Saturday 9 July 2016. As a belated celebration of my 65th birthday I’m now in Selva Val Gardena for a 2 week walking holiday in the Dolomites. I knew when I booked the holiday that I would have to endure the whole “airport experience” and although the travel was relatively trouble-free, it was and still is something that I hate.
My flight was scheduled for 8.10am from Gatwick and check-in closed 45 minutes prior to this time. Living where I do in the transport not-spot of The Fens there was only one way to get to the airport and that was to drive. Some of my friends have driven down the night before and stayed in a nearby B&B who provide parking and a taxi to the airport. I’m not a great sleeper at the best of times and this didn’t seem like a good option for me as it would probably involve a restless night and an early departure from the B&B at around 6am.
I decided to drive down through the middle of the night setting off from home at 3am. I thought that if I went to bed at my normal time of 10pm and got up at 2am that I would get at least 4 hours sleep. Well that didn’t work. After being in bed for 2 hours without falling asleep, I got up at midnight, watched some TV and had breakfast before going for a shower at 2am to wake myself up for the 3am drive to Gatwick. Unsurprisingly the roads were very quiet at this time and I was parked up at Gatwick at a little after 5.30am.
Now the fun started. Walk to the nearest car park bus stop of the 5 minute ride to the North Terminal. I’d checked-in on-line the day before and reserved myself a window seat so I didn’t have to contend with this hassle. All I needed to do was to drop off my bags and go through security. How difficult could this be? Well in all honesty it wasn’t too bad, even for me who hates crowds. I joined the bag drop queue worrying a little if my slightly overweight suitcase (25g compared to the 23kg allowance) would be accepted and if my rucksack packed with additional clothing and a small hold all would fit into the prescribed rack dimensions. I needn’t have worried as the suitcase went through without a murmur and no-one checked the weight or size of my hand luggage.
Next for security. Surprisingly this was speedy if bewildering process as I was told to wait in line and then to put my two bags into separate trays ready for radar scanning. I had to drag my tablet out of my rucksack which was then swabbed for explosives. It didn’t go bang and was given the all clear.
I now had 90 minutes or so to kill waiting to board my plan. The Gate number wasn’t displayed immediately and rather than going up to the visual display board, I was able to check on-line on BA’s website. A coffee was needed and a ham roll that I’d brought with me rather than paying airport prices. Knowing that I would have time to kill, I’d downloaded some Johnnie Walker and Paul Gambaccini programmes from the BBC to listen to. I was also using some noise reduction earbuds which cut out 90% of the external noise so I was able to disappear into my own personal bubble and ignore the world around me. These earbuds are really effective and using them when out walking rather worryingly means that I can’t hear cars as they drive past me.
At about 7.30am we were allowed through the boarding gate for a 5 minute bus ride out to out plane. No airgate but steps up from the tarmac. We took off almost half an hour late but arrived in Verona almost on time. I took the opportunity of taking a few pictures as we crossed the Alps and Lake Garde. Baggage reclaim was the usual pain but our bus driver was waiting for us in arrivals for a tortuous 3 hour transfer to Selva. I’m not a great traveller on buses and was glad when this was over.
The final few miles to Selva were magical as the rocky mountains of the Dolomites drew ever closer and we could see the alpine pastures all around. I have to say that so far, the Hotel Malleier is excellent although, unlike the couples, my 3 bedded room doesn’t have a balcony but does have a great view.
All of this travel has screwed up my body clock and after only 4 hours sleep I’m up at 3am writing this blog. I’m off back to bed now to see if I can get some more rest before Sunday’s walk.