Considering how up-to-date I was throughout the trip it has taken me a long time to get round to writing this blog – partly due to not wanting to have to relive the longest journey of my life and partly due to my hectic schedule. The next trip is in less than a week now though so needs must. Read on to find out more about my incredible 4 day journey back from Mexico to Edinburgh (yes, you read that correctly, it did indeed take me 4 days!). When I had originally booked the trip I had just planned to do the Colorado section, which meant I had a return BA flight to Denver. When I thought about it though it seemed like I should be making the most of the extra days of leave and so I booked a further week in Mexico to go diving on a separate United ticket. I remember clearly perusing the different ticket options and paying more for a direct flight which left me with a 10 hour layover in Denver in order to be safe with potential delays etc. What flight is delayed for more than 10 hours I assured myself? Perhaps it was this merciless temptation of fate that led to the following unimaginable events.
Having went to bed at a crazy 11p.m it was a sad moment when my alarm woke me out of my peaceful reverie at 4.00a.m. I was getting picked up at 4.30 and had called the day before to book my return journey which I had paid for on arrival for a discounted price (it was still an absolute rip-off). At 4.30 on the dot I went outside and there was my taxi waiting. The guy was super friendly and helped me carry my many bags (after all these trips you think I would have learnt to travel light) and off we went. It is around 30-45 minutes to the airport but given the time it was closer to 30. When I arrived I zoomed over to the check-in machines, checked-in printed my passes and dropped my bag. United are a little like Ryanair in the sense of being sticklers for the rules (not really in the cheap sense) and so after some negotiation with the check-in lady and me emptying some stuff from my bag I headed through security. I still had some time before my flight and so headed to the only place open at this ungodly hour with phone chargers – Guy Fieri’s Kitchen and Bar. It was a chain place (the most famous ones appear to be in Vegas) sort of Hard Rock Café but a tad edgier. I ordered the standard breakfast burrito with a green tea (first one in Mexico so it was a glorious moment) and enjoyed indulging in the power plugs. After an hour it was almost boarding time so I headed around to my gate.
The gate screen was no-longer reading Denver and had instead changed to New York. I assumed we just had a gate change and went to check out the information board, only to realise we had a 4 hour delay! I was super annoyed, what modern day airport has no wifi or announcement system. I had no way of knowing and had left my comfy bar seat with plug and now had to find something to do for 4 hours. My options were sit and read or cave and pay for entry into a lounge. Given I had just eaten this would be a bit of a waste of money but wifi was required for a 4 hour wait and so I stumped up the cash for a nice air conditioned comfy seat with a plug and wifi. I spent a few hours enjoying House of Cards and managed some tamales and juice (was a bit too early for gin or tequila) before heading out to my new gate. Between the 5 minutes of me leaving the lounge and heading to the gate it had somehow been changed again. It was at this point that they decided to update the information screens (good one United, couldn’t have done that while I was in the lovely lounge) to a further 5 hour delay. This was a bit of a shock as it dawned on me catching my BA flight from Denver was going to be tight. They had set up a helpdesk at a gate and so I joined the queue to speak to someone about it and spent the next 7 hours of my life in this queue and then running across Cancun airport like a crazed person to get the same spot in the new queue which they moved us to for no good reason. I felt very sorry for the people who didn’t run and went from close to the front of the first queue to the back of the second. After finally getting to the front of the queue – an achievement in itself – I was hit with the news that the plane was cancelled and I could either have a refund or new flight the next day. How could this even be happening!
I was a bit stunned and unsure what to do for the best, I didn’t have my insurance terms on me in hard copy and so couldn’t check exactly what I would be covered for and BA had closed for the night given the time difference so I was in a bit of a quandary. I decided to get my bag and then hope that I could either convince the BA people to change my Denver ticket to a Cancun one or alternatively buy a seat on the BA flight leaving in a few hours. I just had to pick up my bags and that would be me. A United rep was allocated to us in groups of 3 families and responsible for taking us back through security and helping us at the other end. The next 3 hours was complete and utter carnage, the first families bags came out without a hitch, an hour and a half later my bag turned up. The United rep was absolutely useless, I was the one queueing to complain to the United bag information desk and kept hassling them until eventually the bag arrived. The other third family did not adopt this tactic and given it wasn’t my bag there was little I could do. Eventually the rep decided to try and take the family and me with bags through security since the BA flight was due to leave soon. This might seem easy enough but in fact it was anything but. The security police refused to speak to us and continued to serve the queue of travellers just arriving off planes. There was an office just to the side which I went over to to try and see if they could come over to help us. I was faced with 3 guys who pointed guns at me and told me to get back in line – apparently you do not negotiate with security police in Mexico. Eventually an officer came over to us but would not let us through as the group wasn’t together. Luckily just after the rest of the group caught us up and we were through!
