Category Archives: Charles de Gaulle Airport

Sunday 13th February 2022 – I DON’T EVER …

… want to have to do that again! NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET has got nothing on this!

But anyway, last night I was in bed by 22:00 with the alarm set for 05:00 and hoping to have a good sleep.

But that was some hope because I was off on my travels during the night and I must have gone so far that I really don’t know how I had any sleep at all.

At some point I was with a girl who has featured on several occasions in the past, usually with her brother who was a friend of mine and who both lived on a farm, but tonight she was with another girl – I don’t know who she was but I know that I know her. We were tidying up a pile of stuff, just generally chatting. The farmer’s daughter had to go out for something that just left me and this girl. The conversation turned round to that girl and me. I said that I don’t want anything to happen to her because I’m rather fond of her. This girl was rather surprised so I said “yes but I thought that most people knew that”. She asked if our farmer’s daughter knew that and I replied “of course she did”. “What did she do?”. “Nothing” I replied. “She had her own life to live etc”. I explained that we’d been out once or twice. She asked “what was she doing?” I said “it was just like this”. “Any snogging?” she asked. I replied “no unfortunately”. “Why on earth not?”. “I didn’t want to drive her away”. She wanted to know if she was married with kids. I replied that she was and had 2 kids. The conversation just drifted around like that. I thought that the farmer’s daughter would only be gone for a few minutes but it must have been ages that we were having this chat.

And before anyone grasps the wrong end of the stick, the fact that she is a farmer’s daughter has nothing whatever to do with Deep Purple.

Finally I was in the Army last night, looking through a pile of files and lists. No matter how hard I looked, all I could find were details of an assignment to the Entertainment Unit. They were all put in an envelope ready to be sent off to some kind of competition or show or something. There were all people there, including Jimmy Clitheroe but I couldn’t find anything in these service records and service history at all. This was really annoying. In the end there was a sergeant there who was responsible for the paperwork. I asked him and he pointed to these envelopes and said “but it’s all there”. I shouted that it wasn’t. I said that all it was was these application forms for this concert thing. I picked them up and dropped them in the bin. I told him precisely and in no uncertain terms exactly what I wanted. He started to go through the filing cabinet trying to find all this information.

Wherever did I find the time to go to sleep?

It didn’t take me long to tidy up and I decided not to make any sandwiches because I only get into trouble when I eat them and I’ll be home in time for a late lunch. So at 05:30 I had already handed in the key and was well off down the road.

martelarenplein leuven belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022As I approached the railway station I went to have a look at the Martelarenplein.

We’ve seen this now every month for the last I don’t know how many years and and I have to say that for the last half-dozen or so months there seems to be very little, if any improvement.

Just like every building project in Belgium, they are really taking their time with this and at the rate that they are going, I reckon that I’ll be finished long before they are here.

05:50 when I arrived at the railway station so I had 19 minutes to wait in the freezing cold and wind before my train came in.

class AM96 electric multiple unit gare de leuven railway station belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022The train this morning is the 06:09 from Landen to De Panne via Brussels Airport and the City Centre.

Today it’s one of the AM96 electric multiple units. Fairly modern, quite clean and comfortable and I’m quite happy to be aboard one of these.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I have mentioned their unique features before. When a train is made up of two trainsets, the rubber ring makes an airtight seal around the join and the drivers’ cabs swivel round out of the way so that you can walk from one trainset to the next.

We arrived at Bruxelles-Midi at 06:49, 28 minutes before my train to Lille. And this was when disaster stuck. There on the sign was “07:17 to Strasbourg via Lille cancelled”.

That was certainly a tragedy. With it being a weekend, the 07:47 direct to Paris doesn’t run either so that was that.

At the ticket office they proposed the following itinerary –

  • 08:17 to Lille Europe arriving 08:51
  • 10:42 from Lille Flandre to Paris Gare du Nord arriving 11:48
  • 12:59 Paris St Lazare to Lison arriving 15:31
  • 15:52 Lison to Granville arriving 16:43

Only three hours later than usual.

But if anyone thinks that I’m going to be waiting for almost two hours on a draughty, freezing cold railway station in Lille they are mistaken. I have another plan. But in the meantime I went to buy some food from Carrefour. I have a feeling that I might need it at this rate.

TGV Réseau 38000 tri-volt 4525 PBA gare du midi brussels belgium Eric Hall photo February 2022Wherever I go, it has to start with the 08:17 to Montpelier via Lille

It’s one of the PBA (Paris Brussels Amsterdam) TGV Reseau 38000 trainsets and when I boarded it I could see exactly why my train had been cancelled. Two trainloads of people were “squeezed” into this one and it was still empty. I don’t suppose that they considered it worth their while to run the earlier one if it only had half the number on board that this one had.

There are a couple of small seats stuck in a corner by the baggage racks so I grabbed one of those and settled down while the train shot off into the void.

When it reached Lille Europe, I stayed on board. Next stop is Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and from there is a Reseau Express Regional (RER) D train that goes into the city centre and out to Orly. I can alight at Denfert-Rochereau which is 5 stops and 40 minutes away, and then it’s 3 stops on the traditional metro to Gare Montparnasse.

The chances are that with a good run I could still catch my 10:59 train to Granville.

So at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport I hurtled off the train and up to the RER platforms on the level above to find “No RER Service today to Paris”.

That’s all I needed.

Plan C involved legging it right across Terminal 2 (which is enormous) to the other side and the express buses that go to the Stade de France RER station. That’s on RER line D so I need to change at Chatelet. I would lose 5 minutes but who knows?

Strangely enough, whenever I’m at Terminal 2, I ALWAYS SEEM TO BE REQUIRED TO RUN.

airport express coach stade de france paris france Eric Hall photo February 2022at Gate 2F I leapt on board a waiting coach and we shot off round and round the ragged rock until we finally found the exit that took us out onto the motorway and into northern Paris.

And there we hit a pile of roadworks and a long queue of traffic and I watched the time on my fitbit melt slowly away as we tried to jostle our way into the only lane that was moving.

We eventually made it to the Stade de France railway station. My train was to leave Montparnasse at 10:59 and as I alighted from the bus it was 10:59 precisely.

Never mind, it was a good try. At least, with all of the running around that I had to do I must have lost a good few kilos.

train RER D gare de stade de france paris france Eric Hall photo February 2022Now that I’m here I may as well push on.

Down on the platform I waited for the train to come in. The next stop is the Gare du Nord anyway and that gives me plenty of opportunity to work out something else. There has to be a Plan D somewhere.

At the Gare du Nord I didn’t even come up into the daylight. Here is RER line E and the terminus of that is at Gare St Lazare (well, near enough anyway) so I may as well see what gives there.

printemps department store rue caumartin paris france Eric Hall photo February 2022Where the RER station emerges into the street is right at the back of the Printemps Department Store.

Round at the front is the Boulevard Haussman where you find the headquarters of SPECTRE and several other extremely exclusive premises. But as you might expect, I’m not going that way. I’m going in the opposite direction.

There may be a considerable amount of time to spare but I’m not going to go for a look around in Printemps. It’s the kind of place where people like us need a credit account in order to simply look in the window.

gare st lazare paris france Eric Hall photo February 2022When I was here last I didn’t have too much time to take a photo of the Gare St Lazare so here we are. We can see the clocks that we saw last time outside the building but from a different perspective.

And here, I had my only slice of luck today.

When I arrived I noticed that there was a train to Caen at 11:59, one hour earlier than the one to Cherbourg on which they had booked me. Now if there would be a train from Caen to Rennes that connects with it, I will be à la maison and sec as they say around here.

Sure enough, the train arrives in Caen at 13:58 and at 14:10 there’s a train departing for Rennes so I sallied forth into the ticket office with right and a certificate of cancellation on my side.

Bombardier Regio 2N 56670 caen normandy france Eric Hall photo February 2022Just by way of a change I met a very pleasant and helpful SNCF ticket agent who took one look at all of my paperwork (Government officials on the mainland LOVE paperwork and rubber stamps) and issued me with a ticket for the earlier train.

It’s one of the really comfortable and quick Bombardier Regio 2N electric double-deckers. I was in the front coach upstairs with about 2 other people so I could settle down with my bread rolls and have a crafty nibble.

When the ticket collector came round I showed him my original ticket and gave him all of the rest of the paperwork that I had and he hardly bothered to check them. I went back to eating my bread rolls and listening to Hawkwind again.

And I still think that the violin solo on STEPPENWOLF is one of the best that has ever been recorded.

