John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Saturday 8 September 2012

[Friday 7 September 2012]
09:30 Manchester Airport; 18:35 Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport
Woke up after ca. an hour, needing the loo, and the right foot hurt like billyo when I stood on it; it was almost impossible to walk to the bathroom. Slippers would have helped, especially off the thick bedroom carpet and on the hard, tiled bathroom floor, but Janet hadn’t been able to find them (part of the reason for her earlier exasperation.) The waking was repeated a number of times; each time, it was almost unbearable, and afterwards the pain persisted. Janet was awake at one point and did what she could to “make it better”. We’d set the alarm clock — there was an electric alarm clock; we didn’t have to book a wake-up call — for 5.45am, and Janet used the bathroom before I did. I had a shower, and the foot was not as painful as through the night. We packed up and left the room ca.7am. One of the lifts was out of order, though, so there was a bit of a wait. I waited at reception to hand my key-card in; as I expected (or hoped), I was “okayed” with nothing to pay (the credit card was debited at the time of booking; I was hoping they realised that). We went outside to join the dozen or more people waiting for the shuttle. A minibus arrived, a taxi or private-hire vehicle with a licence-plate, and took the first eight; then a larger van with Bewley’s on the side arrived, offloaded its passengers and their luggage, and took us and ours to Terminal 3. A big man with a bald head, Canadian, heading home to Dubai, was also in the van and on our flight. A couple or so people remained in the van to be taken to Terminal 1. There was a long “snake” of people queuing for check-in at the Air France desks. A uniformed young woman asked us if we had our boarding passes, and when we said we didn’t she helped us use one of the self-service machines that were there.

07:35:34 Nearing the end of the “snake”. The signs saying “Amsterdam” changed in a cycle to “Antwerp” and “Paris” and back to “Amsterdam”.

