I guess we are now officially part of history: travelers completely discombobulated by a volcano in Iceland with a name that nobody can pronounce. We decided, after a phone call to American Airlines (the airline we have our return tickets with) on Saturday that it was best to get out of England and back to Paris any way we could – our odds for getting back to the US in anything like a timely fashion are better there. After several failed attempts, first thing Sunday morning we scored tickets on a Eurostar Chunnel train – they added cars to seat more people. We had “tip up” seats – the jump seats that are in the luggage storage area. Meagan and Jock drove us to the outskirts of London and we took the tube to St. Pancras station and managed to grab some lunch. While we were waiting to board, we received the notification we were expecting: our flight to the US Monday was officially canceled. So we voyaged into the semi- unknown. Happily, there were a few open regular seats so we didn’t have to spend the whole train ride from London to Paris in the 21st century equivalent of steerage.
Once we arrived in Paris we fell into the clutches of a gypsy taxi driver who way overcharged us for a taxi ride to our hotel. We had a room booked for last night way back when we thought we’d just be there for the night before we flew home, so we had to wait until this morning to see if we could stay another night. Once that was squared away we went out exploring the neighborhood and found a nearby running trail and a charming village. We also looked at the other hotels in the neighborhood and found a better deal just down the road. The flight cancellations have resulted in a lot of room cancellations, so we were able to book a room for 5 nights without a problem.
Next we got 5-day Metro passes that allow us to ride the local train, Metro and bus lines to our hearts’ content. Today we took the train to the Carousel of the Louvre and picked up a cheap netbook so that we’d both have computers to work on. The only trick: the system language is in French! So Chuck gets the English computer and I’ll handle the French one. When we get home we’ll sell it on Craigslist.
Our iPhones have been wonderful lifelines – they’ve worked everywhere and the 3G data connection has provided us with important info on our travel plans as they have constantly been changed. If anything, I would have upped my data plan from 50MB to 100MB, but then, who knew we’d be here so long?
It’s weird: this should be a great opportunity to enjoy an unexpected week in Paris. But there’s vacation mindset, then there’s ready-to-go-home mindset. And until this morning, I really held out hope that the volcano would quit erupting, the skies would clear, and we’d board our scheduled flight and go home.
Tuesday, April 20: I wrote the previous paragraphs over the past few days. It’s now Tuesday and the volcano is still spewing ash. Some flights have left CDG – we can hear them. Which ones, we have no idea. Today we moved to a cheaper hotel just down the street from the previous one. At the Millennium we can both access the Internet at the same time. So here we are, waiting like so many other people.
I have been hugely disappointed by the lack of information coming from official channels. The only communication we received from American Airlines was the cancellation notice. We had to contact them to get the wheels of the rebooking turning. And we have heard nothing since. Thanks for nothing, American. CNN has been the source of most news and they lean toward the dramatic so we have to sift through information trying to find the real state of affairs.
Today we walked into the village of Roissy and did some marketing so we could save some money on restaurants. I feel really bad for the people who are out of money and stuck at the airport(s).