USA 2

As it turned out, my flight to IAD left at the same pier A as my arriving flight from VCE. But this is no consolation: gate A56 is upstairs in the long distance area, whilst gate A28 is downstairs in the Schengen area. The escalator connecting the two is cordoned off for “security reasons”, so this means a long trudge to the head of the pier, up a flight of stairs , through pasport control and a long trudge back again!!! Germanic efficiency is losing its famed touch!

Security is relatively relaxed, I meet my colleague Andrea who has come in from a Milan flight. Again, the flight to Washington is full – evidently the airline cuts have resulted in a higher passenger load.

Usual high LH standards aboard – a prime reason why I choose this airline over another. After take off we are served lunch – I choose the Gravlax with Coriander Ginger Mayo and smoked trout tartare as a starter, the Gravlax is fine, but I would much rather have a Hovmästersäs with dill instead of the mayo as a side. As a wine, I select the 2001 Riesling Schossgut Diel – a fine wine with appley flavour, but I would really have preferred something drier with the salmon.

As a main course, I select an excellent lamb medaillon with herb crust accompanied by ratatouille and potato dumplings (= gnocchi in Italian!). The lamb is very tender and tasty, but the wine, the wine – a superb 2000 Stellenzicht Stellenbosch really gets the ticket! Michelin would say “it’s worth a journey”. Let me quote the blurb accompanying the wine: “the deep red ruby colour of this Cabernet Sauvignon and its exotic bouquet with predominant aroma of blackcurrants and mulberries make it a very pleasurable wine. The elegant oak tones and a long finish complete the picture”.

What really completes the picture for me is the Taylors Port to accompany the Gingerbread Mousse Basel-style and Fig compote, followed by a delectable Kirsch……..zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Somewhere over Chicoutimi, Québec, I get prodded awake – it’s mealtime again! Jeez, I was sleeping soundly! With an admirable spirit of self-abnegation, I decline the meal, and settle for a glass of mineral water!

Flight time FRA-IAD: 8h35min. I arrive in Washington at 15:55 = 21:55 CET. A cloudy autumn day, 14C. No sign of Bush’s pad out of the window. Lots of United jets on the tarmac, must be one of their hubs. An hour or so to rush for the Vegas flight. Let’s hope we make it through customs and immigration in time!

AAARGH! The immigration queue was *miles* long! No amount of entreaties could convince the guys that we were in a hurry to get a connection. Final result – our bags make the flight to LAS, but we have a gate door slammed in front of our very eyes!

UA rebooks us to Vegas via Denver. It ends up that we should arrive in Vegas two hours later than we expected. It’s now 00:00 CET, I’m still on the East coast, I have a nose bleed, there are no biz class seats and I’m pissed off!

A lunch box is served aboard. I peruse the contents: a bag of tortilla chips (“perfect for dipping” – but no dip!), a bread roll with “honey roasted turkey and American cheese” (dry as a bone), a sachet of mayonnaise (presumably to relieve the dryness), a tub of vanilla pudding.

Flight time IAD-DEN 3h10min. Arrival at 19:40 local = 03:40 CET. My eyelids are drooping…..

DEN is at 1,650 mt. above sealevel -we’re now on the Eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains (sadly invisible in the darkness). Supposedly one of the world’s largest airports by area. Curious terminal building with a roof like a circus tent. Not that I care much – at this point I’d rather have a bed!!

On to my fourth flight of the day: DEN-LAS is 1h50min. Travel in so-called “First Class” – all you get is a couple of cans of Heineken and a sachet of peanuts! And then the airlines wonder why people aren’t travelling any more…

Finally get in to Vegas at 21:30 = 6:30 CET. Just about time for you folks back home in Europe to get up!! The airport halls and baggage claim areas are alive to the sound of the slot machines, welcoming the first punters. Quick drive by shuttle bus to Bally’s Hotel and I’m now ready to straight to my king-size bed!

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