All packed. Plants distributed to neighbours (better the chance for some to survive). Car keys to Mac and Gill in case car needs moving with ongoing roadworks. Front door locked, hit the road only to arrive in Tottenham Hale to find severe train disruptions. No trains to Stanstead it’s going to take at least 2 hours, a connecting bus and I will miss my flight. Another couple querying travel options with the train station guy. I suggest we share a cab, a 4th person Marie is added to our posse. Uber called, shared fare cheaper than the Stanstead express and a lot less stress.
Marie is doctor in training on her way for 5 days lazing in Provence. Claire and Gerhart are heading to Italy. Shared travel plans holidays and relief at not having to deal with the stress of finding another way to the airport. We complain about Ryanair, talk about AI, genetics, Brexit and Gerhart’s difficulties getting an NI number in order to apply for residency in the UK. We decide we are the equivalent of Come Dine with Me in an uber. Random strangers thrown together but entirely non reality tv type people.
I get through Ryanair luggage check-in unscathed. Then after a long slow queue to security I hit a brick wall.. I can’t take my Leki trek poles on board. They are potentially a lethal weapon. Who knew?! Not me. The girl says they have to go in the hold. Which means going back into the main airport area, buying a bag, and paying £40 extra to have the bag put on board. Alternatively she says I can post them to my destination. Or they can store them and I can collect them on my return and they will charge me £10 a day for the privilege. Fat chance.
After a few minutes standing my ground, i consider raging (in front of the hundred or so people watching this mini saga) but I have already used up this month’s rage allocation collecting a parcel from a DPD collection point. That’s another story. I calmly ask her what do I have to do to get my walking sticks on board and not miss my flight. She says I can’t and repeats go back to start don’t collect 200. A glimmer of light, she says she’s only just started working on security and goes to ask her supervisor. He looks at the sticks, looks me in the eye and slowly nodding his head asks me “are your walking sticks a walking aid?” I pick up his cue nod very slowly back and say yes my walking sticks are a walking aid. The required response. “That’s fine then.” he said “you can take them on board”. Phew.
Passing through the scanners I spot a couple of confiscated OAP walking sticks apparently not necessary for walking. A passenger behind me says his wife is disabled and he has lots of experience getting through airports. If I ever have a similar problem again just say I’m disabled, he says it works every time, they’re terrified of being accused of discrimination. In duty-free another couple of passengers give me the thumbs up in triumph. Passenger solidarity.
Biarritz airport. There are loads of people in walking boots all looking like they’re heading off on the Camino de Santiago. I’m heading in the opposite direction. but have a chat with Margot who is arrived from Australia and meeting up with friends to walk. She is a warden on the Be???? trail in western Australia. A Norwegian guy, Angelo, is also doing the camino… for the 6th time. Unlike me he likes the camino crowds.
They head to the train station and St Jean-Pied-Port whilst I’m staying the night in Biarritz. I have a couple of items to shop for. First on the list is a water camel pack, which I find in a sports store. they don’t have a knife but the shop assistant directs me to a hunting shop, Bernizan, which will be open for the next 10 minutes and I can make it if I run. just in time I get there and explaining what I want to the guy, he finds me the smallest cutest sharpest lightest little wooden handled folding knife. Perfect. Only 8 euros. Opinel, a French classic apparently. No Swiss frippery 100 gizmos here.
Then it’s time for dinner, a couple of beers, i fall a little in love with the very attentive flirtatious waiter and decide Biarritz would be a great place to live. Balmy beautiful sunset.