Nixdminx
The life and times of a happy go lucky blogger in London
hoping we can get our flights home

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I hear volcanic ashes are landing in my hometown and the skies are clear like never before. That’s what happens when you’re living in the flightpath and volcanic clouds are on the loose I suppose.

We are away so have yet to benefit from this experience. In fact we are on the flipside of it, far from home with no way to get back at the moment.

It’s a little bit too chilly on the beach so we’re ensconced in our hotel room for the timebeing to warm up a bit. There’s a great programme on tv called Les Perles – bit of a TV Burp Euro-style and it definitely beats the goose bumps. We’re not just hiding away from the sunshine though, it’s more a habitual check in on the latest flight news every few hours to see what the latest is. It’s a habit that we’ve swiftly developed since we realised we might be unable to return home.

So far it’s not looking good and we are staying in France for maybe a few days longer than planned. I’ve never felt homesick on holiday but this time I have. What started out as a short trip to see friends and then a jaunt by the coast has become an epic adventure of sorts.

We left the UK on April 13 and headed to Auvergne. It’s not an easy journey if you don’t drive but I love travelling across France by train because the extremes of the countryside take you from mountains and valleys and from coast to coast. With just seven days to get around we flew to Lyon St-Exupery, a sprawling modern airport which has grown massively since I first flew into it over 12 years ago.

We took a taxi to Lyon Part Dieu station, it’s smaller than Perrache and I thought I’d discovered a shorter journey that would save us a couple of hours. I booked a ticket but the train failed to appear on the departure board. There were long queues at the information desk but we joined one. The lady hastily wrote down a new route for us. But still the train did not appear so we went to join another queue. Tired and slightly ratty by this point, it was not easy.

It was then that we found ourselves in the midst of a French train strike. That meant a two hour train journey became a 45 minute detour and then a two hour coach journey, and with still another leg to go until we reached our destination in the deepest countryside and a beautiful town called Blesle. Arriving at Clermont Ferrand station, we camped out in the station restaurant and ordered a plate of frites which arrived and was surely a mountain of chips? Oh, the irony of being the English abroad was not lost on me but certainly was adrift as I watched my 10 year old daughter tuck in.

It took a few fraught phone calls and timetable rechecks to realised we were stranded…and some. We were lucky enough to get picked up in Clermont Ferrand and driven a further hour to our orignial destination and arrive at 10pm – very late for dinner but not too late for Miniminx since we benefitted from the hour time change between the UK and France. We put the stress and strain of the day behind us, Miniminx by dancing and singing with her friends and me by drinking a glass or four of red wine with mine. A perfect way to arrive in my book. We had three nights and two days of great food, wine and fun in the countryside. This included being chased by wild horses, discussing alcoholic phd tutors over dinner, eating far too much rare red meat and downing copious amounts of wine from a very early time in the day.’Happy days’ was the catch phrase of a very short but appreciated time.

As we hoped for the train strikes to cease, so the second stage of our journey to Antibes would be easier, we found the news online of the volcanic cloud but thought little of it. Not wanting a rerun of our journey into Massiac, I’d already booked us a taxi to the tune of €130 and internal flights (I won’t scare you with the cost) for our ongoing journey. This would reduce 14 hours or so of chaos and disruption to a mere 3 hours. I was then left with the unsettling feeling that we might not be able to fly. Sacre blue (or much worse words to that effect I’m afraid to say).

For us to make light of our new arrangements, we had to take the taxi at 8.15am. It turned up. I was starting to wonder if the flights would be for real as this was all becoming a bit far fetched for my liking. The journey took an hour through beautiful countryside of hills and valleys and spring blossoms which looked magical as the morning dew slowly rose in a swirling mist as the sun warmed the earth.

Arriving at Clermont Ferrand airport, we were amazed at how small it was; tiny in fact. There were hardly any people and no queues, so I checked us in. All good so far. I loaded up the luggage. No cries of derision from the check in desk. I breathed an internal sigh of relief and was still quite unsettled by the rapidly changing landscape of our holiday. Should I really be getting on a flight with all this chaos and uncertainty?

The announcements board showed a full set of flights, it was only 9.30am. Just half an hour later, cancellations began to apear. I knew that CDG Paris was closed and was hopeful that we could still fly although fearful at the same time. I hadn’t been this scared to travel since the aftermath of 7/7. I kept telling myself, if it wasn’t safe, we would not be taking to the air. Our flight was fine, great in fact. We arrived at Nice airport which was deserted. We both felt very lucky and relieved that we had managed to make a swift and uneventful exit from our first part of the holiday.

We remain in the dark about whether we can get home tomorrow night. We just want a safe journey.

Holidays are great but real life is even better. Here’s to getting back to the UK tomorrow…or sometime soon x

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