Friday, July 1, 2011

Formally inducted into the "Horror Travel Stories" club.

Sometimes when you think nothing else can go wrong, you soon realize it can.
This is an account of our journey home starting Saturday June 25th.
We woke up in Rome, pack up our bags, cleaned a little, and checked out of our adorable little apartment in Roma. Looking back the following decision may have been stupid... but we gave all of our bags (except our passport and train passes) to the lady we were renting the apartment from to keep in her car while we roamed around Rome for the day before our train left that night at 8.
**Side note** European trains don't run on time. At least the overnight ones don't. So we were prepared for delay. Which we encountered.
Spending the night in the train was alright (better than our journey there, at least). We were really sad to miss lunch with our friend W because of our lateness. We headed straight to Charles De Gaulle airport (because we are poor college students who became more poor in Europe) to spend the night. Please note that we arrived there at 2pm on Sunday and camped out waiting for our plane that left Monday at 8am.
It was about 10-hours (mid-night) the Irene came back from a bathroom walk and told us that our flight through Icelandic Air was cancelled. Since this news was directly after an exchange of hilarious stories and embarrassing moments... we didn't believe her. It took about ten minutes for everything to set into my mind, but little did I know that was just the beginning.
Around 2 am D, E, and I walked around the concourse looking for Icelandic Air just to see what time an attendant would be there. Oddly enough, we couldn't find where they were located. We asked a man and we couldn't understand him, so we decided to just get as much sleep as we could, wake up early, and begin figuring everything out. It was 4am that the lights came on in the airport and we couldn't sleep any longer. After asking several people, we found out that we had to go to this makeshift place where we could rebook our tickets. Surely, we thought, there was just not many people booked on the early flight, so they would just stick us on the later flight.
When we got to the line that labeled our desk on printer paper there were others there camped out on seats already in line. It took only five minutes to listening to what they had to say to be completely overwhelmed, stressing out, and on the brink of tears. They said they've been stuck in Paris for two days because Icelandic Air is currently undergoing a strike. Most flights have been cancelled, and the company has contracted one person in CDG to rebook every single person. The computer was old, no one would answer questions, and they were less than sympathetic. So, we waited. We ere warned to be aggressive as people began to wander to the counter and take our spots.
At one point, Irene was leading the pack and a French couple walked up next to us and stood there. We were only about 2 people away from being at the front of the line... and the line itself extended quite far behind us at this point. At first, Irene scooted up. And then they came close to us (obviously with the intentions of cutting us). Irene then leaned over and put her arm on the desk counter (making it even more obvious that we weren't letting them in). As they proceeded to get close she just hopped up and sat on the desk counter. That-a-girl. The French lady asked E a question about the line, and with no sleep and a slightly stressed out E just stared blankly at the lady and pointed to the back of the line. It pretty much made my day.
We a little relieved when we got tickets (after about 2 hours of waiting) through Air France. We were headed to Montreal that afternoon. Hesitant about checking our bags, we waited in a terribly long line to check in and get our tickets, only to find out at border/customs that we had to check our bags (except Irene slipped in with hers... sneaky little girl). E and I manned Daniel with our carry-on, and waited 40 more minutes to check our bag. We met up, and wait another hour to get through customs. Oh yea, I forgot to mention that when we checked in to get our tickets, they put Irene on a wait list for our flight. With a little layover in Montreal to get to JFK, we couldn't afford for her to be put on another flight. Daniel was going to offer his seat, and then we decided that if he was going to offer his seat, I may as well give mine up as well (we married kids gotta stick together).
Luckily, after standing in hours of more lines, Irene got on. Praise the Lord. Home free, right? No more problems!
Except that we missed our connection flight in Montreal because we were delayed in Paris (CDG strike). Awesome. I know. Still operating on 2 hours of sleep and a millions pounds of stress, we were re-ticketed to LaGuardia. While we were thankful to be headed to the U.S., E and Irene were not going to be able to make their connecting flight from JFK (where we were suppose to initially arrive) to Denver. Not to mention that their flights from JFK to Denver were book at different times, so neither Air France nor Air Canada could help them. As we when through border control at Canada, got our bags, checked back into Air Canada, and went through U.S. customs, we were running for our plane to the U.S (at first the lady said that Irene and E could not check in because they were too late, and so Daniel and I went on, but the lady was on crack and got them on the same flight anyways).
So there we were in New York LaGuardia when we should have been at JFK 8 hours earlier. Still with only about 3 hours of sleep under us, tired, hungry, stressed, and E and Irene without a plane to Denver. Through they talked with Jet Blue reps, it became clear that they would have to travel to JFK and wait in more lines before figuring something out. Daniel and grabbed a taxi and made a crazy journey to Queens where we would sleep and get up for our morning flight to Indianapolis.
Periodic texts from Irene and E told us that they were waiting in ridiculously long lines, fighting with people getting to Puerto Rico, and just trying to make it through the day without collapsing. It wasn't until around 11pm that we got news that they were able to get on a flight at 4pm the next day arriving in Denver (with a layover) late late that night. Poor girls. We thought they were just cuddled up in the airport or another sleepless night. In the morning we found that they decided to get a hotel for the night so that they could get some sleep.
As I write this we are about to land in Indianapolis. we have sad hearts knowing our dear friends are still waiting for their flight to Denver. We are, however, thankful that everyone is getting home. We didn't have to stay another night in Paris, we have all of our luggage, we were never pick pocketed (that we know of...), and we still all look back with fondness of our adventure in Europe.
Stay tuned as more stories and pictures come trickling in about our trip through Europe. E is going to write about the Louvre, and d'Orsay and D is going to be writing about the BMW Museum. I plan on posting a few more things from Rome and an overall "Lessons Learned" blurb from all of us.
Thanks to our family and friends (and friends who are family) who have supported us through the planning process and transition period. In the midst of traveling the world we missed home dearly because of you.