"Maybe we can find a transatlantic cruise back to the states," Brice said. He and his new bride, my best friend from high school, Dyani (that's her with me, at left) were now stuck, along with all their guests, in Paris with his parents. "My uncle says that last time the volcano erupted, it continued for an entire year."
The thought of making a six-day trek across the Atlantic by ship -- instead of a six-hour flight by plane -- didn't seem that far-fetched yesterday. All flights out of Western Europe had been canceled through Tuesday morning after the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland began erupting last Thursday.
For most people, being stranded far from home in a foreign country is an expensive and uncomfortable, not to mention stressful, ordeal. But I feel rather blessed -- I'm stuck in Paris, my favorite city in the world, for four days longer than planned. During the day, there are amazingly fresh pastries and strolls through the Jardin de Luxembourg. At night there are long dinners and bottomless glasses of wine.
What can a girl do when Mother Nature has her way?
It started on April 6 with a red-eye from New York to Paris. Ten days ago, I was celebrating Brice and Dyani's wedding in Bordeaux. Five days ago, I was skiing the Bellecote glacier in the French Alps. Now I'm pondering new ways to fill the days -- finally got a chance to see the Parisian catacombs! -- until the authorities decide it's safe to fly.
Or work decides to somehow beam me back.
Luckily, Brice's parents couldn't be more hospitable in-laws. After hosting Dyani's family for a week before the wedding, they didn't even blink when all her friends returned to Paris and announced our plans to stay. In fact, the endless hosting duties are probably a blessing, considering that normally their son lives an ocean and a continent away.
Like many people across Europe, Brice's parents, who had traveled to Israel for a conference right after the wedding, took their own circuitous route to get back home. When the volcano crippled European airports, they flew to Rome (still open last Saturday), took a train to Milan, connected to another train in Geneva, and finally TGVed it back to Paris.
"You must keep moving," said Brice's mother, Francoise. "If you wait, you'll get stuck in the crowds."
But other people -- namely those stranded in America -- just don't have as many alternative methods of travel to keep them from getting stuck. A friend from the states says her brother's honeymoon is on indefinite hold until airports get their groove back. And the news crews love to pan over makeshift cots filled with marooned passengers. Always followed by: "And nobody knows when flights will resume ..."
"I don't even want to think about what would have happened if this had occurred before the wedding," Dyani says. "It's over, but the thought still stresses me out."
A few other guests who stayed to travel in France have just found out that their flights were canceled. But we keep reminding ourselves it could be far worse. As the French love to say, "C'est la vie!"