Posted by: travelrat | September 19, 2010

French ATC and the Pope.

I’m back at home, and about to settle down to a winter of blogging, writing, sorting photographs, editing video and actually reading other people’s blogs, instead of just skimming through them. Just the concert next week, our nephew visiting at the end of the month, another Australian friend after that, the World Travel Market … etc., etc.

Anyway, I got back from Madrid all right, in spite of the antics of the French Air Traffic Control service. We were only delayed about half an hour, and the French ‘take action’ so often, most of us take it in our stride.

The real fun started at the Heathrow coach station. The National Express time-tables into and out of London had all gone to rat’s droppings, because of the Pope’s visit … (to which, incidentally, I took great exception; we have nothing like this hassle for the Queen). To cut a long story short, NX chartered a coach and driver for our run, because the regular bus wasn’t available for some reason … but, the driver misread his waybill, thought there was nobody to pick up at Heathrow and by-passed it completely!

Full marks to National Express, though. Their management did what they could to try and locate the missing coach, and keep us informed, and, in the end, gave us a train ticket home.

And, when the smiling manager said they would probably send the bill to the Vatican …!

Valdelavilla is going to have to take its place in the ‘Trip Diary’ queue, except that I will, as usual, put the slide show of the participantes up as soon as it’s ready. But, here’s a foretaste.

The other picture is our commandante, our programme director Mayte Ziga. Her usual job is in the office, co-ordinating the recruitment of the English-speaking volunteers. She says that she does the occasional programme for a rest … and, in spite of all her work, in the office and on the programmes, she still has a smile and a greeting for everyone, even at the end of a hard day.



  1. Hi Keith,
    Fancy by- passing Heathrow, that was a pretty big mix up, what a hassle to have to get the train, anyway sounds like it all worked out in the end.
    The Popes visit seems to upset the apple cart no matter which Country he visits, with the extra security etc. just bad timing.
    Nice pics.

    • If the waybill says there’s no-one to pick up or drop off, the drivers are allowed to by-pass a town, especially if they’re trying to make up time.

      In this instance, the waybill said there was nobody to pick up AT TERMINAL 5, and he missed the fact that there were 11 people to pick up at the Heathrow Central Coach Station.

      It was a charter coach, put on the run at short notice, and the driver hadn’t done a National Express job before, so I suppose there was some excuse.

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