Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Blériot was even worse, I suppose

It took three holidays in New Zealand before we learned the best way of enduring the journey (ie, by over-nighting in a Kuala Lumpur hotel with a swimming pool). The other two were nightmares: squeezed into a Japanese Airlines quasi-coffin with a l½-hr stop in Tokyo, and a “wrong way” option via San Francisco which involved an interminable Auckland – Chicago return leg landing in a blizzard.

Even so these were improvements on my first flight – Heathrow to Singapore, February 1956 - travelling to RAF Seletar to practice my newly acquired radio-repairing skills.

The propellor plane (type forgotten) flew slowly at 9500 ft. That microlight altitude exposed us to eight hours of heavy turbulence over mainland Europe until we landed thankfully at Rome. Ninety minutes later, after a fried-egg breakfast, we left for Cyprus for another egg, deep-fried in oil and eaten at about 3 am. Again we were back in the plane within two hours to land at 120 deg F Bahrein. Guess what we had for breakfast.

Another eight-hour flight saw us in Karachi and an overnight stop. Landing next day in Delhi I dimly perceived what I took to be the Himalayas. A quick eggless meal and we were en route for Calcutta where there were four or five hours to kill, but in the late afternoon. In Bangkok I saw an air hostess wearing a cheongsam. Very shortly after arriving at Singapore I went down with an exhilarating attack of the runs. Jumbos do have their advantages.


Julia said...

Great idea about stopping off in Kuala Lumpur! I have always wanted to go to Australia but avoided it because of the interminable flight. This way sounds so much more palatable.

marja-leena said...

And I thought the current sardine-can flights we endure are tough enough!

Sir Hugh said...

My worst journey ever:

Objective: to get to Biarritz to start my walk of The GR10.

Tuesday 10th June 2003

Arnside to Stanstead.

I visited Lancaster Bus Station the day before and was shown the departure point for the coach to Stanstead (change at Birmingham) which left at 2:30 am the next day.

My daughter Jill drove me to the bus station. By 2;40 am, when the coach had not arrived I rang the emergency number on the ticket using my mobile. I was told the coach departed from a different part of the bus station, and I had missed it. The guy said that if I could get a taxi to Preston he could hold the coach for me there, and I was therefore running around the streets of Lancaster trying to find a taxi and talk to this chap on my mobile all at the same time. Eventually a taxi appeared coming down a hill towards me, and I leapt out into the middle of the road and found the driver was just on his way home. He agreed to take me to Preston and we set off down the motorway at a hundred miles an hour, and I managed to board the bus; this cost me a nice little £30. What a start!

On the bus I read a rather strange novel by Martin Amies: Dead Babies.

Eventually arriving at Stanstead just after midday, for my booked flight to Biarritz I found that it had been cancelled due to French air traffic controllers being on strike; as a result of this I learnt a new bit of French vocabulary: en grève.

The airport information desk found me lodgings involving a taxi ride of about fifteen minutes from the airport adding a variety of unbudgeted expenses to my trip. The bed and breakfast did not provide meals but drove guests to a pub in the village of Ugley. I ended up dining with a Malaysian chap who turned out to be brain surgeon so the conversation was quite interesting!

Wednesday 11th June

Stanstead to Carcassonne

The host drove me back to the airport in the morning having established the day before that the best I could do was to take a flight to Carcassonne, which is nearer the Mediterranean than the Atlantic. From the boarding lounge I saw my rucksack being loaded (thrown) onto the aircraft. I sat next to a granny and her granddaughter who were quite pleasant people. I had a decent mini bottle of South African red and a sandwich: £7.00.

Although I saw my trip as not particularly sensational most people I met seemed to find it absolutely incomprehensible; maybe they do things which would appear strange to me?

The flight arrived at Carcassonne on time: 1.25 pm. I got a taxi into the town, and it was an attractive place. At the train station I was given the following optimum schedule for getting to Hendaye where my walk started.

Carcossonne to Bordeaux 18:18 to 21:25
Bordeaux to Hendaye 21:28 to 23:10 (unrealistic time available for changing)

As it happened the Bordeaux train was 1 hour late in departing which meant I would have no alternative but to stay the night in Bordeaux. I arrived there at 12:00 pm and fortunately found a scruffy hotel opposite the station; just imagine trying to book into a hotel in England at midnight. The bed looked as though it had been slept in half a dozen times before.

Thursday 12th. June

Bordeaux to Hendaye Day 1 on the walk

The departure time was 10.33 am by TGV, so I spent over an hour in Bordeaux trying to buy resealable camping gas cylinders, but to no avail.

The train was fifteen minutes late, then after traveling for only thirty minutes there was another half hour delay, “for security reasons”, in a remote country location where there was an appalling smell reminiscent of an inefficient abattoir.

This was the most boring rail journey I can remember; it travels for three hours or so mostly through a swathe about a hundred yards wide cut through pine trees, and that is all there is to see.

From the station at Hendaye it is over a mile to the casino and the beach where the GR10 starts, so I walked there and headed for the beach where I found a surfer who obligingly agreed to take a photo of me with my foot dipped into the Atlantic, and then I set off on the walk at 2:40 pm, realising that I would not have time to complete the full day shown in the guide.

Relucent Reader said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Avus said...

I shall never complain about the Australia flight again!

Relucent Reader said...

"What I meant to say" was how I enjoyed your post. Now I see why 'travel' and 'travail' are related.
Good tip about layovers, thank you.I'll get hours of fun identifying the aircraft you mentioned.

Barrett Bonden said...

Julia: It's even better. The Pan-something hotel is linked to the aiport by a walkway. Bedrooms big enough to play basketball, but bring your own basket.

M-L: Don't stop complaining about the sardine cans. The knee-room dimensions are outrageous.

Sir Hugh: Here are three suggestions:
(1) Divide your post into iambic pentameter.
(2) Acquire an acoustic guitar.
(3) Sing the post to the tune of "Nobody knows de trouble ah've seen".

Avus: Keep on complaining.

RR: Four engines, pre turbo-prop - so pistons, etc.

herhimnbryn said...

Maybe I could learn to love economy class again, after reading your post!

ps there is an answer to your statement in the comments to my recent post. I hesitate to tell you this, as you may no longer feel 'closer' to me;)

Lucy said...

My god, all those eggs! As if travel-induced constipation isn't bad enough...