• “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting 'Scrooge McDuck' comics.”—Salon.com
  • A time-hopping, continent-spanning salmagundi of genres.”
  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor

Travelogue: Vilnius (Lithuania), Part I

Now, normally I travel Business Class only when someone else is paying for it [g], or when conditions seem to warrant the extra expense. In this case, it was the latter.

Vilnius is one of those places where you can’t get there from here–wherever “here” is. It takes a minimum of three flights (and 22 hours) to get there, and two weeks before I left, the nice person who was making my travel arrangements apologized for the delay, saying that it was -30 degrees F., and “too cold for anybody to do anything.” Nothing daunted, I put gloves and wooly hat in the pockets of my big down coat, loaded three new novels onto my Kindle (Deborah Crombie’s NO MARK ON HER, Kim Harrison’s PERFECT BLOOD, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s NOBODY’S BABY BUT MINE–all really good books, btw), put three Russell Stover Coconut Cream Easter Eggs and a hairbrush into my book satchel, with an ARC of Louise Penny’s THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY for takeoffs and landings, and set off into the wild blue yonder.

The adventure started off in typical fashion–which is to say that the first flight of this carefully-arranged hegira was cancelled (thus ruining all the other connections). You don’t do a lot of this kind of travel without developing a certain philosophical outlook, though, so I merely ate an easter egg (with Diet Coke; you don’t get through this kind of thing without some source of caffeine, either) and spent a tranquil three and a half hours in the Phoenix airport (flying Biz Class helps the philosophical outlook, since you can go hang out in the airline’s lounge on these occasions; the bathrooms are better, and they usually provide daily papers, snacks, and alcohol), reading NO MARK ON HER, before flying off to Newark (rather than Washington Dulles, as originally scheduled). Began THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY, which is very good, though somewhat different from Penny’s usual, in that it involves Chief Inspector Gamache, but is not set in the magical town of Three Pines. Returned to NO MARK, though, as I didn’t want to finish the ARC too soon–a lot of takeoffs and landings still to come.

Well. The connection in Newark to the next leg—to Frankfurt—was only 40 minutes to start with—a long shot, considering that it takes about ten minutes to get to the gate and _off_ the bloody aircraft before even beginning the dash to the next gate (and Newark has roughly 175 gates). But the plane was put in a holding pattern, and by the time we finally landed and taxied _for miles_, my connection time had shrunk to nine minutes, and I was resigned to spending the night in Newark, rebooking _again_, and emailing Vilnius from my iPad to let them know I’d be a hair late.

BUT, what to my wondering eyes should appear, the instant I came out of the jetway, but a nice young gentleman in a suit and a German accent (I was technically on a Lufthansa flight, even though operated by Continental), who seized me, stuffed me into a waiting electric cart and—assuring me that my suitcase was being hastily excavated and would make it, too—dispatched us on a wild career down the terminal, the iron-lunged young lady at the wheel shouting, “BEEP-BEEP-BEEP!” at the oblivious walkers, several of whom avoided instant death only by an adroit leap sideways as we shot past.

I dived into the plane to find the whole German cabin crew standing in the doorway, impatiently glancing at their watches, and thirty seconds after I fell into my seat (leaping over the supine body of my seatmate, who had already put on her sleepmask and reclined at full-length under her blanket), we took off for Frankfurt. Another perk of flying Biz Class is that they offer more or less nonstop alcohol, and a good thing, too. White wine doesn’t really go with easter eggs, but you know, what the heck.

Lufthansa is really just about my favorite airline—insofar as it’s possible to contemplate the word “airline” without shuddering. The food was excellent, the service both amiable and efficient (beyond the alcohol and the warm nuts, one of the little amenities I like flying Biz is the napkins, which are cloth, dazzlingly white, and feature a buttonhole in one corner, so you can button it onto your shirt rather than laying it across your lap and dropping bits of arugula and glazed walnut into your décolletage, or tucking it into your collar and looking like you wuz born in a barn), and the seats really cool: each one was sort of sequestered in its own little cocoon of plastic, within which it adjusted everywhichway, so it doesn’t make any difference whether the person in front of you reclines or not.

I’m so accustomed to random sleeping that I don’t bother trying to readjust my metabolism when flying; I just take homeopathic No-Jet-Lag tablets and sleep when I’m tired. I wasn’t tired at this point, so went through the available movies—new to newish releases, but a pretty dismal looking crop—and watched Part I of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” Boringly incoherent, with indifferent acting and good special effects. Let us just say I now have zero desire to see Part II. After all, I read the book; I know how it ends.

Astonishingly enough, we landed in time for me to make the connection with my _original_ Frankfort-to-Vilnius flight, in spite of having to go through Passport Kontrolle in Frankfort and make my way from one end of the place to the next—pausing _en route_ to purchase a small bottle of Cola Light (this is supposed to be Diet Coke, but it really isn’t; it’s Coke Zero. Still, it works, and I’m not inclined to be fussy after twenty hours on the road) for the extortionate price of three euros (one small benefit to constant travel is that I have small amounts of all kinds of odd currencies on hand, emptied out of my pockets after trips, and therefore usually have enough on landing to get me a snack and a cab-ride before I have to change money–_really_ useful, if landing at a small airport in the middle of the night. Frankfurt is _not_ a small airport, btw. It’s about like O’Hare in terms of size and complexity, but much, much better run. They were having a ground strike at the time—this is what caused my first flight to be canceled; the plane I was scheduled to be on couldn’t get _out_ of Frankfurt—but were moving people with great dispatch, little congestion, and no public riots. Or maybe they just don’t let members of the public abuse the staff).

