Trip of A Lifetime – The End is Near

In case you missed this hilarious misadventure of Americans in Europe, you can catch up here…

Part 1 – This should be fun.

Part 2 – Run like hell.

Part 3 – Handsome and Impressive

Part 4 – The lost phone

Part 5 – My Warterloo

Part 6 – A Respite

Part 7

The End is Near

The final, full day in Ireland found us in the tour bus, being charmed by the passing scenery, and our CIE tour guide Patrick’s history lessons of the “fixer upper” castles which dotted the landscape. We and our fellow passengers talked and joked as the miles fell away. It was positively idyllic.

Then, at 11am, my phone rang.

The caller ID displayed the number as from Ireland. The gentleman on the other end of the line introduced himself as Dean, from Aer Lingus. In that millisecond I thought of at least 6 reasons that the airline we were slated to fly home with might be calling me. None were pleasant.

He said, “The scheduled departure flight for tomorrow at 9:00 from Shannon has been cancelled.”

Well, of course it has.

Here’s a piece of advice. Never try to hold an important conversation on the phone, while on a tour bus. I could understand only half of what he said. Crouched low in my seat, one hand covering my ear to block the outside noise, the other pressing the phone too hard against my other ear, I felt the need to repeat everything after him.

This is how it must have sounded to my husband.

“I’m sorry, what? Our flight’s been cancelled?

“What’s operational reasons?”

“Wait. What? You’re putting us on a bus at the Shannon airport tomorrow at 6am?”

“Hello? Hello? Oh, good. You’re still there.”

“So, the bus will take us to Dublin for the flight home?”

“No. I understand. I do have a few questions, though. What’s the new flight number?”

“Hello? Hello? Oh, good. You’re still there.”

“Can I call you back? I’m on a tour bus and can’t… Hello?”

I had too many questions, and the phone kept cutting off his words. I asked if I could call him back, and he offered to instead return the call later to save on the international charges. He would call me at 2pm.

If you’ve been following this tale, you may recall this is how our trip got started. Except, that cancelled flight was hurricane-related. Then that airline, Iceland Air, scrambling to accommodate all of the redirected passengers, crammed their planes to the absolute max. It wasn’t a fun flight, but it got us to where we needed to be.

So, here we go again.

After the call, the other passengers were looking at me with concern. I may have underestimated the volume of my voice. Those nearby asked what had happened, and after telling what I could, they were all aghast. Patrick, who couldn’t help but overhear, said he’d never heard of Aer Lingus treating customers like that, and apologized on their behalf. He then explained that the drive from Shannon to Dublin is approximately two to three hours, so it shouldn’t be too awful.

We tried to return our attention to the tour, but my mind would not let me enjoy the moment. I obsessed over all of the details needing attention before leaving at 6am.

Okay. Selfish moment. I cried from the frustration of it all. Once that was out, I felt a little better.

My husband and I wrote a short list of questions to ask. The first of which being is there a later flight available. I gave up waiting for Dean to call me by 2:45. We called the main number.

No, there were no other flights scheduled. Due to Operational Reasons (I still don’t know what that means).

Turns out, things could have been worse.

We now have a flight number of the one way, non-stop direct flight from Dublin to Orlando. The worst of it will be the five hour wait from the bus arrival in Dublin, and the flight’s departure. We’ll still be home on Wednesday afternoon, around the same time we’d planned, if all goes well.

Unless, it doesn’t.

The last night of the tour found us at Bunratty Castle in Shannon, Ireland. Next to this ancient stronghold sat a pub named Durty Nellie’s, established 1620. We went in and found two members of our tour group, one from New Zealand, one from Malaysia, speaking with a couple from Wales. After ordering two Guinness, we sat down with them to hear the man from Wales bragging about his favorite rugby team, to the chagrin of the New Zealander. The six of us laughed and carried on until time for the medieval-style banquet in the castle.

While there, we were entertained by a wonderful group of Irish actors in period costumes. They each possessed amazing singing voices and comedic timing. It made for a marvelous history lesson.

The castle had originally been wood, and built in the 1400’s, then burned during an attack. Then rebuilt. Then burned. Then rebuilt with rock in the 1600’s, and that was where we dined this evening.

So, our last night in Ireland was spent in a six hundred year old pub and then a castle, drinking Guinness, wine, and honey mead, while laughing with people from all over the world. Such an amazing experience.

But then…

We returned to our hotel and I checked my email.

Cheap-O-Air, from whom I originally booked our return flight home, notified me that we have a new flight. We are now to leave Shannon with a different airline tomorrow at 11am, then fly to Boston, have an hour layover, then fly to New York, with a twelve hour layover (accommodations would be our responsibility), then on to Orlando, arriving around noon Thursday.

WTF?

Unconvinced that our trip had become so convoluted, we called Aer Lingus. Their offices were closed, and would reopen at 8 in the morning.

Argh!

The only immediate phone number found for Cheap-O was toll free, and those calls cannot be made internationally.

That didn’t add to the panic at all.

Eventually, we reached a clerk at Cheap-O who could not find our flight on Aer Lingus. After a LONG time on hold (international charges apply) she said yes, we do indeed have two seats on the direct flight from Dublin to Orlando.

Woah! Thank you, Lord! Nothing like being told how bad it might have been.

And that should be the end of the tale.

Except.

We were up at 4:15am and, arriving at the Shannon airport at 5:30am, we checked in. We’re told the bus will arrive shortly. It will park over there (she waved her hand, pointing to the doors) and it departs at 6am.

Dragging our bags, and our tired selves, to the seating area, we settle in, facing the doors that were pointed at.

We saw no bus.

At 5:55, we decide to face the biting cold wind, and wait outside.

Good thing, too.

As small as this airport is, we saw an unmarked white bus at the farthest end of the parking lot, being loaded with suitcases.

We ran. Yep, we were the last passengers to board the bus to Dublin.

I still shake my head in wonder at what might have happened had we missed that connection.

Thank you Europe, for a most outstanding adventure. Hope to see you again someday.

 

 

 

 

Look for JL Mo’s publication of these adventures, and much more that had been excluded, to be available soon.

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