Monday, September 05, 2005

(Going) home is where the heart (ache) is

Dateline: Havana. Project: getting home from holiday. We woke and it was raining; raining quite hard. This was the outer edges of Hurricane Katrina that was sweeping across the Florida Keys. We checked out from our hotel, as scheduled at 12pm.

+1 hour – The rain means a trip to La Plaza de la Revolution is replaced with a trip to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes

+3 hour – Back at the hotel, lunch

+4 hours – Walk to Parque Central Hotel to leave a message for a parent from Emma’s school that is in Cuba doing some work for Simply Red.

+5.5 hours – Bus picks us up; on the bus are Angharad and Drew. Angharad drives a drug education bus that visits Emma’s school every Summer. Not only is this slightly bizarre, it’s actually the second time this has happened; we bumped into them in Dubrovnik last year.

+6 hours – Arrive at the airport; informed that there is a four hour delay and the flight will not leave until 1am. We’re given lunch vouchers as compensation.

+7 hours – Go to the restaurant to get free lunch, turned away because of recently invented and obviously arbitrary rule that the free lunches were for the first 30 people only.

+8.5 hours – Go through passport control (two minutes per person). Drew is questioned as to why he has a British passport but was born in LA.

+9 hours – Arrive in departures; the restaurant options are manky hotdogs, manky hamburgers or manky pizza. I have a manky pizza.

+9.5 hours to +15 hours – Rain. No flights. No seats. No news. Rain starts coming through the roof filling up bins. Rain starts to come through light fittings, lights start to short out. Bins fill up and flood the floor. Messages and rumours start to circulate; the airport has been closed for hours, no it hasn’t, yes it has.

+15 hours – Departure time. No plane. Rain.

+16 hours – London flight called to gate B1, passengers go back through passport control, reclaim their bags and their visas (Emma, in a moment of trickery Paul Daniels would be proud of, manages to somehow pick my visa up and then put it back in the pile causing a momentary panic that it’s lost).

+16.5 hours – 500+ passengers with associated luggage stand outside Havana airport looking at coaches.

+18.5 hours – a long charade of people getting on coaches, then off coaches, then on coaches again. All of which is punctuated by false alarms, stampedes and one man shouting “PRESENTE” every two minutes. Rain is now lashing down.

+19.5 hours – Eventually board a coach which takes us to a deserted resort in Kholey. One couple complain that the mini-bar is locked and unplugged; some of us are grateful for a dry, clean bed to sleep in.

+24 hours – Wake up, miss breakfast, wander around resort.

+28 hours – Lunch, due to awful selection I have a plate of rice and pasta. Drinks are extra; then they’re free and give everyone their money back.

+29 hours – Coach arrives.

+30 hours – Arrive at check in desk, check in desk is closed.

+31.5 hours - Check in, plane due to leave at 4pm, delayed until 6pm.

+33 hours – Passport control (2 minutes per person)

+37 hours – Plane delayed from 6pm to 9pm.

+38 hours – 9pm. Plane delayed until 11pm.

+40.5 hours – Man with his head wrapped in toilet paper, wanders around the airport with an empty bottle of rum and a sign saying ‘28 hours’. Whoops and cheers all round.

+42 hours – No announcement and the wrong gate is showing the London flight but the plane begins to board. Emma is so demoralised she seriously suggests we don’t get on, after all, “we’ll just have to get off again”.

+42.5 hours – Flight CUB400 for London takes off 27 hours late.

+51 hours – lands London Gatwick (although it’s announced by the pilot as Heathrow)

+52 hours – Passport control, bags.

+52.5 Coaches. Car

+54 Home.


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