Why do so many of hate flying?

...and why a No Fly Holiday now seems such a good idea

The stress of being packed into a cramped aeroplaneWe have probably all done it. Got excited about a forthcoming holiday, only to suddenly realise that we have to go through all that nonsense at the airport again. My wife Chris and I have flown off on holiday many times in he past, but she suddenly rebelled last year and told me the truth...

"I hate flying". She said.

I can't say that I blame her either. Back in the day, flying was an easy option and we used to whiz over to East Midlands Airport, park the car for a bit of loose change and within an hour or so, we were on our way, eating what the airlines laughingly call breakfast. Not any more. Now there is the stress of being at the airport many hours ahead of the flight. Finding the over-priced car park. All that fuss about security, which we know is necessary and for our own protection, but I am the only one who hates taking my belt off and holding my trousers up as I paddle in my socks through that security gate. Am I the only one who waits for the alarm to go off as I remember that I have left my keys on my belt? Am I the only one that feels like an animal awaiting slaughter?

An airport experience A few years ago a friend lent us her lovely villa in Cyprus. No cost to us - even a car provided on the drive, for us to use. She asked me to take with me a new clock for the villa, in my hand luggage. "No problem", I replied. Being the careful sort, I thought that I had better test the clock before we went and duly put some batteries in it. Yes, it ran beautifully. I carefully packed some clothes around the clock to protect it and then finished packing my case. Being a chocolate lover, I also packed two large bars of Cadbury's chocolate to enjoy at the villa.

We were travelling with my sister and brother-in-law for a family holiday. After the usual waiting around at the airport, we finally checked out suitcases in and started to relax. Going through security seemed just a boring formality, until I was firmly taken to one side by a rather stern security officer.

"Open the bag sir", she said with a grim expression. When I opened it she smiled a little and explained what she had seen on the X-ray. Apparantly, a ticking clock, complete with batteries and wires, packed closely with two large blocks of something that looked very like explosives to the X-ray machine (my chocolate) had triggered her interest in me. The case had to completely emptied, checked with a sniffer device and searched before she was satisfied. I was then carefully searched as were my other possessions, my shoes and my clothes.

How my family laughed as they waited patiently for me to be searched. I was finally allowed to continue on my way, with the clock still ticking and the chocolate intact. Then comes the long wait for the flight to be called. On this occasion we all had a very overpriced meal and wandered around the very expensive airport shops for a few hours. The flight time kept being put back and each time we checked the screen, it was later than before. Finally, after many hours we boarded and the flight to Cyprus, although long, cramped and boring was uneventful.

As my wife remarked afterwards, "Why does it take a whole day to go anywhere, wherever it is"?

I know what she means. Travelling used to be a fun part of the holiday, but modern air travel has made it something to be endured.

How different our holiday the next year. We decided to go to the Costa brava the year after, but this time, by train. What a difference! After a leisurely day sightseeing in London and a stay at a hotel just a few minutes away, we walked The beautiful St Pancras Station in Londoninto the stunning St Pancras station (see pic on the right) and met up with our group at one of the offices. After 'checking in' we bought a picnic breakfast at the excellent M&S foodshop within the station and caught the Eurostar to Paris. This very smooth and iconic train is extremely comfortable, swift and air-conditioned as well as being very quiet. Plenty of room to move around and in our case, enjoy a luxurious picnic breakfast as he watched the countryside flash by. My wife, Chris had been anxious about being in the famous channel tunnel, but as there quite a few ordinary rail tunnels on the way down to Folkestone, she didn't even notice the real one. We were soon out the other side, into the sunlight and rushing past the French countryside. How easy was that?

After a journey of just over two hours, we pulled smoothly into Gar du Nord station in Paris and disembarked. In our case, our next departure was from another Paris station, Gar du Lyon. This meant a short journey across Paris which was a fascinating whistle-stop tour of the city. All too soon we arrived at our next station and boarded a high speed TGV train, heading for Barcelone in Spain. When I say high speed, I mean it as we often reached speeds of over 180mph. However, the train is so smooth and quiet that we hardly believed the sppedometer at the end of the carriage. An enjoyable lunch on board, as the French countryside gradually changed and the outside temperature climbed. This was followed by a couple of glasses of wine - French of course! We got off the train just before Barcelona and headed for our final destination on the beautiful Costa Brava.

The entire journey took less time than our air journey to Cyprus the previous year, but oh, what a difference. No long queues at the airport, no cramped seating in the aircraft, just a relaxing high-speed journey across France and Spain. A journey with a view. We were able to leave our seats as often as we liked on the way, to stretch our legs and to visit the toilet. I always feel slightly embarrassed when I ask the other passengers to get up on an aircraft, especially if I have a window seat.

Steve Porter

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