Memories are the Best Souvenirs…

I just returned from a lovely trip to Europe with my family, to celebrate my son’s graduation from college. (I know, I can’t believe it either).

The trip was amazing, beautiful, fun, and of course, not without stories.

Our trip started off with a lovely visit in London. As we landed from our 9 hour flight, I saw an email from Air B&B that there had been a flood in the apartment we had booked and they would be unable to accommodate us. Cue a slight panic, as sleeping on the streets of London was not how I had planned this trip starting out. Luckily, that panic was short lived. When I logged into Air B&B to read the entire message, our hosts apologized for the inconvenience, but let me know they had another apartment just around the corner from the original booking, and they would be happy to accommodate us there. The apartment was comfortable, and a perfect home base for exploring all London had to offer.

Waking up on day 3, it was quickly apparent that someone on our long flight had decided to share with me my first trip souvenir.

From my scratchy throat, clogged head and the worst cough I have ever had, I was pretty sure I had Typhoid, Bubonic Plague, the Bird Flu, or possibly all three.

This was not exactly the kind of souvenir I had been looking for.

I still had 12 days of sightseeing planned, however, so I was not letting a pesky, (possibly deadly) virus slow me down. So I just added several European pharmacies to my sightseeing agenda, added several pills, sprays and lozenges to my souvenir collection, and soldiered on.

The various pills and medicated state I found myself operating out of, soon came in very handy.

We arrived in Ireland and rented a car for a drive across the county.

I was already a little nervous about driving on the wrong side of the road, but surprisingly found that that, itself, was pretty easy to adapt to. It was actually amazing how quickly going left around a traffic circle became second nature.

And can I just say, they love their traffic circles in Ireland?? I’m not even exaggerating a little when I say that we couldn’t go more than half a mile in any direction without hitting a traffic circle.

We made it to Galway without issue, but the real fun came the next day, when we decided to take a trip further west to Connemara.

Driving on the wrong side of the road was relatively easy on a 4 lane highway. However, you leave those highways in Ireland, and the roads quickly narrowed to no more than a lane and a half of what we are used to here in America.

With absolutely no shoulder.

There is literally the road, and then a hedge, or a tree, or a house a mere inches from your car.

Oh, and did I mention the roads are windy? Like you can’t see more than 100 ft down the road because of all the sharp bends and curves, windy.

This all just added to the fun of driving on the wrong side of the road. Especially when you met another car. Or one of the many tour buses on these roads.

With nowhere to move over. And all going a mere 100 km/hr.

But, in case that doesn’t sound like enough fun for you, it got better.

On this particular day, they were also doing a bike race on this road, in this part of Ireland.

So on top of dealing with sharp curves, tour buses, and super narrow roads, we also found ourselves dealing with bikes.

Lots and lots of bikes.

That were not going 100 km/ hr.

And had no where to go either, except smack dab in the middle of the lane we were driving in. Sometimes in groups of 10+ bikes thick.

While I appreciated the additional challenge to my driving skills, I was more amazed at these bikers, who obviously were Frogger level Master Plus back in the day.

Somehow, we made it to our destination with no casualties.

The middle part of trip was relatively uneventful, at least in the story department. Besides the fact that I had to continue adding pharmacy stops to our itinerary in every destination, we continued to enjoy the beautiful weather and amazing sites everywhere we went.

Until it was time to come home.

We ended our trip in Paris, and were preparing for our departure the night before, when my parents went to check in for their domestic flight back to Maine after their Trans-Atlantic flight stateside.

We had all booked our international flights together, but their return flight was bringing them back to Newark, while ours was bringing us to Denver. So they had to book another flight from Newark to Maine.

Which my dad had done back in February.

Or so he thought.

As he went to check them in for that flight, he was treated to a pop up that said that flight reservation had been cancelled.

That was going to be a little inconvenient.

