Day 16 | Departure homeward bound

This morning we need to do the last bit of packing and leave a tip for the housekeepers. They have looked after us well on this stay. Then we started to do the Tetris thing with our luggage into the car. We came with four people suitcases and hand luggage. When we picked up the car we had a bit of knee loading. On the way back we have three more duffel bags as well. Very tight but using everyone’s ideas we got a good solution.

We went up to reception and checked out. We were hoping to say goodbye to Edwin, the friendly manager of this Super 8 in Long Beach. He was good to us but we also needed to provide a forwarding address for anything, like invoices, that will come from the Hospital. 

Off to Glendale Galleria and lunch at the Cheesecake Factory which seems to have become our departure day tradition. They have a massive menu and we have some time to spare. Lunch was great and we had a walk around the adjacent Americana at Brand. This has a
tram and a musical fountain (not quite Ballagio).  McKay was so impressed he wanted to inquire about leasing opportunities they were advertising at the apartments - which started at $3,600 a month for a one bedroom.

Still having time to kill we decided to have a look at the Citadel Outlets across town, especially the Coach and Levi shops which are usually great. We also need a couple of TSA padlocks for the additional duffel bags. Being so busy we handed the car to the valet dudes (they take it from you at the shops and return it when you return for five bucks).

This is one of the busiest major Outlet stores in LA so it’s like the United Nations of tourism. It is central and adjacent to some major hotels. Indians, Middle Easterners, Australians, and everyone else clamours around.

Taking the car back to National was slow due to the traffic and we needed to find fuel on the way. We had a few re-re-navigations as the first petrol station only sold CNG. Handing the car back was a slick operation and we boarded the bus to LAX.  We would totally recommend National rentals. We’re still about six hours before departure but once sundown hits at five thirty there isn’t much to see.

LAX was pumping and terminal 6 that Qantas uses has recently been refurbished past security. There are upper floors with all the ‘clubs’ and a restaurant. On the main floor you went through a succession of Duty-Free stores before a good variety of food places. We parked up and ate at a Mexican place that had table service, the food was yum (especially the corn chips which are freshly made, light and tasty).

We went through to the gate for the last few hours. The chairs had power outlets and USB’s and we all commenced charging ‘everything’ like everyone else. They also had wifi so everyone could catch up on how the Llama chase in Arizona ended up and what colours that dress
really was. Luckily McKay was on hand to help people get connected ('so you can’t get wifi in airplane mode?').

Getting on the plane was the same shambles as usual. Loading commenced with ‘first and business class, people with children, requiring help and members of our silver, gold and platinum rewards groups’ and a general stampede. Our seats were at the back so we were next on. This, however took a long time as ‘people with children, requiring help and members of our
silver, gold and platinum rewards groups’, apparently about four hundred passengers, blocked the aisles. Rows 70 and 71 were our homes for the next thirteen hours. Back this far you are in the tail section so the seating goes 2-5-2 rather than 3-5-3 and we are in the pairs.  There is a space next to the window. Very nice but we couldn't all get together so the kids are on the left and Rosie and Angus the right of the plane.

Plane queuing at LAX is always a thing and being at night it was neat to see the line-up in the sky coming in and our own queue when we were lifting off. Documentation into Australia now includes an 'Ebola Questionnaire' which captures your seating info. I suppose that’s so
they can quarantine all the adjacent people in case of an outbreak.  Not silly but I’m sure they already have this information.

Dinner/supper was good. Qantas usually does good food but they’ve introduced both a choice and this little tray that doesn’t fit everything you get. So the staff has to assemble every portion separately and apparently a thirteen hour flight is not really long enough to do this twice.

Landing at Brisbane had us buying some duty-free for gifts and into the immigration queue. They have this magic chip-gate system that you can use if you are over 16. It doesn't seem to have made anything quicker. Then into the baggage claim hall. Mysteriously the airport decided that the Customs/AQIS staff were of sufficient numbers for the succession of 747’s coming in. There was a free form conga-line queue in the baggage claim going to the back to the side and around one of the carousels. It was so busy with the backlog that people were panicking because they couldn't get to their bags.

Anger was everywhere and nothing seemed to be moving. The queues were not controlled by the staff but the passengers and people were getting shitty that they had been waiting in what they thought was the queue but wasn't (hard to tell when it doesn't move). One young Australian lady was over all this and demanded from one of the staff to provide the name of his supervisor or manger. He refused to speak with her. An embarrassed Australian is a rare thing. No announcements about this chaos were made. The only announcement was an automated repeat of ‘You are not allowed to use mobile phones in baggage claim, welcome to
Brisbane” like something out of 1984.

Two hours. It took two hours until we were told that our arrival card wasn't processed properly by the immigration people. They accused us of using the chip gate and not keeping the slip and calling us liars.  A tense phone call was made. We were waved out.

It all could have been better handled had they told people it was busy, organised the queue and upped their attitude.  Crazy after watching LAX work (which is renowned as a ‘long wait’ system).  We were embarrassed this was the first impression tourists were given of Brisbane.

Rosie | Cheesecake Factory and Shy ‘our server’
Angus | Americana on Brand
McKay | Window seat
O’Regan | Sleeping on the plane

Highlight of the trip
Rosie | “Two Broke Girls” filming
Angus | The sincere service everywhere
McKay | Watching silly Americans and the things they do
O’Regan | The diversity of the food