From DC to Dublin, from Dublin to London, from London to Oxford: Part 1

Monday, August 10, 2015

Joe’s and my flight from DC to Dublin left in the middle of the afternoon, around 3:00.  This was a luxury of sorts; it seems that every international flight I’ve ever taken has departed sometime between 5:00 and 5:01 in the morning.  We Lyft-ed (see, it can be a verb, too) to DCA, checked our enormous backpacks, and hustled to our gate.  There we sat, in somewhat of an anxious, last-minute frenzy, knowing that these were our last precious minutes on our iPhones before we switch them into airplane mode forevermore.  Or something like that. 

In other words, this was our time to Google everything we needed to know about bus timetables!  This was our time to download the University of Oxford documents to present at customs (I wanted to have these handy, having learned my lesson last time...)!  This was our time to figure out exactly where we were going once we landed in the UK!  Because why would we have done that before sitting at the gate, ready to board our international flight?

We knew we were landing in Dublin, where we would then board a separate, Ryan Air fight from Dublin to Stanstead (this was by far the cheapest way to fly from the US to London; in fact, the collective total of all our flights were so cheap that I wondered if we’d somehow been scammed), and we knew we’d have to then make our way from Stanstead to Oxford.  As we were sitting at the gate, I had Joe open up the manila envelope containing his Oxford ‘acceptance letter’ and other related documents, and that’s when I noticed a piece of paper, at the top of which warned in big, bold letters: DO NOT FLY TO LONDON STANSTED.  WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT DO IT.  My eyes widened in horror.  I kept reading.  Basically, this document purported to outline all the reasons why it’s easier to fly into LHR or LGW; those airports run connecting buses from the terminals to Oxford High Street – the bus stop nearest to our school – and taking a taxi would be ridiculously expensive.  I had planned on our taking the Stansted Express – a rail service with which I’m very familiar – and then a connecting bus from London to Oxford.  But the more I researched this (again, researching this at our gate moments before our departure, mind you), I began to realize that because the Express journey was not direct, it was going to be really, really long (nearly 5 hours, when Stansted is only 90-120 minutes away from Oxford, and Joe had just informed me that there was a formal welcome dinner we had to attend that night in Oxford).  

We needed a new plan. 

Particularly, we needed a plan that would take us directly from Stansted to Oxford, but there was no such bus or rail service available.  The clock ticking away before we boarded our plane, I began to Google.

I Googled “cheapest way to get from London Stansted to Oxford” and came across a minicab site.  I filled out our information and got an instant quote: 120 GBP for the both of us.  I Googled some more alternatives and realized that the 120 GBP option was actually the cheapest alternative to the Stansted Express.  Plus, our Express tickets would have cost us close to 120 GBP, anyway. 

I decided to go for it.  Sitting at the airport gate, I booked our minicab (thank goodness I hadn't actually booked our Express tickets yet!).  And when I got to the final step and the website asked me, “Would you like your driver to greet you at arrivals with a sign bearing your name for only 10 extra GBP?” I caved and said, “Of course I would like that.”

Our flight from the US to the UK was so much better than our last flight.  We played cards, ate the airplane food, and played cards some more.  When Joe started to fall asleep, I opened my laptop and started writing my first post in three years.  Writing about something non-legal for once felt hopelessly foreign and strangely familiar all at the same time.  It made me wonder why I ever stopped.  And then I remembered, oh yeah – law school.

When we landed in Dublin, I did that thing where I curse myself for leaving my contacts in overnight (overnight-contact-eyes is one of my least favorite feelings in the world).  But glasses are expensive, and I no longer have vision insurance, and I was too lazy to get up and grab my contacts case from the overhead compartment to take them out for the plane ride, so I had only myself to blame, I suppose.

When Joe finally woke up (as the plane touched down), I was downright giddy.  “We’re in Dublin!!!!!!!!” I cried, ever so gleefully.  Joe has never been to Europe before and Europe is kind of my thing, if you haven’t noticed, so this was just such a big deal. 

As we de-boarded the plane and walked through the terminal toward customs, the sky was overcast with light rain.  Looking out the giant, floor-to-ceiling airport windows, Joe quickly declared his love for Ireland.  “We have to come back here; this place is awesome.  Promise me we’ll come back here soon.” 

[Due to Joe's persistent requests, I’m already planning a trip there for us this winter, and I’m thinking we’ll have to pay Mrs. Doyle a visit.... he would really get a kick out of that.]

Going through customs was a breeze, shockingly enough.  There was virtually no line, so we hastily scribbled through our declaration cards and made our way to the custom’s window.  We were prepared to show Joe’s letter of acceptance, but never needed to.  Glancing at our cards, the agent noticed that we had a connecting flight to London.  “Ryan Air?” he asked me.  I nodded.  “Take your passports and your boarding passes around the corner, out the door, and down the hall on your first left.  You’ll need to get your boarding passes stamped with a visa stamp.  Ryan Air can do it for you at check-in, but they’ll charge you a fee for it”, he helpfully explained.  “Of course they will,” I responded with a healthy dose of sarcasm.  He chuckled in agreement.  And that was it!  No more questions, we were done!  My elation increasing by the minute, I squeezed Joe’s arm as we headed out of customs and remarked, “Did you notice me and the custom’s agent joking about Ryan Air?  It’s like I never left; they love me here.”  Joe was kind enough to concur, “Yeah!  That’s exactly what that meant.”

Onward to baggage claim!

Our good luck continued as we made it to baggage claim and I found an empty luggage trolley just sitting near an empty carousel.  I freaked.  “Joe!!  It’s just sitting here!!  That means we don’t have to pay for it!!”  When he asked me why we’d have to pay for it, I told him, “Because usually they’re connected to other carts and the only way you can get one is in exchange for a coin – usually 1 or 2 euro.  It's a miracle!!!!” 

This would be the beginning of a long series of freak-outs-over-things-that-are-free, except in this case, the freak-out wasn’t even valid; I later discovered that the pay-for-your-trolley thing is pretty much exclusive to non-UK countries, so all of the trolleys at the Dublin airport (and London airports) are free.  Oh, well.  In the moment, I was ecstatic (manic?), and that is all that matters.

More of my mania in Part 2, tomorrow.  And if you thought thought Part 1 was good, Part 2 involves my reunion with the European Burger King (to be outdone only bye the European McDonald’s), so.... it’s gonna be good.  

And if you thought Part 1 was not at all good but actually completely unexciting and fairly pointless, then.... you are probably not alone.

Either way, see ya tomorrow!
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