The Hannover

The streak finished: 15 consecutive months of spending time outside the UK and then came April 2017, during which I visited Sheffield and Manchester and Stoke but nowhere beyond the English borders. Time to start afresh, then.

It's Helen's birthday this weekend, so it's time for her Christmas present. Some readers may recall that for Christmas 2016 we each bought the other a mystery trip abroad, with the stipulation that no time off work was required. She whisked us off to wonderful Haarlem in January, for a weekend of steep stairs and beer in an owl-themed brewpub. 4 months later, I've brought us to Germany's most boring large city.

That might be unfair. I don't really know much about Hannover and have barely spent any time outside in it yet. What I do know is how I got here.

It started with a trip to my local surgery for yet another check up on my lungs. I had a 2 week asthma flare-up recently, caused amusingly by asthma medication. So they needed to make sure this newer dose isn't similarly problematic. The appointment was at 1610, so I'd booked a cab to the airport for 1700.

Helen was left playing Fable III in my living room, being bemused by onscreen notifications of how many sex acts - solo and group, apparently - some of my xbox live friends have performed in the game, while I sat panicking in the waiting room. My surgery is normally fantastic, but I was nervously tapping my feet as I wasn't called for 15 minutes beyond my time. Eventually I was in and out (and admonished for not yet having my free "you're over 40" health check) and jogging back to the flat in brutal heat.

I was jogging because the panic hadn't subsided. By now it was around 1645 and I hadn't finished packing, plus had been alerted to someone coming round to view my flat the next morning. I thought it was a free weekend so I could leave it somewhat messy but no, a last minute appointment came up. Plus, Mogul Cars cabbies are always super punctual, regularly turning up 10 minutes before the booked time. Grargh!

So, I threw some random clothes in a bag, put my passport in my pocket, panicked more while shouting "don't panic! Don't panic!" at Helen, and was just about ready by 1658, at which point Mogul Cars phoned to tell me their notoriously early driver would be late because he's stuck in traffic. Well bollocks.

Things didn't improve from there. The car was one of the shabbiest cabs I've been in for a while, and the driver was ... interesting. Traffic isn't his fault, but how he behaves in it is, and Helen and I both would have rather he didn't get embroiled in lots of hand waving and wanker shouting (from the other party) and sticking fingers up etc in the awful traffic leading through Hampton. Bleurgh.

In fact, his driving was poor throughout. Lots of needless lane changes, having to brake way too hard due to unnecessary spurts of acceleration in the smallest of gaps, etc. And the journey took forever, over an hour to get to T5. Comfortably the worst cab ride to Heathrow either of us have ever had. The only saving grace is that such a long ride doesn't cost more when it's a flat rate airport run from a decent firm. But, meh. A one off - Mogul are normally amazing - but this left a sour taste.

Anyway. No matter. We're at Heathrow, 2 hours before take off. Not as much time as we'd wanted, but we're still not in a hurry. Time to try something new and fancy: since I was last here, there's a new thing opened called The First Wing. This is a sectioned off security corridor leading directly into the First class lounge - a faster fast track, usable only by those with gold cards or equivalent, or travelling first.

Reports on FlyerTalk are almost universally positive, so I was a bit meh when I saw both lanes were full of people. In fact, I didn't really find anything about it better than regular fast track except that it decants you straight into the lounge, which is a genuine improvement - to get her normally involves a long schlep through the terminal, down some escalators and up some more.

So, eventually, here we are in the first class lounge, again. Time to get on the champagne.

That's better.

Helen went off in search of solids, returning with a plate of Mexican beef and potatoes which we later discovered was actually Morroccan. The lounge is apparently heaving, commensurate I guess with it being a Friday evening before a bank holiday weekend: popular time for some folk to finish a week in London, or to set off on a break. Plus gold cards are relatively easy to get hold of anyway, seeing as scrotes like yours truly can get hold of 'em eh?

Upon her return she tagged me in, and I went to fetch a plate chock full of pork belly with peppers, crab arancini, cheeses, beef, potato, and whatever else I could pile on. Wolfed it all down with a fresh glass of champagne and then saw Andrew Neil. Hang on, Andrew Neil? Why's he here? Isn't he meant to be on TV interviewing Jeremy Corbyn literally at that moment? Yes, yes he was, but that was recorded some hours ago apparently. He looked much shorter than I expected, but every bit as stern.

