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37 Hours

This weekend a windstorm blasted through the Vancouver area and ended up knocking out power to over half a million households. It wasn’t a terribly bad storm from my perspective (I’ve been in a hell of a lot worse ones before!), but this one was vicious on the power lines.

Here’s how it went down for me:

It’s currently 8:04pm on Saturday night and I’ve been without power or running water (we’re on a well system, so when the power goes, so does our water) since 11:30am. We had a fairly big storm blow through the area for most of the morning, so I wasn’t surprised when the power first went out. I thought it would last a few hours, but now that I’m going on almost 9 hours with no power, I’m getting a bit annoyed.

I’ve read a lot today, which has been great. I have a huge pile of books waiting to be read, so I made some real progress on one of them (Antony and Cleopatra by Colleen McCullough).

For most of the day I had 3G access, so I could occasionally check Twitter and Facebook on my phone, and attempt to look at the BC Hydro site (which was down for most of the weekend, frustratingly) in the hopes of getting some kind of an update on when the power would be back. One local business that I follow said that they heard it would be noon tomorrow before it would be back, and I hoped that that was just a cruel joke.

At about 7pm my 3G access quit on me, so now I have no connection to the outside world. I know I take all of that for granted, but it’s still frustrating and discombobulating when it’s taken away from you without warning. It’s aggravating not knowing what’s going on, and whether or not we’ll actually get power back tonight or not.

I haven’t opened my fridge since before the power went off, and I’m praying and crossing everything that I don’t have to end up throwing most of my food away. I have no idea how long food lasts in a fridge and freezer without power, but I’m imagining that a full day without power will be disastrous. What’s especially annoying is that I went on a huge grocery shop last night, so I just stocked up on a whole bunch of things that I needed. ARGH! What a potentially huge waste of money! :(

I had a very large brunch this morning, but since I don’t want to open up my fridge, I’ve subsisted on Sour Cream & Onion pringles, flour tortillas with peanut butter and apple strudels this afternoon and evening. Blech. I mean, those things are fine in moderation, but when it’s all you have to eat that doesn’t require a fridge, stove/oven, microwave or any other appliance to prepare, it’s not so fun.

My phone battery was at about 20% not that long ago, but thankfully I have a portable charger so I’m now almost back at full strength. I’m glad I thought to recharge that a few days ago.

With the light of my computer and also the multitude of candles that I’ve lit in my living room, plus the faint light coming in through the windows, it’s very peaceful in here, but I’m definitely getting antsy. I know the hydro crews are probably working their asses off (last I heard there were over 300,000 homes without power), but I hope it doesn’t take them too much longer to restore power in my neighbourhood. If it doesn’t come on in the next hour, it’s going to be a very early night for me. I’m definitely not cut out for primitive living! ;)

**

It’s now 2:38pm on Sunday afternoon, and we’re still without power. I had a fairly early night and anticipated waking up in the middle of the night when the power came back on, but that didn’t happen. I checked things online right after I woke up at about 9:45am, and they were still saying 12pm. Fine. I could wait that long. 12pm came and went. Finally there were updates that said 12:30am Monday morning. GRRR. There have been so many conflicting reports from BC Hydro that I don’t believe any of them. I know they’re working overtime, but this whole thing is a huge mess.

I’m preparing myself for another evening without power. No stores or restaurants nearby have been open, so I haven’t been able to get any food, but that’s okay.

Thankfully my landlords showed me where the rain barrels are, so at least I have some water and can flush my toilet. That was getting QUITE disgusting. They also gave me a number of water bottles, so I’m grateful to have liquids to drink. They have a gas stove and have invited me to cook on it, but everything in my fridge and freezer is now ruined. I don’t have anything that doesn’t require some kind of other refrigerated or frozen ingredients to cook, so I’m not left with much to eat. I would normally decline their invitations to join them for a meal, but if they invite me for dinner tonight, I’m taking them up on it.

At this point, all I’m hoping for is that we have power back by the time I wake up tomorrow morning so that I can have a shower. Going to work after 2 days without bathing would be horrible. Fingers crossed!

**

It’s now 8:08pm. The ETA for power is still 12:30am. I’m glad that hasn’t shifted. I did indeed get invited upstairs for an afternoon coffee and then dinner, which I tried to gracefully refrain from shoving in my face like a starved person. I’ve never been more excited for grilled cheese sandwiches and soup. Best. Meal. EVER.

I have a feeling it’s going to be another quiet and early night for me. Even with multitudes of candles lit, it’s extremely hard to read, plus I have no more matches and all my lighters have no more fuel, so when these candles burn out, I’m pretty much done for the night.

