Thursday, 20 December 2012

You mightn't happen to have a piece of cheese about you, now?

I landed at Juan Santamaria airport on the evening of the eighteenth of December.
The cheese landed on the evening of the nineteenth, having taken a little break in Madrid.

It, and the suitcase containing it, have just been delivered to the door by a charming gentleman who, intrigued by the aroma of his cargo, enquired as to the nature of the contents.
He recoiled as if faced by a striking snake when I freed the zips and with the driving force of a thousand horse the collective odours of the cheeses of France and England made their presence known.

He gathered himself together.

Had something died?

Costa Rica is not a great cheese producing nation.

All stacked away in the fridge...not ideal, but when in the tropics....I can count my journey as finally over, and look forward to the first band of visitors arriving tonight, the only anxiety being whether - having contumaciously decided to travel via the United States - the packages of whole smoked fish will get past U.S. customs.

I have enjoyed seeing friends, meeting and telephoning fellow bloggers, visiting old haunts and new; have managed to do most of the admin things which needed attention, have visited mother, but am truly relieved to be home, where not only has the kitchen been finished but the exterior of the house has been painted in a most dashing combination of deep yellow and green.

The dogs were as delighted to see me as I was to see them, the newly hatched ducklings are waddling about in their pen and reducing the contents of their water bowl to sludge in the space of an hour, the hoses are laid out for watering and every house I passed on my way home was alive with Christmas lights.
Home.


And what do I remember of my trip?

That the fashion for Mod style pork pie hats has returned for girls in France.

That ankle boots are worn...usually looking incongruous on the end of stick thin legs.

That travel by Eurolines resembles an ill managed retreat from Moscow.....
Firstly, their bus no longer leaves outside the front door of Tours station but from a layby about a kilometre away down a dingy side street deserted at night, where the office does not open until you have started to board the bus, only to be repelled and sent to the office to get a boarding pass.
Then you are decanted  at Lille station in the dark of a winter morning where the perversity of SNCF is such that it first refuses to open the doors, leaving the Eurolines stragglers outside in the wind tunnel and then refuses to close them, so that the said stragglers have to find refuge from the chill in the only warm places - the ticket office and the loos, the haunts of SNCF employees.
Staff at the franchised caffs have to work in the cold.
Unloading the luggage at the Chunnel  is another joy.....large smug young customs officers watching tired travellers struggling to put luggage on a scanner, the ritual stop and search of a Bulgarian, the queue for the loos.....the only pleasure being on the approaches to Victoria Coach station where social mobility is such that areas of the South Circular are becoming sub gentrified.

That a first visit to Spain was a delight.

That while the majority of men above middle age in Southampton are well built and fair haired those characteristics seem to disappear when considering younger men.

That travelling on the bus in Southampton is a friendly, chatty affair.

That the carol concert by candlelight would have been improved by some mulled wine.

That the food available in the U.K. is infinitely varied and of good quality.

That my days of lumbering two overloaded suitcases, a cabin bag and handbag across Europe are over.


Roll on Christmas, I'm just about ready for it. Cheese and all.


 

30 comments:

  1. You have encapsulated all the glamour of modern travel in one single blog post, cheesy smells and all. Welcome home!

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    1. Iberia did offer to upgrade me...at a price....but as i knew they had a free bar in economy too I declined.
      Never has home seemed more welcoming!

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  2. Mod has returned in the form of Bradley Wiggins. Piece of cheese, piece, Grommit?

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    1. Reassure me....he won't be wearing an aerodynamic pork pie helmet in the Tour de France next year...will he?

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  3. Your story reminds me of another. On my husband's first trip to the UK from Turkey in the 1960s, his mother packed goats cheese into his suitcase. On the 3rd day of the train trip, his companions could stand the smell no longer and threw his whole case out of the window.
    Welcome back and Happy Christmas.

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    1. Thank you!
      It sounds as if I was lucky not to be travelling by train!

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  4. Aside from travelling there, you had a mighty fine time!

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    1. Apart from taxmen, banks and lawyers....yes!

