Saturday, October 16, 2010

Crete: day 1

A week ago today we returned from Crete and a vacation I'd dreamed of for 10 years. Little by little, I'll tell you all about it.


We were booked out of JFK into Athens, where we planned to meet Cayce & Joe, who were flying in from San Francisco. Together, we'd connect to Chania, in NW Crete. Because we'd bought the cheap tix for Chania we weren't allowed to reserve seats till 24 hours prior to departure. With the time difference, that meant I was barely able to print our boarding passes before leaving the apartment in NYC. As you will see, sometimes compulsive organization is a good thing.

We boarded on time, but on the runway we were told we had a radar problem. They'd try to fix it while we waited on the plane and we weren't worried, because we had 3 hours to connect in Athens. Plenty of time, right? And after all, better to catch the problem now than in mid-air...we tried to remain upbeat. But after being de-planed, herded into the terminal,

kept waiting with no information, refused help with re-booking connections (because our continuing flight wasn't on Delta!), then re-planed onto the same aircraft, we were 2.5 hours late. Michael resigned himself to a later flight into Chania, but I worried there might not be one.

When we landed in Athens we had a half hour to get through customs and passport control, change terminals, go through security, and board our next flight. Impossible, you say? Maybe. For most people. But for a relentless, Greek-speaking, type-A New Yorker who had obsessively planned every detail of her dream vacation, maybe not. As we waited to debark, Michael repeated that I needed to give it up. I'm not good at giving it up.

Back at JFK when we were being de-planed and re-planed I'd had a few second thoughts about traveling with carry-on only. Our backpacks, though thoughtfully packed, were pretty damn heavy.

Once we hit Athens, the genius of our plan was revealed. No waiting at baggage claim got us through customs before the crowds and in record time. However, when we hit passport control we stopped cold. While the lines for E.U. residents were short and sweet, the lines for OTHERS were dauntingly long and without discernable movement.

As we stood there being OTHER, we watched a Greek American woman from our flight try three times to muscle her way through the E.U. line. (Greek Americans can be VERY pushy.) Twice she was turned away but on the third time they let her through. I looked at Michael. He nodded his head. I went up to the counter and said, "I know this line is for E.U. residents only and I'm an American, but I only have 20 minutes before my flight leaves for Crete. Is there any way you could check me through?" (please oh please oh please) The man looked at me and barked, "Do you have your boarding passes?" As I shoved them across the counter I motioned to Michael, and just like that we were through. Sometimes it pays to be a pushy Greek American.

I asked for directions to our new terminal and we took off at a New York pace. Once again glad for the maneuverability of backpacks we powered up stairs, across terminals, and through crowds, trying really hard not to knock over any kids or old ladies. When we reached security a passenger had just loaded her suitcases onto the belt, then left for parts unknown. WTF??? I approached an official and once again explained our plight. We were ushered to a new security line, and while Michael was patted down I ran ahead. Yes the plane had boarded. No the gate was not closed. With zero minutes to spare we were ushered onto the plane and heard Cayce & Joe yell out in surprise. They'd been monitoring our progress on line and never thought we'd make it.

Neither did I, really. But hope and desire are powerful motivators and I couldn't give up. That, combined with the printed boarding passes, the carry-on luggage, the fact that I spoke Greek and dared ask for special treatment, and years of experience walking really fast through NYC crowds made for a happy ending.

An hour later we landed in Chania, found a cab into town, and after dumping our suitcases at the hotel, headed for a late lunch in the harbor. Happy sigh.


At October 16, 2010 at 5:11 PM , Blogger Marie said...

I don't ever hear good things about Delta. They're notorious for canceling flights in mid air.


At October 17, 2010 at 7:37 AM , Blogger Elizabeth said...

Now THAT's how to be a Zachos. I am so proud.

At October 17, 2010 at 11:11 AM , Anonymous Leda Meredith said...

If anyone could pull off that travel scenario, it's you...well, and maybe one other pushy Greek American you know ;)

At October 17, 2010 at 11:39 AM , Blogger Sara said...

Hey, remember the time you made them run another bus to Delphi, after the last one left with no room for us (and those other people)? You should use this superpower more (for powers of good only, of course).

YAY for Day 1 - can't wait to hear more (and see more pictures).


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