Hamming it up She's got a chicken to Ryde

Woke up early on Sunday. Like, 1.30am with the TV still on. Felt ropey. Turned all the lights off, and the TV, and got out of my clothes. Come 9am it was more respectable to be awake and so I was. Blogging time, despite my inability to post it. Today we had to check out of our hotel by midday, and so we did.

Predictably enough, we left our bags with reception and walked along the river to the casco viejo. Yawn. We're pretty hungry, and we take ages to decide whereabouts to eat, largely spent circling the Plaza Nueva where we'd entered just as a band were finishing on Saturday. Around the edges were about 8 different pintxos and alcohol vendors, and plenty of people even though it was Monday, a day on which we had been led to believe precisely fuck all would be open.

Eventually we settle on one place and rather than try and get along with the locals, I just blurt out "hablo Ingles?" at the guy by the counter and yes, he does hablo Ingles. Here comes a coffee, a beer, and a bunch of amazing things on sticks and bread. Like, really amazingly nice.

This is an excellent start to Monday. But, we still have lots of time to kill. We're thinking, get back to the hotel for 1630 so that leaves us with 4 hours still. There's wifi at the pintxo parlour but the blog still won't fucking upload so bollocks, let's look for other things to do. Apparently there's this incongruously ugly "lift" nearby which we can go up and get a bird's eye view of the casco. So we walk to that, and it's shut.

Ugly lift. Shut.

OK fine, whatever. We walk around the old town, again, some more, and there's a cathedral with a bunch of tourists nearby and it looks like we can visit so we approach the door. A nun tells us to fuck off, they're shut.

You lot can piss off 'n all.

OK, fine, whatever. Let's wander back across the river, then along the river, and go to comic sans chorizo vendor by the station. Before we manage to even cross we think, ah screw it, let's go in that Ribera upscale shopping mall we saw yesterday and, oh, it's upscale but actually it's just butchers and fishmongers and other fresh food salesmen. Wow. Half of it is shut, and there is the slowest escalator in the world which only goes up about 6 steps anyway.

Still before crossing the river we pop into a supermarket, in order to buy chorizo and gawp at other meat. There is no paprika.

Some of the meat seems to be branded in a kind of "you can be a happy family, if you buy a giant piece of dead pig!" way.

Finally we cross the river, walk along a bit past the nice houses we saw yesterday. It's getting hotter because the sun has burnt through some of the clouds, and there are lots of closed things because apparently this side of the river never has anything going on. Also there's an old school punk distro shop branded "DDT" which makes me think of wrestling.

At comic sans chorizo cafe we're underwhelmed so don't bother. Let's see if there's anything interesting on the "gran via", the city's main street that we have yet to experience. So, then, for the next hour or more we wander around a whole load of busy streets with fancy shops and nice looking cafes and etc. We pop into what seems to be the Bilbao version of Fortnum and Mason to buy paprika, and eventually walk so far we're back at the Guggenheim. Here's that dog again.

By now we're hungry and thirsty. Some places seem too difficult to warrant going in, some too easy - English menus and the like. Unsurprisingly, Singular is still shut. WHY ARE SO MANY PLACES WE WANT TO VISIT SHUT.

Eventually we sit outside somewhere and wait to be served, when a woman shouts at us first in $foreign, then English that actually one of us needs to go inside. I go all weedy and useless and kinda insist in a really awful dick move way that Helen goes in so she does, and returns with wine and beer and more pintxos. It's all really nice and I feel small.

So now it's like, I dunno, 3.30pm or so. Flight is in about 4 hours. We walk back to the hotel, get stuff, decant things which need decanting, and walk back into town and along the road to find the bus stop. Helen says "aeropuerto?" to some women who say "no! next!" and we walk up a bit more. The A3247 arrives within seconds and before we know it we're at Bilbao airport, just over 3 hours before we fly.

There are no BA desks. There's a big sign saying they'll be desks 1-3, but those desks are not BA branded. I figure being over 3 hours early is a bit much, but it's not long to wait. We perch outside so Helen can vape and I periodically go back in to check if the desks are open. They never are. Eventually we sit inside, a whole bunch of other people go queue up, and are then told no, the desks won't be open until 5.30pm. Fucks sake!

We wouldn't need to use the desks, if we had mobile boarding passes, but that app had been very insistent that we were in no way fit to fly.

Do you know the way to San Jose?