Here’s to hoping their estimate of 12:30am is right, so that I’ll have running water by the time I wake up in the morning. I’m in desperate need of a shower.

My computer battery is now at death’s door, so that’s all for now.

**

The power came back on at about 12:15am on Monday morning, so I woke up to lights blazing (I forgot to turn them off when the power first went off) and electronics and appliances powering back on.

I opened my fridge to check on the contents and miraculously the food was still somewhat cool. However, it smelled like something had died in there, as did the freezer, so I knew I was going to have to throw out the majority of the food, especially the fresh stuff.

The total power outage time at my house was 37 hours. One of my friends STILL had no power as of this morning, which is ridiculous. I can’t imagine how furious they and the others still without power are feeling right about now.

All this is just proof of how totally unprepared we are for a natural disaster. I need to stock up on canned goods and buy myself some form of cooktop that can be used without electricity. If it weren’t for my landlords, I would have been without food or water for almost two days. Not good at all.

 I had a fabulously long shower on Monday morning and it was probably in the top 10 of the best showers I’ve ever had. The small things in life sure can be glorious!

Lately…

Here’s some of what I’ve been up to lately:

  • We’ve had a glorious summer here. It’s been hot and sunny, and while some people are bemoaning the severe water restrictions and drought that this crazy heat and lack of rain has caused, I’m one very happy camper. I’m outside as much as possible, and have been soaking up as much sun as I can. During one particular stretch of this heatwave, it got up to 37C/98.6F, which is unheard of for this area of the world. Glorious!!
  • I booked my flights to Hawaii for December, and ended up going with the airline I vowed to never fly with again. LOL. I’m not thrilled about flying with them, but they had a steal of a deal. I may live to regret that decision, but fingers crossed.
  • In the space of 5 days, two people in my life died. Both had been dealing with cancer, and they were both too damn young (59 and 36). It was a heartbreaking and difficult week. Yesterday was both of their memorial services. It was an emotionally exhausting day, but I’m so glad the timing worked for me to attend both. I may or may not have gone home and drank a bottle of wine and ate almost an entire pizza by myself afterward.
  • In an attempt to motivate myself to exercise after gaining weight these past few months, I signed up for a half marathon that’s taking place in October. I have not exercised once. So much for motivation. I can’t get a refund, so I either have to start getting my ass into gear, or else I’ll be wasting my registration fee.
  • I’m one of the First Aid attendants at my office and I’m coming up for recertification, so I’ll be doing that this week. One of my co-workers also needs to get recertified, so we’ll be going together. As someone who has major social anxiety, especially around strangers, it will be so great to have a friend with me. That will make things much less awkward, and I’ll have someone to talk to throughout the day.
  • I’m working on a photo book of my Italian adventures and I’m nearly done. The only problem is that right now it will cost about $70, which is too expensive for my rather cheap tastes. The site always seems to have sales, so hopefully another one will pop up soon so that I can get that finished and ordered. It will be nice to have so I can show pictures to friends and family who don’t have social media accounts. And, it’s always good to have a special memento like that.

What’s new with you?

I had set my little travel alarm, so I woke up when that went off and went to check on my clothes. They were still a little damp, so I brought them over to the hairdryer and finished getting them fully dry. I had another quick shower (yay for showers!) and then went downstairs to grab some breakfast. I was super nervous about the day of flying, so I couldn’t stomach much beyond a cup of “coffee” (aka: brown water) and a few other small things. I was so dissatisfied by their “coffee,” but thankfully there was an espresso machine in my room with a couple of coffee pods, so I ended up using all of those. It was delicious!

coffee

I got a call from the front desk (probably to make sure that I was awake), letting me know that the bus would be there in a half hour.

I got my stuff together, made my way downstairs and turned in my key. I met up with my new friend Michelle, whom I’d met on the plane yesterday, and we talked about our nights. The shuttle arrived and took us to the airport.

heathrow round 2

My stomach was still very rumbly, but I tried to tell it to shut up. After MORE confusion and non-communication on the part of the airline employees, we got in a long lineup to get new tickets issued for the day. My flight to Montreal was going to leave at 11am. My ticket from Montreal to Vancouver said I was leaving at 0730, which I thought was a bit strange, as if it was 7:30pm, shouldn’t it have said 1930? I didn’t think too much about this at that time.

