At the end of the beginning, I had just decided that we were to stay in Dublin and wait for our Sunday evening flight to Frankfurt. Our seats had moved from stand-by to verified and in my best judgment at the time, that was safer than arriving in London with no plan, no place to stay, and absolutely no trust in any of the travel booking websites nor the information we were receiving from the media. Lufthansa told us that they would update our Sunday flight information at 7:00 am Sunday morning.
Sunday 4/18 7:00 am: In case you didn’t notice, the word “Planes” was removed from the title. In other words, our flight was canceled…again. We jumped on Skype, our savior, and called Lufthansa.
Sunday 4/18 7:30 am: We finally reached a Lufthansa representative and he told us the next available flight is on Wednesday. My wife and I gave each other the same look; “No way in hell”, but we still took the flight. We spent the next hour on the Internet trying all of the same unreliable sites.
Sunday 4/18 8:30 am: Thanks to the early hour, the sites were getting less traffic and we could book a Sunday evening ferry ride with Irish Ferries from Dublin to Holyhead, England. This would put us in England at midnight with no plan, but we would be off of the first island. We then managed to purchase 5:25 am tickets on the Eurostar train between London and Paris. We didn’t know if we could get there on time, but the tickets were refundable so we purchased them anyway. The next step was to find out how to get from Holyhead to London for our 5:25 am train. After some research, we found out that it could not be done. At this point, we decided to eat breakfast, check out of the hotel, and take a cab to the Dublin port to see if there were any smaller companies running ferries to England.
Sunday 4/18 9:30 am: We arrived at the port and Irish Ferries was the only company with an open counter. There was a smaller company working the day before, but they were not going to open until 3:00 pm Sunday. We knew the smaller companies were selling somewhat overpriced tickets to London and decided to come back at 2:00 pm to queue for a chance at those tickets. As we were leaving, three people from separate Dublin radio stations asked me for an interview. I spoke for 30 seconds and mention the word “canceled” fifteen times. It had been 4 days since the eruption and one journalist almost fell over from shock. Apparently, Dublin wasn’t fully aware of what its tourists were going through.
Sunday 4/18 10:00 am: We got back to the hotel and ran into a nice Irish lady in the lobby. She told us that Bus Eireann, Ireland’s national bus service, sells coach tickets to London via different ferry companies. We had no idea. We didn’t even know there was a national bus system. We asked for the station address, which happened to be just down the street, and walked to the station to see if we could purchase tickets. We were told that all of the scheduled buses were sold out, but they would be adding more evening routes around 1:00 pm that day and our best bet would be to purchase tickets online.
Sunday 4/18 11:00 am: Back at the hotel again and we sat down for coffee and terribly slow wireless Internet access. We spent the next 45 minutes on the Bus Eireann website retrying the search for tickets that we hoped would suddenly occur sometime between then and 2:00 pm that afternoon.
Sunday 4/18 11:45 am: The Internet was too slow. The Bus Eireann site only loaded half of the time and we couldn’t risk losing seats because of connectivity problems. I recalled seeing a Wi-Fi router on the 2nd floor hallway of the hotel and decided to try my connectivity from there. It turned out that the connectivity was much better, but I had to stand right in front of the router while dodging other customers and the cleaning department.
Sunday 4/18 High Noon: I hit search again and the tickets appeared. I worked through three or four web pages while trying to balance out the distance between the Wi-Fi router and the stairway door. I arrived at the final web page and then went tearing downstairs to my wife for our credit card number. I entered our payment information and then clicked submit, purchased verified…thank you God. We decided to leave coffee in the lobby and both stand in front of Wi-Fi router on the second floor. Fifteen minutes later we purchased 7:00 pm Eurostar tickets between London and Paris.
At this moment in time, we had verified tickets to London and then Paris.
Sunday 4/18 12:45 pm: We called Lufthansa Germany and ask them to cancel our Wednesday flight from Dublin to Frankfurt …and they wouldn’t do it. We told them that if they would cancel our tickets now, they could then give them to someone on stand-by. We were told that we must call Lufthansa USA to cancel the flight since it was purchased in US Dollar. Unbelievable.
Sunday 4/18 1:00 pm: We decided to walk down to the bus station and grab our bus/ferry tickets to London. We were told to come back at 6:30 pm to get them. With nothing else to do, we wandered the streets of Dublin looking for a restaurant with Wi-Fi access.
