No matter how you do it, it's a long ride between Australia and North America. Our itinerary was complicated by the fact that our eventual award trip home only encompassed flights from Sydney to San Francisco via Brisbane on Virgin Australia and United, requiring us to buy flights on Alaska onward to Vancouver, where our car was parked.
Our trip started with a relatively short 90-minute flight between Sydney and Brisbane on Virgin Australia after spending a couple of pleasant hours in the VA Domestic Lounge at SYD.
We overnighted at the Accor Pullman Hotel at BNE before catching a (paid) shuttle to the international terminal the following morning to board our United Polaris flight to San Francisco.
We landed at SFO roughly 12 hours later, a bit early, at about 6:00 AM PDT. US Immigration only opens at 6:00 AM, so oddly enough there was a large rush of passengers from a variety of flights that obviously landed around the same time, and even the Global Entry line took us 30-40 minutes to navigate.
From there we decided to stretch our legs with a walk to Terminal 2, where we cleared security and entered the pleasant Alaska Lounge, largely deserted on this Sunday morning. The barista-made Cappucinos were hot and delicious. The second round tasted as good as the first.
We were both feeling tired, having not slept as well as we would have hoped on the long BNE-SFO leg. Still, we got our second wind and enjoyed the fact that we were in first class on all three of the Alaska flights taking us from San Francisco to Portland to Seattle to Vancouver. We had sufficient time to visit the lounges at PDX and SEA before finally landing at YVR. Below are photos of the busy PDX Lounge.
Along with that almost obligatory photo of Mount Baker on our SEA-YVR flight, Kathy managed to snap a photo of our eventual destination, Birch Bay Village, as we flew over it, the first time ever we've caught such a shot. We can see exactly where our house is, at the lower right corner of the somewhat anvil-shaped (Aladdin’s Lamp-shaped?) lake toward the bottom of the photo.
It was a lovely evening to approach Richmond BC and land at YVR.
The immigration lines there weren't long, and it only took an extra minute in the NEXUS line to insert our passport photos for future photo identification. Thank you, Big Brother!
From there it was a quiet Sunday evening drive home down Highway 99, punctuated only by spotting a car at the side of the northbound lanes fully engulfed in flame - an electric vehicle? We checked Canadian news sources over the next couple of days and saw nothing.
In any event, we were home safely with memories of another great trip to Australia. We've already signed up tentatively for Oz Fest 2024, to be held in Cairns, and taking naps every day until further notice.