Bombardier B82650 84555 gec alstom regiolis gare de granville railway station Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo February 2022And here I am at Granville. My train is the Bombardier B825 on the left.

When I arrived at Caen it was already in and raring to go. It was quite full too and there are no luggage facilities, seeing as it’s a cross-country train. But I struggled aboard and eventually found somewhere for my suitcase and me.

There is no electricity on board these trains so I didn’t switch on the laptop. All the way to Granville I listened to COLOSSEUM LIVE on the telephone.

As I explained a while ago, I usually encounter interesting young ladies in peculiar situations whenever I listen to this album, such as in the High Arctic in 2018 and again a year later on the same ship in the same seat in the same place when I had two of the strangest encounters that I have ever had in modern times.

Today though, I’ve already had so many strange encounters, one way or another, that I probably wouldn’t have noticed another one by this time.

It’s no surprise that I dozed off for 10 minutes on the way home. And I immediately went off on a little wander. I was with another taxi driver and we were talking to a third. He had had the right to an engine in compensation for something but his wife at the time was now living with yet a fourth taxi driver and he had received this engine. He had fitted it into his car, “the T-reg”. I was surprised that after all of these years he was now back on the road but the reply was yes, it’s called “Creamony Cars” or something like that

Here at Granville on the right is the train that I should have caught. It beat me here (assuming that it was on time) by about 2 hours. And I don’t suppose that that was too bad because there was a moment when I was standing in front of the sign at the RER station at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport that I thought that I would never arrive at all.

The walk through the town was a nightmare. Even going down the hill was agony.

harbour gates closing port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo February 2022Climbing back up the hill up to my rock was even worse and it took me an age.

During one of my rather too frequent pauses during my climb I looked down at the harbour to see what was happening and I was lucky enough to see the red warning light flashing and the gates slowly closing.

So whoever might have been in the harbour loading up has now long gone and I won’t know who they are.

It was like Ice Station Zebra in here too when I arrived but ask me if I care. I made a coffee and collapsed into my chair.

No pizza tonight. I was too late to take some dough out of the freezer and it wouldn’t defrost so I had potatoes, veg and vegan sausage with vegan cheese sauce. It was lovely too.

Tomorrow is usually when I set an alarm for 06:00 and spend the day working on the radio but if anyone thinks that I’m doing that then they are mistaken. I’m going to bed and going to sleep until I awaken and hard luck on anyone who expects me to do anything. I’ve had a harrowing day.

Mind you, that could all change if TOTGA, Castor and/or Zero invite me to come with them for a midnight ramble. Imagine my sharing a room with Zero the other night and she not being there!

Thursday 12th October 2017 – I HAD AN INTERESTING …

… flight back from Canada. Playing “Bejeweled” all the way across the Atlantic.

That’s not a polite way to say that the in-flight entertainment was total garbage either. I mean – it was, but once I found the “games” section of the things, I didn’t bother too much about the rest.

And never mind my worries about not having a special meal either. The two options of food offered on board was either chicken or … pasta with vegetables in a tomato sauce – with no cheese.

Sleep wasn’t too much of an issue either – I just had a fitful doze here and there and that was really my lot.

air canada flight paris charles de gaulle airport france september septembre 2017It seems that Air Canada is having issues with the landing fees at Charles de Gaulle airport too.

Admittedly we were considerably early in landing, thanks to a helpful tail wind, but we ended up moored on the concrete apron and having to be bussed over to the terminal.

And just two passport control officers at the “EU” desk to screen us. But they weren’t too bothered about much and we were soon through.

The baggage was reasonably quickly out too so I was able to make good my escape. On the way out I was accosted by a couple of pirate taxi drivers. “Do I have the word ‘idiot’ tattooed on my forehead?” I growled.

10:30 was when I made it to the railway station – that has to be something of a new record. And my train from Paris to Brussels was at 14:35. A mere 4 hours to get into the city.

But – wait! There’s a train from here direct to Brussels at 11:07!

TGV paris charles de gaulle brussels belgium september septembre 2017My ticket is not refundable, and it’s more expensive than I was expecting.

But sodomisez ça pour un jeu de soldats! as they say around here. I’m not struggling all the way into Paris and hanging around on a draughty station for several hours.

The moral of this story is – don’t book your ticket from the airport “on-line”. Wait until you arrive and then do it. It works out cheaper in the long run.

When the train was called we all trooped off to the gate, to be turned away by a security guy. “You have to use the other gate”
“Why’s that?” called out Our Hero
“Because over there they are controlling the passengers”
“So what are you doing then?”.

I ended up in the company of a woman who needed help to find her seat. She told me that she was from Russia, to which I replied “Ja ne gavariou nichivo pa-Russki”, which always helps in moments like this.

So, by 13:00, instead of still having ages to wait on a draughty station 320 kilometres away in Paris, I was banging on the door of my hotel.

And “banging” too, because it was all locked up, in darkness, with “FULL” on the door.

Eventually, the manager appeared.
“Sorry, we’re full” he explained, which with the Hotel in total darkness looked totally unlikely.
“I’ve a booking here!”
“Ohhh yes – you must be Mr Hall”.
Manager takes me to a hotel down the street – a much better one than the one where I am supposed to be staying.
“I’m sorry for the inconvenience. You’ll need to stay here tonight. But you’ll be back with us tomorrow”
Manager retreats into the total darkness of his hotel.

So what’s going on here then? Knowing the usual kind of places where I stay when i’m on my travels, my money is on a Police raid.

The Hotel de France is quite nice, and so it goes without saying at all that the first thing that I did when I arrived was to crash out. And that was that for … errr …some time.

Later on I went to the café around the corner and had a bowl of lentils, some bread and chips for tea. And the thing about that was that they had the TV on. And being in this particular little corner of Brussels I was entertained by watching RAJA Casablanca beat FUS Rabat in the Moroccan Cup.

concrete lego pieces september septembre 2017I went down to the all-night supermarket in the Gare du Midi for a bottle of pop and some food for breakfast, and encountered these giant lego bricks or jigsaw pieces all over the place.

They are probably road-closers or something like that actually, but my imagination had endless moments of fun imagining builders in giant cranes amusing themselves with these lumps of concrete, building all kinds of things.

Keep them out of mischief for days.

Back here, I sat on the edge of the bed pondering my next move, and the next thing that I remember was that it was 23:00. i’d been out for about 90 minutes.

Well out too. I wasn’t going anywhere else so I curled up under the comfortable sheets. I needed it too.

Tuesday 15th August 2017 – WHAT A NIGHTMARE!

“Start as you mean to go on” say I.

And so the usual performance at 04:00 this morning aroused me from my stinking pit. No idea what the neighbours are doing at that time of morning, but never mind.

And I saw from the fitbit (because I had another shower this morning) that I’d been awake a couple of other times during the night too. So all in all it wasn’t a good start to the day.

But it could have been worse. I could have been the two policemen in the Volkswagen van who thought it cool to jump the red light outside the building just as a motorist coming the other way decided to race the orange light. They will be sorting out that mess for quite a while, I imagine.

It’s only me though who could nip out across the road to the boulangerie for some bread for lunch and forget to take his money with him. Luckily there was some Moroccan bread at €0:50, an amount which corresponded quite nicely with the small change that I had in my pocket.

But do you ever get the feeling that it’s not going to be one of your days?

We eventually managed to come to some agreement over the hotel room for when I come back. I arranged the room at the price that I’d paid for the room just now and I’m okay with that. Smallest room in the building but it’s not a problem, and neither is the price at just €55 per night for a city centre hotel just a stone’s throw away from the station.

Having organised that, I headed off down to the Gare du Midi for my train.

TGV brussels gare du midi lille aout august 2017The first TGV took me to Lille Europe. It was one of the older generations of TGV so we were rather cramped and it was not as comfortable as it might have been.

However, I was one of the first on so there was no problem about finding luggage space – something which can be an issue on these trains. And my seat was right by the door too so I was one of the first off when we arrived.

tgv lille europe aout august 2017

We then had a wait at Lille Europe for my next train. And no-one was more surprised that I was to note that it was the double-decker to Marseille that had set out from … errr … Brussels 50 minutes later than the one that I had caught.

So what that was all about I really have no idea – why they couldn’t have stuck me on that one to travel direct, but I have noticed some … errr … anomalies with the SNCF booking site. Like the 7 minutes that it’s allowing me on the way back to negotiate the entire length and breadth of Paris Gare du Nord.

