January 1, 2015: A Day at Ataturk

We did not have the luxury of sleeping in this morning even though we were so exhausted.  We had to be on the nine o’clock shuttle from the hotel to the airport and that meant being awake around eight, getting the troops ready, everything packed up and out the door and down to the lobby well before nine.

girls sleeping
Liesl and Luciana Asleep at the WOW Istanbul

We actually did an amazing job and were down in the lobby quite quickly.  Everyone was really dragging, but we were moving along well.  Dominica checked out and I staged the luggage that we had by the security scanner (it is common in many countries to have metal detectors at the entrance to finer hotels now.)  While we were waiting the girl who was working the front door looked at our unhappy Luciana and took her over to see the Christmas gingerbread house display and was picking up the Santa figurines and stuff to show to her.  That helped a little.  Then she took her over and let her pick out Christmas cookies for her and Liesl.  That made her a very happy Ciana.

We got on the nine o’clock shuttle and were off to the airport which was only five minutes away.  And thus began the next, long ordeal of our trip.

Once at the airport we were right through security, that was easy, and off to wait for our flight, which was for noon.  Because of all of the issues and because it is an international flight we wanted to be there with plenty of extra time to be sure that nothing could go wrong.  Our gate was not announced for a few hours so we started the day by going to a restaurant near one of the announcement boards and having a nice, long breakfast on the inside of security in the terminal where we could relax.

Dominica had French toast which Luciana finally tried and actually really liked after a year of her telling us that she would not like it.  Argh.  Liesl ordered a plate of eggs which she liked very much.  I got the “Ege Tost” or Aegean Toast which was a grilled vegetarian sandwich which was very good.

kinder chocolates
The girls showing off their Kinder chocolate gifts from the woman at the table beside us.

A young woman sitting at the table behind us who had touched Luciana’s hair as she walked by (everyone loves kids in Turkey) came over to the table to give Kinder chocolates to the girls and to coo over them a little.  She was very sweet and it made the girls very happy.  Everyone has been so nice in Turkey.  When she and her husband went to leave while we were still there she came over and blessed the girls quickly before they left.

We sat for a long time as our gate was never listed.  But the restaurant filled up so we moved on and found that gate 213 has almost no one at it so the girls set up camp there and played for a long time while I kept checking with announcement boards, watching Google and FlightStats and walking all over the airport looking for supplies.  Our flight was initially delayed for one hour but just before it would have been time to board it was delayed another fifty minutes.

We had been able to reschedule our Aegean flight but our window was rapidly closing with these delays and we could easily miss it, again.  My stress level was getting higher.

At around the time we would need to board our flight Google and FlightStats showed our gate as being 201, but the “official” boards never showed this.  I kept waiting for info until it was really too late to make the stated flight.  Once the emergency time had passed they finally announced gate 307 so we, like many other people, raced to gate 307 – only to find a gate worker who knew nothing whatsoever about our flight and was trying to arrange people for a flight to Moscow!  Our flight time came and went with the official status online and on the boards still being that the flight was “already past time” and at gate 307.  Ridiculous.  The crowd at the gate was huge and they were completely unable to get anyone official or with information to come to the gate but no one could go off in search of more information because their flight might board and leave without notice as we had no info at all.  The only thing that we had was the fact that there were hundreds of us gathered at the same gate, looking for the same info, stuck together.

Finally, long after we were supposed to have flown according to the official boards, someone yelled that we were moved to gate 304 and boarding and we all ran to 304 and yes, we really boarded the plane!  Absolute insanity.  No one ever apologized or explained what had happened. It was a total mess and we have no idea how we would have made the flights if we had not all been talking together and I don’t have any idea how that one person figured out that we needed to go to 304.

Once on the plane, and thankfully this one had air working unlike the Boeing 777 that lack air, we sat at the gate for a while, then drove around the tarmac for an hour, then arrived back at the gate for some time.  We never found out what happened but we sat at the gate for quite a long time.  Eventually the plane did manage to take off but our delays just extended more and more with them never announcing most of them.  The board never said longer than 110 minutes of delays but the actual delays were something like four and a half hours!

