Did someone say last day? I had no idea time could pass so fast and so slowly all at the same time. Thanks to the incredibly long days we’d done so much and had still managed to get back to the hotel before sunset each day, and yet somehow before we knew it we’d already spent more than a week away from home.
We had the morning to ourselves so instead of sleeping in, we decided to make the most of it. We had an early breakfast and checked if we could possibly get our checkout extended since our pickup was at 2pm. Unfortunately the hotel was packed, so we resigned ourselves to a 12pm checkout with a two hour wait in the hotel lobby. We spent the morning after breakfast walking around the hotel, this time avoiding the main street choosing instead to wander around the back alleys of Revaz Tabukashvili, or as I liked to call it- Beverly Hills 9002100.
I think life is more interesting in the less “posh” areas of town because everything seems much more lived in. I’m sure we must have walked past the house we had seen from our hotel window- the one that looked like it had a tree growing out of its roof, only to find on closer inspection that it was a tree growing in the courtyard of a house. We walked past decaying doors with shattered glass and colourful paint jobs, past cars with their windows down in the parking lot and graffiti and stickers decorating dull and rusting grey metal enclosures possibly housing meters.
We got back to the hotel room with enough time to tidy away, eat some snacks, check and recheck cupboards and watch the news. We checked out on time, left our luggage with the concierge, roamed around a bit more, exchanged our currency and then just lounged around in the lobby, people watching. Our guide came right on time, and we were all set to go to the airport. It was not a very long drive and our guide had laughingly promised us on the way back from Gudauri that he could make it shorter and more exciting if we were in a hurry. We were hoping for a more relaxed ride so we could kill time and our guide obliged by pointing out all the sites we’d missed out on.
We passed the Bridge of Peace, saw the Narikala Fortress from afar and the strange architectural phenomenon known as the Wedding Hall, which from certain angles could be considered an eyesore. We eventually reached the airport and it was at least larger than Batumi. We headed in with our luggage only to find a luggage scanner right at the entrance, and no help. We managed to ask one of the security guards for a hand with one of our bags and thankfully he obliged. I’ve resolved not to take any luggage that I can’t carry myself next time because I can never be sure if there will be any porters available at the airport to lend a hand. We finally found a counter – the very last one- and stood in line, because there didn’t seem to be any separate counters for online check-ins. Some people were turned back because they hadn’t packed their drinks in their luggage, so we watched as the poor chaps tried to figure out how to pack bottles without breaking them. When we reached the counter, there was again no help for weighing the bags so I struggled to put our one bag on the conveyor. Ma decided to lend a hand, even though she shouldn’t have and ended up falling down as she pushed the bag. Thankfully, she didn’t get hurt but I’m really beginning to wonder- what sort of support is available at airports for sick or elderly travellers? Is support only available if arranged with the airline or are there facilities that the airport itself provides? I must look this up.
We finally checked in, resisted the temptation to buy vending machine socks covered in khachapuri and khinkali and instead ended up buying some chocolate before heading up to passport control. They didn’t want to process families together, so I left mum and one counter and waited in line at another counter- I’d picked the smiliest looking person around, and eventually we were both let through.
Our gate number wasn’t printed on our boarding passes and there were no large screens with any airline information, so we spent some time wandering around aimlessly until we found a small TV screen with the gate numbers displayed. Ours was still not up, so we headed into the duty free, where oddly enough, everything was priced and overpriced in Euros. I’ll never for the life of me understand how a duty-FREE store, is more expensive than a store that has to pay duties. We ended up buying a postcard, some dried fruit and gave in and bought some churchkhela to give away at the office.
When our gate was finally announced, we headed downstairs and boarded a bus, where I met a university colleague who I hadn’t seen in more than 5 years and his family. As luck would have it, they’d be seated right behind us on the plane. As we got off the bus, some overenthusiastic psycho decided he had to rush to board the plane, or risk being abandoned, so he pushed and shoved and got off the bus after elbowing the glasses off ma’s face while we waited in a corner. Again, we were lucky that she didn’t get hurt and that the glasses weren’t crushed under anyone else’s feet.
After all that unnecessary drama, we were finally ready to go. We’d tried the night before to order our food and pay online, but all our futile attempts came to nought precisely when we reached the payment screen and so we were at the airline’s mercy when it was time for snacks. I was utterly famished and as luck would have it, there were no nice simple cheese sandwiches so I ended up sharing glucose biscuits again with ma while dreaming of Burger King.
Three hours and a bit later, after a wonderfully smooth landing, we’d finally come home. First stop- Burger King.