And so I landed in Vilnius pretty much on time, to find that the temperature had risen, the snow was slushy, the skies gray—i.e., much like February in Flagstaff (where I grew up), as I kept reassuring my apologetic hosts—and the baggage claim area sported a large poster proudly informing all and sundry that Vilnius is “the Gender-Equality Capital of Europe!”

And the morning and the evening and the morning again and part of the afternoon were the First Day. _Now_ I was tired.

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108 Responses »

  1. Sounds like you needed more Easter eggs, I’m intrigued, are these as good as they sound and do they sell them in the UK?

    I agree with your view of HP film, a bit jaw cracking but the last one is an improvement but not a patch on the books.

    Enjoy the trip

  2. Another great blog post. So funny. Very jealous that I must wait until August 28 for my next rendezvous with Chief Inspector Gamache (have a terrible crush on him). Also, thank you so much for dropping author’s names in your blogs. I discovered the incredible Dana Stabenow from one of your posts and have read all of her books in the past year.

  3. OMG! What a crazy time! Glad you’re safe and sound!! Enjoy your trip! LOL, Kathi :)

  4. Solutions :
    1. Never go on such a trip between November and April
    2. You could go for example: Newark- Warsaw (and stay for couple of days, you also have some fans here, you know). From Warsaw you have flights to Vilnius almost every day.


  5. Very interesting.
    I have travelled a lot and do sympathise. in fact I count it as a bonus if any flight actually leaves ontime.

    I think you should rethink you should I fly Business Class idea. You can afford it so go for it. You deserve it.

  6. Your travels are almost as good to read as your books. Nahhhhh! Still fun to read.

  7. We have taken to calling it “Harry Potter and the Deathly Tent” – part II was much better. I will be heading to Slovakia in July for the Junior World Orienteering Championships with my son, thought we were traveling a long way, but you’ve got us beat. Will need to keep those No-Jet-Lag pills in mind and now have some great new book suggestions to load on my Kindle Fire.

  8. I think anything you write is interesting. Thanks for sharing your trip. I love SEP also. I will have to check out your other travel books. Maybe microsoft should hire you to make the server training guides for certification interesting. (g).

  9. It is so interesting to hear about your trip. Waiting for Part II.

  10. You, madam, are a true story teller. Thank you. You could make a trip to the loo adventurous, no doubt! (Adventures of the automatic flush…) BTW, I’m currently reading (just discovered) Alan Brennert’s Moloka’i if anyone is looking for an unusual story and compelling read with a delightful protagonist! Check the reviews.

    Thanks again for your blog post!

  11. Love that you are so flexible. Please share the name of the homeopathic No-Jet-Lag tablets.

    • Tamara, with Diana’s permission I have just (finally – sorry!!!) posted a link to the company’s website in response to Jeanne’s query above – hope it helps :)

  12. So that is what the button hole is for… SMH As usual a very enjoyable read. Thank you, looking forward to the next installment.

  13. Dear Diana,
    I had to smile reading your travel-log! I do the journey to Lithuania every 6 months (and back after 3-although I usually go steerage :-) ). When I go, I do the same… relax into the groove and accept any and all alchohol available :-D. When I saw you at the book fair, you looked wonderful-not jet-lagged at all! Adventure and 18th century remembrances are par for the course visiting this country. But so glad you came!!!!

  14. If I could have one wish, it would be to write like you. You turn every snapshot of a moment into an interesting adventure, the description, a chapter in a book.

  15. This takes me back to a 6 hour layover between flights in the Vancouver, BC airport. I was returning from a class reunion and my friend had just introduced me to Outlander. I hit the scene where Claire was learning how to stab someone and burst out laughing at the line about poison having its deficiencies as a weapon in close combat! Loved your travelogue!

  16. My aunt says Lufthansa is the best airline out there. They fly with a staunch German adherence to timeliness and safety. That they were looking at their watches tapping their feet… I can only think that a reader saw your name on the passenger list and requested some leeway for you. Or perhaps your travel agent is *that good*. Anyone who can make a Lufthansa flight wait is worth keeping around!

    • Dear Lizabeta–

      [g] I would have thought maybe that was the case–but these days I fly under my married name, because that’s what’s on my passport. I don’t know what caused the special treatment–but I was VERY grateful! (Didn’t really want to spend the night in Newark.)


      • That wasn’t “special” treatment — that is the way Lufthansa treats its first class and business class clients.

  17. Ye gods, sounds like my trip from Seattle to OKC, but add a husband in a walking cast and a toddler with all the required accoutrements. Glad you got there without incident; now you need a good night’s sleep!

  18. Great story! I travel for business several times a year and can appreciate your experiences, especially the comment about O’Hare. To paraphrase Margaret Mitchell, as God is my witness, I will never go through O’Hare again! God willing!!

  19. Loved reading your blog! It sends me reminders of. My horrid travel experience from Detroit to Johannesburg. I found myself stuck in Heathrow for 12 hours due to fog. All flights cancelled. I had to fight my way through a mob of fellow travelers to receive a standby ticket. Best part was being physically pused out of the way by a nongentlemen who obviously had to get his ticket first. When I finally bordered my flight out (trying not to make eye contact with the passengers who were bumped from my their flight ) I found my self seated right next to the non english speaking , elbow pushing non gentleman. I squeezed myself into my window seat and promptly kicked of my shoes that had been on my feet for approx. 24 sweaty hours, and settled in for a 13 hour flight!

  20. My goodness, just reading what you went through made me tired! You should write a book! (Wait, you HAVE already! ;p) Here’s to smoother sailing (er… flying) on the rest of your travels this year!

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