01 May 2010

A Volcano Story

The series of catastrophic events I suffered as a result of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland are too numerous to be described in detail, so I have provided a timeline of my experience. I was meant to finally meet Jim (who I hadn’t seen since Christmas) in Paris after my stay in Istanbul... but the fates had other plans.  This was in every respect a travel nightmare. Dwindling finances, unexpected expenses, sheer exhaustion from days without sleep, emotional despair, lack of internet access to communicate with the outside world... After surviving this, I'm confident I can surmount any obstacle!

15 April - Devastating News
My last night in Istanbul, I receive a frantic email from Jim that his flight to Paris the next day is canceled due to the swirling clouds of volcanic ash.  The flight will be rescheduled for the following day.

16 April- Stranded in Slovenia
-I fly out of Istanbul headed for a layover in Ljubliana, Slovenia, but my flight is diverted to Maribor.

-Upon arrival in Maribor, I discover that my flight to Paris is canceled.  The ash cloud has also shut down airports in the UK, Germany, Belgium, The Czech Republic.... and all of France.  For how many days was anyone’s guess.   The closest I can get is a late flight to Zurich, which, I am told, would probably end up being canceled. I accept the ticket... What choice did I have?

-Bawl my eyes out due to lack of sleep and uncertainty of seeing Jim.

-Befriend a wealthy and famous Egyptian hotel magnate and his entourage, who invite me to breakfast at their 5 star hotel. I share their cab, and I feast on the most decadent breakfast I have ever had, and hang out with them in their suite. To make a long story short, Egyptian hotel magnate turns out to be a total creep, and I am thus forced to hightail it back to Maribor airport. 

-Flight to Zurich is boarded... then delayed... then unboarded... then reboarded. Ultimately, we manage to fly out of Slovenia after all! I would later learn that this would be the last flight out of Maribor for several days.

-Land in Zurich, rush to the ticket line for a train to Paris, where I wait for an hour and a half. When it’s my turn to go up to the window, the ticket queue is closed. I’m told to come back at 6am tomorrow.

-cry myself to sleep on the cold floor of Zurich Airport. All around me, stranded passengers are camping out in the airport. Astoundingly, every single flight on the departure board is listed as CANCELLED.

17 April - Escape from Zurich
Arrive early at the ticket queue to be first in line, and manage to book a train to Paris, which costs over 200 Euro since only first class is available.

Arrive in Paris two days late, and receive word from Jim that his flight has been canceled AGAIN and he won’t be able to fly out until at least Thursday.

Arrive at the hotel we were meant to share (with a tragically gorgeous view of Sacré-Coeur), cry myself to sleep yet again.

18 April: A night with the nuns
-cancel the remaining nights in the hotel since it’s too expensive to stay in indefinitely while waiting for Jim's arrival.

-Wander around the city of Paris with tears in my eyes, trying to avoid the abundance of kissing couples, feeling more alone than ever before. THIS, my friends, is what hell must be like. To be stranded in one of the most romantic cities in the world without the one you love... Torture.

Drag my suitcase up the steps of Montmartre. Spend the nights with the nuns at Sacré Coeur. In exchange for two hours of Eucharistic Adoration from 3 – 5am, I am given a place to sleep for only 5 euros. I can only take advantage of this offer for one night, unfortunately.

19 April

-Expected to leave Sacré Coeur by 7:30am, I rush to an internet café and book a hostel for the night.

-Wander the streets of Paris, determined to make the best of it, but the inevitable tears continue. By now, my face is so tear-stained from several days of crying, it will remain blotchy and red for weeks to come.

-Meet up with a Parisian on couch-surfing, with whom I have drinks and a personalized tour of Paris on his motorbike. Begrudgingly, I enjoy myself a bit. Head back to hostel and sleep.

20 April: Hospitality from a friend of a friend
-Have lunch with Emily, a girlfriend from the states who’s living in Paris. While she’s unable to host me for the night, her friend Sarah (an assistant like me) would be willing to.

-Wander the beautiful streets of Paris yet again, realizing that I rarely need a map anymore.

-I arrive at Sarah’s, bearing desserts and baguettes in gratitude. We share a lovely dinner together and I crash on her pullout couch.

21 April: 
-Another day of exploring the city. 

- Spend the night in the dirtiest, sketchiest hostel of my life (FRIENDS hostel) in what I consider the Bagdad of Paris (otherwise known as Métro stop Barbes Rochechouart.) Accosted by drug dealers and groped in the 30 feet from the Metro Station and the hostel.

-Jim's flight for the following day still had not been canceled, so I felt safe enough to book a new hotel for his hopeful arrival the following day.

22 April:
-Leave the god-forsaken FRIENDS Hostel for the lovely Hotel Lorraine near Gare de l'Est. 
-Wait expectantly by the window for several hours... becoming more and more anxious until finally...

I turn around.

He's there.

We're together.

At last.

In Paris.

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