Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Long Way Home

We're home. Obviously.But I realize now that I never told the excruciating story of how, exactly our 18 hour trip itinerary turned into 3 days of travel.

After our cleaning spree and three hours of sleep the night before at ALOES, we managed to enjoy a incredibly relaxing and sleep-filled evening and night with our great friends Janice and Jeramy. It had been snowing pretty steadily for a few days and we were beginning to get worried about our impending voyage but were determined to stay positive.

Well, we were feeling positive until we flipped the page of our French phrase-a-day calendar to this eerie premonition of a phrase if I ever saw one.

And despite a night of even more snowfall, Jeramy sucked it up and drove us all the way to the Luxembourg airport (about 45 minutes without snow) on roads that looked like this or worse. Since France doesn't normally get nearly the snow we get here in the northeastern United States, they aren't in the habit of performing much winter maintenance.

We had checked the status of our flight online and although the Luxembourg airport's website showed hardly any delays, we came upon an entirely different situation when we arrived at the airport and checked in after only an hour or so in the car. We were told by the counter worker that not only was she unable to issue the boardin passes for our subsequent flights (something about Delta airlines not being in cooperation with Lux airport) but to top it off, our flight had been delayed an hour and a half. We knew this would cause problems when we made it to Paris since we would have to somehow manage to leave one terminal in Paris, make it to another terminal, get boarding passes, then get through security and to our flight all within 30 minutes. But there was no turning back at this point; if we wanted to get home, Paris was as good as anywhere. We then walked downstairs to the departures area to find that almost all flights going out of Luxembourg were delayed, some by 6 or 7 hours. It looked like everyone was feeling stranded. 

Our plane did leave at it's scheduled delayed time (which is much more than could be said for many other flights leaving Lux) and the flight went smoothly for how much snow had fallen the night before. Hearing others talk on the flight made us realize just how much mayhem the inclimate weather would likely cause; it seemed that the entire back half of the plane where we sat would be missing or had already missed their connecting flight in Paris. We would all be spending lots of time together in Charles de Gaulle whether we wanted to or not. 
We attempted to make to our gate upon arrival in Charles de Gaulle. We ran though the terminals then waited in line at the Delta ticketing desk for a good 15 minutes only to be told that even though our flight was technically through Delta, only the Air France ticketing desk could help us. So we ran down to the Air France desk to find ourselves in the longest and slowest moving line I have ever been in at an airport. It turned out that our arrival had corresponded with the closure of Heathrow airport in London and the giant line in front of us was made up of one or two planes worth of people trying to get a re-scheduled flight into an airport where no flights were scheduled. Michael waited in line while I tracked down a rogue Air France worker who agreed to check on the status of our flight since we may still have some hope of getting out. Unfortunately for us, that flight was the last Charles de Gaulle to Detroit flight to make it out without delays before the real delays started.

We stayed in line for awhile, hardly moving at all, when we started hearing security warnings over the loudspeaker pertaining to a unclaimed bag at the gate were we were all patiently waiting in line. After 5 or so announcements asking the owner of the bag to return and claim it, the swat team and military gunmen descended upon the area and pushed us all out of line and down the hallway. After 20 minutes or so of waiting, the barriers were finally taken down and there was a mad dash for the start of the line. Being young and agile, we managed to greatly increase our line place but it turned out to be useless because only minutes later we heard a rumor just before the announcement that we needed to move the entire line way down the hall to the last ticketing gate, which led to yet another mad dash. Despite our relatively good place in line we still waited around for at least 2 hours before making it to the front of the line where we were able to speak to an agent. Within 10 minutes we had been set up with a new flight itinerary for the next day, a dinner voucher and a voucher for a hotel with breakfast.

At dinner we started to feel closer to home already simply because of a glass of orange juice served with ice (!) and a straw (!).

After dinner we made our way towards our hotel (an Ibis, which is a very common French hotel). We got off of the airport tram and there it was! (Or so we though.) We waited in line there only to be told that we were at the wrong Ibis and we needed to go out to the shuttle stop to be taken to our Ibis on the outskirts of the outskirts of town. So we went, and we waited, and we waited. And eventually we started to hear rumors that the hotel shuttles had stopped because of the snow and that they *might* begin to run again if the roads are plowed. What?!? 

I went out to check the taxis but was told by other waiters that they had just had an altercation with a cab driver who refused to take anyone to hotels, so I turned on my heels and went back inside.
After a bit, Michael and I went back on the tram to the main terminal to speak with the Air France reps who assured us that a bus would be there soon. We were finally met by a large charter bus that must have been hired by the airline to shuttle us all out to the hotels. The ride rough, the roads were terrible and the driver spent most of the drive calling the powers that be on his radio to inform them that "les routes ne sont ni sal├ęs" (the roads are not salted), and this was unacceptable. But finally, we made it.

And it was lovely.

 And one last French styled breakfast was thoroughly enjoyed.

We left the next morning with the snow still coming down (in the same hired shuttle, the  normal ones had still not started up again).

And after 6 hours of delays, lots of worry, terminal changes, multiple goes through security and lots more worry, we finally were on the plane and in the air somewhere over the Atlantic. As you can see, Air France knows how to feed it's customers. We spent the 9 hour flight happily eating, drinking, watching Toy Story III and attempting to stay awake despite landing in Detroit when our bodies thought it was 3am. 

We touched down many hours after the Detroit international wing normally closes so instead of having roughly 30 customs agents to shuffle us through, we waited in line while 9 overtime agents struggled to handle two large planes full (roughly 600 people). We were then further questioned and checked because of some questionable items that we brought back (seeds, food).

Thankfully though, the Delta ticket desk in Detroit was prepared for our late arrival and as we walked toward the desk we were stopped by an agent at a table who asked our name and handed us our hotel voucher, food vouchers ($36 to spend in one night since our hotel had a continental breakfast) and our re-scheduled flight for the next day. And after re-checking our bags (they had to go through customs with us) we walked out to our waiting hotel shuttle and collapsed into our seats, just happy to be back on US soil.

Again, we had nice accomodations, much larger but not quite as sleek and modern as the Paris Ibis.

What a very flattering picture; thanks Michael for capturing this moment of washing my underwear out in the hotel sink.

 $30 worth of terrible, horrible, American take-out pizza and ribs. Don't get me wrong, it tasted wonderful but was hard on a digestion unaccustomed to American style take out. I'm fairly certain there was at least 5x the amount of cheese that we would have put on any Friday night pizza.

We slept soundly but only until about 5am when our internal clocks said "whoa, it's 11 and you're not up!?". We got to the airport early after our continental breakfast and after various de-icing and runway delays we finally got off the ground.

Now I will say that I am not the most calm of airplane riders and this flight did not do well for my nerves. There was no lack of turbulence and difficulty landing (we circled the runway multiple times) and to make matters worse, Michael and I were separated due to the lateness of our reservations so I had no one's hand to squeeze while it was all happening. 

But we finally made it down and made it home; and I couldn't have been happier.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness! I don't even know what to say to all of that! You poor things!!!!!