An early start to farewell Emma, then later Monique and Michel drove me to Biarritz Airport. We arrived very early because the French vacationsAn early start to farewell Emma, then later Monique and Michel drove me to Biarritz Airport. We arrived very early because the French vacations have started in earnest and the traffic jams leaving Bordeaux suggested we may be embroiled in heavy traffic. Despite the rain that had started we had a good ride without hold ups at all. This country side and all the road works reminded me of the trip from Surfers to Ballina. They are widening the road to include an extra lane and it seemed so familiar.
My check in was not possible because I was too early but we had coffee and said very emotional goodbyes. They have been so kind and easy to stay with (despite the language).We seem to have a connection that is soul deep. When they left they gave me a long, hard hug and said simply, ‘we love you’. It was enough to bring me to tears. I feel the same. Precious memories, precious friends.
I started to think about the next stage from London and carrying the now despised black bag I used to protect the back pack on the way over. I have accumulated a few more items plus I have a box of gear waiting at the hotel at Heathrow that Andy and Karen held for me which has the camping gear and warmer clothes. My idea was to stick it in the bag with the backpack but it will be heavy and without wheels it is hard to manage. I spy a garish suitcase at the quicksilver shop which is on sale. Because I have my backpack with me I can try it to see if it fits within and it does. I haggle a little and get another 10 % réduction so it is quite reasonable. It is also going to be very easy to find on the baggage carousels! No more boring black or other serviceable colour. It is definitely not cool but then no one will want to take it either! Surfer chic.
Eventually I get to check in and my easyJet booking has no luggage! I knew I had booked luggage but I had no proof and so had to pay up there and then. That App is not to be trusted! Then the plane was late about 40 minutes. I hate the way easyJet gets you all excited about getting on the plane and then keep you penned like cattle at the sale yards for what seems like ages before you actually start boarding.
Arriving at Gatwick, the immigration experience this time was painfully slow and by the time I arrived at baggage collection my bag was one of two left from the flight. However it was instantly recognisable! Finding the National Bus Express to Heathrow was easy and a great option: £27, 1 hour, direct trip. Train options were more expensive with changes and no quicker. By the time I arrived at Heathrow I was tired and just found a cab to the hotel. It was 8 pm instead of 5! I checked in, collected my box from the very chipper concierge and had dinner it was close to 9pm. I ordered a large glass of wine with dinner!
I am so glad I could get a good nights sleep after that day. Next morning I headed off to T2 again on the airport shuttle and arrived early to be met by utter chaos at the bag drop counter. The baggage conveyers had stopped and no bags could be processed! People were milling around all squashed up trying to get their baggage tickets printed before they could enter the queue that went around the whole of section A. One and a half hours later I actually get to a bag drop counter and just as my bag is added to the computer the whole thing stops again!
The poor woman told me to take my bag to the oversized luggage counter because my bag might get forgotten if we left it there. By now my leisurely time preflight was down to boarding time and of course my flight was at the most distant gate which involved two steep escalators, numerous anonymous corridors and moving footpaths before I was spat out into a long hall of boarding gates of which mine was the very last.
The boarding was smooth but once in the plane a communal groan escaped the passengers when the pilot announced we would have to wait an hour on the tarmac because we had lost our take off slot due to the baggage issue. I was longing for that rather efficient Bristol or Toulouse airports by now!
On the upside I discovered I had two very pleasant travelling companions Ben and Ingrid, but I found the seats excruciatingly uncomfortable. At least I am on the aisle but the space is so tiny even for little me. Ben raised the subject of inhuman conditions for travellers which I think has merit. A class action for cramped conditions?
Singapore appeared after 5 movies and a doze. The next flight is on schedule but guess what? It is from the most distant gate again! Well that is fine, I need the exercise after all the sitting. The long walk to the gate.
The joy of flying. Melbourne only a few more hours away.
When I arrive finally in Melbourne it is blowing a gale and the baggage is held up! I am cursed. I eventually retrieved my bag after a jam in the carousel was fixed and waited for Nick in the drive through Pick up. I am glad I thought to put my down jacket on because it is a wet, cold and windy night. Melbourne winter. I am home.