Our Trip to the US During Lockdown

Flexibility is the most important part of a roving retirement, especially during these unusual times. Since we don’t have a home, we must decide in advance where we are going and how long we will be staying. Our trip to the US now was primarily to see and look after our loved ones. The timing was dictated by when the airline flights were available again between France and the US.

Some of our recent articles are: Until We Meet Again, France, Groundhog Day Again Week 4 in Lockdown, and This Week in France – Horse Cart and a Car Crash.

Saturday May 2nd

We planned to pack up and leave Perpignan around 9 am and we actually left around 9:30, pretty much to plan for us.

Our Building in Perpignan

Our drive to Orleans was uneventful and we did pass through some beautiful mountains with magnificent gorges. There are many places to see on a trip in the future. Along the side of the autoroute, there are signs for each town showing in a picture what the town is famous for.

We arrived at our hotel across from the train station in Orleans around 5 pm. Luckily, we were able to walk around the block and find a sandwich place with a takeout service for dinner. The evening went smoothly and in the morning we had a lovely French breakfast complete with delicious croissants and pain au chocolat. Yum. In addition, we still had food with us from Perpignan because we thought getting food on the road might be a little dicey.

Sunday May 3rd

We headed to CDG, the main airport in Paris, where we returned the car and caught our flight for London. There was only one flight to London on British Airways any given day.

Everything went according to plan. Mike dropped me off at the terminal with all of the bags and then went to return the car. He showed up back at the terminal about 45 minutes later. None of the check-in counters were open until about 2 hours before the flight and our flight seemed to be the only one in the entire terminal. The immigration guy did give us a hard time about not having our attestation for travel on a piece of paper rather than electronically but technically, nothing said we needed a form to leave the country. He finally just told us to go, so we moved on quickly before he changed his mind.

The plane left on time with about 15 passengers.

Arrival in London

We arrived in London early and breezed through the empty immigration control. Then we ran into our first glitch. The guy at the check-in desk in Paris had checked our bags all the way through to San Jose but we needed them for our night in London. At baggage claim, also empty, there was a super friendly and helpful baggage agent who helped us retrieve our bags. They said it would take 1/2 an hour but it only took 20 minutes.

The most interesting sight of the day was the taxi stand outside of the arrivals area at Terminal 5 at LHR. There was no one on the entire island and there was only one taxi sitting there. He graciously took us to our Ibis hotel for the night.

Like all Ibis hotels, the room was tiny but they did have a restaurant downstairs open for takeout. I wasn’t hungry but Mike was. He ordered Chicken Makhani with chips because they didn’t have any rice.

Monday May 4th

The big day finally arrived, our flight from LHR to LAX. We ordered a ride back to Terminal 5 and checked our bags back in. A few weird things happened after that:

  • Business Class special screening was totally ignored
  • We had to take ALL liquids out of our carry-ons, even my 1/4 ounce bottles of vitamin C for my face. (That was a first)
  • There was no immigration check to leave the country or questions for entering the US. 

We took the train to the gate area and promptly went to wash our hands, which I did at least 5 times during the day with a few hand-sanitizer uses in between for good measure. They didn’t bother boarding the entire 40 or so passengers until 1/2 an hour before the departure time.

Our Flights to LAX

We had read that there would be limited food on the plane but British Airlines took that to an extreme. Our lunch was a sack with 1/2 of a cheese and pickle sandwich, that I didn’t eat, some cookies, candy, and a bottle of water. We were able to get Diet Coke, coffee, or tea but no liquor on the flight. About two hours before landing, we got a microwaved cheese Pizza and more candy. I must have been pretty hungry because I thought the pizza was really good but Mike said it was pretty mediocre. ?

Airplane food

Arrival at LAX

Overall, we were happy there was a flight and we arrived at LAX about 1/2 an hour early. We had filled out a form on the plane that asked us if we had been to Wuhan China or Iran in the last two weeks and if we felt sick in the last 2 days. It also asked where we were staying for our 2 weeks of self-isolation. We gave my mother’s address in San Jose because that was technically the first place we were stopping.

