Travel travails of a middle-aged empty nester


Eventually, it was happening. The promise of European travel was being fulfilled, though two decades later. Two kids and twenty years behind us, we as middle-aged empty nesters were planning to set out to see Portugal…. writes Meenu Chadha

The Man-made wings Braga

It was an exciting booking right from the start. Gave me a fifteen-minute window to de-plane from the flight to Frankfurt and to catch the next flight to Lisbon. Air India at its best attitude with never say never conveyed to me that there seems nothing to worry about, just land in terminal 1 at Frankfurt airport and catch the flight from the same terminal. They condescendingly added that the Airline is aware of the connection. I wish…

At least they gave me hope along with the stale food they served! My Indian upbringing plus my menopausal hormones made me anyways rush to business class to de-plane with the elite and privileged first-class passengers.  Rushing and saying, I have a transfer to catch. I was always very focused on my goals – be it cracking exams or breaking queues at airports flashing my “boarding pass”.

Travel travails @ Meenu Chadha

Lo and behold – I got the first shock when I was asked to do an immigration check and my request for getting preferential treatment turned down. No problem. Never say never. Started from the end of the long quarantine queue for security check and made my way to the beginning of the queue by flashing my “boarding pass “ and requesting. The first huddle crossed.

Then the long serpentine queues at the Frankfurt security. Egging my way forward, only to be chosen for an extensive security check. She probably liked my perfected airport look or maybe my Clarks boots! I think they thought my new acquisition- the battery bank with 1000 inscribed on it was a bomb. Anyways they even opened my laptop. Or maybe  “ I looked different”!

Then began the journey towards Gate 40 to board the connecting flight to Lisbon. Someone mentioned it is a long walk! Oops, a kilometre-long walk where I was the lone middle-aged woman running with boots on and a carry-on and sweating!  Lost count of local time. And had to reach my goal – gate 40. Nature called and the hunger had to wait. Thanks to my gym trainer for the interval training, he introduced me to my sessions!  Thanks, Clarks, for the boots that doubled up as sneakers.

At Gate 40 another shock awaited me.  The lady at the gate informed me that the departing flight was going to Greece and not Lisbon. I was sure I had missed mine. Sweating in my classic sweatshirt, I eventually found out that my flight was delayed by an hour. Lucky me! The stars were smiling at me as not only did I not miss my flight, but I also completed fifty per cent of my daily exercise quota. I got a breather to catch up with the rest of my world. It just dawned on me that the blessing in disguise was the beginning of another travel travail. I quickly realised; I was going to now miss my connecting flight from Lisbon to Porto too.  The saving grace though was that Lisbon was a smaller airport plus there was no immigration and security, I was told.

Boarded my TAP flight from Frankfurt to Lisbon. Was surprised to see that the small plane did not even have screens. Was it time travel? No food as well! But no complaints. After the Frankfurt ordeal, I decided to miss my connection from Lisbon to Porto gracefully, as there was little else, I could do. I acted cool as a cucumber and was mentally prepared to be a state guest. At least one aspect was clear to me- come what may, I was not going to run at Lisbon airport to catch my connection to Porto. I would simply let it be missed gracefully and accept the inevitable.

At least something was predictable – no more running at the Lisbon airport for me.

Travel travails @ Meenu Chadha

I reached Lisbon and realised that the flight to Porto was also delayed. It was smooth sailing in the forty-five minutes that it took me to fly to Porto.

I was anticipating delayed bags and like any other organized middle-aged passenger,  I had packed my shoes and a few more of the basics in my cabin bags. Lo and behold, even my bags arrived timely! And even the airport officials at Porto seemed welcoming.

I was excited to be at Porto Airport. I was going to meet my husband at Porto airport after six months of parting and proceed to Braga – our first destination in Portugal. There was a small hitch though!

My flight had been booked in error – 12 hours earlier than it arrived. I now had two options – either check in at an airport hotel or wait for the next 2 hrs for the lounges to open.

I chose the latter.

And that was the beginning of another travel travail…….

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