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boeing 747 jumbo jet KLM city of karachi schiphol airport amsterdam holland netherlands canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

You've seen this plane before and so you can see it again. A Boeing 747 "Jumbo Jet" called City of Karachi but a closer examination revealed it to be more like City of Troy or City of Pompeii or City of Nineveh. Registration PH-BFK and first flown on the 3rd of May 1991. Presumably piloted by Orville and Wilbur Wright.

Almost exactly 21 years old and it looked every day of it. "€300" I kept on whispering to myself. I don't need any more motivation than that.

boeing 747 jumbo jet kitchen galley lift canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

I sat in a corridor seat next to the galley, which has to be one of the best places to sit on a long voyage. There was no-one crowding me at all, no-one overlooking at me and plenty of legroom, although it was an inconvenience when they wanted to use the goods lift - and they do have goods lifts in Jumbo Jets as you can see.

And on the flight there were a great many things of note.
Firstly ... I was sat next to a young girl who was half-Dutch and half-Tanzanian and she was the most pleasant and certainly the most attractive flight companion that I've ever had. We had quite a lengthy conversation that continued all the way out to the concourse at Dorval. In fact I was quite disappointed when she hopped into a taxi at the airport, having refused the lift that I offered her. Quite a shame that. I would have liked to have known her better.
Secondly ... One of the films on offer on the flight was Wallace and Grommit in Curse of the Were-Rabbit. That's another one of those films that I can watch time after time after time.
Thirdly ... Surfing through the radio stations available on the aeroplane I came across "Arrow Classic Rock". That was a station that I could pick up live in Brussels when I lived there at Expo and it didn't 'arf bring back the good old days. Golden Earring all the way across the Atlantic - what more can anyone want?
Fourthly ... I was well aware that having changed flights at the last moment my vegan meal would not have followed me and I was grateful that I had gone straight to sleep last night without eating the spicy loaf that I had brought for a late-night meal. That might well come in handy.
But ... when I explained my problem to one of the flight attendants, she disappeared off and came back with a couple of side salads, some hot rice, some fruit salad and a pile of bread rolls. In fact I reckon that I had a better meal than I would have done had I been served up my meal that was currently going to waste on my proper flight.
Fifthly and even more surprisingly ... I was chatted up all the way through the flight by ... errr ... one of the air stewards. He even gave me a pen with his compliments. However, at the end of the flight, in the best traditions of a News of the World reporter, I "made my excuses and left".

Well, I'll be b*gg*red. It's all happening to me, isn't it?

You might have gathered from the above that I had by now calmed down after my adventures at Schiphol. Once I'm installed in my seat and we are off the ground and all of this security nonsense is out of the way I can relax. Ironically, back in the old days I was the most nervous air passenger that ever existed, gripping the edge of the seat all the way across the Atlantic, but these days with all of the stress in the departure lounge, I breathe a sigh of relief once we are in the air. Maybe there is method in their madness?

It does remind me of the story that Emo Phillips used to tell of when he was babysitting a child that used to have dreadful nightmare. He reckoned that the way to cure the problem was to fill the child's day full of so many indescribable horrors that it would actually pray for night to come. I simply contented myself, on this flight anyway, with singing to myself "There's a place like heaven flying across the water on a 747". Good old ELO, hey?

When I was out in Canada last year, driving between Montreal and Trois Rivières on the south bank of the river late one night, I made the remark that when I was somewhere near Drummondville I noticed an endless stream of aeroplanes passing directly overhead on route for Dorval. I've just noticed from the flight information map that this is exactly the route that we are taking. We aren't following the St Lawrence at all as we did in 2011 with Air Transat.

Entry into Canada was pretty painless if you don't count the enormous queue for passing the border. Something else that I particularly hate but again it's just another symptom of the paranoia that is affecting the Western world right now. When you think about all of this, the lengths to which the Governments of the Western world are going show just how much the freedom fighters of the Middle East have pushed the West onto the run.

They say that the best way to deal with your enemies is to ignore them. That's what everyone tells the kids that are being bullied around in school. But that's certainly not the case with the grown-ups in the West today, is it? In fact the Middle-Easterners must be laughing their heads off with all of this, not to mention the cost of it all. My airline ticket cost me €311. On top of this, I had to pay airport taxes (the bit that pays for the security checks) of €367 - and you can't make up a story like that either.

You could tell that I was back in an airport terminal building, can't you? There's nothing like the stress of a place like that to bring out a really good rant and believe me, I can bring out some really good ones when the circumstances are right.

But all of this nonsense in a Western airport brings to mind the lyrics of "No More Straights" from the legendary Neutrons album Tales from the Blue Cocoons
"The times that we've spent travelling all across this land"
"Meet so many people that we don't understand"
"Like the law"
"They don't treat you like people 'cos you mess with their machines"
"They play around with numbers and pull down all the dreams"

dodge grand caravan FHK 3687 dorval airport pierre trudeau montreal canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

After recovering my suitcase, not to mention Strawberry Moose who had been travelling in the suitcase in the aeroplane hold, it was off to see what vehicle the hire company had set aside for me.

