Prague Trip Report: Day 1 – Arrivals day
by Dr Anthony D. Cliffe
I wake up with that familiar feeling before a new adventure, a feeling I’ve grown accustomed to this year. It’s that feeling of excitement and anticipation that comes with travelling. Luckily, for the first and only time this year, that my flight out to Prague was at 4pm in the afternoon rather than the usual crack of dawn starts. That allowed me the beauty of feeling that pre travel feeling for a bit longer. Usually that feeling fades by time I get into the shower and tiredness from a 3 or 4 a.m start replaces it!
One of the great things about an afternoon flight is the luxury of leaving the packing until the morning. It’s usually the last thing I do before I go to bed. For someone who plans a lot of things in life, you would think I’d be super organised with packing but no…definitely not me! More last minute the better, it’s part of the fun of travelling! I guess I have it easy as a guy anyway, especially travelling to a central European country in the height of summer. All I need is enough boxers and socks to cover me for the five days away, five different t-shirts, two shorts (with a preference for jean shorts as they have more pickpocket proof pockets, gotta’ keep that in mind travelling!), one smart shirt for the evening meals and I always wear jeans and a jumper for travelling in. Sorted. As a guy at least I don’t have to worry about strappy or long tops or different types or shoes etc to wear, unlike my two travel companions for this trip! All of that means my packing which I’ve got down to a fine art by now, took me less than ten minutes. I could get five days’ worth of stuff, toiletries and camera gear all in my trusty expedition day bag. Usually if I had a case with me I’d take more, especially my walking shoes. I elected to take the gamble and leave them at home. Last time I left my walking boots at home for a city break I came back with Plantar Fasciitis in my foot from walking so much in less than ideal shoes. My walking boots are size 11, they’re massive and they’re heavy. Great for the stuff I do but not so great for hot city walking and plus they were still covered in sand and sea water from my trip to Crosby with Katie, so they would probably begin to smell after a few days of heavy use in Prague! Both Laura and Katie certainly don’t deserve to be subjected to that!!
I bought myself a pair of Sketcher walking trainers. I know, I know, I can hear you groan at me for buying sketchers. However, for the price, lightness and comfort of them they proved a great alternative to my walking boots. Despite sleeping in and watching TV, the morning dragged on for what seemed like forever. Even getting my DNA results back didn’t pass the time as much as I hoped (disappointingly 98.9% British and Irish!). Time always drags for travelling, I think time does actually slow down as soon as you’re about to leave somewhere.
Finally 12.30 arrived on the clock and we pulled out of the drive way to head over to Katie’s house to pick her and Laura up to go to the airport. My Dad very kindly offered to take us to the airport (and that’s why he’s just the best Dad ever!) saving us a taxi or at least a train and bus ride. I was really excited at this point as we headed towards South Liverpool. I honestly couldn’t wait to get away with both of two people that I really appreciate in my life and just absolutely love spending time with. Every day is a laugh and I had a feeling that this trip was going to be really special and above all a really fun trip! As we got closer to the house I gazed out of the window at the endless grey clouds and couldn’t wait to go to Prague were sun was forecast for five days with a bit of heat thrown in too!
After picking both of them up and admiring Laura’s excellent parking skills, under 20 minutes later we said goodbyes to my Dad and we were walking across into the terminal. I’ve mentioned it before in my travel blogs how that first step into an airport still gives me that buzz. There is an energy about the place that’s always fascinated me even as a kid. A sense of adventure awaits amidst the chatter and sound of wheeled cases. Despite having checked my bag a billion times and knowing I have absolutely nothing out of the ordinary on me, I still get really nervous and on edge going through security. Every single aspect of flying I am totally relaxed with…except this part. As soon as I am through I can relax and know the holiday has started, until then I just can’t. It makes no sense and I agree it’s illogical and weird! Maybe as Katie said it’s just because I’m Scouse. She has a point! I think it’s in the blood like a survival skill to be naturally cautious around police and security personnel haha! I do have a valid reason to be sceptical travelling through Liverpool airport though. We have a long and at least relatively recent, turbulent history together. For a time I felt like I was public enemy number one due to my Undergraduate dissertation research findings which cost them quite a bit of money back in the day. Ooops! That much that I actively avoided travelling from there for two years until management moved on. Three times I’ve flown out of there this year and three times the metal detectors haven’t gone off but I’ve got a thorough pat down anyway. Now I’m not saying there is a link but three times I’m starting to question the “random search” algorithm! This patdown was particularly intimate. I mean holy shit, he really went to town on those legs and up around the crotch area. Which was of course to great amusement to both of them two! Looks like I took one for the team in the search area as both of them breezed through security without any issues at all! I guess one thing we found out, if you’re a girl and you’re travelling with straighteners don’t take my advice and take them out because they can be left in your bag. So I guess I learnt something new and shock horror, I was wrong for once!
Now that we were though security I could relax and look forward to the holiday. After coffees for them and tea for me to wash down the pain of paying close to £8 for a meal deal (WHSmith in airports are nothing but daylight robbery!) we headed for our gate. Me and Laura had priority boarding and I did feel guilty having to leave Katie to stand in the long ass queue by herself and even more so when she was outside of the first 90 and had to check her bag in. Luckily there is no charge for that in Liverpool, unlike the hassle on the return leg with bags! Argh! Plus don’t get me started on the utter waste that priority boarding is, I really should have learnt my lesson from Berlin!
