As I write from my hotel room, the church bells of Strasbourg are ringing in 8 am...aahhh...
Aside: [The above photo I took on an earlier trip, the cathedral in the distance, the Barrage Vauban, defensive barriers and dam built in the late 17th century.]
It took a while to get here - quite a while. Probably not the most nightmarish travel-across-the-pond experience, but a very unpleasant one for me.
It began well enough. I arrived at the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport (GSP) too early, as usual, but better that than too late, right? According to the departures board, my flight to the Charlotte NC airport (CLT) was "on time" but smartphone alerts and flight status updates courtesy American Airlines informed me that the flight incoming to GSP was late. Not terribly late, but enough to get me worried about connections.
The reason? The air conditioning in the small jet that was on its way to take us to Charlotte was on the fritz. Uh-oh. So while that flight managed to get to GSP only a bit after our announced on-time take-off, we had to wait until the ground crews "cooled" the cabin. About 40 minutes. We were asked to pee before the flight, as the tiny, hot and probably stinky loo on the plane would be locked. Once aboard it was announced that we must keep the shades down on every window.
We then waited on the tarmac even though there were no other flights scheduled only to hear a hilarious announcement from the cockpit: "We ARE number one for take-off, but are awaiting permission from the tower." 20 minutes more in the stifling tiny jet getting hotter by the second, and we were finally airborne.
Already a hot and sweaty mess I raced down CLT from the awful terminal F to terminal B (really one long terminal) just in time for boarding to begin on my flight to Frankfurt. Another announcement: due to some or other technical problem we were to return to the gate around 6 pm (more an hour) for a possible 7 pm take-off.
This delay, I realized, would make the train I was planning to take from Frankfurt to Strasbourg, almost impossible to catch.
Another announcement (my smartphone alerts signaled it too): passengers were now to proceed posthaste to terminal D where we were to depart at our original take-off time, aboard a fully booked Airbus 330. I love those jets, but I calculated, "A half hour for hundreds of passengers to dash two 'terminals' away, then board, taxi and take off?"
I was right to be concerned, because when we reached the new gate we were told (and could plainly see) that people were still getting off the jet that we were to board. So, an announcement: it would be 15-20 minutes before we could board. Those minutes turned into an hour, but boarding went smoothly...and then we waited again, because catering had not been loaded onto the jet, and baggage too needed to be transferred. Another hour passed aboard the jet. Finally after several explanations for delays, but no apologies, we took off, at just after 7 pm. God.
Good news! The transatlantic flight was smooth and easy. And while a nightmare, the delays were only slightly worse than many others I'd experienced getting around the US by plane. We were however quite late arriving in Frankfurt
Thanks to a fast slide through passport control, a quick "skyline" service from terminal two to terminal one and good signage I managed to find the airport train station. A very attentive, attractive young woman at the Deutsche Bahn desk put me on a train to the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof almost instantly and I arrived in time, but only just, to catch my train. I was whisked into a first class car on a nice ICE and in about 2 hours would arrive at Offenburg, just across the border from Strasbourg. There a crummy little local would take me to my destination and to my hotel just across the street from the rail station - for a desperately needed sleep.
BUT ("but" again)! Due to my own fault - I can never sleep on transatlantic flights (I stare at movies I don't really want to watch while others snore) and was stupefyingly exhausted. I got to gleis (track) 3 and saw the destination listed - Strasbourg. I hopped on the train with 15 minutes to spare. Except that it departed 3 minutes after I sat! To my shock I was riding a train on its way BACK to Karlsruhe (one of the stops on my way down from Frankfurt) and who knows where beyond! I spoke to a conductor, got off in Karlsruhe, explained my sad tale to another attentive, attractive young woman at Deutsche Bahn. Her understanding and diligence got me aboard the next train back to Offenburg, where with 8 minutes to spare I could catch the next crummy local to Strasbourg.
Except that (or "however"or "but" - running out of words of that kind) our train from Karlsruhe arrived at Offenburg 5 minutes late. This forced me and several others to sprint from track 1 to track 4, where we all stuffed ourselves into the rear of the closest car to us.
Inglorious journey from hell. I staggered into my hotel 29 sleepless hours after I had begun my journey in Greenville SC, looking so bedraggled and exhausted that the kind desk clerk at the hotel did not even ask me for my passport, instead sent me straight upstairs to my room, where I collapsed still dressed on my bed. A few hours later I dragged myself up and out for a twilight stroll and dinner in the wonderful city of Strasbourg. Below, two pics of the River Iss near sunset.
I hardly needed a tram to take me there, but Strasbourg trams are cool, so...
What I et:
And ohhh I needed that:
Afterwards I returned to my hotel for a full night's sleep, and I slept very well indeed. However I am almost late (I never want to be late again!) to catch a train for my day trip to Colmar.
More on that, and definitely in a more positive strain than this, in my next post!