Flying home for Christmas Outsbruck

[Writing this almost a week after the events herein took place, so not expecting great things. Mind you, spoiler alert, there wasn't much to say anyway...]

Right. Monday. Up ‘n at ‘em. With military discipline we’re out of bed at the crack of 0830, bemoaning the awful shower one last time before packing our bags and going down to reception. Paying for the beers and minibar, the lady in traditional Alpine dress is childishly delighted that we had a good time and very impressed when I say auf wiedersehen on the way out.

Walking through the streets of Innsbruck back to the station for the bus stop, we arrive a minute before the bus before the one we intended to get. My expectation of it being busy because it's the touristy bus to the airport were almost entirely unfounded; it never got full, and most people were going to the sports department of the university. At the airport there's about 4 of us left; Helen and I go inside, grimace at the long queue to get through security, and go upstairs to the observation deck.

There's an observation deck! A few years ago, in lieu of a lounge for their business class and shiny card passengers, BA would hand out vouchers for €20 which you could use in the cafe next to this deck - which, arguably, made it the best "lounge" in Europe. Because, as you'll know if you read either of my "arriving at Innsbruck" diary entries either in this trip or in December 2016, the airport's surroundings are as spectacular as the city. Not surprising considering it's just one long valley.

While Helen has a vape I take a few snaps. It's a shame the weather is poor but doesn't spoil the effect that much. There's not many planes around, for this ain't a busy place even in early winter, so by the time we go back in downstairs the security queue is pretty short. We reach the front in moderately short order, but then the problems begin.

First, our clear bag full of toiletries is unsuitable. We aren't allowed to put both our toiletries in the same bag, and we're not allowed to put non-liquids/gels/etc in a clear bag alongside them. Fine. Then, once through, my bags are chosen for secondary inspection. They don't like the iPad keyboard, they don't like the bag full of cables and plugs, they don't like the camera, they don't like the lenses. Eventually my bags are completely emptied of all their contents and go through the scanner THREE times. And all of this occurred with headmistress-sternness, no good cheer at all. Bloody hell.

Good job we got that earlier bus, then. Around the corner I'm able to rearrange everything back to how I want it and put my belt back on and oh, we're at the lift that goes up to the lounge. Let's get in the lift. Up on the first floor Helen's face falls a bit as she thinks the awful seating area is the lounge - but no, it's just another bit of regular seating next to the desk and hidden door. Inside the lounge proper and we're amazed and delighted.

It's not a big place, but they've managed to have about 4 or 5 separately designed areas each giving a bit of a different feel. There's food and booze and only one other person, and there are free seats by the floor to ceiling windows looking out directly onto the tarmac at all the parked private planes and across to the mountains. This is a winner.

We both go and fill up a plate full of cheese and meat, Helen getting so overexcited she flings some brie straight on the floor. Slowly the lounge gets busy as sundry other folk turn up but whatever - our seats shield us from them mostly, and I'm spending most of my time standing at the window taking pictures of planes.

We have a glass of prosecco each, to toast the great end to a great weekend and also steel Helen's nerves for the flight ahead. After the horrors of the flight out plus the enormous bravery required for cable cars and funiculars and ski jump heights, I've moved our seats to the curtain-envy front-of-economy so that we'll be able to buy gin as soon as possible. While we watch the runway the weather is getting worse and worse, clouds dropping very low and we're both wondering about how turbulent the plane will be.

Once the flight is announced we head off to the gate through immigration. It's nothing like as rammed as on the way out and we've a free seat next to us here in row 8; the envy through the curtain is lessened by the fact there's no-one in row 7 and so no meals and champagne to be jealous of.

In actuality the flight is smooth as anything; the ascent is disappointing because the clouds mean we don't see any Alpine vistas, and it's basically cloudy the entire way back to London. When the M&S trolley comes along we each order a beer with gin+tonic chaser, though in reality I have both beers and Helen sticks to the strong stuff.

And then, well, that's it. We land early, breeze through immigration, buy some food at M&S, get a tube to Hatton Cross then a bus to Kingston, buy a Christmas wreath for the door and then we're home, to see the carnage caused by our garden squirrels.

And with that our, and my, 2018 foreign travel is done; neither of us can wait to reveal what mystery holiday for 2019 we've bought one another. Only 14 more sleeps!

Created By
Darren Foreman

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