I knew we’d have a flight delay as my FlightRadar app told me so and the distinct lack of our aircraft outside the window only seeked to confirm it. I knew we were going to be standing for ages. Just under 40 minutes we were standing up for until we eventually boarded the plane. I’ve mentioned it before how I’m really not a fan of the interior of Ryanair aircraft. The sea of plastic yellow and dark blue actually makes me feel nauseous. I still question how the interior design team ever signed off on that scheme and thought it looked good. Add to that the plastic headrest and the fact the plane was one of the oldest in the fleet at 12 years old. My tray table moved more laterally than it did vertically when stowed! Welcome to RyanScare.
I had the window seat, I learnt my lesson from my trip to Amsterdam with Emma earlier in the year that you should never say “I’ll play you for it” because you’ll lose. Once bitten, twice shy. So that window seat was staying mine! Laura had the middle seat and Katie the aisle. After a pre-departure selfie which would be the first of very many on this trip, we were strapped in, doors shut and on our way for our much needed holiday!
Or well we thought…
We were held at the holding point just before the runway for a good five minutes. Usually that’s due to waiting for a plane to land. After five minutes we taxied onto the runway but I noted it as odd that a plane hadn’t landed. I tried to think in my head what that delay was for. I reasoned that it was probably a slot issue, especially as we were already late. I explain to Laura what would be happening next, how the pilots would throttle those CFM engines to 25% wait for them to stabilize before going to full thrust and then leaving the ground at 140-160 mph. Sure enough those engines got to 25% and stayed at 25%. In my head I was like “Come on guys. Thrust!” Suddenly the engines went to idle and the brakes were applied and we taxied off the runway. Fuck I thought. Big problem.
As this wasn’t a based aircraft if there was a technical fault there was no way we were going to be leaving today. I guess that five minute delay was them trying to rectify a fault which must have been unsuccessful. As we taxied back to stand a fire engine pulled up next to the aircraft, I really had a sinking bad feeling about it. An issue serious enough to abort a take-off is usually going to be a lengthy one to fix. However as soon as we pulled onto stand the Captain made an announcement that there was a medical emergency on-board. Gutted for them but relieved that it wasn’t a fault with the aircraft! Of all my years flying and with hundreds of flights that was my first ever RTO! Thank god it wasn’t just before V1 or after departure. It felt like a late call but the crew made the right decision. As the old aviation saying goes “it’s better to be on the ground wishing you were up there, than be up there wishing you were on the ground”. It turns out a woman was ill and was complaining of chest pains. It took a while for the Fire service who are trained in first aid to attend to her before she was offloaded with her partner. I really did feel sorry for them, especially as her Husband apologised to us all and went “we were really looking forward to this trip”. His apology felt misplaced among the few passengers who offered up a comforting awww. It’s not really her fault and I guess him saying that probably didn’t make her feel much better! I hope they eventually got to go away and that she makes a full recovery.
After a delay we taxied onto the runway for our second attempted take off. This time it was successful and we were finally on our way to Prague! Nothing like a bit of drama to kick off a holiday right? We were in the air for less than a minute before the tears of laughter started. In my attempt to explain the principles of air particles and lift on the wing surface I accidently used a hand gesture that’s much more appropriate for the bedroom than an aircraft full of passengers. I didn’t actually realise what I was doing by simulating the perpendicular force of lift up against a wing surface with two fingers until I was told to “never do that gesture in public ever again!”. When I realised what I had done that provided plenty of laughs for all three of us and became a recurring joke throughout the rest of the flight and holiday!
The rest of the 1 hour 45 minute flight was uneventful. We chatted, listened to music, read some books and before we knew it we were descending into a Prague sunset. As always I try to film the landings of new airports. Both so I can look back on them and upload them to Youtube so my fellow Avgeeks can view them. Of course they both find that hilarious and took the absolute piss out of me for the entire video down, although I did nail our landing time! I’m not even mad because it was fucking funny :P. I can probably never upload that video to Youtube ha-ha! Good job I love them both!
From landing to going through passport control to waiting for the bags took less than 15 minutes! Probably the quickest entry to any country! We were all starving and it would be at least a 45 minute bus then metro ride to the apartment. So we decided to have our first Czech meal which was the very traditional dish of…McDonalds!
For 300 Czech Koruna you can get a 72 hour pass on all transport and we just made it in time for the 119 bus. By this point it was pitch black outside and after the short bus ride it was onto Prague’s Merseyrail. Which were clean, on-time and their stations are really cool! They really reminded me of a Darlek!
Entering the city of Prague I didn’t realise how central our apartment really was, right in the centre of Wenceslas Square. I’m so grateful for my free European data as I used Google Maps to navigate the streets to our apartment. Instantly I knew I’d like this place. The vibe was really cool and there was a concert going on in the centre of the square. Even though it was just after 10pm it felt entirely different to the feeling of being in Liverpool at 10pm I can tell you that! We found our apartment which was tucked away inside a courtyard off the main street and we punched in our access code, climbed what would become a brutal four flights of stairs each day into B402. Our home for the next four nights. It was small but sufficient and for what was basically £25 a night there was certainly no complaints from us!
After a quick unpack we headed out to find some water and snacks. We came across a 24 hour shop which we didn’t realise how much we got ripped off until we went back to the apartment! More on that tomorrow!
We played some cards and ate weird tasting paprika crisps to unwind and Katie taught us a new card game which was affectionately called Shithead. After a few games of that and many laughs it was already into the early hours of the morning and bed was beckoning. However sleep never really arrived…