Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Crete to London: The Long Trip Home

Getting from my hotel in Iraklion (Heraklion in English) to the airport was reasonably easy. The Inrini Hotel was only about six blocks away from the bus stop, so I could easily trundle my luggage along. (I do think I have to fix it though, or perhaps retire my little suitcase as it's looking a little dilapidated.)

From there it was across a busy street and a parking lot into one of the worst airports I've ever been in. Signage was the pits and no one to really help much.

I was there in good time, so I ended in a line up for forty-five minutes before we could get our boarding passes. This accomplished, we had to haul our luggage over to an x-ray machine and then go through the regular rigors of security, and others, such as turning on my laptop.

It was downhill all the way after that....literally and figuratively. The waiting area was a horrible jumble with masses of people in a filthy place down at the bottom of the building with no signs and no announcements for flights. Food places were extremely limited and not the greatest....I threw away some weird thing I thought might be good, but wasn't.

Some flights had been delayed, which accounted for more people than usual, but still the whole operation was fairly shoddy and no one knew what was going on.

Luckily, I'd managed a cheap flight on an Easy Jet flight, but it was a late one, not leaving until 10:30 pm. Everything seemed to go as planned when we took off, however shortly afterwards a women at the front of the plane began having some kind of breathing attack.

The flight attendants quickly brought out the oxygen tank to keep her from spasming onto the floor and into the aisle. She seemed to calm down after a bit and we continued on....we were already headed towards mainland Greece. They kept a close watch on her, and she had a couple more attacks, when the crew decided it was too dangerous to keep her on board. She had to have constant oxygen by this time.

By this time we were a half hour past Corfu and we had to turn around and go back. An ambulance was waiting for her. First the emergency attendants came to check on her, then a doctor showed up, and finally they managed to get her out of the plane and onto the tarmac in a wheelchair, then into the ambulance. There was no room for the other three members of her family - her daughter, son-in-law and grandson, so they had to walk to the terminal and catch a taxi to the only hospital where we had landed (not sure where we were).

In the meantime, the plane had to refuel and wait for instructions about the new flight plan. Apparently they also had to do a great deal of paperwork about the emergency landing in an unscheduled place. Also, because of the international law that no unaccompanied baggage can be on a plane, all of the baggage had to be gone through and the disembarked passengers belongings removed. They found one piece of luggage without any tags and brought it on board for someone to claim. All of this took about an hour and a half.

The plane was entirely shut down during this time without any air circulation in weather that was over 30 degrees Celsius. We were not allowed to leave the plane, so many people stood in the aisles and fanned themselves. We were all dripping wet by the time the plane started again. It cooled off after that and I realized was I was trying to sleep stretch out across three seats (lucky me) that I was a little chilled.

I must commend the Easyjet pilots and crew, though, they were very professional and handled the emergency situation well....I would definitely fly with them again.

By the time we landed at Gatwick airport it was almost 3 a.m. We waited quite a while for a bus to pick us up and then another half hour or more for the luggage to come through.

I stumbled through the passport control and to a taxi stand....looking for my little notebook---my precious notebook with notes I'd taken for the last month and the name of the hotel I was staying at. I searched through all the usual spots, but soon realized I must have left my notebook behind at the counter going through immigration. (I'd had to write down my place of accommodation on the landing card.)

Luckily I remembered vaguely the name of my hotel and the driver knew where I was headed. By this time, I was freezing. The temperature was only 13 degrees Celsius....quite a plummet from the 40+ I'd left behind.

When I got to my hotel it was 4 a.m.

Although I accepted that I had almost certainly lost my notebook, I did make an attempt to find it, getting the number from the receptionist for where to call the airport lost and found. I thought I had a better chance of having it returned if I could get on it first thing, but they were not open at that time of night. I woke up every hour or so thinking it might be right time ....I also found I was over tired, and I had a scratchy throat and wasn't sleeping well anyway. Finally at 8 a.m. I called, but the lost and found people wouldn't be heading over to the north terminal until after lunch. I would have to call back.....I was wide awake by now, so gave up trying to sleep.

It was about this time, I decided I'd better straighten out my paperwork and resort my luggage, etc for my overseas. I dumped everything out of my bum bag and low and behold, there was my little notebook....where I would have expected it to be, but in a different compartment. I'd looked for it there the night before, but I guess I was too groggy and missed it.

