A Weekend in France and Spain
April 8 2006
European away games are fun-filled adventures, enjoyed by all: good food, good booze, great fans. Sometimes, though, things don't always go to plan. CheadleEnder necks another G&T and relates the following tale of woe...
Five go to
was the original destination. Thanks to Ryan Air and French air traffic
controllers the eventual itinerary reads more like a poor Monty Python parody -
Spain, Spain, France, Spain, France, Spain, France!
I blame RiggerstheBeer. The omens weren't good from when we arrived Chez Rigby
at 5.30 am to find thebeer and themissus had slept in. They were unaware of the
shadow play which entertained us as we waited - two panic stricken figures
flitting backwards and forwards across the bedroom blind. However, the "famous
five" remained blissfully, even excitedly, ignorant of what the Gods had in
store as we set off for Blackpool
anticipating nothing more than a full Irish breakfast and a drink or two in
O'Neill's at Stansted. We arrived safely, we ate, we supped, we ignored the
announcements as you do. "What was that........cancelled? Toulon,
Marseille........air traffic controllers?" "Oh sh*t"
And so it began.
Moonbeam went off to investigate while the rest supped on. The queue formed,
reformed, lengthened till it stretched from one end of Stansted to the other.
Rosie's Rebels (Rosie, Ginny and Joe) and others arrived to join us in the
queue. Hopes were raised on news of a flight to
Pau with seats available and dashed when we discovered
the last two taken by the couple in front of us. What was left? A flight to
at 6 am on Friday morning!
It is possible to spend too long in O'Neill's - several were heard to say they
never wanted to see it again. As they threw us out of our comfy chairs at 11.30
pm we settled to sleep as best we could on seats in the main area. It's amazing
the friends adversity throws your way as we shared a laugh and a snore with
For the second day in a row we learned there are indeed two 4 o'clocks in a day.
At last we can check in and it looks like this flight will go. After stripping
down to almost bare for the over zealous security check we head straight for
Wetherspoons and breakfast - who should we meet? Yes, Scuba, Hippy and the
first of the Friday travellers heading out. With their laughter ringing in our
ears we went our separate ways - they to Bilbao,
us to Santander.
On to the shuttle train, through the checks, on to the plane, seats buckled -
here we go. "What's that? Delay? Two hours?" Yes, we've missed our slot and
we have to sit on the runway for 2 hours . . .
Now we're in Spain
hiring a Spanish car - pay attention at the back, this has significance at the
end of the story! By now all our original plans had been revised so we head
straight to San Sebastian. Riggersthebeer says "I've never been to
before". Another omen we all ignored at the time! However, at last all goes
well. The first hotel we find, the
Parma, has rooms for us all for Friday night so we sign
in and head for the showers. Washed, primped and feeling better we head for the
Town, the sea, the bars
and all the wonderful things San Seb has to offer. Saturday morning we make the
first of our visits to France
as we head to Biarritz
along the scenic route taking in the marina full of expensive yachts in Hendaye
as we go.
hilly. I have yet to receive an explanation for why when we left our hotel (The
Tulip) we walked uphill to Pascal Ondart's bar, and when we left the bar we
walked uphill to the Tulip. Logic says there should have been a "downhill" in
there somewhere. Moonbeam, however, denies walking me around in circles. They
sang "Sayull" as we walked but I was forced to explain I don't do "uphill" and
"singing" at the same time. The "craic" in Ondart's is an essay on its own.
"There's only one F in Adam", "Adams Mum, Adam's Mum, Adams Muuuuuum", Olga
bouncing on the knee of a certain committee member who will remain nameless (but
I have the pictures!), Manzana - now there's a drink to rival G&T in my
affections, the exuberance and warmth of the Biarritz fans and the hardy Sale
fans who joined them on the back of the lorry.
Sunday dawns as hot and sunny as Saturday did. And yes, we saw dawn again but
this time because we were setting off back to
Spain for "the big day". The Sharks flag
flying from the car window signified our allegiance to all the
fans we passed on the motorway - much honking of horns and waving as we
leapfrogged each other along the road. The whole of San Sebastian appeared to be
awash with red and white. Fans from both teams congegrated in the
The square was a sea of colour and every side street was crammed with people.
The atmosphere was as warm as the sun. Live music, flags, posters - just like
Edgeley Precinct when these teams visit us. Or maybe I'd had one too many
Manzanas when that picture flashed through my mind..........