I made a mad dash to the BA counter but it was all in vain. The welcome staff told me curtly that the BA flights from Cancun to London were full for the next 5 days and that I could not purchase a ticket for any airline at Cancun airport (apparently to do with drug cartels making a speedy getaway). What a disaster. I was consigned to staying for at least another night. I made my way back to the United kiosk to get a free hotel and a ticket for a flight the next day – I was keeping my options open at this point. Another rep took me out to the taxi area where a bunch of us waited to be transported to our hotel for the night. We arrived just before 9 to a massive 5 star luxury resort in Cancun. I immediately realised why I do not ever stay in resorts when I am travelling. A storm was blowing in and so I made my way to my room which was at least a mile from reception, dumped my bags and headed to the restaurant which was queued out the door for dinner. Being a party of one meant that my wait wasn’t as long and in no time I was sitting with a drink and unlimited food. Buffets are not my idea of nice food but given that I hadn’t eaten anything since 9a.m – almost 12 hours before – I was suddenly very hungry and so made the most of the glutinous opportunity with 3 whole plates, wine and 3 juices! There was entertainment on but I still had to sort out my situation so chilled out in the hotel room organising an alternative flight home. £1800 later I was distraught but leaving the next day.
I awoke to the full throws of the storm, so after stuffing my face in the unlimited breakfast buffet I made a quick stop at the hotel beach before heading back to the room. I packed up and made my way for my free taxi. I had booked this an hour in advance of what I needed thankfully since it was 45 minutes late. We zoomed off back to the airport for leave Mexico take 2. When we arrived I made my way over to Delta (I had learned my lesson with United), checked-in at the stands and looked up to see a winding queue for baggage drop. An hour later I was being served by a lovely lady who informed me my flight was delayed – not again! She looked for alternative options but couldn’t find any and so said if I ran I should make it. She checked my bag (not making me remove stuff probably because she felt sorry for me) and gave me a food voucher for the delay. Something I did not receive from United! I headed through security and since it was 2p.m headed to Sushi Tequila for some miso soup, spicy tuna maki and of course some frozen strawberry margaritas. I needed something to keep me in high spirits. I chilled out here (mostly for free thanks to lovely Delta) and then headed to the gate.
There was again some confusion as the info board said this was our gate but the gate screen led Atlanta unhelpfully. I asked a staff member who assured me it was indeed the JFK flight but given the confusion and the absence of any clear announcements it took an extra hour to board since no-one seemed to have a clue what was going on – this airport could do with going on a customer service and how to communicate course! We were off. I was so on edge I couldn’t sleep but luckily I had films to entertain me. We landed at JFK more than 4 hours behind schedule and many people were in the same boat as me having to run through the terminal to make connecting flights. After clearing security and getting my bag I looked at the info board to see the words departed next to Edinburgh – gutted. There was little more I could do than to make my way to the Delta counter where my luck was in. I got the most helpful lady you could find – she told me to get a flight to Edinburgh the next option would be Thursday (this was Sunday). I explained I had to get back for work ASAP and asked what other options she could find me. Amsterdam – sold, Paris – sold, London – sold, Dublin – now we were talking. She managed to get me on the evening flight to Dublin the next day and then fly home from there with Aer Lingus who were luckily a partner. Since the delay was due to weather (the massive East coast storm) I wasn’t entitled to any accommodation however, the family next to me were extremely abusive to the poor girl serving them that they were escorted off by security. They had been given a hotel and it was going spare so it got reallocated to me due to their rude behaviour – finally my luck was in. I stepped into my waiting taxi, walking outside was a sad moment to be greeted by -6 and snow up to my knee. The hotel was in Long Island so a little far out but I wasn’t caring. I got in and after a second full day of travel collapsed to sleep.
