I woke early following another poor night’s sleep (damn that mattress, it’s definitely marking down their TripAdvisor review!) and went to breakfast as usual. My transfer wasn’t set to leave until 11:15 am, and as I had already packed most of my things I decided to make the most of my few remaining hours and head to the pool. It was a little overcast so not the best sunbathing conditions, but still warm, and again deserted so nice and quiet. At 10:30 am I went back to the room for one last shower, and gathered my few remaining belongings, checking I had my passport and flight paperwork ready for the airport.
The journey back to Heraklion was surprisingly pleasant: I had a great conversation with the driver – a local Cretan man probably of similar age to me – who enjoyed finding out about my travels and previous trips to Crete, as well as sharing his hopes to travel outside of Greece, but struggling financially to make it happen with a wife and extended family to support. It made me realise how lucky I am to have a good job and live in a country where cheap air travel is readily available. When we arrived at the airport I gave the driver a generous tip, thanked him for driving me, and wished him all the best for the future.
Heraklion airport was busy, as I expected it would be, and once I found the Easyjet check-in desks, I joined a lengthy queue to deposit my bag. I’m not a fan of crowded places (who is?) but I had my headphones on and some great tunes playing, so it wasn’t all that bad. Eventually, I relinquished my bag and made my way through security (another queue, slightly shorter this time), then found a seat close to the boarding gate that had already been assigned for my flight. I was quite early though so decided to have a quick walk through the duty-free (with no intention of purchasing anything), then bought a drink and some crisps from the upstairs cafeteria.
Returning to my previous seat, I got comfortable and started reading my Kindle to pass the time until boarding was announced. A short time later I overheard a couple of girls sitting nearby, one of them complaining that her phone battery was almost dead, so I did my good deed for the day and offered her use of my portable charger while they were waiting to board.
The flight home was pretty uneventful. I’d paid a premium to pre-book a front-row aisle seat so I’d have extra legroom and would also be one of the first passengers off the plane when we landed. Once back at Gatwick, I did my usual power-walk down the hallways from the gate back to passport control, leaving the other passengers far behind. Security was pretty quiet so I was soon waiting at the luggage carousel for the bags to be delivered. (Yes it’s a false economy rushing off the plane only to wait for ages for the bags, but it’s the sense of progress that matters! Plus it’s nice to stretch your legs with a brisk walk after sitting down for several hours – that’s my excuse anyway. In reality I’m just impatient.)
When my bag finally showed up (it wasn’t quite the last one, but felt close), I repeated my power walk technique, this time taking the monorail back to the South Terminal building, where my car was waiting at the Courtyard Marriott hotel, a short walk away. Seeing my car again brought home the reality of the end of the holiday and left me feeling rather deflated, but I spent most of the 2.5-hour drive home reminiscing about the great time I’d had over the past 18 days and looking forward to going through the photos and videos at home.