Off to one of the many squares around our apt in search of a TAXI. We’ll need 2 cars to get us to the airport, a trip we usually make via Metro but here in Lisbon the Metro doesn’t start early enough for our trip and another SMALL draw back is that it doesn’t actually go to the airport. One benefit to the early morning start is that the taxi can make its way to the front door of the apartment as this is usually a “pedestrian only zone.” Ann meets with the real estate agent as he “walks the apartment” checking for damage and we hold our breath hoping that the security deposit will be returned “in full.” We always worry that the errant scratch on the wall or the broken pane of glass “pre Team Glavin” will result in a 500 Euro charge. We get the “all clear” and it’s off to the airport for our 19th flight and baggage check in.
I don’t know why but when you know you are headed to the airport to check in with an airline called Easy Jet you feel “uneasy”. Perhaps it is the constant warnings about the # of bags “permissible” or the “ungod-like” charges for “extra weighted bags.” The warnings are so common that Pearse even asks “Do they charge you for oxygen?” As I hoist the bags, one after another, the folks around us glance at us and chortle “Are they really checking 7 bags?” Little do they know these bags have seen some miles, ridden more airport conveyors and logged plenty of track time. There is the pregnant pause waiting for the Easy Jet check in agent to speak; will it be “We need a credit card” or is it to be “Will that be all for today?” The guy beside us has 2 suitcases open in full view of the airport trying to make the weight balance; he’s over the limit and looking at a 50 Euro charge. His wife is not happy that her underwear is on display for Lisbon’s entire airport to see. The kids chuckle as she smacks him and says “it’s not too much!” The gate agent looks at us and says “Gate 9 you board at 7:50!” We feel relieved and the ebullient boys lead the way to the gate and past the flight board marked GENEVA. They know we are one step closer to the ski slopes of Switzerland.
Easy Jet is to flying what generic mayonnaise is to a ham and cheese sandwich. It gets the job done but you’re not exactly “livin large” you know what I’m saying? I managed a seat next to the understudy of the large boy from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. He ate for 2.5 hours and spent most of his time yelling at his mom across the aisle about how hard it is to be him. He felt pretty confident that he bought ½ of my seat too as he spent the better part of the flight up and down and in and out of both seats. I asked if he could read English and he said “yes”. I only asked because he spent the rest of the flight reading my computer screen as I typed.
As the Easy Jet lands Ann prepares to make the mad dash to the train station. We have 40 minutes to buy train tickets to Bern Switzerland and we want to get the tickets booked for the remaining 2 trains. It is rare that Team Glavin is “off the plane” first but we manage to disembark to the cool blast of Geneva air and to our delight the discount airline isn’t on the other side of the planet from baggage claim. Eamon and Seamus camp at the bottom of the luggage conveyor, staking out valuable real estate after confirming that the bags go “counterclockwise” in Geneva airport, another lesson learned. 7 bags accounted for and off we go in search of the train platform and mom. It is awesome that the station is right at the airport. The difference between catching the 12:36 vs the 14:00 is the difference between arrival in Grindelwald at 16:40 and 21:30. 5 hours doesn’t sound like much but with 3 kids on the go since 5:00AM the difference is a finish that is more like “Thanks for the help” than “Because I said so.”
The first class accommodations of SBB Switzerland Rail are a perfect start to the 3 train day. It is a Double Decker train with world class views of Lake Geneva and the farmlands of Switzerland. The first stop, Bern train station, is a mere 2 hours away but we won’t see much of the station, we hope. Everything breaks just right and we sprint though the station from platform 7 down the stairs and over to platform 3 and up the stairs. Did I mention we have 7 bags and 8 minutes to make the train? We are tested but ours is an experienced team and they jump the train like kids used to “riding the rails”. We pull out of Bern headed to Interlocken and are treated to panoramic views of the lakes with the snow trail covered Alps erupting behind them. Seamus says it best “Eamon, could you just rip down that travel poster covering the window?”
Click clack click clack though the towns and the mountains we go. The sky is threatening snow and the kids are giddy with anticipation. It brings new meaning to the song “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!” As if on cue the clouds oblige and it begins to snow, coating the grass and the trees in the valley between the lake and the mountain. The small train from Interlocken to Grindelwald looks like something out of a 50’s Christmas movie. As it pulls away from the station we pat ourselves on the back knowing that in 55 minutes we’ll be at the destination that we actually picked in February 2009 in response to the question, “Where do you want to spend Christmas while in Europe?” As the train ascends the mountain, doing a real rendition of the “little engine that could” and the green valley landscape changes to a blanket of white snow, we look at each other and marvel at our good fortune.