Saturday, July 5, 2014

Ethan's Errantry: Part 1

I've been trying to figure out how I'd start my first post about the trip for the past three days, typically ending with "I'll decide later." However, I realized if I never get the rough part of the blog done, the rest can't happen. So, here we go! The first blog post of my trip to Stratford-upon-Avon and London.

I do post a disclaimer here: Witticism and sarcastic remarks are my forte, but this is one experience I just had to get down on paper. Expect a much lighter tone in the future.

For those who don't know, this summer I've joined a study abroad trip called Drama in Stratford and London. As sophisticated as that sounds, it is basically a three week journey to England to watch plays. Many, many plays. 15, to be exact, and that's not counting any extra shows I may add on later. We begin with a week in Stratford-upon-Avon, home of the Shakespeare Birth Trust and the Royal Shakespeare Company, where we will have the opportunity to have show discussions and classes with some of the company members at RSC. Then, we transfer to London for two weeks, seeing big name shows on the West End and at the new Globe while still seeing smaller shows in fringe theatres in the city.

BUT, before all that, were the flights.

Oh, the flights.

Something to be noted: My family took a vacation to San Francisco the week before my little excursion overseas. We landed in ATL around 7:00am on July 2. My flight cocktail to get to LHR left at 12:22 on July 3. That gave me just over 24 hours in Knoxville to repack, find everything I needed for the trip, and sleep (it was a red-eye flight from Vegas, where we had been up and moving since 9 a.m.). Things were going really smoothly, and I went to bed around 12:00am to do some final work online. At 1:12 a.m., right as I was about to go to sleep, an e-mail arrived.

My flight from Newark to Toronto had been canceled.

Without that flight, we couldn't get to our London flight, so our entire plan to go on the trip collapsed. From there, I've created a bullet point order-of-events, just so you can have a little sense of how the next 46ish hours went. BUT, to make it FUN, I've added PICTURES! Note they aren't editing and all were off my phone, so you're seeing them as I saw them.

Home base. The sight of "The First Terror".

  • 1:12 a.m. EST: Flight from Newark to Toronto was cancelled, meaning we’d miss Toronto to LHR.
  • 1:13 a.m. EST: I Facebook Kelly to alert her and look at options.
  • 1:18 a.m. EST: I say screw it and call mom.
  • 1:20 a.m. EST: Upstairs with mom working on flights.
  • 1:22 a.m. EST: Get e-mail: New flight: EWR to LHR, but arriving on July 5. Would have to spend night and get to LHR a day late.
  • 1:30 a.m. EST: We begin the phone calls to United.
  • 1:50 a.m. EST: Get first connection to United, call gets dropped.
  • 2:40ish EST: Get second person on United, but can’t talk to Kelly or Dr. Anderson to confirm the “only flight” available, so we have to hang up.
  • 3:50ish EST: Get third person at United, decide on new plan of action and get new tickets. New plan: Fly out of Knoxville at 6:47pm -> IAD, fly IAD -> LHR. Arrive 10:15 am. Verified with Dr. Anderson, good to go.
  • 4:20 EST: Check bags with Kelly and get through security.
Tyson McGee. With leaves?

  • 4:40 EST: Get coffee at Starbucks and talk about watching American Horror Story.
  • 4:50 EST: Get e-mail saying flight is delayed to EWR, meaning we’d miss flight to LHR.
I give up on exact times at this point.
  • Meet up with Kerri, whose flight had been delayed indeterminately.
  • Get in standby line to get on Kerri’s flight, because our flight had been cancelled.
  • Notified that Kelly and I are now booked to leave the following day to go through O’Hare, getting into LHR on July 5.
  • I leave security and go to the United desk to get Kelly and I booked on the standby flight.
  • Boarding passes won’t print, he said he’d bring them to us. Get phone call saying flight is boarding.
  • Get to check-in, our tickets hadn’t been processed, no boarding passes. Get THROWN onto flight to Dulles International.
  • Kelly spills coffee and stains the entire plane and our clothes.

Ceiling, pants, seats, tray table. All victims, like us.
  • Arrive at Dulles, get e-mail saying the flight I was supposed to be on tomorrow was cancelled. 
Outside landing. It was raining. Foreshadowing of what was to come?

  • Attempt to get on earlier flight because we were all now rerouted through Brussels. No luck. Ironically run into Jeannie, who was traveling on the earlier flight from IAD, which also happened to be delayed.
  •  Get on flight to Brussels.
The mysterious meal on the Brussels flight. That small square? Cheese.

  •  Arrive Brussels. Notice Kelly and I have a different flight than Kerri.
  •  Kerri calls United to sort through the situation. Apparently our tickets were booked on British Airways while we were in Tyson. No boarding passes had been printed yet, and the phone operator told us that only happens for “bereavement.” Notified we could get bumped from our flight.
We're all so happy in Brussels. We were promised chocolate. None to be had.

  • Kerri is notified her ticket isn’t “real”, but Kelly and I get booked on the plane to LHR she was meant to ride.
  • Find person at Brussels Air kiosk, who prints us 3 boarding passes to LHR and verifies our seats are “real”. Most helpful person so far.
  • WE FIND THE BEAR. Begin documenting our adventures with him.

  • Arrive LHR. Realize Kelly and I have lost our luggage. We think it went on our original flights that were cancelled, but then we saw we had luggage tags, so we assume it arrived LHR before we did.
  • Informed they can’t find our luggage, but they will deliver it to us.
  • Find a ticket station, take Heathrow Express tram from LHR to Paddington Station.
I decided to look like the Hunchback at this point, with yet-unamed bear giving encouragement.
  • Take taxi from Paddington Station to Merlybone Station.
  • Acquire tickets from Merlybone Station to Stratford-Upon-Avon.
  • 20:18: Train for Stratford-upon-Avon leaves with us on it.
  • Around 11:00 p.m. in Stratford-upon-Avon, settle into our B&B.
So, if you include the fact I hadn't really slept on the plane or car ride from Vegas, I had been up and traveling for 72 hours straight, with only micronaps until I reached our final destination.

However, there is an upside to all of that traveling. I've decided to call my experience Ethan's Errantry. One of my favorite series of novels is the Young Wizards universe. When a wizard is commissioned to do a job, they are said to be on errantry. Upon Googling the definition, errantry means the state of traveling, usually searching for adventure.


If there's one thing this trip has been, it's been an adventure. We've taken to saying we earned our "Extreme Traveler" badges. I may have been stressed and hungry and sleep deprived, but now I am confidant in traveling airports as a point person, going to a country where I know nothing and can't even guess at their first language (French and Dutch, I now know), and dealing with cancelled flights. Though we still don't have our checked luggage (though I had a carry on with most of my clothes), and there's still three weeks of the trip left, I'm excited to be in a country with a major theatrical history and learn more about the art, the actors, and myself.



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