Once in the air the flight went really well.  It varies between one hour and one and a half hours between Istanbul and Athens.  After the long flight yesterday, this seemed like it didn’t even happen.  There was barely time to feed us, but they did.  Turkish Air does have great meal service.  And the girls got goody bags that were really neat with blow up airplanes, airplane binoculars and activity books.  Air Turkey does an awesome job in the air even if their airport service is extremely problematic.

We landed in Athens without any problem.  We stepped out into the airport and, surprise surprise, almost no one got their luggage.  So few people got it, in fact, that no one was even sure if the luggage had been brought out.  So everyone just stood around the belts until long after they had turned them off and stopped delivering baggage because it was as if they had not even started yet.  We had five pieces of luggage and not one had come out.  Everyone that we had been talking to did not get their luggage either.

Eventually Dominica and the girls camped out by the luggage belts in case it started up again as we had no information and I went to find the lost luggage center so that I could look into having someone look for our bags.

The tough part here was that when we landed there was time for us to make our Aegean flight to Chania.  It was going to be cutting it close and an incredible race but we could have just made the flight.  But because of the luggage not being there for us we missed the flight and missed it dramatically.  Dominica tried to change the Aegean flight times but because we had been delayed on the tarmac and in the air rather than with information when we needed it, our window for changing the flight had closed and we were unable to do that.  This just got worse and worse.

The luggage line was hours long.  I was lucky to be in the front hour of the line but it easily stretched for two or three hours behind me.  It was insane.  After an hour or so they announced that they actually did have peoples’ luggage and just had not sent it out on the belt.  We were less than happy.  They were letting people with different seat classes budge the line for lost luggage and they had been intentionally withholding out luggage.  The Athens ground service had chosen to have us miss our flight and had hidden the information that we needed from us.  Not happy, at all.

It took easily another forty five minutes until we actually had our luggage.  From there we ran through customs and out to the ticketing agents and explained to Aegean what had happened with their partner’s flight (it was a conumbered Turkish / Aegean flight operated by Air Turkey but we had booked the flights separately) and they were awesome.  The charged us the eighty Euro rebooking fee but that was way better than making us buy completely new tickets and they put us on the nine o’clock flight, the last flight of the day, out to Chania on Crete.  We had to rush but they said that we would have no problem making it.  From this point on, everything went smoothly.  Aegean was awesome and really made an effort to make everything work. And no luggage weight issues or count issues or carry on issues either.  Aegean rocked this flight for us.

We raced through check in, dropped off our luggage, got through security, got to the gate and had a few minutes for the girls to go back with me to look at a snack stand for some last minute treats for the flight.  Luciana wanted chips.  And I found some loukoumi or Greek Delight made by Greek Horizons that looked awesome, so I grabbed some.  We got back to the gate and got on the plane almost right away.  We ended up getting the entire front row for me and the girls and Dominica got a seat right behind us with no one beside her.  It was perfect.

The flight took off straight away, no issues.  They came around immediately with New Year’s Cakes (that is a big tradition in this part of the world) and champagne for everyone.  It was really nice.  They even came up and asked Luciana, as the youngest passenger, at least up front, to pick the lucky person from the passenger list.  Ciana was very shy.  They could not do the coin in the cake like you normally do so did this instead.  I did not hear what they gave away to the winner.

Miller Family on the Plane
The Miller Family on the Aegean Flight from Athens to Chania, Crete

Luciana had to use the potty and since it was an airplane it got to be me that went and helped her.  Dominica was very happy that it happened here.

The flight was so fast that they barely had time to hand out the cake before we landed!  It was maybe fifty minutes in the air, total.  So fast.  We flew into Chania and were off the plane quickly and down to collect our luggage.