Day 3 and I awoke to a very snowy New York. I ate the terrible yet free breakfast in the Holiday Inn in Long Island where I was staying (unfortunately their waffle machine had broke) and decided to head out and make the best of the situation. I left my luggage in reception and with a German couple set out to locate the train station – a 20 minute walk away through knee deep snow. Bearing in mind how un-walking friendly the US is this was quite a task but we eventually made it, got tickets and had an adventure on the way. One of the things I hadn’t managed to do on my previous trip was visit MOMA and so this was where I had decided to spend my impromptu day. The Long Island Railroad takes you from Long Island into Penn Station in 30 minutes and so we waited in the waiting room before hopping on the train. On arrival into Penn Station I then took the subway 5 Av/53 St and walked around the corner. It was only when I arrived that I realised the Van Gogh exhibition (probably the most famous painting on show at MOMA is Van Gogh’s Starry Night) was off-show for gallery refurbishment. This was definitely disappointing but I was here and so headed to the top floor where there was a Francis Picabia exhibition on. I knew pretty much nothing about his work but was completely enthralled with the completely different styles that his paintings were done in, from impressionist style landscapes, to modern style black and white prints, to modern style ‘day of the dead’ inspired works. It was fascinating how one artist can produce such a huge variety of works all to such high standards. It was definitely a highlight for me.
The other levels had a mixture of full time exhibitions and pop-up ones. There was an interesting 3D installation at the 1960-1969 section called Toast and Tour by Robert Rauschenburg and a whole room dedicated to Monet’s Waterlilies. The more modern in time you got the more whacky and there were some interesting Dali pieces alongside cars, and kitchens depicting modern house design. They had a few famous Warhol pieces which were great to see such as the Marilyn Monroe portrait and a beautiful black and white Elvis piece. There was a Russian exhibition that was probably my least favourite of everything I saw and then final a Robert Menschel exhibition entitled The Shape of Things showing how historically people emigrated and moved freely all over the world and how now people who tried to do this are victimised and treated poorly, especially by the big players in the West. It was such an interesting take on the movement of people and there was one piece showing a world map with different colours of string that was particularly powerful. It was a fantastic way to spend a good 4 hours in the city and as I left I was at least glad my third day of delays had been more productive than the previous two!
I still had a couple of hours before I had to get the train back to Long Island so I headed through Times Square to do some shopping and then managed to get a Shake Shack burger and ice-tea before getting the train. I arrived back at the hotel with half an hour to spare which gave me enough time to re-pack my bags with my new goodies, change and chill out for 10 minutes. The car was late but luckily the queue was relatively short and after a check-in confusion, you had to check-in before dropping your bag but the check-in section was in a different part to bag drop, I was finally on my way – a whole 24 hours later! I cleared security and made my way straight for the bar. Since I was now ridiculously poor, what difference was a few glasses of wine going to make. I enjoyed some lovely reds with a meat and cheese board (this was slightly disappointing, if I had it again I would just get the cheese) and had some great chat with a couple who were heading over to Spain to live for 6 months and an attractive Irish man who was flying via Prague to get home. I realised the time and had to run for my flight, how bad would it have been to miss another one because I was drinking wine? I made it and enjoyed a lovely flight with food, a movie but not enough sleep, it was only 5 hours after all.
I had left myself lots of wiggle room and so although it was 8a.m when I arrived I wasn’t leaving Dublin until 2p.m. I was so exhausted by this point and so managed to make a sort of bed on the horrible hard airport seats to get a few hours and used the time to catch up on blogging and reading. When our gate was finally allocated I made my way down and boarded the tiny Aer Lingus flight back to Edinburgh. I arrived back on 4p.m and have to say I wanted to cry with joy at having finally made it back after a total of 4 days of travel and just in time for my mum’s birthday. The holiday seemed a distant memory at this point but I was back and thankfully had a whole 6 weeks until my next trip. I was delighted not to be seeing a plane for a while after the trauma of the longest trip of my life!