Saturday, 25 December 2010

Travel Woes? Try Travel Nightmares.

Again, sorry it has been so long since I last posted something, but in my defense, I've spent my fair share of time stranded in various European airports.

I spent 3 days in Lausanne, Switzerland visting a fellow Hendrix student who is studying abroad there. It was really interesting to see how other study abroad students live. I had a wonderful time thanks to Heather's wonderful hopsitaility. She seems to really be enjoying her experience in Lausanne and I could see why. It's a pretty area with lots of really nice people.

We went to a Christmas Market in Montreux. Heather got to see her Freddie Mercury statue. I think that made her day. I got to drink warm apple cider. That made my day. It's my favorite holiday drink and I couldn't seem to find any in England. There were lots of booths with handmade crafts. It was a really cool experience.

Also while in Lausanne, I went to the Olympic Museum. Lausanne is the Olympic captial of the world and they have a fantastic museum that tells of the history of the Olympic Games. Seriously, I felt like a kid in a candy store. They had exhibits of each sport, plus a timeline of the games. There was also an interactive exhibit where you could test your fitness and see what sport you'd be best at. I didn't actually do the test. I wasn't dressed for it; plus there were a bunch of school students doing it, but based on the brochure and the info within the exhibit, I think it would have told be I would make a good hammer or shot put thrower, or a good weight lifter. Big surprise there. The museum was really cool, so if you're ever in Lausanne, I'd recommend going, even if you're not a sports nut like me.

I took a bus tour of Geneva and got to see the United Nations as well as several of other international buildings. Geneva was nice and there is plenty to see, but I have to say, I think I like Lausanne better.

So before I get to the travel nightmares I experienced as indicated in the subject line of this post. I have some catching up to do from my last entry. I admit I rushed a bit and left some things out.

First of all, I believe I mentioned in my last post that I won the SESSA meet, which seals what I like to call the Beth/Katherine connection. (The following explanation is true, but is not meant to be taken too seriously. I'm not that supersticious.) So, in my first meet I won 2 golds and a silver (in theory, we didn't actually get medals until SESSA.) If I'm not mistaken, Katherine Reutter, a short track speed skater and one of my favortie athletes (I met her back in 2008 and she was super nice) also won 2 golds and a silver at world cup 1. At my next meet, I had 2 second place finishes and a third place finish, so did Katherine. She won a gold at world cup 3, and I won gold at SESSA. Pretty cool, huh? Okay, I'll be the first one to admit that it is probably one big coincidence, but she just one her 4th national championships, so I hope the pattern continues.

Other cool facts...

According to the little TV screen on my IcelandAir flight, over half the population of Iceland believes in elves. My tour guide on my glacier tour read us an Icelandic fable explaining the origin of elves. According to Icelandic tradition, Eve had more children than Cain and Abel. God wanted to see them one day, but only Cain and Abel were clean. The other children were muddy, so Eve hid them because she was ashamed. God knew that she hid them, so He made them invisible. Those children are elves. They cannot be seen by people unless they want to be. I thought it was an interesting fable.

The other cool fact I learned is that the Prime Minister of Iceland is listed in the phonebook.

Iceland is incredibly beautiful in both the winter and the summer. If you ever have the chance to go, take it. While I was there, there was only six hours of daylight and in the summer, the sun shines all day, even at midnight, hence the term midnight sun. It rained both nights while I was there, so I didn't have a chance to see the Northen Lights. You need a clear night for that, but I can't say it enough. Iceland is a great place to visit.

Now back to the travel nightmares...

My flight out of Geneva was canceled. I so could have made an earlier flight to Stockholm, but the guy at the ticket counter told me I wouldn't make it through security in time. For whatever reason, the depatrue of that plane was delayed, so I wish he would have let me try to make it. Instead I had to wait in line for two hours to rebook my flight. During that time, most of my viable options to get to Stockholm had already departed, so I was re-booked on standby for a flight Copenhagen that night and then another stand by flight to Stockholm at midnight. The first flight was delayed and since I was on standby anyway, I opted to be put on a flight the next day. SAS, the airline I was flying with, put me up in a hotel and bumped me up to business class on my flight out the next afternoon. I landed at about 3:30. It was already dark, so my 2 days in Stockholm turned into one night. Oh well, I bought plenty of souvenirs though and I'm sure I'll make it back someday. I was just thankful to be reunited with my luggage. Even though I was assured my luggage would be waiting for me downstairs when I booked my hotel, it wasn't. I went back to the airport early the next morning and it wasn't there. That was scary. Turns out it had been over-nighted to Stockholm. So many flights were canceled that day it was crazy and bags were everywhere. Stacked up on trolleys in both Geneva and Stockholm waiting to be claimed.