The 3rd glass of champagne went down well, indeed much better than the news that our flight was to depart from the C satellite. I am sick and goddamned tired of all the flights I get that seem to depart from the satellites. Mostly because I hate the dreary voice of the woman on the monorail. We could have walked, but I suspect Helen wouldn't have approved of the idea so didn't even posit it.

Mercifully the monorail is a very quick ride, and we're at the gate about 40 minutes before departure. But almost immediately they announced boarding for gold card holders, then silver card holders, then everyone. We scoot into the fast track lane and take our seats in row 4, the first row of economy. I hadn't chosen this - we're on the dirtiest cheapest fare such that even exalted shiny status wankers like us can't pick a seat without ponying up £13 or more for the honour. And in all honesty, I probably wouldn't have picked this row had I had a choice, because the curtain envy was unpleasant.

There was some benefit though: because there's no middle seat in row 3, there's no possibility of it reclining into my knees in 4E. Plus, no-one's in 4D - which I assume is another unsaid benefit of being a gold card holder. Seems a bit weird given how they announce more than once that it's a completely full flight, though.

Anyway. We pushed back perfectly on time, and got some lovely sunset views of London as we climbed.

Once the seatbelt signs are off, we swap seats so I move to the window. Helen realises/remembers that she's still scared of flying, a bit, after our Sansa experience in Costa Rica - which I'd completely forgotten about. D'oh. But, as with the Paris trip, the way to soothe the nerves is with a gin and bitter lemon. Come on BA, where's our M&S pay-for stuff? The bloke in business class ahead has already been served his champagne and had his food order taken. Stupid curtain envy!

Ah, here it is. It takes waaaaay too long for them to serve us one gin with a mixer and a small bottle of prosecco, paid for with Avios - which is apparently pronounced "Ay-vee-oss", not "Av-ee-oss". Who knew? But anyway, I don't think we've delayed anyone else because the trolley sets off backwards very fast. I think no-one else bought a thing.

Kinda wish Helen hadn't bought the prosecco, tbh. Not because I didn't want it in advance, but because it turns out the prosecco they sell is pretty awful stuff. At least they made an effort and fetched me a "champagne flute" to drink it out of, much to the surprise of the guy who later cleared away our rubbish and gave us a belated "oh, and may I just say welcome back to you both" bit of recognition. Little things, BA.

Nice hazy view of the Thames Estuary

We land 15 minutes early, which is nice. It's quick to get off, there are passport desks right next to the gate and since, apparently, everyone from business class has baggage to wait for we are easily the first people out and landside. It takes no time at all, quicker even than a domestic flight in the UK or the excellence of arriving at Bilbao.

There's a 20 minute wait until the next S-Bahn nach Hannover Hauptbahnhof, so I buy tickets while Helen has a quick vape outside. The train arrives and a man perches opposite us, talking on the phone seemingly talking an odd mix of Italian and German all at once. We try and fail to think of any Italian words that end in consonants. Parmesan doesn't count - Parmiggiano, right?

It's a pretty quick ride, the train mostly empty. A few youngsters get on one or two stops before the end, making me wonder if I was mistaken about Germany not being a particularly late night kinda place - but then I'm proved right, as we emerge from the station to be confronted with literally hundreds of people heading inwards, seemingly ending their evening at just before 11.30pm.

Our hotel is only about 20 yards away, behind the branch of Subway. A very dour man eventually emerges from the room behind reception and checks us in, apparently unmoved by my German - probably because I reverted to English as soon as he said anything back at me. "Abend, ich habe ein zimmer für drei nacht, meine name ist Foreman". <tap tap tap> "Darren Foreman?" "Yes, that's right". D'oh!

Anyway. He gave us keys, and free transport tickets for metropolitan Hannover for the duration of our stay, told us breakfast costs 14 euros per person - er, no thanks - that the bar shuts in around 20 minutes, and that we must keep our ID on us at all times in a really stern way. Well OK then!

Up in the room and we decide not to make a run to the bar for closing, opting instead for the remarkably keenly priced mini-bar beer. We push the two single beds together - wtf, Europe - and within seconds of finishing my lager I'm mumbling apologies for being so ridiculously tired all of a sudden. Next thing I know it's 5am.

Created By
Darren Foreman
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