Monday, May 09, 2016

Bordeaux to Britain, Day 1, 4/23/16

Mom and I both had milestone birthdays last year, so this year we celebrated with our first Smithsonian trip.  From Bordeaux to Britain was a 7 night cruise about the French ship L'Austral.  Of course, first we had to get to Bordeaux.

Mom and Dad picked me up at 3:00 Saturday afternoon and Dad dropped us off at the airport to catch a 5:30 flight to Detroit.  I stopped at an airport newsstand to pick up a bottle of water and a granola bar, and caught up with Mom, only to find her at the bar on the way to our gate, chatting with the county executive and a local mayor on their way to Hanover, Germany for a trade conference.  They were on our flight to Detroit.  The flight was short, only 25 minutes, and we had plenty of time to eat overpriced caprese sandwiches near the gate before our 8 p.m. flight to Amsterdam.

On board the big-ass Delta Airbus, we met another mother-daughter duo who were going on the same cruise but with a different group, the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  B and her mom W are from Columbus, and the daughter and widow respectively of a WWII veteran who participated in the landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day.  W is 90, which is not something I would ordinarily mention, but which became important later.  We got all settled in the plane and then sat on the runway for a hour while they replaced the radio.  Delta wouldn't move us to another plane because it was "not a safety issue".

Once we were in the air and the cabin crew started serving drinks, they apparently got enough questions about potential missed connections that the captain came on and said don't pester the cabin crew, they can't do anything.  Then he said, "We are aware that some of you have tight connections.  Delta is aware our flight is late, staff on the ground is late, and we will do everything we can to see that you make your connections" (emphasis mine).  So I tried some of the pasta that smelled wonderful and wasn't, enjoyed the brownie, drank a boatload of water and napped fitfully while one of my seatmates watched The Revenant.

Eventually we landed, at 11:45 a.m. Amsterdam time, which was 5:45 a.m. Akron time.  Delta's idea of doing everything they could to make sure we made our connection was to have an employee meet us at the gate, look at our boarding passes and tell the 4 of us to go to gate B-36.  No one offered to call the gate and have them keep the doors open, no one offered transportation to the departure gate, and no one seemed to care that they were telling a 90 year old woman to walk from one end of the A terminal to the opposite end of the B terminal in under 10 minutes when it was a minimum of a 20 minute walk for an average adult.  A non-Delta airport employee helped us whisk through Customs but to no avail, by the time we made the gate they'd closed the doors of the plane.

After we walked all the way back to the A terminal, we got to stand for another 45 minutes while KLM agents tried to book us on the next day's flight and tried to call the ship to tell them not to expect us until Monday.  Then it was downstairs all the way through cavernous baggage claim to get our hotel and meal vouchers, then back upstairs and out of the damn airport to wait for the bus to our hotel.  It was 2:30 p.m. Amsterdam time when we got to the hotel and grabbed some lunch.  That's 8:30 a.m. Akron time and we'd basically been up for 26 hours and traveling for 19 hours.

Short digression:  the dog knocked me over about a week before we left and I was so concerned with the giant bruises that I didn't really notice I had a sprained ankle.  I very much noticed it by the time we'd walked all over Hell's high acre, aka the Amsterdam airport.  I'd also forgotten to pack any ibuprofen.  Because our hotel was in a freeway service plaza, after lunch Mom and I walked over to the gas station to see if they had any ibuprofen or aspirin.  Unfortunately, all they had was paracetemol, aka Tylenol, which does zip for me.  However, the flowers at the gas station were exquisite and heart-lifting.  After we walked back to the hotel, I took a nap, and then Mom and i had coffee in the lounge, then read for a bit, then had dinner.  After dinner, we both took the showers we desperately needed and washed our socks and such and then left a wake-up call and went to bed.

The next morning we were on the bus headed for the airport at 8:20, managed to catch the 12:30 flight to Bordeaux with no problems.  As dog is my witness, I will never willingly fly Delta again.

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