Friday, November 7, 2008

Athens, Part I

I am in Athens, Greece for five days to teach a workshop at the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research. I flew to RTP on Tuesday to spend Wednesday and half of Thursday in RTI's office visiting coworkers. On Thursday, Lauren and I flew out of RDU around 2:30pm with Keith from another group. Lauren and I were wise packers and fit all of our things into carry-on bags. But, we were one of the last to board the plane, and there was no more overhead room. The US Airways rep insisted that our gate-checked baggage had to be checked all the way through to Athens, which we protested because our connection in Munich was only 30 minutes and we were afraid that our luggage wouldn't make it to Athens at the same time as us (which could be a disaster because nearly all of our things were in these suitcases). Fortunately, Lauren had a calm mind and negotiated with the stewardess to let us pick them up in Charlotte.

We had a short flight to Charlotte, where we met up with Sean from Keith's group. From Charlotte, we got on a huge Lufthansa plane to Munich. I have never flown this airline before, but I will definitely seek them out in the future. The flight attendants were extremely nice, and I felt like they were more like severs at an upscale restaurant. We had two good meals, and they came around with wine refills and cognac for after dinner. Each seat had a touch-screen TV in the headrest where you could select movies, TV shows, and music. I watched an episode of House. Then I turned on my iPod and fell asleep to my own music. I don't know how long I slept, but we were over Canada when I fell asleep, and we were over England when I woke up, so it was a majority of the flight.

The flight to Munich was about 8 hours, and when we arrived we had a mad dash through customs, security, and to our gate. Right after we got through security, we heard them calling our names over the intercom saying that the flight was going to leave. So we started sprinting. Of course, because I'm the clumsiest person alive, I hit a wet spot on the floor and both feet flew out from under me and I landed on my butt in the middle of the airport. We all had a good laugh at my expense while we were boarding the flight. The flight from Munich to Athens was about 2 hours, and they even served us a light meal on that flight. The European airlines obviously haven't done away with all of the services like the US airlines.

We arrived in Athens at about 1pm local time (10 hours ahead of the west coast) after over 15 hours of travel. Keith and Sean were happy that their luggage did make it through the quick connection in Munich. They waited at the airport for another colleague, while Lauren and I grabbed a cab to town. The cab ride was a long one, and we had to go straight through town and traffic. We were thrilled at the location of the hotel - it's right next to the Acropolis and overlooks the Temple of Zeus. An amazing view! The room is simple but very comfortable, though the fact that the internet connection is per minute rather than a flat 24-hour rate is going to make working a little challenging. Oh well, I guess that's a good excuse to go sightseeing!

View of the Alps from the plane:
View of the Temple of Zeus from the hotel room:

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