Yeah, Yeah, I know you've all been waiting with anticipation, but I got a little distracted. I'm back.
Part 2 - Arriving in London
When we finally touched down in London, we taxied around for a little bit, everyone assuming nothing was up. The captain then came on the intercom:
"Due to an industrial incident, there's no gate for us to use, and no one to off load the luggage from the plane, so we will be staying here for a little while... Any of you with connecting flights should speak with a BA representative as soon as you get off the plane... Because of this incident, all out going flights have also been delayed so there is a good chance you can still make your flight..."
Industrial incident? What the hell is that? Oh well, at least there is a good chance we can still make the plane to Rome (we thought). We then proceeded to wait on the runway for another hour and a half! People are pissed off at this point, to say the least.
We finally get to a gate. Finally off the plane. At this point Jamari (Lisa's cute four year old) is fast asleep... And I do mean, out cold! He apparently didn't sleep at all during the 10 hour plane flight.
We then all hear over the loudspeaker, "Due to an industrial incident, all flights leaving Heathrow are canceled for the rest of the day. Please call your travel agent or BA at ..." What the hell?
So apparently, this 'industrial incident' (we would find out later) was a wildcat strike of ALL of BA's ground crew (basically everyone except the pilots).
Well, now we have to go through customs (which is now a HUGE line) and make our way out into chaos. Heathrow is packed full of desperate travels, and there is NO personnel in the air port except for what must have been two poor volunteers of BA to try to answer angry people's questions.
First we try to call my parents... but my Dad had just got a new cell phone so he could use it while in Europe, so no one had the number. So we end up playing phone tag with answering machines. We're thinking, "Ok, we have no idea if BA will be actually running tomorrow... we have no way to tell our parents where we're going... I guess lets start by investigating going by train."
Well imagine Heathrow airport shoulder to shoulder with angry people. Then imagine trying to find how to get to the nearest train station. Now imagine trying to do that jet lagged and sleep deprived. Yeah... pretty bad.
So we find out which metro stop to take. Lug everyone's bags and a sleeping dead-weight of a four year old, and make our exhausting trip out to the train station.... Only to find it wasn't the right one! The ones going to Paris were leaving from ANOTHER train station! We are pissed and hungry, but amazingly, not at each other. Everyone is pitching in, being helpful... Quite a miracle actually.
So we sludge our way to the other metro stop (including some hellacious transfers), and get there, only to discover the last train to Paris leaves in twenty minutes! We scramble to get someone in line, but it leaves ironically on time. We then discover how to reach my Dad. Ann and Paul then go to a book store to look for a hostel to stay in, because the plan we're forming means we get up at the butt crack of dawn to catch another BA plane (they're supposed to be flying the next day). We manage to find one... get back on the metro (with Jamari now awake and bubbling with energy none of the rest of us have), and head out to the hostel.
Well, we still have not had anything to eat yet, but by the time we get there, everyone has stopped serving food! We are famished and walking along the river where we discover a hot dog stand. However, we don't have any pounds on us, and these two guys don't take dollars. So we finally manage to bargain our way to the most expensive hot dogs I've ever had (they didn't taste to bad either), and then head back to the hostel.
The next morning we rush out of there and to the metro station to head back to the airport... but the metro doesn't open till 7:30am on Sundays!! So we have to wait there another 20 minutes, and everyone is thinking, "Great! We're going to miss this plane!" Well, we didn't... but let me tell you it wasn't easy. Heathrow is THE most poorly designed airport I have ever seen, and compound that fact with it was probably breaking every fire code in London...
We manage to get on board a plane flying to Belgium, and then to Florence. But we would have to change airlines in Belgium, because BA doesn't fly to Florence from there. Well, we had an incredibly short turn around to go back out through customs and pick up our bags (at which point I thought I had lost my wallet, but I had only mistakenly packed it in my suitcase).
to be continued (again)...