I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

In the Greek mid-winter

Anyone who doesn't think that's the fucking jackpot of champagne-swigging first class blog post titles can stop reading right now.

I stayed in the lounge until about 1130, with a flight time of 1220. I don't really know why I haven't learnt my lesson yet but I still give myself way too much time at the gate - big bird to Joburg notwithstanding - when flying cattle class and/or from airports where boarding announcements aren't made from the lounge.

Flight BA632 LHR-ATH was leaving from gate A12, slap bang in the middle of the main T5 terminal. Right now it's hidden behind a load of building works which means all the passengers are cramped in to an area not really big enough for them. I walked to and straight through it since I was way too early, but I did spot that fast track boarding would be in effect. Trying to be sensible, I rearranged all my explosives and other stuff such that everything I wanted for the flight was in my coat pockets or hands.

Fast track boarding was a fucking joke. They announced it very clearly, slowly, obviously, and then various members of staff got angry, shouting at the hordes of people trying to get on board when they weren't yet allowed. And then some passengers got angry too. For fucks sake. I eventually bowled through and took my seat 19A, window, over the wing.

I forgot how little room you get for stuff in an economy seat. I shouldn't have forgotten - for fucks sake, I've almost flown as many economy miles as fat cat this year, and over 25000 since the last time I was up front. But still I got it wrong. It was trick to stow my pad, phone, USB brick, iPad and headphones as well as the coat and I was all kinds of clumsy and uncomfortable. Then I felt better when the clumsy git with the giant laptop and tablet sat next to me and proceeded to have a loud conversation with the row behind - which mostly involved him turning his head half way and shouting in my fucking ear.

Kept dozing off. Don't really know why. At one point I woke up and my headphones were nowhere to be seen, and I still don't have them now. It's a mystery to me how I can have lost them, but I did, so I opened the provided ones which were fucking awful and broken. No podcasts for me. The plane was heaving full and I was actually, finally, a little bit excited to be going to Athens.

We didn't leave. The first officer made an announcement - they'd found a drawing pin stuck into one of the tyres, so had sent for engineers to change it. This does not appear to be as efficient a manoeuvre as in Formula One and they said it would take 20 minutes. 25 minutes later I'd received a helpful alert from kayak telling me my flight was going to leave late, and the first officer said we'd take another 20 minutes. We eventually left an hour and a quarter late, with my seatmate being called out by the staff for still dicking around with his bag in the aisle as we were on the runway. Sigh.

The doziness wore off and I played a bit of pinball on the iPad, eventually scoring 2 of my highest ever 6 scores on the table I've played more than any other. Go me! And then service started. First, beer and a bag of bird seed. Some people tried to complain about the food, not realising - by which I mean, not listening to them having said - that the proper food was coming separately. I appreciated the announcement that if anyone wanted a drink, just hit call. For some reason my seatmate hit call just as they were serving 2 rows ahead of us. I was quite distressed by the lack of space and constant mouth and elbows all flight. Meh.

At some point there were some nice mountains outside, but the 767 has entertainment on the drop down screens rather than a moving map so I'm fucked if I know what and where they were. The main food was a full meal - pasta bake with bacon and mushrooms, bread roll, cheese and crackers, and a ginger sponge cake. And another beer. The cabin crew member asked me if he could borrow the milk from my tray since I wasn't going to have coffee. Borrow?

I bought some headphones from Duty Free thus making myself the first person I've ever seen buying electronics from the inflight magazine.

Landing was bumpy. Nigh on 80% of the cabin leaped to their feet and started fighting for their bags before the sign went off and consequently ended up standing up queueing to get out for a good 15 minutes. I just sat still. I know we were late, but, really, enough with the hurrying. I overtook half of them anyway on the way to the exit.

I navigated Athens airport like a champ. Stepped out landside - hello, country #50, box ticked - and went straight to the ATM for €120. Turned away and was already facing the signs to the trains - out the door, across the road, holy shit that is some serious rain. Along the pavement, up one floor in the lift, round the corner to two escalators, across a bridge and here's the ticket office. As usual, most people seem to be ignoring the machines so I just waltzed up to the one labeled Metro (not Suburban Railway) and bought a return to the city, down the stairs and onto the almost deserted, freezing cold, wet station platform. This is proper horror movie opening scene torrential rain, really noisy and the station has a roof but is exposed still and everyone else - there are about 10 peope around - looks fucking miserable. I am happier than a pig in shit and can tell I'm grinning.

The metro arrives after 15 minutes and a guy starts talking to me as we get on. He starts off in Greek which draws a blank look, so asks me if I'm English, which I am. I learn he's staying just round the corner from Acropoli metro which, as far as I know, so am I. I spend the first 15 minutes of conversation totally failing to figure out if his accent is Welsh or not. He is German. I'm not doing very well here. We chat, and a couple of English lads ask me for tube advice/directions too. Clearly I look knowledgable.

The metro to Syntagma takes forever and gets really fucking mad crowded. Me and the German change onto the line to Acropoli at which he consults his phone for directions. Despite wearing glasses and having giant fonts, he still has to hold it about 1cm from his eyes. Wow. His hotel is nearer the station to me and because of cobbles and just general geniality I help him with his bags to his hotel and then set off to my own using Google maps as my guide. It takes me straight into a deserted unlit residential area but I am a slae to the blue dot on the blue line and trust it. At one point I go up a very steep road which ends with a much much steeper set of stairs, which makes me wonder why the fuck I chose a hotel with "Hill" in its name.

But, hey presto, there it is, the Acropolis Hill hotel. It seems very quiet. There was no-one in the streets and there is no-one in the bar (yet). I check in and have things explained to me, starting with how to find room 504. Turns out reception, at street level, is on floor 3. So I'm 2 floors above that, and breakfast, on the 1st floor, is two floors below reception. I mean what the fuck. Didn't this lot invent numbers? How have they got this so wrong?

There's a cracking view of the Acropolis and Athens in general from a roof terrace, and a shit view of a wall with graffiti on it from my room's balcony. I believe they also invented democracy round here somewhere and today, with Russell Brand and Nigel Farage on Question Time back home, I mostly feel like apologising to everyone for what we've done. It was never meant to be this way.

No comments: