After a few days of uncertainty, we have made it home in time for Christmas. We were set to fly out on the 22nd at 5.30 pm to arrive home at 10.30 pm. With all the disruptions at the airports both in France and in Ireland, the picture looked ever so bleak. I couldn't find the courage to pack, almost certain that we wouldn't be travelling. I was stuck to the Internet and the news, feeling disheartened anytime the snow started falling again, anytime the airport had to be closed again. As long as we got into France, anywhere, we would make it home even if we had to drive hom for more than 7hrs, I didn't care. But getting to France seemed like the hardest part to achieve. The airport was closed on the 21st in the afternoon, flights were cancelled. I packed but my heart wasn't in it. I had to pack carefully, making sure I had some warm clothes on hand for the girls, enough nappies and snacks for Noelie should we get stranded anywhere and have to sleep on an airport floor.
On the 22nd, at around 12 noon, we set off for the airport. Mr Foodie's brother kindly picked us up from home. The roads in the area, being secondary roads that have never been grited or salted since the snow came, and where, in parts some of the first snow (the one from Novemeber) was still lingering, were treacherous. We took our time and made it to Mr Foodie's parents house in not too bad a time. Mr Foodie was set to finish work around 3pm and we were to set off for the airpot straight away, our flight supposedly taking off at 5.30pm. Thankfully, his boss let him go a bit early and we arrived at the airport around 3.15pm. The scenes in the arrivals hall were nothing like what I had seen on tv the previous days. The massive queues were not there. Some people were queueing for the desks but the queues for check ins were relatively normal. No desperate scenes of utter chaos, all seemed fairly normal. We checked in and made our way through security. We had decided not to take the buggy with us and Noelie was walking along and being very good. Marie knew that there was a chance we might not make it but was also extremely good. We went to our departure gate and then it all started. Our flight planned initially for 5.30pm was delayed until 7.20 pm. Not a big delay but enough for us to know that we wouldn't make our connection. I kept saying to myself that once we are in France, it doesn't matter we would make it down South somehow. Our phones kept ringing, people were asking us what was happening, we kept telling them that so far so good, delayed but still flying. Then, the flight was further delayed until 22h30. A long way away, as long as the snow kept its distance, we were going to make it to France. Then it was put forward to 20h40. My dad, ever the joker, asked me if it was today or tomorrow. Not so funny, but hey, at least it's not cancelled. The flight planned to depart after us took off, we were still waiting. There seemed to be a lot of children on our flight, all trying to go home to their families for Christmas. We had no public announcement, no vouchers for food or drink and the coffee shops in the airport were starting to run out of food. They replenished their stocks but nothing but chicken stuffing sandwiches could be found.
Eventually, a plane arrived and was disembarked and deiced and we made it on board. It was past 11pm. We were going to make it to Paris around 2 am (French time). Marie and Noelie were being very good still although none of them had slept more than 20 minutes. Marie found a little friend and was playing with her while we were waiting. We were desperately trying to keep Noelie entertained. We took off and made it to Paris landing at 2.30 am. Noelie had not slept yet, neither had Marie. The stress of the day and the adrenaline still pumping meant that they couldn't sleep. When we arrived, we went to the transfer desk. The girl there got us to skip the queue because of the children, not a passenger made a comment, there was about 20 off us having missed a connection, some of them to far away places like the US or even Honk Kong. There was no quibble, no shouting, not an ounce of frustration amongst them. The girl at the desk gave us a voucher for a hotel and promptly renooked us on the first outgoing flight to Toulouse at 7.15 am the very same day which meant a very very short night for us. The girl ecplained that she had gotten a special authorization to put us on that flight since we had small children and they had released seats for us on the plane and shuffled some passengers around so that we could seat together. One of her colleagues drove a group of us to the hotel. A 4 star one with as big a bed as I had ever seen. The 4 of us would easily fit in it so we didn't bother using the other room they had booked for us.
I had never seen Noelie so happy to see a bed in her life. She was hugging it and kissing it, shouting 'dodo, dodo' (sleep in french). So we put the girls to bed, I climbed in beside but I couldn't sleep knowing that we had to be up an hour and a half later to catch our second plane. As soon as their heads hit the big fluffy pillows, the girls were gone. Mr Foodie had decided not to sleep at all, and went down to use the Wi fi in the hotel. At 5 am, we got up and took a shower. We put on our previous days clothes, still feeling dirty and smelly from the day before. We got the girls up (not without a fight though) and went down for breakfast. We made our way to the airport, got pas security and onto our flight. It was delayed by an hour as we had to deice but we made it home around 10.30 am yesterday with very little sleep.
It took us 22hrs to get home, with an 18 month old baby in tow and no buggy, and a 7 year old on less than 2 hours sleep. But we made it. As we got home, we checked the Irish news, only to find out that the airport was closed again and thousands of people were being stranded, again. And all I can say, is we were trully blessed. We made it, not that easily but we did. And the girls were amazingly good, not once did Marie complain that we were being delayed or that she was tired and had to walk, not once did Noelie cry because she too was going on less than 3 hours sleep, taking cat naps here and there. I was probably the worse of them all, being snappy and quite unpleasant to Mr Foodie although none of it was his fault. So Mr Foodie, I apologize for my very not nice behaviour. Today I will spare more than a thought for those of you who had to cancel plans, or are stranded somewhere, and those of you who were as lucky as we were and made it. It's been a tough journey. Wherever you are though, I wish you all a Merry Christmas.