Oh Belfast, I never saw thee - Curt Yeomans

OK, I just want to say something about hotel wake-up calls - carry an alarm clock as a backup.

Now, I'm sure most hotels will follow through with a requested wake-up call, at the requested time. The hotel I stayed in, in London, back in July, does not fall into that category.

I specifically requested a wake-up call at 5 a.m., on July 24. A cab was going to arrive at the hotel at 5:45 a.m., to take me to the nearby train station. At the station, I was going to catch a train that would take me to Stansted Airport, where I would catch an 8:30 a.m., flight to Belfast, in Northern Ireland, for a day-long trip.

The hotel staff never made that wake-up call. And unlike their American counterparts, hotels in Europe do not come equipped with alarm clocks.

Instead, one of the staff members knocked on our door - at 5:55 a.m., - to tell me, and my family, that our cab driver had been waiting 10 minutes for us.

Now, the hotel staff member, who came to our door, readily admitted they had not successfully made the wake-up call, but he attributed it to an apparently malfunctioning phone. Now, this is funny, because we picked up the phone and got a dial tone.

And, that's not even touching on the fact that they did not bother to come down to our room at 5 a.m., to try and wake us up, when they realized a phone call could not be made. Seeing how we were in a real rush to get to the airport, though, we didn't have time to get around to asking about that issue.

We very quickly got showers, got dressed and got to the taxi at 6:15 a.m., and made it to the train station (by that time having to fight morning traffic in central London) at 6:45 a.m.

Well, the train was slower than scheduled. We got to the airport at 7:50 a.m., but boarding for our flight had begun five minutes before that. Final boarding was at 8 a.m., and we had to check-in, go through security, and book it down to our gate.

By the time I got down there (I was the first to make it to the gate via a run worthy of the Olympics), they were pulling up the boarding ramp on our flight and the plane was getting ready to pull away from the gate. No one else was going to be allowed to board the flight at that point.

So, we missed our flight. Just to punctuate how badly things were messed up, there were no other available flights on any airline, at any of London's three airports, that were going to Belfast that day.

So, instead of flying to Northern Ireland, we took the train back into London, and then went to Madame Tussauds wax museum, the Imperial War Museum, and Harrod's (at least we made the most of our extra day in London).

Now, the whole point of going to Belfast was to say I had an opportunity to visit where another side of the my Irish roots, the McGrattys, came from.

Of course, I should point out that just before we went to Europe, one of my aunts informed us that the McGratty family apparently was not from the Belfast area, as I had previously been told. Rather, the family was from Londonderry, which is on the other side of Northern Ireland. Still, since Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland, it is a good place to go for genealogical research. Plus, it has a huge Ferris Wheel, styled after the London Eye.

Belfast also has a fascinating, albeit violent, history. This is where "The Troubles" took place. "The Troubles" are the period of high violence between the Catholic and Protestant residents.

Besides, both Belfast and Londonderry are in the Ulster province of the Irish island. Yes, I know Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are two separate political entities. The republic is a free, independent nation. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. However, all of the island was once part of the U.K., and it was separated into four provinces, with Ulster taking up the northern portion of the island.

Even to this day, the Ulster name has stuck.

However, I will not get to see either Belfast, or Londonderry, just yet. I can thank the hotel in London for that. Now, if I want to go there, I have to pay a lot of money for airfare, hotel rooms, and all of that.

Why is it that every bad experience I had in London dealt with air travel?

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247, or via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.