France, Day 1: Getting There Is Half The Battle

15 Nov

The journey of 744 miles begins with the first step on to a Ryanair flight.  Not as easy as it sounds, given my fear of flying.  And not so much a fear of flying, as crashing.  I don’t mind dying, it’s the Brace!  Brace!  Brace! while cuddling a cushion that I don’t much fancy.  If you think I’m unreasonable, then answer me this: how is a cheap cushion going to help me when I slam into pavement from twenty thousand feet in a tin can? 

Our plane, on the prowl for victims, also known as 'passengers'.

 The distance between my house and Viv’s house is actually 391 miles, but Ryanair don’t have landing rights at Viv’s house, so we had to divert a little.  The airport of Beauvais was the closest to Viv’s that we could find, so we were mortified when we discovered – having already bought the tickets – that there would be a four-and-a-half hour journey from Beauvais to Viv’s home, because that meant a nine-hour driving day for our hosts.  But not mortified enough to cancel.  I have known Viv online for a number of years and was dying to meet her – hence the Ryanair flight – and when the Hub suggested that our birthday presents to each other this year should be a visit to a (treading delicately here) retired couple we had never met, I almost fell in love with him.

The flights were paid for.  We chose Ryanair because two of us could travel cheaper than one on a scheduled airline, and I couldn’t go alone.  I was not afraid of Viv or France or Viv’s husband, Jock, but of that bit between Manchester Airport and Beauvais Airport: the sky.  Thus it was that the night we booked the flight and for several nights after, I had nightmares about Ryanair cushions hurling me to the ground as skinny stewardesses stomped on my head in their high heels and perfect hair.  The day before the flight I was so wound up that the Hub was threatening not only to leave me but, which was worse, letting me go on my own on that death bus they call an aeroplane.

How is this even possible? Don't give me all that 'it's science' garbage. It defies the laws of nausea.

I try not to let my fear of doing something stop me from doing a thing I want to do, so I calmed down, manned up, and got on the plane.  Taking off is the worst.  It feels unnatural to be able to look down on the earth without a building beneath your feet, but I was safe in the Hub’s arms…well, my nails were; so deep, they came out the other side.  Once up in the air I relaxed a little, being a fatalist, but not enough to unbuckle: I’d have to have a bladder the size of Gaul to get up from my seat mid-flight.  Landing is good, because we land on land, and I like that.

Welcomed to France by the stereotypical Brit-hating arrogant and surly customs officer, I saw Viv waiting with open arms on the other side of the barrier, and I ran to her like Cathy ran to Heathcliff, but without the heather, angst, or passion.  I am British, after all, and a good cuddle between sort-of-strangers was almost as dangerous as flying to me; though much more fun.

Once Viv and I had unpeeled a little, I was introduced to Jock and greeted him, quite naturally, in the Gallic fashion, with a kiss on each cheek and a hawhehawhehaw (internalised; I wanted to make a good impression).  You will be hearing more of Viv’s delightful husband in later posts, but suffice it to say that he had us laughing almost from the moment we met, and I smile whenever I think of him.  I am sure now that I could have hawhehawhehawed aloud when we first met and he would have joined in instead of being affronted.

France has a small car park, but it is in the town of Beauvais-Tillé, so I don’t mind.  It was a good omen.  A not-so-good omen was the public toilet at the rest stop where we picnicked on salmon sandwiches in the dark.  If I say, toilet bowl in the ground, I won’t do it justice, so here’s a photo:

La Bowl France

I did think about waiting until our flight home, four days later, but urine will out.  Viv reassured me that her house toilets not only rose up from the ground like civilised waste disposal units, they also had seats.

The car journey was enlivened by Jock’s jokes, Jock’s songs and Jock’s running commentary, and the time passed in no time at all.  We were welcomed to their beautiful home with real champagne – it can only bear the name if it has been grown and produced in Champagne – and proper plumbing.  I knew we were in for a good time.

If you want to read a condensed version of this story, pop over to see Viv.

44 Responses to “France, Day 1: Getting There Is Half The Battle”

  1. misswhiplash November 15, 2011 at 12:48 #

    The first time in the air is always the worst but you overcame your fears..well done.! You can just as easily get run over by a bus as crashing in a plane, but I do admire your courageous spirit in using Ryanair. I’ve been flying for donkeys years and only used Ryanair once and that was once too often, never ever again.

    I am looking forward to reading about your French visit and you certainly made a good start..roll on tomorrow!


    • Tilly Bud November 16, 2011 at 10:38 #

      Two things I have to confess:

      1) I have flown at least 25 times.
      2) I thought Ryanair was great!


  2. vivinfrance November 15, 2011 at 13:02 #

    I had no idea you were expecting to meet strangers! I feel (and felt even online) that we had always known one another.


    • Tilly Bud November 16, 2011 at 10:39 #

      Exaggeration for comic effect. Sshhh! Don’t tell anyone.


  3. granny1947 November 15, 2011 at 13:20 #

    Move over Bill Bryson.
    That was SO funny!


  4. earlybird November 15, 2011 at 13:23 #

    Just a word about those toilets: they are often the cleanest because they can easily be hosed down. Not on the motorway though. Ideally to use a motorway hole in the ground you should be dressed in wellington boots with platforms. Or hold on til the next exit.

    I didn’t realise you suffered from fear of flying…

    Looking forward to the next episode already!