No electricity on this train, and we were all packed in, although with it being one of the new generations there was plenty of room to stretch out. And everyone was for some reason stressed out and irritable when we had to alight and the squabbles over unloading the baggage were something that I hadn’t seen for a while

Terminal 2 at Paris Charles de Gaulle is immense and it took a while for me to work out where I needed to be. But once I arrived, this was when the real problems arose.

Since 1st November 2016 passengers to Canada have needed a visa – such is the craven fashion that the Canadian authorities have surrendered to the Americans south of the border. Of course, with nothing having been said, Your Truly didn’t have one.

Neither did so many other people either, and there was a crew on duty to help passengers apply. Mind you, the female receptionist was far more interested in flirting with the male security guard than she was with dealing with stressed-out passengers, so you can imagine just how quickly this all descended into chaos.

Several bouts of sharp words – not all of them from me either – passed between the passengers and this girl and it took well over an hour for her to deal with what should have been a relatively simple matter. But in the end I was armed with an entry visa to Canada. And she won’t forget me in a hurry

We had the usual total nonsense at the “security” and I shan’t go into too many details because I’ve told you all about it so many times. There’s a couple of people there who aren’t going to forget me in a hurry either.

air canada flight 885 15 aout august 2017At the gate I had to … errr … negotiate in order to have an aisle seat. But the aeroplane had the last laugh in this respect because ONCE AGAIN the brassards had forgotten my special meal. There was a steward on the plane who tried to be funny with me about it, and he’s not going to forget me in a hurry too.

If I keep on giving people a piece of my mind like this, I’m not going to have much left by the time that I arrive in Montreal.

That is – if we ever arrive in Montreal because the plane was 50 minutes taking off, and very little of that was actually my fault.

Mind you, it would be wrong to say that I was … errr … unprepared for this. I’ve travelled with Air Canada before, haven’t I? The quinoa salad and Moroccan bread followed by the leftover fruit, with some of Alison’s crisps for a mid-air snack went down vert nicely.

To calm myself down I went to watch a film on the laptop (the in-fight entertainment is total rubbish) and found that the electricity supply seems to be set up for North American plugs only. And there I am with a North-American cable for my laptop power-pack, and it’s in the suitcase in the hold isn’t it?

Definitely not my day.

air canqda flight 885 15 aout august 2017We were actually on time arriving at Montreal which was good news. The bad news was that there wasn’t a gate for us and so we had to sit for over half an hour until something was cleared. And that annoyed me intensely as you might imagine.

Much to my (and to everyone else’s) astonishment, there was hardly a queue at the Immigration desks and I’ve never had to wait for such a short space of time before being called up. And here the fun began again.

No trace of my visa, apparently. “But of course I have a visa” I wailed. How else zould I have been allowed to board the flight?”

So I had to connect my mobile phone, and that took much longer than it might otherwise have done too – not helped by the fact that I had switched it on to “flight” mode while I was on the aeroplane, and sure enough my Visa came up.

Or, at least, a Visa came up. But it wasn’t mine. That stupid girl at Charles de Gaulle had typed in my name incorrectly with the family name in place of the given name and vice versa. So that led to another round of arguments.

Eventually; after what can only be described as “considerable discussion” I was allowed through, but by now you can imagine the state in which I was. One exceedingly unhappy bunny here.

“Baggage at Carousel 6” was the notice, and so I queued at Carousel 6. And queued and queued.

After about half an hour of this I was pretty fed up as you can imagine. It’s a large suitcase (but not that large) so I wandered over to the oversize carousel to see if it might be there.

No luck there either so I wandered back to carousel 6. And queued and queued.

Something out of the corner of my eye made me turn round – and there on carousel 4 was my suitcase – and the suitcases of plenty of others who were likewise waiting. No idea how long it had been going around there but there it was – so I grabbed it and shot off out of the blasted place.

Getting my bus ticket was straightforward – and would have been even more straightforward had I not left my Canadian money in the suitcase instead of in the rucksack which was where I had originally placed it (I wondered this morning why I’d put it in there – now I remember!).

And only Brain of Britain can do this! When I stayed at this hotel before, it was in anticipation of an 05:00 start so I was long-gone before breakfast. And so it seems that I have managed to book myself into the only hotel in the whole of Montreal that doesn’t do breakfast.

And wandering around the city a little later in the evening, the nearest Tim Horton’s is quite some distance away. This isn’t so good, is it?

gay village rue st catherine est montreal quebec canada aout august 2017At least it was a beautiful evening and I enjoyed my stroll, even if it was quite late in real terms. I’m just around the corner from the “rue St Catherine Est” which is the “Gay Village” of Montreal so I was expecting it to be crowded with people.

But not so. No idea where everyone was, but in any case I decided to bugger off quite sharpish back to my hotel, finish off the quinoa salad and bread and have a good night’s sleep.

I need the sleep and to relax after all of my efforts. You’ve no idea just how stressful it all is doing all of this. I’m a bad traveller anyway and all of the problems that I’ve been having are enough to try the patience of a Saint.

And having given so many people a piece of my mind just recently, I don’t have very much left.

Monday 10th October 2016 – SO HERE I AM …

air transat airbus A330 C-GKTS paris charles de gaulle airport france october octobre 2016… or, rather, here’s my aeroplane. On the hard-standing at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. Miles from the terminal of course because I imagine that Air Transat can’t afford the terminal fees.

Not that I’m too bothered of course. I have to pay my own air fare and anything that whittles the price down is fine by me. Remember that my return flight to Canada had cost me less that 40% of the fare of a blue-chip flagship carrier and you can’t say fairer than that.

Our plane was an Airbus 330, registration number C-GKTS. And although she may not look it, she is over 20 years old. Built in 1995 for Dragonair, an airline in Hong Kong, she was bought by Air Transat in 1999. Her build number is 111

I’d had a bad night on the aeroplane. Despite being reasonably comfortable, I couldn’t drop off to sleep and so ended up reading my book for a major part of the flight. The in-flight entertainment was total rubbish. It was dreadful on the way out, and there was exactly the same selection on the way back.

The food too was rubbish, but then I’d expected that. I had my bag of hot cross buns to keep me going.

There were only two immigration officers on duty at the Terminal when we arrived but luckily I was one of the first off the bus, so I didn’t have to wait too long. Mind you, it was a different story for the baggage. It took ages to arrive and mine was one of the last onto the conveyor.

From Terminal 3 I had to go off on my merry, mazy way to the interairport tram that would take me to Terminal 2 and my TGV to Brussels. And here I had some good luck. My flight had been bang on time, which was totally unexpected. So unexpected that when I was making my travel arrangements 6 weeks ago I had booked myself on the 16:07 train to Brussels in order to give myself room to manoeuvre in case we were delayed.

tgv airport paris charles de gaulle france october octobre 2016But there was an earlier train to Brussels, leaving at 13:07, and it was now about 12:20. Down at the SNCF offices I managed to blag my way onto this one (I had to pay a supplement of €13:00 but who cares?). That was an unexpected stroke of good fortune that doesn’t happen to me very often.

The train was bang on time, which is what you might expect in France, and I found myself sharing a table with a guy from Lille and his 4 year old daughter. We all had a good chat as far as Lille, and then I was on my own all the way to Bruxelles-Midi.

local train bruxelles midi station leuven belgium october octobre 2016There was even more good news at Bruxelles-Midi. There was an inter-city train leaving for Welkenraedt in less than 10 minutes. They stop at the main Brussels stations and then express to Leuven, and that suits me fine.

There was plenty of room on the train so I could spread myself out, and I was quite comfortable on my trip to Leuven.

At the station, I took the lift up to the footbridge and that is on the same level as the entrance to my hotel. That’s much easier than having to struggle up several flights of stairs with my luggage.

The IBIS Budget Hotel is quite new. The rooms are tiny but it’s clean and friendly and just €59:00 a night, which isn’t too bad for a city centre hotel. It’s right next door to the station and the bus station, there’s a fritkot across the road and a supermarket down in the basement underneath. What more could any man desire?

First thing that I did when I arrived was to have a nice hot shower. As for the second thing that I did – well, I don’t remember. I crashed out completely. Totally out of it.

I was awake enough in the evening to go across the road to the fritkot. He did me a nice veggie-burger and chips and that filled a hole. The first hot food that I had had for several days by the way.

That was that, really. I’d had a hectic few days with little sleep and I wasn’t feeling too well either. The bed looked quite comfortable and so that was that. I was well away.

