Her Majesty’s Press. Coming through!

Getting through crowds is an acquired skill. My partner in crime David Tremayne and I have a habit when we get off aeroplanes of getting the blood pumping again by moving as quickly as is humanly possible (for a pair of middle-aged chaps) through the arrivals process at airports.

We know it is a pointless exercise because one is always held up by baggage, but it makes you feel good after a long flight and it is less depressing when you do not have to stand in a massive queue behind 250 multi-cultural travellers some of whom are not very good at travelling…

There is a George Clooney movie out at the moment about frequent flyers, it is called “Up in the Air”, and has got nothing to do with how people really travel, but it is a nice dream – and it has some great advice about how to cope with airports. Years ago Professor Sid Watkins expressed the opinion that the thing that will do more damage to F1 people is the stress of airports, so we try to minimise this by being loyal to one airline and thus getting gold cards and stuff like this.

We picked Emirates because they still understand that customers are not cattle – unlike all the old-fashioned and arrogant European airlines who treat even their best customers with utter disdain. Emirates has great lounges, priority systems that actually work and, most important of all, they give the impression that they want to do a good job.

DT and I set off from Shanghai on Sunday night, as previously mentioned. We spent 24 hours in Dubai, which was delightful as we had friends to spend time with. We managed to get on to an extra Emirates flight out of Dubai to Nice – along with Messrs Alonso, Massa, Kubica, De La Rosa, Buemi, Fisichella and Liuzzi etc. It was fun to see them all in Economy Class for a change – and they seemed to be enjoying it as well. A change is as good as a rest and there was a great sense of community that has been lacking in F1 of late. People were helping each other, talking to one another and just enjoying the crisis. There was much more laughter than in normal flying. Later I discovered that they were not even booked on Emirates so the airline stole a march on its rivals once again – and no doubt won a few of them as future customers.

No question who won the race back to the UK: Ross Brawn and Sam Michael, who arrived in the UK late on Monday evening, having gone Emirates from Shanghai to Dubai, sweet-talked their way on to the morning’s Nice flight, which was overbooked by 72 people when we asked. From Nice Cote d’Azur airport they went in a chauffeur-driven car to some point in the middle of France where they met Ross Brawn’s car, which had come down from England.

We were 24 hours behind them and rather than chauffeur-driven automobiles we opted for the train. Trying to book a Nice-Paris TGV was impossible but sneaky lateral-thinking got us reservations to the train station at Charles de Gaulle airport. And tickets from Disneyland to London for DT for today…

The flight was delayed about half an hour by eight passengers (and get this!) who checked in but then did not turn up. How stupid is that when there are tens of thousands of people fighting for places on planes? Anyway this meant that we had very limited time to get from Nice Cote d’Azur to Nice Ville station. The French, sadly, lived up to their stereotyping. The taxi ride from the airport to the station, four miles – and about 10 minutes allowing for traffic – was charged at ā‚¬35, which underlined why it is that seasoned travellers never use a taxi in Nice because of the criminals who drive them. For the information of anyone who ever considers the idea, be aware that there is a fabulous and cheap bus that goes from the airport direct to the different hotels in Monte Carlo! At most times of the year it is cheaper to go by helicopter than to take a cab…

Nice Ville station was a zoo. The automatic ticketing machines were not all behaving and there were queues of frustrated and tired people. This was a question of survival of the fittest and when one has a rare reservation and time is running out, it is a case of needs-must and a certain amount of Gallic behaviour to get the tickets. We made the train with five minutes to spare…

Off to Marseilles, where the railway unions were, as expected, displaying typical pig ignorance and striking, just to make themselves feel loved by customers who are already putting up with a lot.

If there were Legion d’Honneurs handed out for stupidity then the French unions would win them every time.

We had a coffee and SMS-ed the BBC 5Live F1 team, who were in a mad dash by car from Nice to the Channel Ports, using secret weapon Anthony Davidson at the wheel. Nine and a half hours later they reached Calais… (and as they say on TV, you should not try this at home).

This evening on BBC London I believe David Croft will be presenting his weekly sports show and will no doubt have some tales to tell.

