Friday, August 1, 2014

London Trip, Part One: The Big Mistake

Alright, I'm splitting this post into several parts because it would be kinda long to both read and write if I just did one big long thing. Which is convenience for me as much as it is for the reader--Sadie makes it hard for me to do too much stuff independently but right now she is munching on some cheese, so here we go.

This is actually going to start before we even left for London, because a few things that day conspired against us (my stupidity being at the forefront), so while I could just say, "we missed our flight" and leave it at that, I'm assuming you kinda want to know whose arm was bruised.

Ok, so we got a thing in the mail saying I had to go to the customs office to pick up a package. Not all packages I get from America go to the customs office. If it's a gift, you don't have to pay anything on it (I think?) but really they aren't super consistent about which ones they make me pay on, and I have had to make the trek over there to get packages that were gifts and I didn't have to pay. I had no idea what I was going to pick up. I didn't think I had ordered anything recently, so I kind of assumed it was another care package from family that just for some reason was routed through there.

The customs office is in a really inconvenient location. There is only one bus that goes there, and it is way out. I got on the bus, just listenin' to my audiobook--the ride isn't that unpleasant, really--and then we stopped about two stops from where I needed to be and just... sat there. For like, ten minutes. I wasn't sure what was going on, and while I can generally communicate in German enough to get by, I just didn't trust myself to ask the driver what was happening and/or understand his response. Eventually the bus got going and then... turned back the way we had come. I hopped off--I guess this route has a couple of ways it can go at the end, but I didn't realize one of them ended so soon. So, I walked the rest of the way to the office to get my package.

It turned out I *had* ordered something from America a while back--it was this t-shirt, a fundraiser for some friends of ours who are adopting. The shirts are pretty cool so check out the link if you want to help a family bring home their child! Anyway, when they give you the package, you have to open it in front of them so they can see what it is, and show them the invoice. No problem, I thought, obviously there will be an invoice inside. I literally have never ordered anything that didn't contain an invoice. My paper recycling is full of papers that I discard immediately after opening the box. Of course, this didn't have an invoice with it. So I couldn't take the package. I did have an email receipt, but they have a sign up saying it has to be printed out, it can't be on a laptop or smartphone or whatever, and also you can't use their printer. Oh, well, headed back home.*

The other thing we needed to get done was to pick up Sadie's playpen from the post office. This was annoying because it was supposed to get here the day before. In fact, I had sat at home, didn't go grocery shopping or anything because I wanted to be there to pick it up. When Hunter got home, there was a note in the mailbox saying they tried to deliver it at 11am, which, I call shenanigans on that. I think the guy just knew he'd have to carry it halfway up the stairs and saved himself some time. So anyway, Hunter had to go get this like, 25 lb(?) box and carry it back.

Ok so we are ready to go. Our flight is at 6:30; we were scheduled to get to the airport between 5:30 and 5:45. Cutting it close, I know, but the Cologne airport is pretty small and we never had too much trouble with security. So we get there aaaaand..... the flight is really at 6:00. I had kept picturing 6:30 because that was the time we were supposed to get IN to London.

If you've missed a flight in America before, or maybe just on a nicer airline, you probably had the same thought I had: Ok, we'll just get on a later flight. Well, first of all, the duties of the people at the counters seems to be extremely compartmentalized. The person at the check-in counter couldn't do anything for us; we had to go to the ticketing counter. That person was like, ok, yeah, there's another flight into London, that'll be 633 Euros. EUROS. That's almost $1000. We were like, kay, no, not doing that. I mean, you'd have to buy a completely new ticket! So anyway, we started researching other options.

Whatever we ended up doing, it looked like we'd probably need to get to Brussels, so we headed there by train. I used Hotel Tonight to find a reasonably priced room, which was probably the best part of this whole debacle. The hotel had some sort of "studio rooms" in a building across the street which looked kinda sketchy from the outside but was actually really nice on the inside. The most exciting feature of the room was what I called the "princess bed." It was a raised bed, with actual portable stairs to get up to it, enclosed by windows on three sides. It had a nice firm mattress, so I originally planned on sleeping there with Sadie. But, we wanted to have the windows open and even though I generally hold Sadie all night, I was just a little bit paranoid about her being so close to the window. We did take some pictures on the bed, though! Oh yeah, it had curtains you could shut on it.

These will be the only pictures taken with a real camera because I forgot to charge the batteries #responsible

So, at this point, we had to figure out how to get to London the next day. Basically, our choices were:
1. Try to find another flight. We actually did find some pretty cheap flights, but I think they would charge Sadie as a whole person and um, no.
2. Rent a car. We might actually have done this, at least to Calais, except the Internet site kept saying the rental place wasn't open on Saturday which isn't true.
3. Train. The fast EuroStar is kinda expensive if you don't book ahead of time, but we felt this was the best option. It would get us there pretty quickly, without the hassle of flying.

So, that's the story of how I almost messed up our vacation. Next time I'll tell you about stuff we actually did in Cambridge!

*I actually emailed the company to suggest that they include invoices because of what happened to me, and they kinda didn't care and were like, you have the email.

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