(This blog tells my family's story. To see more, click "blog" at the top of this webpage.)
In Norway, we snapped pictures to add to our scrapbook at the Worlds End (Verdens Ende), a desolate spot on the water with many small, bare rock islands. The islands reminded me of stepping stones for a giant heading into the strait of Skaggerak and the North Sea.
The Worlds End looked exactly the same twenty-nine years ago, when I was as an exchange student.
In Denmark, we drove with Anne-Lisé past cows grazing on small strips of grass next to narrow rivers. We visited and stayed with Gretha and her daughter Belinda, who was an adorable little girl in blonde pigtails when I first met them in 1977. We saw the sights in beautiful Aalborg and spent lovely, relaxed evenings with friends before driving to Norre Vorupar on the coast. We carried Beth into small bathrooms where her wheelchair would not fit. One evening, Gretha treated us to dinner at a fancy restaurant on a North Sea beach. Our server and friends teased John and me about ordering only water—apparently a social sin! :-)
Back in Oslo, an airline called with unwelcome news. Our flight was moved up a day, so we boarded a plane after a heartfelt thank you and sad goodbyes with my second mom, Anne-Lisé.
Our layover in Paris turned into a fiasco.
First, the staff acted like they had never had a passenger with a wheelchair before. After we landed and the other passengers left, we waited for a clunky airport wheelchair, then waited longer for a strange cubicle on wheels that raised in the air to meet the back door of the airplane. The four of us reluctantly entered the cubicle, which carried us a long way to a terminal.
Second, we learned our flight to Detroit had been delayed to the next day and the airline would not pay for a hotel.
Third, we picked up our luggage and waited for Beth’s manual wheelchair to be returned to us. And waited. At the customer service desk, rude airline staff nonchalantly told us they couldn't find her wheelchair. No big deal? How could a wheelchair be lost? We moved Beth to a regular molded plastic chair since her back hurt in the airline wheelchair, but she still wasn’t comfortable. We had to keep asking the desk staff to check again, until they finally made a phone call. Or pretended to. Tired and hungry, we were not happy campers. Beth’s wheelchair was lost for two hours.
Fourth, we boarded a crowded airport shuttle to a hotel. On the way, the driver pulled over for an unscheduled stop just to smoke a cigarette, while all of us had to stay on the shuttle, packed in like sardines. The hotel charged outrageous prices. We overpaid for a tiny room with one bed and two of us slept on the floor.
When we arrived in Detroit, we brought with us a new appreciation for U.S. airports.
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