Sunday 4th September 2016 – WELL, I NEVER THOUGHT THAT I’D EVER …

… get back here again, but here I am all the same.

And it was really no surprise where I was going, was it? Hands up if you REALLY didn’t guess.

And I’m glad that I’m here because it really was miserable this morning! And I’m not talking about me either. I had a reasonable night’s sleep for a change – just two trips down the corridor, and I ended up awake round about 06:45. But you would never have guessed what time it was – it looked as it if was 04:00 outside – totally dark, grey and miserable. How glad I am to be getting out of this.

No breakfast at the hotel either. It seems to have tightened up considerably on its efficiency from what I saw last night and I reckon that the breakfast cards that I still have from my time as a chauffeur all these years ago might be disallowed these days. But having anticipated this move, I did have some supplies with me – Strawberry Moose hadn’t eaten all of them – and so we had breakfast in my room. The complementary coffee plus the crackers, banana and satsumas out of my suitcase.

After breakfast I had a shower – and the door to the shower cubicle promptly fell off the runners – evidently the previous honeymmoning couple had been far too energetic in the bathroom – and there was no soap in the dispenser in the shower cubicle either. It was clearly not my night in the Comfort Inn, was it?

The shuttle back to the airport was fairly straightforward, although these days they only go to Terminal 2 and you need to take the internal tram-shuttle round to there. And then of course I had to enquire of the direction to the aeroplanes, never having been this way before.

We had all fun and games at the baggage check-in. First of all, my luggage weighed a mere 17.1 kilograms. I’m definitely losing my touch, aren’t I? And then the girl at the check-in dropped my passport into the conveyor. That brought Terminal Three to its knees for a good half an hour. Who needs machine guns and dynamite to paralyse a transport network when Strawberry Moose and Yours Truly are on the loose?

As for the security control, that was the most painless that I have ever encountered. Straight in, straight through and straight out without even a hint of inconvenience and aggression. Quite the reverse in fact – the couple of young people working there actually had a sense of humour and a laugh and joke with the passengers. Other airports and border crossings should take not of this. If every other passage through "Security" was as pleasant as this, every journey would be a pleasure instead of being so stressful.

I’ve complained bitterly about airport security in the past so it’s only correct to give credit when it deserves it;

The aeroplane was late, as you might expect, and we had to be bussed out across the hardstanding because it’s Air Transat again and they can’t afford the full terminal fees. And I know that I said that I would never ever fly Air Transat again but this year, what with my incredibly late booking, the cost of a flagship flight across the Atlantic was well into four figures. With Air Transat it was less than €500 and that’s the cheapest price that I’ve ever had across to Canada in modern times. It might be easier for a lion to swallow his pride than it is for me to do so, but I can do it whenever there’s some of the folding stuff involved.

But Air Transat is going downhill. There wasn’t even a hint of anything on the in-flight entertainment that I wanted to watch, even as a captive viewer. In fact under the heading "Classic Films" there were just three – and they dated from the turn of the century. Hardly what I would call "classic". I ended up listening to music on my phone instead.

The in-flight catering was absolute rubbish too. I’ve never ever eaten so badly on a long-haul flight in all my life. Just a hot wrap of grilled vegetables for lunch and a sort-of pizza slice for tea, and that’s your lot. Mind you, I had been warned about this by someone who actually works for Air Transat, and that was the reason for the extra baguette and butties that I made yesterday.

full length mirror in toilet air transat airbus A330 canada september septembre 2016You may remember – or long term readers of this rubbish my remember – the Air Transat flight from a few years ago with the full-length mirror in the gentleman’s rest-room. And so we had another one on this flight too – which is what looks to be a reasonably-modern Airbus A330 by the way.

There’s clearly a purpose for these mirrors, and I’m sure you come up with your own ideas. For me, all you need is a paintbrush and a pot of varnish and then I can gloss over all of my shortcomings.

And so we headed out well across the Atlantic, our arrival becoming later and later as the headwinds kept pushing us backwards.Our estimatedtimeof arrival, which should have been 13:14 had we taken off on time, became 14:15 aswe left, and ended up at 14:27

Now, reading the notes that I’ve been typing about Air Transat, you might be thinking that I’m pretty well-disillusioned about the airline. But nothing could be further from the truth. Had I had this level of service on a Swissair or Lufthansa flight at €1335, I would have been beyond furious. But just let me remind you that I’ve paid a little more than a third of the price to do the same trip with Air Transat (and that’s not strictly true as Lufthansa wanted me to go via Dusseldorf). Given the situation, I’ve had my money’s worth from Air Transat and I don’t want anyone to think otherwise.

At least it’s not as bad as the legendary Air Fungus flight that set off from Ballyhoo to Montreal – a flight of 2200 miles – and when the pilot discovered after 1800 miles in the air that he didn’t have enough fuel for the remaining 400 miles, he turned round and flew back towards Ballyhoo.

air transat airbus A330 montreal pierre l trudeau airport dorval canada september septembre 2016We eventually arrived, and at a real air terminal too, and I was able to take a photo of the aeroplane. It’s not very good, mainly because I was using the phone camera and I had the sun in my eyes, and you can’t see the serial number of the machine either. But it’s the best that was available.

The queue into Canada was nothing like as bad as last time – only about four perpendicular lines, and with 9 immigration staff on duty we were done and dusted inside half an hour. I took advantage of the pause by emptying my rucksack of all prohibited food items – Canada seems to be becoming more and more keen on this sort of thing. But I was clearly observed nibbling on a forbidden orange or somthing because I was quizzed for a few minutes about any food that might be in my possession and a red cross was put on my entry form.


Next stop was the bus ticket machine. I’m here for three days now, having messed up over this Labour Day thing. I was supposed to do all of my errands tomorrow and move on tomorrow night but it’s Labour Day and so everywhere will be closed down. I can’t do anything now until Tuesday and so I’ll need an extra night at the hotel for a start. A three-day ticket costs $18 and that even includes travel from the airport into the city as often as I would like, and if that’s not good value I don’t know what is.

And I shall have to stop talking to myself too. Someone loitering near the ticket machine came over to me. He said that he was glad to hear another English-speaker and could I sort out a ticket for him. Americans are so lost outside their normal environment and so I was glad to help him.

montreal pierre l trudeau airport dorval canada september septembre 2016And what goes around comes around too because they have changed all of the hotel shuttles too. The gate has moved to upstairs and you need now to phone up for yourbus – there are no longer any tourneés.This was going to be a problem, as I predicted, because my Canadian phone charger doesn’t work and the battery is flat, but a kind man at the information desk lent me his phone and that was quickly organised.

I didn’t have to wait very long either, and the man who picked me up was the same man who has picked me up a few times now so we had a very interesting chat about old times on the drive down here. It’s good to be amongst friends.

comfort inn cote de liesse dorval montreal canada september septembre 2016The hotel is only 5 minutes away from the airport and so I was here in no time flat. I booked my room for an extra night, so much for the best-laid plans of mice and men, andin a change to the advertised programme I’ve also booked a room for the night before I leave Canada.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t bother and I’d go straight through off the overnight bus onto the overnight plane, but I have to remember that I’m ill and while I might be okay right now, whatever am I going to be like in five weeks time? This is no time for playing fast and loose with my health.

Having done all of the necessary, I went up to my room, liberated Strawberry Moose from his confinement in the suitcase and had a nice relax for a couple of hours, something which involved a couple of cups of coffee.

montreal public transport service bus 202 metro ducollege canada september septembre 2016And then I hit the town. There’s a bus stop right outside the hotel here and having observed from my window the times of the buses that pass by, I didn’t have long to wait. The 202 bus goes past the hotel every half an hour at about 05 and 35, and there’s a bus stop right outside the building.

This is why you always buy your bus ticket at the airport. The hotels along the Côte de Liesse are quite handy for the public transport, but you need to have a ticket handy when you leap on board.

metro train montreal canada september septembre 2016The bus goes down to the DuCollege metro station and that’s about about 30 minutes drive away. Here, you can take the underground into the city centre, or anywhere else that takes your fancy.

Ordinarily I’d go down to the Snowdon metro station and chanhe trains for the Côte des Nieges because there’s my little falafel place and even an excellent Indian restaurant but tonight, as it was early, I had a change of plan. I did change trains but I went all the way to the Jean Talon station instead.

rue jean talon vegetable market montreal canada september septembre 2016Just down the road is the legendary wholesale vegetable market and it’s a stunning place, full of traders and people and the most astonishing vegetables. But everywhere was closing down by the time that I arrived and there were just the private citizens buying up the leftovers. But it’s still a really exciting place to be even at that time of the evening.

