Or should I call it Planes, Trains and Automobiles? You’ll understand soon enough…
Why is it that I can plan a vacation and have all the timing down…everything goes so smoothly. And then I get married. Since then, it seems that vacations have a tendency to have things go wrong. No matter what, it is a comedy of errors. But the first vacation my hubby and I took after we got married was the
worst best example of what not to do on a vacation.
We were living in Germany and trying to travel as much as possible before moving back to the states. So, we planned a trip to England. Or, rather, my hubby made the travel arrangements and I planned the activities. And he’s a bargain hunter. And his bargains aren’t always the best options for a good vacation. He booked us on Ryan Air, which meant we flew out of an airport in Germany that was in the middle of a forest! Nowhere near a city. WAY out in the countryside. Nothing around. Since we traveled there in the day and left our car, the beginning of the trip wasn’t too bad. In fact, we got to England and caught the train very easily up to the Lake District. And our bed & breakfast wasn’t bad! We had a good time with our tour and also explored on our own until it was time to travel south to see my mother’s family and visit some other areas.
We caught the train (with our handy-dandy BritRail passes) and got to Chester…only to discover there were races going on and half of Britain was on the train or in Chester for the day. We opted to head straight to Manchester, so we wouldn’t miss meeting up with my Uncle Ian, who was expecting us in mid-afternoon. Wow…that was when the first problem hit. We were lugging a fair amount of luggage and had to hop onto a train that was packed like a sardine can from a platform filled to overflowing with everyone trying to either get on or off the train. We were finally successful on our third or fourth try.
Our stay in Manchester was very nice, too. And then we were off to London, to catch our plane back to Germany. We were staying for a couple of days of sightseeing and had a wonderful time. Until I twisted my foot on a cobblestone street — discovered much later that I must have fractured a bone in my foot. It healed and has been nothing but pain since.
But on to the bad part of the trip. Or funny, depending on perspective. I laugh about it now. Hubby still can’t. It was an ordeal for him and an adventure for me that gave me the opportunity to see more of Europe than originally planned. But I’m skipping ahead.
The evening before we were supposed to leave, my dear hubby decided we should blow most of our remaining pounds Sterling on a great dinner. We had a wonderful meal (Chinese) and went to bed early, since we needed to depart by 6am to catch the tube to the train to the airport. Yes, it was complicated just to get to the airport. And since my hubby didn’t want to spend the cash for the more expensive tickets, we were leaving on Friday morning EARLY to beat the rush of the British leaving for a holiday weekend to the continent. And he didn’t want any extra pounds leftover, so he used up the rest of what we had to pay the hotel bill. And we walked down from the hotel, lugging luggage (again) to catch the tube at 6 (when it was supposed to start running). BUT, that is when it starts running in the inner part of London. They hadn’t reached the outskirts until 6:30. We hopped on the first subway train and off we went. And caught the next one to take us to the train to the airport. By now, we were pushing our luck! We RAN like crazy people to the train and the doors slid shut directly in front of our noses and we stood there panting and gazing at the train getting smaller and smaller in the distance. Fifteeen minutes later, we caught the train. As we ran to the gate to check in at the airport, we knew it was not looking good, but figured we could catch a later plane if necessary. NO. We missed our boarding time by 5 minutes and there were no flights available until Monday. It was Friday! And all my dear hubby kept saying was, “I need to get back by 7 tonight”. I wanted to strangle him. He turned and looked at me and asked, “what now?” Okay, I saw the writing on the wall. I had thought we could just go back to our hotel and stay a couple of extra days and then go back home on Monday, but then his face told me otherwise. He expected me to get us back. So, I did the only thing I knew. Get us to France. After all, it’s next door to Germany.
We caught the train back to London from the airport and then I checked the schedules. I could get us on a train (using our handy-dandy BritRail passes again) and head to Dover. Then we could catch the ferry to Calais. After that, we had to figure out what next. I figured there had to be an ICE train to Germany. Well, the train from London to Dover must have stopped in every village and town along the way, picking up and dropping off passengers. All the way, my dear hubby was in a bad mood and kept repeating, “I need to be back by 7pm.” He had an obligation and didn’t want to contact anyone to sit in for him. Well, we didn’t get to the ferry until 3pm. I knew we weren’t going to make it, but we were in DOVER! The Cliffs of Dover have always been one of my favorite sights in the world. They are dramatic, imposing and amaze me. I was over the moon getting to see them again and asked hubby if he wanted to go to the upper deck to see them. No. He wasn’t interested. So I went off to see them.
We arrived in Calais and immediately found the train station. We had just missed the last train to Germany for the night. We were going to have to rent a car or find a hotel for the night. It was now 5pm and somehow, my hubby still was determined to get back to Germany that night. We were NOT going to make it. It was clear! But he was determined. So, we rented a car and started driving. And got to Brussels…the dreaded ring road around Brussels was another nightmare. We couldn’t find the right exit. We kept going around and around. We finally saw a miniature sign pointing off to the right and we were on our way to Germany.
By now, it was getting darker and darker–night was falling. And we were in the woods. Dark woods with very tall trees. We drove. And drove. And drove. And drove. My eyes were drooping and all I wanted to do was go to sleep. But we continued on, despite having missed the deadline to get back. Hubby had made the call for a substitute for his obligation and I wanted a hotel. But we drove. We were lost a couple of times and then found our way back to the right road.
And at 3:30am, we found the airport in the woods. And had to spend the rest of the night in our car, waiting for the airport to open and for daylight. Each time I fell asleep in that reclined front seat, I’d sleep about 15-20 minutes and wake up cold. Hubby would start the car and as soon as it was warm, I’d fall asleep again and he’d cut the engine. No carbon monoxide poisoning for us! I’d get cold again and wake up, “I’m cold, I’m cold!” He’d start the engine and we’d warm up and I’d fall asleep. Finally, it was morning. We had now been traveling for 24 hours. Yes, we could have been in London, enjoying the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth. Or we could be sleeping in a car in an airport parking lot, in the middle of the woods. And did I mention this was our belated honeymoon?? Yep.
So, now that it was morning, it was time to return the car and drive home. But, the car we had rented still needed to be returned and this airport didn’t have a rental office for this car. We had to drive to a major city to drop it off. And I had to drive our car. I had only been in Germany a few months and had just received my driver’s license for Germany. I had never driven on the autobahn. I had never driven that fast. I was scared. Off we went to Cologne to return the car and then we finally headed home. I was dozing most of the way, once we were back in our car and hubby was driving. We got home at noon, 30 hours after leaving our hotel in London.
Exhausted, grubby and thankful to be out of a car or other mode of transportation! At last, I turned to hubby and noticed he was still not a happy camper. I was laughing about some of what we’d been through, but he didn’t find any of it humorous. I hope, someday, he can laugh about this. As we approach our 10th anniversary, I am tempted to ask him to repeat our trip to England. But this time, no cheap flights, no crazy treks back home. Besides, now we can’t drive back…we live in the states.
So, what disastrous vacations have you had?
“No vacation goes unpunished.” ~ Karl A. Hakkarainen
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