Saturday, June 30, 2012

A for Athens...

Yeah, we have arrived... and if you can believe I found this
sign posted on a hotel in the Athens Center Square
our first evening out!

June 29, 2012

Well, as you have probably guessed, we arrived without luggage!  Aaarrrggghhh!!!  But we were not going to allow that to spoil our trip.  We were originally scheduled to arrive 10:30 a.m but we got here at 2:30 p.m., so not too bad - considering our airport fiascos! ...but, I think we have both lost weight from all the running through the airports, so not a bad thing either :-D

We managed to get our lost luggage report filed and, Jimmy, the Gentleman at the Aegean Airlines counter (Oh, I forgot to tell you we changed Airlines in Munich); anyway, Jimmy assured us he would find our luggage and get it delivered to us.  He asked for the hotel name and address for the first night, which was the same for the 3rd night... so hopefully we would have it by day 3. (We are  elsewhere 2nd night, but if we get by 3rd night that is okay!)  Dennis seems to think "no problem, it will come";  but I am much more skeptical than he.  I began to think of all the stuff I didn't have... my electrical converter for one thing...and as you saw on the last blog -- my laptop battery was almost gone because I had no way to charge it!  We did stop and buy an iPhone charger, which I used in the Houston airport and was able to iChat with Ashley and can still do that here in Greece, as long as I have wi-fi -- pretty cool!  For those of you who don't know, it is kinda like texting but doesn't require data, so no roaming with iChat.

Another thing I miss, I was pretty stupid and separated and put my c-pap hose in the checked luggage only carrying the expensive portion the c-pap machine itself so it wouldn't be stolen... well, that was dumb not to have the hose or the plug converter... not doing me much good without the hose!  Oh well, I'm still alive...

We made our way to Avis Rental Car.  The guy at the car rental asked us if we wanted a Prius or a Mercedes... you can probably figure out which one we took -- Mercedes!

We managed to navigate our way to the hotel, and it was so nice that it wasn't raining and in the dark like in South Africa!  As we got near the hotel, we circled the block several times because our GPS kept sending us around the block... we finally just parked the car and began walking looking for this hotel we couldn't seem to find while driving!  Sure enough, there it was-- right there on that block we kept circling :-o
This is the whole frontage...
no wonder we missed it!

We got checked in at the Attalos Hotel and first thing we did was take a shower and I washed my underwear out with shampoo and dried them with the hair dryer that was provided.  After traveling for 2 days. we felt much better.. and yes, Lee Ann, I can get quite creative!  I said in my first blog of this travel that I brought some things I could just throw away as we went along... underwear was one of them; but, I really had not planned to throw "everything" away before we even got here!

After our shower, we went out for the evening, walked to the Center Square right by our hotel!  Lots was happening there...
People performed and everyone watched!
This mosque was one of the first things we saw
We then saw these ruins of Hadrian's Library undergoing renovations
More of Hadrian's Library
Again, Hadrian's Library
 I found this cat wondering through the grounds of the library...
loved his markings!
The Acropolis
We will have other pics, but was really cool to see this first thing!
More of the Athen's Center Square
Lots of "stuff" to buy!
Some of this might have "your" name on it!
Loved the character of this Greek man
He sat in a wheelchair, but he waved to me as I took his pic.
This woman had quite the head attire...
and she seemed to smoke her cigarette different than most!
Wait, maybe I caught her picking her nose, hmmm?
This was the back of her scarf...
figures the other lady walked by just as I took the picture.
I was going to take another pic... but she was gone!
I have few more pics of the eve, but I must get to bed for now.

We have had already another full day of ADVENTURE since arriving and blogging this post.  And I will say "adventure" really cannot begin to describe the way the 30th started!  We obviously have since bought an electrical converter and I am able to charge and use my computer and blog again...

Continued:  Greek Dinner

Friday, June 29, 2012

Arriving Munich, Germany...

June 29, 2012

This is one of the first things we saw at the airport in Munich, Germany... and it looked yummy, but no time to eat, we had a flight to catch!!
This Smorgasbord went on forever!!!

