Wednesday, July 13, 2011

European Chronicles July 5, 2011

Once upon a time, we didn't go to Ireland. Here is the story written by Nicole and posted on her blog:

This is how we didn't get to Ireland today.

Yesterday Amy, Sam, and I went to the public library to do some travel business. Unlike last week, this time I "made a booking" in the digital media suite (read: group of computers). 

Wait! I didn't tell you that story?! Last time I was there, the nasty librarian called security on me because I didn't "make a booking" and my feathers were quite ruffled. She made a nasty face and rolled her eyes and breathed a long breath like Napoleon Dynamite, but she let me print my confirmation number for our flight to Prague because I would "be quick about it." It didn't help in the end. That's another sad travel story.

Anyway, this time I made a proper booking and settled down with the girls to take care of our travel business. Surprisingly,  nothing went wrong with the booking, boarding passes, the parking reservation, or printing all of them. We had to pay 10p per page for 12 pages, but I did steal one page because Mean Librarian Girl was behind the counter and I was feeling especially rebellious. 

This morning, we decided to not leave on "Nicole time," (read: ridiculously early) but rather a bit later. I tried my very hardest to be go with the flow, but I was worried anyway. I'm always worried before traveling because something always goes wrong, especially in England. 

We had a leisurely breakfast of scones from Crook Hall and drove to the off-site airport parking place. Unfortunately, I had the GPS in my backpack, which was in the boot (translation: trunk) so we pulled over to get it out. Even with the GPS's help, we got a little lost because of inadequate signage and false advertising. The name of company on the brick and mortar place did not match the online reservation name. However, we eventually found it and transferred our stuff to the airport shuttle.

Our "five minute ride to the airport" turned out to be about 15 because of road construction. Nathan made happy conversation with our driver while my feet tapped nervously in the back. He asked the driver, "What should we do in Ireland?" 


"What if we're only moderate drinkers?" 



We bounded out of the van and checked the departure board just inside the airport doors. We didn't see our flight. Since we didn't have any bags to check, we went straight to security and got our passports and boarding passes inspected. It was only then that I noticed that the gate closed at 10:40 and the flight departed at 11:10, not 11:55 like we thought. It was 11:05.

Calm on the outside. Panicked on the inside.

We went through security with no problems. I ran to our gate on the other side while Nathan and the girls ran behind me with belts, shoes, sweatshirts, etc. flagging behind. The departures board on the other side of security said "LAST CALL," so we ran with all of our might. 

The flight was already gone.

Dejected but not defeated, we huffed and puffed while Nathan said, "It's okay! We'll just re-book for a later one." We checked at the counter, but there were no more flights to Dublin today. The agent said we could change our reservation for tomorrow for100 pounds each but encouraged us to get a cheaper flight by booking online ourselves.

We called the parking service to come get us again, got the car and drove to the Metrocentre, the largest mall in Europe, which happened to be a few minutes away. In the parking deck Nathan and Amy got on the phone with the hotel and rental car companies, and we learned that we couldn't cancel tonight and get any money back, which was disappointing. However, in the mall we got something cool and refreshing (Diet Coke from McDonald's), walked around a bit but didn't go into any stores, and tried to re-book our flights through two separate travel agencies, neither of which worked with Ryanair. 

We drove home discouraged, but set out to play travel agent ourselves and and try to buy four one-way tickets from NCL to DUB online, but it just. didn't. work. We tried over 20 times. We used five calls to Ryanair customer service (in India) at 10 p per minute, four different credit cards, three search engines, two computers with cleaned out cookies, and partridge in a pear tree. 

While on the phone with Ryanair India, we got responses to our problem like, "There's no problem with the website." "You should call your bank." "You didn't delete the cookies correctly." "Hundreds of other people are booking reservations online right now." "The people who told you you could re-book for 100 pounds were wrong." "I can do it over the phone for a million pound surcharge." They were generally rude and unhelpful, even though I was supremely nice. 

Then Nathan tried but was rebuffed. He even said crazy things like, "My brother dropped dead this morning. Now that we've grieved and moved on, we're ready to re-book our flight for tomorrow. My confirmation number is B as in baked beans, G as in gorilla, 1, J as in jalopy, Y as in Old Yeller, and N as in NEVER GOING TO GET TO IRELAND AT THIS RATE."

It's funnier now than it was an hour ago.

After our futile attempts to get help on the phone from Ryanair, we decided to try to call the airport itself and just have them re-book our flights like they offered to this morning. They just directed us to India. Then, a stroke of genius. I called lost baggage, a local number, and got passed from desk to desk all the way to a Ryanair agent at the airport. FINALLY! 

She told me that I could not re-book for 100 pounds each because it was too late for that, but I COULD drive back to the airport and book there, but there would be surcharges for printing boarding passes. Our "rough estimate" total was 479 pounds. 

*choking sound*

At this point we decided to try to get Amy and Sam's money back for the hotel, rental car, and airport parking and if we were mildly successful, scrap the whole trip. In all, we were 66% successful with the hotel, 100% successful with the rental car, and 0% successful with the airport parking. Total losses, including the flights we never took, added up to: $590 and NO TRIP TO IRELAND.

After more phone calls across the Irish Sea and a few more here in the UK, we drove over to a nice village pub in Woolsingham called The Black Bull and drowned our sorrows in Guinness (Nathan) and chocolate sundaes (the girls).

For now Ireland remains a land of ire. Lots of it. So far, no tears have been shed, but we still have two hours left in the day.

Two morals to this story: 1) Don't fly with RyanAir and 2) pay for your printing at the library.

 I had to copy and paste, because I couldn't stand to type it all out myself and she did such a fabulous job. The only tears that have been shed so far are tears from laughter over Nathan's recitation of our confirmation number. I hope you find as much joy out of it as we did--especially considering the circumstances. 

We trust that there is some reason we are not in Ireland--but we haven't heard yet of any plane crashes or bombs. 

Now we plan to make the most out of our time in England. Tomorrow we are going to Holy Island which we can only cross at certain times of the day due to rising tides (hope we don't mess up the times tomorrow). :) 

Hope you enjoyed our story. Let's all hope it ends in "happily ever after..." 

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