Holy cow. What a day. And it’s only 5:45pm. Though I’m currently in London, so in Greece time, it’s 7:45. I slept in. Well, tried. The darn church bells or whatever was constantly chiming, so I was up by 9. I stayed in bed catching up online and then decided to get going.
I took the stuff I was meant to ship home today and went shopping. I was going to a specific shop to get a gift for someone else from someone else. The two stores I had seen the gift at weren’t open yet, despite it being 11am. So I went to the ATM, needing euros for one-plus more day before switching to pounds for 4 days. I decided to take out the full amount that I usually take out, because I will need euros in Ireland. As I was walking back toward my hotel, realizing I was going to have to come back later and hope the shops were open, a guy who had said hello to me on my first pass said hello again. And asked was I leaving today. No, tomorrow, I said, over my shoulder. He said, alarmingly, tomorrow? But there’s a strike tomorrow. I was thinking of all the European rail strikes and said, but I’m flying out. He caught up to me and said, it’s the air traffic controllers. Apparently his friend was supposed to fly out tomorrow and was not going to be able to.
So I got some breakfast, still not feeling in a huge rush, but got it to go and went back to my hotel to google it. Sure enough. It didn’t take long for the notification to come up when I went to the Athens airport website. No flights in or out tomorrow. Dammit. I didn’t want to stay in Athens an extra day, not least of which because I am meeting Chas in Edinburgh. He got in today and is leaving Saturday morning. The soonest I would get on a flight would probably be Friday afternoon, meaning we would only have a scant few hours to hang out. So I took matters into my own hands and booked a flight. I’m hoping to get money back on my previous flight, but I’m not holding my breath.
It was shortly before noon and I booked a flight for 2:30pm. It was the shortest flight duration, getting into Edinburgh tonight still. So it was basically my only option. My travel Visa that I use would go through for some reason, so I had to use my debit card. Now there will be fees. Grr. I then set about packing. Like a crazy person. Not to mention I had all kinds of things I was meant to ship home, but now had no time. I had unpacked more than usual, too, because I was supposed to be there for 4 nights and it was as cold as it’s been on this trip, so I had to get to the bottom of my bag for my sweaters and cords. But I got it all packed and shortly before I was totally finished, I ran to the stairs and asked the front desk to call me a cab. She had been helping me, trying to call the airport and get my airline on the phone, to no avail. She said, already? Yes, already!
I got my things together and went downstairs and the cab was there. It was 12:18. I was worried about making an international flight by getting to the airport with less than 2 hours. But I thought with a cab, it will be quick. Well, I went out to get in the cab and the front desk lady came outside and watched me get in, waving goodbye and wishing me luck! So sweet! The cab had wifi, so I was able to check-in to the flight and notify Chas that I was on my way! The cabbie tried to convince me, in his very limited English, that the trip was 35-40 minutes to the airport, but that I will be fine and getting through check-in and security was 30 mins. Let’s hope.
He then pointed to his mini ipad, for the second time, and asked what music I wanted. “YouTube?”, he said. I told him English music (he asked English or Greek) and he chose Guns N Roses, November Rain. Awesome! He then tried to tell me something about the bride in the video, but he couldn’t get the words and I couldn’t help him. I tried. It was sad, he kept saying, “I no speak good English!” But I told him he did very well, I mean, certainly compared to my Greek! When I got out I asked what the fare was and he seemed to make it up on the fly. 40 euro? I had 45 in my pocket, so I pulled it out and handed him the 40 and he then said, 42 or 43? What? You said 40. I don’t know. I probably should have just given him the 5 euro. It was a long drive, but I never know what to do in those situations. He was so nice I am now kicking myself. I feel like I’ve done that a lot on this trip, but I was so concerned with all the extra cost of leaving today, that I held onto it. I guess it’s not worth worrying about now.
I got through check-in fine, no wait. But the immigration line was long-ish. Didn’t take as long as I feared. I thought I was home free, before I remembered I hadn’t been through security yet. The airport was pretty busy, probably people doing what I was. But I knew I needed food for the flight, so I grabbed a sandwich and chips to eat on board. Security was a breeze. I don’t know if they had extra people working, but they handled the volume wonderfully.
I got on the flight and breathed a sigh of relief. I slept a bit, read a bit, and ate as soon as possible. After I finished, they came around with full meals. Of course they did. It’s British Airways. It’s European. They are the cheapskate American airlines. I said to the old Greek man next to me (middle seat…boo), I didn’t know they served food. He commented about how I ate my own and I said, I’m too used to the states. We have to bring our own food. Then he asked where I was from, as his two daughters live in San Fran! And then he offered me food off his tray! So sweet, but I declined.
I got to Heathrow and went through immigration again. She gave me the third degree. (As they did in Greece, because she couldn’t find the stamps for when I entered Greece…I told her I didn’t have to go through immigration and was surprised by that, so she wanted to see the stamp for when I entered Europe. Then I got cleared.) But she passed me. Then I went to someone else who had to see my boarding pass AND get my picture taken. Bizarre. I had to do two because he said I needed not to tilt my head so far to the side!!!! HAAAAAAA!!!! Apparently the “Torrie head tilt” doesn’t care who’s taking the picture. I told him it was automatic for a photo and he said, oh is that a pose thing? Yes, I said, to avoid double chins. He laughed and said, “we both know that’s not true!” He was funny. I was thinking, why did I not have to go through ANY of this when I was here last year? I would remember this. Oh yeah…we came into London on the train. That’s why!
I went to the cash machine to get pounds and tried to get 200. Nope. I suppose after taking out 400 euro, I was reaching my daily limit. So I tried again for 40. Score. Then I got on the internet and got things straightened out. Thankfully I was able to get a bed at the same hostel my other reservation was at. Hopefully I won’t have to change rooms, but we will see. I won’t get there til 11pm or after and I’m just glad I got a bed in the same place. Beggars can’t be choosers. Things definitely happen for a reason. I had been looking at canceling the Edinburgh hostel for a room in a hotel or B&B. Getting to the end of my trip and I really like my own space. But I realized that the room I have is only a 4-bed, so at least there are only 3 others. I decided nothing else looked ok, so I kept my hostel reservation. Good thing. After spending this money on the flight, I’m glad I didn’t splurge more on rooms!
As stressful as today was, and despite spending this extra money and hassle, it’s really the first “serious complication” of the trip. Although I would have preferred a strike to affect me in some other way (not when I’m meeting a friend), if this is the worst of it, I cannot complain. I have had (knock on wood) very good luck and have been very blessed on this trip. No complaining here!
- Have you any idea how happy I am to be in English-speaking countries from here on out?? It’s lovely!!