Day 16: The Longest Day

Starting promptly at about 10am. We got out of bed, and headed down to the bakery at street level. Chocolate cupcakes, chocolate croissants, etc. Lots of delicious calories, easily carried around while we walked.

We have most of the day here in Copenhagen. Our flight is scheduled to leave at 6:05 pm, so we’re planning on heading that way somewhere around 4:00. After picking up breakfast, we worked our way over to a bus stop, about half a mile away, to get over to the dock where the canal tours operated.

You saw a picture of one of the big canal tour boats last time. While we could have taken one of those tours, we decided to do something a little different. Instead of a quick tour along a pre-defined route with a bunch of other tourists, we checked out “Hey Captain“, a new outfit doing tours on a boat that seats 10. They advertised that you control the route, and it also includes free drinks, including probably the best beer in the world. At least that’s the claim of Carlsberg.

We purchased our tickets for a tour starting at 12:30. It’s more expensive than the big boats, at about $60 for the two of us, but we liked the approach. Estimated at an hour and a half, we figured that gave us plenty of time afterwards to get ready to head to the airport.

With about an hour to kill, we simply wandered around a very nice part of town. Lots of canals, boats, lively crowds, food, and so on. Back at the dock, it was time to board. We were there a little early, and first to hop on.

We were joined by a younger mother and her two kids, from the UAE, and three middle-aged ladies on vacation from Brazil, that seemed to be having a good time already. Our captain welcomed us, poured wine for the ladies, and handed out canned beer and soda to the rest of us.

Before I show all of the pictures from the tour, I have to clarify something. I was not trying to take pictures of the ladies on the tour with us. In fact, I didn’t even notice them in my pictures until afterwards. But since I find some of the expressions and framing humorous, I share those photos uncropped for you to enjoy as well. Here goes:

It was about 2:00 after finishing the tour. I should point out that we’d been out and about without all of our bags–unlike a hotel where there’s usually a pre-defined check-out time, our hosts offered to let us wait until late afternoon to leave. We headed back to the apartment, showered, and packed.

We walked a block or so to the east to a little fast food sort of place to get a light lunch, then hopped on the metro for the airport, arriving at about 3:30. Getting to our gate was a breeze, with no lines at all going through security and overly pleasant conversation with the ladies getting us through. Like everyone else we encountered in Copenhagen, they seemed to be enjoying life.

Our flight ended up leaving a little bit behind schedule. Instead of 6:05, it was 6:45 when we departed. We weren’t too worried, as we had an hour and a half on the itinerary to make the connection in an airport that wasn’t very big.

Arriving in Keflavic, and Leaving Schengen

The sign in Copenhagen says it all. We’d been through customs/immigration checkpoints entering the UK, and again entering Brussels, but since then we’d traveled through 6 countries without such a check. Even at the airports, we simply scanned our passports ourselves to get through turnstiles at security checkpoints.

But this time, our connection in Iceland meant that we were leaving the Schengen Area, which is a group of countries that allow unrestricted travel across their borders under an agreement that started with France and West Germany in 1985. We got off our 3-hour flight from Copenhagen, and with a relatively short connection decided to get to our gate before searching for food and restroom. As we rounded the corner heading toward “D” gates, we encountered a long line of people waiting to show their passports to government officials in glass boxes. Keep calm, and expect to wait.

Fortunately, the line was moving fairly quickly. Interestingly, there were 3 customs agents, and one local police officer checking passports. After showing ours, we continued to a set of automated gates where we were prompted to scan our passports. Andrew scanned his, got a green light, and the gates opened. I scanned mine, got a red light, and the attendant at the end of the row informed me that the U.S. TSA had randomly selected me for additional screening. Andrew and I were separated, without me getting a chance to let him know where I was headed.

Great–2,600 miles from the USA, and my tax dollars are still being used to inconvenience me in the name of security charades. I’m instructed to proceed into a windowless room and take a seat. I was starting to get concerned about making the flight. We were fortunate we had a way to communicate–he and I both had internet access, courtesy of the EE SIM card I bought in London. He was able to connect, and sent me a message at 8:24 pm telling me he’d meet me at the gate. Keep in mind our flight is supposed to leave in 46 minutes, and I have no idea how long this extra screening is going to take.

