I live in DC, which is a great place to live and visit. I try to make the most of it. However, I also love to leave my home and see what the world has to offer. Come and join me!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007 The Long Flight Home

I managed to fall asleep for a bit at the Athens Backpackers, but was able to get up and head out in the dark in a timely manner. On the walk up Leoforos Amalias to Syntagma Square I kept panicking that I had left things behind (my pashmina, my air tickets), but I hadn't. I got to the Square to wait for the 4:30 X95 Airport Express Bus around 4:15 and there were a few other people already there. I realized I was still drunk (duh) and was glad there is no breath test to get on an airplane!

I started worrying because I had meant to go into a metro station and validate my ticket, as I hadn't been clear on whether there were validating machines on the buses. The bus arrived around 4:20 and the driver let us get on and there is a validating machine on the bus where I stamp my ticket. I was glad I'd been there early as it filled up almost completely and pretty quickly--I'd already been able to snag a seat in view of my suitcase on the luggage rack. It took off at 4:30 on the dot and though it is an "Express" bus it makes an awful lot of stops. At every stop more and more people got on and it was absolutely stuffed. People were standing every which way.

There is no traffic and we arrive at the Eleftherios Venizelos Airport around 5:20. I found the Austrian Air ticket counter based on the signboards (which tell you which counter number to check in for which flight). There were lots of people already in line...and no staff at the counter! So much for getting to the airport two hours before your flight! Some staff rolled in around 5:30 and took about 15 minutes setting up, and finally started checking people in around 5:45. Security is quick and easy and I was in the waiting area by 6:00, boarding not until 7:05.

Oh no! There is no real foodservice in the waiting area! Only a coffee cart with some wonderbread-looking sticky buns and a newstand with chocolate bars. I really wanted something to eat to help me sober up but I couldn't stomach the thought of either of those items.

When it is boarding time a bus takes us to the plane and we get on. As we go into flight we are promised a "small snack." I am praying for a dry packaged croissant or a cakey muffin with indeterminate bits of "fruit" rather than pretzels. Well, god bless Austrian Airlines, operated by Vo Tyrolean! I was handed a warm box with scrambled eggs and tomato, with the slice of ham way over to the side so it didn't "contaminate" the eggs (I'm vegetarian) and a warm roll. Perfect hangover food...except I was still drunk and as it soaked up the alcohol in my system I feared I could feel the hangover setting in. I was very surprised and pleased to have had a real breakfast. I sletp fitfully on the flight in 30 second spurts. During the final descent I could see the airport below us, and then suddenly I was awakened as we jolted onto the ground.

In the Vienna Airport I wandered the duty free with my 6E in change in search of protein-rich foods to supplement my upcoming airline "meal." The woman at Starbucks told me I could take the yogurt parfait through security as long as she wrapped and sealed it in a duty-free bag with the receipt showing. Indeed, security scrutinized the date on the receipt through the layers of plastic, but once satisfed with that let me carry it onto the plane. I also got some chocolate-dipped biscuits and a Milky Way Special bar.

Boarding goes without incident. The flight attendant directs me to my seat in German. I got a lot of that. The food was much better than on the way over. I appeared to have gotten the dairy meal this time instead of the vegan meal. Lunch was noodles in red sauce with some vegetables and topped with cheese and chocolate cake for dessert. Second lunch was a caprese salad with fancy greens and surprisingly good panna cotta. No dessert was as good as that Milky Way bar, though. Man, why can't we get that over here?

It had appeared I was going to be alone in my row (window seat!) but at the last minute a man came in and dropped his bag into the center seat and sat down with some profanity. It was sort of every single woman's fantasy, in that he was attractive, age appropriate, and not wearing a wedding ring, but he had walked in smelling like the floor of a frat house and immediately proceeded to have a glass of wine, a beer, and a giant scotch (in that order) in the hour before I fell asleep (yay! sleep on a plane!) and the only words he uttered throughout the flight were angry swears. But hey, the alcoholic with anger issues is single! (Or at least not married. Or at least pretending not to be.)

So about 20 minutes before landing I initiated conversation with him. He is a government lawyer like me, though about to leave to be a law professor, which is every lawyer's dream. He'd been abroad for work and visited Estonia, Latvia, and Prague. We had the DC versus Virginia debate and found out that we both prefer the DK Eyewitness Travel Guides and made fun of the Lonely Planet's backpackerier-than-thou world-weary tone. It was an enjoyable conversation, but we didn't exchange any personal information, not even names. To demonstrate what a how small DC is, I later was talking with a good friend and told her this story and we have identified him with 97% accuracy as the guy who was jerking her around for a couple of months earlier this year. So it's a good thing he wasn't interested in me.

We land at Dulles at 2:46, so there's no way I'm going to make the 2:50 A5 metrobus. It took forever to get off the plane (had to wait for a second moon landing vehicle), go through Passport Control, and go through Customs. I decided to splurge on the commercial bus to West Falls Church Metro for $9. The A5 is $3, but the Washington Flyer bus has luggage stowal below rather than unattainably high luggage racks inside; that's worth some amount of price differential. Unfortunately, it doesn't run any more often than the A5 and I had just missed it so I had to wait 30 minutes. I finally made it home around 5:00 (ugh, I HATE Dulles), hauled my suitcase up the stairs to my third floor walkup, and collapsed. I was home. It was over, my wonderful trip to Greece, but oh, the memories!

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