Memories of Flying in Cuba

Off to Cuba in 1999.  Flew one day late due to engine problems. Should of seen it as a sign. Arrived in Havana and mooched around. For me it was a delight. For the locals a nightmare stuck in time. Remember one shop, a chemists, with only vinegar for sale.

Onwards and another flight. Driven out to an airport that an Estate Agent/Realtor would call ‘’well lived in.’’ There was a plane, shiny and modern. A list of names tramped out and boarded the gleam machine. I waited. Next airplane. Older but relatively new and smaller. Another list, but not for me. Then I spied a relic being towed to  museum or knackers yard. No, wait a minute, it’s stopping. It stopped outside the departure lounge. Departure seemed to take on a new meaning. Everyone left was beckoned onto the relic. An ancient Antonov, probably from the 1950s love festival between Castro and the U.S.S.R.

As we approached the Wright brothers reject an engineer was tapping the nose cone with a mallet. Nervous laughter. On we climbed. The seats gently in their brackets and Russian accompanied Spanish instructions. Gunning the engine outrageously, the pilot got us airborne.

As we straightened out the cabin began to fill with smoke. The steward ran up the aisle to assure us it was harmless and from the old air conditioning  system. More nervous laughter, and a large rum, please. As I sat in the window seat I decided to watch and pray. Then to my dismay a flame shot back out of the engine. A couple of people said, ooh and one person screamed. The steward tried allay our fears by stating that on these engines, ‘’it was normal.’’ He needed to try harder. Well we landed and it was time for a large rum..Return flight to Havana was at night, in a thunderstorm on the same aircraft. It was a very, very quite flight.

Baggage Allowance

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Whitby bound soon. Flying to Newcastle, and later out of Leeds, with Ryanair. Some wags say that is the best thing to do with Leeds. Fly out.

The luggage allowance is so low with Ryanair that I can only pack my emotional luggage. Could still be tricky! Must check how many pairs of socks I can fit on my feet?

Memories of Mount Bromo

We arrived late at our accomodation. It had been a long bumpy ride in a truly old jalopy. Some call it romantic, others called it uncomfortable. The room was basic, but we would only be there a short while. If memory serves me correctly we rose at around 3am. Even the roosters were snoozing still.The last time I had got up so early was when I was born.

In a comatosed state we shuffled to our guide and were led off sheep like into the murkiness. Dark and cold, what was I doing? Where was my ratty bed? We ascended for a short while and came to the valley floor. The braying of donkeys came out of the mist. I decide to walk as did my partner, but her sister had a terrible disease. Born bone-idle, bless her. She mounted one of these small animals with her feet almost dragging along the floor. We trudged onwards through the mist and gloom. Why am I here?

Our sojourn finished at the base of a steep set of timber steps. Just in case we felt in need of civilization, reminders of it were left in the form of plastic bottles, cans and other advanced detrius near the steps. The donkey was unburdened from its not insubstantial load and all three  of us made our way upwards. The donkey had seen the show before.

At the top we stopped to take in the view of the volcano and breath deep the fumes. Not distasteful after a life time of Mother’s cooking. This was more like it! Then someone shouted and we all turned in near seeming unison. The sun was rising. A huge golden, yellow orb of power and light ascended the farthest horizon. Spilling light across the plain as it rose. One of the most fantastic sights I had ever witnessed was taking place before my eyes.

ahh, that was why I was there!! Magnificent and I carry the polaroid like snapshots in my mind for evermore. Truly breathtaking. Now where was that poor donkey?

Further Southwards into France

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Went into Avignon by bus which was cheap, clean and let me have a good gander as I was not driving. I did ask, but the driver said, ”Non”. Avignon was home to the pope between 1309 – 1377. Well he had one advantage then, the walls kept people out. They are still an impressive sight. However Avignon was beset by hoardes of tourists, they swept all before them. Really it was too much. Souvenir shops for instance. A few tacky shops are okay, however Avignon had its fair share. Nice bridge too, but when will it be finished?

Took in Aix-En-Provence which was a combination of the beautiful and the slighty grubby gracefulness. Prices for food were bad. Basically what we will pay in Polish Zlotych cost the same in Euro’s. The best way to negotiate this thorny problem was to stop and buy fresh fruit and vegetables at the roadside stalls. Great food from under the provence sun, and far better prices. Even managed to get service with  smile.

Headin’ down we drove through the Camargue. This is one beautiful place, truly. Low lying and flat, none of those pesky mountain passes with inches to spare! Driving past rice fields and then the most beautiful white horses. There are plenty of places to stop take in this area. We alighted in Cassis. Cassis in the sun is great. A long sweeping esplanade with a great beach and a free pissoir in the car park. What more can you want! Although there were tacky shops the place had a wonderful feel to it. Just walking along the roads one could see it was well looked after, with splashes of colour from beautiful flowers thrown in for measure.

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Pottered around and went to the most unhelpful information lady in history. Her Gallic indifference and shoulder shrugs were superb and her English, well, bazik. Anyway we discovered that safaris into the Camargue cost around 120 Euro for the four of us. So no thanks. Eventually we plumped for the cruise which was about 12 Euro for an adult and discounted for the children. The ferry trip went up the mouth of the (Lesser/smaller?) Rhone and although we draw close to some beautiful views, it was all a bit distant. The chop on the sea as we took in the swell of the sea on the return trip was pretty cool for me. Onwards and along the coast…

 

Czech This Out

Moving on in a non-sequential manner. Wyrd, fate, sisters of… Part of the road trip took us back through the Czech Republic. Now we were looking, and looking for a petrol station to buy an vignette in Germany, and tank up.

But the road just changed into he Czech Republic and so we stopped at the first station to make sure we stayed street legal. Into the station and asked politely if we could buy the vignette by card, it being the 21st. I take my hat off to the young lady serving, how she fitted so much spite and disdain into her reply was remarkable.

Looking bewildered we trolled across the parking lot to a booth selling  vignettes. Again cash only, again the reply only lacked being spat in the face. What gives?

On we went. A few kilometers down the road we found a station where we could pay by card forthe vignette. Now I don’t know, maybe it’s part of the test for securing a position in a petrol station in the Czech Republic. Again the staff were, shall we say, less than friendly in a viper kind of way. But we got our vignette and were a little bemused by the lack of manners we encountered.

Later in South-West Poland we went to a Stołowa Góry. More on that later. Again only cash could be used to enter the attraction. As we sat counting our small change, trying to get it to add up to enough, a middle aged couple were watching us. After a while they offered us some small change to make up the difference. We gave them our sncere thanks with lots of smiles and friendly nods.

And where did this nice couple come from? Yes, the Czech Republic! Just goes to show.