Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Travel Saga

Posts have been scant lately as I took a week out of Iceland to go to Dublin, Ireland for the holidays! I'm thinking I'll separate the travel stories into one post, and then actual fun times into another post. So Here begins the Travel Saga. Ferðasaga, if you will.

First of all, I should have realized that traveling to a different country for the holidays would involve some kind of travel disaster somewhere along the line. The devil appeared in the form of an apocalyptic-like Heathrow airport with thousands of stranded passengers during one of the worst snowstorms that Britain and Ireland has ever had. Thankfully, I was not one of the many people who were forced to sleep outside of the airport, as in "the outdoors", in temporary white tents set up for stranded people. It felt awfully cattle-like. The airport literally had no space to house everyone. Lots of temporary pillows and sleeping mats everywhere. Angry parents yelling at staff members, while crying children look on in horror. Staff members under a lot of stress as it's not their fault but they have to bear the brunt of arguments as best they can. Some poor people from places like Singapore had their flights canceled three days in a row, and couldn't get a hotel, so they just have to wait in the airport every day, checking to see if their one flight to Singapore will be running. Pretty terrible. We humans are no match against the 5 tons of snow that fell on each of Heathrow's hundreds of plane stanchions, which all had to be dug out. And Buffalo, New York this is not: Heathrow is not as prepared as my hometown would be, where rescue teams would likely soon come barreling through in some giant tractor-snowplows with chains on them, and soon the pathways would be clear.

My flight to Dublin was postponed. Then delayed. Then it was canceled, as it was Dublin airport that had closed. I was luckily to get a standby flight the next morning at 5:30am, but it meant having to travel two hours by underground to a friend's flat, sleep for two hours, and then take two night buses for two hours to get back to the airport at 5am. Thank goodness L in London was kind enough to house me and feed me, I was kind of a mess and appreciated a hug. We looked for train tickets, to get to a ferry to Dublin, in case the plane would be canceled. All sold out. What about that random other train to the south of England, and then the train from Cork? Sold out. What about the other airports? Sold out. There was literally no way for me to get to Ireland from London unless this standby flight came through.

When I got to the airport, it hadn't even opened yet! There were queues outside of the airport, hundreds of people long. It was also a mess. There was a random guy with a tiny megaphone shouting to everyone things like 'Berlin! Anyone for Berlin #55? Step forward!! Don't push!' and then everyone going to Berlin would RUN into the airport like a Black Friday sale at Walmart.

I made it into the airport just in time for my flight...and them right as we were supposed to board, the flight to Dublin was postponed about an hour. But magically, through some stroke of Christmas brilliance, we landed in Dublin, just before Dublin airport closed yet again.

The sun was just rising on a snowy, brilliantly white Irish airport. The Paper Bag Theme from American Beauty was totally playing on the airplane speaker system. Everyone else on the plane was clapping with joy and the pilot said 'I bet a lot of you are happy to be here, happy christmas'. I lost it and cried a little bit o'joy. But my tears were not unwarranted. This was the scene as we exited the plane. Kind of surprised we could land at all.

Dublin was a snowy wonderland, and I even got to spend a fun day in London, which made all the frustration more worth it. London is also huge, and makes Reykjavík seem like a little po-dunk, one-horse town. (see the next post about all the actual things I did during the holiday, and not just travel stories.)

There are a couple funny tidbits too, in all of this. Much to my surprise, no airport security stopped me or asked questions about the sex toys that I had bought for Icelandic friends. You just can't get that stuff in Iceland. Nor did anyone stop me about the leather gear which I may or may not have bought for myself (merry christmas, ho ho ho to me). I was fully expecting to have a 'what's THIS' moment with the security people. Instead they stopped me about my Kindle. I forgot that it's got a little hard drive in it, a tiny computer.

Also in security-land, I had to open my bag at a random security check after picking up my luggage in Iceland. The security guard thought he saw some food in my bag, so asked to open it. But my bookbag was stuffed to the max with clothes, ready to burst. As I attempted unzipping the bag, I said 'I think this might explode!'

The guard looked at me so seriously and said, 'Let's hope not'.

Awkward Silence.

I tried to backstep. 'No, not like that! I meant I have so much stuff in here.' My figure of speech was lost in translation, apparently. The security guy found what he was looking for- a box of Irish tea that I was given for Christmas. Nothing to worry about.

I left the airport and was on my way back to Reykjavík for a long sleep and return to the quieter beauty of my Icelandic home.

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