Friday, April 16, 2010

In Case of Natural Disaster

So here we are in beautiful almost - downtown, outrageously expensive Geneva on plan. It's just that, uh, not much else is on plan. We are in the midst of aninternaitonal weather disaster.

Thankfully I did not know the news about the volcanic/nuclear cloud of dust, so I blithely drove here as planned. My biggest fear as we loaded the car was that the road over the Alps would be scary.


After our gorgeous Alpine picnic, when my kids took time at the play ground, we got back in the car with my son driving the perfectly lovely Alpine highway, I went into a sudden and very nasty allergic reaction. Odd, I thought, but not unusual. Still, what could have triggered such a sudden and harsh reaction? I clutched my Epi pen as I swallowed Benadryl.

After checking into our gorgeous suite at the InterContinental Geneva, and settling back to unpack, set-up computer and study map of town, I received a phone call from Sarah Lahey, Editorial Director of Born to Shop, announcing that because of the disaster she had to cancel her trip to Istanbul and Paris.


We knew nothing. Even BBC was not reporting much. As she explained it all, I suddenly realized why I was wheezing.

The hotel concierge confirmed that the Geneva Airport was still open. The phone number listed for united Airlines in the phone book was for freight. There were no reports online that gave any serious information.

In short order we went through some immediate actions that I pass on now, as there were/ are some tricks to be remembered if/when this happens to you.

* Don't waste your time trying to call the airline.
* Don't waste the concierge's time thinking he can do better than you.
* Go directly to the airport with a pleasant frame of mind and courtesy written all over you. Stand in line and make friends. We watched a romance bloom. The TV news says not to go to the airport -- we found the opposite worked for us. Maybe because the Geneva airport is small, but it wasn't a long line and we were helped efficiently.
* Know your carrier's affiliations. For United Airlines, we had to go to the Lufthansa desk. If we hadn't been told that, we could have been hysterical looking for a non-existant United desk.
* Have some creative ideas in mind for solving the problem, but don't go crazy.
* Don't start trying to out-smart the computer. I was hoping to re-book my kis through Frankfurt to LA, through CDG because there are more options for US connections, etc. In the end, a smaller airport with only one flight has fewer passengers to worry about.
* Remember Peter Greenberg, the Travel Detective from CBS News and his facebook and twitter pages. I sent him a note and he explained about the tail numbers on planes, so that I can determine if the plane has departed the U.S. so that we can know if we will even have a craft when the time comes.

The kids were given boarding passes for Tuesday, which is a miracle. I suggested we all shake hands withe agent as would be polite in the European manners department. The agent doesn't want to shake hands with anyone. Too many germs (or was that Germans?) We all nodded like doodle dolls with heads on springs.

We were lucky in that we had driven and had a car and were not at the mercy of taxi fees. We were alsolucky that we had chosen a hotel very close to the airport. We were also lucky that we had a computer, could go online and find another hotel for the added on delays, as this hotel is over the top in design and luxury ...and price.

We will check out as planned on Sunday and the kids will move to a Ramada (Ramada Park Geneva, $170 a night) near the airport with a free shuttle to the airort and a free bus pass for getting into town -- we booked it on and then went over there in person to make friends and check it out. It seems well chosen...and it's on the #10 tram line which leads to the airport, to town and to a nearby mall with fabulous grocery store, Migros. In a disaster and a city as expensive as Geneva, we all need to know where there's a good grocery store.

For ocmparison, the InterConti -- which is the most chic hotel in Geneva--starts at $450 a night for the least expensive room. It is gorgeous here, and we are in a suite with a Lake Leman view, but it's not possible to stay any longer than planned. This was a working trip, meant to last two nights, not four. But Tony Chi is a design genius and if you want some place really chic to be stranded -- this is the hotel for you. The breakfast buffet is amazing and we're anticipating the famed Sunday Brunch.

Yes, it's a three day delay and the financial losses involved for my kids -- who will miss work without pay --are staggering. The price of a small pizza in Geneva is $25. It will not be a honeymoon in Paradise. But, as the old saying goes -- when rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it.

Now we're off to work, I will be writing a Postcard to Peter ( all about Geneva, the amazing things the hotel did when they discovered it was my birthday (from my passport), all about the Tony chi designs and our meal at Woods, her eint he hotel -- foie gras stuffed ravioli.

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