From here, I walked down towads the Parc Metro station – the old Canadian Pacific railway terminus that i’ve shown you before. A Metro supermarket came up with a big bottle of epinette, the spruce beer that I love (and I have a fridge in my hotel room too) and I could organise some vegan cheese because it’s Sunday – pizza night.

At the side of the underground station is a pizza place that has always been very good to me in the past. Here I ordered my pizza as well as a bottle of root beer (after all, we are in Canada now) and then I was ready for home. And I didn’t have to wait too long for the bus at DuCollege either which certainly makes a change.

bus 202 cote de liesse dorval montreal canada september septembre 2016Coming back can be something of an issue because it isn’t easy to reach the hotel – there’s a motorway in between the hotel and the return bus route. However a friendly driver can usually be persuaded to stop at the overpass about 800 metres up the road and although it’s a bit of a walk back, it’s much quicker than doing the circular tour.

I was back here by 20:45 and by 21:15 I was cleaned, showered, clothes washed and in this beautifully comfortable bed. And here I’m staying until my name changes to Rip van Eric.

Saturday 3rd September 2016 – ONE OF THE THINGS …

… that is pretty much guaranteed to get my goat is the general unco-operative spirit of people who seem to deliberately set out to obstruct and inconvenience every single one of their fellow human-beings. And I had one of those on the train today from Leuven to Brussels. Here I was, struggling with my mammoth suitcase and there was a family, with pushchairs and all kind of encombrances blocking the passageway, and they simply sat there and watched as I struggled my way down the aisle.

You can tell that I’m leaving Leuven and heading closer to Brussels, on the first leg of my voyage elsewhere.

Despite being thoroughly exhausted after my walk around the city yesterday – so much so that I had an early night, and despite two trips down the corridor, I was awake quite early – round about 06:20 or thereabouts. And I’d been on my travels during the night too – but then again you don’t want to know too much about this seeing as how you are probably eating your breakfast.

After breakfast I packed up and sorted everything out. By the time that I had done this, it was midday and so I went and fetched Caliburn. Strawberry Moose had quite a surprise as I stuffed him into his suitcase, and then I took that up to my room and took down everything that I don’t need. I then took Caliburn back to his little hidey-hole and walked back.

On the way back I bought two baguettes – two being necessary because there is no other way of my obtaining any food tomorrow during the next leg of my journey so I have to make butties. I had lunch and made the butties for tomorrow and then packed my suitcase and sorted out everything that I need.

And here I have had a disaster – I don’t have the charger for my other telephone. Well, I do, but there are two of them and one doesn’t work and it’s the one that doesn’t work that I have managed to bring with me. So this is going to cause a major problem tomorrow late afternoon.

I’d also forgotten the saucepan. I had to wash that and then walk back to Caliburn with it, otherwise I would only forget it. I know that it’s not much good, but it’s the only one that I have at the moment.

And another thing – I’ve solved the mystery of why I always seem to pick up an infection, a heavy cold or cough (or both) when I’m in my room, which goes almost as soon as I leave. The reason for this is that there is about 6 feet of dust and fluff underneath my bed. This cleaner-person just seems to clean where he can see and that’s your lot. No wonder it’s affected me so much.

But, as I have said before, I’m not complaining. I had an important reduction on the room rate due to the time that I was spending there and the price of less than €26 per night, breakfast included, was an excellent deal.

By 16:30 I was ready to leave and so I hit the streets. Dragging the monster suitcase behind me I made it to the bus stop and then on the bus to the station. And despite the difficulties I made it to Brussels all the same. And I got lost in Bruxelles-Midi – it’s all changed since I was last here and what with repairs and renovations and bits closed off, it took me an age to find my way around to the Thalys lounge.

It was 17:15 when I arrived and my train was due to depart at 19:15, and we could board it half an hour earlier, which seemed like a good idea to me. I sat around for a while and then went off in search of food because there won’t be any at all where I’m going tonight. I ended up with a veggie burger and chips and a bottle of pop, quite over-priced (which is only to be expected when you have a captive audience) but wasn’t as disgusting as I was fearing.

Just for a change, I was a mere third on the train and my suitcase, with His Nibs inside, was first on the luggage rack. That’s much more like it than the mad scramble that occurs at Lyon Part-Dieu (which is where this train is heading, incidentally).

Not that it made much difference though, because there was hardly anyone on it. I’ve never been on such an empty TGV – or have I? The one that I took from Lille to Charles de Gaulle a couple of years ago was quite empty, so I recall. It didn’t fill up much more at Lille and we shot off into the sunset from there still pretty-much empty.

At the airport (yes, I’m at the airport) we had the usual half-hour wait for the shuttle bus, and when I finally arrived at my hotel, the hotel had no trace of my booking, even though I had the agency’s confirmation. This led to a very interesting 30 minutes at the reception desk, but luckily the bridal suite hadn’t been booked and so I’m spending the night in 5-Star luxury in an emperor-sized bed. And you can’t say fairer than that, can you?

So an early start tomorrow, and we are off on our travels again. See you soon!

Wednesday 13th July 2016 – I’M BACK …

… in Leuven. My stay back in France didn’t last too long, did it?

I had another good sleep, only having to leave the bed once. Well, twice actually, but seeing that the second time was 05:50, just 10 minutes before the alarm was due to go off, I didn’t bother going back downstairs. Instead, I dressed and went down to make breakfast.

By the time that I had done that, made my butties for lunch and had a shower and change of clothes, it was 07:10 and Terry was ready so we hit the road.

It was a beautiful drive right across France to the Rhône valley and Lyon, and we were there on the outskirts of the city by 09:20. The next 6 kilometres was a different proposition. With the traffic queue that we encountered and then the changes to Lyon’s road network that weren’t shown on Terry’s Satnav, it was 10:10 when we arrived at the station. It’s a good job that we had allowed plenty of time for the journey.

There was however plenty of time for a coffee as the TGV was late arriving. 11:00 was the time of departure, but we finally set off at 11:25. We stopped at Marne la Vallée, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Lille as I expected, but also at Haute-Picardie and Arras which I hadn’t realised. Consequently it was 15:30 when we pulled into Bruxelles-Midi.

The journey wasn’t boring though. I did a pile of work on my website, though and I was sitting next to a woman whose father was born in Les Ancizes. We had a lengthy chat about the Auvergne, and she and I set the world to right about the Brexit. It’s not very often that I meet someone who thinks along my lines.

A brief amount of excitement at Bruxelles-Midi was when I bought my ticket for my onward trip to Leuven. I used one of the automatic machines and I received my ticket, plus one from the previous passenger who had clearly forgotten to pick it up. I had to find an information booth to leave it there.

15:56 was my train to Leuven, and by 16:30 I was there on the station. And it was pouring down too. It started almost as soon as we arrived at Charles de Gaulle and had continued for almost all the way. Typical Northern French and Belgian weather.

It soon brightened up though and so I set off for my place of residence. Half an hour’s brisk walk it took me to arrive here and that was carrying a large bag too. That made me think how much my health must have improved. I would never have done this two or three months ago, and round about now i ought to be experiencing a collapsed blood count and expecting a blood transfusion instead.

It’s nice to be back in my little room again, even if I am moving on to another room tomorrow. I grabbed a coffee and sat down for a relax. Tea was rice with lentils peas and carrots and it was delicious too. I must remember to buy some more boulghour tomorrow.

Now, I’m going to have an early night. After my marathon voyage today, I reckon that I’ve earned it.

Thursday 28th August 2014 – HERE I AM …

tgv lille paris charles de gaulle airport france… hurtling along on the TGV at 300kph on my way to the airport.

It was basically a good plan to stay in Lille. 10 minutes or so from the TGV station along a downhill slope, an alarm call that would have awoken the dead, a decent and copious self-service breakfast and then a pleasant stroll through the morning … errr … rain.

The train was on time too and finding a trolley at the top of the lift meant that I had one of the most relaxing arrivals ever at an airport.

armed soldier patrol airport charles de gaulle paris franceIt wasn’t to last, though. First thing that I encountered was a soldier on patrol, armed with a machine gun.

We all laughed at the Eastern European countries in the 1960s and 1970s with their soldiers patrolling the streets with their weapons at the ready. How Krushchev and Honecker would be laughing up their sleeves if they were ever to see this here on the streets in the West.

