January 20, 2012

My trip to Transylvania: Part 1

Hi everyone and Happy New Year!  I apologize for dropping off the radar for a while.  I didn’t fall off the face of the earth; I just went home to Romania for the holidays.  But now I’m back in the U.S. and back in Pittsburgh, just in time to welcome the lovely white and fluffy snow. 

It’s becoming a tradition now, to be a real adventure getting home for the holidays.  This year, I wasn’t stuck on an airport due to snow (like I was last Christmas in Amsterdam for 17 hours), but that doesn’t mean that this time was any easier or less interesting.  On the contrary…  All in all, it took me three long flights, a French strike, a lost luggage, a car ride, and 31 exhausting hours to get to Romania for Christmas.  I guess it’s just that time of the year!  

Things seemed to be going smoothly when I left Pittsburgh on Thursday, December 22, at 2:00 p.m.  After a rather bumpy flight, we made it safely to Atlanta.  After getting from terminal A to terminal E, I managed to enjoy my 4 hour layover.  I didn’t have to rush through my dinner and actually got to savor a juicy Pulled Duck Sandwich with Five Spice French Fries at the One Flew South restaurant.  I wish I had a picture to show you this mouthwatering dish. Unfortunately, by the time I realized I should have taken a picture, my plate was empty…  Still, if you ever find yourself in concourse E in the Atlanta airport, stop by this joint and do try this delicious sandwich. 

The layover in Atlanta went by quite fast, and 40 minutes before departure I found myself getting on the airplane and comfortably installing into my seat.  Although, the flight attendants kept saying that the flight would be full, that was hard to believe since the plane looked so empty, at that point.  So, we waited and waited, and then we waited some more.  Little by little, we were long overdue to depart, over an hour to be precise, and the plane was filling up.  A few more minutes and the flight was full.  Later on, the person sitting next to me, a chatty and spirited Armenian fellow, informed me that we were waiting for passengers who were supposed to be on our Paris flight.  Apparently, people were late getting into Atlanta because the airport was closed for an hour due to a tornado.  It was then when I connected the dots: our flight from Pittsburgh to Atlanta was so bumpy because we flew through a storm, which later turned into a tornado.  Scary…  My conversation with the Armenian eventually dispersed somewhere over Halifax and Mid-Atlantic; and after nine long hours, a movie, half a book, and two microwavable plane meals, we made it to fabulous Paris and its overdue for a makeover Charles de Gaulle airport.  

I love Paris, but I hate that airport.  When someone tells you that the French are on strike, take that seriously into consideration.  I didn’t believe my parents when they told me that the French were on strike the week before I left for Paris.  And then, I got to Paris, and guess what, the French were indeed on strike!  The whole nine yards: banners, drums and a hell lot of noise.  Putting the strike aside, I found myself at Malev (the Hungarian airline), patiently waiting to receive my boarding pass to Budapest.  Although I was half asleep, I managed to sketch a smirk to the airline representative.  After several minutes of waiting, I dared to ask the representative: “Is there a problem?”.  His answer: “Actually, yes.  There is a problem.  You’re not on my flight.”  Suddenly, I was wide awake.  

And this is how my marathon between Malev and Delta began.  After a while, I felt that I was the ball in a tennis match, being thrown over the net from Delta to Malev and back again.  Unfortunately, neither airline company was assuming the responsibility to finish the point and issue my boarding pass to Budapest.  I was eventually put on stand by and thanks to a Good Samaritan who didn’t show up in time to check in, I got on the flight to Budapest.  With the whole ordeal in the Paris airport, I completely forgot to get some Ladurée macarons to calm down my nerves and my sweet tooth.  Maybe next time… I wasn’t worried, though; I knew that there would be plenty of sweets and savory food by the time I got home.  After all, it was Christmas and Romanians always tend to overdo it during such important holidays. 

I slept through the entire flight to Budapest and only woke up when we were already getting off the plane.  Of course my luggage didn’t make it, and we had to wait for another 5 hours to see if the next flight from Paris had my luggage.  By 1:00 a.m. on December 24, we were finally driving from Budapest to Arad, my hometown in Romania.  Three hours later, we entered Arad.  I love my beautiful hometown and I love it even more during the holidays when the Christmas lights give it a magical aura and make it so much more special.  I was finally home; just in time to welcome Santa!

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