Travel is fraught with problems and very often I find that one minor thing will trigger loads of unnecessary hassle, although perhaps that's exaggerating slightly. Last night at around 11pm I ordered a taxi to pick me up around 0600hrs this morning and they always ask about the terminal. Whenever I order a taxi, certainly early in the morning, it's always to the airport. "Terminal Five," I said over the telephone, having retrieved my travel documents.
The following morning I was rudely awakened by the sound of my iphone alarm and jumped swiftly out of bed to deactivate it, momentarily switching it to 'snooze' before realising and turning the damned thing off. I then went about a few bits of last-minute packing (unpressed shirts, so I'll need to search my hotel room for an iron later on).
Breakfast consisted of 11 grapes and eight raspberries in a bowl, a glass of orange juice, a croissant and a cup of decaffeinated tea. In addition to not drinking (which I'm starting to enjoy) I'm also avoiding caffeine. Neither the non-drinking or the refusal to allow much caffeine past my lips are the result of being told to lay off anything (if I wanted to I could simply order a beer or a glass of wine and I do occasionally accept caffeinated tea, but my preference, at present, is to avoid caffeine and alcohol and, as I just said, I'm rather enjoying it). Why? Well, mainly it's good to be in the real world, meaning that I'm not worried all the time about whether I'm 'over the limit' to drive or whether drinking a cup of tea late at night will mean no sleep until the early hours. I can drink a cup of decaff at any time of the day. As for the alcohol, I'm really not missing it, but I must stress that I haven't given up drinking because of some embarrassing incident that has forced me to reappraise my general attitude towards life. No, the reason I stopped, as I've said before, is that I had an inner ear infection or some kind of vertigo issue, probably brought about by overdoing it in the USA (I flew, as you know, to Memphis via Chicago, then drove a car to Arkansas and back and then flew first to Dallas and then to London, all in four days – not a good idea. Anyway, apparently, dizziness and alcohol don't really mix so I stopped the latter and turned to peppermint tea, which I love. I just don't need it and plan to remind 'dry' (as people with drink problems say) into the New Year. I might even attempt to go 12 months without drinking and in all honesty I don't see such a feat as problematic so I might as well have a go.
|Lunch, Café Ritazza, Terminal 3, Vienna|
When I reached Terminal Five the check-in machine alerted me to a problem, like perhaps I was in the wrong terminal. It turned out my travel documents were wrong and that I should have been in Terminal 3 – very annoying as I had to take the Heathrow Express one stop and then the hassles began. For a start I was randomly chosen for the 'hands above the head' scanner and then they searched my bag (I'd left toothpaste in there). Irritating as it meant there was no time for breakfast.
I had enough time to check out a couple of bookstores and thumb through a few books before I headed to Gate 9 for my 1hr, 55 minutes flight to Vienna.
When I reached Vienna after a reasonably good flight in, of all places, 'business class' – or Club Europe as British Airways call it – I found that the next direct train to Linz departed Flughafen Wien at 1433hrs from Platform 2, giving me plenty of time to enjoy lunch in a Café Ritazza in Terminal 3 of Wien Airport. I ordered a non-alcohol Paulaner and a Chicken Club Sandwich, which arrived with a portion of chips and two sachets, one containing tomato ketchup, the other mayonnaise. As only the Europeans like mayo on their chips, I opened up the ketchup and spread it liberally over the chips. This really was a decent meal and it cost a reasonable EUR17.80. Actually, going back to 'not drinking' for a second (I know, it's boring) but it's worth pointing out that not drinking seems to suppress the old appetite too. Not in a big way (I still can't wait for dinner when I get home of an evening) but for me, the high point of drinking, certainly while I'm travelling, is that moment when I'm in a restaurant, meal ordered and wine on the way, normally a 250ml glass of Merlot (and very often two). It's the thought of that glass of wine that prompts me to get out and find a restaurant early. But now that I'm not going to indulge, I'm sitting here in my hotel room, writing and won't go out for a while as all I'm doing now is refuelling rather than enjoying the experience. Perhaps that's not a good thing. Perhaps all I'm doing is shutting things down that I find pleasurable and one day I will be left with nothing worth living for; in fact I do feel a bit like I'm shutting down, as if I'm a robot, like HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey and that somebody's switching off various circuits and cutting off any enjoyment in the process. Not that this has anything to do with anybody else – or 'enjoyment' for that matter – it's all my own doing, my own decision-making processes.
|I love the Café Ritazza brand – and this one was excellent|
After lunch I took the train to Linz, arriving around 1630hrs. I jumped into a taxi for a ride to the hotel, checked in and then tried to make my way to the room 307, except that nobody told me the lift only worked if I used my key card to activate it. I spent a long time in that lift, just standing there looking like an idiot and wondering what the hell was going on until somebody told me about the room card.
|Leaving Flughafen Wien and heading for Linz – two hours up the track|
It was time for me to head out into the night and find somewhere to eat. I asked at reception and was told to turn left outside of the hotel, then right, then left, which I did and found myself on some kind of main street lined with brightly decorated shop fronts and festive decorations draped across the street. Shops but not restaurants bar a few pubby-looking places that didn't appeal. After a 10-minute walk I found Pizzeria Ristorante Da Vinci Linz. I found a table, tucked away, perfect for the solitary diner, and ordered Tomatensuppe (tomato soup) followed by Risotto Milanese and washed down with a glass of non-alcohol beer. In all honesty the meal wasn't that brilliant. I liked the soup, but the risotto was, well, it looked a bit like something the cat might have brought up, a pale, colourless mush that sat on the plate without any aplomb. If it had more colour it would have been best described as a 'pavement pizza' and talking of pizza, that would have been the best option, I'm sure of it. The non-alcohol beer was fine, but the combination of the risotto and the 'lifeless' beer made for a depressing evening alone. I mean, it's depressing enough without food that fails to ignite the soul. Fortunately it only set me back EUR14.70 and because I was of sound mind I didn't feel the urge to seek out an Austrian bar and later wake up with a furry tongue in need of a litre of mineral water in the dead of night.
I walked back along damp, puddle-littered streets, past the glowing shop fronts and into my hotel. I'm pretty tired and looking forward to an early night. Remember, I was up at 0500hrs this morning. Goodnight.