Not only that, can you imagine what carnage might happen to innocent bystanders if 600 rounds per minute were ever sprayed at a fleeing suspect? Something like this, I image, only much much worse.

Not only that, we had an unattended bag (did someone forget their wife?). This caused the terminal to be evacuated. I can’t think why – everyone knows that most suicide bombers these days go up with their luggage. “This is a Public Service Announcement – Abdul the Suicide Bomber Has Just Gone Off On Holiday”.

Anyway, it frightens everyone and ratchets the terror up another few notches so that the next wave of restrictions on personal liberties can come into force without any opposition.

We’ve often heard it said that “why didn’t the people in Germany – or in the USSR – or in France in World War II – rise up against their oppressors?” Well, where’s the uprising in the West?

After that, we were treated to the disagreeable spectacle of a girl about 8 years of age being given a pat-down search. I shall refrain from passing any kind of comment whatever about what might be going through the minds of the people who apply for this kind of job. You can think of your own.

At the check-in, I asked for an aisle seat. “Take this for now” said the girl at check-in, and ask at the reception area.

At the reception area, I was told “you need to chat to the people who welcome you on board the plane”.

And at the boarding of the plane, I was told, as indeed you might have expected, “you should have asked at the check-in”. Yes, another nasty letter on the way to Air Canada. You don’t even get this miserable treatment with a bucket shop airline like Air Transat and Ryanair.

air canada boeing 787 dreamliner pierre trudeau airport montreal
Still, the flight was a new Dreamliner 787 and even hemmed in a row of 4 people, I’ve had much worse. A good selection of films (I watched The Desolation of Smaug [2013] and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and there would have been a few others that I would have been happy to see as well.

The vegan meal was excellent too and so I don’t have any complaints on that score either, but they could have been a little more generous with the coffee.

quality hotel dorval montreal canadaI’m staying again at the Quality Inn on the Cote de Liesse in Dorval, just down the road from tha airport. I stayed here last year and so I can pinch that photo.

It’s a nice hotel, not too far from the airport, and the service buses pass by on their way to the Metro, so it suits me fine. Especially as a 3-day pass on the public transport costs just $18:00.

rotten dodge caravan montreal canadaSo last night I went for a walk. Nowhere particular – I just caught the bus and then the Metro to a random station and then walked back some of the way. I didn’t see anything in particular, except this car, to prove that I’m in North America.

I’m not talking about the car itself – you can see them everywhere – but I’m talking about the body rot. When did you last see a car like that? In Europe, I welded a few up like that in the 80s but nothing since.

Anyway, after that, I went to the Cote des Neiges for my assiette falafel and my frozen sorbet next door, and back home.

And just for a change, I got off the bus at the correct bus stop.

Tuesday 15th October 2013 – I changed my plans a little this morning.

I didn’t have too much to eat last night as there wasn’t all that much in the vicinity of my hotel. I had to walk for almost ever until I found a “Quick” that sold me some chips. Consequently I paid €5:95 and had the breakfast here.

hotel ibis budget etap paris airport charles de gaulleA wise decision, that, because I would have paid much more than that for a couple of coffees along the route, so when you add the orange juice, the toast and the half-baguette with strawberry jam into the equation (and when did you ever see strawberry jam in little squeezy tubes?) I more-than-had my money’s worth and that will keep me going for quite a while.

I had a good night’s sleep too. Not a single mosquito bit me and not a single fly entered into the room to buzz around my head at 04:00 in the morning. In fact I went out like a light and that was that.

Traffic was incredibly heavy on the road back to the airport and the RER train was packed too. And what with struggling up inclines and steps and dragging my suitcase along all of these corridors, I can see why I abandoned this route in favour of the TGV. However a direct train to Montlucon for just €46:00 makes up for most things, even if I do have to wait for over 2 hours for Liz to finish work. Still, there’s plenty of coffee in Montlucon and I have a book or two to finish. I hope that the coffee at Montlucon is better than that at Paris Austerlitz which was quite frankly disgusting and if I hadn’t had to pay all of €1:10 for it, would have found its way into the plant pot. It as however just as well that I drank it, because, would you believe – shock! Horror! That I have a Three-and-a-half-hour journey on my train and there is not even a hint of a buffet car. How is this possible?

Anyway, my luck was destined to change. There I was, in the station at Bourges in the middle of “Apache Blood” when I happened to remark to myself that we weretaking an inordinate amount of time to restart. It turne out that there was a bottleneck down the line and, true to form on this voyage, my travel was to be retarded by at least 20 minutes. Still, that gave me the chance to dive over the station buildings and buy a coffee. Every cloud has a silver lining of course, and it’s really an ill-wind that doesn’t blow anyone any good.

diesel locomotive 567348 gare d'austerlitz paris france montluconWe end up only 5 minutes late at Montlucon and so I have plenty of time to photograph the locomotive, a diesel number 567348, that pulled us all this way. Plenty of time indeed, because Liz isn’t due here for another two and a half hours.

So why this train then? The answer is as I said earlier. It’s a direct train. All the other trains involve a considerable amount of changes, and one or two of them even involve coach journeys. I didn’t fancy any of that for a moment.

But Liz picks me up, and she has made a beautiful curry for tea and there is even a bed for the night. I’m grateful for that – with the torrential downpour I really wasn’t looking forward to going back home in all of this.

Monday 14th October 2013 – I’M IN PARIS NOW …

air france airbus 319 athens airport greecealthough I rather wish that I wasn’t. It’s wet, depressing and miserable, just like I am.

And compare that to the photo here that I took of my plane at Athens Airport – bright gorgeous sunshine enough to put a smile on the face of anyone. I can understand why people who live in countries like Greece and Italy are so happy. Who couldn’t be, with weather like this?

Our ‘plane was an Airbus 319 which was quite comfortable even if there were 150 – 25 rows of 6 – of us aboard. What was rather funny (or not, though) was that there were two toilets on the plane, one for First-Class passengers (of which there were about 30) and one for the huddled masses such as Yours Truly, who were kept well-and-truly curtained off from our elders and betters.

On the ‘plane though, dressed in the traditional habit of an Orthodox Monk, was a dead-ringer for one of my childhood heroes, the Cypriot champion of Enosis and clandestine leader of the EOKA, Archbishop Prekarios.

sunrise over Aegina greeceThe morning was totally beautiful, though. I was up quite early and went out to take a few photos of the sunrise and that didn’t disappoint me at all.

And what was so funny about that though was that the Transcendental Meditationists were already up and about, encamped upon their little terrace, presumably to stop Trixi and Yours Truly invading it for our morning session on the mats (followed, of course, by a little yoga). Clearly even Western Transcendental Meditationists are allowed to have issues over possessions and territory here on the real earth. Perhaps they are just beginners.

I found that almost as funny as the leader of another group storming up, rather aggressively, to another bunch of people, adopting a menacing pose and shouting in a voice loud enough for those on the island of Angina to hear clearly “would you mind being quiet – I’m trying to give a seminar down here and you are disrupting me”. That was the leader of those engaged in the “Non-Violent Communication” sessions.

rosy's little village agistri greeceWe went around afterwards and photographed the complex where we were staying. This is part of one of the blocks of accommodation – my room is down there in the bottom right-hand corner and even though it looks right out of the way, it’s quite deceptive because there’s a substantial slope down to the cliffs and I had a small terrace with a view over the sea and that suited me.

All in all, we had a very good time here. I was certainly glad that I came and wouldn’t hesitate about coming a second time, even if it was just for a holiday and not for a course of something.

village of megalokhoros agistri greeceOur ferry back to Piraeus sails from the port of Megalokhoros – “Big Village” and, true to form with everything else that has happened so far this holiday, it was late and so we had to loiter on the quayside for quite some time.

The bus ride back to the airport was quite uneventful – no-one killed or injured and no luggage sailing up and down the bus. Somehow it was quite a disappointment, even though I did quite clearly see an old white Wolseley 6/80 in a scrapyard at the side of the road. I can see myself needing a much bigger suitcase next time I come here because what with the Wolseley and the Zundapp pick-up, I’m going to be rather overloaded.

The plane was late too, just for a change, and so we had a final coffee together. She then went for the train to Athens and I headed for my plane. Greek security was thorough, but cheerful. They were smiling, saying “please” and “thank you” and generally relaxing the passengers rather than stressing them out in the British, French, Canadian and American style.

