Editor's note: Mesena resident Vernon Johnson makes an annual sojourn to Europe. In the past, he's compiled his experiences in notes to friends and family, along with articles in area newspapers. This year, he's sharing his recent trip with readers of The McDuffie Mirror. This is the first part of his experience.)
Most of my friends know how much I like Europe and how I pinch pennies all year to be able to go there.
This year my destination was central Europe, where I had never been.
My ticket called for me to fly from Atlanta to Chicago, from there to Milan, and then on to Prague.
I reached Chicago without incident and was trying to get a boarding pass from Alitalia to go on to Milan. The ticket agent asked to see my luggage stickers. She then took them around the corner. That had never happened to me before and I had a certain amount of trepidation. In a few minutes she reappeared. She explained that there was an air traffic controller strike in Italy and that my flight from to Milan to Prague had been cancelled.
She told me not to worry. She was putting me on Air France flight #51 to Paris and then on to Prague. I was not worried. I had taken flight #51 last year and had loved it. Air France treats you so well.
My troubles were not over. When I reached Paris the next morning, I had to change terminals. I went by bus to terminal #2B. When I arrived there my flight to Prague was boarding. The line to get boarding passes was really long and moving slower than a snail's pace. Well, I missed the flight. The lady couldn't get me on another flight until after 7 p.m. that evening. She did give me a ticket to get a free lunch sandwich and boisson (drink). Also, there was a ticket to get dinner at any restaurant.
Although I had been to the Paris airport several times previously, that was my first time in terminal 2B. There was no seating out front; it was only after you went through the gate was there a waiting lounge.
I hung around there all day until late afternoon. When the flight to Prague was posted on the monitor, it was marked retarde'. I knew what that meant. It turned out that the previous leg of the flight was coming from Bolonga. Since that was in Italy, it was also affected by the strike.
My fellow passengers and I began to wonder if they were trying to find a plane. A Czech airliner drew up to the gate and we speculated that we would be boarding it.
It turned out that it wasn't the one. When our flight was announced, we went down the pod and boarded a bus to our plane. I had been to CDG, the Paris airport, enough to know that was their norm.
Finally, we were airborne. After our plane rose above the cloud cover it was beautiful. The enormous clouds were cotton canyons. The setting sun gilded the tops, while the canyons were a beautiful slate blue. I couldn't help thinking of the old Bing Crosby song, "Where the blue of the night meets the gold of the day, someone waits for you." I could only hope that when I reached Prague, someone would be waiting for me. There wasn't. But when the luggage came down the carrousel, both of my suitcases had made it to Prague.
I needed to make it to the Hilton Hotel. The guidebooks had warned that using taxis wasn't the best way to go. The taxis had a bad reputation of cheating people. Alas, it was the only way.
I asked a taxi driver what would the fare be. He said 700 crowns. I had been up all the previous night and was pretty disoriented. I thought that was about $200 and was appalled. I asked him what that was in American money and he said $30. Although I had $200 in Czech crowns, I elected to pay in him American money. I asked if he would take $50.00 for the fare and tip. He said he would and I piled in.
I reached the Hilton about 11 p.m. The girl at the desk seemed to be waiting for me. She had a message from the tour guide, who had no idea what happened to me. The lady in Paris promised to telex the hotel, but didn't.
The girl asked me if I had a problem with a room a long way from the lift. I didn't. I only wanted to get to my room and get a little rest.
The next morning I got with my tour group and was relieved that I had been through so much and began to enjoy the trip.