Saturday, 12 July 2008

12/07/08: Waiting Games

Today is my first day on holiday. Usually first days are rubbish as they are just spent travelling, but today hasn't been too bad.

We got up this morning at about six o'clock - yet another ridiculously early start for me (i was up at the same time yesterday thanks to work). We were having a right faff sorting out our baggage. The limits on the airplane are 15kg main luggage per person and 10kg hand luggage per person. We only have small hand luggage bags and so everything had to be in the main bags. All the bags were exactly 15kg or just over according to some weighing scales we borrowed from Jemima. Yet we were skeptical about their accuracy: bathroom scales probably are the best thing to use if you want precise measurements. Anyway, we just went for it. We had them as close to the mark as possible and if they were over, they were over.

We drove down to North Ferriby and picked up Sheila. She works with my Dad and we know her from Hunsley Acoustic Music and Teenage Cancer Trust stuff. She was going to drive our car back home from Doncaster Airport for us - the prices for keeping it at the airport car park for two weeks are extortionate, and it's a liability.

Anyway, enough about car parks! We unloaded the car and headed into Robin Hood Airport. We joined the end of the queue of people who were being checked in and waited. It took about half an hour. This was nothing compared to the rest of the waiting we'd be doing today. Once we got to the front of the queue, the woman at the desk weighed out bags. TWO of our bags were over the limit. Each clocking in at just under 17 kgs. Thankfully we managed to rejig everthing and managed to just get away with it, yet my hand luggage bag was bursting with one of my mum's handbags and some towels. The nerves were starting to show with my mother. This would be the first time she's flown in twenty years and I knew she wasn't looking forward to it. We were searched, as is airport procedure, and went into Duty Free. Bought ourselves some drinks and a Daily Mail and got in yet another line for boarding. The plane was bang on time.

Once on the plane my mother irrationality went to a new level. She seemed on the verge of some sort of panic attack, especially when it came to take off, but it was fine. The flight went off without a hitch. During the flight, Dad and I just took a ton of pictures from the window. It was really cloudy and looked spectacular, as the world usually does at 30,000 feet. I also watched an episode of Never Mind The Buzzcocks, the one with a drunk Amy Winehouse - good times.

These first few photos were taken a few minutes after taking off. Below you can see Doncaster or somewhere near by.

These photos were taken above the clouds at "a cruising altitude of thirty thousands feet". You probably already knew that though, right?

We were in the air for two and a half hours and landed in Barcelona bang on time. Well, I keep calling it Barcelona, and it is the Barcelona airport, but it's quite a way away from Barcelona. It's in the town of Girona. These photos were taken as we came in to land.

When we touched down this little victory jingle came over the loudspeaker.

"*doo doo do-doooo* Congratulations! We have successfully touched down in Barcelona on time. Last year 90% of Ryanair's flights were on time. We hope you enjoyed your flight and we hope to see you again soon."

The formalities were commonplace, but the victory horns just made it for what it was! Hahaa, I've never heard anything like that on a plane before. It was brilliant. We got off the plane and headed inside the terminal. It really hit us how hot it was! It was crazy. Then there were yet more waiting games. Waiting for them to check our passports, waiting for our baggage, waiting to collect the hire car. We were stood waiting around for about two hours. It was awful, but that's just airports I guess.

We walked into a multi-storey carpark where all the hire cars were kept and Dad went to go find the car. It was better for us to just wait for him to bring it down so we weren't just dragging the bags around aimlessly in the heat. However, there was a wheelchair next to where we plonked our bags which kept me busy. It wasn't long before Dad brought the car down - a little Vauxhall Corsa. We loaded it up and headed on our way. According to the car's computer thing, it was 28 degrees outside. Hot hot hot! We drove off to a hotel about 45 minutes away where we had to confirm a reservation - we are staying there on the way back. Then we headed to some services and bought ourselves some lunch. I halfed my cured ham sandwich with my Dad, and he halfed his cheese one with me. It was jolly.

