All aboard for a not so fantastic journey

First holiday since lockdown has a sting in the tail

When it all went pear shaped in the comedy Trains, Planes and Automobiles starring John Candy as Del and Steve Martin as Neil, Del said when they were at their lowest ebb: “You’re in a pretty lousy mood, huh?” Neil: “To say the least.” Del: “You ever travel by bus before? Your mood’s probably not going to improve much…”

We knew what he meant on a journey, if not quite from hell, but close to it.

Our first venture abroad since coronavirus struck turned out to be an excellent affair in Cyprus, but it was topped and tailed with something not quite so thrilling and a cautionary tale when preparing to fly from distant airports.

Our flight, from Gatwick meant a lengthy trip from the Midlands and paying for just over a week’s parking at a nearby site. At a cost of £74.

Trouble was, we never made it. Our car broke down on Good Friday and we were due to travel on Easter Monday. No way of getting repaired during the bank holiday.

Fortunately, our son was able to drive us to the airport, but as our return was landing at 2.30 in the morning, we felt we could not ask anyone to make that journey and then drive back.

So we kissed goodbye to the £74 (we should have insured it) and made alternative arrangements to get back.

This entailed booking a coach from Gatwick at 3.50 in the morning. What an adventure when we get back, we thought. A case of panic leading to temporary insanity.

Our journey back after eight glorious days eventually took us 16 hours.

Taxi, plane, coaches, two of them, a train and two buses.

It went like clockwork to start with, except we got there a bit too early by taxi and the airport took their time.

A four hour and 40 minute flight followed in the most uncomfortable airline seats I have ever used, but we arrived on time at around 2am.

As you would expect even at that time of the morning, around four flights came in at the same time, so passport control, as you would now expect did not have the biometric machines   working and the queues stretched an stretched . . . and stretched.

Feeling weary now, we eventually got through and boarded our first coach to London Victoria, on time mercifully and after various stop offs arrived at London’s Victoria coach station. From there we changed coaches for our three and a half hour drive to Birmingham, via Coventry.

From there, we thought we would walk to New Street Station. Mistake, dragging a 50lb suitcase, a smaller suitcase, two heavy handbags up the hill was takings its toll. We arrived at New Street Stations, back entrance and were faced with dragging the bags up 50 steps.

New Street Station is spectacular to look at inside and out but sadly I was baffled and really upset by the sight of the huge mountain of concrete stairs limiting access to the main entrance of the station for folks of all ages that are not able bodied. For people who have to hump heavy luggage. How on earth did the designers also expect parents with babies and buggies (plus other small children, not to mention many elders and folks with health problems) to climb the Everest like stairs? 

Gasping and sweating at the top, two young blokes asked, if we needed a hand. Cheers pal, but we’ve done the hard work.

Onwards. Our train was next, followed b the first of two buses.

Then it was the final walk to the house, just like Dell and Neil in the film the final scenes from the film.

We felt like we had been on a 14 hour workout, using suitcases for weights.

Tired through lack of sleep, but luckily with enough adrenaline to help us complete an epic journey.

The moral to the story is: make sure your car is ready for the journey; make contingency plans for when something might go wrong; try and insure anything like long term parking and finally, think. Do you really need that much luggage?

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