Tag Archives: easyjet

Off to Copenhagen – 2nd June 2014 (Day 1/5)

About a month ago, when I decided I was nipping off to Bergen, one of my friends who had relocated to Copenhagen from Stavanger suggested I should go out and visit her some time. So I did.

My flight out from Stansted was at 7am, and working that backwards it would have meant leaving home at stupid o’clock in the morning. My sister had originally offered to drive me to the airport in the morning, but you could see the gradual dawning realisation as she worked out how far it was to Stansted… I made an executive decision to drive myself, and stay at the hotel on Sunday night – £80 for one night and 8 days parking, which frankly I think is pretty reasonable and cheaper than I was expecting.

Props to Premier Inn; really nice room, and there was actually a proper bath in the bathroom! I also had a chaise longue under the window which was perhaps a little excessive but pleasant nonetheless. Incidentally, the window did its job and kept out the road noise and the curtains even blocked out the light from outside – two things which cause me big problems when I’m sleeping. My favourite thing about the room had to be the air conditioning – which worked! I’m finding myself gravitating more and more towards colder temperatures these days, and having a nice cold breeze in my room was ace. I did consider moving in permanently, but then I realised that would put me a step closer to becoming Alan Partridge and I am not entirely comfortable with that.

I am going to take this opportunity to introduce you to three new brilliant things in my life;

Anker portable charger, Maplins USB power point, and Rekorderlig Apple and Guava cider.

Anker external battery, Maplins USB power supply, and Rekorderlig Apple and Guava cider.

The first and most important is the Anker external battery. After having read about my battery life issues on my trip to Bergen, one of my friends suggested that I needed one of these in my life, and he wasn’t wrong. You charge this bad boy up, and it contains enough power to fully max out the battery on a smart phone 4 times. It doesn’t lose power once it is fully charged, you can connect your phone up anywhere that you happen to be, and it fits nicely into your pocket. Well, into MY pocket at any rate, and that is all I really care about. I cannot recommend this enough if you travel around a lot. It charges off of a USB cable, which you can either plug into a PC or into the mains, which brings us neatly to…

The second new brilliant thing; the Maplins dual USB worldwide power supply. 1 plug, 4 interchangeable adaptor fronts for different areas of the world. Genius.

Last but not least, Rekorderlig Apple and Guava cider. Available from the bar at the Premier Inn. Nom nom and thrice nom.

Monday morning dawned. My alarm went off at 3:30am and I was genuinely regretting my decision to stay up and watch Resident Evil: Extinction. Damn you Milla Jovovich, encouraging me to make bad choices. Despite being tired and having a disappointing bacon experience at breakfast, parking was straightforward and well organised, and that pleased me. I drove over to Long Stay parking, dumped the car and fervently hoped that it would a) still be there when I got back and b) actually start again after 5 days of inactivity.

Sunrise over parking zone K

Sunrise over parking zone K

While I was waiting for the shuttle bus to the terminal, the sky was beautiful and I could feel the familiar fizzy-belly of travel excitement starting to build up. That wasn’t to last. Now, it might be fair to say that tiredness and the early hour had emptied my Patience Tank before I had even started, but I was not responding well to being surrounded by other people. I became aware of a current of underlying irritation during the trip to the terminal when it turned out that someone had leaned their bag – or themself – against a Stop button. The intermittent but constant beeping on the 15 minute drive scraped across my nerves like a small child playing a violin, with a hacksaw.

When we reached the terminal, Departures was way busier than I expected it to be for 5:15am. The queue to get through security snaked right the way back to the entrance, and everyone seemed to be determined to take up as much space as was humanly possible – which included wherever I happened to be standing at the time. After 30 minutes, stood watching for gate announcements, it felt as if my hair was stood on end like an angry cat’s tail, and the next person that walked into me or dragged a rolling suitcase into my ankles was going to get chinned. Thankfully they began announcing the departure gates for all of the flights and the crowd thinned out quickly.

According to the details on my boarding pass, the gate for the flight was due to close at 6:30am… At 6:25am, we were all still waiting in line to go through, and I was really beginning to raise an eyebrow about whether we were going to take off on time. Normally, I wouldn’t really care as long as I got on the plane, but since Jesper was going to meet me at Copenhagen, I didn’t want him to be stood around waiting, and I was starting to get even more irritable.

