Automobiles, planes and trains...in that order
Trip Start Jan 31, 2011
298Trip End Dec 15, 2011
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Then the calls began! Helena and Brett were stuck in traffic on the motorway so we said we'd play by ear for a bit, the latest I could arrive at the airport being 930. At 830 they still had the east lancs to travel down and it's a nightmare road so I took the decision to leave without them, instead getting a lift to the airport with Andrew and Alex. Phew!
Arrived in good time, bundled up Horace and my rucksack into the oversack and sent them on their way... then Helena arrived! Hurrah! So we grabbed a drink had a chat, had lots of hugs, and what we definitely didn't do was shed a tear, then I headed through to departures.
Manchester airport appears to have changed somewhat as they have expanded their security area. Coat off, belt off, shoes still on, bag off, laptop out, liquids in bag, stuff out of pockets, through a turnstile, into some sort of decontamination box (you go in with door in front closed, door behind closes, then you're allowed out!). Next in the maze was the infamous X-ray machine where I had to stand for a minute in the 'tragedy' position whilst being scanned, before being allowed to carry on through, then I had to take my shoes off for them to go through their own scanner. Finally I retrieved all my bits, put myself back together and wandered into the shopping area.
They appear to have had a cunning plan in the departures terminal. You can't actually walk to your gate without walking through a massive duty free area, specifically filtering you by the alcohol, chocolate and cigarettes. In fact I hate to admit it but I got lost, well stuck, I couldn't find my way out for a moment when I found myself in a corner (which I thought was the in the right direction of the gates) surrounded by a wall of cuddly toys and large bags of sweets- the sort you might get in the cinema, but 4 times larger. I had to double back on myself and edge round the shop to find an escape! A cunning plan indeed Manchester airport, but I escaped without parting with a penny. After all, I have no room in my bags and with my rucksack at 14kg and my backpack at 10kg, I will either be broken or very strong in a few days. Not to worry, I have quite a few books which I will read quickly (so help me I'll learn to speed read!) and post back/swap for a leaflet! Also when I offload my winter gear life will be lighter. In fact I might be lighter after a couple of months of Russian cuisine and weightlifting. Either that or a Russian Olympic shot-putter!
I got to the gate, the plane was late, we were meant to leave at 1025, but it's 1050 and we're still on the runway. Ah well, there's 4 hours in Helsinki before my next flight. Oh and I'm in an Embraer 190 for the aeronautical fans...with wingtips!
As the plane started to accelerate down the runway a grin involuntarily broke out across my face as we sped up then left the ground. I looked out the window at the soggy and flooded fields below, before breaking through the cloud base, (which was only 3-4000ft above ground) into the sun. Manchester was gone, and I felt my troubles left there on the ground too. It will be a long time before I see those wet fields again, and maybe my troubles will have soaked into the ground and not be there when I return. I hope so.
As I look out of the window I see miles of fluffy clouds below, like cotton wool, all with light and shadow defining each one. The sun is behind me, the adventure in front.
11.27 or is it 1.27 since I moved my watch forward?(I'll stick with local times from now on)
Sitting in row 4 by the window I was 2 rows from 1st class - ie rows 1 and 2 were 1st and between 2 and 3 was a curtain. To my stomach's horror "1st" were being served hot meals with real cutlery and the smells were wafting the short gap to my nose.
Looking behind me down the other 25 rows I didn't see a stewardess approaching from the back and with only 1 steward in front with a very small galley I couldn't see how mass catering of hot meals might work. Was it to be that my stomach would be rudely awakened into life by albeit aeroplane food, but food that smelt great nonetheless?! I looked up at the call button above me. I looked forward, I peered around me several more times, deciding that I couldn't work out whether I was just going to be tortured or not, and then I pressed it. "BONG!!" it seemed as if I'd alerted the entire plane to look my way. The steward in "1st" came through and started looking for the bonger. I waved sheepishly and felt very silly when I asked "are we getting food too?" thankfully he said "yes, a sandwich". Phew! The stomach rumbling could be quashed! About 2 mins later the sandwich trolley arrived with a chicken and Tomato sandwich (the tomato being smartly removed, then dropped on my trousers, bugger) as did my third cup of tea of the day (which after one small carton of UHT milk was applied, turned the same colour as the milk itself) and a cup of apple juice.
1504 (local) after a very smooth 2 hour flight to Helsinki, we came into land. There was a thick covering of snow on the ground and haw frost on the many trees that are here. There appears to be about 2 foot of snow from what I can make out and very very low cloud.
What am I reading? "High heels and a head torch- the essential guide for girls who backpack" by Chelsea Duke. This book is both useful and funny, covering everything from what to pack to how to tackle a squat toilet. I feel this book will be very useful as I've already mentally armed myself with some things to expect. A great read for any future travellers, not just if you're a lady (after all, I never wear high heels- I just fall over!)
The best thing today: a bacon sandwich and sugary tea to start me off!
The worst thing today: going to the wrong place first off
The best feeling today: taking off down the runway and a smile overtaking my face with a sense of happiness and freedom. The love and support I felt from my friends with all the emails and texts and other messages I got.
The worst feeling today: panicking about whether I'd get to the airport! And saying goodbye to my dear friends. no wait...being at the wrong hostel and being lost...you'll read more about that in tomorrow's entry!
The most beautiful thing today: the sky over helsinki