As I age, I try to remove as much stress as possible from travelling. Which is why I get a cab to the airport. There will be stress to spare once I get there. Always is.
When I arrive at 10, it's pretty crowded. The queue at priority security isn’t quite as bad as last time. To make up for that, the wait for passport control is much longer. It takes about an hour in total to get airside.
I go directly to the duty free and pick up a bottle of Jura. Distracted by my three pieces of luggage, I'm unwisely holding it upside down while queueing. I watch, paralysed, as the bottle slips from the box, tumbles to the ground and splinters. Great. It's quite a mess. A lovely whisky smell, mind.
I stand there bemused, wondering what the hell to do next. Luckily one of the staff has been watching my dangerous carrying technique and already has a replacement bottle. I feel a complete fool. At least I don’t have to pay for the smashed bottle.
In the lounge, I get a Teachers and a Jim Beam to calm down. And a sandwich. As I had no brekkie. No point eating at home when I can get free food here. After all the queueing, I only have about an hour. Not as long as I would like. Time for a mere four Teachers/Jim Beam combos.
My timing for arriving at the gate is a bit off this time. I have to queue for 5 minutes. Damn. That’s five minutes drinking time wasted.
When everyone has boarded, we're told that there will be a delay as no baggage handlers are available. It’s been a problem at Schiphol for months. They sacked all the handlers during lockdown and can’t recruit enough new ones because the pay is shit.
We eventually leave almost 90 minutes late. Not the greatest of starts.
Sadly, the seat next to me is occupied. By a Swede who gets up about every 30 minutes, for some fucking reason. The annoying bastard. When in his seat, he converses inanely with the young Brazilian woman sitting the other side of him. This is why noise-cancelling headphones were invented.
They're a bit mean with the wine for some reason. After the meal service, the stewardess announces that there will be no more wine for the next couple of hours “because we don’t have enough.” What a pathetic excuse. We only took off a couple of hours ago. Fortunately, I picked up those miniatures of Jameson in the duty free.
Contrary to my habit, I watch a fairly decent film: Elvis. Just the one. All the others I pointed my face at were, tradition-true, dreadful: Moonshot, Funny People and Ride the Eagle. The middle one should really be called Very Unfunny but Fucking Annoying People.
Having flown with KLM a few times recently, I'm running out of films to watch. Ones I could actually bear watching. After finishing off Motherland, I start watching Belgravia. It’s posh twaddle, of course, but the cast is pretty good. And there’s no screaming. That’s a relief.
The flight drags a bit. I suppose it was over 13 hours on the plane, if not flight time. We land around 9 PM local time.
If there’s one thing I hate after a long flight, it’s a massive long walk. So, of course, there's a mile walk to immigration. I’m not joking. It is just about that far. With almost no moving walkways. I’m knackered by the time I get to the end.
Remembering that this is South America, I pick the priority lane. It takes me no time. I’ve no checked in bag – I was earlier proved right not to trust the baggage handling at Schiphol – so I’m straight through to landside
First priority is some cash. I hate being without ready money. Sometimes it’s the only thing that works. I ask at a change place what they’ll give me for 200 euros. The rate is so crap, I only change 100.
Next, I get myself a taxi. It’s a bit of a drive into town. Nothing like as bad as Sao Paulo, though. That airport is somewhere out close to the moon. Still, 30 minutes in a taxi. My driver points out a few sights. At least I think that’s what he’s doing. I can’t understand a word. At least he isn’t watching TV, like my driver last time in Rio.
By the time I arrive at my hotel, it's 10 PM.
I’m a bit confused when I get out of the taxi. The ground floor is a café. Exactly where is the hotel reception? Is there another entrance? I can see a lift in one corner of the café, so it must be here. Oh right, it’s the desks along the one wall. There’s informal for you.
Checked in, it’s too late to do anything. Other than try to connect to the internet on my laptop. Which I fail to do. I can’t get to the login screen. I’m not great with network stuff. Not my flavour of IT.
Instead, I watch an episode of Pistol that Dolores loaded onto my laptop.
I don’t have the energy for too much computer fiddling. Jura soon has me dreaming.
Brasil Beer Cup paid for my accommodation during the judging, as well as some food and drink.