Monday, 1 August 2016

A difficult home journey

I was up early, running a load of washing, taking out the rubbish, cleaning the kitchen, as soon as I'd had breakfast and prepared a picnic to take with me. At eleven, Peter and Charlotte came around for the handover of house keys, and then take me to the station for the Barcelona train. It's an enjoyable journey as the line runs close to the sea along several sections. There was a delay of fifteen minutes at Salou, but I had plenty of time in hand to get the airport train. I'd quite forgotten, arriving at Terminal Two, that no Vueling flights leave from there. The company have an information booth but it was closed and flight indicator panels displayed no evidence of the airline's existence. 

I began to wonder if they'd gone bust and I'd not picked up on the news. I tried Googling on my Blackberry, but it was on strike, refusing to connect to a network, because the roaming contract extension expired yesterday night, so I sailed close to panicking. I asked a man with an official badge, and realised I'd forgotten about Terminal One being the base for Vueling flights. I quickly took the shuttle bus for the ten minute ride, and found a four hundred metre queue of people checking bags in at a row of twenty Vueling desks. Thankfully I still had time in hand before check-in was meant to start for the Cardiff flight. I showed my ticket to the queue manager and was allowed to join it. With almost all of the check-in desks running, the queue moved quickly. As I moved, it built up behind me again. Going through security was even quicker, and then I had a full two hours to wait for the flight to be called.

Terminal One has a vast roof and glass outer walls giving views of the airport in each direction, and this encloses half a dozen boarding areas, misleadingly called 'gates'. Each 'gate' has a score of actual boarding access points. In the middle of this is huge shopping mall. Straight after security, there's passport control, then you're led down an escalator into the shopping mall. You walk through this to get to 'gates' A B and C, but D and E gate signage is less frequent and more obscure. I had to walk around the entire mall and re-check, before realising access to D and E 'gates' was obtained by going back up the escalator and walking to a separate corridor a kilometre long, containing fifteen boarding access points in a row. The terminal was designed with high passenger capacity in mind, and although it's clearly busy with summer traffic, while I was waiting it seemed quite empty most of the time. 

The flight left on time and arrived five minutes early. Once we crossed the Pyrenees there was cloud all the way, unbroken until the plane was on its landing run. Aberthaw power station as the first thing visible in an hour and half of flying. It had been raining hard for two hours, Ashley reported, when he rang me in  baggage reclaim. My case arrived soaking wet, suggesting that no protective cover had been used on the short journey from plane to conveyor belt. Thankfully, I had rainwear tucked away in my rucksack, where its sole purpose to date has been as a cushion to protect my laptop.

On the airport shuttle was a Spanish family, coming for a short holiday in Cardiff, trying to decipher their computer generated itinerary. I plucked up my courage and spoke to them in Spanish. I too had trouble with their itinerary, which suggested they take a bus from outside the Philharmonic (now closed) to get to the Travelodge at the Friary in Greyfriars Road, fine except that the itinerary didn't say "Take any bus", but mentioned only the fact that this was the T4 bus stop - destination Newtown, and not about the appear on the bus indicator board any time before tomorrow. I took them to the stop once we'd been dropped off in Custom House Street, and the next bus heading for the Kingsway was fifteen minutes away, and the weary kids were beginning to complain, so I proposed a taxi, took them around to the station, explained to a driver what they wanted, and then made my way back to Westgate Street, where I didn't have to wait long for a 64. Needless to say, given the puddle strewn pavements, my case was very wet by the time I reached home, and dampness was penetrating clothes, though fortunately not any of my books. What a welcome back to Wet Wales!

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