I spent a good chunk of the last week in Spain visiting my friend Cami and on my flight home I began to write a bit of a blog post but never finished it (I’ve been getting kind of bored of this blogging thing but I know its best if I keep documenting). So here is the first part of my blog post this week:
Well here I am blogging once again from my blackberry in the midst of my travels. I’m currently in the Madrid airport waiting for my Ryanair flight home (and by home I guess I mean England). The very first thing I was told when I decided to study abroad in Europe was “use Ryanair.” It’s an airline with ridiculously cheap flights to locations all over Europe and when I first heard about it I thought it was a gift from the poor college student travel Gods. Boy was I mistaken!
This trip was my first time using Ryanair and I’m not sure if I did something to upset those travel Gods but absolutely nothing went right. Initially, I got my flight round trip for about 36£ which I’ll admit was a heck of a deal but a few days after booking it I received an email saying my return flight had been cancelled and I would have to fly out of a different location. Although this was a minor roadblock I still had to call the airline to re-book a flight and paid for every minute I talked to them.
Fast forward to the night before my departure and I’m in the library printing off my boarding passes (if you forget to do online check-in its an extra 40£). A notice pops up as I’m checking in reminding me to get a stamp in order to fly and I continue the check in process thinking it was referring to a passport visa stamp. The next morning (Wednesday November 10th) I’m up at 6:30 and take a train to Gatwick airport. Not wanting to get charged for checking in at (or even looking at, thinking about, etc.) the Ryanair counter, I head right to security which goes surprisingly well compared to my fond memories of being publicly groped at Gatwick security back in September. Gatwick is a bad place for a young lady with a credit card because they refuse to display your gate number until the last possibly second giving me two options while I wait 1. Sit and watch the departure screen or 2. Shop in the terminal which rivals the size of the Columbia Mall. They are very tricky like that! On this particular morning I purchased a new headband while Ryanair opted to prolong the wait until 9:40 when the flight was to leave at 10:10 which resulted in a mad dash of passengers to the gate since you don’t have an assigned seat on Ryanair flights.
Now here is where this pretty typical airport experience turns sour. I hand my boarding pass to the flight attendant and she says with a scoff “You won’t be going anywhere today, Mam.” First of all, I am 21 years old and nowhere near old enough to be driving my teenage children to viola lessons in my minivan so under no stretch of the imagination do I qualify as a “Mam” and secondly, I have a ticket, I have a passport, I do NOT have a bomb so there should be no reason I can’t fly to Madrid today. Well Ryanair found a reason. Remember that notification that popped up when I was doing online check in? Apparently I was supposed to stop at the scary Ryanair counter before security and get some sort of stamp. I had no idea what this stamp was but I took off in a dead sprint to get back to the counter for a stamp. Panting and heaving (this being the first time I’ve run anywhere since I decided to take a jog to the Bakery sophomore year) I headed to the information desk where I was informed that I couldn’t get back through security without an escort and the escort would take 20 minutes. With my flight departure in 10 minutes, I sat in chair watching the departures screen in hopes my plane was delayed as I tried to fight back the tears. Ah who am I kidding, for those of you who don’t know me I’m a cry baby and naturally, I was sobbing hysterically.
Looking back it wasn’t that big of a deal but I think homesickness kicked in at its worst at that moment. A lady who’s first language was not English even stopped and tried to console me. At the time I thought it was nice of her but was too caught up in my own woe to be particularly polite and thankful. The kindness of strangers is amazing sometimes. She just told me it would be okay and it was nice to have someone show kindness when it felt like the world was against me. Ultimately, I waited for over an hour and was referred to as “Mam” about 17 times before someone finally came to escort me out. She brought me to a desk where I could re-book my flight but the cheapest flight was 100£ (about $170) and not until 9 at night.
Feeling defeated I came to the conclusion that I just wasn’t going to Spain and sulked my way to the train station, headed back to my dorm in Brighton, changed into my comfiest sweatpants, and crawled into bed to wade in my pool of sorrow. The worst part was everyone else in my program had signed up for a trip to Paris and I would have to spend the weekend alone. I was a wreck. But I tend to live by the motto “When life gives you lemons, make a phone call to daddy (or mom, best friend, aunt, etc.).” My dad reminded me that I wasn’t going to be able to jet off to Spain for under a couple hundred dollars when I got home and I already had a return flight so I should just re-book for the next morning. Plus an unexpected check had come in the mail for me which would cover the cost of the flight the next day. Thursday morning I woke up at 6:30 yet again and made the same trek to the airport only this day it was downpouring. This time I stop at the Ryanair desk to get my stamp which looks absolutely UNofficial! It’s a blue stamp directly on my boarding pass that says Ryanair and the date. I make my way to security where even though I am wearing the exact same outfit as yesterday (I’m very particular about what I travel in because I hate being uncomfortable on flights) I still don’t make it past security without a full body pat down and fondle.
Fortunately, when Ryanair posts the gate I am able to get on the flight and make it to Spain 24 hours late.
Overall, all it cost me and extra 70£ for the flight plus the train ticket to the airport and back to Brighton which was about 16£. So much for traveling on the budget.