*The answer I wanted to proffer when asked by the Immigration Officer, “What brings you back?”
Our biennial visit to the homeland; this time, seven days divided between Michigan (Ann Arbor, and a little bit of Detroit and Hamtramck) and Washington, D.C. Though Jack had officially graduated from our alma mater, The University of Michigan in December, he wanted to join his friends for the spring ceremony in The Big House; and Tony and I wanted to catch up with our friends in our former D.C. homestead. Before the cases were zipped and weighed, though, one final confirmation of the weather forecast: 32°F for “Spring” Commencement at The Big House (Parkas? Check.) and 90°F for three of the D.C. days. (Bermuda Shorts? Check.) On this trip we experienced three seasons of weather; warm and welcoming Midwestern hospitality; incredible meals in Michigan and D.C.; and so much “Wokeness.”
(But for dropping my iPhone and cracking the face, “everything” went as planned on my Asian holiday last month, and I joked with Tony that I had probably used up all of my good travel karma. In that First World Problem sense I guess I had, for not “everything” went as planned on this holiday.)
Delta/KLM was our carrier for the entirety. The VIE-AMS segment departs at the ungodly hour of 0655. I find VIE to be a dull airport in the middle of even a busy travel day; in the early morning it is downright depressing. For pre-boarding entertainment (because the flight was completely full) we watched the ground crew stalk anyone and everyone in the waiting area with a duffel or carry-on “requesting” that it be checked. The Type A’s on the flight weren’t too happy with this change in their personal plan.
For this hour+ flight we were offered a simple, from a “UNESCO-heritage protected reclaimed polder (“A Special Place on Earth”) manually-stirred-using artisanal-techniques Beemster cheese, from free-ranging cows in a cooperative of small family farms (“Happy Cows, Better Milk”), on organic bread baked by Carl Siegert,” sandwich. This was just the tip of the virtue-signaling iceberg we were flying towards.
The AMS-DTW connection was surprisingly enjoyable. Either that, or because I had been treated like a princess on Emirates on my Asian hops, I had dialed down my expectations for this Airbus flight. For this flight I requested the “Hindu” meal. Spicy lentils atop fluffy rice; served with a side of non-watery spinach and a fresh fruit salad. I asked the cabin crew member what kind of wine they offered and he responded with, “Red and white.” I chose the white, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in a little plastic bottle. Love the wine you’re with, right?
One documentary (42 Grams) and a nap later, we were landing. In my excitement to exit the plane I left my prescription reading glasses in the seat pocket, and only remembered once I had passed Immigration. Though only 45 minutes had elapsed since I had deplaned, KLM Baggage Services could not check the plane for my glasses because the post-flight security sweep was underway, and advised me to inquire again when I returned for the flight to D.C. Needless to write I never saw my glasses again.
DTW-DCA was brief and uneventful. We had stuffed ourselves with one more Zingermans sandwich before boarding and requested only a beverage for the quick up and down.
The IAD-AMS plane backed away from the gate 10 minutes early. For me, even a 5 minute early departure on a 6.5 hour flight is hopeful. Moments later we pulled back to the gate because the nose wheel had, “struck a foreign object” and needed to be inspected. There we sat for two hours while the nose wheel was replaced and the requisite paperwork completed. I appreciate why we were kept on the plane; what I did not appreciate was only being given one plastic cup of water; certainly there had to have been some of those terrible rosemary crackers they could have tossed at us? But, I did watch “The Post” while waiting to depart. Good, but with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks as the leads my expectations had been set a little higher.
Dinner was unmemorable, something chicken with something like pureed broccoli and potatoes? And a weird salad with cucumbers and artichokes? My tastebuds were still singing from the delicious meals I had enjoyed all week and so did not really notice.
I can sleep on airplanes, even in Economy Comfort, and, apparently even with four excited young women behind me chatting all night long about their first trip to Europe. I feel I am skipping through Florence with them right now, their itinerary having filtered into my subconscious all night long.
Schipol is Schipol. Jack, who has flown this route numerous times, suggested I score a table upstairs in the main concourse and settle in with an Udon bowl from Tiger Noodles for people watching during layovers.The noodles were just the comfort food needed while I scrolled email and news (wearing a pair of “readers” I had snagged at a Walgreen’s on campus. 🙄)
AMS-VIE, the home stretch. One hour+ from wheels up to touchdown, with a little butter cake and cup of water to nosh.
Almost immediately upon entering Detroit’s airport I felt the warm embrace of Midwestern hospitality from my childhood: strangers actually talking to one another in the Immigration queue, myself included; big smiles and polite questions at the rental car desk (“Are you in town for graduation? Go Blue!”) the Block M polo shirt Tony was wearing perhaps being a giveaway. An easy drive to our lodging, The Inn on Ferry Street in Detroit (all of the Ann Arbor hotels we would consider staying at had been booked 11 months prior when we began planning this trip, as one might expect.) The Inn is a collection of five mansions that had previously been owned by turn-of-the-century Detroit industrialists, and all have been exquisitely restored. Ferry Street lies along the urban campus of Wayne State University and though there wasn’t too much of a campus vibe, the area was pleasant and mostly walkable.
In D.C. we rented an apartment in Foggy Bottom with a balcony view of the Watergate Complex, steps from Metro and Whole Foods, and a lovely, lovely place to return at the end of a hot and smarmy D.C. day. My goal was to be entirely reliant on public transportation so that I could fairly compare the experience to Vienna’s system. (Spoiler: I failed twice and used Uber.)
Food notes and impressions, so many impressions, to follow.