Once back in the car, that was when the fun started. It was the first time I've ever been in a hire car and first time I've ever flown with my parents. European cars are, obviously, left hand drive and this took a bit of getting used to for everybody, but especially for Dad. He kept reaching for the door handle thinking it was the gear stick, and when he did find the gear stick, he was having bother finding second gear. Stalling the car on a motorway is surprisingly funny.

Things went slightly downhill when we crossed the French border. It seemed the English weather had followed us and there were showers every so often. We got to our destination, Prades, and had a drink before finding the house we were staying in. Then it absolutely chucked it down. There were torrents of water coming from everywhere! In this part of the country, they average at 300 days of sunshine a year and our day of arrival just had to be one of the unlucky 65. This picture was taken from the car about ten minutes before we stopped. As you can see, it's pretty muggy.

After our drink we went to find the house. It was gorgeous! This three- or four-storey (I've forgotten already) house with rooms on every floor. Basically, a little French bed-and-breakfast. We met the owner, Angela, and she made my parents a cup of tea and they had a chat. I stayed upstairs (I was far too tired), played around with my camera and read my book (Jose Saramago's Blindness). These are some of the photos that I took. The view from the window was spectacular (mother dearest was mesmerised by it), but it was obstructed by the rain and clouds. It's hard to see that it's raining from the photos, but where there is that grey mass of cloud in the top half of the photos, shoulc actually be a big ol' mountain!

Once they came back up they told me all about Angela. She was an art teacher at a college in Norfolk and when she (I'm guessing) retired, she and a bunch of her colleages upped and left to live in France. It was also just after she'd had a divorce - which was really brave of her considering she'd only been to France once before - but now she runs a B&B, makes jam, selling paintings, and gives some of the local children art lessons! Not bad, eh?

We went for a wander after the rain had eased off and went to find somewhere to eat. We passed a few pizza places, but Angela wanted to recommend us a bistro so we followed her. She was going to a barbeque being held by some of her former colleages, so we parted ways once we reached the centre ville. I love French town centres, especially this one. Despite being wet, it still looked stunning. There was a small park in the middle (though technically not a park ... more like a small area for boules with trees running down the side and an outdoor stage at one end). Around the 'park' were a number of houses, cafes, restaurants and whatnot. There was also the town hall with a church opposite. One of the things I love about French towns in general is that they don't seem to have changed since the war (not that I'd know, but I can guess). Everything looks old, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's more ... 'rustic' and everything has a lot of character that you simply don't find in English towns (well, except maybe the odd cottage). Also, another thing I love is that every town still has it's air raid siren. Usually they are on top of the town hall, but this one was on top of the church. It made the steeple look really strange. Looked like something that belongs more on a fun house than a church. I'll have to take a picture of one in the days to come, but speaking of pictures of rustic French towns. We drove through quite a few yesterday, but I snapped this one from the car.

After I'd admired the town centre, we headed back to the second restaurant we passed: a nice pizza place. As we turned to leave, I noticed a man sitting in the doorway of a camera shop singing to himself. He was mysterious and that wasn't the last time I'd see him that night. We went into the restaurant and ordered. My Mum and I both had a La Reine (ham and mushroom) and my Dad had the local pizza, Catalan (which was covered in God knows what. I did notice anchovies though). I read my book while we were waiting. I don't know what it is about me and books in France. At home, I can never seem to keep one going, yet in France I find it hard to put a book down. As we let our pizzas digest a man approached the bar and ordered a drink. He then proceeded to start singing at the top of his voice. It was wierd at first, but everyone just laughed. He was obviously drunk. The staff asked him to drink up and leave, but gave up when they realised he was putting on some free entertainment for everyone on such a miserable and dreary evening. We left about half an hour later and walked home listening to the distant sound of his slurred French songs as he staggered along the street in the wet.

Once back at the house, I started to write this blog and edit some of my pictures from the day. However, after fortyfive minutes or so the battery went (I got a five minute warning notice and couldn't find a plug adapter in time. I just gave up in the end and went to bed. I was out like a light. Travelling is always so tiring.


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