  5. Cindy November 15, 2011 at 14:12 #

    LMAO, that toilet is scary, look forward to more about your visit.


  6. laurieanichols November 15, 2011 at 15:51 #

    You have me hooked, I can’t wait to hear more. I” never forget the first time I saw that ‘Toilet” in a gas station right outside of Charles de Gaulle airport. France is the country for innovative ways of flushing and toilets.


    • Tilly Bud November 16, 2011 at 10:42 #

      Yes it is. I forgot to mention that I couldn’t find a handle to flush and got the fright of my life when I opened the door and it flushed automatically.


  7. gigihawaii November 15, 2011 at 16:31 #

    Glad you had such a wonderful time with your friends, Tilly! And thanks for the link to Viv’s blog, which I liked so much I have added it to my Blogroll. BTW, that type of toilet and I do not get along…


    • Tilly Bud November 16, 2011 at 10:43 #

      And who can blame you? Glad you found Viv 🙂


  8. nrhatch November 15, 2011 at 16:56 #

    Glad you had such a special visit with Viv!


  9. SidevieW November 15, 2011 at 18:47 #

    hehehe, I’m suprised you didn’t just put your head in a very large bag of Maltesers! Very good for calming the nerves.

    If you can use a “squat-loo you are a better person than I am


  10. Patti November 15, 2011 at 19:00 #

    That plane does look like a predator in your picture! Brava for taking it on fearlessly (more or less). Sounds like a wonderful visit.

    And it’s nice to know we can count on you for a full story, toilets and all.


  11. SchmidleysScribbling November 15, 2011 at 20:08 #

    Thank you for sharing your travel adventure. At least the airline wasn’t named “Ransome” airlines. Remind me to tell you about the experience I had with this little airline. Dianne


  12. sufilight November 15, 2011 at 20:45 #

    Your adventures made me smile. I popped over to your friend’s blog and walked away with more smiles. 🙂


  13. Big Al November 15, 2011 at 22:20 #

    I can’t decide which is a worse phobia: fear of flying or fear of using those toilets. I guess the only one worse would be a fear of the plane crashing into one of those toilets.


    • Tilly Bud November 16, 2011 at 10:58 #

      I once HAD to go to the toilet on a plane and almost passed out from fright when I saw the emergency door was in there.


  14. kateshrewsday November 15, 2011 at 23:12 #

    That is a frightening toilet. I can only be thankful that smellivision is not available online as yet.
    Sounds like you had a blast! (those two paragraphs are not related!!!)


    • Tilly Bud November 16, 2011 at 11:00 #

      Stop it, stop it! You’re as bad as Pseu!


  15. barb19 November 16, 2011 at 00:11 #

    Well, I guess you will never visit me in Oz Tilly – 23 hours flying -12,000 miles!


    • Tilly Bud November 16, 2011 at 11:03 #

      Never say never! I’ve been back and forth to SA quite a few times. I’m scared, not spineless 🙂


  16. bluebee November 16, 2011 at 04:35 #

    If you had crashed we would never have known the answer to the cryptic clue and that would have been just awful


    • Tilly Bud November 16, 2011 at 11:06 #

      I am so glad you said that AFTER my trip 🙂


  17. Pseu November 16, 2011 at 09:00 #

    Squatting loos are very good practice for downhill skiing. Not so good for splashback.


  18. eof737 November 16, 2011 at 09:38 #

    Good for you! You survived the flight and frankly, flying is safer than driving! Have a wonderful time and we look forward to your posts on same. 🙂


  19. sarsm November 16, 2011 at 11:11 #

    Ooh I should have warned you about the toilets.

    I hate flying too.

    Sounds like you had a very warm welcome. I love that she welcomed you with champagne. I am starting to think I should get to know her better… 😉


  20. Janie Jones November 16, 2011 at 15:23 #

    That is not a toilet. At least not in my book. And, I’d have never believed it sans photo.

    Have an amazing trip.


  21. Lorna's Voice November 16, 2011 at 21:58 #

    Seems like the the flight (fear and all) was worth it. And peeing while squatting is GREAT for the quads and gluts. So you should be in ship-shape by the time you go home… 😉


    • Tilly Bud November 17, 2011 at 10:35 #

      You are definitely a silver lining sort of person. My kinda girl 🙂


  22. Perfecting Motherhood November 18, 2011 at 03:14 #

    Oh my gosh, they still have Turkish toilets??? Yes, that’s what we call them in France. I’m guessing it’s because they originated from Turkey. Sure they may be cleaner for your butt, but I doubt they are cleaner for your shoes! I had those Turkish toilets in my elementary school, and I’m really not that old. I found them gross then and I still do now.

    I just thought France would have finally banned them and upgraded to 20th century toilets by the beginning of the 21th century. You’ve proved me wrong!


    • Tilly Bud November 18, 2011 at 10:58 #

      Viv was surprised as well. They are quite rare now, apparently.



  1. Remembrance Sunday Nijuin Renga « I'm Not A Verse - November 26, 2011

    […] recent trip to France to see Viv coincided with Remembrance Day.  Viv suggested we write a collabarative poem, a Renga, […]


I welcome your comments but be warned: I'm menopausal and as likely to snarl as smile. Wine or Maltesers are an acceptable bribe; or a compliment about my youthful looks and cheery disposition will do in a pinch.

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