France and Germany… a send off from the Army– Part 1

Although I am exhausted from two weeks abroad, I figure there’s no time like the present to write about our most recent experiences in Europe.  I have a lot to write… and lots of pictures.  If you have followed my main blog, you might have already read some of what I’m going to write about this trip.  This rendition will have pictures, though… and I promise to make it more travel oriented.

Our saga began on May 17, when Bill and I flew to Baltimore to catch the weekly Patriot Express flight that originates there.  We started the day by dropping off our dogs at Camp Bow Wow’s Northwest location; dropping off our car at mother-in-law’s, and getting a ride to the San Antonio airport, where we caught a flight to BWI via Atlanta.

On our way…

Waiting for the flight to BWI…

Big crowds on the planes!

I entertained myself taking photos with my iPhone as we approached BWI…

Just getting to BWI from San Antonio is tough.  It always involves an Atlanta layover and Atlanta’s airport is one hell of a place.  Bill was worried because our “roll call” was set for 8:30pm and we got delayed.  Fortunately, we arrived with over an hour to spare.  We checked in and, because Bill signed up for Space A on April 30 and is still on active duty until next month, we were very high on the priority list.  I think when all was said and done, we were number six on a list over one hundred people.  Active duty servicemembers, especially when they are on a mission, have emergency leave, or moving, have priority.  Next come guys like Bill, who are just trying to take ordinary leave.  Then there are two more categories… until one hits the dreaded “category six” retiree.  In a month, that will be Bill, but in May of this year, he was category three.

We made the flight, of course, handed off our documents, paid the $35 tax, and went through security.  I happened to be on the rag, as usual.  Seems like I can’t catch a break and take a trip when I’m not having a visit from Aunt Flow.  She was particularly nasty on that flight to Germany.  The seats are very cramped and the audio visual stuff provided by Atlas Airways is dated and kind of sucks.  But for $35 for two people, I really can’t complain!  Other than the somewhat narrow seats, the flight was pretty comfortable and not quite full.

What I stared at all night…

Bill preparing for a long flight…

Baltimore’s city lights!

The lady in front of me lacked situational awareness and put her hair over the seat and my screen.

Daylight brings beautiful sights of Ireland and England… although I think I took this when we were flying over Germany.  Lilacs were blooming everywhere.

The third guy in our row was a pleasant man on his way back to Stuttgart, where he had spent many years working.  He told us that though he is now based in Georgia, he was going back to Germany to get married to a local.  One of my favorite things about flying Space A is meeting new people and hearing their stories.

We were exhausted when we got to Ramstein, but there was nothing available at the Ramstein Inn.  We got a room at the Merkur, a four star property right off base.  For 99 euros a night, you get a very clean room with a TV, Internet, and a hotel restaurant.  Suited us fine, because although we were hungry, we weren’t in the mood to dine out.

While we were eating, Bill met an expat who lives and works in Belgium.  He gave Bill some job hunting tips for job hunting in Europe.  It would be a dream come true if we could move back, though I’m not holding my breath.

Wiener schnitzel rocks.  So does good beer.  All the good American craft beers I’ve been drinking lately have made me less impressed with German beers, which now taste kind of dull by comparison.  Bear in mind, though, that I drink very exotic craft beers and am a bit of a beer snob.  And I had no problems at all enjoying German suds…


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