I’m off to Croatia to meet up with my parents and my niece Katherine who are flying in from California. I’m excited to be flying somewhere exotic without the requisite jetlag (2 hours from Paris to Zagreb!!!!)
Everything goes smoothly. The driver is waiting outside at the appointed time. It’s early and there’s no traffic to Charles DeGaulle. Check in is easy. Security lax (despite the fact that I’ve never seen so many Muslims at an airport, even in Cairo). But I’m able to stifle my pre-programmed fear. After all, what terrorist would bother with a puny little flight to Zagreb (I’ll ignore the whole Croatian war thing)
The airplane is empty (apparently, nobody goes to Zagreb). I have a window seat, it’s a mostly clear day and I can see Paris and the Etoile d’Gaulle as we haul away from the city. Gorgeous. And just about the time the stewardesses hit the aisle with their drink trays, the turbulence begins (it’s uncanny how it always hits when the drinks are coming). And this is some pretty rocky turbulence. My yelps echo through the near empty plane.
It’s pretty much an hour of turbulence. I’m not sure whether I’m more afraid of dying or throwing up. As we start our descent, I press my nose against the window trying to find telltale signs of the big city, but all I see are trees and fields and a few scattered farms and houses. As we get lower, the houses become a little closer together, but I see nothing resembling a city. Yes, I see a small town with a big church ahead, perhaps that’s the suburbs. But the next thing I know, we’ve landed. In an airport that’s smaller than a New York City block. Heck, from what I can tell, Zagreb is no bigger than Central Park.
I exchange a few Euro for Kuna to get me to the Regent Esplanade where my parents are already checked in. I have no idea what the exchange rate is and wonder when Croatia will join the EU and get with the program on the money thing. I take the money with out a clue of whether I’m being ripped off or not. I’m remarkably calm for someone who hasn’t done her homework on the language or exchange rate. I’m starting to think maybe I prefer being in places that are totally foreign to me because ignorance really is bliss. Well, blissfuller.
I’m still wondering where Zagreb is as we drive past fields. Sure enough, as we pass some really ugly buildings, I see the old church and within seconds, we’re in front of what they probably call a fin de siecle hotel in a not so fin de siecle sitting. We literally are on the other side of the train tracks.
We pull in and the porters and my dad are all waiting for me. I quickly discover that this is definitely the right side of the tracks. . The lobby is lovely. Check in is easy. And what a room! Huge, nicely decorated with a beautiful bathroom and fabulous Ferre and Bulgari toiletries. The mini bar is stocked to the hilt and there’s a big bowl of fruit on one of the tables. I’d always heard complaints that the hotels in Croatia left something to be desired, but I can’t find anything to be desired in this room. I wish we were staying in Zagreb longer than one night.
I know the flight was only an hour and a half, but I have reflexive jet lag and take a nap.
When I wake up, it’s dinnertime and my mom, dad and I wander through the old town looking for our restaurant. The town is full of the most sumptuous looking ice cream stands. Piles of piles of fluffy multi-colored ice creams, store after store. I’m perfectly willing to forgo dinner and just park in front of one of these stands.
We find our restaurant and have a good dinner that I can’t finish because I’m still nauseous from the flight. Dinner is followed by free after dinner drinks gratis from the waiter, who just had a baby. I discover I hate grappa, but have to finish the drink or insult the waiter’s child. Now I’m even more nauseous.
Maybe a little ice cream will soothe my stomach. We head back to the ice cream stands (I’m sure there are other stores and people to watch, but I’m too mesmerized by the ice cream to notice). I’m so overwhelmed by the options, I suffer a pre-ice cream brain freeze and order chocolate.
We go back to the hotel and for the first time in 4 ½ months, I watch TV. CNN. Fortunately, I drift off to sleep before I get too pissed off.