Friday, 17 October: Getting home
Walking back and forth through our hotel's parking lot every day, I had spotted a little kiosk in one corner labeled "Qingdao Airport Express," and sometimes, a bus with the same sign was parked next to it. On closer study, its signage seemed to say that it departed every 30 minutes, all day, so I made a point of going down there one day near a posted departure time to talk to the lady in the kiosk (she was only there for about 10 minutes before each departure). Her English was redimentary, but this was the one subject she had the vocabular for. Sure enough, every 30 minutes, at quarter past and quarter of the hour; takes an hour and costs a small fraction of the taxi fare. No reservations needed; pay on the bus.
The hotel was very helpful about letting us spend most of our left-over cash toward the price of the room, then cover the rest with a credit card, so after one more shot at that terrific breakfast buffet, we trundled our luggage down the parking lot and past the the taxi stand to the bus kiosk. As promised, bor a small fee, they took us straight to the airport and dropped us at the terminal we needed.
At the airport, we found all the usual upscale clothing stores and gleaming duty-free assortments, but the most popular food items were once again the dried seafoods. At the left here is a small part of a large bank of bins filled with different dried fish and invertebrates, relieved only by one corner shelf that had been taken over by rows and rows of Ritter Sport chocolate bars.
These items weren't refrigerated, but in an adjacent refrigerator case, I found these colorful, butterflied, shrink-wrapped squid, each one maybe a foot long.
Of all the seafood, though, the most popular were clearly the sea cucumbers. Here's just one of many cases filled with gift assortments of dried sea cucumbers, in a variety of sizes and grades. Having no idea what to do with them (and a fairly strong presentiment of the USDA's feelings on the matter), I didn't buy any.
We had some trouble finding anything to eat for lunch. Even the sandwiches at Starbucks had lettuce in them. Finally we found a coffee shop selling these croissants. The labels were underneath, so we thought we were just getting plain croissants with our bottles of Evian, but lo and behold, when we turned them over, we found that they had ham and cheese baked inside. Excellent.
When the time for our flight arrived, we reported to the China East counter to check in and were delighted to find that the space between velvet ropes that was reserved for first and business classes (which we weren't, alas) included two tiny wicker tea tables with chairs, for the comfort of those waiting in line!
Our flights home were more or less routine (though very long, of course), but were delayed, so we got into Atlanta very late. As planned, we checked into the nearby Motel 6 for the night but were too tired to go out for anything to eat (they fed us on the plane). Because of the date line, we made up the day we lost going over—we left Qingdao in the early afternoon on Friday and arrived in Atlanta the same Friday evening.
The next morning, Saturday, as planned, we caught an early flight to Tallahassee, and I was delighted to learn that that day's FSU football game against Notre Dame was scheduled for 8 p.m., so we had time to go home and wash up! David elected to stay home and sleep, but I went on over to the game as usual—I didn't bother to pack a tailgate picnic; I just bought a barbecue sandwich, boiled peanuts, and a funnel cake at the stadium. (I won't get another funnel cake there; I used to love them, but the department of health has recently declared that they must all be baked rather than fried, then barely reheated in a toaster oven—tough, soggy, and dreadful.)
The game was a heartstopper, which FSU finally won in the last few seconds (the story of this whole season!). After that, I went home and slept for about 12 hours.
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