Tony & Cynthea explore the 'Old Country' travel blog

28th May

Up at 6am to see if the bank websites will play ball, and thankfully they do. Cynthea decides to go for a quick swim before she has a shower, but she doesn’t want to carry a wet swimsuit. There is no one about, the neighbours aren’t home and the guys digging the hole in the backyard (water storage) wont be here for another hour, so there is no need for a bathing suit!

Not long after getting into the water she is calling out to Tony, he thinks perhaps she got caught out, haha. But there is a wee mouse in the water with her, and she wants it out before it drowns. As the mouse swims over near the edge Tony grabs it by the tail and pulls it out, and there is a moment of panic as he realises the patio door is open. But instead of running inside the mouse goes through the hedge to the neighbours place, and Cynthea can finish her skinnydip.

Claudia arrives at 7.30 to drive us to the airport. We arrive in plenty of time, and Claudia knows the people on the Iberia check in desk, so she talks to them about our problem with the excess luggage. We are able to check in there (it is the internet check in drop off counter, and there is no long queue. The queues at Thomson’s check in are miles long, so we are doubly pleased to be able to use this. The bags go on and we hold our breath as the weight comes up – 41kg!! Wow, we didn’t ditch much, and the only thing that wasn’t packed was Tony’s jacket, didn’t think it was that heavy, but there is no excess to pay, woo hoo!

The flight is delayed half an hour, but we have no connections to worry about. We will head to Beckenham when we arrive, just got to sort the transport as we read on the London Transport website that some train lines are closed for maintenance. Typical, just the sort of thing that is needed on a long weekend during school holidays… maybe that is the best time for them after all?

We say our goodbyes to Pol and Claudia, and head through to boarding. The flight is still showing delayed so there is no hurry. We wander about the duty free stores, but the prices still seem expensive, not that we are after anything much. We have our sandwiches and fruit for the trip, and head for the gate, but when we get there a different airline and destination is showing. Everyone else there is going to Gatwick on our flight, so we figure the airline won’t leave without most of their passengers, and hope they will figure something is wrong if there is a 99% “no-show”.

Boarding time comes and goes, and we continue to wait as the gate still shows the wrong information, and no staff to ask either. Eventually someone turns up, there is no announcement, boarding passes are checked, and finally we are aboard at 11am. We wait some more. And wait. And wait. Air Traffic Control has changed our take off runway, and we have to wait for clearance. Finally at 12.30 we are away. The seats are bloody cramped, not very wide either. At least there is an empty seat beside Cynthea, and she can move into that during the flight.

The flight goes reasonably smoothly, and two hours later we arrive in Gatwick. The airport is HUGE, and we taxi for ages. We come to a stop near the terminal and are kept waiting for the airbridge to be put in place, seems to take ages. Finally we are inside, and we walk, and walk, and walk (get the picture?) to immigration control. Arrival cards are completed for the first time since China, and we head for the passport control. We hope we have enough paperwork and information to satisfy the powers that be. Cynthea is up first, and is through in a couple of minutes, Tony wonders if there is more to come elsewhere. His turn, and the passport is checked. He is asked if he just came from Palma (doh, wrote that on the arrival card), and he struggles not to give a smart arse reply. He asks if we are together, and Tony says how did you guess? The guy laughs and tells him to enjoy the UK. That is it, all over rover and no hassles, bloody unbelievable! Not what we were told to expect at all, as others have been put through the hoops to the nth degree. Has there been a change recently, or are they just a good judge of character 

We stand at the baggage conveyor for the Thomson flight from Mallorca, but there is no sign of ours, and as Tony looks around he doesn’t recognise anyone from their flight, so he checks the flight numbers properly, and they are waiting at the wrong place. So we check the rest of them, and at the far end of the hall is the one they should have been at. The sign says all the luggage off the flight has been delivered, so our bags will not be too long, we hope. Less than five minutes later we have out bags and are heading for customs. There is no duty free shop before customs, but we figure that may be because we came from an EU country. We head for the red zone, and no one is at the counter. Eventually someone comes over and asks what we are declaring, Cynthea says we have food and prescription medicine. What food? Muesli bars. Ok, carry on, and we are in the arrival hall. All very painless, and we are in mild shock having been expecting much more interrogation and delays.

The next challenge is coming to grips with the transport system. We have been told get an oyster card for travel in London, but the shop we go to has only one, so we will leave it until we get to the train station. We go up a level and there is a shuttle train to the train station every three minutes. Just thirty minutes after landing at Gatwick, we are looking at the maps in the train station trying to make sense of it all. The information desk is really helpful, and Tony gets a print out telling what trains they need to take, and where to change.

We want to buy an Oyster card (for travel on the buses/trains/tube, etc), but the ticket desk said it wouldn't work here because we were not in London, but he could sell me a ticket to Sydenham.

It didn't take long to get there, and while waiting for Tina to pick us up we got our oyster cards to trot around London on. We bought takeaways for tea (Turkish), lots of different dishes to try. It was a late night as Lloyd’s cousin from Leeds arrived after tea, and we were up late chatting, getting to bed around 1am. Andrew and Lloyd are off to a VW car show in Austria for a few days, leaving late Sunday afternoon.

29 May

Today has been quiet, didn’t go out anywhere, and we spend time just chatting and catching up. We had an early tea, and after the guys left on their trip we went for a walk though the park. Lots of wildlife about, we see parakeets, squirrels and a fox. There is also a big park out the back of the house, and Tina says there are lots of foxes there too, and it isn't uncommon for them to be in the garden.

The woman next door feeds them too because the animals can no longer scavenge the bins now that there are wheelie bins being used.

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