Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Stranded

We got stuck in Ireland. We heard about the volcano on Thursday morning. The bed and breakfast owner was giving us a rundown on the news as a way of making conversation. Hmm, we thought... we don't leave until Saturday.

We went about our day. Drove up into the Wicklow Mountains south of Dublin and did a loop back up the coast - it was lovely. Got back to the B&B, turned the news on and fretted slightly more.

Friday morning (24 hours before our flight out), every flight in Northern Europe was cancelled through Friday afternoon so we decided to wait until the evening and then decide what to do. We took off for the countryside, lasted two hours, came back to the room and booked a boat trip leaving that night at 9:30 p.m. ($520) from Rosslare, Ireland to Cherbourg, France.

We had to get Husband back to work on Monday morning and C-Bear had a huge and highly anticipated school trip to Florence that left Monday at 11 a.m.

So all we needed to do was get ourselves to Rosslare and catch the boat in 5 hours.

I called the rental car company to tell them I would be dropping the car in Rosslare and they told me "no way - nowhere to drop a rental car in Rosslare".

Plan B: We took our first rental car to the airport (an extra hour out of our way), got a second rental car from a different company ($225 minus $120 if we filled it with gas) that we could drop 1 hour away from Rosslare and then we would somehow get ourselves to Rosslare - it didn't look that far on the map.

At this point we are officially stressed out.


Traffic out of Dublin on a Friday was terrible and there was an accident that took thirty minutes to wade through. We had heard at the rental car desk that the ferry was running an hour late so WE HOPED WE HOPED WE HOPED we could make it. We contacted a taxi driver to take us from Waterford (where we dropped the rental car) to Rosslare and he said he would do it for 100 euro ($130).

We dropped the rental car in such a rush we couldn't refill the gas tank ($120), jumped in the cab. The cab driver called his daughter while driving and found out that our boat had indeed already left and we were SOL. We slumped in our seats. We had him drop us in Rosslare and gave him an extra 20 euro as a tip ($30).

We were sick about missing the boat, out all that cash and it appeared we wouldn't get back to Belgium in time for C-Bear's trip.

We booked a room nearby the ship terminal ($160/night) and collapsed in bed. Our plan was to hit the ferry terminal at 6:30am the next day. Our worry (and we were correct) was that at this point every traveler in Ireland was looking for a way off the island.

The next morning (Saturday) we walked down to the terminal and there were already people lined up outside the booking windows - looking miserable, sitting on suitcases. We took our reservations from Friday to the window and the woman at the counter told us they were SOLD OUT for the Sunday at 6 p.m. sailing but just a minute... she went into the back and rustled a few papers, came out and let us our move our missed sailing to Sunday for 20 euro ($27). She had opened up a berth or something. I almost kissed her I was so relieved.

We stayed another night in our hotel ($160), ate a lot of restaurant food (I haven't really tallied it... maybe $600), got haircuts - I cut all my hair off (story for another post) and finally left on our "overnight cruise" to France.

When we got to Cherbourg, France on Monday we had a wonderful friend pick us up ($230 for gas, tolls, dinner and thank-you money). It was a five hour drive EACH way for him. We were so grateful. We arrived home Monday at 10 p.m. to our animal sitter who we thanked and paid an additional 20 euro ($27).

Husband was a day late for work and C-Bear was crushed that she missed her (pre-paid $600) trip to Florence.

There are a few things I realized during this trip:

1) It's really helpful to have a credit card with some room on it. We spent an extra $2000 that we had not planned on. In fact, originally, the whole Ireland vacation was less than $2000 so we more than doubled our expenses.

2) The Irish people we encountered were some of the kindest, most helpful, polite and patient folks I've ever met. I was so thankful whenever I was treated nicely. I guess I was braced for bad customer service and mean people.

3) Thank goodness they speak English in Ireland.

4) We were/are lucky - there are people who are still trying to get home. We are lucky our kids are older, we had resources- money, a cell phone, a computer. We reminded ourselves that if this had happened to us 10 or 15 years ago we would have had to camp at the airport for a week. Scary.

5) We won't be taking another vacation for a long while. We need to recover from this one.

Needless to say, I'm thankful to be home.

2 comments:

Christina said...

Wow.

Viceroy De Los Osos said...

Glad you got home safe and sound. Darn volcanoes.