Saturday, April 16, 2011

Volcanic ash revisited, Part 3-D

Continuation from Volcanic ash revisited, Part I and Part II)

Ok, it just seems like every movie with a third part makes it 3D, so I could resist. This is the third and final post on the trip, also called (in FRIENDS fashion) The One Where We Got Home.

So if you read the other parts, you know that we are "stuck" in Paris with no way to get home. Volcanic ash has been spewing from an Iceland volcano and all air travel is canceled. At one point during the weekend, we were actually stuck in a small town not knowing how we were going to get back even to Paris.

The fact is, we had planned to be in Ireland by Monday, and we had a flight scheduled from Cork to Atlanta on Wednesday. It was also suspended, but we hoped it might open up at some point. You cannot imagine the crazy thoughts that were going through our minds as we tried to find a creative way home. Here is just one example of the wild plans we were batting around: We would take a train to the coast of France, catch a ferry to England, take a train to Liverpool, and from there catch a ferry across to Dublin, where we could then take a train or rental car to Cork and fly home from there. Look at a map - that is c-r-a-z-y! But we were desperate.

When we finally resolved ourselves to the fact that such a nutty plan (dragging luggage around at that!) wouldn't work because of the ferry schedule, we settled into Paris, waiting for the ash to lift and flights to open up. I called my boss and he said, well, you can't help it so you night as well enjoy it. If you say so, I thought. What an awful fate, right?

By Monday there was speculation that air travel might begin again by Friday, so we did two things.
  • First, we started making plans of what we might do while we were trapped. Maybe Versailles? Or a train to the south of France (trains inside countries were running)? Lots of bread, cheese, onion soup and creme brulee for sure. Yeah, we were getting used to the idea. Ummm, reluctantly. Yeah.
  • Second, the leader of our travel team (I'll call him Bill, because that's his name) was calling Delta trying to set something up. He's a platinum Skymiles member, so he had a phone number where you actually didn't have to wait 45 minutes to get a real person on the phone. It turned out that they thought travel would resume by Friday. Bill got us booked on a Friday flight. Three more days in France first though. Awww.
So there we were Tuesday morning. Bill got up early to go to the airline office, planning to stand in line and get us confirmed seat assignments for our Friday flight. The rest of us? Well, we slept a little late and were sitting around eating a leisurely breakfast. and planning our day.


Phone rings. It's Bill. He asks, "How quickly can you pack? There's a small break in the cloud and Delta is letting one flight out today. I've got us on it, if you can get there on time."

Wow, talk about sudden change! We're all scrambling to our rooms and stuffing stuff in our bags as fast as we can. I promise, we were out of that hotel and in a cab within 10 minutes. Ten minutes! France is cool, especially with all the work done...but as Dorothy said, "There's no place like home."

So the cab arrives at the airport and drops us off on the other end of the terminal from our gate. We practically run what seems like 2 miles. We stand in extremely long lines, including a line passport control where it seemed they kept letting people from the other side break in front of us. We were not amused, because we were cutting it awfully close.  We end up at the only gate in sight that's operating - the airport is mostly closed but somehow Delta got this flight scheduled in a narrow time window. and then - finally - we are seated on the plane.

As we sat there, knowing we had made it, the pilot came on the intercom and announced that we would have to wait a few minutes. Why? Because he had file a flight plan! Apparently U.S. air traffic control didn't even know we were coming. That's how unusual it was that this flight was allowed to leave. Were we scared that it was a little early - that the cloud might still create safety concerns? Not really, we were just glad to be leaving.

So as the plane took off, the passengers all broke into cheering and applause. I've never seen anything like it. People like to travel, but they like to know they can get home.

 Looking back on the whole adventure, I'm grateful. It's the weird, the unusual, even the stressful moments in life that create memories. I've been to Europe several times,mostly for work. I'm there now, and will probably be back again. But out of all those trips, the one I'll remember the most is the one where a big cloud of ash settled over us. And I'll smile.

No comments:

Post a Comment