What do you do when your best laid travel plans go awry? Do you scream and throw a tantrum? Do you cry? Do you head to the airport bar and try not to care? Hold on to your seats, friends, because we’re going to the Travel Twilight Zone, the crazy mixed up world where things do not go according to plan.
The Daughter, our eldest offspring, was headed to Dublin for study abroad, and I nobly volunteered to keep her company on the journey there. My purported mission was to help her get settled. Never mind that she’s a capable adult and doesn’t need her mother as a travel chaperone anymore. That is completely beside the point.
When our first flight was cancelled the evening before our departure, we took it in stride. Winter Storm Hercules was wreaking havoc on the east coast where we were to catch our connecting flight to Dublin. Re-booked to leave a day later than planned, we were glad we’d allowed extra time in our schedule for cushion.
As the wheels went up on the first leg of our journey, I breathed a sigh of relief. Yet, after a mere 20 minutes in the air, our captain alerted us that we were not truly “wheels up.” Literally. Our landing gear was stuck in the down position. Thankfully, the situation was resolved safely but the result was that we missed our connection to Dublin. (Note to Pilots: repeatedly reassuring passengers that the landing will be “V E R Y N O R M A L” tends to make people more nervous.)
There’s nothing like being in an airport with thousands of stranded travelers to put things in perspective. As we waited in line to secure a new flight, the woman behind me wailed, “So far, 40 sucks!” Her husband sweated feverishly as he was simultaneously on two phones trying to salvage her surprise birthday trip to Europe. Behind her, a confused man was trying to find the gate for his next flight. I could hear the airline agent saying incredulously, “Sir, your next flight departs from Los Angeles. You are in Atlanta!” I realized quickly that many had it far worse than we did.
For the next 48 hours we were in an airport hotel. Of the three possible reactions I described earlier, we chose “head to the bar and try not to care.” Looking for the bright side that first night, I said, “Hey, only 22 hours til we can check-in for our new flight!” (Thank you, Atlanta Airport Marriott, for your kind staff and your exquisitely prepared fried green tomatoes, which I had twice. By the way, it turns out La Crema Pinot Noir is the preferred wine of stranded travelers, with the entire supply at the hotel bar exhausted the first night.)
We slept. A lot. We laughed. A lot. Never turned on the TV once and never set foot outside, if you can believe it. Surprisingly, it was a remarkably quick 48 hours. Suspended in mid-travel, we occupied a surreal In-Between where obligations, duties and chores were non-existent. The Daughter and I had been gifted with the rare opportunity of unencumbered time together. I knew even as it was happening that I would forever relish the memory of it.
As it turned out, we were upgraded to Delta’s luxurious Business Elite for our re-booked flight to Dublin. Amidst seats that recline to flat beds, a five-course meal served on real plates, and attentive service, we enjoyed a choice of wines selected by renowned Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson, whom Delta hired to choose their Business Elite offerings.
We started with a sparkling wine that accompanied our shrimp and avocado starter (and also paired nicely with the watermelon and feta on arugula). When the beverage cart arrived, The Daughter selected the 2010 St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc from Napa to accompany the seared tarragon lemon chicken she chose for her entrée. I opted for the 2009 Chateau de Carolle Graves from Bordeaux to pair with my beef tenderloin and asparagus.
The Sauvignon Blanc, rated 91 points by Wine & Spirits, had the just right measure of understated sweetness to please The Daughter’s palate. The Chateau de Carolle Bordeaux was a very smooth, approachable blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. There’s nothing like nice wine, real glassware, and fully reclining seats to take the sting out of travel delays. (Thank you, Delta.)
We arrived in Dublin a mere few hours before The Daughter’s first lecture which meant she had to hit the ground running. I felt guilty that while she was toiling, I had the luxury of Wandering Dublin during the days. Grateful for time to catch up together each evening, we were rewarded with warm Irish hospitality at pubs and restaurants ranging from Irish comfort food and Guinness at The Hairy Lemon to one of the best meal experiences I’ve ever had at a quaint gem called La Cave Restaurant and Wine Bar. The 2010 Chablis La Tete d’Or on their wine list gave me a whole new appreciation for Chardonnay and the baked goat cheese salad with apple honey and walnuts left The Daughter vowing to return.
To say that our journey did not go according to plan makes me laugh now. And yet, despite the delays, we were none the worse for the wear. Perhaps we were even better for it, actually. So this week, we toast to the Travel Twilight Zone where sometimes magical things can happen. Sláinte!