17 June 2011, Constanta, almost midnight. Got’em! I managed to secure cheap tickets to Madrid for my winter holidays. And a compact car for two weeks in the same booking. The only thing is that there are six months left to the said holiday… How am I going to resist? Only if I could refrain from checking the calendar every single day.
The truth is that Portugal has been on my mind for quite a few years. Now the time is ripe to make the move. This time Spain will merely be the transit country. After a little bit of digging over the web, I decided that the best way to get to Portugal (in terms of both costs and beauty of traveling) is flying a single leg to Madrid, hire a car and continue driving from that point on.
14 January 2012, Bucharest, early evening. Been there, done that. Portugal exceeded all expectations. It is the perfect escape from the cold, grey winters here in Eastern Europe. I’ve enjoyed every single minute of this holiday and hopefully will return for the next winter. Godspeed!
30 December 2011, Bucharest, early morning. Good things happen to people who wait. After six months of almost daily calendar checks, it was about time. I woke up at 7 sharp, one hour earlier than planned. There are people who can’t sleep before they travel due to stress. Das Reisefieber, as the Germans put it. But for me no, that is not the case. I just can’t wait for the trip sleeping. Way too much excitement.
It is 6 o’clock in Madrid. Too early. The inbound flight to Bucharest has not yet departed. I am checking its status on Flightradar24 and on the airport’s website. Very curious about the registration tag, as always. Maybe it’s gonna be a brand new bird.
And indeed she is. Around 08:30 Eastern European Time, the flight appears on Flightradar24, approaching Spain’s Eastern coast, flying high and fast. It is G-EZFZ, delivered from the factory to EasyJet in the summer of 2010:
Hope she gets clear skies and smooth air on her way to Bucharest. I’ll start drinking from my coffee for that.
One hour later, I’m running the checklist before leaving for the airport. Identity card: checked. Driving license: checked. Credit card: checked. GPS: checked. Travel pouch: checked. Cell phone: checked. Printed boarding-pass: checked. Other printed bookings: checked. Lonely Planet bible: checked. Twelve kilos backpack: checked. I am good to go.
G-EZFZ is somewhere over Northern Italy. She’s heading into the Balkans.
Now, let me tell you a story about Portugal.
Friday, 30 December 2011. Bucharest Otopeni (OTP/LROP) - Madrid Barajas (MAD/LEMD)
Distance: 2464 KM/1330 NM
Flight: EasyJet 7838
Block time: 12:05 - 15:25
Flying time: approx. 3h30m
Equipment: Airbus A319, registered G-EZFZ, delivered on 25 August 2010
Load factor: 100%
Foggy winter day in Bucharest and overcast skies. I am thinking, on my way to the airport, that it would be a pleasure to break through those nasty clouds and see the beautiful, blue sky and powerful sun. In two hours’ time this is precisely what will happen.
Otopeni is quiet today. However, I expect the EasyJet flight to Madrid to be a full house, as always. I stroll around the check-in desks and, thanks to a perfect timing that I am unable to explain, the check-in for the flight to Madrid opens right in front of me. I drop off my backpack well ahead of the crowds. The check-in agent insists handing me a new boarding pass, even though I had already printed mine at home. Whatever… why should I bother understand the airport’s bureaucracy?
I am heading straight to the observation point of the new terminal. What a foggy day. I can’t even see runway 08 Right:
Few minutes later this Israeli Boeing 737 (4X-EKS, delivered on 25 August 2008, exactly two years before G-EZFZ), is being pushed back for its 2 hours and 858 nautical miles journey to Tel-Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport:
Amazing shape of that huge winglet:
One hour later, our orange G-EZFZ descends from the hazy skies into Otopeni. Boarding starts in a hurry and everybody is being bussed to the airplane. What a mighty bird:
As always, I am heading towards the rear end of the aircraft. She is still being prepped for the flight: bags are loaded into the cargo bay and refueling is ongoing. Passengers are advised not to fasten their seatbelts yet:
Nick Cocaine is our captain today. He explains that we’ll have to de-ice our wings before departure, but we will still make it on time for Madrid. Clear skies all the way ahead and no bumps expected. With that being said, the de-icing truck starts spraying its life saving liquid on our aluminium body. We are then OK to fly:
Taxi clearance 5 minutes later. It will be runway 08 Left today, which means that we’ll have to make that beautiful left-turn after climbing out of Otopeni. As we taxi, my mind is quietly singing fly me to the Moon and back and I am unable to make it stop. Outside, almost no winds at all:
Last view of the terminal, as we line up for departure on runway 08 Left:
Runway 08 Left ahead. I love its bright lights:
I am missing my adrenaline intake for this departure. Take-off seems very sluggish. The take-off roll is surprisingly long. I guess we are a heavy bird and reached MTOW. Wheels up. I can feel the engines’ vibrations, as they struggle to keep us airborne. Then the expected 180 degrees left turn:
Time to let her fly, Captain! Once flaps retracted, her wings are sharp as a blade and she really starts to climb. We are pushed into our seats as we reached out of the cloudy sky. This is the feeling and the view I was looking for since I woke up this morning:
90 minutes later, somewhere over Italy, a high-speed encounter:
Marseille airport down there:
Feet wet over the Mediterranean:
Landfall over the Spanish coast, north of Barcelona:
Look down there! Girona airport (I have nice memories of this airport, click here for a long trip report with all the juicy details):
Moonlike landscape right before starting our descent on Madrid:
Our powerful breaks in action on Spanish soil:
Long taxi to Terminal 1. EC-LHL, a Boeing 757, built in 1990 and delivered to Mint Airways in 2010:
Final parking position. Slides disarmed, doors opened. RyanAir’s EI-EBB to our right side (delivered in 2009):
Bye G-EZFZ and thanks for a great ride today. We’ll be meeting again in two weeks’ time for the return flight to Bucharest: