our last soak in the Paros sun

on with the next twenty

by Michelle

As much as I love to travel, I loathe the traveling part. Two days before we are actually en route my stomach starts to churn. Then there’s the waking up in a panic because I know our passports are missing. Ralph’s absolute favorite is the roller coaster bed ride, the night before we leave, caused by me checking our alarm clock every twenty-five minutes to ensure that we don’t sleep in and miss our flight even though we rarely leave before noon in an effort to calm my angst!

Just so you don’t think I am wacko, let me tell you about our journey to Greece this time….

We arrived at the Saint John airport promptly one hour in advance of our flight to Toronto. We would have a short three-hour lay-over before boarding our direct flight to Athens. I was unusually calm – that should have been my tip-off! As I was chatting up the Air Canada representative at the check-in counter, I noticed his bubbly demeanor had become intensely grave. He slowly slid my passport across the counter and without looking at me said,”I can’t let you board this air craft. In order to clear customs in Greece, you are required to have a passport valid for ninety days after your Greek departure. It was September 7th. My passport would expire in November. I was 45 days short.

I assured him that I would take my chances with the Greek authorities. Reluctantly, he checked me in. Without speaking to each other, Ralph and I entered security. As we sat there pretending we weren’t having internal melt downs, we could see the AC representative from check-in making his way towards us. “You won’t be cleared through in Toronto. If we allow you to make the journey, when you arrive in Greece you’ll be fined 10,000.00 Canadian dollars and unable to leave the airport until it’s paid.”

We were escorted out of security. Instantly the AC representative took charge of the situation by rerouting us on an early flight the following morning with a 12 hour lay-over in Montreal. Not as convenient as our original itinerary but at least we were still going. He explained that in extreme cases Passport Canada could issue an emergency passport.  It was 12:15 pm. The office was an hour and a half away. I would need to stop for new photos and the passport office closed at 4:30 pm! We left immediately.

We arrived at the passport office looking slightly out-of-place in our “we’re on our way to Greece” clothes at 3:05 pm on a Friday afternoon. One hour and twenty-five minutes before they were due to close for the weekend. After I told my heart breaking story to the top of the government employee’s head, she looked up at me and said, “that will be $187.00 and there is no guarantee it will be finished today. We require 24 hours.”

Up until this point, I had been relatively calm. “I just got off the phone with Ottawa and they assured me that if my husband and I risked our lives by driving like lunatics from Saint John that you would INDEED issue me a new passport TODAY.”

With no reaction to my outstanding performance she told me to check back at 4 pm. And so for 50 minutes we sat and prayed that the travel gods would shine upon us and fix this calamity. At precisely 4 pm, I checked at the desk and the gods had shone. Now all we had to do was get to the airport the next morning at 4:30 am and we’d be good to go. Another night of clock checking!

We landed in Montreal on time and spent the day waiting in the National Bank lounge. At 6 pm we made our way to the departure gate only to find that the flight would be delayed two hours due to a lighting issue. At 8 pm, we were informed the flight would not leave until 3 pm the following day because the ‘issue’ could not be fixed. We stood in line until mid-night to receive a voucher for a ‘fleabag motel’. We skipped the line up for the shuttle bus, grabbed a cab, checked in, order really bad pizza, and ate dreaming about our missed reservation at the 5 star Athenian hotel. At 9:30 am, we were back at the airport awaiting our flight. Somehow between clearing security and entering the National Bank lounge I had lost my boarding pass. It was only a 200 meter walk!

At 2 pm, as we were once again walking to our departure gate, we heard what sounded like a riot. A mob of exhausted, angry travelers, were screaming at – you guessed it! – our gate attendant. We had lost our gate due to a mix up in scheduling and the Montreal airport was attempting to find another gate for us to board from. Absolute chaos broke out, guards were called in, several passengers were removed from the flight then finally a voice over the intercom directed us to a new departure gate.

Fifty two hours from our original departure time, we settled in to our ‘upgraded’ seats – thanks to the wonderful AC representative in Saint John. From the moment we took off our journey eased into a beautiful anniversary celebration.

laying on a beach in Paros

Ralph and I spent a lot of time staring at the magical Aegean Sea giving thanks for our lives and the joy we have shared together with our family and friends.

Now it’s time to go home and get on with the next twenty…

Thanks for reading.