I eventually got through security and into the main terminal area, which was gorgeous! I still had some Euros on me (which the airport would accept and give your change back in pounds), and as my phone was at death’s door and I needed to be able to use it throughout the day, I bought an adapter. This one has a USB port, so it’s actually better and more versatile than the original one I bought, so the extra expense was okay. I charged up my phone (and my e-reader) and sent emails to my dad and others who were trying to arrange a ride home from the airport for me, giving them my new flight details. I had used up one of my Euro bills for that purchase and got a few small coins back. I didn’t want to end up with multiple bills and coins in two currencies, so I didn’t exchange any more cash that morning.

I finally was feeling hungry after my devices had finished charging, so I went in search of some breakfast. Hooray for credit cards, let me tell you! ;)

Our gate information was supposed to show up on the big screens at 10am, so a few minutes after that, I went up to one of them to see which gate I was supposed to go to. Nothing was there. I waited around for a few more minutes and it didn’t appear. I went to the bathroom and to fill up my water bottle – still nothing was showing up. Finally it was 10:30am and I was starting to panic, as it could take at least 15 minutes to get out to some of the gates, so I looked for people that I recognized from the plane. I flagged one of them down and she told me that the flight had been delayed (OF COURSE IT HAD), so I could go up to the counter and get a voucher for some food. Gah. If I had only waited, I could have had my food for free. Oh well.

At the counter, the lady there looked at my second ticket and realized that I was booked on a flight that would have already left by the time I got to Montreal. It WAS a flight for 7:30am and not 7:30pm. The person who did the booking that morning must have been a total idiot to do it that way. I immediately started crying. I was so upset and frustrated with the last day that I had no other way of dealing other than with tears. The lady asked me in a snotty tone of voice “Why are you crying?!” I think my jaw almost dropped. I restrained myself from yelling at the incredibly rude lady, but I explained that I had been trying to get home for over 24 hours at this point, and all I wanted was to get there without further incident. I was given a voucher for some food, not that I needed it at that point, was issued a new ticket for Montreal to Vancouver and was told that the flight was now leaving at noon.

I killed some time by buying myself a few of my favourite treats from the UK:

treats

Our flight gate was finally listed up on the big screens. Once I got to the gate, there was another short delay (of course), then it took forever to get out to the plane. And yes, it was our original plane, still way out on the tarmac where it had stopped yesterday. I was a nervous wreck. I had absolutely no confidence in that plane’s ability to get us safely to Montreal, but unfortunately there wasn’t any choice about it.

Everyone got on board, and I think we started to move without too much delay. We got a bit away from our starting point and then stopped. And waited. Finally the captain comes on to say that there would be a delay of about 20 minutes, as there were about 10 planes ahead of us. Of course there were!

Finally the plane takes off and we fly without incident until we get to Montreal. Thank all that is holy! Since I had paid for an iPad on the first flight but didn’t get to use it for very long, I asked the flight attendant if I could have it for free. I didn’t have to pay a second time, so that was nice.

When we got to Montreal, we ended up having to circle above the city for about a half hour, which was so frustrating. Time was running out and my next flight was leaving soon, so I was super stressed out about missing that.

We are finally allowed to land (at an actual gate AT the terminal, this time!), and the captain comes on to give details and also to apologize. I noted that this was the first apology we’d gotten. Over a day later, and finally someone says sorry for the whole fiasco. About damn time.

Unfortunately the circling above the city, then the wait to go through customs meant that my layover time was almost used up. I (along with others on my next flight) tried to persuade the employees to hurry things up or let us skip to the head of some of the lines so that we could make our connecting flight, but no dice. We missed our flight to Vancouver. Nobody seemed to care at all.

Now that I was back in Canada, I had removed the airplane mode setting on my phone and was frantically texting and calling people while I was in various lineups, trying to make alternate plans for a ride home from the airport, for what felt like the thousandth time in the past 24+ hours.

After about a half hour of waiting in line to get new flights, I managed to get on a flight back to Vancouver that was leaving within the hour. I was on standby, but the lady who got me the ticket assured me that I’d get on with no problem. I just needed to get to the gate and get a seat assigned there.

It was a really long trek out to the gate, and I also had to go through a security check again. I made a super quick pit stop to go pee in a cleaner and real-sized bathroom and then ran as much as I could. I wanted to make sure that I got a seat on that flight (I didn’t trust the airline employees’ word that it would happen), so I was a hot and sweaty mess by the time I got there. I went up to the desk and got a seat. Of course I was at the absolute back of the plane, but I didn’t bother to raise a fuss because I was going home!!

I texted with my friend K, who was going to be my new ride home from the airport, and let her know my new flight number and later arrival time. All was good with her, thank jeebus! I also ran into my new friend Michelle, who was also heading for Vancouver. We commiserated while we waited, and then said goodbye as we got on the plane, as we were sitting on opposite ends of the aircraft.

