JUST as I got comfortable, wrestled Steve for my portion of the duvet and was reaching over to mute my phone, it beeped… an email? at 11.30 at night? And there it was
To: Jayne Curry
From: US Airways
We regret to inform you that your flight from PHL to FLL tomorrow has been cancelled due to poor weather conditions.
Very little you can do about that from a bed in Manchester at 11.30 at night.
After calling the emergency travel line that Celebrity Cruises provides for us, I was advised to speak to the representative at the airport tomorrow.
“Don’t worry.” He said “there are several other flights to Fort Lauderdale from Philadelphia tomorrow.
So I settled.
Tonight was to be my last night at home for another six weeks. I have been back for a mere 17 day break after 75 days away and here I was preparing to go back for more. As hard as it is on your personal relationships I knew I was heading back with the full support of my family. This time I would be spending the duration of my stay on one vessel.. I have never done this before. With the exemption of two periods of four days off, I would be spending six weeks on the Celebrity Constellation. The ship from whence I had arrived for this leave. The ship I had left all my summer clothes on. There was after all, no need for them in Manchester at this time of year and no need for winter clothes in Florida and the Caribbean. Sunshine!!! YAY.
On my arrival at the airport I was reliably informed that my flight from Philadelphia to Fort Lauderdale had indeed been rebooked for me but now consequentially I had a 6 hour wait in Philadelphia. My heart sank. A long haul flight followed by a lay over like that was a really sucks. But I was determined not to allow my spirits to be dampened. Inevitably when you spend as much time travelling alone as I do, you have days that you feel a little low, the only way to combat this is to be as positive as possible as much of the time as you can manage. I reminded myself of this as I reluctantly accepted my new boarding pass. And again at the check in desk when the attendant told me my bags were too heavy and I was forced to repack… and again when the guy behind me shoved my seat all the way to Philly.
I arrived back in to the US with a spring in my step. What positives could I take from today? I had two seats to myself on the plane, I managed no to cry in public watching a soppy movie AND they had diet Dr Pepper on the plane. My air of positivity quickly trebled into one of mischief and adventure. Maybe it was the lack of sleep and the excessive caffeine but there was no way I was killing time on a bench in an airport for 6 hours when there was a city out there I had never visited. Sailing through immigration and baggage claim so expediently sealed it for me. Stuff it! I know I have a tonne of hand luggage but I’m going to Philadelphia!!!
Train ticket bought and safely ensconced in my seat onboard, the excitement fizzed inside me at the prospect of seeing somewhere I knew very little about. I had no idea the declaration of independence had been signed here. I knew about their famous Cheese steak sandwiches and the Tom Hanks movie, but little else.I asked the train conductor where was best to disembark to spend an hour in the city before dark. He was incredibly helpful, sold me a cheaper return ticket and gave me a map. He told me the historic old city of Philadelphia wasn’t too far west of the station stop so a mere 20 minutes after boarding I was in downtown philly.
I think up until this point, the sheer excitement and marvel at my spontaneous adventure had prevented me from feeling the temperature. Wearing a hoodie with a small leather jacket I headed into the sideways hailstones, dragging my wheelie case carry-on bag through the couple of inches of the previous days snow and slush. Even though within a minute I couldn’t feel my fingers I was too giddy to stop or to consider pausing to buy gloves. I had promised Steve in a text I would be back at the airport before it went dark and having in fact no conceivable idea when it WAS going to go dark I continued ploughing on through the adverse weather.. laughing to myself like some scruffy, deranged bag lady. I looked a real state. Hardly dressed for the conditions or the occasion. wearing barely a scrap of make up and dragging a bulging bag I charged on, determined to see something of significance. And that I did. After a brief trip to the Independence Visitor centre and time to pose for a selfie with a life-size statue of Rocky (I’d forgotten he hailed from these parts) I discovered much to my delight that across the road from where I now stood, was housed the Liberty Bell. I know a very small amount of American history shamefully, but I was more than excited to learn more and at least aware of the significance of the bell to the American people. After emptying the contents of my bag for the umpteenth time that day for security at the entrance to the museum I marvelled at the displays, watched the interactive movies with avid interest and paused to take a picture of the bell itself. So much history and significance steeped on one tiny bell… not tiny, but certainly in comparison to “Big Ben” it was.
The weather worsened and after struggling on a couple more blocks in the weather i thought it sensible to head back to the train station. I hadn’t really realised how far I walked so, map in hand, I found the nearest subway station and used my all day pass to head back towards Jefferson Station for the airport train. The subway platform was deserted and reminded me very much of the scene in ‘Ghost’ where the guy is shouting “GET OFF MY TRAIIIINN” to the newly dead Patrick Swayze.
With very little hassle I ended up back at the airport and found a lovely looking restaurant for a spot of seafood and a glass of wine.
“Do I need to see any ID Mam?” the waiter asked
“Yes Yes!!!” I hollered “He thinks I’m too young to drink!!! Hoorah!!” And I started my own partially exhaustion fuelled mini mexican wave.
“This is the best worst travel day EVEEERRRR” I yelled after he waiter as he walked away in bewilderment. My inner-American was back!
The elation of my crazy day eventually began to gradually wain as the reality of the amount of hours I had now been awake began to kick in. Exhausted, I dozed on a bench for a while at the gate until I was safely ensconced on the plane and nodding off happily. The captains announcement came over the tannoy.
“Sorry folks theres going to be a further delay. We are in a queue to be de-iced before take off and we won’t be leaving the ground for at least another hour”
More delays. By the time I eventually hit the tarmac it was 12.15am on the morning of March the 2nd and I had been travelling for 19 hours already. Thoroughly exhausted and a little grumpy I headed out on the all so familiar route to the taxi rank.
As we left the airport I noticed the flashing blue lights ahead of us and the two police cars now blocking our slip road. Very long story short, there had been an accident on the railroad and the enormously lengthy freight train that traverses the length of Florida from bottom to top of the state and back was at an utter standstill and was likely to be there stationery for some time. This was a problem for the taxi as we needed to head west to east across the railway line which was stood still south to North and therefore we took a $50 detour around the very edges of Fort Lauderdale and an hour later me and my copies amounts of baggage dragged our entirely dilapidated backsides into the hotel to crash. 23 hours after leaving Manchester I was in bed in Florida. I could have travelled to Australia in that time.
The next morning still jet lagged I rose early and drew the curtains and there it was… the beautiful florida sunshine… I slipped on a T shirt dress and headed out for supplies to the local supermarket.
I’m not sure if it was the crazy juxtapositions in temperatures I had experienced in the two days or the jet lag that made me a little delirious but I beamed a smile across my face the whole way to the store.
Yes being away from home is hard. Yes missing the people you love is hard. But I was determined to be inspired by my slightly wacky spontaneity of the day previous…. I was going on another adventure and I had a feeling this one would be even crazier than the last.