Wednesday, March 11th
The World Travelers Club boards a plane, excited to finally leave the states and experience the food, festivities, and historical landmarks of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland.
We were due to land in Dublin, Ireland around noon on Thursday and immediately begin a walking tour of the city. Then we’d travel to Belfast. Then up to Edinburgh. Then we’d take a quick excursion to go see the Loch Ness Monster.
We were going to see castles and grassy fields and buy lots and lots of stuff.
Thursday, March 12th
After a nine hour overnight flight, we finally land in London’s Heathrow Airport. I spent the flight attempting to nap in my economy seat – in full view of the empty business class right in front of me. I watched the Downton Abbey movie. And I ate airplane food – which isn’t too bad.
Then one of our teacher chaperones connects her phone to the internet – it was time to catch up with the world. But seriously, what could happen in nine hours?
Apparently, two hours into our flight, Trump passed a travel ban. It exempted the U.K. from the ban, but that has since changed.
Now, I was under the impression we were safe in the U.K. Turns out, our tour company was pulling every single tour out of Europe – that’s like 80 groups. And we had the unfortunate luck to be one of them.
The best part? It was like 2 AM back home, so there was no one awake to find out our tour was canceled for at least three hours.
So, how did we deal with this?
Well… everyone on the tour (all forty-ish of us) knew we weren’t actually going to Dublin before we even got off the plane. No one was excited anymore. I was in a state of denial (still am).
We missed our connecting flight to Dublin because our London flight was late. Since we didn’t have valid tickets, we couldn’t go through customs. We sat in a Heathrow Airport hallway next to customs for about three hours waiting for our tour to secure us tickets to go home.
Eventually, we were told to leave the secured area of the airport. So… we went through customs (I didn’t even get a stamp), got our luggage (thankfully, one of the chaperones ran ahead to save our luggage from going to Dublin without us), and settled in this super cold sitting area that only had two cafes and a couple of shops.
We spent about eight hours in this area, waiting for airline tickets. None of us were entirely sure whether we’d actually get to leave the airport, so we collected as many souvenirs as we could. I got a U.K. flag pin, a postcard, and a U.K. flag pen. And since we had several hours to kill, we took stupid photos.
I mean, we’ve got to get memories somehow.
Eventually, our tour secured us a hotel. After eating dinner in a secret chain of restaurants that were on the level above the sitting area we were stuck on for eight hours (I should have just went exploring and discovered them myself), we rode the London tube to our hotel.
At this point, everyone’s a mess. We’re tired (30+ hours of being awake). Gross (24+ hours traveling, not including our time in Heathrow airport). And upset (no one wanted Heathrow airport over Dublin). And no one knew whether we were getting flights home the next day. No one knew whether we’d ever get to go out to London.
Friday, March 13th
Unlike a typical tour, we were allowed to sleep in until nine. It wasn’t like we had anything to do. Not until the tour secured us tickets home.
We ate a leisurely breakfast. And we waited.
Then our tour gave us the okay to head out to London for the day (technically half a day since it was noon when we found out…). Hurrah?
We saw the London Eye, Parliament, the London Bridge (from a distance), the Globe, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben (though it was covered in scaffolding and I could only see the clock), and the Thames. We did not get to see to Buckingham Palace, but our bus was very close to it!
We were given three hours to wander around London alone – do some shopping, eat lunch, and explore as best we could. My group went into the National Gallery – I got to see some Van Gogh and Da Vinci up close! After that, we were given the option to see St. Paul’s Cathedral, go into the Tate Modern Art Museum, take a walk to the Globe, or go across the Harry Potter Bridge (AKA the Millennium Bridge).
Naturally, I managed to do everything.
We ended our half day in London by going to a sketchy tavern near our hotel.
Saturday, March 14th
Our tour group split up – we couldn’t get flights together. I was assigned to an eight hour flight to Rayleigh, North Carolina. The other group was assigned to a twelve hour flight to L.A. I got really lucky on that one.
Even more lucky perhaps, was that during that long flight, Trump announced the U.K. was now going to be included in the ban. And a driver for the London tube tested positive for coronavirus, shutting down the whole underground.
We were in and out of London on perfect timing (though I would like to add we weren’t supposed to be in London in the first place).
My group’s flights worked out wonderfully (or as wonderful as it can get when you take two international flights in the span of four days). We got home at midnight (another 24+ hour day), heartbroken about our little adventure.
The L.A. group however… they missed their connecting flight and had to stay at a hotel overnight. As if our world traveler’s trip couldn’t get any worse.
Sunday, March 15th
I slept in until 2 in the afternoon. And then I sat in front of the TV for hours because I was too sad to do anything.
And then I went to bed at a normal time.
Monday, March 16th
My circadian rhythm is still messed up. And it kinda feels like my weekend adventure didn’t even happen. Like, I still have a week of Spring Break left? And then another week after that because school is closed due to the coronavirus?
But mostly, I have some thoughts swirling around in my brain that I can’t get rid of:
- I literally went to London for free. Since our tour company cancelled our tour, they had to pay for accommodations to get us home. That meant my half day in London wasn’t part of my fee for going to Scotland and Ireland.
- I get to have an adventure to Scotland and Ireland still – probably. We don’t exactly know if we’ll be rescheduled for the summer or not, but it’s kinda crazy that I sorta got a mini trip to London and I still get to go on the trip I signed up for (or I get my money back).
- I could have coronavirus? I mean, I don’t feel sick. But I literally walked back into the country without being tested so…. Let’s pray that my strict regimen of wiping down everything I sat on with disinfectant wipes and using hand sanitizer every time I touched something while traveling worked.
- When anybody asks what my worst trip ever was, I’ll have to start with, “Well, there was this one time I went to London…”. I kinda hate that. Like, London was a super cool place and all, but due to the facts that I was supposed to go to Scotland and Ireland and once the trip was cancelled, everyone was on an intense emotional roller-coaster, I have to classify this weekend trip as terrible.
- I can also say that I took a weekend trip to London and everyone will think I’m insane.
- Maybe because I was in a foreign country, I’ve become more aware of how crazy this pandemic is making people. The only thing trending on Twitter is covid-19. Grocery stores are running out of toilet paper. There were so many people in London wearing face masks. Hand sanitizer is the newest flex. All I’m saying… be reasonable and stay safe out there.