Tuesday 5th November, 2013.
That’s it – I’m never travelling long haul in economy again. BA club class – sweet realm of horizontal comfort, free-flowing Taittinger and proper cutlery. Where your meal arrives one course at a time, sans foil or plastic lids, and your tray is whisked away the moment you’ve dealt with your last morsel of brie and drained your port glass.
I didn’t even mind that we sat on the Heathrow tarmac for over an hour while engineers fiddled with something or other – I was too busy sipping champagne, working out the various seat and footstool positions, and drooling over the menu card. Anyway, with only half the seats taken, there was plenty of room to wander around – I confess I didn’t give a thought to the poor people trapped in their economy seats, and I was kind of getting my wish for a slightly longer flight. I’ve always thought it slightly ridiculous for airline staff to exhort me to enjoy my flight – I couldn’t understand how a flight could ever be truly enjoyable. I get it now.
I could have done with a bit longer in the BA lounge too – by the time we’d bought neck pillows, failed to buy a new money belt to replace my faulty one, and breakfasted on fruits, yoghurt and muesli with little Danish pastries to follow, there really wasn’t time for the free spa treatments to which our tickets entitled us. And it was a bit hard to do justice to the wine and sprit bars at that time in the morning, although I did force down a swig of Chateau Margaux, just because I could.
At a little after 1am we were turfed out onto the Mumbai tarmac, where a short bus ride brought us to the terminal, with its inevitable queues for the immigration desks. It wasn’t so bad really: after 20 minutes we were on to the baggage carousel, where the bags arrived almost as soon as we did. Then the prepaid taxi desk to book a non-AC car to our hotel in Fort. At about 750 rupees it cost a bit more than I expected, but that was because I had forgotten just how far it is from the airport to downtown Mumbai. At least there was very little traffic (although a surprising number of people walking along the streets for that time of night), and our only delay was a pit stop to fill the taxi’s tank (located in the boot) with natural gas – something that explained why our rucksacks were occupying the front passenger seat.
As I had half expected, the driver didn’t know our hotel, the PA Residency, and a stop in front of Victoria Terminus/CST to make enquiries sent us to the Residency, the hotel we had stayed in on our last trip. Luckily a policeman on a moped saw our difficulty and escorted us to the right location a few streets away. By the time we had lugged our bags up the stairs to reception we were soaked in sweat, and the clock said 2:30am. Our room was up two further flights of steps, but at least we didn’t have to carry the bags. My heart did sink a bit when I saw the room – it was perfectly smart and clean, and the AC was kicking in quickly, but it was so tiny, and the bed was up against one wall. The only way for Mr Vagabond to get in and out was to climb over me, so we moved the trays of tea things etc into the bathroom so that the table at the end of the bed could fold down. It still meant that he would be unable to find his way safely to the bathroom, so we left one light one – so the airline eye mask, usually redundant as far as I’m concerned, came in handy after all.