I'll draw a red and white veil over the next few hours as we all know what
happened then. The saga of the lost passport delayed our return to
Biarritz. Do I take it with me and the owner is in San
Seb? Do I leave it in safe hands and the owner is in
Biarritz? I opted to leave it and indeed several hours
and many phone calls later the owner is found - in
Biarritz! More phone calls and with the help of Niels de
Vos, both are re-united the following morning long after we have set off for
Riggersthebeer's third visit to Spain in as many days.
It's 4 am again - this time we are up and ready to head back to
Santander for the return flight. We have to go back to
because we have a Spanish car (remember?) and it can't be left in
France. Little hills of spare coins are
bundled on Pink Lady's lap to cope with all the tolls along the way, Moonbeam
has matchsticks to keep his eyes open as he has to drive, the Riggerses and I
snore in the back. We arrive to the airport at 8 am - unload and return the car
and set of in search of a loo and a check in desk. Pink Lady is first to the
loo, she speaks Spanish. The announcement is in Spanish, the English
translation only starts as a now Grey Lady returns. Yes, due to "industrial
action" our flight from Santander
is cancelled. Off we go to queue again. In the meantime I wonder what is
happening with our fellow travellers in
France where this supposed industrial action is
taking place. A quick call to Tigger and he tells me the
flight is boarding. Another call to GB in Biarritz,
he calls the airport and they say "non" - no problems in
Biarritz, all flights on schedule. Suspicion mounts. A
fellow traveller calls his Mum. She calls
Airport and relays the
message that Stansted are operating normally and are not aware of any industrial
action. Ah, good old Ryan Air - one of the exclusions to the compensation
package forced on them by the EU is "industrial action". It may be just our
collective cynical minds but militancy mounts as those further back the queue
become aware of the situation. However, there is little to be done except find
another flight home. FrankG is offered and accepts a flight from
for himself and MrsG - but he has a two and a half hour drive to get there. BarrytheBus
and group are behind us in the queue when we insist on going back to
for the 5 pm flight. When it's his turn he insists too only to be told sorry,
you can only go to Valladolid.
The now incendiary Moonbeam, memories of his Che Guevarra, militant left days
bright in his eyes, springs to action and produces the forms to prove it can be
done and olé, Barry is also on our flight.
Back to the car hire firm. Can we get a car we can leave in
Biarritz? Ah no, Spanish cars can't be left in
(I told you this was significant didn't I?) But suddenly our luck returns. One
firm has a French car that needs to go back so we can have that. Barrythebus
isn't so lucky, he can only get a Spanish car so they have to drive to San
Sebastien airport, not for a flight but to leave the car, then get a train to
Hendaye and another to Biarritz.
We sail off back to France
full of confidence that our problems are now over........
Ondart's bar again for a wonderful lunch and a couple of bottles of good French
wine. Thanks to the miracle of mobile telephony our fellow travellers are aware
of our tribulations. At 3 pm we walk through the airport doors to loud cheers
and a round of applause! The owner of the lost passport appears with a G&T in
one hand and a box of chocolates in the other and thereby earns my undying love.
Suddenly all is right with the world again.
At least it was till we reach Stansted. In the confusion of Thursday afternoon,
Ryan Air have lost their record of us on the return flight to
Blackpool. They claim we "phoned" on Thursday to cancel! Ummm says
I, why would we be phoning when WE WERE STOOD IN A BL**DY QUEUE OVER THERE all
afternoon. I was beginning to lose my sense of humour just a tad at this point
Time is moving on. Everyone else has gone through. The check in desk has
closed. Still we wait. A very patient check in person seeks to comfort us
"don't worry, we have plenty of time to sort this out - the flight has been
delayed by an hour"...........
Did I mention I lost my glasses in Ondart's on Saturday night? Ah, one last
hurdle to leap. It's my car that's parked in Blackpool
and I have to drive! The journey home via Bury and Heaton Mersey is punctuated
by "What does that sign say?" "Am I ok in this lane?" "It's a mile to the next
junction", "keep left here", but most importantly "look out there's a camera up
As for the person in the back seat who started singing "didn't we have a lovely
time the day we went to........." she survived, but only just.
Travelling tribulations aside we had a wonderful time. We laughed our way from
France and back again several times over, met
some wonderful people along the way but most importantly we had the warmth,
kindness and friendship of all of you who made the journey and kept our spirits
up through it all.
So when do we go again?