Image by JKleeman via FlickrIt was our first trip to Costa Rica.
We were due to leave from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, which meant that friends had to get up at some godless hour to take us to catch the milk train up to Paris....here....where for some wonder everyone was not on strike...except that the lifts at Charles de Gaulle railway station did not work, so I had to hump the suitcases up two flights of stairs to get to the shuttle bus that runs round like a demented hamster serving the various terminals.
Charles de Gaulle must be the most unpleasant main airport in existence. Badly laid out, dirty almost to the point of being squalid and decidedly expensive, it was almost a relief to get through to the departure gate in some far flung annexe for our long flight, which involved a change at Houston.
The 'plane was late, we had to walk miles while empty transport vehicles passed regularly, picking up no one, until we eventually arrived at the hour long queue at immigration.
I was struck by the discourtesy of the staff organizing the lines....whatever their training had involved there had been no place for manners, evidently....but the final blow came as our 'planeload approached the checkpoints.
It was one of those periods when the French government were being uncooperative in the view of the U.S. and as the sound of French became audible to the staff, more than half of them closed down their desks.
Well, welcome to the U.S.!
We were in transit, we had no intention of staying in the country, but were still subject to this absurd process, not to speak of having to retrieve our baggage and go through customs!
I think 'subject' is an appropriate word.
The U.S. government appears to think that all foreigners are 'subject' races with only one aim in view...to get into the U.S.A. and stay there.
Given the reception, the reaction all around me was the same as mine....
If that's the U.S.. they can keep it!
Then through 'security' again as the departure time for our flight to Costa Rica did not so much as creep closer but gallop fast enough to win the Derby.
Bossy women snatching our travel documents....and the final delight...taking off our shoes to go through the security gates.
Well, Mr. Fly cannot balance to do this standing, so I asked for a chair.
'If he isn't fit he should be in a wheelchair. If he isn't in a wheelchair he's fit.'
So he stood in front of the gate, blocking it, until a chair was brought.
I think it was a near run thing between the arrival of a chair and his departure in handcuffs.
The 'plane was small and crowded.....but at least we were out of the U.S.!
As we approached landing time, the plane ran into violent thunderstorms and circled for an hour over the main international airport at San Jose, Costa Rica.
From the window I had close ups of mountain peaks and searing bolts of lightning, while in the seat behind a loud American voice announced that it was often like this and no doubt we'd be diverted to Panama, where, as Americans need a visa, nobody would be allowed to leave the plane!
Eventually, the pilot announced that we would be diverting to the holiday airport of Liberia, in the north of Costa Rica...but from there...what?
Would we be bussed down to San Jose?
Would we have to stay in the plane at Liberia until conditions improved?
At Liberia, the plane landed and eventually the stewardesses announced that it would be refuelled and would then take off again for San Jose.
It was a long, hot wait and Mr. Fly, exhausted, needed somewhere to stretch out.
I asked a stewardess if he could go through to the front of the plane.
But he was ill.
He hadn't paid first class, he didn't get first class.
But he doesn't want champagne, caviar, pole dancers or whatever else goes on up there..he just needs to stretch out.
He hadn't paid first class, he didn't get first class. There's water in the galley if you want to help yourself.
I was getting worried.
Mr. Fly was suffering from heat and exhaustion.
We had arranged a pick up to take us to our destination.....but by the time we had been refuelled and taken off again, we would be five hours late arriving.
There was no way our pick up would still be there.
I started looking at the travel guide, looking for somewhere to stay near the airport, and found a couple of options, planning to take a taxi to one of them, get some sleep, and ring our contact number the next day to sort out what to do.
The voice from the seat behind was declaiming that this was always happening in this country...you got used to it...he was going to ring his wife to pick him up...too bad for anyone else...
Then we landed.
Immigration was fast.....we were the only 'plane.
Customs was fast, with a charming man who helped me load the suitcases through the machine.
And miracle of miracles....our pick up was there!