Flight was on time thankfully and we had quite a jaunt to get to our connecting gate, but DT refused to run this time.  We had to actually go out to the baggage area and then enter back through security…. Geeeeez, here we go again!  Out with the lap-top, c-pap, baggie of liquids, down the bottle of water real quickly… OOPS, forgot I had the little bottle of wine from the last flight – should have downed that really quickly too, but just gave it to the security ladies and told them to enjoy!

DT had to turn on his camera and they inspected the binoculars as well… BUT!!!!!  We did get to keep our shoes on!  My feet were so swollen from all the flights, I’m not sure I could have even gotten my flip-flops back on if I had taken them off!

Okay, on to the gate… of which I think was the furthest point we could have had to walk to board any plane in the airport!  We got there in ample time and stood in line to board… we then proceeded down several flights of stairs to the tarmac to load a bus – which reminded of us South Africa and our adventure at that airport, LOL.  Anyway, we got on the bus and the airport representative came onto the bus and paged a guy and then of course paged us!  I’m thinking… “don’t make me get off this bus that is going to the plane headed to Athens!”

She needed to tear some stub off of the back of our boarding pass… not sure why they didn’t do that when we boarded… maybe just so they could page us!  Anyway, the bus then proceeded to the airplane and of course DT is sitting in Row 24 and I am in business class Row 3!  Hey, something good happened!!!  Of course I have an empty seat beside me and request that DT be moved up to my row.  The flight attendant commented that he has economy ticket and I have business class… at which time she then looked at my ticket… yes, it was the same economy ticket that DT had!  The thought crossed my mind:  “Don’t make me go back to Row 24!”  The attendant proceeded to look at the gentleman’s ticket in the row across from me as well as everyone else sitting in he business class seating.

Within a few minutes, she with the assistance of another flight attendant, slides the curtain up placing it one row in front of me… I was just demoted to economy class!!!  I could have cared less as long as I didn’t have to get off that plane and thankfully I  did get to enjoy the extra leg room; and yes, DT did move up to my Row… so if you look long enough, you can always find something good in everything!

Time for take off… but, it was an hour later before we finally took off.  They were waiting on connecting flights to get in for passengers that were to be on our flight.  WHAT!!!!! THEY WERE HOLDING A PLANE FOR PASSENGERS WITH CONNECTING FLIGHTS… why didn’t they do that in Houston for us… we only needed 3 minutes!!!!!

Flight about to land, so guess I’ll close this blog and we’ll hope to have luggage at the Athens airport when we arrive… but I wouldn’t bet on it!

laptop battery almost gone... no time to proofread :-/

Continued:  A for Athens

Flight Adventure Continues in Toronto...

June 28, 2012

Adventure is to say the least!  We arrived into Toronto with 45 minutes to get to our next gate (changing airlines to Air Canada) and the flight attendant requested everyone please stay seated so that we could exit first.  She explained we had a tight connection but that it was doable if we could get off first …and to our amazement everyone did stay seated.  She along with a few others said we would have to run about a mile… and they weren’t kidding!!  Flip Flops on and our jogging pants we took off for the mile jaunt (which seemed like three miles).  We arrived at the gate and they were boarding.  Oh my gosh, WE MADE IT!!!  …well, kind of made it???  I checked in at the counter, she looked at my ticket and said yes they were boarding now.  We got in line and upon our turn to board, Dennis handed the guy is boarding pass along with his passport.  The Air Canada representative clicked and looked at his computer for several minutes, clicked some more and then looked through several of Dennis previous connecting flight receipts… we had so many, we really didn’t even know what flight we had just gotten off of!!! … the representative clicked around for several minutes and then handed Dennis his passport and boarding pass back and told Dennis that he “had previously been paged” and should go to the front counter.  I told the gentleman we were together and that I had already been to the kiosk counter… but yes, that is where I was directed as well.