Another Dodge Grand Caravan. Just the job. And if you are wondering why I've hired a vehicle like this when there is just His Nibs and Yours Truly, you have obviously not been paying attention from last year.

dodge grand caravan FHK 3687 dorval airport pierre trudeau montreal canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

The seats in the Grand Caravan fold flat into the floor leaving a nice big empty space, and I rent a tiny storage unit across the city in which I keep a really narrow bed, a couple of tarpaulins transformed into curtains, a cooking stove and a pile of storage boxes with all kinds of exciting stuff stored therein. I end up with quite a comfortable holiday.

Mind you, they knew that I was coming all right. This vehicle has 17587 kilometres on the clock. I've only once in North America ever had a hire car with a minimal mileage on the clock, and no car hire company will ever make that mistake again.

I did once look into the idea of hiring a mobile home and I was quite prepared to pay for the right kind of vehicle. But two things scuppered that idea
Firstly ... I could not find a single hire company that would lend me anything of a reasonable size. They were all into these huge bungalow-type of arrangements that would be totally out-of-place on the kind of roads where I would be travelling. What I need is something like a VW Caravelle 2-berth. That's more than enough.
Secondly ... I was told that there was a mileage limit of 1000 kilometres. After that, there would be a cost per kilometre and the charge for that is not for the faint-hearted. I did enquire as to whether this was 1000 kilometres per week - something that might make it worth my while considering - but apparently it's per hire, regardless of how long the hire period is. And 1000 kilometres for me - I wouldn't have even warmed up the vehicle by then
So if you run a vehicle rental service and you can fit me up with a decent deal for a 2-berth mobile home in North America, with a proposition.

strawberry moose dodge grand caravan FHK 3687 dorval airport pierre trudeau montreal canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

First thing to do is of course to make Strawberry Moose comfortable in his seat. After all, he's going to be in there for 5 or 6 weeks without too much of a break.

And in case you might be wondering about just who Strawberry Moose might be, he's the former mascot - and a very controversial mascot at that - of the students of a University in the UK and I seem to have inherited him. The University is one that caters for older students studying for a change of career, or maybe to catch up on academic qualifications that they missed when they were younger.

Mature students, they say. Although what I was doing in a University for mature students is a matter for considerable discussion or debate.

The second-most important thing to do after installing His Nibs is to install the music. We can't go anywhere at all without that. We left the airport to the sound of Live At Leeds taking us out of the exit. How about that? That, together with Who's Next I had copied onto a CD ages ago and I had rediscovered it as I was doing some tidying up at home a while back. I never bring the original CDs with me on my travels in case I lose them or damage them.

I'd not gone many hundreds of yards before I realised why I hadn't brought this CD with me before. It seems to be scratched to death. The music is jumping about all over the place. So cue Physical Graffiti and "Custard Pie" for steaming out of Montreal Airport onto the Highway.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I regularly reside at the Howard Johnson Motel at Anjou on the east side of the city. I've always had a good deal on their rates while their motel there was undergoing renovation, so much so that I seemed to have settled on that side of the city - at least, that's where my little storage unit is.

However all this has now changed. It seems that the renovations there are now complete, because their room rates have recently risen to a more usual Howard Johnson rate i.e. way out of my budget, and so I have been obliged to look elsewhere for my first-night stay.

canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

One of these internet booking services came up trumps. The cheapest motel that was available that was easily accessible and with private off-street parking was a Comfort Inn, and these are really good value if you can obtain a decent price for them - the walk-in price is not so competitive.

It's in Laval though, some miles away from the airport. I did however notice that just outside the airport there was a stack of motels that might have done the business. What does Rodeway Inn look like on the internet? And what about the Park Inn? And the Econolodge? I'll have to do some further research before I come again.

And - ooooohhhhh look - a Salle de Montre. We're definitely in Québec now.

All the way down the highway towards Laval, even though I'm sticking to pretty much the legal speed limit, almost everything on the road is overtaking me. And "everything" seems to be Hyundais and Subarus and Volvos and suchlike. I have yet to see a traditional American car go past.

For the last couple of years that we have been in North America we have been playing some kind of game - "101 uses for a redundant school bus". We are up to about number 83 if I remember correctly. This year we are going to be playing a new one - "whistle when you see an American car".

strawberry moose comfort inn motel laval montreal canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

After something of a thrash through the rush-hour traffic Strawberry Moose and I eventually track down our hotel. And while I deal with one set of important priorities, he attends to another set of important priorities

But never mind him for a moment. A quick glance at the décor in the background will demonstrate that if you can book a Comfort Inn at a decent price you will not be disappointed.

The day does not end without me mentioning what was the big irony of everything that has happened to me today, what with the change of flight and all this sort of thing. On entering the arrivals hall at Dorval I discovered that the flight that I should have been on, AF344 direct from Paris to Montreal, has been delayed on departure by 90 minutes. Being (voluntarily) bumped off my flight and being diverted to Amsterdam, I have in fact arrived first and they paid me €300 for the privilege.

I'll settle for that any day.

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