Eventually they started boarding people onto the flight, and it all felt hurried and chaotic, especially by comparison to my previous experience flying with Norwegian. I understand that there were more people on the flight to Copenhagen, but surely Easyjet had been doing this long enough to have developed a more efficient system?

…I was prepared to bet they didn’t have free Wifi on the flight either…

On top of everything else, they ran out of space in the overhead storage compartments, and were holding people in the aisle while they took their bags and boarding passes to move their hand luggage into the hold. The sense of disorganisation hung in the air like a bad smell, but despite the problems, they managed to pull it all together and we took off at 07:12am.

I have never really had any issues with Easyjet before, but that was when the only other airline I could hold up in comparison was Ryanair. Ryanair frankly are about the cheapest, bolted together Meccano set of an airline, and they pretty much stuff you into the plane and launch you into the air in the manner of a bored looking Medieval drudge yanking the lever of a trebuchet, while picking his nose with the other hand.

The overall experience began to improve once I was able to get my hands on some coffee. It was an interesting set-up; coffee in a bag. It was a bit odd, and took forever to brew to an acceptable strength, but perfectly drinkable and a much needed caffeine boost.

Coffee in a bag. Not, in fact, a carcass.

Coffee in a bag. Not in fact a carcass, as it might first appear.

There was not a spare seat on this flight. As I looked around, it struck me that a lot of the people were wearing suits or tapping away at laptops. I assumed that a decent percentage of the folks on the flight were travelling for work, and just as I had been on the train when I was heading to Gatwick, I was surprised. I never really consider working structures outside of my own, and I am amazed at the lengths that some people commute. I have a 12 minute drive in the morning to my own place of employment, and I find it mind blowing that other people will go through all of that on a Monday morning, just for work. I sincerely hoped that they were getting paid a shitload more than me.

One thing both Easyjet and Ryanair have in common is a somewhat loose understanding of geographical locations, to the point that after the first time I went to Norway, I created this;

Easyjet

Copenhagen didn’t suffer this problem, the airport was actually in the city where it was supposed to be, and that was in fact REALLY close to the sea. So much so that as the plane came in to land, all I could see out of the window was an expanse of waves, getting closer and closer. I trusted that they weren’t going to pitch the plane into the water but there is always a part of my brain that is imagining the worst possible outcome and playing it for me in HD.

Copenhagen airport itself was delightfully empty of people, an abject relief after the meat market that was Stansted. Jesper was waiting for me in arrivals, and it was great to see him again after 5 years. 5 YEARS. Seriously, where does time go? He didn’t look a day older either, which frankly made me more than a little jealous. He marched me off to the metro station attached to the airport to catch the train, which was all a bit of a weird experience for me; I would normally have fully researched all of the public transport links and timetables, and would have known where I was going and how the tickets worked. This time, I had abandoned all of that and just trusted in Anine and Jesper to point me in the right direction.

As it turned out, it was exceptionally straightforward; there were two lines that ran through the centre of Copenhagen, and everywhere I needed to be was along the line that ran through Øresund. All I needed to remember when getting on the metro was “Not the other one” – which was so simple that I was bound to fuck it up at some point. The public transport in Copenhagen was nicer and better organised than in Bergen, which I had been really impressed with. The roads however were a different matter entirely, but I will come to that later.

There wasn’t really all that much to see on the train, since the sides of the rail line were built up and shielded by massive metal sidings. What I could see however was really, really flat. The view stretched out in the distance for miles and miles uninterrupted.

I was staying with my hosts in a 5th floor apartment just off of the Amagerbro metro stop – and it was STUNNING. The 100 stairs up were a bit of a trial, but their apartment was so beautiful, it was worth it every single time I got up there. There was such a sense of lightness and space and serenity that I really started to review my own cave-like living arrangements, and wonder if there might be room to make some improvements.

I want this kitchen

I want this kitchen

Both Jesper and Anine had to work the first few days of the week, which worked out really nicely for me, because as much as I love my friends, I am an anti-social bastard at heart and quite like mooching around and discovering things on my own. As it happened on Monday however, I was so tired that I ended out staying in the apartment until they got back, I napped for an hour or so and also ended out terrifying their two Bengal cats. More on the cats later.

