Day 8: Sunday, September 23

Time To Go Home!

[Note: for this travel day, I unfortunately didn’t take any pictures of the journey home. Instead, I have sprinkled a few Berlin memories throughout the post.]

Both clock radio and travel alarm clock sounded off at 6:00 a.m. this morning. We showered, packed the remainder of our toiletries, sealed up the suitcases and made our way down to the Arco Hotel’s reception desk to turn in the room key and check out. We ate only a partial/quick breakfast in the Arco’s breakfast room (breakfast service starts at 7:00 a.m.), as our cab to Berlin-Tegel Airport was coming to pick us up at 7:15 a.m. Lufthansa flight LH 177 from Berlin to Frankfurt departs at 8:30 this morning; Air Transat flight from Frankfurt to Toronto departs at 3:15 p.m.

With usual German punctuality, the cab arrived right on time at 7:15. It was a pleasant ride to the airport; the driver was kind and courteous. Our cab breezed through the city of Berlin without a problem; it was Sunday morning, hence very little traffic. The trip from the Arco hotel to Berlin’s Tegel airport cost only €15.80. We arrived at Tegel at about 7:35 a.m.

The cab driver dropped us off directly at Lufthansa check-in, so we easily found the counter. There was a long and slow-moving line of passengers (only two agents checking-in Economy class) but we eventually got checked in and proceeded through security without a hitch. The plane commenced boarding shortly after we found our gate, and departed right on time at 8:30 a.m. Nice flight but slightly bumpy in a couple of places. As with the previous Lufthansa flight from Paris to Berlin, great service and comfort!

We arrived in Frankfurt Main airport (Terminal 1) at about 9:40 a.m. Deplaned (via the terminal this time, not on to tarmac) and found the luggage claim in a very odd, isolated and quiet part of the airport. The luggage came down the carousel almost immediately. Getting our bearings, we discovered that we needed to be in Terminal 2 to catch our Air Transat flight to Toronto so, after some direction from an Information agent (who said that the Air Transat counter would not open until at least 12:30 p.m.), found the Skylink monorail train-thing that links the two terminals. Took train to Terminal 2, where chaos reigned supreme for the next few hours: very chaotic and crowded compared to Terminal 1, which was practically deserted.

I spoke with another Information agent who provided an airport map and told us where the restaurants and shops were located (had to kill a lot of time!). We found a table by the Nordic Bakery and parked ourselves, and all our stuff, there for about an hour and a half. Enjoyed coffee/tea/muffin and killed some time. It was still only about 10:00 a.m.; our flight doesn’t depart until 3:15 p.m.

At about Noon, we made our way to the third floor of the airport to have lunch in a food court-like area at a bar/restaurant called Fly Away. We both had Club House sandwiches which were quite substantial and actually quite good. After some lingering, which brought us around to about 12:50 or so, we made our way to the departure area. As we came down the escalator the madness and mayhem of the check-in area began to present itself: swarming, uncoordinated masses of people! There was no visible designation for Club Class passengers (i.e. us!) so I asked an Air Transat rep who rudely (and incorrectly) said we had to join the queue from hell (when we should have Club priority boarding). This didn’t sound right to me, so Vince stayed in line while I sought out a different rep, who pointed us in the direction of the Club Class check-in.

We got luggage and ourselves checked in amidst the mayhem and proceeded through Passport Control where our passports were quickly reviewed and stamped. Then, we passed through a VERY tight security scan, which set off the alarms for both of us despite our best efforts to divest ourselves of all things metallic. How sensitive was their scanning equipment?: for starters, the metal grommets on my shoe’s lacing holes set off the alarms so I had to remove my shoes and do a separate scan; Vince’s credit card chip in his wallet set off a alarm, hence another scan.

We finally got through security, got ourselves put back together (shoes, belts and watches back on, iPad and netbook stowed, passports put away). Finding our boarding gate, we sat down and waited for the boarding call. An announcement then instructed us to vacate the boarding area and re-queue so that our passports could be re-checked(!). WTF??? We passed through this procedure and, again, resumed our seats in the boarding area. Security at Frankfurt seemed unusually tight – one passenger mentioned there had been some type of security threat this morning; not sure about the validity of this. Our fellow passengers were mostly odd, charter-type people from what appeared to be some kind of American tour group – they all seemed like they had come to life from an old Kids In The Hall sketch or something.

Our flight – Air Transat, flight TS 191 for Toronto – was called at about 2:45 p.m. Club Class and Options Plus passengers were allowed through first. We had to board a shuttle bus which took us out to the plane on the tarmac; boarding out there proved quite chaotic. Unfortunately, the plane was one of Transat’s ancient A310 air buses; it was in pretty rough shape and really needed some TLC or, better yet, a total replacement. We found our Club seats, got settled and pushed back from the gate on time at 3:15 p.m. A mostly smooth flight, with good meals, food and service. Notoriously bad Air Transat movies though, as usual (The Lucky One with Zac Efron). Seriously. After that debacle ended, they played some other absolutely dreadful thing about disgruntled youths, then Mrs. Doubtfire – nothing like current, cutting edge entertainment…

It was a long flight: nine hours in the air with a six hour time difference (earlier back in Toronto). Overall, a very smooth, uneventful flight except for a couple of loud American tourist groups (some crass, gross, fat cow was leading a pack of dreadful blue-haired tour group members… YIKES!).

We landed in Toronto on time, about 6:15 p.m. local time. We deplaned and found our luggage waiting for us on the carousel as we came into the Baggage Hall.

We proceeded outside Pearson to call our supposedly pre-booked van from Airport Terminal Services. The dispatch woman on their phone was very abrupt and rude to me and failed to confirm our location before she hung up, although she told us to wait at Post 29. The van did not arrive after quite some time so I called again to follow up; I discovered that the dispatcher had sent the driver to Post 29 at Terminal 1, not Terminal 3 where we were waiting. Corrected this (dispatcher blamed the error on me), and the van finally came. The driver loaded up our suitcases and we headed home.

We arrived home at about 7:30 p.m. Danny and Sophie were out for a walk, but when they returned we were greeted with much enthusiasm. Kitties, Sophie and condo all appear fine and in great shape! Danny had no problems with Bear, other than Mr. B. running under the bed on occasion when it was pill time.

Danny left at about 9:15 p.m. We were too tired to unpack but we changed the bed, then fell in, exhausted. What a day, and what a trip!

Until next time…  Auf Wiedersehen 🙂

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