But year in and year out we've made the trip in our van. Sometimes we went through the UP, other times the southern route. One winter we made the trek without heating in the van. Ironically, the next summer the van overheated during rush hour traffic in downtown Chicago. Needless to say, I've been well trained in the fine art of sitting in a small area for a long period of time.
Thanks mom and dad.
But when spring break came around this year, I felt pretty prepared and figured I wouldn't need to bring out such skills. Lyndsay and I were only supposed to go to Paris to see one of my childhood eu pairs (Aisha), a mere 2 hours by plane. Key word: supposed....
But then a volcano exploded in Iceland, the cloud covered Europe with a black fog and tens of thousands of flights were cancelled...including ours.
Happy Spring Break 2010. Thus begins, my monolgue.
ACT ONE: The Travel
Early day: a volcano explodes in Iceland.
6:00pm - We get on a bus in Seville to go to Madrid completely oblivious. Good music, Andre Agassi's autobiography and 20 minutes of sleep later...
12:30am - We arrive in Madrid at the bus station.
12:30-1:15 am - Bus station > Airport via metro.
1:20 am - We settle into a corner of the airport. Lyndsay promptly falls asleep. I read for a bit then try to sleep. If you've ever spent the night at an aiport before, you know what I mean by TRIED. I laid down on a scarf, used my other scarf as a blanket, put my leather jacket over my head and as anti-theft for my luggage, I had no choice but to spoon with my rolly bag. As you can probably guess, it didn't go well. I slept 30 minutes and decided it would be more restful to sleep in the cage of a famished gorilla. Back to the book.
5:00am - Quick hot coco and OJ for breakfast before we go to check in for our 7:15am flight.
5:30am - Our flight is cancelled. We reschedule to 6:40am Saturday morning. Easyjet (our airline) gives us the name of a hotel to go to and we go to look for the shuttle stop.
6:30am - We realize we've been waiting in the wrong place the entire time. Upon our arrival at the correct shuttle stop, we board a shuttle in minutes.
6:50am - They don't have rooms. In fact, they don't even know why our airlines sent us to their hotel. But, they say in the most courteous way one can be at 6:50 in the morning, you may return to the airport on the 7:30 shuttle. And by may, they mean must.
Note: At some point in here I loose my cell phone in the hotel lobby. Icing on the cake. Still not sure what happened.
7:45am - Back at complaints desk. New hotel that WILL have rooms, they promise.
8:30am - We check into a hotel in Coslada, Spain. Haven't heard of it? Not surprised. Well that's because its the louse that lives on the hair growing out of the armpit of Spain. At this point, Lyndsay and I are beyond tired.
10am-1pm - SLEEP. FINALLY.
1:00pm - We wake up and call our friend Jenny who's studying in Madrid. We inform her that she WILL be spending the day with us, she WILL make us feel better about our situation and she WILL enjoy it.
We spent most of the rest of the day doing retail therapy and drinking coffee to fend off the delusions. Later that night I speak with both my mom and Aisha. Both confirm that the cloud has shut down the airport in Paris and that there is absolutely no way we will be flying there in the morning. But, my mom tells me, you must go check in so that they give you a refund.
1:00am - Bed time.
5:30am - Taxi to airport to recieve said refund.
5:45am - You're flight's cancelled. So we wait in line to talk to customer service. Fed up, I decide to wander the airport in search of the cheapest flight. It's like an Easter egg hunt for a stranded tourist. Lots of flights are out there, I think, I just need to search high and low for them. But at 6am few airline service desks are open, but I walk to the first one I see and talk to a woman in Spanish.
"What's the cheapest flight you have today?"
"Where do you want to go?" she asks.
"I really don't care."
Her head tilts, she is evidently confused/bothered by what she thinks may be a prank."When do you want to leave?"
"Today....now...when is the earliest flight?"
"And you don't care where you go?"
"I really want to go anywhere that isn't Madrid. I just need two seats on your next flight. Please tell me you have something leaving today."
"You can go to Tenas."
"Where's that?" I ask.
I tell Lyndsay of my luck.
"GREECE!" I nearly shout.
"Yeah, but where's Tenas?"
"I don't know but it's in Greece and Greece isn't in Spain and Tenas DEFINITELY isn't in the Madrid airport!"
She shrugs her shoulders and tells me that she's all in as long as I find out where this unknown destination is.
I return to the woman who still slightly thinks I'm joking. And after asking her where Tenas is, she now looks at me as though I'm both insane and stupid.
"It's one of the MOST important cities in Europe, in the world," she says, putting emphasis on world.
"Eurpeans," I think. "They put a rock in the middle of a city and call it famous just because it's old."
I look at the map. Atenas....Athens.
In Spanish, the preposition "a" means "to." So when she said we could go "a-a Tenas, Grecia" I just heard her stumble on the word "a."
2:00pm - We board our flight to Athens. And so that's how our trip started.
By the time we got to Greece you could carry groceries with the bags under my eyes but I guess that's what 9 hours of sleep in 64 does to you.
So to Greece we say yassas (hello). To Spain we say adios. And to Iceland we say, with the utmost respect, up yours.
But give it a few days and I have a feeling we'll be sending thank you cards and a fruit package to a little country up north that forced us to be spontaneous.