The Marseilles to Paris Charles de Gaulle train was 40 minutes late due to the strikes – which was not too bad – but it was pretty chaotic. Still, at about 10pm we cruised into the airport station. Thierry, my pal who runs a parking business there, turned up with the car. His business has taken a major hit in the volcano crisis but he seemed chirpy enough. We headed for home, stopping only to finish the day in the most glamorous way possible at the only available restaurant at that time of night. Yes, folks, the glam world of F1, involves Big Macs and fries eaten in the car in the car park because they had closed the restaurant area!

Today I will send Tremayne off the UK on a Eurostar from Disneyland (with some Mickey Mouse balloons if I can find them) and the mission will be completed. I am going to head to Paris for champagne with someone known as Mole.

Thanks to those who helped us and “Good luck” to those who are still on the road…

43 thoughts on “Her Majesty’s Press. Coming through!

  1. People not turning up for a flights seems to be quite common. It seems that those that can are checking in for several flights and jumping on whichever goes first.

    Worked out well for my brother who managed to take two of these abandoned seat to get from tenerife to Madrid. And is now on hms Albion sailing home.

    Which makes another point a lot of people seems to forget about busses. Every train out of Madrid was full for days, but the bus to Santander still had spare seats an hour before departure!

  2. What a travel !
    My plane from Shanghai to Tokyo also delayed three hours because of mechanical trouble, but is still better to sleep in my bed monday night. One I missed was to not complete a movie on the plane. The plane arrived Tokyo just 5 minutes before the movie finished and it was my biggest frustration!

  3. Joe, I just loved the last few posts which I read all in one go as just back from hols. Just great. Thankyou.

  4. Congratulations on getting home!

    Just wondering whether the F1 drivers were sitting together on that flight to Nice or not? šŸ˜‰

  5. It was really interesting to read your part in the “Volcanic GP”.

    I’ve also been enjoying the ‘friendly’ rivalry between the BBC 5-Live team and the BBC TV team in their efforts to get back from Shanghai. Despite Ant’s driving, the TV crew won! I think their decision to go to Calais and not Caen paid dividends.

    Tales of drivers in economy proliferate in twitterland!

    Fantastically enjoyable story Joe. I’m sorry you had to suffer for your art! Diolch yn fawr.

  6. Having been a frequent traveller at times in my life (I’m hoping the lull lasts for a while yet) I thoroughly enjoyed this story – it beats my best ones hands down.
    And enjoyed it even more because of the last line of the penultimate paragraph…

  7. Kuni
    The advantages of living in Japan sometimes are better than the joy of all those long-hauls to Europe … Hope you get to see the film finish on DVD. Best regards, Paul T.

  8. Ive been in China this week Joe and am sitting in the qantas club in HK as i write. Missed the GP unfortunatley but have been untroubled getting a flight home. there is some advantages for living in the antipoedes.

    By the way I caught qualifying on Chinese TV and it was tough to follow with unintelligble commentary……

    Thanks to GP plus i am now up to speed

  9. Bet you wish you’d still had that Ferrari on loan from last year.

    Nigel Roebuck recounted his advice from Sid re airport stress. He said it’s important to have the right attitude. Rather than worrying about punctuality, just think “wouldn’t it be nice if there was a plane leaving here sometime…”

    Mind you, at the moment, that’s probably the best anyone can hope for.

  10. WHAT???

    Joe, you are _NOT_ The Mole?

    Come on, this is real scandal – please, say it isn’t so!

    Cheers for a fantastic piece of prose. Great read!

  11. Just finished reading this one for the third time. Brings back good old memories. Happy talk filled the air and everyone intermingled. Different era, some different challanges, but the French will never change! Constructor flights were great fun, everyone intermingaled, and James Hunt would get on the intercom and the show began! Bacgammon was the rage, Bernie would take on all challangers and happy talk filled the air.. Joe keep up the personalized bits, it’s good for the soul!!!!

