There’s No Place Like Home
Visit To San Diego
If the regular visitors to my blog have been wondering about the lack of activity the last couple of weeks, this has been due to the fact that I have been in San Diego. My mom recently celebrated her 77th birthday and I wanted to be in town to celebrate.
Sorry that I do not have many pictures of the egress, as it is usually a logistical undertaking in itself trying to get ourselves and all our bags to the airport. So this post is primarily the introduction of the following articles and a narrative of our trip the US. It is rather strange that these articles will mostly be to help Korea’s and other foreigners who are thinking about visiting the US, instead of for expats and people thinking about visiting Korea.
I booked our tickets on Korean Air flight 15 in economy class and we were scheduled to depart Incheon at 11:30am. We got into a taxi at 0810 to check it at Seoul Station. I have mentioned in previous blogs that I just love the Airport Railway Express (AREXX). We arrived at the airport at approx. 830 to begin check in. Not sure what was going on this morning as we were informed by a very harried ticket agent that we were cutting our check in time really close, and next time to arrive earlier. Which I did not understand, since the normal minimal check in time for an international flight is normally between 2 – 3 hours. Mi Jung said the reason that was given was that they needed more time to get our bags to the airport. Not sure how true this is. As this is my third time using the City check in / ARREX, and the first time this was mentioned.
My bag was of course selected for special screening as my shaving cream can looked like an aerosol can. This is not really a big deal, the security screeners are polite and proficient. It did have the added bennifit of being an overly air conditioned room, as it was so warm and humid the day we left, I was sweating like a pig at the ticket counter! With my shaving kit examined, it was time to continue the check-in process, clear immigration and head out to the airport, some other words of advice. If you have a frequent flier profile with Korean Air (Or other airlines), make sure your name on record is complete, correct, and transfers properly to your reservation. I failed to notice that my middle name did not get transferred to the reservation and was also informed by the check in agent that I might have problems in Los Angeles for the return flight, again this is not something I have had an issue with, so it was a surprise when it came up!
We boarded our flight for our 11 and half hour crossing of the pacific. I was shocked just how much economy class has changed over the years! Man those seats have gotten smaller, and it wasn’t so much that we did not have leg room, but the seats have gotten so narrow that your just crammed between two people! The other thing that I noticed was that there was a line for the lavatory the entire flight! There were 2 lavatories forward of economy class, and 6 aft. I remember on the 747s there were 6 lavatories in between each section. It definitely is sad to see the more comfortable wide bodies such as the 747 go out of favor for the more economical though cramped twin engine wide bodies like the 777-300 that we were on.
We landed in LAX at around 0710. Mi Jung and I had to split up going through immigration as she had to go through the ESTA line. For the Koreans reading this traveling on a tourist VISA, please note that even though South Korea is VISA Waiver country, you still need to complete the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) form and pay the application fee of $14. The application may be completed, submitted, and paid for online at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/ . It takes about 24 – 48 hours to receive approval. Going through immigrations and customs in LAX is normally a nightmare which takes about 90 minutes to 2 hours to get through. I do not know if it was because we arrived on one of the first flights in the morning, or if LAX has finally gotten their act together, but the process was surprisingly efficient and painless! It look us about 30 minutes to get through and we met again at the baggage claim with no problems. Due to getting separated in Seattle, I printed a diagram of the arrival hall, and laid out a contingency plan that if we get separated at any point of the arrival process to just get your bags, and head out to the meeting place. If you are traveling with a group this is something you might want to consider doing. If you are traveling with your family, the head of the family handles all of the documents and the family goes up together.
The next phase of the arrival was to take the FlyAway bus to AMTRAKs Union Station and take the Pacific Surfliner to San Diego’s Santa Fe Station. Tickets for the FlyAway bus are $9.75 per person and can be purchased and printed in advance. Otherwise you board the bus at LAX, and pay when you arrive at Union Station. Click HERE to purchase the tickets online. (http://www.lawa.org/FlyAway/content.aspx?id=15305). Simply follow the airport signs for ground transportation once exiting customs, cross the center island and you will see the signs for the FlyAway bus. NOTE: Make sure you are boarding the correct FlyAway, as other AMTRAK/MetroLink stations are serviced. Other buses may drive past the stop, or they may only be dropping off! Do NOT be alarmed, the bus for Union Station will arrive eventually.
We arrived at Union Station and had a 2 hour wait to board our train. We booked business class seats, and were expecting to be able to sleep for our 3 hour trip to San Diego. I am normally a fan of Amtrak, and have always enjoyed the service on the Pacific Surfliner. This trip however was less then enjoyable! Prepare yourself for one of those funny travel anecdotes you have come to expect from the travel blogs on Brent’s World. I do not know if there was a sudden planetary alignment shift, or if it was just karma. When we touched down in LA, I commented to Mi Jung, “The conditions may have been cramped, but at least we didn’t have any screaming babies.” When will I learn to just keep my mouth shut? The entire trip from Union Station to San Diego, we had to contend with a group of obnoxious screaming, cackling 4 year olds, who ran up and down the isles the entire trip. I have never been one to complain about babies, and children in premium class on transportation, and I do not know if it was my jet lag addled brain, but I just wanted to SCREAM! To add insult to injury, I chose seats right under the PA speaker, and our conductor wanted to talk the ENTIRE trip south. Mi Jung and I should have just given up and moved back to economy class. Amtrak did not win any points with me on this trip!
We arrived at Santa Fe station and was surprisingly met by my mom!! Oh what a great feeling to get hugged on the platform! This was definitely a moment I would have loved to have had my camera out, but again impossible on the platform.
We already had arrangements to be met by my biological mother Kathy, and had no way of contacting her to tell her that my mom had decided to surprise us, so we promised to stop by the house later that evening if we were still conscious and headed off for a quick lunch at Gaglione Bros. sandwiches and to pick up our rental car.
Another helpful note: We rented from Enterprise Car Rental on Pacific Highway (thinking this would be close to the Amtrak Station.). What we did not know is that there is a new car rental center right across the street from San Diego International Airport that would have been better for returning the car when it was time to fly out.
Thanks for reading our departure stories, I will be adding more blogs, with restaurant reviews from San Diego soon. So stay tuned!