Our own Sharon Miceli just returned from Europe with a tale of her long night at a Paris airport, caused by Snowmaggedon, as the blizzards of 2010 are being called. Indulge us for a moment on this out-of-order installment of her River Cruise adventure. Sharon, the floor (literally) is yours...
Halfway through our week-long AMAWaterways Christmas Time Cruise aboard the Amalyra we started monitoring severe weather conditions in the UK. Snowstorms, the likes of which had not been seen since 1910, had caused flight cancellations and newsworthy frustrations at London’s Heathrow Airport.
|Weary travelers try to find comfort at Charles de Gaulle|
Overnight Monday/Tuesday December 20 & 21, 2011
Since our return flight to the US wasn’t for 3 days and connected through Paris we were cautiously optimistic that our route would be trouble free. But as I said, this storm was epic and wreaking havoc on plane, train & road travel. Some were calling it Snowmaggedon!
On Monday, December 20th we arrived at the Budapest Airport to find our flight had just canceled but got a reprieve as we stood on line for a ticket change. The flight was on again but delayed a few times so Air France issued meal vouchers that we spent on some local beers. We were just happy our flight was on.
As expected, we had missed our connection in Paris. Being Christmas week and given the circumstances in London you can imagine the sea of humanity we walked into. Families with children, dogs with their kennels and stacks of luggage and gifts clogged Terminal 2D.
|In 5.5 hours of waiting in line we got from Concourse 1 to 4. The line went to 7,|
looped around and ended at 6
We jostled our way out and over to the newer and airier Terminal 2E where the queue for rebooking tickets met us right at the entrance and ended at an unseen point about 2 football fields away. We dutifully joined the line and began a forced march at a snail’s pace.
We passed empty concourses devoid of any Delta or Air France staff and struck up a conversation with one of our fellow detainees offering to watch his luggage if he needed to take a break. Ali was a Brit trying to get home from his on-the-road gig as a sound manager for a Cirque du Soleil troupe. He stood in line for an hour, returned with beers for us and we bought the next round. I pulled out the little cheese sandwiches I had made on the ship, just in case, and broke out the big bags of Hungarian chips we had gotten for our voucher change in Budapest and voila, pique-nique airport style.
|Hollis, a Swedish hip-hop artist shows off his record|
Our circle grew and we met Hollis, a Swedish hip-hop artist who showed us an actual vinyl recording of his music. He and his girlfriend were on their way to San Francisco. Walid, a business student from Washington, DC was going on his 3rd day of trying to reach his family in Qatar. And Chris from Denmark was on his way to Orlando.
At midnight the word came down the line that Air France had just closed their desk and would not return until 5:30am! We had been in line since 6:30pm. Oh, le “gaulle”!
|Bringing in mats and blankets by the cart load|
Marlene and I had prepared for the worst by taking pictures of our luggage, making sure our bags were well marked with our personal information and packed changes of clothing and toiletries to our carry-ons. She found some airport officials passing out thin foam mats and bright green blankets.
Bed or Baggage?As we settled down under the great oval timetable we shared a slideshow of our AMAWaterways cruise while Ali provided the soundtrack. Some comfortable office chairs were brought out from behind the abandoned airline desks and some people chose to sleep on the baggage conveyer belts. Looked reasonably comfy but I was afraid they would turn on the scale function! I named our little huddle Camp de Gaulle which brought waves of laughter from its undaunted citizens.
Setting up Camp de GaulleWell it certainly was a different perspective looking up at the schedule board from my mat as it steadily clicked down the final flights of the day. I never thought it possible to see a timetable go blank in a behemoth gateway such as this.
|Making the best of it. Somehow, the kid in the stroller looks the most comfortable|
Morning wasn’t pretty but it wasn’t so bad either. Everyone was doing their best quietly and orderly. Marlene got to have her first croissant in Paris from the restaurant named “Paul” that served beautiful pastries and coffee.
It seemed the line moved more swiftly in the morning and by 8:30am it was Camp de Gaulle’s turn at the Air France desk. Our agent was resistant to our smiles and tried to pawn us off on Delta. What! That would be a harsh sentence. Surely another 8 hours at the least waiting time and another day added to our schedule given the dwindling availability. We cited a precedent when Chris from Denmark’s agent gave him a ticket to Miami. We offered to end there instead of Ft Lauderdale to which she agreed. And we were lucky enough to get the 10:50am flight direct to Miami instead of our former itinerary that had had us connecting in Atlanta!
|Then the morning comes: Camp de Gaulle says goodbye|
We were delayed several times again due to the cleaning staff’s tardiness that was probably caused by the dense fog. Yes, this was not going to be any easier today than it had been yesterday.
It was the first time I had ever been on a double-decker jumbo jet and its massive size belied the actual personal space afforded its guests. Everyone was dead tired and fairly quiet except for the one baby that exercised his youthful lungs for the entire 9 hours.
The fog was heavy now but the spirit of the passengers was decidedly lighter as we prepared to finally get on our way. As we accelerated I was thinking about just how much speed it takes to get this beast off the ground when we suddenly heard the engines shut down and the brakes engaged and conversely I wondered how much it would take to stop it.
The pilot announced that we had gotten the go ahead from the tower who shortly thereafter ordered our Captain to abort takeoff due to another plane on the runway! Egads! The implications of what had nearly occurred sunk in and there were some in our row that were visually shaken.
We’re back home now having escaped Snowmaggedon and are saying our prayers for the stranded nomads all around Europe. Thanks again to the members of Camp de Gaulle for the light-hearted support. And please check back so you can read all about the really great adventures we had on our Christmas Time Cruise.
Thanks, Sharon. We'll get back to all the fun and excitement of your journey through Europe's Christmas Markets very soon.