So now begins the tale of my ridiculous journey home.
I woke up bright and early this morning, had a nice espresso and last chat with Alessandra, then I walked over to the Trastevere train station to head for the airport. I had just missed the 7:30 train, but I got a ticket for one leaving a few minutes later.
The train ride was fine and I got to the airport with no problems. Then began the frustrations. I was supposed to be leaving from Terminal 5, so when I saw a sign pointing to Terminal 3 and Terminal 5, I went in that direction. I went into the terminal, but it was Terminal 3. I went back outside and there were no signs for Terminal 5. Frustrating, but whatever. I walked in both directions and saw absolutely nothing pointing towards Terminal 5. Nobody seemed to speak English when I tried asking for help, and my limited Italian wasn’t getting me anywhere. Finally someone who spoke English came up to me and asked if I knew where the shuttle to Terminal 5 was. Oh. I guess I had to take a shuttle, then! Finally I came upon a shuttle stop (NOT very well marked at all), eventually got on a bus and got to the right terminal. The signage there is crap. I can’t find the [airline] desk anywhere. I see desks for every other airline, but not [airline]. Eventually I find it and it’s not open. NOT OPEN! Our flight leaves in 2.5 hours and we can’t even check in yet?! It eventually opens, I give them my bag and go through the long security lines and hop on yet another bus to go out to the gates.
I got off because I saw signs for gate H. I walked in and it was NOT gate H – it was gate G. Whut. I don’t even know how this was possible. At this point I was starting to get a bit nervous and annoyed, as I’d already wasted a good amount of time trying to find the bloody Terminal 5 and then waiting for them to open and process people. I finally find signs to gate H, hop on the little train thing and get to where I’m supposed to be.
I grab some food from a little cafe and sit down to wait. By this time the flight was leaving in about a half hour. I used up the majority of my remaining coins to buy a bottle of water and a snack for the plane.
Eventually they call our flight and we go up to go through their check again. The plane is way out on the tarmac somewhere, so we line up to board buses out there. That takes forever. I’m looking at my watch and thinking that the plane was supposed to leave in 15 minutes, so it was obvious that it was going to be delayed. I had a 2.5 hour layover in Montreal, so I was starting to get antsy, thinking that my time to go through customs and reach my connecting flight was decreasing, but I wasn’t too worried just yet.
We get out to the plane, board it and proceed to wait. And wait. And wait some more. Then we’re told that there’s a small mechanical issue and they’re going to fix it because (and this is a direct quote here) “Safety is our highest priority and we want to make sure that this plane is 100% safe for you.” Fine. I like safety. I chat to the people around me and it’s no big deal. The wait turns into an hour. Then two hours. At this point I know I’m going to miss my flight from Montreal to Vancouver (unless the winds are in our favour), but am confident that they’ll get me on another plane right away. Ha! The plane is finally “fixed,” and we start to move out to the runway.
Finally we take off, 3 hours later than planned. All is good. They pass around the iPads and I rent one so that I can have some entertainment and save the battery on my phone. They serve some disgusting food. In hindsight, now I can tell that I’d been hearing some engine noises, but didn’t think anything of it at the time. About an hour or so into the flight, the captain makes an announcement that there’s been mechanical failure, so we need to make an emergency landing in London. Oh shit. I try to stay calm, but it’s very hard to. The view of London that I can see from the middle of the plane is lovely. Oh hai, Tower Bridge and Big Ben! The plane noises are becoming louder and louder, and there is a lot of shaking that is most definitely NOT turbulence. I’m white knuckling it and willing us to land safely. The landing was definitely not good, but we landed and skidded our way onto the runway to huge applause. I was so glad to be on solid ground and safe!
We slowly taxi our way to somewhere out on the tarmac, well away from any terminal that I can see, then the plane stops. They haven’t told us which London airport we’re at, by the way. The captain explains that they don’t really know what is going to happen, but crews are coming out to look at the plane. So we sit and wait and wait, and wait some more. Nobody knows what’s happening. The captain comes on again and says that busses will be coming to pick us up, and then we’ll be shuttled out to a hotel for the night. We will fly out again the next day. Okay. That sucks that we can’t get on another flight today, but I’ll deal. We wait and wait and wait some more. The busses come and park, so we get up to get off the stupid plane but the captain tells us to sit down again and wait. The crew is trying to fix the plane, so we might actually be able to leave. UH UH. NO. I WANT OFF THIS PLANE!! By now people are beginning to get angry. We’ve been sitting here for ages, getting mixed messages. Just let us get off the damn plane!!
After some time has passed, the captain announces that the crew has determined that the fix isn’t quick, so we will indeed be leaving the plane momentarily. A cheer goes up from the crowd. Then we were told that due to security concerns, we wouldn’t be getting our checked luggage. It would meet us at our next flight. That caused a groan and much cursing from the crowd. After 2 HOURS of sitting on the stupid tarmac, we are finally let off the plane. Ahhh, fresh air!! We board the buses and get to the main terminal area. We finally find out that we’re at Heathrow airport.
Then we go thru customs and get a lovely stamp on our passports.
There really should have been people escorting us to where were supposed to go, but there wasn’t, so many of us who were at the front of the plane and first off the bus were totally clueless as to where we were supposed to go.
Finally someone corrals a number of us (unfortunately we saw some others go the wrong direction, so I hope that they eventually found their way back), and we board a bus that takes us out to our hotel. It was a fairly decent place.
We stand in line and get checked in, get our vouchers for dinner and breakfast and I go up to my room. We were given one free 3 minute phone call, so I planned to call my parents. Whenever I travel, they always track my flights to make sure I’m safe (aren’t they so cute?!), so I knew I needed to let them know that I was safe and okay, but was NOT in Montreal or even on my way to Vancouver at this point. I called their work phone number and my aunt picked up the phone. They weren’t nearby, so I quickly told her the short version of the story and to let my parents know I was okay and that I’d send them an email or FaceTime them later.
I then went downstairs and got some dinner (bleh – boring buffet food that wasn’t very good), and a few drinks from the bar.
One of the hotel employees told me that our shuttle would take us back to the airport at 7am the next morning. I went back up to my room and turned the TV on, and sent a few emails back and forth with my dad. I also posted a quick blurb on FB that I was okay.
I didn’t have much battery power left on my phone after this, and while I had my charger with me, my power adapter was in my suitcase in the belly of the plane. Grr. Since we were far away from any kind of city centre or shopping areas, I turned my phone off for the night, as I knew I wouldn’t be able to buy an adapter and charge my devices until the morning. I wasn’t about to pay an exorbitant amount of money for a taxi to get me to a store, so I figured I’d spend half that exorbitant amount and buy one once I got to the airport.
I watched a few movies and TV shows, had a quick shower and washed my clothes in the tub. The hairdryer was in the middle of the room (explain THAT one to me) and it was attached to the desk and not moveable. I hung the clothes to dry, as they were too soaking wet to bring over to the hairdryer at that point. I knew that with a few hours of drying, hopefully by morning they’d not be dripping wet any more.
I read for a little bit but then decided to try to get some sleep if I could.
Total distance walked: 3.6km