Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Escaping Home: Argentina - Snowy London, Paris to Buenos Aire

Families stranded from home just days before Christmas with only the shirts on their backs; slim sleeping mats and cradling the third sandwich of the day. Mothers appeared at the end of their tether; sat as though stoned – looking crazy out to an abyss. Fathers – helpless and afraid – while children snuggled as best they could under the circumstances.

SATURDAY: As the weekend neared the prospect of successfully leaving the UK for sun and a break was being overshadowed by the heavy white clouds dropping flurries of snow across the whole of Northern Europe. A heavy snow storm on the day before departure almost trapped my car three miles from home; fortunately sheer determination and perseverance drove me within 100 metres of the house.

The car - safely parked outside ready for the journey to my brother’s flat next day – however the news constantly broadcast the disruption caused by the snow. British Airways had cancelled all flights from London Heathrow. I hoped to dear life they would be capable of escaping this chaotic country by Sunday PM.

I awoke to a rather white Sunday, but fortunately the roads were clearing – although anywhere untouched by salt was at least 6 – 7 inches deep.

Bags packed – the only BA flight scheduled to leave from Heathrow to Paris – was mine. Lugging all my gear to the top of the road to collect Mojo – keys in ignition he refused to start; yes – I had left the lights on. I was 8 hours early for my flight but this time was essential today!

My neighbour Doug with a 4x4 came to my rescue; 90 minutes later I finally arrived at Old Street then took to the slippery icy streets of London to join the underground. Coincidentally the nearest station – Farringdon – was closed – a few hundred metres walk in these conditions felts like several kilometres; especially ensuring I didn’t go the wrong direction or head over heals (being relatively top heavy with by backpack).

Soon on the Piccadilly line heading to Heathrow – the subway was incredibly quiet; assuming Londoners were hiding in their homes and tourists enjoying a near carless city by foot.

Coming above ground – my phone rang. Francois tells me BA has cancelled all flights! Time to head to London City Airport for a CityJet flight to Paris. – on standby – it was a waiting game.

Two flights departed but I drew the right card and was given a seat – Paris here I come. Too late for the connecting flight to Buenos Aires we killed a day in Paris pulling a few strings to get us rebooked.

In a snowy French capital – wrapped as best we could in the few winter clothes we had; our shorts and t-shirts shoved to the depths of our sacs – we explored a part of the city I hadn’t seen.

That evening Charles de Gualle it was: the airport was dark; yet people filled every space without a through fare – lining the aisles bewildered passengers queued for rebooking. Families stranded from home just days before Christmas with only the shirts on their backs; slim sleeping mats and cradling the third sandwich of the day. Mothers appeared at the end of their tether; sat as though stoned – looking crazy out to an abyss. Fathers – helpless and afraid – while children snuggled as best they could under the circumstances.

We on the other hand waltzed to the check-in desk; grabbed our boarding pass and within 60 minutes were at the gate. Overhearing morbid stories of travellers who were trying to get to London; who had been at the airport for three days. We kept our eyes on the departure gate fingers tightly crossed. But someone must have been looking down on us. We were in the plane on time – the flight 45 minutes delayed and we were off to Argentina.

Well-done to our friends for getting us rebooked. 13 hours – next to smelly toilets with no TV on our seats – now that’s payback for our luck!

[BTW – I did feel guilty!]

COSTS:
Airport shuttle to city centre: AR$45
Metro: AR$11 = 10 journeys
Lunch = AR$50
Souvenir Hat = AR$25
Flight = http://www.airfrance.co.uk

Day total: $AR330