Here we are, back in Vigo, after all the excitement of volcanoes erupting and clouds of ash cutting Britain off from the rest of Europe, which some might consider no bad thing but not this blogger, I hasten to add. Things were getting critical and the government was being accused of being negligent for not rescuing stranded Britons, over-indulgent for sending boats to rescue them and quite simply away with the fairies for saying that apparently non-existent buses would take poor stranded folk from Madrid to Paris.
And just at that point, quite fortuitously, someone decided that it was safe to fly after all. Modern jets, it seems, have no problem with a bit of volcanic ash! This, of course, led to recriminations and suggestions there really was no need to ban flying in the first place. Now, I am no expert but it does seem to me that if there is any chance that planes full of people might start hurtling down out of the sky because of engines clogged up with volcanic dust the sensible plan is to stop flying for a while.
Until yesterday lunch time it was still uncertain whether we could return to Vigo today or not. The skies were declared safe. Airports were reported to be open and functioning. And yet our flight remained in the cancelled list. Ryanair, despite a blanket refusal to comply with European directives and pay for accommodation for their stranded passengers, were playing it safe.
We had just about resigned ourselves to staying a few days longer and were even making plans for the weekend when our flight was confirmed. We were then told to repeat the online check-in we had already completed, Ryanair’s website went into overload and crashed, our internet access went crazy and we spent hours sorting out the relevant documents. Having finally sorted it all, we arrived at Liverpool this morning to find that we need to go to a desk and check in AGAIN!!!
We had also had dire warnings about overcrowding at the airport causing major delays with queues at security. So we paid for Liverpool airport’s get-through-security-faster-than-anyone-else fee, only to find when we got there that the fast track was closed and the queues were fairly miniscule and fast moving. Most strange!
So we flew back here through blue skies sprinkled with fluffy white candy-floss clouds. No sign of an ash cloud anywhere! It has clearly moved along. When the news broke last Thursday, some people went into such a panic that I fully expected to see a grey pall advancing over the country from somewhere up north. My brother-in-law even suggested postponing a planned trip to central Manchester in case the dust interfered with car, bus and train engines as well as planes! So where has it gone? That is what I want to know.
The airlines reckon to have lost billions because of a week of not flying over most of Europe. The Spanish tourist industry has apparently lost 42 million Euros. However, a group of intrepid Norwegians, about 100 of them, were so determined NOT to miss their cruise when they could not fly to Lisbon, the point of departure, that they organised themselves onto a bus and travelled overland to join the Vision of he Seas at Vigo. Goodness me, with such perseverance they could almost be British!
As for us, we left a chilly Saddleworth – frost on the cars – at 6.00 this morning and got off a plane several hours later into the gently warm sunshine of Oporto. As the Bus Galiza (10 Euros from Oporto airport to Vigo bus station) stopped briefly on Avenida dos Aliados in Oporto, we witnessed a school party taking part in a strange ritual which involved lots of jumping up and down and clapping. They all wore home-made head-dresses that looked like donkey or rabbit ears. Many of them wore lifebelts or carried inflatable paddling pools and the teachers/organisers, looking rather sinister in black blanket cloaks, fired water pistols at them. If anyone can explain this phenomenon to me I shall be most appreciative!
Finally we made it back to Vigo and I popped out to buy milk so that we could do that most British of things on returning from a journey: have a cup of tea. We had replenished out supply of PG Tips during our trip to the UK. Avenida García Barbón smelt delightful, almost like Seville at this time of year. Why? Orange blossom of course! It’s that time of year when the orange trees, some still sporting last year’s fruit at the same time, come into bloom and smell delightful. We are back in Spain!