This morning we were up early in readiness for the adventure ahead. No time for any exercise or media monitoring today! Just a last packing-up of the house (we did most of it yesterday), then dressed (in jeans – jeans?!! T shirts and sweaters… it’s a long time since we have worn so many clothes!) and then off in our white van for our last drive together, to the airport.
Since we haven’t really been outside Marbella for the whole of our stay, even heading out to the motorway was a new thing, and as we have got used to everything seeming more or less normal again, our first shock was just how empty the road was; up until we got to the ‘highway toll’ area, where there are usually a row of about 10 manned kiosks and we pay less than Euro 5 – today, the traffic was a bit stacked up as there was only one kiosk open, and that was the one that has a machine rather than a real person (of course, thinking about it, it wouldn’t be possible for the real people to work at the moment as too much handling of money…..) and the payment today was Euro 7.95 (also, thinking about it, no surprise that they have whacked up the cost in order to get some money into the coffers). Otherwise it was an uneventful and slightly subdued drive, until we got to the Enterprise office, which was closed….
After an initial mild panic as to what to do with our van, we realised that the parking next door was open, and also offering a courtesy bus to the airport (which is some way from the car hire area, hence the mild panic), so we deposited the car with them and hitched a lift up with a very chatty driver who was pleased to have something to do – he told us that he had been required to work for the whole lockdown period, but apart from watching over the parked cars (which hadn’t moved much) he averaged just one trip a day to the airport, so was bored silly.
So then we got to the airport. We had found out last night that we couldn’t check-in online so for the first time in years had to make our way to the check-in desks – that wasn’t actually a big deal as there was only the one desk open in the whole huge expanse of the departures hall – just one flight went at 11.00 am, then there was ours at 13.30 and then only one more, later in the day. We had a bit of a performance as there seemed to be a problem with our tickets (another mild panic), but it all got resolved – we don’t really know what the problem was or how it was resolved as, to be honest, we couldn’t understand a word that the check-in woman was saying as she had one of the bigger masks on, and I really do struggle to hear through them… but, anyway, we got our boarding passes and headed off through a fairly standard customs and then passport control and into the main gate area.
With only our flight due, the gate area was, of course, deserted… plus our initial thought was that not only were there no cafes or other shops open, but also no loos…. Thankfully (another panic) there was just one in operation, so that was a relief (in more ways than one), and then we sat down for our long wait for the plane to arrive (having been asked to get to the airport at least two hours in advance…. ). In actual fact, the time went quite quickly – we sat by the window looking down at the runway – with no planes arriving or departing, it was quite an amazing sight, particularly when a lone private plane pitched up and caused a flurry of activity – plus it gave us a chance to do a bit of social media monitoring and so on, and then it was time to go and board. Generally it wasn’t really as weird as we had expected – there were no temperature checks or people dressed up to the eyeballs – just lots of markings on the floor to remind people where to stand, and about every five minutes a voice on the tannoy telling everyone to remember the social distancing rules…. a little bit irritating and pretty pointless in view of the vast amount of space we all had around ourselves!
Boarding, then, was pretty normal particularly as when we booked this flight (Swissair via Zurich) we decided to get business class tickets as we felt that if there were any issues (i.e. getting stuck in Zurich) we would be better looked after if we had them… so we were first onto the plane and seated in row 1. A rather lovely steward greeted us at the door – pulling his mask down to give us a ‘proper smile’ – marvellous – and then we were spoiled rotten the whole way to Zurich. I don’t know what we expected (although a friend sent me a photo of her daughter flying yesterday, seated next to someone who appeared to be dressed as an astronaut….), but really, apart from everyone in masks, it was just the same great Swissair as usual (if anything, a bit more… when I told the lovely one that I liked the chocolates that they always give out as we come into land, a stewardess appeared with a plate of them, together with (yet more) red wine and cheese for Jan…. so we disembarked suitably cheerful and into Zurich Airport.
Zurich Airport, on first sight, looked pretty much the same as usual – not quite as many people but enough to think that things were not that different (and an awful lot of people not wearing masks), plus the main Duty Free was open and doing a good trade. The rest of the shops, though, were closed up, and all but one of the lounges (which was then so full that they were turning people away) were closed. With so few flights (relatively speaking – still about ten to go from early evening onwards) – we wondered who all the people were that were filling the lounge up, unless it was just tiny inside (which we didn’t get to see). But, anyway, we only had a bit over an hour before our connection, so in the end we plonked ourselves down in the gate area and stared out the window at grey sky and pouring rain….
Swiss being Swiss, though, our next flight boarded on time, and back we went to the business class (third row this time) for a very nice, and very short flight to Prague. The plane was pretty full (why?) with most of those around us seeming to be Russian, which, together with the ongoing bad weather as we flew over, didn’t help with Jan’s mood!. So then Prague Airport – on landing we could see all the stored planes lined up in the far runway area – all of the unused Max 7s, plus a lot of Czech Airlines’ and Ryanair, which made quite a spectacle. In the gate area, however, only one other plane seemed to be ready to go, so when we got off it wasn’t surprising that there were so few people in the airport itself, apart from around the gate to get back onto our Zurich-bound plane. The shocking bit, though, was that instead of sweeping out of Terminal 2 as usual (and as we now expected), they have installed passport control gates, and with only one open and the 2 metre social distancing lines to keep each person apart, the queue to go through was quite long. And what then became clear was that not everyone was being allowed in….
Jan was about to march through ahead of me, but I told him to wait and let me go first, in case there was trouble, and sure enough, the policewoman took exception to my first proferring my UK Passport – referring to her map of the traffic lights and seeing that the UK is still, of course, red – at the same time, I gave her my Czech permanent residence permit, which she studied in detail, asked me in Czech if I had come from Zurich, to which I responded yes (not exactly rocket science since it was the only plane to come in for the last few hours), and then she rather reluctantly let me through. My feeling, though, was that she wasn’t quite sure whether I should or shouldn’t be allowed in, but she couldn’t really be bothered to check anymore… but that’s OK. It does seem, though, that everyone is still pretty confused about who can and can’t come in – we know that in Spain from the 21st, all residents of Schengen countries can enter without a test…. So presumably the same will apply here on Monday, as reciprocity will be required…. At least… we hope.
Then, of course, we had the car situation to deal with, but we needn’t have worried. First, we headed to the carpark to see if (a) the car was still there (and yes, there he was, all on his own) and (b) if he would start – which he did. Then we went down to the office, armed with our correspondence from the main parking guy, and sure enough, he charged me for just the period from when we arrived until the State of Alarm kicked off – so actually even less than we would have paid if we had come back as planned. How nice is that? And then it was into the car and home – to our newly cleaned apartment, with everything in place, almost as if we had never been away……
What will happen next? Keep tuned!