Friday, March 25, 2016
The #$%^ French
We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare, but as we walked toward the check in point we looked up at the departures screen and saw that our flight was cancelled!!! Oh my. So we found our way to the help desk which had a very very long line. The air traffic controllers in France had gone on strike -- so unlike them, non? Oh, and timed perfectly for the first day of Holy Week. Well played, frogs. Only a few flights were allowed through their air space and the low budget airlines were the first to get axed. Ryan Air had sent all of their workers home and left one poor girl there to deal with the aftermath. We took our place at the rear of the queue and when we finally made it to the front, were told that we could fly home on the next flight with available seats -- in 10 days!!! "Our six children are in Spain without us! Is that the only option? Can you book us on another airline? Or at least check to see if there are any other flights since we don't have wifi? Or check on trains? A meal voucher? Anything???" Nada nada nada. We wandered around the airport for a while, randomly standing in line to talk to other airlines, but, of course, they didn't have any available seats. Then we waited in line to take a shuttle down to where all of the rental car companies were. When we inquired as to whether we could rent a car in England and drive it to Spain, we were charmingly mocked and laughed right out of the building. Back up to the airport to wander around aimlessly, get something to eat since we hadn't eaten lunch and it was quite late in the afternoon by now. Used the loo a few times, lugging around our luggage and the giant bag of goodies and the adorable vintage apron I had picked up in Covent Garden... wait a minute! Where is my bag of goodies???? Somewhere in our wanderings I had lost my shopping bag! Wah, wah, wah! And that is when I started to cry. We literally had no idea at all what we should do and I lost my one souvenir to boot. (And my period had started, haha! Not that you wanted to know, but it just added to my frustration and gives the whole story that extra oomph, don't you agree?) Matthew looked at me helplessly for a bit. After a good cry I started to rush around to look for my bag, checked lost and found, glared suspiciously at everyone who was carrying a plastic bag, and finally made my way back to the Ryan Air desk for one last desperate attempt at help from them. As we stood there, the absolutely most quintessentially British couple came up behind us. I asked if they had been on the flight to Murcia and the man replied calmly, "Yes. And on the way to the airport, we were in a car accident, but we just left our car there and paid 150 pounds for a taxi to get us here in time for the flight." Oh. That is really really sad. And probably their one holiday for the year. I felt bad enough for their plight that I could escape ours for a bit. We finally resigned ourselves to our fate, paid the $50, or whatever it was, to get back to St. Pancras station in London. We still didn't know quite what to do. Should we try to get out to one of the other airports and see if we could get a flight on a larger airline? But even if we bought a ticket, there was no telling whether the strike would effect more flights. Or should we try to get on a train? We decided to go that route. Another incredibly long line, but met at the end by the most helpful person we had encountered that day. She was able to book us two of the very few remaining seats on a train to Paris that was leaving in about 20 minutes and you could tell she deeply, deeply regretted that she was unable to get us all the way to Spain. We ran into the little Marks & Spencer to grab a king prawn and avocado sandwich and some fancy juices (ooh, la, la), oh and chocolate, of course! Another line and rushing through security to catch said train and we were off! Sort of. At least getting somewhere! It was quite sad to be hurtling through what I know was lovely English countryside in the still winter darkness and then to traverse the chunnel without even realizing. Before we knew it, the lighted signs that we could see were all in French and soon we were pulling into the historic Gare du Nord. It was around 11:00 PM and we felt a bit dazed. I had had enough of a signal on the train to book us what we were to soon discover was the tiniest room in Paris -- accessed by the even incomprehensibly tinier lift. But we were somewhere, as I mentioned earlier, and the kids assured us they were fine. Long, long, story, oui? Oh, but there is more!