Before we exited the jetway, we turned in our forms and answered the same questions again, but they didn’t take our temperatures. We were handed a large postcard that mentioned self-isolation but that was it. This process didn’t make me feel very safe but then we always figured we were safer staying in France. Still, we needed to get back to the Bay Area for our families.

Global entry was a breeze and the bags popped out right away. Unfortunately, the baggage recheck after customs was closed so we had to lug our bags to the Alaska terminal on the shuttle bus and get them checked in yet again. LAX was also mostly empty but not as empty as the European airports. Again, TSA Pre meant nothing at security but they were pretty quick. Then we sat at the gate for two hours waiting for the final leg of our journey. The flight to San Jose went off without a hitch and the bags at SJC came out quicker than I had ever seen them come out.

Arriving in San Jose

We walked across the street to the ride-sharing pickup area and ordered a Lyft. But when the driver got there, in his late-model Toyota Camry, he said that his trunk wasn’t big enough for our 3 bags and just drove off. So I ordered an Uber while Mike worked on getting the cancellation fee refunded from Lyft. The Uber car that picked us up was a really nice Toyota SUV so there was no issue with the luggage.

Next stop, my mom’s house to pick up a car and our extra suitcase. Then we made a grocery run and got to our rented condo just before 8 pm. We got all of our stuff in, had a bite to eat, and went to bed. We are truly happy to tell you all that our trip went off without a hitch.

Tuesday May 5th

Today wasn’t much different than our days in France. In the morning, we went for a walk around our temporary neighborhood and most importantly identified a Chinese restaurant that we can order from in the coming days. There were some foods that Mike said he was looking forward to having when we got back and one of them was American Chinese food. Actually, he said he was dreaming about what he would eat when we got back to the Bay Area.

Can you guess what else he is craving?

We also started reaching out to our friends. We have concluded that there wasn’t much risk from traveling because we were practically by ourselves the entire time and we smelled bleach everywhere so the hotels and the airlines are doing a good job cleaning everything. Of course, we continue to wash our hands often.

Wednesday May 6th

Today I woke up at about 11 am, so apparently I was pretty tired. Our activity for today was a trip to the Dollar Tree because our rented condo is missing some critical kitchen stuff, like a cheese grater, a vegetable peeler, a vegetable steamer, and some spoons that are bigger than a teaspoon. I was again pretty tired after our outing but I didn’t take a nap.

We really weren’t too surprised when at about 7 pm, after our takeout Chinese dinner, we both got hit with jetlag. Mike decided to try to take a nap, which I didn’t think would work and I fell asleep on the couch. I woke up at about 10 till 9 and went in and woke Mike up. So much for a nap, because we both got into bed at that point and managed to stay awake until 9:30 before we went to sleep again.

I’m guessing the same “7 pm, fall over” pattern will repeat itself for a few more days.

Thursday May 7th

We both woke up at a reasonable hour today so we decided to go for a big walk this morning. My knee has stopped hurting since we returned from France, for which I am very thankful. The bed in our condo here is also much better than the bed in France so I feel better in the morning than I have for a while.

Everything relative to the stay at home orders is much more laid back here than in France. A lot of restaurants are open for takeout so I don’t have to cook as much as I did in France. We will be eating in tonight though because we got takeout last night. We are trying to limit our “eating out” to every other day.

Right now, I need to get this article posted but all I really want to do is take a nap. I wonder which activity will win out.

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  1. Welcome home. Good to know the airlines are doing a thorough job of cleaning the plane. The so-called business class food looks downright pathetic. Still, you had flown 3 segments and are safely home. Get lots of rest and hope to hear from you guys soon.

  2. … “figured we were safer staying in France.” Wonder why. Good to have you back though. Enjoy your time here!

  3. Glad you made it back safely. Had to chuckle about the immigration guy and leaving before he changed his mind. A bored immigration guy is a dangerous immigration guy! 😉 Also, what’s up with the Lyft driver – just drove off. Anyway, enjoy being back home.

  4. The Lyft guy roll down his passenger window, looked at our bags and then said no, before driving off.

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