It doesn’t seem possible. The day has come. I’m off to Spain today!
I sort a few things, add my toilet bag to my case and pack up my mobile office. My Optus mobile transferred from contract to pre-pay as from today. Yesterday I bought Konka mobile phones for myself and Sarah. The object, in the short term, is to keep our existing Australian numbers on these phones. They tell me all I have to do is go online and recharge. It is just an hour before I have to leave. It doesn’t work. I do a test call and the phone tells me to recharge by following the prompts. I do so, patiently. I reach the end of the process and the automated voice advises that I cannot complete the transaction. I am not happy. I am stressed and angry. Its not how I wanted to feel on leaving Australia. Optus let me down once again. I do not like this monster of a company. I do not like how it ignores requests. I do not like how it acts fraudulently by providing thoughtless product advice.
But time is running out. I have to call an Uber and leave for the airport.
I arrive at the Cathy Pacific desk and check-in. The bags are checked-in all the way through to Valencia. I say a silent prayer and make my way to the lounge via immigration and a drug swab test.
On the plane the service and food was good although the staff seem to disappear for ages and I felt I had to ask for everything. I guess the thing is that each crew will be different. For example they only had juice on the tray when boarding on the Syd/HK leg, but did have champagne on the HK/Mad leg. It was no bother as I simply asked for bubbles and it was fine, but I did have to ask for refills. A first world problem.
Hong Kong landing cards are distributed. the queue at immigration looks long, but moves quickly … until I am near the front and it mysteriously grinds to a slow process. I pass through and don’t need to collect luggage so head for the hotel where I have a day room booked.
The Regal Airport Hotel is only about a 3 minute walk from the customs exit. It has the same feel as Sydney when you come out so basically turn left and look for the purplish coloured signs. It is wise to grab some water and snacks before you get there as the mini-fridge may be empty … I learned the hard way.
As you enter the hotel foyer you bare left to reception. There is a cafe on your left and on the right a small patisserie. Some nice looking cakes there.
If you are hungry then plan to eat at the hotel. There is a reasonable mixture of restaurants or the cafe/pub where you can get a burger etc. I indulged in a Long Island Iced Tea at the China Coast Bar & Grill and settled for the complimentary nuts as my dinner. Another LIIT was forced upon me to wash them down.
Fed, rested and freshly showered I returned “airside”, but over estimated the time I would need to wander the shops. Don’t allow too much time for shops. There are plenty but the usual high end and then souvenir types. So 2 hours too early I go to Gate 48 which is at the far end of the concourse. My feet in the new shoes are sore and so are my ears as I spend the remainder of my time in Hong Kong listening to 2 South Africans talking about steel cables and the double lung transplant of a spouse.
The flight is not as comfortable on the trip to Madrid, partly due to my ticket, although I have been given a better seat than I had originally selected. One crew member is particularly rushed as if she needs to get through her tasks to do something else. She is also borderline aggressive, like she doesn’t really want to be there. On arrival at Madrid Terminal 4S (this is a satellite building) I follow the coloured H,J,K signs to Terminal 4. They are grouped together and easy to follow. I go through Immigration to officially enter Spain on my UK passport. I did not need a landing card which I suspected as they did not distribute them on the plane. After a series of escalators I ended up at the light rail. Its one stop and takes about 3-4 minutes. It seemed a long time.
I take a few coins from my pocket and remove my belt, then have my bag and stuff scanned. There is no sign to say that you need to remove phones and laptops etc … but you do. How do I know … Guess!
I hunt down the Iberia Lounge by first following the VIP Lounge signs. There is plenty of time. About 50 minutes from departure I look at the Board and it flags a delay of 20 minutes. I allow for this and carry on working at my iPad. After some time and … bloody hell … they reverted back to the original time and I should be going.
I guess the gates change from time to time, but for me the flight left from Gate K93 in section K which is at the very end of the concourse. They have timings at various stages starting with an 8 minute countdown for K and I raced with burning feet through the airport. The Gate is on the same level as the Lounge with good signage, but I then got stuck finding directions for gates 60 through to 98. I may have missed a sign and my heart started to race. Then in the distance I see higher numbers. Basically you just keep going and all of a sudden the numbers go up.
The staff scan the ticket and then may put either a red or orange label on your bag. The red, which is what I got says “Aceptacion Limitada”. The other label is orange and I guess this means oversize.
At Gate 93 I go down the short escalator to the sliding doors and a corridor. The queue is long, backed up to the foot of the escalator and people have to shuffle closer as more passengers come down the moving stair. I thought we were getting a bus, but in fact the airplane was right outside. But we wait for what felt like an eternity. At last we start to board. Ground crew were near the steps, I think identifying the orange labels. These bags were taken and loaded onto the aircraft. When you arrive in Valencia you come down the aircraft steps and collect your bag again before going through to the carousel.
A cramped regional flight, but short. Luckily through some clerical error by the Flight Centre I was in Business Class, such as it is. I tell Sarah to make sure she goes Business Class. It seems crazy to end such a long journey on this little flight and be uncomfortable, especially when she needs to be careful with her leg.
We land in Valencia and taxi to the Gate. All of a sudden a black guy comes charging down the plane while we are still moving and sits in the only spare seat right at the front. The bloody idiot wants to use the toilet … obviously to empty his head! Just when we stand to exit the plane he now needs to go all the way back to get his bag from the overhead.
At the carousel I stand in silence watching the unmoving belt and wonder if God heard my prayer back in Sydney. Did my luggage in fact travel with me? Is it in Pakistan or perhaps abandoned in some dark corner of a hanger? I stare at the belt and it refuses to be moved. All of a sudden it springs to life and gains the attention of passengers. Bags of all shapes and sizes come and go while others go round and round. To my relief a bright red suitcase appears and moments later the smaller bag. Thank you God!
Dave and Fi are waiting for me. A car ride of just over an hour to Javea, La Marina Alta region of the northern Costa Blanca. I can’t believe I am here, but I am. I am here in Spain. But I am not home. When Sarah arrives in 10 days time … then I will be home!
Until next time 🌏