Letters from Scotland
By Jonathon Farrell
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When I told you in my last message that I would be home in 25 hours, I had no idea how much I was lying to you all. And for that, I apologize.
It took 80 hours longer than I had planned to get back to Canada. How did this come about?
In case you had not heard, it snowed a little bit in Europe. I left my room in St. Andrews about 10 minutes after I sent the last message on Thursday (Dec. 16), at about 7:30 p.m. Turns out, we misread the bus schedule and the last bus to Edinburgh left at 7 p.m. So we caught another one, which went way out of the way, around Anstruther and several towns I had not even heard of, and connected in Levan to Edinburgh.
Once we got there, we went in search of an airport connection, which wound up being a double-decker bus, at the front and top where it is all windows and we had a marvelous view of the city all lit up for Christmas.
Got to the airport at midnight, and waited five hours until the check-in opened (Hey, it's cheaper than a hostel!). Boarding the flight was two hours delayed, and then we sat there ... for two hours. Then, we got off the plane. And waited for about two hours.
After this, they offloaded our bags, and I discovered that the case of Scottish pop I had tried to bring home had been brutalized enough as it was loaded and unloaded that it exploded and soaked my clean clothes, textbooks and other people's Christmas gifts. So that was a very bad discovery.
I had plenty of time to mull that one over as I waited almost five hours to have my flight rescheduled. Once I got there, I found that no flights to Canada, let alone Toronto, had any empty seats until Sunday. Neither did any of the ones in nearby parts of the United States, like Detroit or Buffalo.
So I managed to get booked on the Sunday flight across the ocean for my next attempt to get home. Luckily, a friend was being dropped off at the Edinburgh airport to fly home to London that afternoon, so I took her place in my friend's car, and wound up at my roommate's house in Edinburgh.
In all, I spent 17 hours at the Edinburgh airport. And had not slept for almost 40 hours. So I went to sleep almost as soon as I made it to Angus' house, and slept for 16 hours. By this point, my friend who accompanied me to the airport and also flew to Toronto made it home, as she flew through Heathrow, which did not close on Friday like Amsterdam did.
When I woke up, another friend who was at Angus' for the night, had made it away through Dublin on his way to New York. We spent that day doing a driving tour of Edinburgh, and watching a lot of "Top Gear," the United Kingdom's most popular TV show.
The next morning, I headed to the airport to try again. Unfortunately, it was starting to snow - a tiny little bit. Just like the tiny little bit which had closed Amsterdam. So there I was at the Edinburgh airport again, and my boarding was delayed an hour. I was worried that this was starting to look too familiar.
Made it onto the plane, and sat there and sat there. Then we were offloaded once more, and I started having deja vu pretty badly.
Then, they closed the Edinburgh airport for four hours. By the time my flight left (which had me just ecstatic to be going somewhere!), it was already past the time when my connection in Amsterdam had left for Toronto. So I arrived in Amsterdam and resumed my line-standing, which I was getting very good at by that point.
Once I made it to the transfer desk (about two hours this time - much faster than Edinburgh!) I was informed that all they could do was put me on the stand-by list for Monday's flight. We discussed other options too, but when she said I would have to go stand in another long line, I just settled for that one.
As she put me on the list, she said one of the happiest lines I have ever heard - "Oh! You are already booked on this flight, and you are in World Business Class!" I did not exactly know what that meant, but oh wow. Incredible. But I am getting ahead of myself...
I was stuck in Amsterdam for the night. And I could not find my luggage anywhere, so I just had the clothes on my back and my carry-on, which was mostly my computer, which had no battery left and my plug converter was still in St. Andrews.
Luckily, my mom had been monitoring the situation and already had me booked into a hotel. So I hopped an airport shuttle to get there, where I was treated to a two-hour line to get checked in. Once I finally made it to my room, I was surprised to find it was upgraded for free to an Executive Business Suite - complete with a bathrobe and slippers, a huge room, and three bathrooms. So I slept well that night!
Jonathon Farrell, son of Geoff and Sandra Farrell of Huron-Kinloss, is studying at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland this school year, through a student exchange program at Queen's University, Kingston, where he is a third-year student.
The next morning I was up and on my way again. All in all, my flight left within an hour of the scheduled time. The airport experience was nicer too - I did not have to wait in lines! This was such a refreshing change. I only had to flash my World Business ticket and could bypass all of them. I received priority boarding too, and went early on to the plane.
I slowed down in the First Class section looking for my seat, but it was not there. It was further into luxury - World Business is a step above First Class. So as soon as I sat down, the stewardess came around and offered me a glass of champagne. This treatment carried on - the stewardesses sat down with us, talked about this and that, and then brought us meals "engineered by Holland's top chef," they told us. Yum!
I had more leg room than I knew what to do with (and for those of you who know just how tall I am, you know how exciting that must have been!) and there was a coat room in front of me. Which I never had to touch, if I did not want to.
The stewardesses were very quick to come get all my things and put them in there. They gave me a care package, which included a toothbrush, socks, earplugs, and such things. And they gave me a gift for flying with them - a porcelain model of a Dutch house, one of a set of 94. You are supposed to collect the whole set, with one for each flight.
Just as I was thinking "who would actually fly like this that often?" the guy beside me pulled out his list which had 60-some crossed off already! In all, it was the most luxurious nine hours I have ever passed!
We looked it up when I got home, and that flight should have cost $6,000!! But since they rescheduled me out of desperation, it was the same price as an economy ticket. So I doubt I will be getting the rest of the set of houses!
After that, I at long last met up with my family in Toronto, had some Tim Hortons, and came home to put on clean clothes for the first time since Thursday.
As much as I love it in St. Andrews, I can assure you all that there truly is no place like home, right here in Bruce County! I will be back next year with the second half of my adventure in Scotland!
books, sports, movies ...
Thursday, December 23, 2010