Well, we made it to the United States.
It was a looooong day of travel, but we made it.
It started with a 4am wake up that was partially due to the excitement of going home and partly because I wanted to make sure we had everything together well before we walked out the door at 6am. We hopped a tram to the train station and made the 1.5 hour train ride to Marseille without problems. Then we got the train station, which is outside the airport, so they offer a shuttle service to the airport itself. It’s not terribly far (2 kilometers, we learned…read on) and not unlike a shuttle that takes someone from the terminal to long-term parking or something.
Anyway, everyone was on the train with the intent of going to the airport, so of course, everyone off loaded which left about 50 people, ready to board a shuttle to the airport. A shuttle which was dark, no engine running and locked. We figured the driver was getting a cup of coffee or something (it was only 8:30am) but when no one came to let us in. people started getting antsy. Eventually Dave’s Italian teacher, who happened to be on the train with us, came up to us and attempted to give us the story. I say ‘attempted’ because she always forgets that French isn’t his native language, and tries to converse with him in French; it’s is only funny because we’d probably have an easier time understanding if she spoke in Italian to him. Either way, we got something about ‘gas’ (or lack there of) and ‘no replacement shuttle’ and it was about that time that the shuttle kiosk manager came out to tell us what was going on. In French. Which meant we got very little of it.
Eventually, we saw people take to the street to hoof it, and we joined them. So we rolled our bags and began the 2km walk to the airport, crossing highways and roads, because, you know, that’s completely safe. It was funny, more than anything else, because of my record of holiday travel, so of course this was happening to us.
As we approached the airport, we noticed cars backed up on the highway and people parking on the median to let their passengers out to catch their flights. Then we saw what looked to be a gas truck blocking the main entrance of the airport, making it impossible for cars to get in. So we figured that checked out, because the Italian teacher had said something about gas. Then we saw a mob of people and I just assumed it was the various groups waiting for shuttles/rides home from the airport.
Turns out they evacuated the airport because of a threat of the explosive variety.
We sat outside for about another hour and about 10am, we finally got to go in, after it turned out to be nothing. It was chaos, as the Marseille isn’t all that large, and doesn’t have individual check in desks. They have a set of check in desks that is shared by all the airlines so you have to get in line behind the proper desk, at your appointed check in time, which is prioritized by departure time. We were scheduled to leave for another 90 minutes so we were definitely low on the priority list.
We grabbed a cup of coffee at Starbucks (the one they have in France, I think) and waited out turn to check in. Finally, after a 40-minute check in line wait, we headed to security, thinking surely there was no way we’d be on time, given the line behind us still waiting to check in for our flight. We weren’t terribly nervous about that because we had a 4-hour layover in London, so lucky for us, we had that in our favor. We breezed through security and headed to our gate with about 30 minutes to spare. When they called us to board at 11:50 for our 12:05 flight, we thought maybe– just maybe– we would have an on-time departure.
Sigh. Silly us.
We got situated on the plane and the captain came on (who clearly didn’t know what had been going on earlier) and told us we had 35 more people we were waited on and that they had already checked in and should be making their way to the gate. After that, we’d be off, but we knew it would be a bit of a delay.
I didn’t realize that meant hanging out on the plane for two hours waiting.
I actually fell asleep, got a solid nap in, woke up and we still hadn’t left yet.
Eventually we were up in the air around 2:15 and we arrived in London 90 minutes prior to our departure. We were in a lot better shape than most.
Then we hit security at London and it is impressive. Impressive in the sense that we had to go through four security checkpoints. Four. Finally, we ended up at our gate, about 20 minutes before we were scheduled to leave. Luckily, everything was on time and by 5:05pm London time, we were on our way for our 8-hour flight.
I don’t know if you know this, but eight hours is a long time. Especially when you’re really antsy to get somewhere. I swear, the clock actually stopped somewhere over the Atlantic.
Finally, at 8:15pm NYC time, we were HOME! I have never been so excited in my life.
Dave’s mom and dad were waiting for us outside Customs and we loaded up in the car and immediately headed for the local pizza place in Northport so Dave could satisfy his NY pizza craving (and have something to eat with the beer his mom had waiting for him–French beer leaves a lot to be desired).
As we approached the 24-hour mark of being awake, we headed to bed in nice, warm flannel sheets. We were so tired, we hardly moved all night and I barely had to bother making the bed back up this morning.
It feels so good to be back on American soil.
NOW Christmas can really begin!