Before heading to the airport for our one-hour flight to Dubrovnik, I went on-line and checked our flight information….we’re scheduled to leave at 3:10 on assigned seats 8D and 8E. Perfect! We had a leisurely breakfast, packed, checked out of the fabulous Regent Esplanade and took a taxi to the airport.
We got in the queue for Croatia Airlines. There were about 15 people ahead of us and the line moved slowly…..it took thirty minutes to get up to the check-in counter. We handed the somewhat surly clerk our e-tickets. She handed us our boarding passes…..15B and 14E. That can’t be right. I put the passes back on the counter. “Excuse me, but this isn’t correct….we had seats 8D and 8E this morning.” “The plane is full…..that’s the closest you can sit,” Ms Surly snapped back…..so fast I felt I had whiplash. Oh well, it’s a short flight.
We whiled away the time reading our guidebooks, trying to understand the wars that tore Yugoslavia apart to create these countries. Slovenia was easy…..after a Ten Day War, they were independent. Croatia fought for it’s independence for two years while the fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina, pitting neighbor against neighbor, started in 1992 and continued until 1995. Try as we might, this history is so muddled and so confusing, we just couldn’t comprehend it.
Our boarding call sounded and we were soon on the airplane….staring at rows with empty seats. I sat next to a young woman from San Francisco….who was separated from her friend by two rows. I looked back at Craig. He was sitting between two men and had a very distressed look (turns out one of his seatmates hadn’t seen the inside of a shower for a while). Had Ms Surly been looking at the wrong plane configuration when she issued our boarding passes? Or did she just enjoy the power inherent in seat assignments? It didn’t matter…..after the plane took off, we all moved to new seats with our respective partners.
Fifty-five minutes later, we landed in Dubrovnik and took a taxi to the port….where our home for the next week was awaiting us.
“La Belle de l’Adriatique” is a small French ship (200 passengers; 4 decks). We were a little concerned about the language issue but the price was right and, what the heck, we’ve lived in France (relatively) successfully for over a year without speaking the language.
We were met at the Reception desk by Carole, a lovely young woman with a flower in her hair and a lyrical French accent. Carole, who also spoke English superbly, escorted us to our cabin…..where swan towels awaited us. “I think we’re gonna like it here.”
Before dinner, Carole met with the English-speaking passengers (Craig and I, a couple from New York and three couples from England) to give us a more detailed overview of the optional tours and to let us know that the tours would be both in English and one other language….either Spanish or German depending on which passengers sign up for each tour. Woo hoo! We won’t be on our own!
At dinner, we met our “meal-mates” for the next week…..Michelle & Olivier, a married couple from Paris, and Sue & Shaun, a “non-couple” (friends who travel together) from Brighton. Sue and Shaun had hoped to practice their French this week so, as the conversation ensued, we were happy if we caught a word or two. Fortunately, Michelle’s gestures and expressions….as eloquent as nouns and verbs….transcended the language barrier (and it didn’t hurt that Olivier spoke excellent English).
Dinner was delicious…..Smoked ham with melon, Duck breast with Peking sauce and Apple tart topped with baked meringue.
“This could be the start of something big” ~ Steve Allen