When we were out last night having dinner out in a square in Girona we noticed that the tables were covered in a fine layer of ash and when we got up this morning I noticed that the balcony on our hotel room was similarly dusted. Checking the BBC news it quickly became clear. There had been a massive forest fire covering some 32,000 acres just north of where we were. Slightly more worryingly was the news that the fire had come within only 10k of Figures where our son was staying. A mid-morning text was reassuring but he and the rest of BYGO had had to spend last night sleeping on the coach as the the road back to Figures had been closed due to the fire when they returned back from last nights concert. Sometimes it’s best to only discover these things after the event!
Anyone that knows us will be aware that Helen and I like to build in plenty of contingency into our travel plans much to the annoyance of our sons when they get dumped at some rendezvous before the allotted time. Today was one time when we were mighty glad that we did. We left the hotel in Girona at midday for a 16:30 flight from Barcelona, a journey that should have taken no more than an hour and a half. All was going swimmingly until we reached the toll booths on the AP7 when everything ground to a halt. It transpired that only a single lane seemed to be working and half a dozen lanes of frustrated traffic was trying to squeeze down into a single lane. To my mind the sensible thing to do would have been to simply open the barriers and let cars through without paying. That clearly wasn’t going to be an option for the cash strapped Spanish toll operators who resolutely watch the queue grow longer and longer and temperatures rise. When things did get sorted over an hour later and we reached the front of the queue an unapologetic worker helped relieve me of €6.50 despite my suggesting that they had a cheek taking anything. Anyway we were on our way.
So thanks to the toll problems we now had much less contingency left than we had envisioned and the leisurely late lunch we had planned was looking less likely. On reaching the exit off the motorway for the airport we realised that we didn’t actually know what terminal we were leaving from. Under normal circumstances this wouldn’t have been a problem but since Saturday afternoon we hadn’t had any 2G or 3G coverage (thanks Three!) so I couldn’t check. Anyway there were only two terminals so I had a 50:50 chance of getting it right. Wrong! We now had to make a mad dash from one terminal to the other which, of course, was right the other side of the airport.
All the hanging around at the toll booth and extra trip between terminals had used more fuel than I had anticipated and meant that the gauge was no longer showing full so on dumping the car before dashing to the check-in desk we were politely informed that we would be stung with a punitive charge for returning the tank not full. Still we had made it to the right terminal and had time to spare… Just!
So we went to the desk to drop off our bags and the guy behind the desk said to us “are you on the 4 or 5 o’clock flight?!” There goes another half an hour and that was the last of our contingency swallowed up. However, at least we HAD some contingency. A number of our friends and probably both our boys would have been completely screwed.
As I type this somewhere over Nantes I am left wondering what today has in store for us. Wait, what’s this in the complementary paper? Border staff going on strike!
Postscript. When describing the above to our elder son he pointed out that to most people arriving in time to have a meal (if you can call a Big Mac a meal) would mean that we made it in plenty of time. He may have a point but we won’t be changing our approach!