I had a window seat this time, which I haven’t had in ages. I normally prefer the aisle. Flying still freaks me out a bit, so I prefer not to be able to see anything that can cause me to freak out even more. 

We were sitting there and the flight attendants were closing things up and getting ready to depart, when the (new) captain comes on the speakers and said that there would be a 15-20 minute delay, as a part was missing and we couldn’t leave without it. I burst into crazy laughter. It was all I could do at that point. I’d been traveling for lord knows how long at that point, and OF COURSE there was one more delay!

Thankfully we did take off after that short delay and there were no issues on that final flight. The view of the mountains was spectacular!

mountains

We landed without incident, my suitcase actually came off the conveyor belt (I was fully expecting it to get lost in transit) and my friend K was there to pick me up and drive me home.

I can laugh about it now, but at the time it was horrible. I travel enough to know that delays and missed flights sometimes happen. I would have been much more accepting of the whole situation if the employees had dealt with it better. The piss poor communication and lack of compassion from most of the employees that I dealt with during the fiasco just pushed me over the edge. It was horribly managed and I’ll never be flying with them again after this. I’m so glad it happened at the end of my travels, as it potentially would have ruined my trip, had this happened at the start.

I did get home, albeit over a day later, but all that matters is that I was safe. It’s a trip I will certainly never forget!

Total distance walked: 4.7km

Grand total distance walked: 175.4km (WHOA!!)

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.

uk border

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.

bed

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.

drink

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

Complaining works

As I mentioned in my last entry, I was waiting to post the last two days of my Italy series. I didn’t want to publicly post my story until I’d had a response from the airline about my complaint.

Earlier this week they sent me an emailed response along with details of the compensation they’ll be giving me. I was very impressed. They went well over and above what I asked for, which was so surprising. They’ve still lost my business, because I’ve had too many bad experiences with this airline, but their generosity is very much appreciated.

I’ll have the final two posts in the series up later this weekend.

I still have two more posts to come in the Italy series. These are the posts about my adventures in getting home. However, I’m going to hold off posting those for the moment.

As some of you may know from my posts on social media as it was happening, my trip home was a bit of a fiasco. I submitted a complaint to the airline and told them my story, much of it being copied from what I’ll eventually be posting. I’m going to wait until everything is resolved with them before posting the story here. So far I haven’t heard a peep. I don’t know how long it takes for them to process things like that, but hopefully it won’t be too much longer. Whenever things are finalized I’ll finish posting my stories.

So stay tuned! I may have something else worth sharing in the meantime, but we’ll see. :)

I had another leisurely morning, then I headed out to explore the area of Testaccio. In the Rick Steves guidebook, there was a fabulous walking tour of this neighbourhood listed, so I decided to make that my focus for a number of hours.

First up was this cute little museum in a miniature castle, called Museo della Via Ostiense. There weren’t any signs in here explaining the artwork and displays, and the guidebook didn’t say much either, but it was a chance for some shade, so I looked around for a bit before heading on.

museum

These are Aurelian walls, dating back to 400 AD.

walls

I find these ancient structures to be SO fascinating. How on earth are these things that are THOUSANDS of years old still standing, yet we can’t build anything that lasts for longer than a few years?! What are we doing wrong?! ;)

Next I walked over to a cemetery for Protestants. I’m so fascinated by foreign cemeteries, and try to visit one in every country that I go to. It helped that many of these tombstones were in English, so I was able to read their fascinating stories.

sailors

*

angel1

*

angel2

*

rare

Two very famous English poets are buried here – Percy Bysshe Shelley…

shelley

… and John Keats

keats

That was cool to see.

Also visible from here is the Pyramid of Gaius Cestius, which is just stunning! The Wikipedia article about this is very interesting, so I’ll just direct you to that instead of boring you with my summary.

gaius cestius

After I was done wandering in the cemetery, I was desperately in need of cold water and some food, so I walked over to the Testaccio Market and found a baked pasta dish like the one I’d tried the night before.

baked pasta

I slowly made my way back to Alessandra’s, had a cool shower, then sat out on the patio for the rest of the day, reading and relaxing and finishing off my wine. How glorious!!

For my last meal in Italy, I went to a recommended pizza place called Pizzeria Ai Marmi. They had a huge outdoor area, but since the wait for that seemed interminable and I was starving, I ate indoors. The pizza was excellent!

pizza

It was also fun to watch the chefs create the pizza right in front of you.

chefs

I enjoyed one last nighttime stroll through Trastevere, and headed back to the AirBnB.

Total distance walked: 10km

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