The least pleasant part of traveling is returning home. There is no more adventure, only the forced march back. At least we tried to soften the shock and lessen the jet lag by first spending a couple of days in New York.
Our taxi to the Athens airport from the Intercontinental crept through choking traffic that would make New York City proud before we broke free and raced through Greek highways to the airport, which is at least as far out of town as JFK is to Manhattan. The total travel time was a good hour, and the fare was 40 euros.
We arrived at Athens airport with enough time to grab breakfast in the Delta lounge but were refused entrance, because Delta does not operate the facility. We finally were allowed in after a few phone calls to Priority Pass and American Express. The lounge, operated by Swissport, was barebones at best, but we gobbled down a few pastries to get us to the plane and our first gourmet meal.
The flight was full to the last seat, and we were situated in the middle section a couple of rows behind the bulkhead. At least our Delta Comfort tickets provided us some extra legroom. Our companions were a friendly couple from Long Island whose son is the director of Charleston Race Week and a regular contributor to Sailing Anarchy, so we had something to chat about.
The flight from Athens to New York takes a full ten and a half hours through three meals and a few glasses of wine. We left at noon Athens time, crossed the entire length of Europe and then the Atlantic before we arrived at 4:00 p.m. New York time, which was 11:00 p.m. on our bodies. Our Global Entry swept us through passport control in minutes (best $100 you can spend), so fast in fact that we had to wait a half hour for our luggage.
The cab into Manhattan from JFK now costs a hefty $73.30 with tip, so we had spent more than $120 on fares alone for the day. It was little comfort to reflect that taxis from the airports in London and Paris are more expensive.
Finally in our sumptuous digs in the one-star St. James Hotel, we headed down the street to the Cock & Bull Irish bar for a snack and some wine before we simply passed out. The Yankees-Astros game started at 8 p.m., and my goal was to watch at least a few innings. I made it through three, just enough to see the Yankees go ahead 3-0 but fell asleep just before they broke the game open to 8-0 the next inning.
Up early the next day, we were scheduled to have lunch with Michael and Sirje Gold, Grayson and Georgia’s other grandparents. They live literally across the street from the New York Stock Exchange front door. Since we have not spent a lot of time in that part of Manhattan, we took the 4 train down early to walk around Wall Street and visit Federal Hall on the site where George Washington was inaugurated as our country’s first president.
Federal Hall is an interesting though very simple building owned by the National Park Service, with a central rotunda displaying flags from every state of the U.S. hanging from the center. The rest of the building includes a few simple displays that explain the history of the building and its predecessor where Washington was actually sworn in and acted as the first Capitol of the fledgling United States. Standing tall in front of the building is a most imposing, larger than life statue of George Washington, an absorbing fascination to the hordes of Asian tourists firing off thousands of photos and selfies from the street and the steep stairway.
After a most enjoyable lunch with the Golds, we caught the 4 train back to midtown for a last walkabout in the late afternoon. If we had kept on the train, we would have gone up to Yankee Stadium, a great temptation. Our intentions were to either check out a show, on the very small chance we might score tickets at the last second or just relax before the rigors of more travel the next day. (Our original reason for stopping off in New York was to see the play that our nephew won the Tony for, but it closed in early September before we could get up there.)
We opted instead to watch the Yankees-Astros game from our hotel room then go out for a nice dinner to send us home. We found Osteria al Doge on 44th St., where we have dined in the past. It is a fine New York Italian restaurant, which means very good but not at all the Sicilian cuisine so familiar to New Orleans. Dinner was great, and the Yankees won.
And so the next morning, after another breakfast at the Red Flame, we were off on the last legs of our month-long adventure, two completely packed flights on Southwest.
The flights were uneventful if not all that comfortable, due to the full planes. Southwest is making lots of money these days. After we retrieved our baggage in New Orleans, we summoned Uber and walked over to the Transportation Center, where we encountered literally hundreds of other passengers waiting on their Uber/Lyft rides. The huge crowd milled about waiting for their rides to the delightful accompaniment of two local traffic officials shouting ineffectually at both cars and passengers, just adding to the confusion and the cacophony.
I have never seen anything like this mass of people waiting on ride sharing, but if this is the future of airport transportation, I would advise the traditional taxi companies to be very, very afraid. The future will be bleak for stinking cabs driven by people who barely speak English, know only how to get to downtown and the French Quarter, and begrudgingly take credit cards only because the law requires them to.
Welcome home to the Third World. We already miss the Old World.