Frank in France #22 July 27, 2021

Frank Varney

Frank in France #22 July 27, 2021

4 mins
July 28, 2021

The last time we visited family and friends in Wisconsin was in July 2018. I couldn’t return in 2019 due to limited finances and of course the summer of 2020 was a wash due to the pandemic. Thanks to the COVID vaccine, we were able to travel this summer with relative peace of mind.

Living in the center of France, when we travel to the U.S., it’s normally quite a journey because we have to get to Paris for our outbound flight. Since we were flying out early Friday morning, we took the French equivalent to Greyhound to the airport and stayed in a hotel the evening before.

Happy to be beginning our journey to the U.S. (Photo by Frank Varney)
My little angel standing in front of an art installation at the Chicago airport. (Photo by Frank Varney)

We were up quite early on Friday morning to have breakfast and to get to the terminal before our 10 a.m. flight. Since we were flying through Dublin, Ireland, getting to the gate was relatively quick because we didn’t need to go through American customs.

Our plane ended up being an hour late, which was stressful because we only had an hour between connecting flights in Dublin. Sure enough, when we arrived in Dublin a little over an hour later, we were late for our connecting flight to Chicago. Thankfully there were quite a few of us on board who were connecting to Chicago, so they were holding the flight for us.

We hurried off the plane and were guided through the airport by airport staff to ensure that we arrived more quickly to the awaiting plane. That meant going through Irish Customs and Security. As most of you are likely aware, more than 3.5 ounces of liquids are not allowed on planes, so for people like me who travel with a water bottle, we go through security with an empty bottle and then fill it once past security. Except that we were in such a hurry to get to our connecting flights that several of us forgot to empty our bottles! That meant being flagged for extended screening, which of course took extra time.

Oliver was very happy to find his favorite American beverage. (Photo by Frank Varney)
Like his Dad, Oliver supports small businesses. (Photo by Frank Varney)

Once past the Irish Customs and Security, we had to go through American Customs and Security to get on the plane. As my luck would have it, I was selected for Secondary Security Screening Selection, a randomly chosen procedure that requires a more in-depth security screening. Just what I needed when we were already late for our connecting flight!

The procedure requires a thorough physical pat down; opening all my carry-on luggage; testing my personal belongings for explosives residue; and finally, checking that all my electronics are real by having me turn them on. Happily, this didn’t take that long, and the security team was aware of the awaiting plane. I got through relatively quickly and we were finally on the plane.

The U.S. borders are officially closed to foreign travelers, but we were able to cross because we are U.S. citizens. I think it’s because of this restriction that the plane was not even 25% full. This allowed us to stretch out and take up extra space, and to take a nap on the four center seats in an empty row. It was a great flight.

One of the highlights of grocery shopping in the U.S.: the cereal aisle! (Photo by Frank Varney)

Since arriving, we’ve been able to visit with quite a few dear friends and family members. We were in Milwaukee for the first few days visiting friends that I met during my various studies at Carroll College and UW-Milwaukee as well as a close friend with whom I went to high school.

Then we traveled north to visit family for a few days before heading off to Minneapolis (where I am writing this column) for the weekend to visit another close friend and her family. Last night we attended the Minneapolis Aquatennial, a festival to celebrate “The City of Lakes” (Minneapolis’ nickname). There were food trucks, live music, and an incredible fireworks show, which makes up for us not having been able to see fireworks on July 4th nor on July 14th!

In a couple of days, we’ll be back in the O-W area visiting family and friends. I’ll also be at the O-W Farmers Market on Saturday, July 31, where I will give a presentation at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. about life as an expat. I’m hoping to be able to bake some French pastries to sell, but the logistics are proving to be complicated. I’ll do my best. 

I hope to see you next Saturday!

Having fun at the Minneapolis Aquatennial. (Photo by Frank Varney)

This article was orginally reported by
Frank Varney