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Monday, July 16, 2012

We're late, we're late for a very important date!

Our trip to Germany was done through Adventures by Disney, ABD.  One of the perks of traveling on the tour was we didn't have to worry about pick up from the airport.  We would have a driver who would transport us from Frankfurt to Heidelberg.

So imagine our surprise when the driver was no where to be found at the Frankfurt airport.

Let me back up a bit to explain what happened.

When we landed in Frankfurt, we did not have a gangway connecting the plane to the gate, instead we disembarked on the tarmac.  On our flight there were three passengers needing wheelchair assistance, Mike included. We were fortunate that I was able to go down the staircase to collect Mike's wheelchair, which was good because the airport employee was about to give it away to a little old lady.  As if.  He was checking our name on the tag and her name and was about to give it away!  I'm sorry but unless her name is Michael , she's not getting it!

I successfully got all witchy in his face, because he didn't believe me, and he relented.  I stood, with my hands firmly on the wheelchair handles, to wait for Mike who came down the stairs and promptly sat in his wheelchair, which erased any doubt I'm sure.

All the while, our fellow passengers were taken by bus to the terminal to collect their luggage.  Had I known what was going to happen in the next hour and a half, I would have left Mike there and gone to collect the baggage.

We stood waiting for our bus and we were joined by a young teenager.  Because she was a minor, there was an agent who came to meet her at the plane.  Then, both of them got onto an empty bus and headed to the terminal.  Mike and I looked at each other in disbelief.  We could have gotten on that bus!  But then there would be no story would there?

So, we continue to wait and then a 3rd bus arrives. This one's for us!  The driver opens the back door and brings out the ramp by way of a handle.  Well doesn't the handle fall down twice so the ramp isn't flush with the ground.  He jiggles it twice, it finally stays in place and Mike and I board the bus.  We're told we have to wait for the mobility device, (I forget the official name), to arrive at the plane to help the rest of the passengers.  Ok, no problem.  Except the device takes about 30 minutes to arrive...

Ordinarily this would not have fazed us in the least...

Eventually the rest of the passengers join us in the bus and we're off to the terminal, or so we think.  We arrive at a terminal, yes, but not at the right terminal to meet up with our baggage.  Our baggage was at one terminal and the bus deposited us at a different terminal.

Then the enormity of the Frankfurt airport hits you and the fact you've neglected your German studies hits you and you realize that Mike in his naivete has been counting on your study of German to get us through the rough patches when we are alone and here you are without a clue of how to say any travel related words in German.  We paused for a moment and tried to figure out where we were, but without knowing where our luggage was sent, it was hard to locate it on a map.  But luckily Frankfurt has an awesome mobility team and this little red haired bilingual woman, who reminded me of Merida from Brave appeared and told us to follow her and we'd find our luggage and she'd help us navigate through customs and immigration.  In retrospect, she should have met us on the tarmac, but again, we'd have no story.

She sits on one of those elongated golf carts with a few other passengers from our flight and off we go zipping through the terminal.  We arrive at Immigration and she lets us into the accessible line, where Mike and I both received a Frankfurt stamp to our passports!  We are sent through another set of doors to the baggage claim, where my heart sinks for the first time.

There's no one there from our flight and none of the carousels are moving.  There's luggage off to the side in various groups.  One of the other passengers says we have to look for our bags and my mouth gets a little dry.  I check the first group, not there.  I look over and see a shiny image of the Disney castle, (our luggage tag), sticking up.  I can say I've not loved Disney more than in those few seconds of finding our bags!

We grab our bags, proceed out of baggage claim and expect to see a smiling driver holding the Adventures By Disney sign, but no such luck.  Mike and I walk around the terminal looking for the sign, but our driver isn't there.  My heart sinks for the second time. Finally we decide to call Disney using the emergency numbers in our travel pack and after about 5 disconnects on the pink (!!!) payphone we're told to take a cab to Heidelberg.

Ok, we leave the terminal and head to the taxi section and we get into the first cab that looks like it will fit Mike's chair and two large suitcases.  I take out the address and name of our hotel and in true Amazing Race style, I point to it and ask him if he can take us to Heidelberg.  He says yes and off we go.  Mike pushes me to sit in the front and I sit, put on my seatbelt and pray this person doesn't kill us and leave our bodies in a ditch somewhere or drive us to some strange place and leave us stranded.

I knew Heidelberg was south of Frankfurt so when I saw the taxi driver head in the southern direction, I was able to relax... a little.  From where I sat I could see the tab steadily increasing and I was secretly thankful that we had decided to withdraw extra Euro at the last minute.  We sped down the Autobahn and I was secretly thankful that our driver was going close to 180 km, the closer we got to Heidelberg, the better I felt. As we drove through the city limits, I started to see some buildings and street names that I recognized from Google Maps, (yay Google!), and I was quite confident that we'd end up in the right place.

We arrived, I paid the driver and with extra for his time and off to our hotel.  Standing on the steps of our hotel was one of our Adventure guides, Nadine, who I'm sure must have wondered who is this weird woman with red eyes, (from lack of sleep - I assure you) coming to check in.  Nadine was a breath of fresh air - she knew our names, she had checked us in and was waiting with our gigantic room key.

I'm also pretty sure she spoke to our driver harshly, although in German it would have sounded much worse...

Just kidding about the last part... maybe...

You might ask if we allowed this experience to cloud our trip.  The answer is no.  We did not.  After we sat down, in the lounge of the hotel, we went over the events and I could definitely see things from the driver's point of view.  Especially if there were other charges to retrieve, we couldn't expect the driver to wait for close to 2 hours.  Yes, it sucked, but it all worked out in the end.  Disney refunded us our cab fare and all was well.

I have learned for next time, if Mike and I travel to a European airport and we see a similar setup, that I'll go on to retrieve the bags and catch up with Mike afterwards.

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