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.

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Travel and Pollution

Ripping the skies

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We travel. We like to go places. I like to travel. Travel broadens the mind. We like to travel to many places. Most people travel by air. Flying further and further in search of the exotic or simply a week in the sun. This coupled to an increase in the number of people travelling is a cause of pollution. Flying is the number one culprit. Estimates state that around 13-15 percent of greenhouse gases in the UK are generated by aircraft.

As we speak, the Arctic is rapidly moving towards an ice-free scenario. The upshot will be the increase in plumes of greenhouse gases, which will warm the planet even more. Our protection, the Arctic Ice, which has  shielded us from climate extremes is rapidly disappearing. Predictions state that 2016 will be the hottest year ever since records began.

We are like a smoker with a hacking cough who simply cannot quit. We are addicted to our own demise. Technologically there is no airborne revolution that will change this situation. Certainly not one which will comply with the number one directive. Namely to make money.

This is something we must take into account when planning our travels. For as we travel, we are killing that which nurtures us all, our planet. It is time to look beyond our own noses. But will we?

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…

 

Sweden and Back to Poland

Not stopped by a gate as in Sweden we loaded up and headed to our hotel. Which was in fact a hostel. A blues bar and club with a side line in well priced accomodation. With nowhere to store our bikes with the car the friendly staff arranged for us to leave our bikes in their shop next door. Big thanks for that, guys!!

Cycling. Their are many good cycle paths and we spent some time at the beach in Gdynia. The beach is good and a fine park for the children to play in, as well. Good exercise for me too, as I had to push anything and everything that could swing. No, I’m not a swinger;-)

Then cycling along the seafront which was super. A beach and rocks blocked our way. The next part was a little wearisome as we trudged up the steep roads to find the connecting path into Sopot. But once we found it we sailed along across and then down into Sopot. The party two of the Three Cities.  Food, super tomato soup, which is well priced and consumed along with gofrys and ice-cream then back we went. Such is the wildness of parts of the forest along the cliff tops, that a family of boars ran across our path. Wonderful!

Back to the Blues club for a well earned drink and more low calorie, high fibre food. To cycle around Gydina, Sopot, didn’t make it to Gdansk, was a real pleasure. The cycling was good, plenty for the children to do, and prices must be a dream for those visiting from Sweden. All in all a great trip. Next off to Malbork for camping, which we decided to do on the spur of the moment…but we haven’t a tent!

Sweden Cycling Outbound

Road trip to be continued. Sweden. Outbound from Gdynia, part of the Three Towns which include Sopot and Gdansk. The plan was to sail to Karlskrona, cycle into the town and around the peninsula, then back to The Three Towns for more of the same. When we got to Gdynia we were given funky high visibility tops to wear. Little did we know that we would be visible in them for quite some time. First the lorries, then the trucks, after that the American-style RVs, then smaller caravans, vans and then cars, followed on by motorbikes. Two classes, those that do real motor cylcing, and those with old fashioned lookalikes that make a specific poseur sound. Then last the ecological and smallest elements to board, roll on drums, the CYCLISTS!

We took up one tine corner of the vehicle deck, frantically lashing our eco-bikes before the storm wave crashed over the bows of our majestic Longship. Okay, tad I wax lyrical. But rather silly and in Sweden they did not give us the visibilty tops. Why? Because the sensible Swedes boarded us first, bless them;-) IMG_2448

As we left harbour this Polish Warship, probably a Kaszub class corvette, was entering harbour with a beautiful sunset as a welcome.

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Annecy

Annecy is situated at the northern end of Lake Annecy. Their has been a setttlement their since at least Roman times. And this is very important. The roads are flat and normal, such a relief after the Alps;-) IMG_1545

This is the Palais de l’Isle which stands on the river Thiou. To me it is reminiscent of the bows of a boat. The scaffolding dates back as far as a few months ago! IMG_1526

A (flat) canal wends its way throught the town which is wonderful on the eye.

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Well worth a visit with a lovely atmosphere.

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To Germany and the South of France

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Across from up near the Russian border to the border town of Słubice. A true border town, neither fish nor fowl. Then off again to Baden Baden. We stayed near the airpark, not an airport, what’s the difference? But the men stood and watched a few planes take off close up. Great stuff. Germans sometimes get a bad press. But let me tell you that they have excellent motorway driving etiquette. Precise, polite and fast. Standing at a petrol station outside Baden Baden I was met by the site of only black petrol pumps. Not wanting to make a silly mistake, I was checking them over thoroughly when a German offered to help and explain in very good English. Unbidden, helpful and polite in my mother tongue, and it is not my first experience of  such German helpfulness and hospitable behaviour. Danke.

Whilst in Baden Baden we took the children to Europark, or rather they dragged us to Europark! A family ticket cost 170 Euros, which seems pretty steep, but then some of the rides are steep, and fast too. The children loved it, but to be honest the park is rather hyped and we have been to better.

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By the way, I’m not a a screamer. More of  a just hold on tight, head down and pray kind of approach. And anyway, my wife had a plan which for me, as the driver would be much more fun than the rides at a plastic park. Off we went to our next destination, Annecy which lies on the other side of the Alps. We glided past Lake Geneva and as we came the motorway I spied a precarious little road clinging to the side of a mountain. ”Look at that” I said, ”Some crazy fool drives up that.” Wife remained silent. Five minutes later I’m the fool driving up this steep narrow road, seemingly to the heavens. Cars flew up behind us, motorbikes performing kamikaze overtaking, and on we went, switchback, curve, climb and sweaty hands all round.

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Finally we arrived at Chamonix for a well earned rest and a reassuringly expensive burger and fries, along with a long deep breath. Chamonix was full of people intent on climbing high, gliding off mountains and hanging from ropes off sheer cliffs. Good luck to them!! After that a leisurely drive took us into beautiful Annecy.

 

Roadtrip Tech Checklist

How Does this Work?

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Laptop with charger – check

Ipads, 2 for the use of – check

Kindle –  for me to read and use when laptop is tied up – check

Mobile phones 4 with chargers, reminded mine is an iphone;-)  check

Hair dryer -? – check

Curling tongs – the ladies tell me they are important!

Remington (bought the company blah, blah) beard trimmer, various other uses, too! check

TV’s for children in car, plus adaptors (reminder, take films) – check

Headphones for TV’s vital – check. In cabin not in boot of car – double check

Garmin GPS –  to be stuck like an excited snail on the dashboard – check

Tablet – hope wonky start button still works -check

Digital Camera – what you mean it needs batteries? – check

Pen Drive – in case I can’t – check

Mixer for smoothies – check

Fiszka/skateboard – basic technology but important if I am to fall over it on holiday  instead of at home. Check

Calculator for currency – check

That’s enough to be going on with – check