As we rounded the corner into the 'real' part of Dublin airport, I spotted an internet station. I had some Euro coins leftover in my wallet from who-knows-when, so I pulled out a 2-euro piece and purchased 10 minutes of internet. Mostly, I just wanted to check my email to make sure that the minicab company had received our request.
When I opened my inbox, I saw that they had indeed received my request, and had emailed me to confirm that we'd be collected at the airport by a driver named Geoff, who'd greet us at the arrivals gate with a sign bearing our names, before driving us to Oxford in his shiny black Mercedes. "Okay, this is the only way we travel from now on," I announced to Joe, before emailing our moms to let them know we'd landed, and emailing our professor to let him know we may be a little bit late, depending on how fast our personal driver named Geoff drives us there in his brand new, shiny Black Mercedes.
The email didn't say anything about Geoff's car other than that it was a Mercedes, and that it was black, but I could only assume it was both shiny and brand new.
Realizing there was really no one else left to email about Geoff, we ventured on to get this so-called visa stamp in our passports, per the trusty custom agent's advice.
Still wheeling around our bags on the miracle luggage trolley, I left Joe at the Ryan Air counter and found an airport employee to double check that this was, in fact, where we needed to get our visa stamps. In the most charming, adorable, chirpy Irish accent, this lovely woman confirmed that we were in the right place, and she did so with the friendliest of smiles. I smiled back, thanked her, and returned to Joe, exclaiming, "I love this place! This airport is the best! Everyone who works here is so nice! Everyone loves me! We're never leaving this country! Except that I really can't wait to meet Geoff, so let's go!"
We then received our visa stamps, checked our bags at the counter, and printed our new boarding passes, still talking (and dreaming) about Geoff.
We had a couple of hours until our flight, so we headed upstairs to survey the dining options. I'm no stranger to airport-celebrity-run-ins in the UK, so I advised Joe to mentally prepare himself for who or what we might see in the food court.
Earlier in the flight, when delivering my "Lessons I Learned in Europe From Which You Might Benefit" speech, I had also advised Joe that (1) It's not uncommon to see a group of teenagers (or older) (and usually boys) congregated in public places, blaring music from their cell phones and (2) it's not uncommon for said music to be a song that is at least 3-5 years old.
As we entered the food court, we saw zero celebrities. What we did see, however, was a group of twenty-somethings (all boys) decked out in head-to-toe Abercrombie and Fitch, crowded around a table at Burger King, blasting the Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get It Started" from a cell phone propped up against a large Coke.
I turned to Joe.
"And another thing: you will see a lot of Abercrombie and Fitch."
I'd like to say that we scoffed at the sight, rolled our eyes, and headed straight for the pseudo-sophisticated 'Garden Terrace' restaurant opposite of Burger King. But of course, drawn to the sound of Fergie, we stepped right up to that Burger King counter and ordered my first European fast food meal in years and Joe's first European fast food meal of all time. The veggie burger was just as good as I remembered it (I watched at the counter as it took them over 10 whole minutes to prepare, which is always comforting) and Joe ordered a breakfast sandwich that had real tomatoes on it -- real everything, to be exact.
Every part of our BK experience seemed almost like a foregone conclusion, considering that Joe's crash course in Europe 101 had also included the pearls of wisdom: (3) 90% of the ingredients you find in American fast food are illegal in Europe, so get ready to reap the culinary benefits of an FDA that cares and (4) Be prepared to make one packet of ketchup go a very long way.
Both anecdotes rang true that day at Burger King and I reveled in my credibility as Teacher of All Things Europe.
My luck ran out, though, when my next two fun facts -- (5) You will spend all the minutes of all the Ryan Air flights daydreaming about all the non-economy airlines you'll fly one day when you have just a little more money and (6) At the end of every Ryan Air flight, the passengers will collectively offer up a round of applause upon landing, because they're just so happy that this plane actually landed in one piece and that the pilot really did know how to fly, after all -- proved themselves to be in no way true. For example, our Ryan Air flight to London wasn't even that bad, and when the plane landed, not a single clap was heard.
Regardless, when we immediately found our luggage at baggage claim and painlessly breezed on through customs, I turned to Joe and said, "I know we thought the Dublin airport was magical, but London Stansted is really giving it a run for its money" before launching into a story about how the last time I was here, Pierce and I were about to attend a Jay-Z concert in Hyde Park.
My story was cut short, though, when we entered the Arrivals corridor realized that Geoff -- our person driver with the brand new, shiny Black Mercedes stretch limo -- was nowhere to be found. He was nowhere in the airport, nowhere outside the airport in the taxi line, and definitely not answering his phone or emails.
Thus, the Jay-Z story would have to wait (as will the rest of this post because it's after midnight here and I'm going to bed!).
So........See you tomorrow!
Until then, you can scratch your heads at the fact that this (see above photo) is what my hair looks like after an overnight, international flight. Can I get a #Medusa, anyone?