Upon returning to the counter and telling the same lady we had just spoken to, that we were directed back to her, she took our ticket once again looked at it and said, “oh, that is you! …you are Tull”  I’m thinking, “that was me a few minutes ago too!”  She proceeded to tell us we had been dropped from the flight.  Now, you can imagine what was going through my mind!  No, it was not – “are you kidding me”.  It was more like “are you *%#!@   @%&$% kidding me!!!!”  Keeping our polite composure though we did explain that we wished we would have worn our tennis shoes and jogging shorts after that mile run!!  She smiled at our comment and said she was sorry, but the flight was full, so you can imagine how thrilled we were to hear that.  And to think, we thought we were actually going to get to Athens on time!  But, it was not happening on that plane!

She was very nice and commented since we had not arrived on the original flight an hour earlier, that we were dropped.  I have plenty to say to United – I think they dropped the ball and didn’t notify Air Canada that our flight had changed, so United is not on the top of my good list right now either.

But, our sweet Air Canada Representative, Georgia, said she could still get us to Athens through Munich, Germany arriving 4 hours later than we had planned to arrive, but at this point – we were just happy to think we could still get there!  We had began to think we would be spending the night in Toronto.

Georgia asked for our luggage receipts, which after a short period of frantic search I did finally remember where I had put them.  She worked diligently on the phone with someone trying to retrieve our luggage from the flight to get it on our new flight she was trying to schedule.  After quite a while, she explained that our luggage was not there… which did not surprise us!  She had us follow her from the gate kiosk to the main ticket counter.  She explained she had us booked to Munich, Germany, but she could not get confirmation for our connecting flight from Munich on to Athens, Greece, but commented she was sure we could be on that flight… the thought of being stranded in Munich was interesting!!!  At this point we just went with the possibility of our itinerary just looking different.

So keeping in mind that we have basically only ran through airports as if we were on the “Amazing Race” trying to get from one connection to the other… here in Toronto with the flight change and delay, this was our first chance to actually use a bathroom not on the plane!  And we took advantage of ordering some sushi and a drink at a little bar… we should have had several drinks, but we then scurried on our way to the boarding gate. 

Arriving at the gate, we were fortunate to see our sweet Georgia there working the counter again.  We just stayed to ourselves waiting to board when after quite a while Georgia called us to the counter… I’m thinking “oh no, now what?”  But she had good news and said our flight from Munich to Athens was confirmed and she gave us the boarding passes that we would need there. 

Okay, so we were on our way to Munich!  …but, still without any luggage thus far! Now, if we can just get some sleep on the plane as we travel overnight…

Sorry no picture…wish I had taken a picture of our “Sweet Georgia”.

Continues:  Arriving Munich

Houston - "Smouston"...

June 28, 2012

Well, we arrived with 15 minutes to exit the plane and get to the next gate, people were very kind and allowed us and another guy to exit fairly quickly… by the time we got off the plane we had 12 minutes to get from United Airlines at Terminal B to Air Canada at Terminal A to board our next flight.  Our only hope was that our next plane was delayed for some reason… don’t laugh, we could at least hope!  We looked like participants on the “Amazing Race” as we ran through the airport terminals, arriving at our gate 7 minutes before take off!!!  Only to hear the attendant say so very kindly “you just missed it!”  Are you kidding me!?!?  It’s not even time for take-off yet.  We could see the plane still sitting there!! He explained they have already pulled the gate away from the plane and if they pull it back to the plane they will be a fined by the FFA.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know the 10 min rule, but couldn’t you see we were in route and maybe hold the plane just a few minutes for us?!?   Well, that answer is “No!”  So, again, I am thinking “are you kidding me!?!  Well, that was not exactly what I was thinking; I had a few more words in my mind that didn’t come out of my mouth.

We caught our breath and looked at the options that Air Canada might suggest….  knowing, that it is United’s responsibility to re-book us and get us to Athens.  The Air Canada attendant directed us to Terminal C to talk with a United representative-- by now we have done the A-B-C Terminals.

Thank goodness there wasn’t a long line at United and we were thrilled to find that they had already re-booked us on another United flight that was leaving in 30 minutes… Geeez, why didn’t that guy at Air Canada tell us!!!!  Anyway, so here we go again back to Terminal B as quick as we could get there!  And was delighted to find that they had our boarding passes waiting at the gate kiosk.  We are thinking how lucky was that, because in Tulsa they told us there were no other United flights to Toronto today if we didn’t make our connection in Houston!! 

