I’ve been “home” for three full days now. I wrote in my most recent blog post that I knew this adventure would change my life. It did in the most romantic way imaginable. Audrey Hepburn says in Sabrina that Paris became her hometown. I empathize. There is no way to describe the fairy tale quality of living a dream that has been asleep for twenty-three years. There is no way to describe what it feels like to wake up in your own bed and be incredibly homesick. There is no way to answer the questions about what London was like. My smile should say it all I guess. This adventure didn’t wake me up necessarily. It gave me wings. How can I tell the birds that aren’t flying what it feels like to fly? All I know is that I have to try. And I’ll begin where every good story starts.
Once upon a time…
There aren’t very many times. The few times there are I quickly forget. This one time I want to remember forever. I woke up for the last time in my apartment: B-404 (at 4:30 in the morning!). I brushed my teeth and finished packing my tiny suitcase. (It really is an extremely small suitcase. When I was touring the Midwest two years ago, I broke my big suitcase. My grandfather came to the rescue and gave me one of his old suitcases. It is the most adorable suitcase you will ever see, but it is not ideal for ten-day adventures.) I hugged my sister goodbye at 4:45 in the morning and began the drive to Charlotte, North Carolina, where our plane was taking off sometime during the 8:00 hour. My friend Paige and I were both somewhat stressed as we hadn’t had time to print out our tickets ahead of time. But the entire ordeal went smoothly with the exception of my purse. Airport security does not like my purse for some reason.
We made it successfully to Newark, New Jersey, where there was a bird flying throughout the airport. Paige and I had seats at the very back of the plane and felt every bit of turbulence, and there was quite a lot. I am not good at flying; “it takes an awful lot of practice to fly well,” as Julie Andrews would say. Paige kept remarking how quickly the plane was descending back to earth, and I was in the unfortunate position as to be the one person on the airplane whose life vest beneath her seat was designated for the flight attendant. But we made it to Boston Logan International Airport all in one piece.
We had a four-hour layover in Boston, but we wanted to hurry through baggage check in and relax on the other side and eat food. By this time in the day, we were starving. But we couldn’t find our airline. We were traveling with Wow airlines (I know that sounds sketch), and apparently it’s not very well known because none of the three people we asked could give us any helpful answers. One man finally told us that our baggage check in hadn’t started yet but that he thought it would open up in the general vicinity of the other Icelandic airlines. So Paige and I plopped ourselves and our baggage down in the seats by the Icelandic airline check ins and waited until 4:00. We walked up and down the airport; we tried to find workers to ask for help. We were getting anxious because our flight left at 6:30, and once again we hadn’t printed out our tickets ahead of time. (With this airline, though, you can’t print out your boarding passes ahead of time.) We couldn’t find anyone willing to help us so Paige decided to call the airport while sitting in the airport. That venture also proved unsuccessful. Finally at 4:30 I took one more stab at walking around the airport and suddenly saw our baggage check in station on the opposite side of where we had been told to wait. We raced to the baggage check in where the lady informed us that she couldn’t print our boarding passes from Iceland to London and that only my baggage would be able to make it to London. We had to put Paige’s luggage under my name if we wanted to get her suitcase to London. We made it through security with another pause at my purse. We ate pizza after exchanging our currency and then settled into the five-hour flight to Iceland. I don’t remember much of that flight. I tried to sleep, but a little girl who looked like Dora the Explorer would scream every time I was about to pass into the realm of dreaming.
We landed at 4:30 in the morning, Icelandic time, and proceeded to passport control. We made our first friend there. While looking like vagabonds, the Icelandic man at passport control (very chipper for 4:30 in the morning) rather flirtatiously asked us our business in Iceland, what a shame it was that we were just passing through, and that we should come back to see him again. We explored the airport shopping centers while waiting for our next flight to London and discovered the impossibility of buying breakfast without krona.
We boarded the purple plane around 6:30, and I finally fell asleep. I was so out of it that I wasn’t even perturbed by the announcement that we were turning around and going back to Iceland. We were halfway to London when a warning light flashed in the plane. Apparently one of the sensors wasn’t working correctly. Rather than fly us the other half of the way to London, we turned around and went back to Iceland. That passport man must’ve really wanted us to stay. For the first forty-five minutes, we stayed on the plane while the maintenance men tried to fix the problem. The problem took longer than anticipated so we all deboarded. We were told by the staff that the problem would be fixed by 9:00. 9:30 rolled around and then 10:30. One girl even opened her suitcase, took out her shower supplies, and took a shower while waiting for the plane to be fixed. Who knows where she found a shower. Eventually the time was extended to 12:00. Having not eaten since our pizza the night before, Paige and I were both starving. We met a nice couple who negotiated with the staff into giving us some sort of compensation. We were each given 1500 krona to use at the airport restaurants. I was too hungry to be hungry by this time, but I was thirsty. Europe does not believe in water fountains. I bought a fruit smoothie for the sports fanatic and an earl gray tea. Paige wanted to eat real Icelandic food and waited until 11:00 for the lunch menu. We ate (I drank) with the nice couple and discovered that our itineraries were the same. We were all leaving on Tuesday for Paris and going back to the United States on Sunday the next week. Throughout all of our European trip, we were looking for our American friends.
Once we got on the plane, the flight was uneventful. We arrived at the Gatwick Airport in London, and I realized that I had forgotten to pack my papers with the directions to the place we were staying. We had trouble connecting our phones to the WiFi, but eventually we managed. We bought our Oyster cards and began the two-hour ride to Sharon’s apartment. I don’t think it was supposed to take two hours. But in view of the bank holiday that weekend in London, the maintenance men took advantage of doing construction work on the train stations. What should have been a straight shot to Charlton Station became a mix of underground and train lines from Peckham Rye to Lewisham to Charlton. By the time we got off the train at Charlton, all we wanted to do was eat the Chinese take away we saw up the road. Over Chinese food Sharon gave us a book with maps of London and a map of Greenwich village. We felt at home right away and took advantage of both maps the very next day.