"It will seem initially like we're going there by road", jokes our pilot as he welcomes us to the plane, "but it's just that we're a long way from the runway". His comment seems apt given my plans for the next ten days.
Seven weeks since I returned from my last trip, and sitting aboard my easyJet flight to Corfu my mind is replaying my time with Air Serbia. I'm not sure why, because it wasn't my most recent flight. Perhaps though my subconscious noticed the stark contrast and decided to bring it to my attention; those planes were a far cry from easyJet's, with its modern, ultra slim-line seats. And a slightly different group of passengers too than joined me en route from Belgrade to Skopje. I feel a pang of nostalgia, and fondness for Air Serbia that is quite possibly unfounded. Then again, we did get a free lunch.
Part of me wants to explain to everyone I encounter that I'm not actually going to Corfu, but Albania. I'm not doing anything so pedestrian as a Greek island holiday. Perish the thought. That would be too obvious, too simple. (Too sensible!) Why relax by the beach when you can hop on a bus to a new town every couple of days?
The rest of me is wondering, yet again, what on earth possessed me to use the remainder of my annual leave to spend 10 days in Albania. I loved the little I saw of the country when I passed through in May, but this is a country without accessible bus timetables (where they exist at all). Or bus stations! Simply find the spot by the petrol station opposite the roundabout at the bottom of the hill, or the intersection of "the national road" with "the main road" near museum X.
The prospect of travelling by bus here doesn't seem quite the effortless experience it had become by the time I made my way back to Croatia 7 weeks ago. Yet for some reason I still thought it was such a marvellous idea. So relaxed was I that I did almost no further planning after my initial couple of hours researching and booking my accommodation.
My grand preparatory plans to learn enough Albanian to help me along the way haven't quite come to fruition either. Although I have learnt one word (last night): faleminderit. "Thank you".
Writing this as our plane trundles along the ground (still) it now dawns on me it might have been a good idea to check the word for "bus" last night. "Where is the bus to...?" might have been pretty handy too.
Good job I have an Albanian phrasebook on my kindle really...
Continuing my general theme of setting out woefully unprepared, I saunter into the arrivals hall at Corfu airport and realise I don't have a clue how I'm going to get to my hotel or if there is even a bus that runs from the airport. (And I definitely don't have any travel agent lined up, ready and waiting to whisk me away.)
Well, perhaps that's a little unfair; I do have a blurry printout from google maps and a vague assurance from a hotel review that my hotel is walkable from the airport. Shunning the huddle of hot and grumpy looking passengers waiting for the next shuttle to arrive in 20 minutes, I start walking. 30 minutes later I'm checked into my hotel. Winging it wins today.