It was a long trip home. We left the Helsinki hotel at 5:30am Saturday morning, got home Sunday around 2:30pm – with a 10hour time difference. It was about 16 hours in the air – 3 hours to London, a very long layover; about 7 hours to JFK with an overnight in a hotel (which was shorter than our London layover); 6 hours to SFO; 2.5 hours home with a stop for lunch and groceries.
Always good to be home. Always.
Because Dan travels so much he racks up lots of miles and hotel points, and his flyer status with British Airways gives him access to airport lounges in most major airports. It’s a different experience than traveling economy to be sure, and I got my first taste of it on our Europe trip last year. On our way home we had breakfast in one in Helsinki and JFK, and switched back and forth between two different lounges in London. All of them have free food and drink, but the British Airways lounges in London were the best. A few lounge pics below.
One of the British Airways lounges. We were in this one several times last year but I kept forgetting to take pictures of it.
This particular lounge is huge with about 6 different sections. This is Dan’s favorite area because it’s so sunny. When he has layovers here between SF and Dusseldorf on the way over, he hangs out here to help manage jet lag.
The dining area in the first class lounge.
Dan was able to use an upgrade voucher for my trip home and book me in a first class seat. I’d flown first class domestically before, but it’s a whole different ball game on an international flight. Let’s just say it was very comfortable 🙂 A definite treat, and the food was amazing. Ironically, he sat in business class (which is still darn nice compared to economy) because it was a ticket paid by Bayer and he couldn’t use an upgrade on it. However, when we got to the gate this morning at JFK, they comped him an upgrade to first class without him even asking. That happens to him a lot. We were across the aisle from each other. (And at that point it’s just one seat on each side – vs 3 on each side in economy back yonder…)
1. I said this in my last post but it’s worth repeating: I’m amazed on every trip what a non-issue language is in Europe. Once we venture out of that continent I’m sure we’ll experience something different. That said, it is helpful to have some basics down for the country your visiting. We’ve picked up little pieces of German, French and Spanish that was helpful enough; oddly never attempted to learn any Finnish or Estonian! The website/app Duolingo has been very helpful and learning introductory things. Check it out if you haven’t and are interested in picking up some additional foreign language skills – for free.
2. We love how great the public transportation is. We enjoy not driving when we’re there, and the transit option on Google maps is amazing, even showing you connections between trains/subways and buses. We literally couldn’t function without it.
3. I think we’ve finally learned our lesson on Modern Art museums. Helsinki had one and we never even considered it, despite the current Mappelthorpe exhibit. (And we’ve seen an exhibit of his before but couldn’t remember where.) But we do love the history and learning about what others have struggled with and what they’re up to now. The Estonian folks we talked to were just so great, and so excited that this 24 year period of independence is the longest they’ve had in their over 800 year history. And they’re doing some great things – especially with using technology. Skype came out of Estonia. And some cool things with voting online from your home using their national ID card. And all of their medical records are standardized and online, something we’ve been talking about for decades.
4. In January we’re doing something radical: a trip to Europe that’s not attached to a business trip for Dan. Shorter – just 9 days – but all Italy. We’ll spend New Year’s Even in Milan, then Venice, Florence, Rome. Time to change my language setting on Duolingo….
And a bit of a PS:
While we were sitting in London on Saturday we were catching up on all the reactions about the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage across the country. We got the news Friday evening when we were at dinner in Tallinn but hadn’t read much beyond the headlines and the high points of the decision. It was great to see so many people so happy about it, regardless of their sexual orientation. And of course a few not so happy but nothing you can do about that. It’s a historical moment. Up until maybe 2013 when DOMA was overturned, I wasn’t sure I’d live to see it. I wonder if this kind of validation and acceptance will finally drag everyone out of the closet. Back in the 90’s sometime I’d read “Queer in America” by Michelangelo Signorile, a history of gay culture in the US. I may not have even been out yet, I don’t remember the timing now. But I do remember his plea at the end of the book, begging all LGBT folks to come out of the closet – that if everyone would do it, the world would be so shocked by the numbers that they would have no choice but to accept. As we were driving home from SFO today we were listening to NPR, and one of the commentators was sharing a perspective that part of the reason this happened so fast – from the Lawrence decision in 2003 to this – is in fact because more and more people were coming out and it becomes an easier thing for the general public to accept when they realize it’s their neighbor/co-worker/son/cousin/teacher, etc., who’s gay, and it starts to become more normal because they realize we’re everywhere. I know members of the LGBT community who still struggle with this; for all the good this Supreme Court decision can accomplish, I hope it also helps those who are still struggling to be able to be more authentic in their daily life. I know it’s made the world of difference in mine.