Which is how he found himself on the phone with the travel site through which he booked the reservation. For roughly an hour and 45 minutes total, across about 3 calls, and about 75% of that time being on hold, while they tried to figure out what happened.

All at a mere $2/ minute on his international cell phone plan.

Which didn’t get any easier to swallow when he was told that, “OOPS!”  Somehow, when he booked the flight back in February, the travel site had never actually sent the payment  to the airline, even though they had charged his card for said payment. Which had caused the airline to cancel the reservation.

Not to worry, though. The flight was still available. At about 3x what the original fare had  been.

Cue more hold time, calls back and $2/minute cell phone time.

Luckily, he eventually got a supervisor who was able to get them booked and waived the extra charges.

Yay! Everyone would be able to get home.

Or so we thought.

We arrive at Charles de Gaulle the next morning, make it through security, and to our gate with plenty of time to spare. Everything seems to be going as planned.

Until about 30 minutes before our flight.

When we start getting announcements and alerts that our flight to Frankfurt is delayed about 10 min.

This got my attention as we both only had exactly an hour, once we touched down in Frankfurt, to make our connecting flights. 10 min shouldn’t affect our ability to still make our connections, as long as it wasn’t any more than that.

But of course you know that wasn’t the case.

Soon we were looking at a delay of 30 min, and I was getting alerts on my phone that my parents were not going to make their connecting flight, but we should still be good on ours. Which was very confusing as we had 5 minutes difference in our connecting flight times.

So, I find myself at the desk, trying to see what our options are.

Sure enough, it didn’t look like my parents would make their connection, although their system was saying “no problem, you’ll make yours” as far as ours was concerned Still confused on that, but first things first. We needed to find another option for my parents.

The gate agents explore options, spend lots of time on their computer, phoning friends, and conversing in French, but finally come up with an alternative flight plan.
They will now fly to Munich, catch a flight to Newark, and still be there in time to catch their domestic flight to Maine.

Thank goodness, after all those $2/min minutes on the phone last night!

They get their new boarding passes, and head to their new gate.

Then the gate agent turns to me and says, “Now I have bad news”.

Of course now the system is saying we will not make our connecting flight either.

Nice of it to catch up.

So thus begins the search for alternative options for us to make it to Denver.
Cue more computer time, more phoning friends and conversations in French.

All to tell us that they have no other options. Any alternative flights are sold out or bounce us all over the country once we make it back to the US.

Our “best option” for now is to stay on our current flight to Frankfurt, and then try again for other options there, as they would have many more options available to them.

Which is how we find ourselves waiting to board our delayed flight. Which at least the plane has now showed up for and landed during all this research time.

We board our plane and are ready for push back and taxi by noon. The pilot comes on to announce the conditions are favorable and he thinks he can get us to Frankfurt in about 50 min as opposed to the hour and 5 minutes scheduled.

Hmm. Our connecting flight is scheduled for 1:25. If he can get us there in 50 min, that would leave us 30 min to still make our flight. We are in the front of the plane, and we can run if needed, so maybe we’ll make our connection after all!

Of course you know I wouldn’t be writing this if that was the case.

We push away from the gate, taxi out to our position for take off…and sit there for 20 min.

As the minutes tick away, I am realizing our chances are ticking away with them.

Finally the pilot comes on and says:

“Well folks, sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t. Unfortunately, the plane that was right in front of us, had an ‘incident’ and needed to be contacted by police/security, which caused us to lose our take off slot, so now we are waiting for a new time”

I can’t make this stuff up. And now I really want to know what is going on on that other plane. Which of course I never find out.

But thanks to this “incident”, we find ourselves landing in Frankfurt at the exact same time that our flight to Denver is taking off.

Which is how we get the chance to add a 5th country and another night to our trip itinerary.

Despite all the glitches and the added visit to Urgent Care upon our arrival home, it really was an amazing trip, and I wouldn’t have traded the stories anyway. Just maybe the cough.

 

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