Sunday 4/18 2:00 – 4:00 pm: We stopped at the Wynn Hotel for lunch and Internet access. Over a very long lunch, we exchanged our 5:25 am Eurostar tickets for 10:00 am tickets, purchased train tickets between Paris and Strasbourg, and purchased train tickets between Strasbourg and Stuttgart…bringing us home Monday evening.
Sunday 4/18 5:30 pm: We decided to wait for the ticket counter to open at the bus station. We arrived at the station to absolute chaos. No one knew where to wait and everyone was paranoid that they would be left behind. Yes, we all had verified tickets, but at that point in time, you couldn’t blame anyone for feeling desperate.
Sunday 4/18 7:00 pm: We left the station with two full buses. Goodbye Dublin.
Sunday 4/18 8:30 pm: We had just left our parked bus and grabbed the first available open seats on the ferry, quite possibly the same seats we paid for earlier that morning. We didn’t feel too bad about losing the money. At least two people on the waiting list were now on the ferry thanks to our double purchase. The ferry was packed. There were people sleeping under stairs and open spaces on the floor.
Monday 4/19 12:30 am: The ferry arrived in Holyhead and things started to get ugly. Almost everyone headed for the stairs, but a few healthy adults went for the elevator. As I stood in line for the stairs, I watched a group of grown men allow the elevator door to shut in front of a 90-year old woman with a cane. On the next trip down, I watched another group of healthy people shut out a lady and her mentally handicapped and blind teenage son. It had been a long time since I had seen something that ugly and disgusting. Had I been near the elevator at the time I would have physically pulled someone out of it.
Monday 4/19 7:30 am: We safely arrived in London in plenty of time for our 10:00 am trip to Paris. Things were looking good, but from what I read on the Internet, the Eurostar terminal was a mad house and the British government only wanted ticketed passengers anywhere near it.
Monday 4/19 8:00 am: We arrived at the London North Eurostar terminal. Compared to typical London Tube traffic, the terminal was a ghost town. It didn’t make any sense. I knew they had added new trains between London and Paris, but those trains were booked quickly too. We were lucky to acquire flip seats next to the luggage racks. I was at least expecting long lines at the ticket booths.
Monday 4/19 10:00 am: Our train departed for Paris and IT WAS NOT FULL. This is unforgivable. It is unimaginable. How could this be? There were people stranded all over England and our train was not full. The government and media had warned people to stay away because of the chaos, but they were allowing trains to depart with empty seats! They could have at least created some sort of waiting list staging area away from the main terminal.
Monday 4/19 12:30 pm – 8:00 pm: From Paris to Stuttgart was pretty uneventful. The train terminal at Paris East was very busy and the ticket line was very long. We booked everything online, so we didn’t need to fight through those crowds. We made 3 more train changes and all of those trains were full, but nothing different than the typical summer time traffic. We arrived safely home to our happy dog and bored out of her mind friend and dog-sitter.
Monday 4/19 9:00 pm: The first leg of our Tuesday morning flight to Los Angeles was canceled, but the Frankfurt to Los Angeles leg was still on. My wife was exhausted and wanted to cancel the trip all together. Neither of us wanted to take the train to Frankfurt to just sit there all morning and then have the flight finally canceled. We also did not want to end up stuck in Los Angeles because the volcano decided to let loose once again. Germany had extended its flight ban until Tuesday evening and was only allowing a handful of special flights out of the country. It appeared that our flight was one of the special exceptions. We called Lufthansa to find the next flight to Los Angeles. They told us the 28th, which was about two days after the event we were traveling to Los Angeles to attend. We decided to cancel the trip all together along with our “uncancelable” Wednesday Dublin to Frankfurt flight. It would have been irresponsible to fly to Los Angeles considering the current travel conditions. Hopefully, a family stuck in Frankfurt will find their way home thanks to our exhausted condition.
Tuesday 4/20 Afternoon: We are home. We are safe. We are not flying again for quite some time. People are still stranded all over the world and there are probably empty seats traveling between London and Paris. People are still being good to each other, but old women and handicapped children are probably being cut off from handicapped access points by healthy men. Ferries and trains were added between major destinations all over Europe, but people weren’t given the information needed to understand how to get to them. Media did its best to keep us informed, but only managed to confuse most travelers and keep some of us away from possible travel sources. On our way home, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. I tried to part of the good and had to once get ugly.
The bad will be our credit card bill.