Sunday, 25 September 2011

Travel may be broadening my mind

Exciting to visit a new country, one I’ve never set foot in before. And I seemed to reach this one, Portugal, long before the plane landed.

Not everyone seems to share my enthusiasm for the charming Bedfordshire town of Luton that I inhabit. Some seem to be impervious to the delights of its dusty streets or to appreciate the subtlety with which seediness has been incorporated into the very design of our shopping Mall.

Even those people, however, have to admit that there’s a lot to be said for having an airport on our doorstep. I appreciate it even more for the irony of its name – London Luton, though it’s 40 miles  (OK, OK, sixty kilometres) away from the capital.

The great advantage of the airport is that it’s the main hub for Easyjet, the only bearable low-cost airline of the two that mainly battle for our business in Britain: the other one, Ryanair, has an attitude towards passengers that makes the concept of the cattle truck attractive.

What Easyjet does however have in common with Ryanair is its drive to get two return flights flown by each of its planes each day. That means that the first flight has to take off at a time which it would strain the meaning of the word to describe as civilised.

Hence the advantage of living in Luton. Where others had to come down the night before or get up at 2:00 in the morning to catch our 6:40 plane, we were able to spend the night in our own beds and sleep in until 4:15.
Despite that lie-in, however, I was inexplicably tired when I got on the plane. Soon after take-off I fell fast asleep. And I would no doubt have slept long and deep were it not for the passenger in the aisle seat of our row. He and his friend had boarded late and couldn’t sit together, but they insisted on maintaining a voluble and spirited conversation in necessarily high-volume Portuguese.
‘Aha,’ I thought to myself as I was jerked back to consciousness, ‘I’m in Portugal already. True Latins.’
Having woken me up thoroughly my neighbour promptly fell profoundly asleep himself and stayed that way right till Lisbon.
I shared my thoughts on the Portuguese nature of the experience with Danielle.
‘Uhmm,’ she assented doubtfully, ‘but I think those two were Brazilians.’
She may have been right, but, hey, they’re all Latins aren’t they?
Getting to Lisbon made it all worthwhile, though. The sun sparkling on the Tagus. The little cobbled back streets. The blue-painted wall tiles on the outsides of the houses. All just glorious.
Blue tiles in Lisbon's Barrio Alto. May just edge it over Luton
An awful feeling has crept up on me. To be absolutely honest, this place may just have outdone Luton when it comes to the picturesque.

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