Sunday, May 30, 2010

Goodbye Hugs and Long Layovers

As I write this, I’m sitting in the arrivals area of Heathrow, waiting out my exceeding long, overnight layover because I’m way too cheap to do something like find a hotel for 14 hours, especially when I’d still want to be back at the airport by about 4 am anyway. Who knows, maybe I’ll actually sleep a little here later.
But let me go back a bit, and maintain the continuity with my last entry. I did, indeed go to the impromptu little soiree Rachel set up, beginning at Crossfield’s Australian Pub. Kathy, Jill and Elinor also came along, and we met up with some of Rachel’s new Austrian friends. We proceeded to play foosball, eat pub food and drink. Lots.
Yet again, I somehow ended up drunk at 1516, this time on a combination of tequila shots, vodka shots and Radler. It was a good night, indeed.
The next day—my very last in Vienna—was spent writing in the park with David, where I got super sunburned on my shoulders and my legs. Awesome. We went to the Naschmarkt again, needing some dried strawberries for the road, then ate garlic soup and gelato for lunch. Our final group meeting was an informal affair where we talked about our progress with our plays and as writers. I felt a little strange hearing all these talented writers talk about having never written before, and then me saying I’ve taken quite a few writing courses and been working at creative writing for several years now, and I’m probably not much further ahead of any of them for it. We also got to meet Natalie’s dog, Rocket, and I was able to cure a little bit of my severe case of dog withdrawal by getting some snuggles and kisses from him. I still miss my dogs though.
After the meeting, we ate at a little cafe/restaurant that is, quite literally two doors down from us, called Smokey’s Bar Food. They give you a ton of food for really cheap given the proximity to the center of Vienna. 8.50€ (maybe $11 or so CAD?) gets you one of the best veggie burgers I’ve ever tasted, a huge salad and a huge serving of potatoes.
On that note, I really don’t think I can accurately describe how good I ate in Vienna. Even the street vendor food I had was amazingly good. If you’re ever in Vienna, I have a whole list of places I could recommend near the city center. I’m going to crave the garlic soup from Venezia for the rest of my life, and I don’t know where I’ll ever find such good hazelnut or lemon gelato in Canada. I feel like such a fat kid talking so much about the food, but I had psyched myself out pretty badly before I left Canada because I’ve always been a picky eater, so to find I liked pretty much everything I ate was a really pleasant surprise. I also found it shockingly easy to eat vegetarian there. I only ate chicken or shrimp at about 5 meals the entire trip, which is way less than I would at home. It makes me want to put a little more effort into eating less meat at home.
Anyway, enough about food (I swear, even with all the extra exercise I was getting there, I gained weight in Vienna. Ugh.).
This morning dawned with the unmistakeable sadness that comes with leaving a place that feels good, though I think we were all ready for a little time away from each other. For me, at least, it also dawn with a lot of trepidation about what’s coming.
After breakfast, the last four of us to leave took a cab to the airport around noon, and got on our shared flight to London—the last shared journey for us. After a delay boarding in Vienna and a delay in London airspace waiting for a runway, we were about 40 minutes late.
The plan for me was to already be checked in for my Madrid flight, and then find somewhere to store my luggage at Heathrow, before following Elinor on a little London adventure, since she’s got about 4 days here since the London to Calgary British Airways flight was cancelled.
Unfortunately, the luggage storage place is only accessible from 5am to 11pm when I would have wanted to get my luggage around 4, AND they charge £8 for 24hours of storage (around $15 CAD I think?). Can you say ridiculous? Already frustrated and stressed and hot and tired from lugging my heavy shit all over the airport to find this out, I gave up on going with Elinor, so after a goodbye hug, I began looking for somewhere to kill an entire night.
What I have learned already knew but have had reaffirmed today:
-I seriously envy people who travel with practically no stuff (though I still have no idea how they do it)—and wish I’d left a few things home
-airports are crazy expensive
-while being in different places may be awesome, travelling itself actually REALLY sucks
-travel stress makes me weepy
-I miss home if I have time to think about it
Anyway, I ate some really overpriced bad pasta, drank an enormous coffee (so I’m brimming with caffeine right now), and wandered around just trying to find somewhere to sit that was slightly quieter than the inside of a plane’s engine.
After much wandering, I found it. It ain’t great, but it’s the least crowded area I’ve found. At the little convenience store here, I bought something called a King Tango (cherry flavoured pop) though I didn’t read that it contains sugar (good) AND sweeteners (really not good). Boo. I also bought a Kerrang, which is only £2.20 here, as opposed to something like $12 in Canadian bookstores. I’m trying to kill time by doing my homework (I have plenty of it to get done), but I’m also tired and cold and really wish I had a bed right now.
I’ve also been having a ton of difficulties with my allergies the last 4 or 5 days. I forgot how bad spring can be. I can’t even wear eye makeup right now, and I have that itchy feeling in my ribcage underneath the skin, which is impossible to fix by scratching.
But, here’s my attempt to redeem all the whining I just did: A couple of times, I’ve looked at my wrist and it has done exactly what I hoped it would do. It has reminded me that all the bitching I’m doing needs to be kept in perspective. I’m doing something most of my friends are crazy jealous of by travelling around Europe. Of all the problems to have, a long layover, overpaying for food, and seasonal allergies are pretty good problems to have.
I’m pretty certain this entry could bore you to death. Sorry for that. I’m bored right now, so I’m sure that’s a contributing factor.
I’m going to attempt a little more homework now. By the time I get the entry posted, I have no idea where I’ll be, but it won’t be here. There’s no free internet here, and as we established before, I have problems justifying airport costs. Sigh.

“The glove compartment isn’t accurately named/’Cause behind its doors there’s nothing to keep my fingers warm and all I find are souvenirs from better times”

Afternoon becomes evening becomes the middle of the bloody night. It’s 2am local in London (3am Vienna, 7pm Calgary), and the airport that was a teeming, crazy mess of humanity a few hours ago is mostly asleep. There’s something kind of nice about seeing it this way. The lights never go out, perhaps, but this place does sleep. Just not me, of course.
I tried. I really did. I even found a group of benches without arms so I could stretch out, but it’s too bloody cold and uncomfortable. Eventually I gave up and watched episodes of Extras on my ipod.
I should be reading. At least then, I might feel like the weight of my ridiculous carry-on is justified. But, no. I could also do homework.
Instead, I wandered a bit. I’m sort of glad I did. I walked outside onto the main entry of the departures area. My flight is the next one out, top of the board, about 4.5 hours from now. This place is very different this time of day. I wish I’d taken a picture of the insanity a few hours ago, just for the comparison shot, but I never thought it’d be worth taking a photo of at 3am. A pleasant surprise, I suppose.

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