• “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.

Tagged as: , , , , ,

108 Responses »

  1. Happy to be an ‘accidental tourist’ for this jaunt, I think!

  2. Diana, even if you’d had the most uneventful journey–all flights on time with no problems making connections–you’d still make the telling rich and interesting, infusing it with all the small details that make the reader feel as if he or she were right there along side you. I’m sure those uneventful flights must happen, but it seems as if you are blessed, or cursed, with deviations along the way somewhat frequently. Otherwise you’d not seem to take all that in the calm manner you’ve just described. Aside from being greatly entertained by your travelogue, I am impressed that you kept your cool and rolled with the punches. I’m looking forward to reading Part II.

  3. Since when did flying anywhere not have complications? So happy you are home safe!

  4. Hello,
    I just wanted to drop a note to sympathize-I’ve now traveled to Estonia three times and it’s about as difficult as this. It’s crazy getting to the Baltics but totally worth it. I was actually reading one of the Outlander books (I can’t remember which one, but it had a green cover) on my third trip to Estonia. It set off the security guards interests since it looked like one big white square on the x-ray, but they were very nice about it and astounded that I was reading such a thick book.

    I’m hoping when I fly to Estonia again I will fly in Business class, it sounds nicer.

    Love your books, btw!

  5. Hello Diana ! Thank you so much for sharing your travel experience !! Very funny and entertaining ! Looking forward to Part 2.. Thanks for the books suggestions as well. So nice to have the daily lines back ! a good day to you from Christiane-Paris-FR

  6. I noticed how you said you were switching between reading different things. I never used to do this, but since I got my Sony Reader (now, I just use my iPad), I have several books going simultaneously. I read more for what I feel like reading rather than just continuing what I was reading. I wonder if you’ve always read that way, or has your preference changed with the advent of ebooks?

    • Dear Shey–

      No, I’ve pretty much always read that way–except when I have a _really_ good book; then I devote myself to that one exclusively. [g]


      • A bit like me when one of your books is published.

      • Diana, if I had three or four books going at once I would be SO confused! I don’t even like to read a series out of sequence. BTW, am getting ready to start Outlander AGAIN (second time this year) in the hopes of getting to the end of the series about the time your next book is published.

  7. Thanks for the embedded book recommendations … you are most certainly one of my favorite authors so I trust your taste (also agree about HP Part 1, though none of the movies quite lived up to my imagination anyway.) Into Evernote they go, along with the rest of my To Reads, and my cheat-sheet on the order of the Lord John books.
    You should visit Boston, it’s much closer and Jetblue’s not a bad airline!

  8. There really is nothing better than a good piece of chocolate and, in my case, a Pepsi! I don’t mind coke, but prefer Pepsi.
    You’re right, you do need the little bit of caffeine to keep you going. Our trip to Scotland last September took us on three planes in three different airports so, like you, I kept sugar handy.

    Glad to see you made it in one piece. Let’s hope your future travels run slightly smoother.

  9. (ROTFL) Would love to know what the Magic Homeopathic No-Jet-Lag tablets are called.


    • Dear Jeanne–

      That’s actually what they’re called: No-Jet-Lag. Really. [g]


      • They are New Zealand made and IIRC U.S. FDA approved. Took them travelling NZ-Europe and back – sure get through a lot that way!!! I’m sure I could find a link to post if thats allowed???

      • Dear Michelle–

        Sure–a link would be fine. I buy mine at the local health-food store.


      • The health food store? You’re lucky, although I have to admit my searches haven’t been extensive here, I have only noticed them in the airports themselves, rather last minute!

        Sorry to be so slow (was knocked over by a cold for a few weeks, hope this can still be of some use), but here is the link: http://www.nojetlag.com/

  10. LOL, what a trip! Eh, I saw the HP movies. I’m too busy re-reading Outlander series books (and sometimes a little Dean Koontz–I own several) while awaiting the release of each new one. Man oh man, I can’t wait to see who clobbers that jerk Bree works with, after he took Jem! I hope she and Jem both get a couple of good licks in, that …! Mmmphm! (To borrow a certain sound from the Outlander books. :) )

  11. I bet you could write a whole book on the adventures of the traveling author. Maybe you could put a mystery in there too.
    Glad you made it there safe.
    I read books like that too, my family doesn’t understand how I can have 2 or 3 novels going at a time. But if I get bored with one I can go to another and then come back if I need a little fix of a particular genre.

  12. Nice button on napkins to prevent unintentional food storage in cleavage-good idea. Warm nuts and salad are best eaten, not worn. Some amply endowed women occaisionally use their cups as holders for keys, cash, hankies, etc. A buxom friend reached into her bra for money she carried and gave it to one of the guys to pay for a drink. He complained it was sweaty. She looked smug and said, “You’re just jealous because the bank in my shirt is bigger than the one in your pants.”

  13. I’ve had several trips like that from Finland to Oregon, minus the business class. :) Glad to hear you made it on time in the end!

  14. Very entertaining. I hope you will keep it as a fond memory yourself–as soon as the jet lag wears off.

  15. Dear Diana,

    WOW! Where do you find the time to do all that you do…and do it so well? Please tell us your secrets. I am in awe of how busy you are…all_the_time. I am following you on Compuserv, been reading about J&C for close to 20 years, and I sometimes wonder how you keep it together.

    The travelogue is such a good read. Thanks for sharing!

    Chris from Baltimore

  16. Dear Diana,

    I’m so excited to hear that you are in Vilnius, my great-grandparents were married there and I have always wanted to learn more about it. I will look forward to your next travel log!
    Happy and safe travels!!

  17. Well, I truly hope you have a good time and the way back home will be easier. At least, there is currently no new ground strike announced for Frankfurt, so you might be lucky. However, they have promised to give notice about a new strike 24 hours in advance, so that one can make new arrangements and see which flights will be cancelled. But let me say how sad it is there’s no time for an official event in Germany – a reading in Frankfurt would have been great! Maybe next year?

    • Dear Diana,

      maybe to the bookfair? It will be Oct. 9.-13th 2013. I bet Frankfurt would love to have you. You got lots of fans here. Thanks for sharing your Travelogue. Hilarious and very entertaining. :) I would`ve never guessed you fly the “wooden class (as we call it)” and we the common people could actually sit next to you by accident. ;) Makes you even more likeable. Thanks for your brilliant books.

  18. Doug’s grandparents had a farm in the area where Louise Penny’s “Three Pines” is set. It’s every bit as beautiful as she describes in her books. I feel I’m bound to run into her one of these days since we haunt the same restaurants and events.

    I’m off to dig through your archives to look for your post on Jamaica. We just got back from a 10 day vacation there and loved it.


  19. You were so smart to pack a regular book for take-off and landing. That’s a trick I’ll have to steal :)

  20. Thanks so much for the hilarious travel post. There’s nothing like a good laugh to start the day. It’s good for body, soul and spirit.

    Thanks also for the book list.

    Do you have any plans to travel to Texas? I’d love to meet you!

Leave a Response

Please note: comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.