Sunday 19 February 2023 – We were fortunate to have a civilised departure time – 1325. So the morning was reasonably leisurely, the taxi was on time and the journey uneventful.
We did, of course, pass one of my favourite travel road signs, which I find very reassuring
but I promise not to make any more Orville jokes about it.
Our previous experience traveling Air Canada enabled us to find the right check-in desk, which is in a dark corner at the extreme end of Heathrow’s Terminal 2. It’s school half term, which I inferred from the very high density of school kids clustered together by the Turkish Air check-ins. I mean the physical density, of course. I expect some of them were quite intelligent.
Once checked in, we collected some US dollars at the Travelex desk, as we are assured that (a) these are widely accepted across Costa Rica and (b) trying to buy Costa Rican currency outside Costa Rica is a fool’s errand. The currency is the colon, which I hadn’t known before but which is an easily-digestible fact. Our travel pack recommends getting some local currency via ATM once we’ve arrived and I have acquired a Starling Debit Card to do this, as there are no commission charges for using it. So once we have got some local money, I suppose our currency holding will be half dollar and semi colon..
Thank you. Thank you for listening to my joke.
Next stage was security, which gave us our usual opportunity to shake our heads in disbelief about people who look perfectly intelligent but haven’t twigged about taking liquids in hand luggage. The sooner they can that requirement, the better. I also sneaked a photo that captured someone else’s packing strategy, which nicely combined comfort for travelling with luxury for the destination.
And then, with some time to spare, we found our way to the Air Canada Maple Lounge for some welcome refreshment.
Well, it’s got to be done, hasn’t it? We had 13 hours in various jetliners in prospect, so one must fortify oneself, eh?
The first leg (on a Boeing 777) went entirely unremarkably, with very cordial service from the Air Canada staff, and a perfectly decent view from the loo.
On arrival into Montréal, we headed for the Correspondance, and were efficiently shepherded along towards our next gate, which just happened to be beside the Air Canada lounge, so we had a comfortable wait for our next flight. There was a gap of about an hour and a half between flights, which seems like a reasonable window of opportunity for the baggage handlers to get our bags from one aeroplane to the next one.
The second and final leg, on a Boeing 787 this time, was just as agreeable as the first. Our arrival into Costa Rica airport was slightly unusual. After taxiing, the plane came to a halt and the captain told us that we would have to be patient as the plane would be towed into position. This took a little while, but then the seatbelt sign was turned off and we could prepare to disembark. This involved quite a wait as well. I could see out of the small window in the plane’s door, and all I could see was what looked like the handrail of a staircase wobbling about rather a lot, so it was clear we weren’t on a jetway and I wondered if the driver of the stairs was having a bad day or something. While we waited, the steward explained that since there was only one gate and two jets had just arrived, only the first one could get anywhere near the terminal; so we were waiting for buses. The reason, he told us, that we were towed into place is because there were a lot of private jets at the airport and there was concern that the backwash from the engines of a 787 might damage them as it went by into its parking spot.
Said parking spot appeared to be a long way away from the terminal, based on the length of the bus journey. However, we eventually got there and there was the usual concerted rush for the passport queues. There were broadly two queue options, “Nacionales” or “Visitantes”. Obediently, we headed off down the latter and were immediately pointed into the area for the Nacionales, where several desks had opened up. Although our queue was short, our wait was interminable as the operative seemed to sit immobile while studying passports with a puzzled and slightly mournful look on his face. When we eventually presented ourselves for processing, he did a bit more of this studying of our passports whilst mumbling gently to himself, seemingly to be certain that he’d made no mistakes as he went through his procedures. The practical upshot, however, was that he let us through at just about the time the bags from our flight started arriving on the carousel. Hearteningly, both our suitcases were among them, so we picked them up and went out (via bag scanners to which no-one was paying any attention) into the arrivals hall, where a chap called Alex was waiting to take us to our hotel, the Xandari.
The ride to was instructive in two major ways: Alex’s English was only a little better than my (virtually non-existent) Spanish, but Jane has been learning Spanish these past few weeks and so it gave her a chance to practise in a real-life situation; and I got a chance to get an impression of the roads, as I would be driving us around for the coming weeks. I think that my reaction times will be sorely tested as we move around the country, as potholes and speed bumps seem to appear at random and in fair profusion. Progress will, I think, be measured rather than rapid; but we’re
on holiday travelling, so time will not be of the essence.
Some 30 minutes’ bumping along got us to the Xandari Resort and Spa, where Felipe was waiting to check us in, provide milk for tea and show us to our room, which is very large (pictures forthcoming when daylight illuminates it rather better than its lightbulbs, for it is worth a photo or two) and which offered a view over the twinkling lights of San José.
It being past midnight by this stage, and thus approaching 23 hours since we rose this morning, there was nothing more to be done than bend the coffee machine to our will to make a slightly coffee-flavoured cup of tea before turning out the lights and hoping for a decent night’s rest before the rigours of the morrow.
Which I will address in the next thrilling installment. Which I hope you will come back to read in due course. For now, buenas noches.