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We left Stuttgart on the morning of Thursday, July 12th.  I was pretty ready to go, since it had been awhile since our last foray out of Germany on an airplane.  It’s not that I like air travel.  It’s more that I’ve kind of been itching to go somewhere besides France or Switzerland.  The last time we went outside of France or Germany was in February, when we hit the Czech Republic for a long weekend.  Because we often travel with the dogs, we are kind of hindered in where we can go.  Also, it’s taken Bill some time to build up enough off time to go somewhere beyond the immediate border countries.

We got up early on the morning of our departure, loaded up the dogs and all of their junk, packed up our suitcases, and headed off to Leinfelden, where the dogs would spent the long weekend with Max at Dog Holiday and we would board our first plane to the Emerald Isle.  I don’t usually accompany Bill when he takes the dogs to Max’s, but in the interest of not looking like a negligent dog mom, I went in with him this time.  Max and his wife, Chris, always take great care of our dogs and they love going to see them.  It’s comforting to see my dogs greet Chris with much affection.

After the dogs were dropped off, we headed for the airport.  Bill dropped me off with the bags, parked the car, and joined me as we found our way to Lufthansa’s check in desk.  There was a family of Germans doing some business with the business class agent, holding up the line.  Several people were ahead of us and finally got so exasperated, they went to the line for economy.  Bill and I weren’t particularly in a hurry, so we waited and another agent came along and checked us in.  The German family with their many, many bags were still being helped when we finished checking in.  I don’t know what the issue was, but clearly it was a big and time consuming problem.

With our bags dropped, we headed for Lufthansa’s lounge, which like all the other lounges is on the second floor of the airport.  I didn’t bother to take pictures of it this time, mainly because I’ve taken pictures in previous posts and nothing has really changed.  It’s just a big room with comfortable chairs, free WiFi, televisions, and snacks.  I have become accustomed to using lounges when I fly and I’ve found that they do make the experience somewhat less stressful on a multi-leg journey.  The lounges are usually quieter and less obnoxious than the main airport and “free” beer is always a good thing.

Our first flight took us to Frankfurt, which is a huge and kind of old airport.  The flight to Frankfurt from Stuttgart is super short– maybe twenty minutes or so.  Nevertheless, they still fed us.  We had maybe ten minutes to scarf down a snack of bread, fruit, and cheese, which came with a side of chocolate.  I saved the chocolate for later.  Business class on Lufthansa is kind of boring, but you do get a few perks, like an empty seat next to you.  The seats are otherwise just like the ones in economy class.  You get a snack or a meal and free booze, and supposedly “priority” handling of your luggage and a quicker security check, as well as the right to check two bags without having to pay extra.  If I can afford it, I try to go business class.  I find it makes the trip more pleasant for everyone.

“Freiraum” is always welcome on airplanes… especially when you have wide hips.

“Special” accommodations in business class.

In Frankfurt, we had a four hour layover.  It’s good that we had so much time, since besides having a long walk to our gate, we also had to go through passport control.  Ireland is not part of the Schengen Zone, which is an important thing to remember when you’re planning your flights and don’t come from a European country.  If you go to the United Kingdom or Ireland or anywhere not in the Schengen Zone, you will have to wait in line.  Sometimes the lines are pretty obnoxious, which was the case on Thursday, when it backed up all the way past the food court.

We were standing behind a nice looking Mexican family, who appeared to be grandparents with their grandson.  They were very well-dressed and civilized, even when the abuelo reminded a veiled Muslim lady that she needed to wait in line like everyone else.  I couldn’t help but feel a little sad about the current state of affairs between the United States and Mexico right now.  To be honest, the current state of affairs in the United States was a constant topic of conversation on this trip, although no one was overtly unkind to us because we’re from the United States.  Still, Trump’s policies did have an affect on our travels if only because people we met were asking “WTF?” a lot.  Believe me, I ask the same thing on a daily basis.

We got to the window at passport control.  The guy who checked our passports looked all of about 18 years old and had no sense of urgency.  He paged through our passports, looking for evidence that we’ve been in Germany legally for the past four years.  He finally found our SOFA cards at the back of the passports, smiled, and sent us on our way.  I was kind of relieved that he knew about the Status of Forces Agreement.  It’s been my experience that some folks at passport control have never seen the cards and we have to explain.  That was kind of what happened to us yesterday in Munich, but I’ll get into that story later.

Anyway, once we got through passport control, we spent our lengthy layover in one of Frankfurt Airport’s many Lufthansa lounges.  It was a pretty boring afternoon until I started singing Monty Python songs to Bill.  That never fails to crack him up.  And again, there’s free wine and beer, of which we took full advantage.

A common sight in Lufthansa lounges.

Our flight to Dublin was trouble free and by 5:30pm local time, we were picking up our bags.  Although we flew business class and our bags were supposed to be offloaded first, we happened to be on the plane with a large group of Spanish kids.  The hilarious cab driver who took us into the city explained that Spain and Italy send a lot of young people to Ireland so they can learn English.  It appeared that a fresh group from Spain arrived with us last Thursday.  They were kind of fun to watch.  It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was that young and awkward.  Now, I’m just awkward.

I enjoyed the helpful signs in baggage claim.  I don’t know how many people this sign has helped… are you ever thinking of driving when you’re picking up your bags?

Our bags were probably the last to make it off of the plane.  Consequently, we ended up in the cab line behind another American couple who had been on our flight.  I knew they were American simply by looking at them, but there was another big clue hanging off of their luggage.  The male half of the couple was a consular officer in Milan, Italy.  The tag on his wife’s luggage gave his name, address, phone number, and job title.  I noticed that he had positioned his tag so that it faced down, but hers was face up, revealing a lot of information about them.  Bill noticed it, too.  My good deed of the day is to remind all of you out in Internetland to be careful about what you reveal to people when you travel.  I suppose I could have been really obnoxiously outspoken and said, “Hi Patrick!” to the guy in front of us, leaving him to wonder how I know him.  But despite popular belief, I’m not really that brash.

I liked this sign, too.  I think we should post a few of them in the United States.

 

The cab driver who took us to Dublin was hilarious.  He started out kind of quiet, but was soon warmly welcoming us to Ireland, complete with dropping the f-bomb several times.  We got caught in rush hour traffic, you see.  Every other word was “fookin'”, which I thought was pretty funny.  The cab driver was telling us about how Ireland has been experiencing a drought and all of the grass is scorched, which is a rare thing in the country known for being the most green.  Like other chatty Irish cabbies, he also told us about how safe Dublin is and how much he loves the city, even as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s recent visit caused significant backups downtown.

Before too long, our driver had delivered us safely to the Merrion Hotel, where a man in a top hat was quick to rush over and grab our bags.  He offered his hand to take my backpack and I shook it, which caused a moment of awkwardness for us both…  I guess that’s a sign that I’m not used to posh living!

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