Saturday, 2 July 2011

A Blogger in Paradise –Majorca Part 1

I must admit I have never thought the words paradise and Majorca went together and maybe they don’t entirely. However I was surprised how close they got when I spent two weeks there very recently.

I am a self confessed travel snob who has been spoilt silly by first class travel and holiday destinations like The Maldives, Mustique, Mauritius and suchlike. But this time we wanted somewhere closer to home, cheaper and less hassle and we came up with Majorca which is just two hours flight away and sunny. So off I went online and booked Thompson flights, local car hire and a villa through Villa Select.

I was filled with a sense of foreboding as I found out more about the place. You have to get there by low cost airlines or holiday charters (what no special desks and premium cabins?). Then somebody in the pub told me about Palma Nova and Magaluf with their rowdy pubs, English cafes, nightclubs, big plasma sports screens and everything else I have not enjoyed since I was in my twenties. What have I done I thought as our departure date got nearer.

Finally the day came and off we went to Gatwick. We arrived at North Terminal and walked past our usual un-crowded BA Executive Club check in desk and into the people maelstrom called the Thomson check in area. It looked like pandemonium with milling crowds of young party people, families and old gits like me and there were hundreds of them. Not only that but they were checking in all flights at the same row of desks and my heart sank.

Using my vast travel experience I concluded this simply could not work…but it did. In no time we were herded by a team of Thomson staff into a huge ‘conga’ line of a queue that zigzagged at least eight times backwards and forwards across the whole width of the departure area. This will take years I snarled to Judith as we fitted in behind a group of young school leaver party girls and in front of a couple juggling 3 children, two bottles of water and an array of buggies. It took only 20 minutes. After much shuffling, bumping and tight turning we were at the front where we got politely manhandled by a couple of shouting marshals who pointed to one of the desks

. Check-in was seamless apart from one big but. I wanted extra baggage above our one 20kg case each allowance so I prepaid for an extra bag online by adding an extra £30 to our bill. I soon found out that yes, you can have an extra case but no, you could not have any extra weight. What is all that about? What is the point in paying for two bags if you can only carry stuff for one in them? Weird! Anyway they tried to charge me £100 in excess baggage and it took all my selling skills to talk them out of it.

We walked past our usual empty priority security channel and joined the rear of the busy general entrance and, to my surprise we were through in no time. OK I had to dress again having taken off my shoes, belt, jacket, watch etc but that would have happened anyway these days. It was unfortunate my trousers dropped to my knees as I walked through the metal detector but at least they could see I had no obvious secret weapon. I hope I have decent underwear I thought as I bent down to pick them up.

The thought of hanging around the main departures area was too much for my spoilt sensibilities so I had prepaid for the use of the No.1. Lounge when I was booking our Gatwick North Terminal valet parking. It cost £40 for the two of us and it was bright, airy and not overcrowded. For the £20 a head we could have lunch, watch a film, and drink what we wanted for up to 3 hours. When you think that on the aircraft the meal alone costs £12 each it is a cost effective way of lunching and drinking beforehand in comfort whilst getting away from the crowds.

Flight time loomed so off we went to the gate. The only trouble was that the advertised gate was incorrect. In fact I do not think it existed. This resulted in much milling around where the passengers reckoned it should be. Eventually a member of Thomson staff beckoned from a nearby desk (which said ‘closed’ above it) and off we strode.

Why we all do it I do not know but as soon as a flight is called for boarding it is something like the ‘charge of the light brigade’. The plane won’t go without us but we all make that undignified dash. Some people start queuing at the gate an hour beforehand. I can only think it is because everyone wants to be sure there is still room to stow their bags before others from surrounding seats chuck their stuff in first.

Finally we were on board this rather old looking Airbus with rather old looking and very small tight-packed seats. I had paid (£25) for extra leg room and got it in the emergency exit row. Unfortunately a rather enormous person had the same idea and squeezed in next to us. What would have happened in an emergency is anyone’s guess but folk would have had to scale the man mountain first to get out.

To my surprise the flight was really good. I had to get used to paying for everything but I could not fault it. If I had been anywhere in the rest of the plane I might have got claustrophobia but my little row was great even with the big guy alongside. Again I had pre-ordered champagne and chocolates (for £25) and a full size bottle arrived with no fuss. This is not at all bad I thought and certainly rivalled many a short-haul schedule flight I have been on in the past.

So we sat back, relaxed and waited for our arrival in Palma, What would the airport, car and villa be like? Would the island be one big hen party/stag tour? Would I live on a diet of egg and chips washed down with “tea like mum makes it”. If you can bear the tension stay tuned for the next thrilling episode on a screen near you soon!

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