Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Tale of Two Terminals

So, I left Las Vegas for San Francisco and the next big travel show: Pow Wow, the annual international marketplace for travel vendors and media organized by the U.S. Travel Association. This entailed a short flight from the desert's neon oasis to the city by the bay.

I got to Vegas's McCarron International Airport ( early after a short taxi ride, so I thought I'd just settle in and wait for my flight. This was a mistake. The food was standardized fast-food grub, the lights and noises of the one-armed bandits - there are, of course, slot machines in the airport, this being Vegas - were non-stop and distracting and 'ere long, I was thoroughly tired of the place. To be fair, Las Vegas airport authorities have big plans to upgrade the busy facility. Right now, they are reopening gates in Concourse C that serve Southwest Airlines that were closed for nearly a year while work went on.

Anxious to move on, I wandered over to the Virgin America boarding gate and asked if I could get on an earlier flight. Turns out, I could. Bliss! The flight was fast and pleasant and almost before I knew it, I was deplaning at San Francisco International Airport's ( just remodeled and reopened terminal 2.

The only problem was I was so early that I wasn't able to leave the airport right away. I would still have to wait, it would just be at SFO instead of Sin City International. That turned out to be just fine.

I settled in with a back issue of The New Yorker, nestled in a Jetsons-style futuristic chair near long tables where passengers fired-up their laptops and just across the aisle from a charging station for electronic devices. I bought a coffee at Peet's, the first-rate, Bay Area-based coffee and tea chain, and proceeded to pass a pleasant hour and a half. The contrast with Las Vegas was striking. SFO's terminal 2- the former international terminal, closed in December 2000 and finally re-opened after an extensive re-do in April of this year - has an almost feline coolness and repose, whereas McCarron conveys the frenetic energy of its home city. SFO was so relaxing, I was in no hurry to leave. When I finally did head for the exits, I passed a museum-quality exhibition of silver jewelry, eyeballed one-of-a-kind food shops of near-artisan qualaity and pulled my wheelie under the natural light that poured in through the skylight overhead.

Like most people, I wouldn't deliberately choose to spend oodles of time in an airport. But if you're going to do that anywhere, SFO - at least the reborn terminal 2 and the handsome, 11-year-old international terminal - is one place to do it.

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