I was so pleased to see Anine when she got home from work, and we sat and chatted for hours. She had brought some Danish pastries back with her, one kind which was fairly typical cinnamon pastry baked with nuts inside (awesome) but she also brought a kind of cake called Brunsviger. Brunsviger was AMAZING and I ate way too much, but really couldn’t help it. It was like a kind of doughy bread, with a buttery brown sugar topping. Interestingly, everyone in the world calls this Danish Pastry…except the Danes, who call it Vienna Bread.

Pastries and Brunsviger. Shit-hot baking, right there.

“Hey, blame the Austrians; we’re not taking any responsibility for the diabetic comas.”

Anine had to leave in the evening to fly off for work for a few days. This left Jesper and I to take in a healthy evening supper (…KFC…) and catch up, talking the evening away until I was about ready to pass out from exhaustion. It’s amazing to me how tired I get when I am not drinking beer. There’s probably something worth thinking about in that…

The view from my 5th floor window

The view from my 5th floor window

The Montpellier Debacle

As a rule, I like to deal with life in facts and absolutes, especially in relation to getting from one place to another. If I need to travel from point A to point B, I will always research in advance exactly where point B is, what the options are for getting there, how far away it is, and how long it takes to get there. I then calculate that back to work out precisely what time I need to leave in order to get there… and therefore what time I need to get my arse out of bed.

While this works well when I am travelling under my own steam, locally, it is needless to say a largely flawed way of thinking when travelling internationally or with other people. Never was this more evident than when Melissa and I travelled to Montpellier last August, with a day’s travel that can be most accurately described as “a bit of a cluster fuck”.

We were flying from London Luton airport, which is not very far away – a simple drive down the M1 with my sister as chauffeur, and at that time of the morning the traffic would be negligible. We’d checked in online, and we’d printed our boarding passes, so it was going to be essentially a case of walking in the front door of departures and straight onto the plane. This suited me perfectly, because the less interaction I have to have with people that I don’t know, the happier I tend to be.

We left on time (I had previously applied the Melissa Organisational Time Differential, which involves moving the stated departure time forward by 10 minutes, + 1 minute for every hour before 9am). The journey was uneventful, we arrived as planned and strolled on in for a relaxed coffee. Oh! How smug I felt, laughing at the plebs queuing to check in! Well, that was all about to go tits up.

We eventually drifted off towards security, me in my happy travel bubble while Melissa argued with the staff about her contact lense solution. We strolled up the stairs, handing over our boarding passes for scanning… which mine wouldn’t. More properly, it scanned, but wasn’t valid.

“…have you already been through?”

No, no I hadn’t. At this point, my sphincter started to flutter. They told me that I had to go back to the main Easyjet desk and get another boarding pass printed. I felt a cold sliver of panic in my stomach, because our flight was starting to board.

It is worth mentioning here that at that point in my existence, I had what medical professionals politely refer to as ‘a sedentary lifestyle’. Anything faster than a brisk walk to the bar with an empty pint glass was pretty much unheard of. I smoked 20 a day, drank way too much and had a somewhat laissez-faire attitude towards raising my heart rate.

Bearing that in mind; I ran all the way back downstairs, back past the café and the clothes boutiques, back past the queuing plebs I had previously been lording it over, and straight up to the check-in desk, with all usual British reserve going completely out of the window.

I explained the problem, and the nice lady sat and scratched her arse for a bit before printing me a new boarding pass. I then ran all the way back past the aforementioned plebs and shops and up the stairs. I like to think that I bounded up them like some kind of curly haired antelope, and I refuse to be disabused of this idea.

When I got back to the security staff, the new boarding pass still wouldn’t scan properly. My levels of alarm and frustration were really starting to escalate now, but the staff shuffled off to one side, agreed that I probably wasn’t planning on blowing anything up and thankfully let me through anyway.

The queue to go through the scanners was immense, but they escorted Melissa and I to the front of the line since the “For The Love of God, Will You Just Get To The Boarding Gate??” announcements were starting to go out across the PA system. The couple in front of us let us go ahead of them, which was probably a testament to the wide-eyed manic state we were in.

