second transaction several minutes. Oh well.
Fortunately, I’d decided in advance I didn’t want to deal with the often-annoying Tunis taxi mafia so I’d asked the Sheraton to meet me with their shuttle. It’s probably twice the price a taxi can be negotiated for, and you have to wait for everyone on your flight to disembark so they can fill the shuttle, but…today it was definitely worth it.
If you remember my last visit to this Sheraton, it’s the home of some pretty disturbing artwork. The artwork had changed in the past few months, but not for the less-weird:
Fortunately, I’d had plenty to eat on the plane since the evening snacks in the executive lounge at the Sheraton weren’t worth the calories, but around 8pm I was hungry enough I wandered down to the lobby lounge for a small dinner snack.
My last time, the lounge had been absolutely packed with football fans watching a Tunisia game, but this night I was one of only two people there! Not sure if it was because it was a sunday night or not, but the hotel was actually sold out so there were definitely people around. Everyone must be eating room service.
They do do fairly reasonable “mini sliders” (aren’t sliders mini by definition?) at the lobby lounge, and that with a local Celtia beer to wash it down made the perfect end to a very long 24 hours of travel. I better get used to it, because the next day would be just as long!
Back to my room, where sleep was hard to come by. First reason? The room temp was 75F (23C) because the air conditioning in the hotel was turned off. Why? “The guests complain that it is too cold in the hotel.) WTF, it was 85F during the day, and if you think it’s too cold don’t turn it on in your room? (Haven’t you all missed my AC rants recently? Side note: checking out the next morning I mentioned it to the staff, and the other guy checking out was like “yeah, I have to sleep with the windows open for it to be tolerable.)
Other reason it was hard to sleep? The disorderliness of the pictures on the wall really bothered me…. only half kidding…
With that said, the first long segment of the trip was over, and it was time to sleep. Tomorrow will be another very long day!