I got back from Costa Rica on Monday and so on Tuesday it was back to work for me. I had a wonderful time, with a great guide and travelling companions, wonderful weather and of course it's a beautiful country anyway, so what's not to like. I'll have to get my photos sorted before I post them here but suffice it to say I just fell in love with the wonderful animals and vegetation as well as the beautiful country, so I will post more next time.
I flew into London the night before my departure just in case an upcoming snow storm might stop me from leaving Geneva the next day. Before I made my way to the hotel I stopped over at the Air Canada desk in Heathrow to ask about the possibility of upgrading my flights. The lady was very helpful and told me that there looked to be quite a few empty upgrade seats but that she would advise me to do it the next day (the day of travel) as the seat upgrades would then be much cheaper. "Oh, and you do have your ETA visa don't you?" Say what! She was talking about the entry visa into Canada. I explained that my travel company hadn't mentioned that and I hadn't thought to look as I was only transiting Toronto Airport. I had checked visa requirements for Costa Rica of course but not for Canada as I assumed that since I wasn't leaving the airport I wouldn't need one. Wrong!!! But she gave me the link to the site and within about 10 minutes I had my visa ....... buuuuuuuttttt the visa was sent to my email and I couldn't access it! I tried over and over again but no luck. Bloody hell, fancy falling at the first gate. However, once I had made my way to my hotel I mentioned my problem to the lovely young (Polish) girl on the desk who then spent ages with me trying to get into my email via my phone and her phone and so on. In the end she had me do the visa request again but send it to the hotel's email and she was able to print it for me. Thank goodness. In fact, as I found out afterwards, Canadian immigration can check your visa status by your passport number so it would have been all right in any case but I didn't know that at the time. I was so relieved that later that night I logged on to the Premier Inn's web site and thanked the young woman by name for spending so much time with me and told management that she was a credit it to them. I know I've said it before but I say it again, these institutions wouldn't be able to function without the hard-working Eastern Europeans in their employ in addition to the hard-working Brits, hence my referencing her nationality. Well done and thank you Nikky.
So the next day I went back to the Air Canada desk and was able to upgrade the first leg of my journey - from London to Toronto. I was dead chuffed with myself as I hate flying and having a little more comfort has got to help. On a whim I decided to make my way up to the Maple Leaf Air Canada lounge and in the lift on the way up there I chatted briefly to a Canadian lady heading the same way. She went into the lounge first and afterwards I asked if my upgrade entitled me to use the lounge too but the receptionist said unfortunately not. Well the Canadian lady overheard this (not that it bothered me one way or the other) and she came back and said that she thought that she was entitled to bring a guest in and so I became a "guest" and went off to treat myself to a lovely free breakfast. So thank you again kind Canadian lady! You see, there are nice people in the world.
Not that I was "gifted" with a "nice" person sat in front of me on the flight though! An older man and what turned out to be his 35-ish year-old son sat in front of me in the bulkhead - you know, where the extra leg room is. Fair enough, they had already reserved their seats. The son looked like Shaggy in Scooby Doo, and immediately after take off he jammed his seat straight back into my face. Now, I don't like reclining my seat into the face of the person behind me as I don't think it's fair, but I didn't say anything as he is entitled to do what he wants. When they came round with the meal, though, I asked the flight attendant to ask him to put his seat up while we ate - which he did. However, "Shaggy" literally inhaled his food, stood up, looked over at me and said "coming back", at which point he rammed his seat back knocking my tray all over me. So I tapped him on the shoulder and asked if he would mind putting his seat upright just until I had finished my meal. But get this, his answer was "if you wanted more space you should be in business"! I was stunned. Luckily for once I thought fast and said I didn't want more space I just wanted the space I had paid for but he obviously didn't give a sh*t. So I just said "I've got two words for you and the second one is off - figure the other one out if you can!" Then I looked at his dad and said "you must be so proud", after which I got up and moved to a vacant seat to avoid the asshole completely. But the poor chap who had been sitting next to me got to put up with "Shaggy" bouncing around in his seat to the beat of his very loud music, banging into the seat back constantly. I told the guy to move but he decided to go to sleep instead. When "Shaggy" and his dad got off I saw him going through business class, pick something up off one of the seats (a blanket I think) and stuff it in his rucksack. Way to go Shaggy - I hope you get everything you deserve in life!
I don't like confrontation but this guy's behaviour was totally out of line. Still, the world was put to right again once in Canada by a lovely old Sikh security officer at Toronto airport. One of my lady travelling companions set off the alarm going through the scanner on the way home so he pulled her over. She explained to him that she had had a hip replacement that had some metal in it so he called a lady over to check her out. Then I set it off because of the metal in my shoe lace eyes so he made me sit down and take my shoes off to go through again. As I was doing that two of our travelling companions waved goodbye to us so I ran over and gave them both a kiss, as did Ruth, the "hip" lady. So the elderly Sikh started complaining that how come he never got to get any kisses and life just wasn't fair and so on - really good naturedly. After we were found to be no longer a "security threat" he called us both back and handed us a candy! At which point Ruth said "take a look at his feet, he's got odd socks on (he had). How would you fancy trusting your security to a guy that can't even match his socks?" It was really funny but I don't really think anyone's security was compromised by the state of his footwear in the end. Still, a little harmless banter certainly makes the miserable business of travelling so much easier, don't you think.
And finally, as we were just a small group of six Brits on this tour, one night we were discussing our favourite comedy shows and someone mentioned The Vicar of Dibley (I loved that programme).I was therefore so sad to learn that Dawn French's half-witted sidekick verger (the lovely Emma Chambers) had died of a heart attack. She was only 53 and from what I understand was severely allergic to animals and also severely asthmatic which (I believe) triggered the heart attack. Rest in peace Emma Chambers and thank you for the laughs!