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Published: Sunday, 6/12/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

The road back home from Europe was long and bumpy

BY MARY ALICE POWELL
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

Friends ask, "Did you have a good time?"

I should have an answer because it's the question I asked myself for 33 hours on a travel battle to return to home sweet home. Just keep smiling, I always say, but sometimes that's not easy when traveling.

The goal was to return to Detroit Metro airport at 3 p.m. last Saturday, jump in my car, and drive to Oxford, Mich., for a Powell cousin birthday celebration dinner. The birthday cards, purchased in Torshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands, were in my purse.

I also was toting a box of marzipan, purchased in Lubeck, Germany, where the prestigious Niederegger brand is easily found.

Lubeck is one of the most beautiful European cities, with a skyline graced by the towers and spires of two massive churches.

After a walking day there, we headed for Hamburg to stay overnight to be near the morning flight to Newark. When every motel and hotel we checked was full, we luckily found a basement room in an apartment house. The room with four single beds and a makeshift kitchen reminded me of Mrs. Powell's rooming house in Adrian, but the price was only 50 euros, which is a deal. We had hoped for brats and kraut for dinner, but no such luck. Instead we gambled and ordered potato pancakes with smoked salmon, an unusual combination that scored high.

The stress level of the day began climbing when the landlady failed to call us at 6 a.m. But our race to the Hamburg airport for the 9 a.m.(3 a.m. EST) flight was unnecessary. The flight was delayed for more than an hour. Translated in any language that meant I was not going to make my flight to Detroit from Newark and hence to the anticipated family dinner. It's an eight-hour flight from Hamburg to Newark.

After watching three movies on the personal TV screen in flight, I arrived in Newark to face another scramble to get through immigration and customs and rush to the airline service desk. Was there any possibility of getting an earlier flight to Detroit?

Of course the woman at the desk was sorry, but there was no other flight. To compensate for the six-hour delay I was given a $12 food voucher. How generous can the airline be to a customer who paid $1,000 for a round-trip airline ticket? Even though the food was deliberately limited to a Greek salad and ice cream, the $12 was 11 cents short of covering the bill.

I did sweet talk my way into spending time at the Continental Presidents Club, a lounge for travelers who prefer to pay for membership to escape the hubbub of hectic terminal traffic in exchange for comfortable chairs, private booths, beverages, and snacks.

Finally, at the 8:30 p.m. arrival, Detroit Metro never looked more inviting, even though I always prefer Toledo Express. The next leg of the journey was to get the luggage and get on the shuttle to the Baymont Motel across from the airport where I left the car for two weeks.

Guess what? The car wouldn't start. Did I cry? There were tears. I called AAA road service and suggested, as nicely as I could to the man who answered the call, that the charge might not be as strong as it should be. His response: "What do you want me to do, stay here all night?"

It was 10 p.m. The solution was to stay at the motel overnight to get a fresh start Sunday morning.

Guess what again? The car wouldn't start as I predicted.

I finally made it home at 10 a.m. Sunday.

So I repeat the question, world traveler that I try to be, did I have a good time?

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at: mpowell@theblade.com.



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