US tourist's European odyssey to fly home
American Mona Hidayet could not hide her disbelief as she waited in a long queue at the bus station in the Parisian suburb of Bagnolet.
Since leaving Scotland four days ago she has been trying to fly home, in an odyssey that has taken her all over Western Europe and will lead her next to Madrid.
"It's not over yet," says the dark-haired woman in her thirties, smiling despite her visible exhaustion.
"I left Scotland Thursday at dawn and I hope to arrive in Madrid Monday, before this damned volcanic cloud blocks the planes there as well."
"I was supposed to fly from Scotland to the United States Thursday morning," said Hidayet, a sales manager at a computer science firm.
"I woke up at 3:00 am, but when I arrived at Edinburgh airport I learned that flights had been cancelled" due to the cloud of ash spewed out by Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano, which has paralysed flights all over Europe.
"I travelled to Newcastle (200 kilometres or 125 miles south) to take the night ferry to Amsterdam, where I arrived Friday morning," she said.
"At Amsterdam's Schiphol airport I waited in vain for two flights to the US, both of which were cancelled. I decided to take a train from Amsterdam to Paris, only to discover planes were grounded there as well."
Mona then decided to go to Paris's Austerlitz station, only "to hear on Saturday that all trains to Spain were fully booked until Wednesday!"
To make things more difficult, in France train traffic has also been affected by a railway workers' strike, now in its 12th day.
"I finally landed in this bus station in the Parisian suburbs, where I am very happy to have found a bus leaving for Madrid," Hidayet said.
All the Spanish airports that were closed on Sunday due to the volcanic ash cloud have now reopened. But to be on the safe side, Hidayet booked seats on three different flights from Madrid to the United States, "to be prepared for all contingencies."
"I must be in Detroit Wednesday," she said, explaining that she has to catch a flight on Thursday to Mexico, where she plans to celebrate her birthday.
"This might end up being very expensive. I can't say exactly how much money I have had to spend so far. But right now I need to call my bank urgently and ask them not to block my credit cards!"
© 2010 AFP