Having found the best flights to Barcelona before Vikki had a chance to say 'is it sangria time?' I'd paid for the flights and started searching one of the many accommodation apps on my phone. Before the end of play we had decided on our accommodation. The Medplaya Esmeraldas Aparthotel. The first time we stayed in Tossa our hotel was a near neighbour of the Esmeraldas, from the terrace of our most inhospitable hotel we observed guests coming and going all the time and they looked altogether happier than anyone coming and going from our place. Only a 2 star Aparthotel but the reviews were, on the whole, quite good. It was the bad experiences we had of the neighbouring hotel that prompted us to stay in an apartment without communal facilities last year but as we are only needing accommodation for 4 nights we can cope with a rude barman and bigoted guests; it's no more than we face in any Weatherspoons on a busy Saturday afternoon.
Those who know me will know that my fear of flying coupled with my fear of being late necessitates a need to set off 2 hours earlier than is necessary, although I have been a bit better lately... Except for our last trip when flying back from Berlin airport and being told to go away and come back in 2 hours.
I think that, of the 3 London airports I have intimate knowledge of, Stanstead is the least efficient and the most hostile of these environments. Those of you who have watched the TV adaptation of Margaret Attwoods 'Handmaids Tale' could make a comparison with some of the harrowing scenes of the Handmaids being moved en mass from one location to another, stopping momentarily to observe hooded bodies swinging from a noose held high above their heads. The workers, like the Aunts, pointing out the fate of anyone who dare to forget to take a mobile phone out of their pocket... 'You will be delayed by half an hour while we do a full search'....Indeed the stoning scenes also bring to mind the scorn with which fellow travellers bestow upon anyone who should dare to hold the line up while they rummage in the bottom of their carry-on bag for a forgotten bottle of expensive perfume over the 100ml liquid limit. And to think... All these experience3s alluded me in the first 40 years of my life, before I embarked on international travel or the time I like to call 'stress free travel'. NO that's unfair, it was stressful ... The first Friday of the school holidays, setting off at 4pm so we could squeeze as much out of a week off as we could, sitting in traffic on the M25, then the M3 and then the a303 ... Many a time watching the sunrise at Stone Henge purely by chance and delay than careful planning.
So, arriving precisely 2 and a half hours before the flight time, on this occasion we didn't pay for fast track security, nor did we get it as a bonus upgrade with parking as we have done on many occasions. I couldn't remember departures being quite so busy before...then I realised that we usually travel slightly outside of the summer season and usually it's a flight before 7am so we are at the airport just as it opens for the day. On this occasion all of the people that need arrive more than 2 hours early (like me) converge on the people who arrive in good time and the ones who leave everything to the last minute and have to run to get to the boarding gate on time. (Feel free to identify yourself and make a comment in the boxes provided.
No panic needed as we navigated the clutches of the security staff and were breakfasting in Coast to Coast (other eateries are available) with 40 minutes and still had enough time to get to Boots for suncream. Yes I can hear you ... 'Why would you leave it til you get to the airport to buy suncream if you have known for at least a week that you will be going to Spain, I used to think the same thing but now I know. THose of us too cheap to pay for an extra bag to go in the hold are restricted to liquids of less than 100mls... Not only are these small bottles an unnecessary plastic biohazard they are extremely expensive and a false economy... The amount you spend on them you might as well have paid for a case in the first place, so if you leave it til the airport you can avoid this hefty surcharge, if you leave it til you arrive at your destination you'll also avoid having to carrying them in your already bulging back pack that you have stuffed to within an inch of its life.
I have nothing remarkable to say about the flight other than to say I had inadvertently paid £10 for my seat that had already been allocated to me on check in (in my haste to move vikkis seat to next to me I was flustered trying to do it quickly and paid for my own seat as well as her moved seat. I will know better for the return journeys check in. No I lie, the only remarkable thing about the flight was my neighbour (who hadn't paid anything extra to sit next to me). I believe he was from the Netherlands, tall and muscular, a shaved head and an over abundance of body hair. Wearing a short sleeved T-shirt and shorts, the hair on his arms and legs tickled me for the entire flight. Each time I felt the spider-like tickle of his full locks of hair I moved and leaned a title more into the aisle, I figured that the pain and bruising from being bashed by the trolley was preferable to the tickle.
Although he wasn't a troublesome neighbour, he got out his phone, headphones and a silicone mat that he placed on the seat in front of him and attached his phone to make a perfect eye level screen. Sadly my phone doesn't have sufficient memory to download a film. Since I have lost about 2 stone in weight I am able to sit at the tiny table with my iPad and keyboard quite comfortably to write and was able to do so until my neighbour invaded by personal body space to the extent that I leaned so far into the aisle that I feared I may be asked to pay for the seat the other side of me as well. I put my machine away and tried to relax for the last hour of the journey but my eyes were draw to the screen to my left and as I was lured into watching his Netflix film of choice, unable to hear the sound or read the subtitles I watched from the corner of my eye. Once fixed it was hard to turn away, my mind began to invent a story t accompany the moving images. All was well as the main character boarded a cruise ship with his friend. I imagined that he was part of the entertainment crew as he had an air of theatrics about him, a saunter almost. I glanced away to order coffee and check in with Vikki who was just waking after a power nap. We exchanged a few words as we drunk our coffee and as she settled back to slumber my eyes, once again turned to my left. Ready to pick up the plot, my eyes were quite unprepared for act 2. If I say 'the nightclub scene from the Matrix film' but a naked, gay version, I would be underplaying the the scene and making it more palatable for a mainstream market.
Incredulous: not only did I pay £10 for my seat, I was sat next to a big gay man who's body hair tickled me for the entire flight while he watched gay porn.