Thursday, 7 November 2019

Back in soggy Manchester!

The sun was actually shining and the sky was mostly blue in Vigo when we got in a taxi at 8.30 this morning to go to the bus station to catch a bus the Porto airport and wend our way homewards. It wasn’t forecast to last for the whole day but it was there - a welcome break from the grey and soggy, even if only for a few hours. It is November after all!

We drove through some patches of mist or fog on our way to Porto but mostly it managed to stay reasonably fine. About time too!

As we got into the queue for boarding our Ryanair flight I reflected in the strange reversal brought about by the airline’s baggage policy changes. It used to be that “priority boarding”, permitting travellers to take two pieces of cabin baggage on board, was the short queue and “non-priority boarding”, for those cheapskates like us who stuffed all our stuff into our one permitted 10k, regulation-size little suitcase, was the longer queue. With the excuse of speeding up take-off and preventing the free-for-all competition for locker space in the cabin, Ryanair’s “non-priority” boarders can now only take one small piece of hand luggage onto the plane and it must fit under the seat. Consequently almost everyone now tries to book early enough to get one of the “priority” places. The queue sizes have been reversed. I was amused to watch people arrive and join the shorter queue only to discover that they needed to be at the end of the queue that went almost all the way down into Porto town. Of course, you could simply pay the extra fee and check a bigger bag into the hold, which ironically enough automatically gets you onto “priority”. You pays your money and you takes your choice!

There was plenty of time for queue observation as we were called into our queues and then stood for ages and ages until the plane eventually turned up. We set off at least 25 minutes late but the pilot must have pedalled really hard for were only about 10 minutes late into Manchester.

Manchester airport is just about the unfriendliest place imaginable. At least Terminal 3 is. At least for dropping off and picking up. (Although, on reflection, inside Terminal 3 departures there are fewer shops and food facilities than in terminal 1. Is this because it caters for budget airlines?) I remember the occasion when my daughter and I went to meet my Spanish sister and her daughter and grandson at Terminal 3 and got thoroughly lost. They have tried to improve matters but it is far from perfect. Today our daughter was collecting us by car and for the sake of speed, and for saving money on the charge form time spent in a vehicle in the airport compound, she suggested picking us up where she had dropped us off a couple of weeks back. Thus, confusion would be avoided as we all knew where to go.

But, no! This was not possible. Large unfriendly notices warned that this was a “drop off” zone and that if you tried to “pick up” in the “drop off” zone you would be liable to a £100 fine!!! So we phoned her and warned her that you had to go to the designated Terminal 3 “Pick Up Area”, following the directional arrows. For arriving passengers this meant a five minutes walk. Well, five minutes for fast walkers like us. With plenty of scope for getting lost. Not to mention plenty of scope for getting wet in the torrential downpour! For drivers coming to collect they had to go into the multi-storey short-stay carpark and make their way round the ground floor and out into the open area, where we had eventually found a bus-shelter like construction of metal and perspex, large enough for about half a dozen soggy pass, most of whom were on their mobiles explaining to their lift-providers where they were!! Given that Manchhester is one of the rainiest places in the country you might have though a more sheltered system could have been arranged.

Eventually we found each other and set off in the pouring rain and heavy traffic. A journey that should have taken maybe three quarters of an hour took a good two hours. Progress was slowed by standing water on the roads. Some roads were closed because of flooding. Again, one might have expected newish road systems in such a rainy area to have better drainage systems.

And we thought it had been dull and damp in the north west of the Iberian Peninsula!! We’re back!

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