Travel stress

“Well ma’am, it says ‘security’ behind your name”, the friendly Transavia lady at the check-in desk explains the reason why I could not check in online and even not now in person at her counter. “Did something happen on an earlier flight?” I react as ‘blondly’ as possible and seem to convince her. She assumes a mistaken identity. In the meantime, musing about a ‘security risk’, I imagine something completely different than a scared dog that cannot be put in a locked bag under an airplane seat, as happened to us on our first Transavia flight with Captain Jack.

Although that time we solemnly swore that we would never travel by plane again, here we are again. Simply because the alternatives for flying have also not proven to be very attractive. After a long wait, the blockage is out of the system and we receive our boarding passes. Just before we board, I get a long sermon from three Transavia employees including the purser. “Yes, of course I agree with the Transavia conditions” and “yes, of course my dog will behave exactly as Transavia wants.” Transavia’s feedback style resembles the ‘angry, authoritarian father versus intimidated, small child’ and I just let them. Jack has since become a trained traveler, so our hopes are high. Although of course it is still a living creature and not a bag of potatoes.

Once on board, Jack unfortunately shows some true Houdini qualities. For a while he has been sitting neatly in the closed dog bag under the seat in front of me when suddenly he manages to push open a zipper on the side of the bag. Right in time I see him trying to wriggle his white body out of the black bag. Just before he escapes completely, I manage to grab him. Jack clearly doesn’t agree with going back in his bag and stretches his muscular body in such a way that makes this nearly impossible. Fortunately there are no Transavia employees in the area. With some pushing and pulling we manage to get him back in the bag a few minutes later. I leave it on my lap for a moment to calm Jack down and then of course the purser comes along. “But Mrs. Lupker, what had we agreed?” He doesn’t want to hear my answer to his question. “No, no apologies, if you continue like this I really have to give you the final warning.” In my mind I can already see him opening the emergency exit and throwing us out of the plane high into the air. Transavia and us, it remains a difficult relationship. Again I solemnly swear never to fly again. Jack is doing great for the rest of the trip. After fifteen minutes he gives up his fight to get out of the bag and the rest of the flight he seems to sleeps like a baby in his zipped dog bag. But it’s not a nice way of travelling. I don’t even dare to open the bag to make sure he’s really doing ok. Afraid of even more stress and drama. Also for Jack. Until we can actually get out of the plane I leave the bag untouched. When Jack is finally allowed to get out he looks tough and calm. We are all very relieved we survived the flight again. All three of us.

Our room in hotel Ikaros

The next morning we wake up in one-star hotel Ikaros, a stone’s throw from the last stop of express bus X96, which took us from the airport to Piraeus ferry port in about 1,5 hour last night. The name ‘Ikaros’ refers to a character from Greek mythology. He escapes from the island of Crete wiwithth wings of feathers and wax made by his father. Against his advice, Ikaros still flies too high, causing the wax to melt in the hot sun and to fall into the sea. What goes up, must come down. This surely cannot be said of this hotel. In our room there is no working heating and only one thin, small blanket on our bed. Fortunately there is a second bed in the room. The scorching spots are in the blankets. Smoking is definitely still normal here without a sprinkler system or a smoke detector disturbing the fun.

Toilet & shower in hotel Ikaros

The joints of the large, white shower tiles are painted over with creamy white lacquer in a frantic attempt to hide the black mold. It looks like the sloppy and over-applied lipstick on the face of a drunk lady. Outside it is only a few degrees above freezing. Wet snow mixes with rain and a stormy north wind cuts straight through our souls. The shower doesn’t work either. Ron complains that he has been freezing all night, because I pulled all the blankets to my side of the bed. That might be true, because I was warm all night wearing all my clothes in bed.

We quickly check out the next morning and drink cappuccino at the bakery around the corner. Then we buy tickets for the ferry to Leros, which later turns out not to leave due to the storm and rough sea. It is no surprise. We will be spending a day hanging around in Piraeus. First we find ourselves another hotel. This time with heating and hot shower. Diagonally opposite Ikaros is our new sleeping place: hotel Delfini. The rest of the afternoon we enjoy the warm room, the soft bed, the hot shower and the WiFi. The question now is when the ferries will depart again. Maybe tomorrow morning at 8 a.m., but that also seems to be a problem with the continuing stormy wind. Just before we go back to check at the Blue Star ferries ticket office in the port, I see on the Internet that one should go tomorrow afternoon at 3 pm with an expected arrivaltime december 31th, New Year’s Eve, at 23.59 …

We sleep in our wonderfully soft and warm hotel bed. Even Jack is participating. Contrary to our expectations Piraeus is a great place to spend a few days. Everything is available, it’s not to crowded and the people are friendly. And what strikes us most after the last few weeks in the Netherlands: no fireworks. Nothing at all. And that in a suburb of metropolis Athens. What a relief! Still we are a bit worried about our arrival at Leros exactly at the turn of the year.

Piraeus E1 pontoon

At 12:00 we are ready to go on the ferry, but we have to wait another hour. Fortunately, it is clear that we are really leaving this time. It is not busy on the boat. Only some Greeks who are going to celebrate New Year’s Eve elsewhere or maybe are on their way back from a Christmas party with family or friends.

Leaving Piraeus

At exactly 3 p.m. we finally leave for the last part of our journey home. Despite the fast flight to Athens, it will still take us about 2.5 days due to this delay. Soon we sail into the night and there is not much left to see.

Sunset over the Aegean

Around ten o’clock at our first stop on Patmos there is something new to experience. As soon as the ferries moor, hard, dull bangs sound. We cannot see where it comes from and what it is. It looks like a welcome salute for the ferry. We leave just as quickly as we have arrived. Via the island of Lipsi we arrive at Leros just after midnight. Prepared for the worst, we are ready to quickly walk outside and hide somewhere for the fireworks. Only there are no fireworks. Nothing at all. Not even during our half-hour walk to the marina. Not even when we encounter groups of young men along the way. Nothing, nakkes, nada. Never thought that I could ever be so happy with ‘no fireworks’ during New Year’s Eve.

Around one o’clock in the morning we finally arrive at our Coco, our boat, our floating house. It feels familiar, but also a bit strange. We are back home in Greece. Ready for a new year with new adventures. We have a few drinks and then quickly go to sleep. After all, also in 2020 our Captain remains an early riser.