Sunday, June 10, 2018

Trying to Get Home

The adventure of returning home started with waking up at 5:30am. We piled into the compact car and sped off to the airport for our flight back to Barcelona with a 4 hour layover. In Barcelona we learned that our flight was delayed by 4 hours (and it was a different carrier named Arik Air). 8 hours of down time! Barcelona’s airport isn’t very big or interesting. Thankfully we had access to the VIP lounge because we’d purchased those premium tickets. We had soft cushy couches and free food and beverages (well not free). We were content because we had no idea things were about to change.
We boarded our plane and promptly started playing with all of the buttons like children. Nothing worked, but it would once the plane took off. Or maybe not. Thirty minutes into the flight the controls for the seats suddenly came on to a round of applause from the passengers. It was short lived. The in-flight TV screens didn’t work. A stewardess came by with an Ipad for watching movies. It had 4 movies and Joe’s didn’t work at all.
An hour and a half into the flight the captain came on the speaker and informed us that he was turning around the plane and going back to Barcelona. We couldn’t go to Oakland. Why? Had there been an earthquake? He told us he’d be dumping fuel on the way so we could land, which is a creepy thing to watch.
The natives became restless. Rumours were flying. We landed back in Barcelona and had a Norwiegen rep tell us that the Oakland airport had explained to Arik Air that they are a small airport and would be closed by the time we arrived (recall the four hour delay). Somehow the pilot didn’t know this upon take-off. And why couldn’t we continue to LA (I’m assuming they have to use airports they’re contracted with)?
Next came the completely insane process of transporting and housing hundreds of people for the night. Not to mention the problem of getting a flight time for the plane to leave the next day. We, meaning all of us except the few smart ones who grabbed a taxi, trudged to the other end of the airport to find our assigned bus. We climbed on board and watched each bus take off, but not ours. Tempers were flaring (mine) after an hour sitting on a half full bus. Multiple people had gone outside to politely ask when we were leaving. I suddenly got up and marched to the front of the bus and got out to talk to the poor kid who was managing this disaster. I asked him how much longer and he gave me the wrong answer. I responded with maturity, “It’s two in the morning. We’re dying here!” He looked taken aback at this sudden attack from a Mom-person. When I got back on the bus, I was greeted with laughter and everyone wanting to know what I’d said. Apparently I could be clearly seen throwing my arms up in the air by the entire bus through the front window. The Schussman temper sadly on display. Izzy confided in me that I’m terrifying J
We were bused to a lovely little hotel called Las Balmes. I highly recommend it for their hospitality (especially the two startled guys at the front desk). We were led to our rooms at 3:30 in the morning. This was the most comfortable bed on our entire trip, or I was exhausted.
The next day we got a taxi back to the airport after confirming with the hotel manager that
Norwegian hadn’t scheduled a return flight. After several wrong windows, we found the representative who could tell us when our plane would be leaving. It wouldn’t be leaving. There was no plane for us to get into, we’re so sorry. We’d need to book a new flight. So sorry, but the Oakland flight is booked solid. So is tomorrow’s flight. Then they gave us the option to fly to Stockholm, Sweden and then to Oakland… the next day. We grabbed it. This time there would be no VIP lounge admission because our Stockholm tickets weren’t Premium… seriously? No problem, time flew by as we became excited about visiting Sweden for the first time, especially Stockholm (stop laughing… we didn’t know the airport wasn’t anywhere near the city).
Norwegian Air did a great job of taking care of our costs up front. We weren’t expected to keep receipts for reimbursements later. We had meal vouchers, the transportation was covered, and the rooms were reserved and paid for. As we flew over Sweden, I was struck by the vast openness of the forested land. They sent us to the Quality Inn. I was pleased because I knew what to expect… large rooms with two queen size beds, or maybe one bed, but we’d ask for one room with two beds (I’m so American). We didn’t want to be separated from Izzy. The lady said yes, the rooms had two beds. I asked if the beds were big. She shook her head and said no, but she’d put us in a larger room. So sweet.
Then a group of guys in the bar next to reception, one of whom was drunk, noticed us. As most of you know Joe always wears a cowboy hat when we travel. The drunk guy says, “Hey cowboy!” Really loud and slurred. After the third time I turned my “mom” glare on him. When I’m tired, hungry, and things aren’t going as planned, I have no patience for those kind of shenanigans! All I needed was for them to pick a fight with Joe. That would’ve been an unwise move on their part. The guy surprisingly spun around and didn’t say another word. Izzy told me again that I’m terrifying.
When we got there we had to eat quickly before the restaurant closed. Our vouchers got us an amazing plate of Carbonara and a glass of Chianti. We laughed at the irony of being in Sweden and eating one of the best plates of Italian food we’d had with an excellent glass of wine. Then we went up to our rooms and entered an Ikea display. It was thee smallest hotel room I’d ever seen! Ever. It had two skinny little cot-sized beds snuggled up side-by-side. Fortunately it had Murphy bunk beds. Izzy jumped up on the top one like an eight year old. The bathroom had a giant porthole into the room like on a ship. That way if you had to use the toilet at night the whole room would light up! Really?... whose idea was that? I stuffed a pillow into it.
It was almost midnight and still light out like in Alaska. I peeked out the window again at two in the morning and it was still twilight. Breakfast was in a spacious dining room, which was odd to me after seeing the bedrooms. Back to the airport. We’d gone by a jumbo jet out in a field the night before. Today I could see cafĂ© tables and chairs on the wing. What the heck? I googled it and it’s called Jumbo Hostel. It has 27 rooms… the suite is in the cockpit. Now that’s recycling.
What a nice airport! The food is amazing here. We finally boarded the plane three days later and are still thanking our lucky stars that we got Premium on the way home from Stockholm. Izzy is sipping her last cup of wine as we fly over Greenland. Why do they call it Greenland?

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