Saturday, May 4, 2019

Qatar famil, Day Four - Highs and lows (both literal and figurative)

With thanks to Qatar Airways for this trip

Considering that it was after midnight when we left the hotel, and we had been for three days in passive famil-mode (no independent thought or action required), it was a triumph that when our booked ride to the airport didn't turn up, one of us managed to summon an Uber. It was a minor hiccup, and we were delivered to the First Class/Business Class terminal where we lapsed again into passivity as a nice young lady sat us down while she checked us in, and then took us to the Al Mourjan Business Lounge where some of us fell on the wine - that's figuratively fell, since it's kept in a locked cabinet to which only the attendant has the key.
I wandered off for a quick look at Hamad International Airport, which is very new and shiny and airy, and full of high-end shops - Harrod's! - as well as more useful ones. I was pleasantly surprised to see that WH Smith sells Whittaker's chocolate - NZ's own, if you don't recognise that name, and the best. Plonked in the middle of a huge intersection space was a most unexpected giant teddy bear. Unexpected - and creepy. It's a work by Swiss artist Urs Fischer called Lamp Bear, made of cast bronze with a canary yellow finish. It's 7m high, weighs about 11 tonnes - and its back is pierced by the stand of a lamp that fits over its head like a bonnet, and makes you think irresistibly of an interrogation scenario. It cost $6.8 million, and was bought at Christie's in New York by a member of the Qatari royal family, who presumably thought s/he was doing air travellers a favour by making it their last impression of Qatar.

We continued to sit in the lounge, not giving a thought to anything, when our escort turned up looking a bit agitated and we remembered that, oh yes, we should probably see about getting to the gate - especially since the flight was meant to leave in just half an hour. She hailed a passing electric car for us, while she took, I think, a train, and came running to meet us at the far-distant gate where, presumably with considerable relief, she was able to hand us over.
Our flight back, again on a Boeing 777, was in the old-style business class, with regular seats in 2:2:2. It actually felt a lot roomier than QSuite, without the walls, but was obviously much less private, so it was just as well my neighbour was a pleasant businessman from Christchurch. To my attendant's disappointment and later concern, I went straight to sleep and managed to snooze most of the way, though I did mollify her by accepting breakfast at one point. This flight was shorter, just the 16-odd hours - not, as you may be thinking, regular 😃 reader, because it's downhill, but because we were flying east, against the rotation of the planet.

We arrived on time around 4am local time, and were lucky to land because of thick fog at Manurewa. I was the sole passenger on the SkyBus into the city, but far from that on the first ferry of the day, which was crammed full with eager people heading to the island for the Waiheke Half Marathon. And then I fell at the last fence because for some reason there were no buses or taxis at Matiatia so I ended my indulgent, luxuriously comfortable trip by literally hauling my suitcase home up and down hills for 3.3km. Welcome back to the real world.

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