  12. Champagne in Paris with The Mole??? That sounds great. Been a while.

    “Some say he is…” ahhh no. That’s another guy. Or is it? šŸ˜‰

  13. great article Joe – good to see you don’t pull your punches with those nice French Unions – they make Bob Crow seem moderate!!

  14. “old-fashioned and arrogant European airlines who treat even their best customers with utter disdain”… Have you ever try the US companies? In those airlines you wish you were cattle… Because in that case the Human Society can help you…

  15. Great story Joe, lucky for Anthony he didn’t meet French police, he wouldn’t have driven for a while. NICE CALAIS in 9H30, the guy is mad !!!!

    1. No problems at all between Massa and Alonso. Massa seemed to accept that he left a gap and Alonso took it. No doubt folk will beat it up into a story, but Massa not bothered by what happened. Apart from being yelled at by his engineer!

  16. I bet you’re looking forward to catching up with The Mole, its been a while, I am sure I am not alone in hoping you will share some details with us!!

    Well done on getting back – Impressive!

  17. Sounds absolutely horrible…

    Until I consider what would happen in the US if our domestic air flights were grounded.

    Nobody would get anywhere. Our inter-city bus system (a combination of Greyhound and quasi-charter group buses) is atrocious and anyone who has ever had to rely on that system for travel avoids it at all costs. Our national rail system is even worse – too few trains, practically no coverage to most of the country, and ridiculous fares if you can find a location you’d like to get to. And taxi/cab service is unthinkable unless you’re heading to the local airport.

    And yet BE is still pushing for a USGP (I want it, but considering many factors, the US doesn’t even deserve a GP right now). The only reasonable location for these events would be a populated city on the coasts, as it would be a nightmare to travel anywhere else and have to rely on our public transportation to get you the last xx miles to the race, etc.

    No point, here, really. Just be thankful that, even with the French commitment to…err, working?… you’ve still got reasonable options to get around the EU. Glad everyone got home, and I’m looking forward to the next couple of races. I’ll be coughing up a subscription fee to GP+ just to read the travel stories once I make my car payment (*SIGH).

    Oh, and to be a fly on the wall of the Emirates flight. What kind of crazy seat-swapping went on, were there cliques, who was the most popular, who demanded window/isle seats, etc. Which drivers shared ear buds while watching clips of the race…These are the important details. You hardly ever get to see competing drivers outside of ‘work’ together.

  18. Awesome stuff Joe. cant wait to hear more on “an aside with. . .”

    Sounds like the makings of another novel, or a screenplay. The F1 world scrambles home!!

  19. The return of the Mole. I imagine he’s got quite a few things to tell you at the moment.

    Sauber’s 2011 gameplan – or Renault’s for that matter, Ferrari’s third driver discussion or distraction?, why Briatore cares about his F1 reputation so much, what Jean’s been up to in the quite since election, why the USA thinks they might get a GP in the next 3 years, who Lewis is looking at for a manager – and why it’s taking so long, now that Bernie can’t hand the empire over to Flavio who’s he talking with, etc., etc..

    I can’t wait.

  20. Hi jo,

    Sorry I missed you in melbourne – my sister would have to choose the most inconvenient night to fly in to see me for my birthday!

    Just wanted to say that I’ve relished your recent posts-so entertaining!

    Mate, just fantastic reading (as I sit waiting for a delayed plane in Sydney). Hope to catch you next year!

  21. Totally agree with your comments about Emirates. I flown with many times, both economy and business classes, and they are head and shoulders above any European or North American airline I’ve flown with. Singapore are also excellent.

  22. Ah, so the Mole lives in Paris ? Down by the river, by any chance ? Has he retired there ? Haven’t heard much from him recently.

  23. Joe S. said “The mole is a man?”

    Well, if you go by the fuzzed-out head shot, he’s either a man or a transvestite. The mole, with his predilection for Penelopes, had BETTER be a man. The Mole as a woman? Nahhh…doesn’t work for me.

  24. More than one Mole? Hmmm…hadn’t thought of that. Like The Stig, eh? By that way, that “fuzzy-faced” guy always looked an awful lot like Peter Windsor to me.

    Well, however many there are, I anxiously await their return. They’ve been silent too long.

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