Planes, trains, and automobiles

Except in our case, it was automobile, train, automobile (twice), plane (three times), automobile.

Let me explain. Mark and I are currently in New Hampshire, enjoying the beauties of a New England Fall. I’ve taken a lot of pictures, but this one is my current favorite. I took it looking down on Glen Ellis Falls, just a few miles from our condo. But when we’ve talked to people about being here, folks mostly have wanted to know about how traveling here from Spain was. So here goes.

We took a taxi from our apartment in Torrevieja to the train station in nearby Alicante. The taxi driver wore a mask, as all drivers do, and we did the same. We got a sandwich for lunch at the train station. The Tim Horton’s was closed, but Gambrinus was open. The tables were disinfected and spread out, and all of the personnel wore masks. Everyone at security wore a mask, as did the Renfe people who greeted us train side. The greeter also gave us each a small bottle of hand sanitizer and an individually wrapped alcohol wipe. We wiped down everything and wore our masks the entire ride, as did all the other passengers and the train personnel. We arrived at Madrid’s train station, Atocha, right on time. Everyone in the terminal wore masks, except for the tiny kids. We grabbed a taxi and drove to our hotel near the airport. The hotel had moved all of its restaurant tables outside, so we ate dinner away from others and without having to leave the premises. The hotel was a little noisy, but it served its purpose. Our 4AM taxi took us straight to the terminal, and we had no trouble checking our bags. In each airport, we wore plastic face shields as well as our masks.

Boarding a plane is actually more organized than it used to be. We had sprung for business class seats and therefore boarded first, but otherwise the plane boarded back rows to the front. This prevented a lot of jostling and crowding. Because people were passing by us on the way to their seats in coach, we left our face shields on in addition to our masks. The flight to a Frankfurt was unremarkable, except that the papaya served with our breakfast was extra juicy.

The airport in Frankfurt was not as busy as usual, but there were still many people there. The Lufthansa lounge was closed due to COVID concerns, so we seated ourselves near our gate but away from other passengers and spent our four-hour layover there. Our flight to Newark was on time. Again, business class boarded first, but we were to the left of the jetway and coach was to the right, so no one passed by us on the way to their seat. The flight attendant handed us individually wrapped sanitizing towelettes and reminded us to keep our masks on during the flight. We had a meal and then stretched out to sleep for a remarkably long time over the Atlantic. I’d wondered if wearing a mask would interfere with sleeping, but that all went fine.

Immigration and Customs in Newark were easy – too easy. We’d been given contact tracing forms on the plane and had duly filled them out, but no one asked for them. In fact, Mark tried to hand our forms to one Immigration officer and was waved on. The guy was too busy complaining to his cohort about a mechanic who’d tried to cheat him. Most people in the airport were wearing masks, but not all. We rechecked our bags to Portland, Maine, and headed to the United lounge, which was open. We sat as far away from other people as we could and used our own wipes to sanitize our seats. Only individual packets of food were available, which was better than the usual buffet service. After a couple of hours, we headed to the gate for our flight from Newark to Portland.

The flight from Newark was on a regional jet, and it was completely full. The seats are two on each side, so I don’t know what United does about rows with middle seats. The only mention of COVID was an announcement that the flight attendants would not be offering drink service. We were not offered sanitizer of any type, but we used the ones we’d brought with us. Because of the full flight, we left our face shields on over our masks. Again, boarding and deplaning were done with business class going first and then rows being called to avoid crowding. I’d be fine with that practice staying in place from now on.

It was a relief to get to Portland and pick up the car. We had an uneventful drive and brought our bags up without incident. After a nice, long sleep, we enjoyed the Dunkin Donuts we had picked up (drive in only available) and have had a lovely time since then. We will head back to Portland and fly to Austin on Monday.

So that’s how we traveled, and it seems to have gone well. Neither of us has had any indication that we’re sick, although we know where the local COVID testing is performed. We have stayed away from people on the walking trails and affirmatively turn our backs on unmasked walkers. All businesses require masks inside buildings, and we have gotten no blowback from anyone about wearing masks. We will see how it goes in Texas!

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