Flights And Frankfurt: We’re Not Even there Yet!

After our flight was changed three times since we first booked it in late 2018 (a hazard for using points that doesn’t get talked about much), we had no problem going through security at SeaTac but were a more than a little nervous to see that the previous flight hadn’t left yet. (And no, C-my-sister, we weren’t *that* early). Apparently air traffic control was delaying planes all over the country because of storms on the East Coast(!) Apparently, if you don’t want planes stacking up over Chicago at 4PM, the best thing to do is stop them from taking off at noon in the first place; who knew? Fortunately, ours was not affected! We’d splurged a bit and upgraded to first class, and it was indulgent, but worth it. Even the meal they served (chicken risotto) was tasty, and both of us managed to get a bit of a nap on our way to Chicago.

Let me say right now that the Polaris lounge in Chicago is very very nice. Real food, an actual buffet of cheese, fruit, several pasta dishes, sliders, a beef dish, and several vegetarian options along with bar service, a drinks (juice and soda) station, and hot beverages on tap. Showers could be had for a fee and most seats had power plugs. Well done — a taste of what first class used to look like. Frankly,our time there was too short.

Our seats were, sadly, way too separated. It was like flying alone. :-( Our flight was delayed about an hour because one of the waste tanks wasn’t flushing properly. With our long layover, we weren’t worried and eventually we took off. The dinner meal was adequate — I liked the cheese at the end the best. As usual, J.’s approval could be purchased with the signature made-to-order “Sundae”, even if it’s actually ice cream with a choice of about 4 toppings. With that it was the long wait for sleep to come (despite an ambien, I have a terrible time sleeping on these flights). In the meantime, I read and watched The Long Shot (fun!) as well as MIB: International (excellent!). And, miraculously, I did sleep for a few hours. Breakfast was not at all great — I only ate the yogurt. J. didn’t sleep much at all, so he finished the Simon Green book he’d been reading and watched… I don’t know, Endgame or something.

Frankfurt airport is one of the oddest we’ve been too. It’s huge — you walk a lot to get from place to place. J. says it reminded him of LAX or, more precisely, when he was in LAX earlier that year for a connecting flight he had thought that that airport reminded him of Frankfurt (we’d had a layover her on our honeymoon in 2012). Our plane de-boarded on the tarmac, and we took a bus to customs. Fortuitously, the line was quite reasonable and by noon we’d met up with Blair, our Frankfurt By Foot guide (https://www.frankfurtonfoot.com/layover-tours). He showed us where to get our bags stored (8eu for the day), and where to get a SIM card good for both Germany and Greece — a huge plus for our communications. Remember this bit – SIM card adventures feature later in our tale!

Then we took the train (fare included) and — after a 15 min ride — we were in Frankfurt! It’s a city of contrasts. Old and new co-existing side by side. Blair was great about guiding our interests and answering questions, as well as finding us a classic German meal. I had a noodle dish with local cheese and herbs, J. a schnitzel and really appreciated the salads that came with. Three hours, including the ride back to the airport for 165eu — absolutely worth it, and highly recommended for anyone with a long layover in Frankfurt.

Finally we were on the last leg of our passage to Crete.

Aegean Airlines doesn’t allow bags over 8kg on-board, so ours were checked (quickly and efficiently). The actual boarding process was a bit chaotic, with the gate staff attempting to manage by group, but people just ignored that. Honestly, it’s always so hit-or-miss about whether a country’s societal norms do, or do not, include the orderly use of queues. Despite that, not having big bags meant that everyone was in their seats very quickly. We were in an exit row, and the attendants were quite serious about making sure we a) spoke English and b) understood how to open the exit doors should the need arise. I tell you this because the last people to fill an exit row was a group of young men — 18? — clearly on holiday, from somewhere in what we typically call the Middle East. (I say this because they had a number of items with a flowing script on them, but whether it was Arabic, or Farsi, or something related, I couldn’t tell.)

They, like most adolescent men, were brash and insular, borderline rude about keeping together and moving past ‘slower’ people. They were apparently in different rows originally — one was up and over a row — but he moved to the exit row. The first sign of trouble was when the attendant tried to get them to understand that they couldn’t have their bags out during takeoff and landing — they needed to be stored overhead. Clearly a language/ understanding issue was at play — they seemed to feel she was picking on them — but eventually they acquiesced. The next problem was when she asked if they understood they were responsible for opening the doors. One actually started to attempt to open the door next to him right then. She got that stopped. More back-and-forthing and repeating of questions until they seemed to understand and agreed that they’d be responsible.

The attendant left them looking worried and conversations happened between her and the other attendants. Then the lead stepped in. She walked past us a few rows and asked if the people sitting their spoke English; they said that they did. She then went to the three boys and made them switch rows with the three who did speak English. That was another language/ anger issue, but she stood firm in the face of their insolence and made them move. (I’m pretty sure she was ready to bring in security to eject them if they didn’t agree to switch.) It look more time, but they finally got it and all was well.

When we landed, by the way, all three young men pushed through people to get to their bags, then up to the front of the plane. Totally self-centered.

Our flight was smooth, we were served a meal of chicken with oregano that I’m sure was fine, but not to my taste. J. slept the whole time, lucky guy. [In fact, as I, “J”, skim through these articles for edits/the adding of any color I feel is missing, I turned to L. and said “they served a meal on that flight?!” I had no idea… ] I just endured, reading my book. Upon landing I was surprised to see that several other jets were de-boarding — 11pm seems so latefor that many arrivals… this was, perhaps, the first bit of foreshadowing that the “hours of operation” in Greece were going to take some getting used to. Sure enough, baggage claim was a mess: our carousel had three jets’ worth of baggage coming through. Fortunately, people were basically polite and helpful so although it was tough to see your bag coming, you could get to it. I ended up moving to where the bags came out so I could give J. warning that it was coming. For his part, he shmoozed with some Brits who had arrived at the same time, so when the time came for anyone’s bag to get pulled off the conveyor, everyone was all smiles and teamwork. What a jerk. All in all, were were meeting our driver by 11:30pm.

Let me tell you that Welcome Pickups (https://www.welcomepickups.com/) is a great service. Our driver met us where promised, got us and our bags navigated through the airport, and we were at our Airbnb in Skalani in 15 minutes.

Aris and Marina, our hosts (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4872552), are delightful. They met us and got us checked in. They’d just put cleaning chemicals into the pool so we couldn’t go for a swim, so instead they brought us some chilled white wine and fresh fruit to enjoy as we wound down. It was delightful and we went to bed, more than ready for sleep.

(Sept 3 and 4)

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