My flight was at 11am so I wanted to be at Gatwick by 9. Add extra time for traffic & trouble (and fog) and I need to leave about 5am. So I got up at 4 and was out the door by 4.30. It was foggy in places – between Salisbury & Winchester was particularly bad – but it had more or less cleared up by Gatwick. So I thought.
At the car park, I stood waiting for the bus. A plane roared overhead but I couldn’t see it. And then it appeared from the cloud, hardly any higher than the lampposts, as if it had appeared from thin air.
I had some breakfast, updated Facebook and settled in to kill three and a half hours at the airport.
My gate was due to be announced just twenty-five minutes before the plane was due to take off. Gate 1, nice and easy. Except when I got to Gate 1, there was a Norwegian plane waiting to go to Oslo. I checked Gates 2 & 3 and then rejoined the confused crowd at 1. We definitely hadn’t all misread it. After five minutes or so, the sign changed to Air Baltic to Rīga. Good. But we milled around more and then we’re told to go to Gate 38, which is the other end of the airport – and it’s now less than fifteen minutes before I’m supposed to depart. At Gate 38 there was an Air Baltic plane but we were told to sit down as it would be a while.
It wasn’t too bad. I boarded at 11.10 – only to be told when I presented my boarding pass “Oh, they’ve changed your seat.” They will regret this. The plane was nice and light – all white plastic & leather, Baltic-green rope lights under the overhead lockers, miniature overhead screens showing the route & flight data. It’s exactly the same map Icelandair uses.
We flew. We were an hour late taking off, we were about an hour late arriving. Within ten minutes of my boots touching Latvian soil I was at the bus stop with a yellow bus ticket loaded with an unlimited five day pass. Five minutes later I was on the correct bus & half an hour later I was crossing four lanes of traffic and two tramlines outside the Latvian National Library.
I checked into my riverfront hotel. I’d read reviews. I’d be put at the back but offered a room and view update for a price. I declined it. The reviews also said the staff are “surly” but that wasn’t in evidence at all.
The room is fine. Yes, it’s at the back but it’s on the 9th floor so it has a view literally over the Rīga rooftops. It’s plenty big enough, huge shower, sockets in convenient places – no complaints about the room other than that it may turn out to be too hot.
The pool is currently occupied but I’m going back at 8 and tomorrow I shall see Latvia in daylight – Rīga if it’s wet, Sigulda if it’s not.
The pool, it turns out, is not only freezing but you have to sign in at a desk so the receptionist knows if you run away after five minutes.