At any rate, I'm at the Best Western Gate House Hotel not far from the airport and have decided to stay here a second night, rather than find one near Heathrow airport where I fly back to Calgary and then Regina. It is relatively easy to catch a bus back to the airport from my current hotel and then from there catch a direct bus to Heathrow airport an hour away.

My hotel room has three single beds, reminding me of a dorm room, but it's comfortable....in fact, quite posh after the places I stayed in while in Crete. And there was a wonderful bathtub to soak in.

I overlook another hotel, parking lots, and a fire station, which all seems to be in a sort of rural area....at least there are plenty of trees around and I quite like the view of the hills in the distance.

The only bottled water I can get to drink seems to be in large glass bottles, like a 40 of whisky and I feel like I am an old rubby alcoholic with my whiskey bottle by my bed within easy reach.

I am quite dehydrated from the flight last night and have already finished one bottle and have started on the next......attempting to stave off the sore throat and any threat of a cold developing before I return home. (I even put the empty in the trash and they will soon be stacking up.)

The weather here is cloudy and small batches of rain fall occasionally and it's a little cool, but I have no intention of venturing far. Everything I need is here in the hotel and I can rest and write and connect to the Internet.

I no longer have the bunny hug I left Canada with, so it's good I'm going home soon.....I think I left it on a train when I travelled from the northeast of Scotland to Edinburgh and I have been without it since then, but I didn't need it in balmy Crete. I did buy a serape while in Loutro and it is quite warm if I should need something before I leave tomorrow. (I also left my travel alarm clock in the Maud Station hotel, but it was easy enough to replace.)

I don't tend to leave things behind, but in the last couple of months I have been ....perhaps this is a subliminal message that I am shedding more of my belongings. My resolve to live as simplistically as possible with few possessions is stronger than ever. So while I perch in Regina for a bit and do some major writing, I expect my needs and responsibilities to be extremely minor.

I have lived out of a suitcase for the past seven months and it has suited me just fine. The only other thing I need every once in a while is a printer to see my manuscript pages, though I am learning to do without that as well. However, printing my writing out will be one of the last indulgences I willingly choose to give up.

My flight from London was uneventful, just the usual hurry up and wait between getting the boarding pass and actually boarding the plane.

The flight went over Greenland and this time it was daylight, so just off the coast near Godthab (Nuuk) I was able to get some photos (through dirty windows) of the ice flows.

I had very little sleep on the plane; the beginnings of a cough and cold, kept me from getting comfortable.

I watched a couple of movies that were enjoyable "Mad Money" (quite hilarious) and P.S. I Love You (a tear-jerker). It was still daylight, although late afternoon by the time we flew into Calgary, where I had a couple of hours lay over.

Security there has something new...a dog - a beagle in particular - who does the sniffing of luggage looking for drugs.
I finally arrived in Regina at almost midnight...the sky definitely was darker and rimmed with glittering stars, unlike the photo I managed to find.

Coming Home - the real reason

I have several reasons for coming home, some of which are to see family and friends again, see my son, the travelling is getting expensive (the Euro exchange rate is high), and so is the temperature....It's hovering around 38 degrees Celsius this afternoon and the sweat is dripping off everyone....

My real ultimate reason for coming home though is that I want to write. I have become so inspired by the writing workshop I took in Loutro that I don't want to waste another moment flitting about. I need to be stationary for a while and get the two books finished that I'm working on right now.

It was like a miracle happened during the workshop and I feel that I've made a major breakthrough....so Regina here I come....though I may search out a place in a more rural or lake setting to complete my work and stay out of the heat.
I'll be catching a flight to London tonight and be home in a few days.

Knossos Palace

Knossos was undeniably the capital of Minoan Crete. It is grander, more complex, and more flamboyant than any of the other palaces known to us, and it is located about twenty minutes south of the modern port town of Iraklio.

Knossos was inhabited for several thousand years, beginning with a Neolithic settlement sometime in the seventh millennium BC, and was abandoned after its destruction in 1375 BC which marked the end of Minoan civilization.

The first palace on the low hill beside the Krairatos river was built around 1900 BC on the ruins of previous settlements. It was destroyed for the first time along with the other Protopalatial palaces around Crete at 1700 BC, probably by a large earthquake or foreign invaders.

. It was immediately rebuilt to an even more elaborate complex and until its abandonment was damaged several times during earthquakes, invasions, and in 1450 BC by the colossal volcanic eruption of Thera, and the invasion of Mycenaeans who used it as their capital as they ruled the island of Crete until 1375 BC.