[I'd meant to write about this in the summer but other happenings intervened. I was determined to get around to it eventually!]
Thursday, 12th July 202 – Holiday!
In July I took myself off to Spain to meet my sister Kerryn and her partner Dave who for the last few years had been living in Vigo, the main city in Galicia in the North West of the country. They were about to head off travelling around South America and I wanted to see them before they went.
That wasn’t the only reason, by the time the departure date rolled around I was thoroughly sick of the heavy rain we’d suffered which had been going on without a break since late May and resulted in the flooding I described in my previous entry. Galicia may have one of the rainiest climates in Spain but surely it was better than home, and a change is as good as a rest.
Fate decided that my day of departure, Thursday 12th July 2012, was the day the Olympic Torch Relay visited my town of Bridport. It was due mid-afternoon at about the time I had to be at Heathrow, almost 3 hours drive away. It also decided it would be one of the heaviest, wettest, windiest days in a month of rain. (I found a few photos of the relay). This meant that yes, I would miss the relay I’d been looking forward to talking my way out of work to go and see, but it also meant I didn’t mind so much – in a choice of getting soaked on a street, sitting in an office or taking a flight to sunny Spain the winner should be obvious!
I just had enough time to get a haircut, my usual next to the shoe shop in South Street was as quick and efficient as ever and did the job in ten minutes, for only £7! With that it was in the car for a surprisingly quick run to Heathrow. With flooding causing problems on the A35 and the torch relay due along there too I chose to go via the A303. Despite the closure of Beaminster Tunnel and having to keep my speed back due to rain on the dual carriageways, the roads were clear and I was able to get there in about the same amount of time it usually takes (with all the traffic) on the A35/A31 route. I even had time for a short stop at Fleet. I might well make the A303 my preferred route to London now.
Heathrow & The Flight
Heathrow itself was the usual organised chaos. I found my pre-booked parking easily (NCP Flightpath next to the Park Hotel) and their bus is fairly prompt. I recommend booking parking well in advance whoever you go with, and allow at least a good 20 minutes for the bus transfer as they may make other stops on the way to your terminal. I was flying from Terminal 3 – I’ve now flown twice from LHR and both times from T3.
It was quite exciting seeing all the London2012 banners, the signs for the help desks for ‘Olympic family’ and athletes, and there was a ping pong table outside the main terminal door!
My plan especially at London airports is to get through the security line ASAP. Then you can relax. In the past I’ve spent so long in a busy queue I had to go straight to the gate, no coffee stop, so these days I plan to arrive at the terminal at the time the check-in desk opens, then go straight to the security line ignoring the shops/cafes this side of it. Not all airports are the same of course, at some you are better getting your coffee first!
This time the security queues weren’t too bad for London standards… they’d have been unacceptable at other airports but this was Heathrow and I’d expected to be there a while. I was on holiday and I was there in good time so I wasn’t worried.
Getting through in good time gives you a chance to stretch your legs after the drive and before sitting in the plane. I wandered the concourse then looked in Dixons, no point going anywhere else, there are an inordinate number of expensive-looking handbag and perfume shops and even the bloke’s clothes prices were out of my league. After a walk it was time for lunch: an expensive roll and coffee.
My flight was with Vueling. I hadn’t flown with them before and I like trying different airlines. They were the only people flying directly to Vigo and that was only a summer route. On my last visit I had to fly EasyJet to Porto, which was fine, but that leads to an inconvenient 2-hour bus ride to Vigo. Direct is so much easier and worth the extra money. The seats were the most comfortable I’ve ever seen on a plane! I smiled when I saw a familiar logo on a tag on the seats. Recaro. The people who make those bucket seats that hold you in place in a racing car!
Music was playing as we sat down, some airlines do nothing and it is quiet and boring, so it was nice to have something to listen to and it was surprisingly relaxing. I had my iPad with me and some headphones but I didn’t want to switch it on until we were airborne. Heathrow being what it is we were stopped in a take-off queue by the runway for absolutely ages but eventually we were away.
I got my iPad out and listened to podcasts as we flew above the clouds in bright sunshine all the way there. I had a window seat (as always) and the feeling of the sun as I drifted away.. pr0bably the most relaxing flight I’ve ever had.
Less than two hours later we’ve crossed the Bay of Biscay and the Spanish coast and are descending. We’d been above the clouds all the way, but as soon as we got to the coast they disappeared. I watched the hills around Vigo approach and tried to guess which bay contained the city. (I was wrong.) We got lower and started to fly very close to some of these hills. I realised one particular hill wasn’t going away and we were going to hit it.. then suddenly a runway appeared below us and we were landing! Someone forgot to tell me Vigo airport was on a hill.
It’s quite a small airport. Only one other plane was there. I was more concerned with the sunshine, which was warm and welcoming not like the harsh light we sometimes have here. Passport Control was easy in that there wasn’t one – there were two blokes in uniform in a roped off area as we got off the jetbridge, a quick glance at the photo and he waved me through! I like this place already.
My sister and I had agreed to meet in town. I’d been two years before so I knew what it looked like, I just had to get on the right bus. I got outside to see a full bus leaving, which I discovered was the right one, eventually another turned up and it seems Carlos Sainz found a new vocation as a bus driver after he retired from rallying as he was throwing the bus around the corners as if it were a rally car, and braking sharply enough to send me and my bags hurtling forwards. I had to stand as the bus was full. I was close to a young English couple, probably early 20s, who had apparently arrived on the same flight and were trying to make sense of a map. I didn’t know whether to help or not! They seemed to be on an adventure and I wasn’t sure they’d appreciate someone spoiling the fun! They seemed to figure it out in the end to get off near their hotel in town.
It’s a 20 minute ride through some countryside with some run-down houses and 5-10 minutes winding down the steep hill of the city to the centre – eventually we reached a place I recognised and got off. I was quickly joined by Kerryn & Dave and they were looking well, it was clear the sun was doing them some good!
After dropping my bags at the Hotel Compostela we went for a little walk for a catch-up and a drink as the sun set.
Near midnight we decided bed would be a good idea, I was tired from travelling and they both had to work the following day (a Friday). That meant I’d have much of the day to myself to explore and we’d meet up again in the afternoon. My hotel was good. A bit noisy outside but comfy and I loved the sign outside! It made me feel like I was in a spy thriller from the 40s or 50s.
Tomorrow I’d explore the city again, after two years away. It’ll likely be more of a photoblog from now on so don’t fear something as wordy as this one!
[ Go to Part 2 ]