Earlier this year, United published, either by mistake or not – it’s not entirely clear – a $1500 all-inclusive business class fare for the summer from a handful of U.S. cities to a handful of European cities. There were somewhere around 100 possible combinations. Unfortunately, Washington was not one of them.
This was probably a good thing, because my leave time for 2014 is already all committed, due to my upcoming four weeks in the South Pacific in November, and two plus weeks in East Africa over new years.
But wait…Baltimore is on the list…now that’s tempting…even for a three day weekend. But it was $1500 for any combination…Baltimore felt lame when perhaps I could do it from the west coast. Yup, I found San Diego…but that meant getting to San Diego…and if I’m going to go all the way to San Diego, I wonder if….YES once again United seems to want to FORCE me to go to Hawaii. Honolulu to Paris, business class in August, $1500. In contrast, the lowest coach fare at the time was about $1650. This is an absolute bargain.
Alas, I didn’t have the leave. Didn’t stop me from looking how I could conserve days, and when I could do it. Wait, I need to be in Las Vegas for a bachelor party late-August. Las Vegas is on the way back to DC from Hawaii. That was already planned Wednesday through Friday, so I just needed a way to get Monday-Tuesday off. I trimmed a couple days off my South Pacific trip…and it was set.
Now…to justify the cost of flying to Hawaii. Ok, Hawaii-Paris would earn 25,000 more miles than DC-Paris, so that justifies $400 of the fare to Hawaii. My ticket to Vegas was going to be $1200 for a P fare, so suddenly $1600 is justified. Buying DC-Honolulu and upgrading with a regional upgrade, done. One way Honoulu-Vegas on a P fare…done. Vegas to DC on a P fare…done. It was all too perfect.
Unfortunately, to guarantee the upgrade, I had to fly DCA-Cleveland-LA-Honolulu. Ugh. Leaving at 6am. Double ugh. Oh well. But then, there was a schedule change. I whined to United I wasn’t comfortable with a 30 minute connection in Cleveland now. I found upgrade space on DCA-San Francisco-Honolulu leaving at 8:30 – 2.5 hours later – and connecting to the same Honolulu flight. I begged. They relented. It was getting too awesome. Simply too awesome.
The routing was set:
You may have noticed Barcelona in there. See, I decided that 48 hours in Paris in August might get boring since the city clears out a bit. Plus, I’ve been to Paris literally dozens of times. So, I did what any good country collector would…set out to find the last country in Europe I haven’t been to: Andorra. Only way really to get there is to drive from Barcelona and Toulouse. Barcelona had better flight connections…plus, the only automatic transmission rental car I could get was a Smart Car. The chance to drive, my 6’3 self in a smart car, through the Pyrenees was way too much to pass up. I booked it.
Then, looking at a map of Andorra, I noticed something super fun.
Thats Llívia, Spain, a little tiny Spanish enclave not connected to Spain, but completely surrounded by France. To a geography nerd like me this is perhaps the coolest thing ever. Then, I thought…wait, I’m going to enter Andorra from Spain…I could exit out the other side of Andorra into France, and then drive to Llívia, back into Spain!
But of course, this isn’t nerdy enough. So, I’ll get to Andorra, and spend the night. Next morning, drive into France, then back into Spain at Llívia, and have coffee…or whatever one does late morning in Spain. Then, I’ll drive for a very short way BACK into France at Bourg-Madame and have a nice lunch. Maybe a Croque Madame in Bourg-Madame…then back to Spain and Barcelona Airport, where I will fly to Paris for the night. Before flying back to Hawaii.
So, are you lost yet? So far we’ve done:
Day 1: DCA-San Francisco-Hawaii – Overnight Honolulu
Day 2: Day in Honolulu, and Honolulu-DC redeye
Day 3: All day in DC where I hope to have brunch with friends, play some hockey, before the redeye DC-Paris
Day 4: Paris-Barcelona, drive in my little Smart Car to Andorra
Day 5: Drive Andorra to France to Llívia, Spain for coffee, to Bourg-Madame, France for lunch, to Barcelona, Spain for a flight to Paris, France where I’ll spend the night, get a great meal hopefully and maybe some drinks with friends.
Whew. Because next up is:
Day 6: Paris-San Francisco-Honolulu, and dinner in Honolulu
Day 7: Honolulu-San Francisco-Vegas
Day 8-9-10: Vegas. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
Day 11: Vegas-Houston-DC
I’m already tired, and the trip hasn’t started. If I pack strategically, I can take a suitcase to Honolulu on Day 1, with everything I’ll need in Vegas, and leave it there to be picked up on Day 6. Of course, if I forget anything, I have 10 hours (random) in DC on Day 3 to pick up anything I forgot…plus pack a weekend bag for Paris and Andorra, lol
This is crazy. I’m insane. But you’re going to read it…admit it… 😉