07:36:04 View through the “snake” to the right

07:36:04 Detail, showing the direction we headed next: to the security checks, and then to the departure gate
After baggage check-in we went through the security check. I set the alarm off, and had to take my shoes off and stand in another booth (X-ray, presumably, or some sort of scanning technology) — a painful hobble till I got my shoes back, dug the shoe-horn out of my bag and levered my feet back into them. On the “air side” of the airport, there were a number of retail and catering outlets, and I had a toasted cheese-and-ham sandwich and a packet of crisps to eat and we had Pepsi to drink at Costa Coffee.
By now it was 9am, and our plane was boarding, so after visiting loos we headed for the designated gate. The cabin-crew were French and bid us “Bonjour!” or “Good morning!” as we entered the aeroplane and passed down the aisle. We had a row of three seats between us. After a short amount of taxiing we took off on time. Ca.10am the stewardess came along with Nescafé and chocolate-chip croissants. Later, she handed out plain croissants. We crossed what we took to be the English Channel, but wondered what a small island off the mainland was; then we passed over patchwork fields that looked for all the world like English ones — perhaps smaller and more haphazardly dimensioned, though. Many were the dusty dark yellow of already-harvested cornfields. Janet pointed out a hazy, tiny Eiffel Tower in the distance away to the right, as we were descending. There was applause when we touched down — strange! The taxiing was much longer at Paris than at Manchester. There was then a long walk — through security: I remembered to take off my watch this time, as well as everything else, and set off no alarms; Janet was frisked, though — to the connecting flights area “L”, and then there was a shuttle train to the “K” gates. The first train, which was already there, was packed; and the second, which came a couple of minutes after, was fairly well filled with people from “M”, but we managed to squeeze on. We wanted a loo, and Janet wanted to buy a bottle of diet cola; but there was no loo at the “K” gate area, and it was 12.30pm (11.30am summertime-adjusted UTC) and our 12.45pm plane was already boarding, and the queue at the counter was long, so we headed the quite long distance to Gate K34 and boarded the plane. Once we’d swapped with an oriental young woman so she could sit with her husband, we again had a three-seat row to ourselves. There was a slight delay, then taxiing a long way till we joined a queue of aircraft taking off, with more aircraft falling in behind us. “Ladies and genklemen…” the stewardess said whenever she made an announcement. The catering on board was excellent for an aeroplane: I had an 18.7cl bottle of red wine, and Janet a small can of Coca Cola Light; there were trays divided into three sections: one of tiny mushrooms suitably disguised and made edible by a strong vinegary sauce; one of macaroni and cheese, with a piece of curried chicken; and one with a small bread baton and Camembert cheese. And there was coffee after that. (Cram-’em-in-like-sardines, penny-pinching Thomson Airways bastards go bust!) This is the way to travel. We were each issued a small two-part form to complete: a “Migration Card”. The two parts were identical, apart from one being for “Arrival” and one for “Departure”, and asked for name, date of birth, nationality, visa number, etc. It was only after I’d completed both mine and Janet’s that I read the other side and found that deletions weren’t allowed — and there was a deletion on Janet’s. Janet was distressed when the plane descended, with pain because her ears wouldn’t “pop”. We landed — again, strangely, with a little applause — just about on time, notwithstanding the initial delay, ca.18:35 (15:35 summer-time UTC). With our early start and the soporific effect of the travelling, it felt like 18:35. It was a long walk in the terminal building from the plane to passport control; I didn’t use my walking stick because of the very shiny floors. We found some more “Migration Cards” just before the passport control barriers, so Janet presented a form without alterations. There was a poster promoting some FM radio station saying “Здравствуйте!”, I noticed as we waited. The girl in the booth — actually quite pretty, though definitely “Russian”-looking — was both quite friendly and thorough in examining the passport, form and visa. Our baggage was already circulating on the baggage-carousel. We walked through the green “Nothing To Declare” route without any interference from the two customs officials standing there; and there, near the exit door was a quite large woman with a sign saying “J. Cooper x 2”. We waited outside the exit door; she phoned the car-driver, a young man, who came. She asked us which hotel we were going to; we couldn’t remember and had to shuffle through papers. Then she left us, and he took us a considerable distance to the hotel, sometimes creeping through traffic hold-ups, sometimes speeding along wide dual-carriageways past many multi-storey apartment-blocks. Janet pointed out a very tall building to our right, and as it happened we pulled in and stopped there, for it was our hotel.

Renaissance Moscow Monarch Centre Hotel (photo from website)

Hotel lobby (photo from website)
We checked in, were given our key cards, room 310 — so on the “second” floor as Brits would define it (“ground”, “first”, second”). We entered one of the four lifts when the doors opened, pressed “3”, and were taken to perhaps the 10th floor. The man who entered, an employee, showed us how you had to put the door card in and out of a slot before selecting your floor-number. The room was very large, with two double beds.

Bedroom (photo from website)
In the top drawer of the between-beds cabinet here was a Gideon New Testament in Russian and KJV-English, also oddly a Book of Mormon. When we went down for dinner, we were shown to a table already occupied by two ladies about our age, and in our Regent Holidays group: “Viv” and “Doreen”, I thought they said; but Janet heard it as “Liz” and “Pauline”. There were some Regent Holidays people at the next table. There was a “Greek salad”, with feta cheese and olives and other things, followed by a delicious, just medium-cooked beefsteak (perhaps the best-cooked steak I’ve ever had) in a rich sauce, with mashed potatoes and a slice of aubergine and one of marrow, followed by raspberry and redcurrant cheesecake-cum-sponge cake. We went to the Bank of Moscow office in the hotel and I exchanged €50; I got 2010 Roubles.
But when we went to the bar and had two small bottles of Pepsi Light and were charged 500 Roubles, I thought that the money wasn’t going to last very long! Back in the room, Janet unpacked and found an adaptor for the German-style socket on the desk, so I was able to plug in the “little feller”. I thought about the Roubles-situation: I read somewhere that 1 Rouble was worth about 2p, so I guess that’s about right. It was the ten quid that we were charged for coloured, flavoured water that was the problem! Janet showered then updated her holiday journal; I sat at the “little feller” and updated this.
[Sunday 9 September 2012]

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