So with luck on our side, we boarded the plane immediately being seated in Row 4!!!  Which by the way, Row 4 was awesome, since we now only have 50 min (rather than 2 hours) to get off this plane and go through a small custom check-point in Toronto before flying to Greece.  Thank goodness we don’t have to get our checked luggage, it goes through direct.   And by now, I’m really hoping my luggage gets there with us!

Being seated on the plane we were trying to relax as we waited for takeoff…. and then we continued to sit and wait!  I’m thinking “oh no” we can’t be delayed again before this take off!!  Yep, 30 minutes and still sitting.  Finally, “take off” and soon thereafter the pilot announces we have 2 hours and 18 minutes before landing… we were thinking we would only have 30 minutes to connect, but after calculating the new arrival time we were still arriving close to scheduled time.  We ask the flight attendant to confirm landing time… she talked with the pilot and it looks like we do have 45 minutes; so just maybe with a little more luck on our side we might actually catch our last connection in Toronto for the overnight flight to Greece.   Okay, they just shaved another 5 minutes off our time we will have to get from point A to point B.

You gotta love to travel and the experience of the adventure just getting there!!  Guess, we’ll keep our fingers crossed again on this flight and until we land-- I really don’t want to stay in Toronto overnight :-(  Come on United Airlines!!!

Continues:  Flight in Toronto

In the Air, Europe Bound...

June 28, 2012

I haven't blogged in awhile, but here we (me and Dennis) are heading out for another adventure... we stopped by Ashley's for a ride to the airport... always a snap shot before we head out!
Deb and Dennis June 28, 2012

I begin this blog sitting on an airplane headed to Houston, hoping that we get there in time to make our connection to Toronto; which is where we will then make a connection to Athens, Greece.  That is, if we are lucky to make our connection in Houston.

Not a good start for our trip with the first flight being delayed 1 hour and 15 minutes out of Tulsa.  That will only give us 15 or 20 minutes to Change Airlines and get from one Terminal to the next.  We have already thought about what hotel we’re going to be staying at in Houston!!   But then we remembered we can run really fast when we need to, so we’re thinking positive and hoping the plane can make up some time in the air and we are planning on being on that connecting flight!  …nail biting all the way!

Barb, you of all people can understand our delay… we were waiting on a plane to come in from Denver, which was delayed because of the wild fires!  I do hope that those fires get under control and stay away from your home!

To preface some before leaving this morning (which we did get away from the house in plenty of time) which is a small miracle for me; we drove to Ashley’s and she took us to the airport.  We have the house alarm set, house sitter in place, guard dog ready to attack, and I think everything is as needed.   Thanks Nita, and I hope you guys enjoy the pool!!

We have planned this trip for a year– we will be staying in 10 different hotels, 3 flights from one country to another, 3 rental cars, and we will meet up with 4 different families in route the last half of our trip.  We have not seen some of these  friends since 1997, so it will be wonderful to see them.

I managed to start packing about 5pm yesterday, just a minor detail in the whole scheme of things.  I have good intentions to pack early and to pack light, but my suitcase always seems to be over weight… good thing Dennis always has space and weight to spare.  I blame it on my suitcase itself… it is heavier than most.  Fully packed, I weighed it in at exactly 50 pounds.  :-/

To avoid doing a lot of laundry, I’m planning to throw away some clothes as we travel and the snacks I brought will be eaten along the way… so I’ll have plenty of room to shop for a few things!  We are not big shoppers, but rather just enjoy seeing the country and how they live.

If all goes well and we find Wi-Fi, I plan to blog with some pictures.  We should arrive in Athens on the 29th.  There is an 8-hour time difference... Greece is 8 hrs ahead.  If we make that connection I will be sleeping on the plane tonight!

We are arriving Houston with NO time to spare… keep your fingers crossed for us!

Continues: Houston-"Smouston"
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