I walk alone (part 2)
Having purchased my flight through my credit card’s travel site, the airline wouldn’t allow me to check in online the day before, as I usually do. So the first thing I did when I got to the airport hours early was go to the airline counter and get paper tickets for the first time in years.
That’s where they checked other COVID-related requirements – my PLF, or Passenger Locator Form, a sheet with a QR code on it that could supposedly be used to track my proximity to COVID carriers. They didn’t look at the sheet, just noticed that I had it. I didn’t have to present my vaccination records, either, though I had uploaded the results of the COVID test I had gotten the day before.
From there, I went through security, also with no problem. Early Friday morning is, apparently, a good time to go.
And suddenly, I was at my gate. With over three hours to spare. Good thing I had my Kindle. I finished one book and started another while I sat there.
When my group finally started boarding, the airline checked my bag. I was allowed one carry-on and one personal item. I had made certain that my carry-on fit their size limitations, but apparently they were overly concerned about space in the overhead compartments. I say “overly concerned” because before we took off, I saw a lot of empty space in those compartments.
Linda had flown a different airline and knew in advance that she had to check her bag. And they lost it. They later found it and delivered it to her the next day, but still, that was a concern as I thought about the three different planes I was going to be on.
The first part of the journey, Denver to Dallas, was fine. Relatively short flight, no customs to bother with. I had a couple of hours between flights, a good portion of which was taken up by traversing the airport to the next gate, then standing in line for boarding.
This second flight was the one I was dreading. An overnight flight from Dallas to London. I’ve never been able to sleep on planes, and this long overnight flight meant that, counting all light dozing I accomplished, I got maybe a half hour of sleep. I was pretty wiped by the time I got to Heathrow.
As London wasn’t my final destination, I didn’t have to go through customs here, either. But I did have four hours to kill. I spent it exploring a bit. I discovered that Heathrow is basically a big shopping mall that also has airplanes. For me, a little of that goes a long way. So, coffee and Kindle.
Unfortunately, this is where the trip went south. And I don’t mean to Portugal. British Airways was announcing numerous flights that were delayed. My flight was one of them, due to a lack of cabin crew. That meant more coffee and more Kindle.
My flight was supposed to leave at noon. By 3:30, they announced that they had assembled a cabin crew, but they still had to get through security and get checked in. I don’t know if there were any other Americans on the flight besides myself. There were several who looked as if they were likely Portuguese. And I heard a few English accents.
When the announcement was made, I didn’t hear a single “‘bout damn time.” Instead, the people who had been waiting patiently those three and a half extra hours cheered good-naturedly.
Since we started researching Mexico and Portugal and so many other countries, we’ve heard about what’s known as the mañana mentality. People aren’t that concerned with being strictly on time. Construction jobs, for instance, take a lot longer than in the States because of this ‘we’ll get to it tomorrow’ feeling. So it’s something that we’ve recognized that we’re going to have to get used to.
That’s probably why the travelers to Portugal were just calmly accepting the delay while I was churning internally, wanting to get to my destination.
Of course, I was also missing Linda on top of only a half hour of sleep the night before. So I had good reason for being impatient!
Anyway, the flight crew got on board, then the passengers got on board, and we began our flight. I didn’t get to Lisbon until after 7:00 p.m., more than four hours after I was supposed to. And I still had to get through customs, which turned out to not be a problem at all. Again. A look at my passport, not even a glance at the other papers I had out, and I was through.
Because of arriving so late, though, I missed the train that was to take me from Lisbon to Tavira. I spent the night at a Holiday Inn near the Lisbon airport.
The next morning, I caught that train to Tavira, traveling through the Portuguese countryside, and through a few towns which, before then, I had only seen pictures of in Google Maps or Wikipedia. I arrived in Tavira a little before 3:00 p.m. and messaged Linda that I was there. When I saw her walking down the street toward me, what a sight for these sore old eyes!
She had to teach a few lessons shortly after we got to the apartment. So, just minutes after I was reunited with her, I was on my own again, for a little while. So I went for a walk down the old Roman bridge that crosses the Gilão River and into the central part of town. I wandered around, took some pictures, sampled a bottle of Portuguese beer (very good), then went back to the apartment to take a much-needed shower.
My lonely journey was over. Linda and I could now continue our exploration together.