Eventually 5.30pm turns up, and we join a queue. Once at the front, the woman behind the desk takes our passports and taps her computer a bit and then picks her phone up and makes a call. Helen's eyebrows raise dramatically and I'm very amused by this, though if I admit it now, also a bit treipdatious too. Being unable to check in on the way out was a surprise, and annoying; being unable to do so on this leg was, um, maybe a bit worrying. It's the first leg of a different itinerary to the outbound flight.. more details to follow, eventually.

Anyway, the woman says to us her machine is playing up, and hands Helen her boarding pass. Mine takes a while longer, and the intervention of some fella she had to beckon over, but then she's telling us where the lounge is and we're done! So off to the "gates 1-12" signs we go, stumbling into a giant queue which reaches to, er, pretty much exactly where we'd just been standing. Damn it.

There's no fast track line, though this doesn't stop one couple just pushing in 3 places in front of us. Twats. Once we're at the x-ray machines - 3 machines, only 1 in use - Helen takes great delight in pushing back in front of them. She gets singled out for extra frisking, and I get shouted at for being helpful with empty trays. PUT THEM ON LA MESA. Alright!

Anyway, now we're through, airside. It's about 6pm; we've been at the airport for over 90 minutes, damn it. The lounge is near gate 2, which seems confusing, especially as the two "VIP" signs point in other directions. But down to gate 2 we go, mixing with a bunch of arrivals, and here's the lounge.

It's awful.

The photo doesn't really do it justice. I mean, it's a lounge, there's free booze and food so let's not be too churlish. But it's awful. There's mess everywhere, the food is crisps or terrible biscuits or badly cling-filmed sandwiches you are apparently meant to microwave. At least the cava is nice, and most importantly THE WIFI WORKS. FINALLY I can upload the previous 2 blog posts to this!

The view is terrible. The unnecessary jeopardy each trip of mine seems to invole is over, however. We drink, aggressively.

Flight is at 1940, from gate 6. The desk lady, and the monitors, had told us boarding was at 1905 so around then we set off. At gate 6 we join a very very long queue to get through the Schengen immigration zone, then a similarly long queue to actually get on the plane. We're in row 3, in business class, hurrah, and on our way home.

Here's a hot towel. Here's the safety announcement. Wait, why is the safety announcement entirely manual? Helen feels more assured by this than the animated one we normally get, whereas I'm just confused as to why it's happened at all.

Up in the sky, clouds and the landscape they cover all look predictably wonderful.

Champagne arrives. Hurrah!

The journey is pretty quick. I'm fairly convinced the captain said his name was Allen Batsford. Surely. not? We're eager for free stuff, and Helen's eager for the loo which, somehow, she fails to find at the first attempt.

There are 6 rows of mostly-full business class on this plane, which is a lot, and so service is not as fast as it could be. Food eventually arrives, there's a choice of pork/beetroot/cheese salad or chicken breast, and we both opt for the latter. I think it's nice - chicken, potato, artichoke, sundried tomatoes. It comes with cheese, and a blancmange. And more champagne. Of course.

Helen's ears are all bunged up with the pressure, making her mistakenly believe she shouted her head off at one point when in reality she spoke so quietly I couldn't hear her. Then, I ask for another champagne. The flight attendant returns with one, and another one for Helen, saying "I assume you're having another too?" - excellent service, but actually no, she's not. WTF!

We start our descent over the Isle of Wight. I'm mesmerised, as always, by England from above.

This is Ryde, on the IOW.

This is Gosport 'n that, I think.

I think these are the reservoirs near Heathrow. We had to head east before we pulled a U-turn...

... over by the O2. Yeah, these photos are blurry, you're just meant to get the gist of it really.

I can see my work from here!

We land at Heathrow T3 dead on time. Getting out through the border isn't too slow, but then it's a trek to the bus station and a long wait for the 285 which isn't fast and bleurgh, what a depressing end. Well, not too depressing, but I do remember a bit late - given all the booze - that, crap, I have to actually commute to work in the morning. Meanwhile Helen is missing Buster terribly, and being so near spatially yet so far temporally is a real pain.

In Kingston, we order an Uber. An extravagantly chatty man picks us up, jokes about charging us 20 quid extra just for taking a slight detour, misses at least one turn I ask him to take, and drops me off in Surbiton. Helen makes it home safely to Thames Ditton and Buster is very happy to see her. That's all, folks.

Created By
Darren Foreman

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