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Tuesday, 15 May 2007

More travel mullarkey

Up at 3am to get driven to Heathrow to catch the 6am flight to Rome where I have a four-hour wait (admittedly there are worse things than being forced to have lunch in Rome), before boarding a flight to Athens, where I will be met by a driver, taken to a hotel overnight, and then taken on to meet the cruise ship the next morning. Although I get no say in these travel arrangements - they're all made for me and all I have to do is be at the right place at the right time - it did cross my mind that this is complex enough to, at some point, fail. "No", I thought, "It's always the simple journeys that turn out to be the most catastrophic", and there is some logic to that. It's like in wrestling, people rarely get hurt doing the big clever moves, because they've practiced them and do them carefully. All the injuries come from the simplest moves, the ones people do a dozen times per match and have long-since stopped really thinking about. It's just like that, I thought. Well no. Apparently this time I went for a twisting moonsault off a ladder and landed on my head.

Queued for an hour and a half to check in and go through security, having to listen to a Canadian woman talk about how she has lived in virtually every country in Europe and apparently hates them all, then rushed a sandwich and got to my gate just in time to be told that my flight had been cancelled. Another 45 minute queue with all the other poor unfortunates to be re-routed. They tried to get me on a flight that evening to Milan, where I would then change onto another flight to Rome to meet my connection that would have left 5 hours previously. I delicately pointed out the problems with this. After much careful balancing of charm and assertiveness, I got them to put me on the next British Airways flight direct to Athens, so I would arrive at almost the exact same time that I would have arrived anyway. Perfect. They try to get me to queue for check-in again, but I tell them about a ficticious back injury and they speed me through.

Finally make it to Athens, find out where the flight I'm supposed to be on will arrive and meet the contact as if I came off that flight. Smooth like John Steed, as the song says. Well, except for the bad back which, while ficticious in Heathrow, is now very much real thanks to my falling asleep on the plane with my body resembling a pretzel. Serves me right for lying, or something.

He takes me to the hotel. Athens Plaza. I stayed here last time and it's gorgeous. But this time, apparently they haven't got a room for me. I show them my documentation that say that I stay with them and they shrug and tell me that they have no rooms left. Then they say, that maybe they have, then they find one and say "Good news, we have a room for you", and ask for $250 up front. I nearly lose it, but don't.

A quick call to the people handling all this stuff and a car is on it's way to take me to the real hotel where I have a real room. "What happened?", says the driver - the same one who picked me up from the airport. Good question.

While we're driving through Athens I realise how hungry I am. I last ate at 5am in London, having slept through the airline food which would have been prohibitively meat-based anyway. It's now 7pm and I'm starving. Finally we pull up at the new hotel and, joy of joys, it's even posher than the Plaza. They welcome me, show me to my gorgeous room and I immediately order shitloads of room service. After chatting to Mrs.Columbo, Her indoors, the lovely wife for a while, my food arrives and I eat it while watching the Eurovision song contest. It is the best room service I have ever had. I realise that my judgement might be impaired by my level of hunger, but my god it was good. Vegetable soup so thick you could eat it with a fork, and delicately spiced. A toasted cheese sandwich and fries - a classic, perfectly presented. Spaghetti Napolitana, with sun-dried tomatoes, so well made - and beer. My favourite, Amstel.

I decide then and there that I would almost have taken all the travel crap just for this meal. Then I decide not to talk rubbish and just to shut up and finish my pasta.

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