Things didn’t go exactly as planned the last few days of my trip. There were missed and almost missed flights, a jar of olives thrown away, and many, many tears shed.
Let’s rewind. Back in July I booked my travel for this trip using an app called EightyDays. I highly recommend them; their prices are insanely good, but their customer service is even better. When I received my travel confirmations they didn’t integrate into my calendar so I had to put them in manually. No big deal right? Well you try entering 10+ flights and trains in different time zones and see if you don’t mess up at least one thing. Well I messed up two things. I put my flight from Brussels to Porto on the wrong date, and I entered my flight from Porto to Paris at the wrong time. This made for a crazy last few days of the trip.
I was awakened Friday morning by my boarding pass buzzing on my phone at 4am for a flight that was in an hour and a half. With absolutely no way to get to the airport on time I got help from the Eighty Days team and got the flight from Brussels to Porto rebooked for the next day. I get to Porto and think that I have a quick afternoon to explore. Let’s remember that I have this flight incorrectly in my calendar as well. I go to sleep and wake up yet again to my boarding pass buzzing, but this time my flight is in one hour. I knew I couldn’t miss another flight so I quickly threw my things together and hailed an Uber to the airport. In broken Portuguese I told my driver I needed to get to the airport as fast as possible. In broken English he told me to tell him if I got scared of his driving. He was whipping around the curves of the highway at 174 km/hr and I was absolutely scared but damnit I wasn’t going to miss another flight. I get to the airport and run to my check in desk to drop my bag to find that it was closed. Panicked, I went through security with my checked bag (after begging everyone in line to let me pass them) containing full size toiletries, a bottle of ouzo, and a jar of homemade olives gifted to me from my host in Greece. I knew that the toiletries wouldn’t be allowed through so I immediately tossed those, but I wanted to try and get through with the gifts from Greece. The ouzo made it, but the olives did not. The security agent took them from me and and dropped them in the trash. As the jar hit the bottom of the can and smashed, hot tears began to fall down my face.
I started running for my gate with two bags totaling 50 pounds in tow. Of course both of my shoes came untied, I’m out of breath, and my face has turned bright red from the combination of exercise and sobbing. When I get to the gate the agent told me of had to pay to check my bag with cash and that it would be €40. I got out my wallet and only had €35. And the rain from my face kept pouring down. So much so that the agent had to ensure that I would indeed be okay to fly. She pointed me in the direction of an ATM and with a $40 service fee alongside the bag fee, I started walking towards my plane, audibly crying. Was I being a little dramatic? Mmmmmaybe....but you try traveling for as long as I did, getting so close to home and having this mishap occur. It was disheartening.
So I get to Paris, much earlier than I expected, not in a great mood. Only to find out that the shuttle to my hotel (the whole reason I booked it) was not running. So I get a cab, show the driver the address of my destination, and the driver begins cursing at me in French because I couldn’t speak French and tell him where I needed to go. So the faucet on my face turned back on. When I got to the hotel the concierge was just about as friendly as the cab driver. When I finally get into my hotel room I was obviously not in the best of moods.
I had two choices. Stay in all day wallowing in my misery or get out and try to enjoy my last day in Europe. I had an inner battle for at least an hour about this, but eventually decided to get the train into Paris and make the best of the situation. So I wandered back through Paris, and spent the evening in front of the Eiffel Tower. Definitely a good move on my part, I needed to get out of my funk.
I woke up the next morning excited and ready to get back to the USA. I went to the airport so early that they wouldn’t even let me check in when I got there. After the last few flights I needed to make sure that I was on that flight home. When I get to the gate I found out that the flight was two hours SHORTER than I thought it was going to be, so that was nice. And then we actually landed and hour earlier than expected. Yay!
Now I’m back in NYC and I’ve got to spend some time with lots of friends. I’ll be spending my Thanksgiving with my old roommate Jeremy, his girlfriend and my good friend Anna. I’m so happy to step back into my old traditions! Tomorrow I fly back to St Louis and then travel home to Modesto where I will be thankful I won’t have to pack or unpack a bag for at least a little while. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
In Rome I had pasta for 3 square meals a day, saw a lot of old shit, and got very very wet. What else do you need to know? Oh yes, I drank some wine too. Just kidding. Rome was amazing! I had a quick two and a half days to spend there but I enjoyed every minute of it. Even though it rained the majority of the time, and I got soaked! I thoroughly enjoyed walking and discovering this city. I thought it was another city that would just be a quick blip on my way home, but I learned a lot about ancient history while here. I also checked another country off the list and visited Vatican City. It was interesting and kind of crazy that the Catholic Church made it’s own country. Let’s just say, I appreciated the art and the history more than the religious part of this experience. Rome is on the list of places I would love to return to someday. The next stop was Brussels and it blew away my expectations. That might be because I didn’t actually have any expectations of it going in. I ate a good amount of chocolate, like 2 waffles a day, and so many frites! I learned an interesting story about how French Fries got their name and also how the Belgians are pissed at Americans about it. I’m happy to share that story to anyone who will listen in person. I had a delicious beef stew, and many Belgian beers, but I didn’t make time for any mussels. Who knew that Brussels was known for mussels? Ha. It’s true though, they are. I saw an exhibit on Dali and Magritte which was really great. I also met up with some other travelers to hang out. Brussels was great! Next stop, Porto!
The islands are absolutely incredible. They are almost exactly as I imagined them. I visited two Cycladic islands and stayed in Cycladic homes. What exactly is does that mean? When you watch Mamma Mia and you see the cast running through stone streets with narrow staircases and tiny blue windows scattered throughout, that is exactly the type of architecture I’m referring to. While exhausting at times (I averaged around 55 flights of stairs daily), it was magical. Pink and red bougainvillea growing at every turn with little street cats running at your feet. The two villages I stayed in date back to around 2500 B.C. How crazy is that? I need to come back to the islands in the summertime. Even though the average daily temperature was 65 degrees, this is wintertime and the off season. Everything near me was closed! I had to trek into villages slightly bigger than where I was staying to get food, or in the case of Kastro, to see other humans. It has been an eye opening experience, but a lovely one. I have to say that the hospitality of the Greek people as a whole has been amazing. They have gone above and beyond to make me feel welcome here, despite the language barrier. I stayed on the beach in Kastro and one day was walking to the next town (2 miles uphill) in search of food and WiFi. An older gentleman passed me on the road on his scooter, then stopped and offered me a ride to my destination. My legs were thankful! The next day I was sitting on a stone bench in a little plaza near a church, reading and waiting for my bus. A man came out of his home and gave me a cushion to sit on, and then after a while insisted that I come in for coffee and snacks. We couldn’t talk much because my Greek consists of greetings and his English was about the same, but thanks to Google translate we had a small conversation about our families. I am still in awe with how friendly everyone is here. Today I will return to Athens where I will spend three more days before I head to Rome. I’m going to eat as much Greek food as I can, soak up the culture, and maybe win a game of backgammon before I go.
Update- no tan and I haven’t run through the streets singing ABBA songs yet, but I have fallen in love! Greek culture is absolutely amazing. I’m learning to speak in Greek little by little thanks to the amazing hosts I have had on this trip. The olives and feta here have nothing on what you can get in the States. Ouzo is growing on me, but I may have to try it several more times to see if I really like it ;) I’ve learned to play backgammon and a few other games with a native Athenian, watched the sun set over the Acropolis, and taken many motorcycle rides around the city (yes Mom, I wore a helmet). The people are so friendly, and already I have made some lifelong friendships. Saturday I will head out to the islands by ferry to do some exploring. I’m looking forward to this continued adventure!