I messaged Andrew to tell him it was TSA screening that was the hold-up. Something of a relief I suppose, as it meant that I wasn’t being accused of something or at the hands of foreign government officials. I still had my phone in hand, able to communicate outside the windowless room filled with other mostly-American travelers.

Slowly, people were called by name as if reporting to their proctologist, disappearing into the next room. Andrew sent me this photo, asking what I wanted to eat:

Cold sandwiches and wraps, and not exactly cheap. At 8:28, I had finally been called for what amounted to quickly taking my shoes off while an American TSA agent gave my bag a cursory look. No X-ray, no looking inside, just a waste of time. I let Andrew know I was on my way down, and met him in a line that spanned the entire shop. For whatever reason (duty-free?), everyone had to show their passport as part of checking out, so it was slow moving.

I held our place in line, while Andrew went to see if a newsstand had any snacks or drinks. He found Twix. Not exactly enough for dinner, so I continued to wait. Andrew headed for the gate, to see where things stood in the boarding process. I stood in line, where a monitor over the checkouts showed our flight at the top of the list, with the words “FINAL CALL” flashing next to it.

At 8:40, the boarding process was nearly finished. A message from Andrew said, “I’m here. It’s going to be close.” I was about to put stuff back, but I knew he was hungry, and I certainly would be before landing in Newark. His next message, before I could respond, was, “See if you can get through the line.”

Is he really willing to roll the dice, potentially leaving me stuck in Iceland, so he doesn’t have to pay in-flight prices for a snack? I continued to wait, eventually paying for our food and making a run for the gate. Andrew was standing with the gate agent, who promptly ushered us on board, with the door closed right behind us. What seemed like forever was less than 20 minutes from passport check to the gate. The flight pushed back from the gate 22 minutes ahead of schedule.

Scheduled flight time of 6 hours and 15 minutes should have us on the ground at 11:25, earlier if our early departure does any good. During the flight, we ate our snacks, and Andrew even spent $4 for a bottle of water. Neither of us was particularly sleepy during the flight.

Arriving in Newark

It didn’t. We arrived at 11:45. Our plan had been to take advantage of Enrollment on Arrival for TSA’s Global Entry program, according to information TSA had been pestering us with regularly since we applied. We made our way to the customs line for that purpose, and got a confusing mix of answers from the two people on duty (one of them a Global Entry official in a poorly-fitted suit). One said that enrollment required an appointment, the second one said the first could do it. Eventually, they determined that they could have done it, but we were now past the hours of operation for that process. We showed our passports and proceeded to customs without having been enrolled.

I suppose that was fitting for an airport with an odd smell and stained carpet everywhere…

We took our already-completed customs declarations to the customs officials, who didn’t even turn the form to see if we were declaring anything. It was simply tossed in a box. We could have wandered in with just about anything in our bags based on the scrutiny we were seeing. We headed outside to the bus pickup area, where we waited for scheduled bus service into New York City where we had reserved a hotel room.

When the bus’s scheduled time came and went, we started looking at other options. There was a shuttle service, but we would have probably been toward the end of the route. It was getting late (nearly morning by Copenhagen time), and we were ready to be done for the day. Andrew had a ride-sharing credit with one of his credit cards, and a Lyft ride was about the same price as two shuttle tickets. We were on our way within a few short minutes, and at our hotel by about 1:15 am.

We booked a fairly cheap ($109) hotel room while we were waiting to board in Copenhagen, similar to how we made most of our hotel arrangements, this time using Hotels.com. The room was at Hotel Newton, a century-old nine-story hotel on the upper-west-side, on Broadway just a couple of blocks from the middle of Central Park.

It took me a bit to find some history on the hotel, built in 1902. From the outside, it looks much the same. Too bad the rates had changed just a bit:

1919 New York Times ad for the hotel we were staying in. There’s still an express line a block away, which we would use in the morning.

Fortunately, while the room wasn’t necessarily anything impressive, it did include microwave and refrigerator, and a roomy walk-in shower. And, for the first time since leaving Cincinnati, we’d be sleeping in air conditioning!

After plugging in all of our electronics, we were out pretty quickly.

 
Today 0 mi 3,928 mi 22.1 mi 1.7 mi
Total 2,719.7 mi 8,214 mi 166.4 mi 60.4 mi

*Includes water taxi (0.9 mi), canal tour (2.2 mi) and Lyft rides (13.5 mi)


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