There was some real excitement though. A couple with a baby were trying to take all of their worldly possessions onto the aeroplane as cabin luggage, even though it would clearly not fit into the measuring gauge. When the girls at the ticket desk tried to explain this, the woman became quite hysterical, and, shame as it is to say it, rather nasty and offensive. I’m not quite sure how the situation developed but when I passed them by on my way to board, a senior Greek airport official backed up by a quitedetermined-looking policeman, was saying patiently to them ‘but Madam, this is Greece. What they do in the USA has no relevance to what we do here”.

On arrival at Paris, I had to go to another hotel, as my Comfort Hotel at Le Mesnil was fully-booked. And in an irony that only ever happens in books and never in real life except to me, I had to wait hours for the bus to the “Ibis Budget” to arrive, whereas the bus for the “Comfort Hotel – Le Mesnil” was the first to arrive, and by a country mile as well.


I arrived at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport way behind schedule, as you might expect, just in time to see the 13:25 plane to Athens disappearing over the horizon. This was … errr … something of a disappointment, especially as the next plane to Greece was not until 18:30.

Consequently, I had several hours to fill and, believe it or not, in the airport concourse there is little (if anything) available in the way of food that I can eat – in fact, food that anyone can eat. However, this was an eventuality for which I was not unprepared, and the rather large bag of ginger biscuits ($1:00 courtesy of a USA Dollar Store) filled what was rapidly becoming a large hole.

But on my perambulations around the airport, I fell in with a French border policeman and it transpires that he lives just about half an hour from Pooh Corner, in St Bonnet as it happens. We had quite a lengthy chat about the Combrailles and the surrounding area, and we parted the best of friends. It’s a shame that other border police and security guards can’t be as friendly as this guy. Travelling would be a pleasure with people like him to deal with.

Not so the staff at Air France. It seems that while they had managed to fix me up with a place on the flight, nothing had been said to anyone about my baggage. Consequently I was menaced with a €170 excess baggage charge. This likewise led to some discussion, not as heated as anything else on this nightmare journey – not the least reason of which was the fact that I needed some people to be on my side and do things for me – not like in the other situations in Montreal where I was well and truly in the chair. Anyway, to cut a long story short … "hooray" – ed … we eventually settled on a fee of €30:00 – still €30:00 too much but that was the best that I could do.

Eventually though, we were called up to the departure lounge – to find that our plane wasn’t there. “Flight number (whatever it was) to Athens is delayed, due to the late arrival of a connection from Washington DC”. They didn’t do that for me, of course, and that is one of the reasons why travelling with bucket-shop carriers is a hazardous occupation.

air france airbus 321 paris charles de gaulle france athens greeceAnother Airbus of course, but Air France, and so a world of difference, even if (surprisingly) there was no in-flight entertainment at all. A vegan meal too, for which I am grateful.

But the fun was only just beginning.

Landing eventually at Athens I started to look for the Holiday Inn where they had arranged for me to stay and which I’m told was at the airport. With no sign of life I approached a helpful airport guy.
“The Holiday Inn? It’s about 10 kms from here”
“Really? So how do I get there?”
“There are shuttle buses that run every 30 minutes from outside the airport” and he showed me where to wait.

45 minutes later, I thought that this was strange, but then again, it is Greece. So the helpful airport guy found me the number and I rang it
“Do I have to ring you to tell you that I’m here so that you can come to pick me up?”
“The shuttle stops running at 22:00 (it was not 00:30)”
“So how do I get to you?”
“You take a taxi”
“But I haven’t got the kind of cash that permits me to take a taxi”
“Well the express bus X93 passes our doorstep if you can persuade the driver to drop you off”.

Luckily there was an X93 at the bus stop and in his bad English and my even worse Greek, we arranged that he would indeed drop me there. But I needed to buy a ticket from the kiosk across the road. Off I duly trotted, paid the €5:00 and turned round just in time to see the X93 disappearing over the horizon.

Anyway, after a while an X95, also signposted to Athens, appeared and it seems that he took more-or-less the same route – at least, passing by the Holiday Inn. And he agreed to drop me there, which he duly did, much to my gratitude.

01:30 now. “Do you know that I had waited nearly an hour for your shuttle bus at the airport?” I said to the guy at reception at the hotel. And like anyone there really cared in the slightest. And the coffee tray in the room was empty and the lights didn’t work properly (but that was a switch issue, although they might have explained to me how to make them work).

There was an overnight petrol station across the road and they fixed me up with some orange juice and biscuits, and then I made the dreadful mistake of having a long and refreshing hot shower to relax me after my efforts. Now of course, it’s 04:00 and I can’t sleep and I’m being called at 06:30.

Somehow it’s just not been my day.

Tuesday 27th August 2013 – WELL, HERE WE ARE

airbus A330 air transat montreal dorval pierre l trudeau airportAnd here is the rusty steed that brought me here. It’s not, as you might think, an Airbus A330 despite its looks – it is in fact a BE2c that was shot down by the Baron von Richthofen in 1917 on the Western Front and hastily reassembled by Air Transat the day before the flight.

Called The White Bird, it was piloted by those well-known Transatlantic flyers Nungesser and Coli and before I could sit down, I had to move Charles LIndbergh’s sandwiches off my seat.

Strangely, it was the most stress-free flight I’ve ever been on and I’ve no idea why – usually I’m terribly wound up on a flight.

air transat airbus A330 full length mirror in toiletBut only a company such as Air Transat would install a full-length mirror in the beichstuhl so that you could watch yourself riding the porcelain horse. I’ve no idea what musthave gone through their minds when they requested this as a specification. Something to do with the “Mile-High Club”? I did notice that the door was very discreetly placed.

At the airport, again, a very unstressfull passage into the country and then outside where, surprise surprise, my shuttle bus was waiting (it’s a good idea to send them an e-mail) and down to the hotel – the Quality Hotel (although they didn’t say what kind of quality) – where I’m now safely installed.

bus 202 montreal public transport ducollege metro stationThis isn’t a hotel shuttle bus – it’s a Montreal service bus, the 202 to be precise, and here it is outside the Ducollege Underground Station. There’s a bus stop right outside the hotel and that was where I leapt aboard it to take me to the Underground.

Seeing how I’ve not booked a car for a few days, I’m on the buses (and the Underground) for a while. There’s loads of Montreal that I haven’t seen so I’m going to be doing some sightseeing, and by far the best way to get around is on the public transport, especially as a three-day ticket only costs about $18:00 and you can go everywhere with that.

Oratory of Saint Joseph, Cote des Neiges MontrealI took the Underground to the Cote des Neiges station because one of the places that I had always wanted to visit was the huge Oratory of Saint Joseph on the side of Mount Royal. I’ve driven past it on dozens of occasions but never been in and it looks so impressive from a distance.

But not so from close up as it’s built of concrete blocks and even my bricklaying is better than whoever built this. It’s a site of pilgrimage and a true pilgrim will climb up all of the steps on his knees in order to seek forgiveness for his sins – and so why they have shuttle buses, escalators and lifts, given the current state of the Catholic Church, is totzlly beyond me. They’ve totally missed the point.

There was a supermarket around the corner so now that I’m stocked up with bagels, maple syrup and strawberry jam, I can have a good breakfast.

But whoever heard of a Canadian bar laitière, or Ice Cream parlour, running out of maple syrup-flavoured frozen vegan ice cream? Unbelievable!

Monday 26th August 2013 – WELL, I MADE IT TO THE AIRPORT

terminal 2 airport charles de gaulle paris franceBut it wasn’t half touch and go, I’ll tell you.

I didn’t manage to get anything in the way of sleep last night either, because I couldn’t find the keys to my storage box and my safety deposit box in Canada.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and so I put a couple of batteries for the Ryobi angle grinder on charge. It’s as well to be prepared, and that will sort out the men from the boys of course. After that, desperate measures were called for and I started going through all of the waste bins.

I’m glad I did because I found my missing personal telephone directory NOYE TO SELF – have a word with Cécile about her method of tidying up. I found lots of other disagreeable objects but no keys and at 08:52 I called it a day and started to pack everything away.

However, I had a thought. I definitely remember putting the keys in a zipped pocket and they ought to be in the zipped pocket of my “Canada Electrical” bag. But I didn’t remember opening the suitcase after I locked up the storage unit. I’d tipped out my sac banane where there are about four zipped pockets, and the keys weren’t there either of course, but there was a zipped pocket on the computer and camera hold-all.

And sure enough, with just a couple of minutes to go, I emptied that out, and there they were! Phew! That was a close shave!

