For our last night we went to IN’s home town of Cómpeta, to visit with her dad. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to wind up our amazing Andalucian adventure. The next day we left AWB and IN who were heading to Barcelona. We returned the rental car at Malaga airport, and began the voyage home through Lisbon. In Lisbon we said goodbye to CSB, who was returning to Toronto, and made his connection with minutes to spare. Then we waited for our Newark flight.
Arriving at EWR at about 11pm, a couple of hours late, the Nexus kiosks flagged us as needing further inspection, so we lined up to talk to border control. They said we needed to “go to secondary, unfortunately”, which means we were taken to the back room where everyone with dubious documentation waits to talk to another border officer. When our turn came, after waiting about an hour, we were told that we should have had an “exemption” to travel from Europe to the US. We thought we had researched the COVID rules very carefully. We had filled out forms to transit through Portugal. We got our pre-flight COVID tests, and had proof of vaccination with eligible vaccines. We had shown all of this to the inspector who reviewed our documents before boarding the plane in Lisbon.
But apparently we had overlooked a cross reference on the CDC website to a White House list of Presidential proclamations which says that, when traveling from Europe, US residents on temporary work visas (like ours) are subject tot he same rules as European citizens. Which generally means you can’t do it (at least not before the rules would be relaxed on 8 November). There are several “exemptions” to this general rule (for students, academic travel, infrastructure workers etc.), but nothing that would apply to Heidi and me.
So we sat in “secondary” and waited, and waited, and waited while nearly all of the 20 or so other wayward souls were released one by one. Finally, at about 2 am, we were called back to the counter and were handed our passports with an admonition not to travel to Europe again before 8 November. By that time the airport was pretty much shut down. We picked up our bag from the empty luggage hall, and headed to the deserted taxi stand. The dispatcher called for a cab, and eventually we were on our way to Hoboken.
It was a weird ending, but of course it was worth it. Spending a few hours sweating it out in immigration detention was a pretty small price to pay for such a great trip.