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  5. How nice you had a good time. Although travel by bus sounds awful.
    The dogs will be glad you are back!

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    1. The dogs are dogging my footsteps...I am clearly under surveillance....

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  6. Glad the cheese caught up with you, Fly and that you have a completed kitchen in which to store it. The travelling sounds fairly gruesome, especially at this time of year, but you survived and are back where you truly belong. :-)

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    1. How true that is! I felt very happy to be back here.

      In a way the travelling gave thinking time so there was something positive about it, but I don't think I can do a multi venue trip again unless I can arrange a central point for luggage and otherwise travel light.

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  7. Great post, Fly, and I am so glad to see you back, my friend. When I think of cheese I think of Quebec, where I live, France and Switzerland for cheese producing.

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    1. Linda, I'm looking forward to catching up on your blog over Christmas....with all the herlpful visitors it looks as though I will have time to put my feet up this year!

      There was so much from which to choose....and so little room!

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  8. That sounds a trip and a half. I had to travel by Eurolines back in the early 90s. I hated it then too especially the night bus where you had to get off every 2hrs and sit in the service station bleary-eyed and exhausted.

    Still, you're home now, cheese and all, and if your fish arrives, all set to have a great Christmas. Fingers crossed the US customs don't take a fancy to your packages!

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    1. The fish got through....its carriers refused to 'understand' English and spoke only Flemish, which seemed to fox the customs chap....

      Perhaps a day bus might be a better experience....but the halt to change drivers in the middle of nowhere, the confusion at Tours with three unmarked buses whose drivers only spoke...well I don't know what it was but I didn't recognise it....and a non functioning office, let alone the wind tunnel at Lille have made up my mind. No more Eurolines.

      I used Easyjet for the first time....they were super...allocated seating and all.

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  9. Oh it's the tedious travelling that makes it so wonderful to reach home. My cheese arrived a day later on my last trip, not too smelly and still edible. Hope yours is OK. I only have a week to go before I make my return journey. I miss my own bed!

    Welcome home Fly!

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    1. Oh the perils of travelling with cheese!
      Yes, it's all fine, thank goodness, and the visitors have brought some cheese from Brussels which is living in a cage on the balcony overnight so great is the pong.

      Have a lovely Christmas with your family....and I know just what you mean about your own bed!

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  10. Echoing all the above sentiments, I'm also glad to hear that you didn't come home to any disasters, structural or otherwise. Have a great Christmas!

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    1. So was I glad!
      Only the washing machine had packed up....but is now working again.

      Enjoy your Christmas...I intend to!

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  11. I do hope we will hear more about the trip, but as usual what we have heard about is so vivid, we can all imagine what it must have been like. I'm so glad you are home and safe and sound, and of course that the cheese arrived too. Take care and enjoy a wonderful Christmas. Jx

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    1. Very curate's egg that trip!
      We'll be thinking of you.

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  12. Hurrah for coming home, the kitchen being finished ... and, of course, the cheese. Merriest of Christmases!

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    1. That's exactly what I intend to have! Thank you!

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  13. Three cheers for the finished kitchen!!! We have noticed a dearth of cheese in the supermarkt .... It was lovely to see you in Saumur. Have an excellent Christmas :-)

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    1. The kitchen was a close run thing I gather....

      The cheese from Brussels is making its presence felt....taking bets on whether it will attract or repel the vultures....

      Yes, meeting in Saumur was lovely...and such a good choice of venue after twenty odd years! The power of memory!
      Enjoy your Christmas under feline rule!

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  14. You are back already, Europe didn’t hold on to you for very long, did it?

    I am glad that home has you happy, cheesy nightmares notwithstanding, that the welcome and welcoming committee were to your liking and that you will not have to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous rainfall but are basking in tropical warmth. Drat you.

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    1. A month of Europe in winter was enough! And it appears that I missed the worst....

      Very glad to be home, sitting on the balcony in the last of the twilight....

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  15. And a merry Christmas to you! ( which is more than I can say about Eurolines..) Hope your day is great and the cheese lives up to its aroma!

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