grounded by volcano
I should be in London now, but I’m not.
Because I always try to get some exercise and fresh air after an overnight flight, I had expected to be strolling into the Pheasant Pub (above) about now, ready for a good pub lunch. It’s close to the Heathrow hotel where I’d been booked and I discovered it last year on another trip (http://tinyurl.com/2628gcz)
But Celebrity Cruises, which was among the millions of victims of the volcano erupting over Iceland, canceled the voyage late Wednesday. I learned this in an email Wednesday just as I was about to print out my Continental Airlines boarding passes for Thursday flights from Cleveland to Newark Liberty and on to London Heathrow, where I was to have arrived at 8:20 a.m. today London time (2:20 a.m. here)
Celebrity was hosting frequent passengers, journalists, travel agents and would-be advertisers on a pair of two-day, back-to-back cruises. But the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull beneath a glacier and the subsequent ash plume and five-day closing of busy airspace over England changed all that.
Brits on holiday and business all over the world were stranded and couldn’t get back to London Heathrow — Europe’s busiest airport. So Celebrity stepped in and offered to take its brand new ship on a mission of mercy to Bilbao, Spain where Brits and vacation were stranded. (http://tinyurl.com/2g6zj5u)
After five days without aircraft, UK-bound food and other perishables, stored in coolers in Holland, South Africa and elsewhere, was spoiling and shortages were forecast.
“We weren’t affected a bit,” said Painesville native Beverly LeBlanc, who lives in London. A food writer — and former News-Herald reporter — LeBlanc is working on a cookbook entitled “365 Soups” and has tested about 300 recipes at this point. “There are no food shortages and the only difference I’ve seen were fewer tourists on the tube and around town.”
Like others living in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales she became acutely aware of the lack of air traffic and the clear blue skies overhead. Instead of being criss-crossed by jet trails the dissolved into an ever-present haze, the sky was clear and without aircraft.
When air space over the UK and much of Europe was reopened Wednesday, I monitored a host of web sites to learn if planes were falling out of the sky due to volcanic ash. Much as I really wanted to trust the decision makers, I knew there had been a lot of pressure to get flights back in the air and I hope they had, as they claimed, kept safety at the top of their priorities.
Websites I visited included London newspapers http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news and the air navigation folks at www.nats.co.uk. The latter was so overwhelmed with internet traffic that it put up a temporary site just for volcano updates.
I also learned that the News-Herald website (www.news-herald.com) is not alone in receiving strange postings. One poster to a UK newspaper complained that the volcano was an insurance scam on the part of Iceland. Another wrote of being stranded in Hong Kong where overnight his hotel room price went from $200 a night to $800 a night. Lots of folks were stranded with their laptops and plenty of time to weigh in on their plight.
Today on the BBC site, things are back to normal and one must search for news of the volcano.
Instead of enjoying a quick visit to London and short cruise on a brand new ship, I’ll be enjoying my tulips in Mentor and will perhaps make a visit to the Geauga Maple Festival.