John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Monday 29 October 2012


Cleethorpes–Heathrow–Tel Aviv, Israel
We were up just after 4am. (Janet had woken up before 3am so put the central heating on.)… I finished packing what I wanted to take with me. The taxi came at 6am, while it was still dark, and took us to Cleethorpes railway station. When I first got my glasses, although things at one end of an ordinary-sized room looked quite clear from the other end, things at a great distance looked blurred, even after I took the glasses back to the shop twice to have the lenses changed; then one day everything unaccountably looked quite clear. I think there then followed periods of seeing distant things blurred and of seeing them clearly. Today, things started to seem blurred again, so I couldn’t see from the LED displays on the platforms which of the three identical trains standing side by side with engines running was ours. It was, in fact, the third. And we found the doors locked, so we were kept waiting out in the cold, till not long before the train’s departure time, 6.18am. The advantage of boarding at the train’s departure point is that there’s sufficient space in the luggage rack. We changed at Doncaster for the swift East Coast Trains train to Kings Cross station. We were pleased that there was space in the luggage rack, even though the train didn’t start there. Janet had wanted to get a taxi for the transfer to Paddington station, but I suggested we at least look at the tube. There was a lift down, so we decided to take it. Although the Hammersmith & City Line tube-train that arrived was fairly crowded, we managed without undue difficulty to get ourselves and our baggage onto it and to stand near the door, passing five stations and getting off at Paddington; but then we found no lift back up to street level. There were extensive fenced-off areas of construction works, where I supposed a lift would ordinarily have been. I had quite a lot of difficulty, given the restrictions on movement imposed by my right foot, lumping my heavy case up step by step. Fortunately, a kind man came to Janet’s aid. (“We’ll DEFINITELY get a taxi next Monday!” Janet wrote.) I’d realised, quite soon after we left home, that I’d forgotten to pack the irrigation solution for the lesion on my right foot; but there’d been a quarter-hour’s free internet access on the East Coast train, annoyingly slow but sufficient for me to ascertain that there was a branch of Boots in the Paddington station concourse. They didn’t have there exactly what I’d left behind, but I accepted their offer of sachets of sterile saline solution. There were plenty of seats on the smart new “Heathrow Express”, and the luggage rack was quite large, divided into spaces for heavy luggage at the bottom, medium in the middle, and light at the top. The only slight problem was having to lift the cases up a bit of a step up to the “heavy luggage” space.

Photo from Wikipedia

Photo from Wikipedia

Here is the information supplied by Riviera Travel:

Day 1
On arrival at the airport, please make your way to Terminal 1, Zone K.
It is recommended that you check in 3 hours before departure as there are some additional security procedures for checking in on flights to Israel. As well as the standard airport checks, your hand luggage will be scanned and the security staff will ask some simple questions whilst you are in the queue. You should then proceed through immigration and passport control into the departure lounge. Here you will find bars, restaurants, and shops selling everything you are likely to need whilst on holiday.
The gate number and boarding instructions are clearly displayed on television screens throughout the terminal. Please comply with these instructions, as announcements may not be made.
The general level of security at airports has been increased in line with the Department of Transport directives. Wherever possible you should pack liquids in your hold baggage, as there are restrictions on the amount you can take in your hand luggage. All liquids, gels and pastes are limited to a maximum quantity of 100ml and must be carried in single, transparent, re-sealable plastic bag. This must be presented separately for inspection at the airport security point. All sharp implements should be packed in your suitcase. Please ensure that your suitcase is unlocked as it may be searched.
On arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv you will directed to Passport Control where you should join the queue for ‘Foreign Passports’. Your passport will be stamped with an entry visa free of charge unless you request otherwise. Please note: Holders of passports with an Israeli stamp are not permitted to enter Libya, Syria, Iran, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Should you be intending to visit one of these countries after your holiday, please present a separate piece of paper at Passport Control, which will be stamped accordingly.
When you make your way to the Baggage Reclaim Hall a local representative will be waiting for you. Please make yourself known to him/her before collecting your cases. Once you have retrieved your cases please return to the local representative who will escort the whole group through Customs to the Arrivals Hall where the local guide or tour manager will meet you. Please bear in mind that the tour manager may be travelling on the same flight, and so could be the last to arrive.
We will then transfer by coach to our hotel for the night, the four-star Grand Beach Hotel. The address of the hotel is 250, Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv. The telephone number from the UK is: 00972 354 33333. The transfer time to the hotel is approximately 30 minutes. The hotel restaurant closes at 9pm, so arrivals after this time will have a cold plated meal placed in the fridge of the room.
The walk from at Heathrow from the station to airport Terminal 1 was quite long, but the handle of the four-wheeled suitcase was as good as a walking stick. Before one was allowed to approach the El Al baggage check-in, one had to wait to be interviewed by an Israeli official (whether of the state or of the airline I’m not certain), asking things like: purpose of visit — did we know anyone in Israel? — did we have any weapons? — had anyone given us anything to take there? — etc. Thence, to one of the baggage check-in queues. We handed passports, with the boarding passes I’d printed and the “e-tickets” that Riviera Holidays had sent us, to the man on the check-in counter. We left the cases on the conveyor and he gave us the passports back with boarding cards. Then, relieved of our chief burden, we went through the security check: putting coat, belt, contents of pockets, etc., in a tray to go through the scanner; then getting the “little feller” and external HDD out of my bag and putting them in a tray to be scanned separately from the bag itself; and then going through the people-scanner. I’m pleased I didn’t set off any alarm buzzers, and didn’t have to take my shoes off. (My feet had already begun to protest at all the standing around they’d had to do, without having to stand uncushioned on the hard floor.) My bag was subjected to a random check, though, which I didn’t mind. It was only in the “airside” waiting and shopping area that I realised that the baggage check-in man hadn’t given us our e-tickets back. These each had a number, which I thought would be needed for the return flight. We had Pepsi Max, and Janet went to W. H. Smith’s and bought me a sandwich. It was a long, long way from there to the boarding gate, despite there being from time to time moving walkways: down a long corridor, a turn, another corridor, a turn, another corridor, etc. But a little shuttle vehicle stopped and I was offered a ride. There was only one space, but Janet urged me to take it. She was able to offload her heavy bag onto me, anyway. She caught up with me remarkably quickly, I thought. The man who had been on baggage check-in was also there at the gate so we asked him about the e-tickets. He assured us that all we would need for the return flight would be our passports. And so we boarded the plane, which had two aisles, ca.1.30pm; we passed through first class and business class and arrived at economy class, which had three rows of three seats, a row on each side and a central row. Our seats were a window seat and the one next to it, but Janet managed to negotiate a swap with a family of four so we got an aisle seat and one next to it and they sat more or less together, three in the left row and one next to us in the central row. She told them she had sciatica and might need to get up and walk around quite a bit. The plane took off around its scheduled time, 14:20 GMT. There were little TV screens mounted on the back of the seats in front; mine kept resetting itself, though, and I kept having to reselect what I was watching using the handset, detachable from the armrest to the right. On one of the channels our progress was shown as a line on a map, alternating with lists displaying speed, height, time to destination, distance travelled, outside temperature (very low, minus 50-odd sometimes), etc. The handset was supposed also to control the overhead reading-lights, but ours didn’t work for most of the flight. I hoped the important parts of the plane, those concerned with flying and landing, functioned better! I’m writing this over a week after the event: Can’t remember what food and drink was provided — I did notice a “kosher” certificate with one of the items — but the provision was more than adequate.

We landed ca.19:05 GMT, 21:05 local time. Janet wrote: “[John’s] feet [were] VERY painful and I had… sciatica during the flight and could hardly walk at one point.” We lined up at passport control booths, some designated “Israeli Passports” and others “Foreign Passports”; but when all the Israeli citizens had passed through their booths, some of the foreigners were hived off to go through them. We received a “visit permit” rubber stamp in our passports. We introduced ourselves to the man carrying a “Riviera” sign, before going to the baggage-claim carousel. After that we congregated back around him. There may have been one or two customs officials around, but no-one was actively on duty monitoring those going through the “Nothing to declare”. My feet were hurting with all the standing around that had been entailed, and I found keeping up with the large group difficult as it proceeded to the exit, out into the warm darkness, onto the waiting coach. “My sciatica had eased off,” Janet wrote, “but [John was] not good.” (Right up to almost the last moment it had been uncertain whether we’d have to phone and cancel the holiday because my right foot had been so painful.) The man introduced himself as Norman as we made the fairly lengthy journey to and through the city. He was Irish, and seemed to have the knack of saying the same thing using different words about ten times. I exaggerate — or maybe I don’t. Then again, maybe I do. (That was an attempt to sound a bit like Norman!) We collected our luggage as it was offloaded from the lower compartment of the coach, and assembled in the hotel lobby, where Norman distributed envelopes containing room key-cards. In the fridge in the room, on two plates covered with cling-film, there were various sliced processed meats — and things like sliced gherkins and olives. There were also two bread-rolls. Norman had told us of a supermarket on the next street-corner, so we went there and bought a bottle of Pepsi Max and a couple of bananas.

There were a few groups of youths on street corners, Hebrew-speaking by the sound of them, some tending to be slightly rowdy, but in no way menacing or alarming. Back in the hotel room, Janet had bread and the bananas, and I had bread and the meats from one plate, but I had no appetite for gherkins and olives. “I then had a shower after sorting out stuff for tomorrow,” Janet wrote, “and we finally fell into bed at 12.40am.”

[Tuesday 30 October 2012]

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