While waiting to load our luggage onto the bus at our hotel in Prague, a friend quietly shared some bad news with me. He had our flights pulled up through an app on his phone. Our second leg of the trip, Munich to Washington D.C. was 5 hours delayed. I groaned inwardly. Or maybe it was outwardly...it was 6:00 AM after all and I'd only had 5 hours of sleep. It was decided that we should keep this bit of information to ourselves so as to not freak out the other members of our group. And seeing as we still had to fly from Prague to Munich...maybe the situation would be a little bit better when we arrived?
Prague to Munich passed quickly and without much fanfare. Just like a good flight should. We passed through the long lines at customs and through security (that was quite the pat down I received...the Germans are very thorough with their security, just saying..) only to be told that indeed, our flight to Washington D.C. was delayed by 5 hours.
Unsurprised (me) but still dismayed (them AND me) we made our way to the Lufthansa help desk only to be told after 2 hours of waiting there that we'd just have to stick out the delay. But they assured us they'd put us up in hotels in D.C. when we arrived and find alternate flights home the next day. And they gave us food vouchers. That was some yummy chicken curry.
(Waiting, waiting, waiting.....with Mom, Katie and Melissa.)
Because they had been able to get a lot of other passengers onto different flights, by the time we boarded the big ol' 767 it was only half full and we were able to spread out quite nicely for the 8 hour flight. So there was that perk. You know, if you are still looking for silver linings after killing time for 7 hours in the Munich airport.
Munich to D.C. passed not quite as quickly (obviously) but I watched a bunch of movies. And read my book. And took a short nap. Sort of...because really, can anyone ever get decent sleep on a plane?
(Melissa got a whole row to herself. Maybe she got some decent sleep?)
We made it to D.C. Customs and security and lots of lines all over again. Once there they split our group of 43-ish into smaller groups heading out at different times and through different cities. My sister Melissa and 8 other people continued on to Houston that very night, late as it was, and spent the night there and then flew home in the morning. The rest of us went to a (very fancy) hotel in D.C. for the night. Exhausted, I slept well...but only got 5 hours once again because we had to leave for the airport at 5:45 AM. My sister Katie and another handful of people had left even earlier, heading home by way of Chicago. Another group went through Denver, and yet another through San Francisco.
My mom and I, along with 6 other people got sent to Houston where we were to have a 4 hour layover before heading home, due to arrive in SLC at 4:30. Not thrilled about the layover, nevertheless we were given more food vouchers and we settled in for a bit of a wait...4 hours didn't seem anywhere near as bad as the 7 we had experienced in Munich the day before.
By this time we were already describing the travel home as "jinxed" and the "trip from hell." I had even repacked my souvenirs into my carry-on at the hotel that morning just because I was convinced that at this point, short of crashing the plane, everything that could go wrong had and it was only a matter of time before they lost my luggage. After all, they'd already broken the handle on my brand new suitcase.
(If I had to get stuck in Houston, at least it was with this bunch of awesome people.)
Who knew that our trip from hell was actually going to get more hellacious? Because about 3 hours into our layover some dark clouds rolled in. Thunder and lightning followed shortly along with a massive cloud burst. Seriously??? It was all I could do to keep the tears and swear words in check when they closed the entire airport to all flights, inbound and out. Our 4 hour layover got smacked with another 4 hours of weather delays making our stay in Houston longer even than our delay in Munich the day before.
And then to add insult to injury, when we finally did board the plane, it was a teeny, tiny puddle jumper. You know, the claustrophobia inducing ones that have 2 seats, an aisle and then 1 seat? They always make me feel like I'm sitting in a lipstick tube. Needless to say, the flight from Houston to Salt Lake City was torture. I was too exhausted to even sleep, if that makes any sense. And by the time we got off the plane 3 hours later my body was shaking and I was in tears. We were the last of our tour group to arrive home.
44 hours of travel with only 5 hours of sleep. I'm sure I'll look back on it and laugh someday, yes?
But the time spent in Europe itself? Glorious! More about that soon....