We got over to SFO more than three hours early, because we knew that we were going to be high maintenance. Based on how they mishandled Lisa's tinnitus-blocking device the last time she flew in 2014, I started by asking for a supervisor. We stepped out of the queue as I explained Lisa's disability and that we would both be opting out for a hand search, and would they please not make Lisa stand there for 15 minutes in tears with a klaxon going off in her ear. The supervisor was actually very accommodating, saying that she wouldn't have to take the device off at all as long as they could swab it. We had a lot of luggage (five bags including my CPAP), and that takes a long time to inspect, but we had lots of time and were very cooperative. There was no drama for us this time. We even had time for a fairly leisurely lunch out on Terminal 2. This was my first time on SFO T2 since it was remodeled from the old international terminal to the new home of Alaska/Virgin America.
The Alaska flight up to PDX was no fun at all. Fully loaded, and I was in the middle seat. But it was less than two hours, and the flight was on time. As we came in, the flight attendant made an announcement for those of us going on the Reykjavik on IcelandAir, noting that there were 17 of us on the plane. As it happens, I only recognized two others besides me who were going to Worldcon: Charlie Jane Anders and Annalee Newitz, who we spoke to briefly in the departure lounge at PDX before the flight boarded.
As I said, I won the "bid" for upgraded Economy Comfort seats. But we got a nice surprise when we boarded the PDX-KEF flight:
Instead of three coach seats with the middle blocked, we actually had two Saga (business) class seats. That is better than nominal EC seats because the seats are more comfortable and have better pitch. The only difference between actual Saga class seats was that we didn't have the free liquor and upgraded meals they have forward of the cabin front of Row 5. Since we don't drink alcohol, that hardly matters, and E+ class includes the meals that Economy cabin passengers have to buy.
I won't say this trip was actually pleasure. Lisa had a fair bit of discomfort, and I couldn't sleep at all, but compared to what it would have been like in Economy, this was tolerable.
We landed in Iceland, where we found that the airport is under significant construction, but fortunately, it wasn't raining.
Because of terminal construction, we had to deboard the plane using air stairs and ride a shuttle bus to the terminal. Similarly, we had to ride a shuttle bus out to our departing plane for Hamburg. At the airport, we had tea and coffee, and Lisa got an extra sandwich, and that's about all we had time to do. To our surprise, we had to clear passport control before going on to our departure gate. That's because we were entering the Schengen Area and would not need to clear passport control at Hamburg. The Icelandic agent cheerfully stamped our passports and we moved along.
Our flight to Hamburg was once again Saga Class seats with Economy Comfort service.
Kuma Bear shows off the card telling him that he was getting an nicer seat.
While on this last leg of the flight I could have possibly slept, I decided that it would be a bad idea to do so if I wanted to get onto the correct time zone, so I drank coffee to stay awake into Hamburg. We landed at Hamburg and spent a while trying to find a working DB ATM (because they are partners with Bank of America and thus I wouldn't be hit with an extra fee). We got it eventually and unlike the Barcelona trip, the ATM processed the request with no incident. That is good, because as we found, cash is still king here in Germany. Also, my credit card is US-style and doesn't have a PIN, which makes it impossible to use on automated terminals like at the train stations. I was worried that we'd dawdled on our errands, but as it happens, luggage was just starting to roll out when we got to baggage claim. We picked up our bags and cleared customs (a single bored-looking guard), then found our way to the train station.
It's good that we got cash, because my PIN-less credit card couldn't buy the €3.20 tickets from the airport to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof (Main Station) and I needed cash.
You don't have to worry about boarding the wrong train at Hamburg Airport because all trains depart for Hamburg Hbf. These suburban trains aren't especially well-designed for passengers with luggage (we have seven bags total), but we managed.
Coming out of the station, we puzzled over the map before figuring out how to find our way to the hotel, about 1.2 km from the station.
Our route gave us some interesting views of Hamburg's trains.
Later, we got this shot of the main station building as well.
When we checked in to the Holiday Inn Express Hamburg, we had a surprise.
Kuma Bear is holding a card that says, "Congratulations, you are the FIRST!" The hotel's opening had been delayed, and today was the actual first day of public operation! Indeed, we got pretty lucky, because we came very close to being bounced to a less-convenient HIX.
Now we stay in a lot of IHG properties, mostly Holiday Inn Express. This new one is not quite that same as those in the USA. First off all, the room is smaller, although we expected that. There's almost no closet space and no drawer storage to speak of.
There's also no refrigerator in the room. Lisa is in this shot coming out of the relatively small bathroom.
To Lisa's disappointment, the room has only a shower, no bathtub. None of the rooms in this hotel have full bathtubs. The front desk said only that full Holiday Inns have bathtubs. Lisa really prefers a bath, not a shower, especially because of the tinnitus and how it interferes with her life.
After getting moved in, doing some unpacking, and confirming that I could raise the wi-fi on my phone and computer, we set out to find some dinner. We knew that we needed to stay awake until early evening in order to have a chance to stave off jet-lag. We headed off a different way than we came, and almost got caught in a rain shower, but fortunately Lisa spotted a model train store, where we popped in until the rain cleared. Unlike Tokyo and Osaka in 2007, where we had to buy an extra piece of luggage to carry all of the gear she bought at the Kato Model Trains factory outlet stores, Lisa restrained herself to a single car: I nice N scale fire truck.
We thought it might be appropriate to have hamburgers in Hamburg, and tried a place near the model train store. Unfortunately, the place is too cute by half. You have to order from touch-screens at the tables, and it was impossible to customize the burgers the way we wanted, so we balked.
After a fair bit more wandering around, we found ourselves back near the train station, where we went down the line of restaurants across the street, ending up at Nagel Restaurant. We ordered the Fish Soup, which Kuma Bear eyes greedily before we set to eating. It was excellent.
I had the Kaptain's Plate (foreground), while Lisa had the Bayerischer "Leberkäse" with fried egg and fried potatoes. Aside from the salad (which neither of us wanted), we both liked our meals a lot and felt a bit more normal when we walked back to the hotel.
It was after 7 PM local time when we got back to the hotel. Lisa got ready for bed as soon as she could. Once I get this posted (which hasn't been proofread well, so I may end up having to make a lot of edits later), I'm going to bed as well. Tomorrow, the included breakfast runs until 11 AM, which is a great thing because it means we don't have to be up early to get fed. We have one day of looking around more of Hamburg before we head for Lübeck and Travemünde.
I'm very tired, but happy to be here.