My flight the next day back to England was cancelled. Heathrow was completely shut down due to the snow. I was supposed to fly to Heathrow, then fly out of Gatwick the next day so I could go home. That was not going to happen. The problem was England wasn't the only place affected by the snow. Paris CDG had many cancellations, so did Amsterdam, and Frankfort. Translation, if I couldn't leave Europe, I couldn't get home. The line to rebook would take about 4 hours. Any possible flights going straight to the US were full and chances were that all other options would either leave before I got to the front of the line or would be full by the time I could be rebooked. What's a girl stranded in the Stockholm airport to do? Call like 2 a.m. US central time. At that pont, I was tired. I could have stayed an extra day in Stockholm and actually get to see it, but let's face it, when you've spent as much time in airports as I did during those last few days, all you want is to get home.

I swear, for the first couple nights after I got home, I woke up and it took me a minute to figure where I was. I guess that happens when you spend one night in Geneva, the next in Stockholm, and the third in Lisbon, yes Lisbon, we'll get to that in a second. Anyway, it took me a minute to realize I was in Arkansas those first couple mornings.

So Lisbon, Portugal. I hear it's nice, but I really can't say. The five minute ride from the airport to the hotel at 11 p.m. was nice, as was the five minute ride from the hotel to the airport at 8 a.m. the next morning. That was the extent of my stay in Lisbon.

Getting to Lisbon proved a bit more difficult than I had imagined. I thought I was in the clear once I found a flight that would eventually get me to Little Rock, but I was wrong. The travel nightmare still had one last trick up its sleeve. The flight was delayed out of Stockholm. It was supposed to depart at 3:15. We didn't begin boarding until 3:30. Not so bad, right? Yeah, that what I thought and then we were told the plane had a mechanical problem and it would take 20 minutes to fix. Twenty minutes later, the problem would take another 45 minutes to fix and once those 45 minutes were up, well it would be another 45 more. Sometime during the wait, they served us dinner. We didn't depart until after 7. Yeah, the 4 hour flight from Stockholm to Lisbon, plus the 3 hour wait ON THE PLANE... the flight to America takes about 8 hours, which is what I've have to do the next day.

Anyway, I'm home now. I got in around 11 p.m. on the 20th. Just in time for the holidays.

Speaking of the holidays, Merry Chirstmas everyone. Enjoy it!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Long time no blog...

So I haven't posted in awhile, but I have been crazy busy.

Karina and I flew to Venice. It was absolutely beautiful, especially the architecture. We took a gondola ride and of course, partook in the local delicacies pizza, calzone, canollis... They were all delicious.

After a full but leisurely long weekend, we returned to Oxford. I had a track meet the next day, the Southern England Student Sports Association Championships. I won a gold medal, an actual medal. (In high school, we got medals at nearly every meet, but in college, they only give out medals at championships, so this was special.) My distances are still in pre-season mode, but I'm very excited to get back home and back in the weight room. It was really nice to spend one last day with some of my OUAC teammates. Six of us went to the meet and four of us won gold medals.

After the meet, I spent the night trying to get my room and the rest of the house cleaned. Karina and I left the house early that morning to go to Heathrow. From there, I fly to Iceland. It was absolutely beautiful, glaciers, volcanos, beaches, waterfalls. I didn't get to see a volcano, but I did see a lot of ash. Some of the glaciers were covered with it. The sand on the beach was also black. It was raining both nights I was there, so I couldn't see the Northern Lights. Bummer.

Right now, I'm in Copenhagen. So far, I've seen Scandinavia's longest designer shopping street. Everything here is a bit expensive. I saw the coast today and the the Little Mermaid statue, which commemorates Hans Christian Andersen's story. The statue has only recently returned to Denmark. It was only display in China at the World Expo this year. Tomorrow I'm going to try to catch the changing of the guard ceremony. The guard marches from one palace to the other at noon everyday.

I leave Tuesday for Switzerland. I'll be staying with a friend for a few days and then I'm off to Sweden.

I promise to check in soon.

- Beth