Costa Rica 2011
Day 1 Sunday 10th April
How much time do you save by checking in online? Not a lot, it seems. Especially if everyone else has had the same idea. There was a depressingly long queue at the Iberia desk when we arrived at Heathrow Terminal 3 for the start of our Costa Rican adventure.
We went into our normal airport/flying mode, which involves withdrawing into our own worlds and communicating only when necessary. Is it just us that do that? Maybe it is. It was very early so none of us was that talkative anyway.
One lady turned up and asked people in the queue “Is this the queue?” Well it’s a queue. She went away, but then another lady arrived. She had a face like a stoat and no respect for other peoples’ personal space, and spent the whole time complaining about the queue that everyone knew was long because they were standing in it.
Eventually we found ourselves airside. We didn’t have enough time for the big airport breakfast but somehow found ourselves drinking cocktails thanks to a guy in the duty free shop doing a promotion for something called Martini Gold. Cheers.
The first flight, a brief 2-hour hop to Madrid, positively flew by. So to speak. The annoying lady at the airport spent the entire flight annoying a couple in the row ahead of me. Apparently she was off to Lima, no doubt to annoy and stand too close to the unlucky residents of that city. Phew.
The second flight was on an Airbus A340. We’d flown on and loved the A380, but any illusions that the A340 was just 40 less good than the A380 were dispelled when we boarded and noticed that there was no seat-back entertainment. An 11-hour flight and we had to watch an extremely limited selection of films, at times not of our choosing, on screens that were four metres away and which were frequently obscured by people standing up and moving about. Oh well. Take off and landing were enlivened by the presence of a forward-looking camera in the tail.
There was a fly on the lens when we took off, but it definitely wasn’t there when we landed in a cloudy San Jose at around 1pm local time the following day. During a smooth transfer to our hotel, the driver explained that watching the aircraft fly in and out was a popular weekend activity for San Joseans. True enough, families had erected folding chairs and picnic tables just outside the airport perimeter and were happily munching away as the jets roared just metres away.
The Alta Hotel in San Jose was a little way from the city centre. Built into a steep hillside, it looked like it might have once have been a monastery, with solid stone walls, high ceilings and odd, cavernous rooms on the top floor that had no clear function at all. Great views of the city, though. We spent a few moments watching the distant lights of aircraft as they came in to land. Turning native already!
After Carol had a quick dip in the blimey-that’s-cold pool, we showered and had an early dinner as we were due another early start tomorrow. Worked out that I’d had about six hours sleep out of the previous 44.
Next time: We take a river boat into the heart of darkness for a rendezvous with
Colonel Kurtz the travel rep.