Sunday, April 05, 2009

Getting to Greece (March 30)

Our taxi driver was a good 15 minutes late and our drive to the airport was, of necessity, a little hectic and crazy. Our driver seemed to enjoy playing chicken a little more than I and would continuously creep up behind huge trucks, so close I swear we were completely in the truck’s blind spot, and then would honk his horn relentlessly until the truck moved over enough for us to pass.

When we got to the airport, remarkably unscathed, our taxi driver demanded his fare. We had decided to go with a metered cab so that he wouldn’t rip us off. But when we brought out our money, he brought out his money and his hands were as quick as lightening. In a flurry he grabbed some money from my hands, grabbed some from Jaehee, mixed it in with his own, and threw some change at us.

Our ride officially cost us 66.50 LE but it ended up costing us well over 100 LE after our driver took care of providing us “change.”

Checking in was relatively hassle-free, though I wish that the Cairo International Airport would catch onto priority boarding. We ended up pushing our way onto the plane along with everybody else, which was relatively stressful, especially since my purse had been flagged somehow while going through the x-ray machine and after going through every item in my purse (namely: toys, crayons, books, snacks, etc.) we were allowed to board. Lucky for me, the guy who went through the purse thought that Rachel needed to have more toys to hold, so he took some out of my bag and gave them to her which meant that I had to worry about my bag, my purse, the stroller, Rachel, and all the toys she was carrying while trying to hurry through security.

Why do they make security as awkward as possible and then harp at you the whole time to go faster? Take off your belt, take off your shoes, take off your coat, take everything out of your pockets, take all liquids and electronics out of your bag, force your baby to send Winnie the Pooh through the x-ray machine, fold the stroller! Faster, faster, faster!

I sure was glad when we made it onto the plane, except for the fact that I hate everything about flying. I hate taxiing, I hate taking off, I hate turbulence, I hate the bathrooms, I hate the noise of the jets and the noise of the air, I hate the smell of the fake air, I hate the smell of dozens of bodies (most of them smokers) crammed into close proximity for hours on end, I hate the food, I hate landing.

It’s a wonder I ever fly at all. But I survived this flight, with a baby, alone. At least, without Andrew. I had Jaehee there to help, which was wonderful. And also Sara’s video iPod. Lifesaver. Seriously.

Although Rachel stayed awake the entire flight, I was able to at least close my eyes and lean back against my chair, ignoring her and focusing on not losing my dinner, while Rachel watched Winnie the Pooh on the iPod. It was wonderful to not have to continuously draw her attention into coloring or barn animals or anything. I don’t mind doing that at 2 PM, but at 2 AM? I am pretty much ready to resign as mother by 2 AM.

We must have looked pretty haggard when we arrived in Athens. A security guard escorted us from the everlastingly long “all other passports” line to the pathetically short “EU passports only” line. We totally got expedited through customs. Someone asked the guard about it and he explained that having a young child is a handicap of sorts, so just as the gentleman in the wheelchair ahead of us got to cut in line, our excuse was equally valid.

At least, I think that’s what he said. It was all Greek to me. Literally.

He did a lot of pointing at Rachel and the man in the wheelchair, so it was pretty obvious he thought Rachel was a handicap of sorts. We were desperately tired, so it was a very nice thing for him to do.

When we cleared customs, we found out that the metro line connecting the airport to the rest of the system was down for maintenance. That threw a spanner into the works.

We ended up taking the bus to the Syntagma Square station and then taking the last two metro stops to Omonia Square station. And then we walked around forever and ever and ever trying to find our hotel.

We’re staying at Hotel Amaryllis. Apparently it’s 2 minutes away from Omonia station, but we walked around for a good 15 minutes before we finally gave up and asked directions. We ended up at Amaryllis Inn, which wasn’t Hotel Amaryllis, but was close enough. They’re owned by the same chain so the clerk was very helpful and gave us a map with the route to Hotel Amaryllis marked down.

It was so nice to get our room. Finally. We waited in the lobby for a good 20 minutes before I finally went up to the clerk to ask about our room for a second time. Rachel was going berserk. She needed to sleep. We all needed sleep.

“I can check you in now,” said the clerk, “The maids were just finishing getting your room ready.”

Why he didn’t tell us that’s why we were waiting so long before, I don’t know. We weren’t waiting very patiently. It’s hard to wait patiently when you’ve been up for over 24 hours.

Once we were settled in our room, we had a decent 2.5 hour nap and then got up to explore the town a bit. Most of our early exploration was met with much temper-tantruming on Rachel’s part, which meant that I turned the stroller around and beetled back to the hotel as fast as I could.

Apparently she needed more time to unwind and her temper-tantrums were more than I could bear, so I also needed a breather.

After she played with her toys for about a half hour, she felt much better and we were able to have a somewhat successful afternoon, which I will describe hereafter since this post is already longer than long.


  1. holy dang.. talk about bad luck traveling.. at least that security guard in athens was nice! ps- was at those same metro stops when i was in athens 6 months ago :)

  2. I hope your American readers don't get too confused when you say "that threw a spanner into the works". I used that expression in staff meeting once, and every face looked at me in blank uncomprehension.