|Our adventure began at 6:00 Saturday morning. Being the responsible Uni students that we are, Sonja and I saved all of our packing for 11pm the previous evening. This meant we had about three hours of sleep to function on for our first day of travel.
The first order of business was getting to London to catch a 12:35 flight out of Heathrow to the continent. We got up early Saturday morning and took the tram to the Nottingham train station. We wandered around aimlessly for a while, musing about where to get our tickets, what to do with our luggage, and which platform our train would be leaving from. Twenty minutes later we swallowed our pride and asked about eleven different people where to get our tickets, what to do with our luggage, and which platform our train would be leaving from. We *almost* missed out train. Strike one.
But, things were looking up. Unbeknownst to us, we had recieved a free upgrade to first class. This basically meant that for the entire two hour ride all the rich Londoners in their haute couture and mink coats stared at us and silently wondered how we managed to get up there.
When we got to London we realized we had no idea how to get to Heathrow from our stop, which was St. Pancras. We had two hours before our flight left. We were told that we had two options: take the express train, which would get us to Heathrow in 15 minutes, and pay about $40 each. Beep, no thank you. Our other option was the metro, which was about a 50 minute ride that would only cost us about $3 each. So we headed for the metro station.
When we got there we recieved the best advice ever from two elderly station attendants: take the Picadilly line, but don't pay for the ticket here. They pointed to the line where people were waiting to buy tickets. It would be about a half hour wait, and we didn't have a half hour. They said we should pay when we get off...now the only problem with this is that the London metro stations operate by using a ticket turnstile system where you can't get through unless you swipe your ticket. However, we may or may not have gotten an illegal yet free ride by going through the turnstile on the end that was broken. Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures.
We had about an hour and a half before our flight left. We got on the Picadilly, which was literally packed like sardines. And here we were with our 5 ton massive packs. There were a few disgruntled mothers who gave us death stares. It was bad. People couldn't get past us to get out because there was nowhere to move. And this went on for 50 minutes. Near the end of the ride, around 11:45, we had a chance to sit down. We took the opportunity to look at our booking info one last time.
One of the worst feelings in the world is the moment you realize you've been undone by your own stupidity.
I looked at the departure time.
I looked again.
No, this is not happening.
How could we have screwed up something as elementary as our departure time?!?!
I handed it over to Sonja, unable to find the words to speak.
She said nothing.
We felt utterly defeated. There was no way we were going to make this flight. Strike two.
We got to Heathrow and headed silently to the ticketing machine. We figured with a ticket in hand we could at least talk to an agent about rescheduling.
As I waited for my ticket to print, the most miraculous thing happened. There, in bold and unapologizing letters, were the words, "We're sorry. Your flight has been delayed. The new departure time will be 12:35. Thank you."
I think I screamed, and then grabbed Sonja and did a little dance. All the Londoners looked at us with annoyed disinterest. We had a chance!
We got into the baggage check line, waited there for 10 minutes, only to be told that it was far too late to check baggage and that we would have to try to carry our packs on the plane. Fine.
We ran to the security line and begged one of the officers to let us go to teh front of the line. He did. Sonja definitely beeped, and I had all sorts of sharp and dangerous objects in my bag, but apparently Heathrow airport was not too concerned about the two of us being a terrorist threat because they let us through.
The next five minutes were like a scene from a movie. Here we were, at one of the busiest airports in the world, dodging through crowds (running in heels mind you), trying to get to our gate in time. Out of breath, we reached the gate and handed the attendents our sweaty and crumpled tickets. They glared.
We got on the plane and tried to smush our packs into the overhead compartments. The attendents glared. I unknowingly set mine on some guy's suit coat. He glared. We sheepishly made our way to our seats and let out a huge sigh of relief.
Way too close.
50 minutes later we arrived in Brussels. We got to the train station and booked a night train to Berlin. We still had about 7 hours to kill. We spent about 3 of those trying to make change so that we could store our packs in the lockers at the station (thus the pictures of us looking greasy, exhausted, and disgruntled).
The Brussels train station is pretty creepy at night. First of all, its freezing, as it's basically outdoors. Second of all, its not in the best part of town. We encountered our fair share of leering men. Also, people try to sell stolen goods to you. Finally, we almost stepped on a homeless man who was sprawled out on the floor in front of the bathroom.
That would have been strike three for me, if the night train to Berlin was not such a nightmare. We got to our cabin and there were people already asleep across our seats, so we had to wake them up and they were pretty cross with us. We spent the whole night upright in really uncomfortable seats because there was very little room. One girl got so fed up that she crawled up onto the luggage rack to fall asleep there. Needless to say I didn't get any sleep. THAT was strike three.
And that, friends, was our first 24 hours of travel. Jealous?