While planning this trip, I decided to book the evening flight out of Santorini. Which was a wise decision. Not only was I able to maximize time on the island, I was also able to see a different view of the caldera bathed in golden glow as the summer sun was inching low in the horizon. Truly a great way to end such a short trip to this gem on the Aegean Sea.
For the 30-minute flight back to Athens, I flew on Aegean Air (€50). And just like with Olympic Air on the inbound, flight attendants were still able to offer drinks on a full flight aboard an Airbus A320 aircraft. We barely warmed our seats as the plane quickly descended into Athens. The plane was unfortunately parked in a remote stand which meant everyone had to share a bus ride into the terminal.
With only a carry-on, I rushed out of the terminal and into the adjacent train station. €8 and 37 minutes later, I was back at the Megaro Moussikis station. Just a short walk led me back to Athens Crowne Plaza Hotel which was where I was staying for the night. While my stored bag was being retrieved, the front desk clerk checking me in gave me an upgrade to Executive Room on account of my Platinum status with Priority Club - which is a nice treat given that this was a free stay.
The room I was assigned to was larger than my previous stay. All the usual amenities were there. What I didn't like again was the bed which was too firm for my liking. My only consolation perhaps was seeing the really relaxing This Works aromatherapy kit placed on the pillow (That kit of course became a souvenir). Just before going to bed, I took the complimentary drink chit to their top floor bar and exchanged it for something to really 'warm me up'.
My flight the next day was leaving at 10:05 AM. As soon as the wake-up call service rang at 6 AM, I was ready to go - but not until after taking time to savor my last views of Athens right from the balcony of my room. While I wished it was the Acropolis, the sight of Lycabettus Hill topped with a small chapel was still something to behold.
Checking out from the hotel was a breeze and in no time I was back on the train heading out to the airport. I was flying Turkish Airlines to Istanbul and it took me awhile to find where the check-in counters were. When I did get there - almost at the far end of the terminal - it was not even opened yet. I was hungry but I was looking forward to free breakfast at the lounge.
Once the counters were opened, I was first to be served. I was given two boarding passes, one for Istanbul and one for Singapore, my final destination, along with a lounge invitation. I hurriedly walked to security and past that, I asked where the lounge was. It was another long walk to what seem like the end of the terminal building.
Turkish Airlines utilizes Olympic Airways lounge for its business class passengers. It's not as big as the others I've been to but it was neither crowded. There was a decent amount of food and drinks available. I took a table and helped myself to some pastries, yoghurt, fruits and coffee. WiFi was fast so I was able to quickly check on e-mail.
Just as boarding was commencing, I made it to the gate which was a short walk away. There's a dedicated lane for business and economy class and the process was smooth as I made it to the Boeing 737-800 plane flying me to Istanbul. In line with intra-European flights, Turkish Airlines business class seating is basically the same as those in coach with the middle seat blocked. I was seated in 1F (at the bulkhead).
In-flight service commenced once we were airborne. Flight time was just less than an hour and a half but a full meal was served. While a menu card was handed out, there were no entree choices, only a list of what's actually being served. Meal presentation was very good even if they were served on a single tray straight from the galley and not plated from a cart. The food itself was a great introduction to Turkish cuisine - small servings of various dishes with distinct flavors complimenting each other.
The flight was almost over when I saw we were circling above Istanbul and the plane banked low enough for me to see the Bosphorus - the strait that divides Asia and Europe. My heart was racing. While Jeddah was the first foreign city I've been to for work, Istanbul was officially the first foreign city I visited for leisure. It will be so good to see it again after so many years - even if it's just for a day.