All of our luggage came right out, this time.  No issues at all.  And the luggage handlers here actually stopped by to make sure that everything was okay and that nothing was missing when I sat down with the girls for a minute while Dominica was in the rest room.  Talk about going out of their way to take care of us!

We were out into the airport in no time.  This was all super fast.  We stepped out to the panic that no taxis were visible and it looked like all of the car rental places had closed!  Oh no!

We found a Hertz that was still open for just two more minutes.  He had a car for us but not one big enough to hold all of our luggage.  This could be a disaster.

I ran outside again and managed to find a taxi.  I talked to him and he said that we would fit so we hauled all of our luggage over to him and for half an hour he tried to figure out how to cram all of our luggage into his car.  Eventually he got a friend to help him and they ended up using a bungie cord to hold the trunk lid closed with our luggage spilling out.

It was ninety Euros and about an hour to Prines.  We were so glad to be out of airports and off of airplanes and on our way to our new home that we did not care at all.  It was completely dark so we got to see nothing of Crete, sadly.  Our original plan had been to arrive in daylight and get to see an hour of the island before getting to our home.  Oh well.

The son of the home owners was waiting by the side of the road and watched us drive by.  He texted Dominica and we figured out from that where to go.  We parked by the church and unloaded all of our luggage by the side of the road, I paid the cab driver and he was off.  Dominica got the kids up to the house while I worked on getting the luggage staged into an alley.

It took a couple trips to get all of our luggage up to the house and the one really weak and ugly larger bag had its handle not survive the trip.  I don’t think that it can even go on from Crete with us, it will need to be replaced while we are still here.

Finally, around eleven thirty we were into the house!  It was by the skin of our teeth but we made it into the house, the Villa Sofia, on the same day that we had originally planned and the first day of the new year.  It is a good omen, we are getting the new year started in our new home in a new land.  We are very excited.

We got a quick tour of the house.  It is absolutely gorgeous.  Jaw dropping gorgeous.  It is even better than the pictures had shown and we can’t even see much of it because it is dark out and the patio and terrace and all of the views cannot be seen.  Everything in the house is perfect and brand new.  It turns out that no one has ever lived here and all of the work was very recent.  It rarely gets rented in the winter so it had been all closed up although they had come and gotten it all prepared for us.  We are going to love this house.

Master Bedroom Villa Sofia
Liesl in the Master Bedroom of the Villa Sofia

There is a bedroom with two single beds downstairs that we suspect that we are going to regear as a video gaming room with the projector once we get settled in.  The girls found the bedroom with a second floor loft that they are super excited about sleeping in.  There is a master that is perfect for Dominica and me.  There is a bathroom on the first floor and one on the ground floor.  The terrace is between the first and second floors.  The patio is, of course, on the ground.  The pool is empty as it is very cold, no way that we will be using that.  There is an out building with the boiler and other utility items.  We have a full laundry room, too.  Outside there is a wood fired adobe oven.  We have a wood burning fireplace in the living room, too.  The house has a single HD television in the living room, not huge but perfect for hooking up the Amazon Fire TV and we will use it for watching shows and light gaming on that.  All of the appliances are super high end Stainless steal and wood panel in exactly the wood finish that I love.  Everything in the house is light tile, marble and glass.  I love it.  There is even an office loft for me that overlooks the living room!  The giant stone arch in the middle of the living room and dining area is amazing and obviously original (Ottoman Occupation era.)  Even at night the house is brightly lit which is awesome after we have been stuck in so many places with nearly no light leaving us useless after dark.

Second Bedroom of the Villa Sofia
Luciana in the Girls’ Bedroom

We hooked up the Amazon Fire TV and watched a little of Liesl’s new favourite movie Transylvania 2 that Dominica had bought for this trip for her.  The Internet connection worked well and is much faster than we are used to, even in the States.

We did not watch for long.  We were just excited to be able to sit down, have Internet tested out, see the Fire TV working in Greece and relax.  We called it a night very quickly getting to bed not long after midnight.  We are completely exhausted and ready to collapse.