Monday, 16 March 2009
For all my scorn poured on Ryanair recently (you might have noticed one or two comments in previous postings that indicate they may not be my most favoured of travel companied), I have to eat a small (and probably seriously overpriced) piece of humble pie.
For the first time that I can remember my flight landed at Stansted on-time (it was actually a couple of minutes early), and by the time I got to the baggage belt my bag was coming round (I’ve previously got to the belt speedily only to wait 45 minutes for the bags)
Because my bags were round so quickly I made the early train from the airport, which meant I made it to the bus stop outside Liverpool Street before the start of the evening rush, and onto a train at London Bridge before the service becomes less frequent.
From the wheels of the plane hitting the tarmac at Stansted to walking through the door at home took less than two and a half hours, half what it has taken on a bad flight (which if I remember rightly was with Ryanair...)
Still, on this occasion they came up trumps, so congratulations Ryanair...
But I still won’t fly with them out of choice!
Sunday, 15 March 2009
Despite knowing no more than a handful of words in Spanish I have managed over the last couple of days to successfully purchase (in increasing difficulty)
- Stamps for some postcards back to the UK
- Train tickets for a day trip to Almeria
- Coach tickets through an automated ticket machine at the bus station
I would like to claim this is because of a fast mastery of the language, but it isn’t.
The stamps were got by taking my postcards to the counter, stumbling through a phrase from the phrase book and being reduced to a polite Si, when asked, in flawless English, if I wanted stamps for these three postcards back to the UK
The train tickets were purchased through the judicious use of making a note of the train times and service numbers in both directions, the date of travel and then a combination of bad stumbling through phrase book and the use of small slip of paper with aforementioned times and dates on it (along with an arrow in both directions to show that I wanted to come back as well).
The coach tickets I was most impressed with myself, as I didn’t see any English, and didn’t use the phrasebook. Instead I copied exactly what the previous three people in the queue had done and hoped.
I made it all the way to Jaén and back, with my tickets being inspected, so I either did it correctly, or got it so spectacularly wrong that everyone decided to take pity on me (and then have a dam good laugh about it later!)
So to all the people of Andalucía that I have caught up in my bumbling, apologies and thank you, and to all those Brits who wonder why they are disliked for talking slowly and loudly in English to be understood, you don’t need to. Just a bit of prime Boris Johnson bumbling and you can get by just fine!
Saturday, 14 March 2009
It is a widely held belief that the Spanish eat late. The guide books all go on about being able to get a meal until gone midnight, that the kitchen never closes, and that only the tourists are eating at 8pm.
So far, in both Seville last year, and Granada this year, I have either managed to find a slight hole in this theory.
Last night I left it quite late to go out for dinner, aiming to eat about 9, only to discover that several of the restaurants had already packed up for the evening, and a couple of others were about to close.
Yes, when I was in Madrid a couple of years ago you could get a meal at gone midnight, but here is Andalucía in March that appears not to work.
Not to cast aspersions on the fine writes of the guide books, but could it be possible that some of the research was done in Madrid, without actually venturing out of the Capital.
But nobody would do that surely...
Thursday, 12 March 2009
There are a lot of people who have a very negative view towards the European Union (mostly they are called Brits), but there are a lot of advantages of being a member. The unfettered travel between member stated (unless you are British or Irish who haven’t joined the Schengen agreement and therefore still need their passports to get into the continent), the relatively strong currency (unless you are a Brit), the maximum 48 hour week (unless you are a Brit), the sense of a continent in Harmony (unless you are a Brit and read the Daily Mail).
One of the biggest advantages, at least when in Spain, is the amount of culture you can get for free.
Sure the really big sights like the Alhambra charge, but lots of the other museums and historical attractions don’t.
Walking around the city today I’ve been into two museums, the remains of a Moorish bath house, and a couple of churches. Total spend, just over a euro for one of the Churches.
Most municipal museums are free if you can produce evidence of your membership of the EU, that small burgundy document saves you cash. Whilst this may not off set all the ills of the EU, even the most die-hard Daily Mail reader would agree that saving money is, at least, a partial advantage of membership
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
After the lousy start to the day I didn’t expect the check-in process for a RyanAir flight to be much better, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Having used the checkin terminals (no desks, despite having paid for an airport check-in!) I wandered, as instructed to zone J for the fast bag drop, queued up, got to the front of the queue and was then told I should read the screen more clearly as it said Zone F. I mentioned that it had actually said Zone J but the person on bag drop insisted that I was an idiot who couldn’t read simple English, until the person at the next desk started saying the same thing to another Granada passenger, at which point both check-in staff shrugged their shoulders and said we had to go to F, no apology (though I’m sure I could probably get one if I paid the £7.99 apology fee!)
Over to zone F where there was an even longer queue, partly made up of people who hadn’t read the screen when they were at home and were disputing why for their 99p flight they now had to pay £9.99 to checkin and another £18 for the bags they had with them as they thought RyanAir would let them on if they just turned up.
I can sort of understand why the people in Zone J must have originally thought I had read the screen wrong, but an apology whouldn’t have hurt would it?
5:10 and on a train far earlier that I was intending to be. I had spent the night in the Travelodge at Liverpool street so that I could get up at 5:30 and wander leisurely over to the station to pick up the train to Stansted, rather than having to get up at 3:30 to get the night bus.
In the end I shouldn’t have bothered. My room had a mouse in it, except I didn’t discover this until about 3am, until then I’d been kept awake by strange noises and rustlings which at first I thought was me hearing things.
By 3am, having got no sleep I spotted a small brown rodent running along the skirting board behind the bin. I waited a while to make sure I got a photo of the offending beast, as I was certain that Travelodge wouldn’t believe me if I said there was a mouse in my room.
I finally got a decent photo about 4am, by which point I decided to get up, have a long shower and then check out of the hotel via a formal complaint.
So here I am, on a virtually deserted Stansted Express, heading through the Lee valley as dawn breaks over Southern England, more knackered (and near £40 lighter) than if I had just stayed at home at got up at 3:30.
Someone is supposed to be calling me today regarding my complaint, lets see what Travelodge’s excuse is!