Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Ten years ago today - The End

It's been hugely entertaining for me to relive my trip of a lifetime, even if it left some of you scrolling endlessly downward looking for something more current to read. Alas, ten years ago today, my trip ended - but not without a final dramatic turn. This is the day I decided Beloved was going to be my forever guy.

8:45 am, 23 August 1995
Aeroport Charles de Gaulle, Paris

Well, the worst has happened. I missed my flight home. No joke - my flight left at 7 am, and it's a quarter to nine and I'm still here. A series of misconnections on the RER (underground commuter rail) and heading to the wrong terminal first got me to the right terminal at 7:05, five minutes after my plane's departure. Remember Salzburg? That was *nothing* compared to this.

To make matters worse, I had to deal with the world's meanest airline clerk - she made the Grinch seem like the tooth fairy. The harder I cried, the snarkier she got. Finally, I ended up asking another clerk for help. She brought me back to the first lady (and I use that term sparingly) and together they managed to book me on another later connection into Amsterdam, flying into Toronto rather than Ottawa. It was either that or wait for the next flight into Ottawa - in two days. I don't think so! So I paid a hundred-and-something dollar penalty and I'm flying into Toronto two hours later than I would have been arriving in Ottawa - we'll actually make it into London earlier this way.

Poor (Beloved)! He drove all the way from London to Ottawa last night to meet my flight. I called him and woke him up (he's staying in my apartment in Ottawa) when I confirmed my Toronto flight number and arrival time and he'll drive back to meet me in Toronto. It's a good thing he's such a sweetie. God, I miss him!

So I'm waiting for my new flight to Amsterdam. A bright spot in this disasterous morning: I'm in the terminal waiting room, and it's pretty empty, maybe a dozen or so people, when I hear what sounds like a very unhappy cat yowling. I ignore it for a few minutes, barely past the state of yowling myself, but finally my curiousity gets the better of me and I look around as the yowling gets more and more insistent, and I see an extremely sheepish looking old man with a picnic basket in his lap. The picnic basket is yowling to beat the band, and the lid keeps trying to pop open. He's trying to shush it, but the picnic basket doesn't want to be pacified. Finally, he opens one flap and a little tabby head pops out. He reminded me I wasn't the only one having a bad day.

1:07 pm (7:07 am Canada time)
Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam

Killing time here at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, spending my last moments on European soil much the same way I spent my last moments on Canadian soil, wandering around the duty free stores, reading the newspaper, killing time. Yawn!

All in all, it's been an excellent trip. Aside from trauma day in Salzburg and these unfortunate transportation woes today, it has been a flawless trip. Even this plane fiasco thing is not so bad - more of an inconvenience for (Beloved) than me. I would have preferred to fly into Ottawa, but I can deal with this (even though I had to sacrafice my window seat.)

Petty things, really. This has been such an experience! The people I've met have really made the difference: from the helpful people like the nice hosteliers in Amsterdam and Salzburg to the new friends like Niall and Terry to the people I'd just as soon (but never will) forget like the evil KLM clerk and arrogant LA Girl.

It's nice to be back in the Netherlands again. The Dutch people really are nice, and they have the most charming sing-song quality to their voices that I didn't notice anywhere else in Europe. It's funny, too, to look around and remember how excited and nervous and eager I was when I came through here four weeks ago. Things that seemed so daunting - the trains, the toilets, the telephones, the hotels, the restaurants, the curriences - I agonized over each of them at one point or another, but quickly became acclimatized to each of them. Even languages weren't that much of a problem; tougher in Germany and Italy, a snap in Holland and France. I was even beginning to think in French by the end!

It's all about context and perspective; that's what I learned on this trip. Something along the lines of the Bogart quote in Casablanca, about the problems of two people not amounting to a hill of beans in this crazy world. There is so much to see, and so much to know and to experience, and it is far too easy to lose sight of that, to become wrapped up in your own tiny world and miss the chance to be anything beyond what you already know, what you are comfortable being.