Then – of course – Melissa got stopped for a random security check. I was frantically trying to stop my trousers falling down while re-threading my belt and scanning about for a departures board. Gate 2. Fine, last obstacle passed, we just needed to get there now. For reference, I will include a map of the departure gates;

Image

Gates 1 – 18 are off to the left as you past through the departure lounge. At this point I was running again; my thinking was that if I could just get there, I could hold the gate until Melissa could catch up. My legs were burning, and I was making a horrible wheezing sound like some kind of dying herd animal.

I got to Gate 2, and slid to a stop; there was no indication that there had been any flights going out recently. I was struck by abject confusion. A sympathetic looking lady in a high visibility jacket suggested that I double check the gate number. To my utter horror, I realised that I had misread and it was actually Gate 20 we needed, not Gate 2. If you take a brief look back at the map, you will notice that where we needed to be was all the way back along the way we had come, and then halfway back towards the very opposite end.

We were left with a handful of minutes to get to the gate. I was already on the verge of throwing up my own small intestine, the chances are they had already closed the gate and we were too late…but I knew that I just HAD to keep running. I could NOT let us miss the flight because I had read the departure board wrong. And besides, there was no way I was expending that much energy to then not go anywhere.

So, back on my toes. All illusions of graceful deer-like leaping were well gone by then. I was thumping down the corridors loudly enough for people 20 metres ahead to be looking back in terror and clearing a path.

I eventually got to the gate…to see two people in front of me, still waiting to go through. I cannot begin to describe the absolute joy and relief that welled up in me at the sight. Melissa and I managed to get through in a calm and orderly fashion, albeit huffing and sweating profusely. There was a woman with two small children proceeding very slowly across the tarmac to the plane, and while small people under my feet would normally make me rage, I was grateful for someone else to take the heat of the other passengers’ disdainful gaze.

I spent the next 30 minutes in a state of mild hysteria and adrenaline comedown, shaking and steaming slightly, with my heart purring away in my chest. Eventually, it started to become ridiculous and funny, as a lot of retrospective horror stories are.

Fast forward to France. We landed safely, got through passport control and out into the fresh air…where I of course proceeded to have a cigarette. I had – as is my standard M.O. – already researched and printed out copies of the bus routes and timetables, and I already knew where we had to go and what bus we needed to get in order to land right by our hotel. We took the airport shuttle into town, where it was very quiet and very pleasant. We quickly found a tram stop, and bought €15 weekly travel tickets, and felt very pleased with ourselves.

After wandering around some hot and suspiciously deserted streets near the tram stops, we decided to head on up to the stop we needed to catch the bus onwards to our hotel… where we waited. And waited. And then waited some more. Over the period of what I recall to be at least an hour, plenty of buses went sweeping past… just not the one that I had figured we needed. While remaining outwardly calm, my stress levels were rising again – I thought there was no WAY I could have possibly fucked up that badly twice in one day.

After numerous rotations of other buses, and wandering up and down the station trying to figure out if we were perhaps at the wrong stop, we jumped onto another bus and waved the timetable at the very nice bus driver, who pointed at the Sundays/Holidays section.

We assumed that it was Summer, and therefore school holidays, that was probably why it was a different timetable. We accepted that we just weren’t going to be able to get the bus we wanted, unless we were prepared to take the chance of waiting in the beating sunshine, hot, tired and thirsty with no guarantee that one would actually turn up. I Googled a local taxi company, but called the number and couldn’t understand the recorded message on the line; to be fair, I was 15 the last time I did French, I think I can be let off.

We took the decision to go back down the tramline, find some form of civilisation and ask for some assistance. There was a café where the lady was very nice, but not a lot of help. We then rang the hotel that we were staying at and asked if they could call us a taxi. They couldn’t (or more likely WOULDN’T), but did find a phone number for us; it turned out to be the same number I had called earlier, so I just took the plunge and rang it again.

Long story short, we eventually made it to the hotel – dusty, sweaty, aching and several pounds lighter. After checking in and collapsing in our room, the whole ‘Sunday/Holiday’ thing started to make us twitch, because if it was due to school holidays then we were in all likelihood boned.

Referring to Google again, we discovered that it was a fucking French bank holiday. On a fucking Thursday. Mary’s Ascension to Heaven. Seriously.

We then proceeded to drink the hotel out of bottled lager on the first evening and I began to re-evaluate my whole approach to travelling abroad.