So at Radio Tartasse I recorded two months of rock programmes, then Liz and I did 6 weeks of “Radio Anglais”. I stopped off at the Pionsat Intermarché to buy a pile of bread and salad and I’ve made a mountain of butties – I know all about the closed restaurant round the corner from my hotel and I have my suspicions about Air Transat and their choice of vegan food. It’s as well to be prepared.

caliburn at liz and terry messenger sauret besserve puy de dome franceAfter taking Julie and Clare’s furniture out of Caliburn, I garaged him right round the back of Liz and Terry’s where he can stay quiet for 6 weeks or so out of the way and be good.

Liz kindly prepared lunch, a salad and bread, and I shaved my head with the hair trimmer. There are First Nation Canadians, or Amerindiens, around by where I’m going and I’ve heard all kinds of stories about the Malicete. I’m not leaving them anything to pull off. Anyway, after all of that, we went down to Gerzat in Liz’s car to record 5 weeks of “Radio Anglais” for Radio Arverne.

diesel multiple unit sncf french railways riom puy de dome franceThat was for once quite straightforward and then Liz dropped me off at the station in plenty of time for my train.

I’ve no idea what make or model it is – I shall have to refer to my Jane’s Train Recognition Guide for that, but I can tell you that it wasn’t as rattly or as bangy as the one last time I came here. And as nothing at all exciting happened during the voyage, we arrived in Lyon, and Lyon is much more civilised than trying to go via Paris. I had time to eat some butties and drink a coffee.

double decker TGV Lyon part dieu paris charles de gaulle SNCF French railways franceIn the TGV though we were like sardines. I was lucky in that I boarded early and so I managed to grab a place on the difficult rail halfway down the carriage. Anyone who came after me was struggling for luggage space. It really is ridiculous – why don’t they have a luggage van and a baggagiste on each of the trains? That would make everything so much simpler.

And a good 25 minutes late, due to a tardy connection, we hurtled off into the night with kids screaming and all kinds of things. And not even a place to swing a cat. I hate to think what this would be like on a Saturday evening.

That 25 minutes ended up as being a whopping great 44 minutes by the time that we arrived at the station at Terminal 2, and although that might seem like bad news, it is in fact the first bit of good news that I have had for about a week because it entitles me to a refund of 25% on my ticket – something that I shall be following up with vigour.

paris charles de gaulle airport terminal 2 waiting for hotel shuttle bus franceUp in a crowded lift from the first floor to the fifth floor and into a heaving mass of people waiting for the hotel buses. Last year I stepped out of the station and onto the bus – this year I think that everyone else’s bus must have done 5 or 6 trips before mine came. But at least that had dispersed the masses and we were a mere 12 on the bus.

Having now had a shower (and we aren’t talking about the OUSA Exeecutive Committee here), configured the new laptop for the internet and downloaded a pile of files as well as a FTP program, I can post this load of rubbish and go to bed.

Wednesday 25th April 2012 – YOU ARE PROBABLY …

jumbo jet KLM boeing 747 PH-BFK City of Karachi… wondering why there’s a picture of an old beat-up KLM jumbo jet on my blog this evening. The answer is, rather prosaically, that that’s how I arrived in Montreal.

Yes, it’s a change from the Air France aeroplane upon which I had planned to arrive, but thereby hangs a tail and if your luck is in, then it’s in, that’s all I can say.

I arrived in good time at the airport to be greeted with the news that the aeroplane is sold out (not a problem for me, of course) but that the one planned to do the flight has broken down and won’t be going.

The only one available to replace it has 40 seats fewer, so they need 40 volunteers prepared to go to Montreal by alternative means.
“We’ll give €300 to anyone who will travel by other means” announced the hostess and, believe me, I was the first in the queue and there were casualties.
“I would go via Hell itself, even Old Trafford, as long as I get to Montreal tonight” I proudly announced.
“There’s no need to go to those lengths. If you are quick there’s a flight departing for Amsterdam in 25 minutes and a ‘plane for Montreal that gets in about 40 minutes later than the one that you are booked on”.

Now I can be quick when there’s €300 involved, I mean, I’d bash up my own granny for a fiver. I hung around just long enough to get the mazooma and then I was off like a ferret up a trouser leg.

And there I was

And here I am.

I shan’t go into the boring details about the airport security because you’ve heard me say it all before. And if you really are interested, you can read all about it here.

But to ease the pain I kept on whispering to myself “three hundred euros – three hundred euros”. After all, it works out at about €500 per hour and I’ve never had a job that paid that well, not even selling my body on Boots Corner in Crewe.

At least, it would have been €500 per hour but the ‘plane was late taking off so I’ve no idea how much it ended up being. Still, never mind. Who’s complaining?

And on the flight there were several things of note

  1. I was sat next to a young girl who was half-Dutch and half-Tanzanian and I had the most enjoyable flight companion that I’ve ever had. In fact I was quite disappointed when she hopped into a taxi at the airport, having refused the lift that I offered her
  2. they actually found a vegan meal for me. I was worried about that – being on a restricted diet and having left my booking behind of course. And it was conjured up just as I was thinking that it was lucky that I brought a gingerbread loaf with me
  3. One of the films on offer on the flight was Wallace and Gromit in Curse of the Were-Rabbit. That’s another one of those films that I can watch time after time after time.
  4. Surfing through the radio stations available on the aeroplane I came across “Arrow Classic Rock”. That was a station that I could pick up live in Brussels when I lived there at Expo and it didn’t ‘arf bring back the good old days. Golden Earring all the way across the Atlantic – what more can anyone want?
  5. even more surprisingly, I was chatted up by … errr … one of the air stewards, who spent a great deal of time chatting to me as well and even gave me a pen with his compliments. However, at the end of the flight, in the best traditions of a News of the World reporter, I “made my excuses and left”. B*gg*r that for a game of soldiers

dodge grand caravan dorval pierre trudeau airport montreal canadaAnd after last year’s experiences with hire cars and all of that – well, they knew that I was coming this year didn’t they?

I’ve got my Dodge Grand Caravan – exactly as I ordered and exactly as I expected.

And it’s black – so it won’t show the dirt. And it has 17587 kilometres on the clock.

comfort inn laval montreal quebec canadaI usually stay at the “Howard Johnson” motel out at St Léonard at the side of Highway 40, but now that the renovations are complete, the prices are way out of my budget.

The cheapest motel that was available that was easily accessible and with private off-street parking was a Comfort Inn. It’s in Laval though, some miles away from the airport.

Nevertheless, I had a really good deal here, although the walk-in price is something else completely.

strawberry moose comfort inn laval montreal quebec canadaSo now that I’m installed in my comfortable room, and His Nibs is tucked up in bed, I’ve nipped out for food.

And I don’t have to go very far because there’s a restaurant next door. It doesn’t take them long to rustle up a pizza for me to eat (yes, I remembered my cheese).

The downside of this is that I didn’t get to go for a stroll around the neighbourhood as I usually do.

But then again, I think that I’ve done enough strolling today – I don’t know how many kilometres it was that I had to run in order to catch all of these blasted planes.

Tuesday 24th April 2012 – Miserable, wet, grey and depressing…

… but that’s enough about me. Let’s talk about the weather.

And that’s also miserable, wet, grey and depressing.

But the exciting thing is that I’m sitting at a desk looking out of my hotel window and I can see the planes taking off from the runway at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. And in 8 hours time I’ll be there too.

sncf multiple unit train riom puy de dome franceThe train journey was exciting and I’ll do this again.

The one from Riom to Lyon was a multiple-unit thing that rattled and clanked its way along.

No coffee unfortunately but at least the seats were comfortable and there was plenty of room.

At Lyon you leave the train, go downstairs where there’s a waiting area and a coffee machine. When your train is called you go back upstairs and there you are. Simple as that.

lyon part dieu double decker tgv franceThe TGV was a double-decker thing and athough we had a 20-minute wait for a late connection we went like stink as expected.

The lateness didn’t matter one single iota. I walked straight out of the airport onto the hotel shuttle (once every half-hour) that was already outside.

So if we had been on time I would have had to wait outside the airport for 20 minutes.

Downside of the TGV is that coffee on the double-deckers is a long walk away and luggage space is VERY MUCH at a premium. Upside is that my train was going to Lille Europe and there was a TGV coming from Brussels on the opposite platform.

Doesn’t that open up exciting possibilities for my British and Belgian friends? Both of them!

Anyway, here I am. And there I’ll be in a bit. And, as I said to Bill as he dropped me off at Riom railway station,
“Thank you Bill for bringing me here”.
“You’ll be an inspector, have no fear”