Saturday 7th March 2015. Day 181 Circle closing
Nothing from National Express as to which ticket to use, we must wait until we reach Heathrow Central Bus Station to sort this one out.
Awake at 7.15am and breakfast at 8.15 am. We had nothing planned for the day and as checkout was 1.00pm we took our time in packing in the air conditioned bedroom. After checking out we left our luggage and headed for the next air conditioned haven the restaurant we had used yesterday. Lunch of Fillet Mignon, a lemon tea and a café latte concocted from a straight coffee and a cup of hot milk, kept us in the cool until 3.45pm when we returned to the hotel to make final adjustments of clothing and then we waited on the balcony for the taxi to arrive at 5pm. We were therefore more than a little surprised to be told at 4.20pm that the taxi had arrived. Thankfully we were ready and by 4.50pm found ourselves in the check in area looking for the TAP desks, of which there was no immediate sign. Airport information pointed towards the far end of the hall where a short queue stood patiently in front of unlabelled desks. Eric checked the whole hall again and then asked two passengers at the end of the line if they were queuing for the TAP flight. They confirmed they were so we joined the nascent queue. By 5.20pm there were signs of life behind the desks and confirmatory signs appeared. Individual check in seemed to take a long time but eventually we reached the desk and were delighted to find they had seats for us through to Heathrow as scheduled.
Passing through passport control and security took very little time, as there were no queues, and we made ourselves comfortable by gate 25. Having spied a money exchange booth Eric went off to find a toilet to allow him to discreetly access the Tahitian money stowed in the body belt. Frustrated at first by only finding Ladies he eventually found a Gentleman’s toilet upstairs in the café area and transferred the Francs to a pocket. Descending to the ground floor he tentatively proffered the franc notes. The lady teller went through the usual routine of looking at each note as if they were something the cat dragged in but gallantly went into her computer system and verified that these strange notes were legal tender and could be exchanged for dollars. The transaction completed she confided that this was her first time with exchanging this currency.
Eric returned happily to Joyce who then went off to search for the Hagen Dazs ice cream kiosk Eric had spotted upstairs, she duly found and enjoyed a chocolate chip ice cream. Boarding time came and went with an influx of transit passengers from our flight which had arrived from Bogotá. Eventually the plane was ready for us and we boarded around 8.15pm with take off a good 25 minutes late.
Dinner and a film, Angels and Demons, later we settled for some sleep around 11.00pm.
Sunday 8th March 2015. Day 182 Lisbon lacuna
The cabin lights came on around 4.00am, equating to 9.00am Lisbon and London time. Breakfast swiftly followed and we landed in Lisbon around 11.00am. A coach took us to the terminal where, as transit passengers, we only had a relatively short wander to gate 47A.
Due to board at. 12.00pm an announcement was made that there was a delay for essential maintenance. Visions of missing our coach connection flashed through our minds but thankfully the deadly was only 15 minutes before we were bussed to our aeroplane. Once aboard, the two hour flight went quite quickly and we arrived within our scheduled landing time, although we were then stacked, making us 25 minutes late in landing, at just before 4.00pm. Although the passport queues were short for Heathrow, using the e-passport system put Eric straight through, but the system did not work for Joyce, however, she was able to go straight to the support desk. The luggage appeared quickly and, following the signs with two lift journeys, we were in the central bus station by 4.30pm. Eric went to discuss the ticketing issue with the desk staff and a helpful lady printed out the tickets and let him telephone customer services to discuss which of the two tickets to use. It was decided to use the one we had been given, hopefully allowing us to reclaim the money on the other. In the end this turned out to be moot as the coach driver did not ask to see any tickets. The coach left at 5.10pm and the journey was uneventful, although we were delayed by a diversion to avoid a problem on the M4. The coach reached Chepstow at 7.25pm and Merv, the taxi driver who had driven us in September, was waiting for us and we were home in St Arvans by 7.40 pm. A light supper was possible through the kind offices of Clare, Ed and Marina, who had laid in essential supplies.
Monday 10th March
‘No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until they come home and rests their head on their old, familiar pillow.’
A late awakening after a good night’s sleep in our own bed. Getting back on line proved to be an hassle, but eventually, after a long phone call, the mobile WiFi was topped up. An email check revealed that National Express have agreed to the refund on the single ticket and we are more than happy with this gesture of good will. We now faced mountains of washing and six month’s post, valiantly screened and kindly delivered by Clare and Ed. The good news is that cars started after standing on the drive all this time, the bad news was the boiler appeared to have packed up during the day. In the end this turned out to be a gas failure and the boiler was working again by the middle of the evening. A trip to Tesco gave us the basis of sustenance for the next few days before heading off again to catch up with family and friends. It has been strange to be here without Yangzi, who is still sojourning with Clare and Ed.
‘We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.’
‘Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience’
‘Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.’
The trip has been a truly amazing experience and we have seen and done so much. It is still hard to take in what we have done and it will take some time to process our memories, especially the over 128 GB of photographs and movies.
‘Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs.’
We thank the loyal followers of our all too intermittent musings and reports and apologise for the failure to publish more pictures, a job too far at the end of the day.
‘Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.’ Benjamin Disraeli
Souvenirs we said we would not buy: 33 (all very small, honest)
Bookings, mostly made before we left:
79 units of accommodation plus 2 with friends
19 commercial flights
4 tourist flights
6 coach transfers
24 taxi journeys
3 rail transfers
8 hired cars over 99 days
In total our journey had 61 travel links and we travelled in excess of 51,830 miles, more than twice round the world, of which Eric drove 11,645 miles and we flew 36,959 miles.
The blog records over 99,000 words.
It has been a real blessing that over the past 6 months, apart from the odd hiccup, irritating rather than critical, all the bookings we made worked as we expected. Although there was always a worry factor at each stage we were very happy with all the arrangements.
“A person travels the world over in search of what they need and returns home to find it.”
― George Moore, The Brook Kerith