Promos

AF

Working for an airline sometimes (very occasionally) we were offered cheap trips on a particular route if the airline was doing a ‘promo’ to encourage people to fly to a particular destination.

Air France in the early 1970’s offered a round trip ticket to Paris via their  Caravelle service for £7, (£100 today or US $130) which included two nights in a hotel.

Maureen and I had been married for about eighteen months and we had not had a honeymoon, because we decided to take out a mortgage to buy a house, so the £7 sounded a good deal. We left on Friday and arrived back late afternoon on Sunday.

We stayed at the Hotel Pretty, but I am unable to find any details of this hotel online and my lasting impression of the hotel was that it was cheap, but it did have a memorable breakfast.

The large oblong table was covered in a blue plastic table cloth, and a bread board was placed in the centre,  along with long sticks of French bread and a large knife for cutting the bread and of course a pots of jam – but we did not have any butter.

breakfast

The above picture gives you an idea –

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Each of the hotel guests were given a plain white bowl (without a handle) for our coffee, and for me it was the best coffee I had ever tasted. I’ve never been able to recreate the taste again.
Bread sticks were passed up and down the table and chunks hacked off by a hotel guest to be smeared with jam.
Our group consisted of  Maureen & I, another couple and two single males – all the males in our party worked together for BOAC cargo at Manchester airport.
We were not offered cereal or bacon & eggs  . . . but we did share the smell of . .

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I think smoking in Paris at that time was compulsory . .

Overall, we enjoyed our ‘foreign’ weekend away and it was not long before we decided to take advantage of our ability to fly with BOAC at a discount rate. This time we picked New York.

From memory once again I think we were accompanied by others from the BOAC team.

VC10 The aircraft was the VC 10 – Manchester to New York, non-stop.

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Inside the VC 10 – Maureen & I were fortunate because we had three seats for the two of us.

I asked a stewardess (this was their title at that time) if I could visit the flight deck, she said she would ask, which she did and a few minutes later I was invited to meet the captain and his crew on the flight deck – how times have changed.

VC 10

Captain, first officer, engineer & navigator

The flight deck was quite crowded when I was included. I was offered a small pull-down seat while I chatted with the captain as he explained the routine of the flight. I was particularly interested in the navigational officer’s duty having been a deck officer at sea.

In the early 1970’s satellite navigation for commercial aircraft was still in the future. The first NAVSTAR (Navigation System with Timing and Ranging) was not launched until 1978, which was part of the US defence department system, and it was not until the 1980’s before the system could be used by commercial aircraft.

VC 10 buble

To navigate across the Atlantic the navigating officer would use a ‘bubble sextant’ . . . 

sextant

When I was at sea we used a sextant to navigate around the oceans, (see above picture for a marine sextant) the idea being to measure the angle of the stars or the sun by bring the image of the star or sun down to the horizon and reading off the angle from which we would work out our latitude etc.

Obviously when flying one could not measure the angle of a star by bringing it down to the horizon, because if it was night and cloudy the aircraft would be above the clouds so the navigation officer would not be able to see the horizon at 30,000 feet.

On the aircraft they used a bubble sextant, which has a bubble in a liquid filled chamber (think a carpenter’s spirit level), which provides an artificial horizon. While the navigator holds the instrument, the pilot does his best to fly straight and steady, and at a constant speed, because if the plane is jerked in anyway the navigator receives an incorrect reading. The pilot may do his best to keep the plane steady, but wind and air density can cause alterations, so the navigator will take several readings and average out the result. 

The black and white picture above the picture of the marine sextant shows a VC 10 navigator taking readings.

Thanks to the bubble sextant we did not get lost on the way to New York.

Richard Byrd, 1888-1957 (not the same Dicky Byrd that worked for BOAC) developed the bubble sextant using a modified standard marine sextant, and in May 1919 he flew the Atlantic in a NC-4 seaplane and landed in Plymouth U.K.  
NC = Navy Curtiss flying boat.

Richard Byrd’s flight took three weeks after stops in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, the Azores, and Lisbon,

At that time there was a prize of £10,000 (worth about US $600,000 today) for the first person to fly non-stop across the Atlantic, and it had to be completed within 72 hours. The prize was only open to non-military flyers. 

Alcock and Brown won the prize in June 1919 in a Vickers Vimy bomber, they completed the flight in less than sixteen hours.

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As they approached Ireland, they thought the ground that they could see was flat grassland and ideal for a place to land. The landing area was a bog . . .but they were the first people to fly the Atlantic non-stop.

The visit to the flight deck was interesting and it helped pass the time because it would be some time before airlines introduced films (movies) on a regular basis, which mainly came about with the advent of the B747.
Oddly enough the first commercial inflight movie was shown on Imperial Airways Ltd (the for runner of BOAC) from London to Paris in 1925, it was a silent commercial film of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book – The Lost World.

Movies

Do pictures lie?

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Shakespeare in Paris – I loved browsing in this shop, they have a large selection of books in English.
My wife and I and another couple decided to do a self-catering holiday in Europe staying in Paris, Barcelona, Madrid & Lisbon. We wanted to travel between each place by train, but between Madrid and Lisbon we had to fly – we didn’t want the night train and flying was more economical.
In Paris I was looking for a two-bedroom mid-priced apartment, not too far from a metro station, and within walking distance of some of the main attractions.
I found what looked like the right place, and after we’ve all seen the web site photographs and read the accompanying blurb I booked this apartment for four nights.

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The above photographs are from the web site of the agency renting this property.

The above two pictures are of the living / dining room. The problem was that on the left-hand side of the mirrored cupboard was a very large damp patch that we could smell before seeing the area. Below the damp area was an electrical plug, which was lose. I found this out when trying to plug in a recharger for my camera. The plug came out of the wall and was damp. Fortunately I did not receive an electric shock.

entryway-1500The hallway was close to the actual hallway. Again taken from the web site.

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This was our bedroom with the en-suite to the left of the wardrobe. The wardrobe door was a struggle to open, and I was always concerned that if I pulled too hard the whole thing would fall on me.
The toilet in the en-suite was an ‘electric’ toilet, which I’d never heard of, and my wife & I were always concerned that it wouldn’t flush properly after making some very strange noises as it built up power so as to actually flush.

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 The next bedroom was used by our friends.

When researching for the right accommodation I wanted to make sure that we had access to a washing machine, but the web site never mentioned that the washing machine was in the cupboard of our friend’s bedroom. It can just be seen in what I thought was their wardrobe.

All the remaining photographs are mine.

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 This one is of the entrance to the apartment, through the green doors.

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We could have done with a miner’s helmet each, as we fumbled our way through the alleyway, after entering through the green door.

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Climbing the stairs to the apartment’s front door was OK, to a point, but try carrying heavy suitcases up the narrow stair way.
Let’s just say our Paris accommodation was a great disappointment.

I did like the dinky toy parked outside of our entrance.

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And it seems that you can park dinky toys where every you like in Paris . .

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Regardless of our accommodation we did enjoy our time in Paris and shopping for our own food.

 

The journey, not the destination,

Flying to Europe from Australia is not as simple as getting on a plane for 24 cramped hours in economy. As one grows older economy class becomes less and less attractive, even though one might not be able to fly business class all the way, perhaps a combination can be arranged. In the past ten years of planning holidays for my wife and I, it has been a happy learning experience.

A combination flight consists of a nine hour economy flight from Sydney to Asia and and business class from Asia to Europe. Where in Europe you might ask – London, Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam or?

Considering your European gateway port is a mixture of airline pricing, schedules and your over all plans.

Let’s consider pricing from an Australian origin city. The price offered to London is often more expensive than the price to Paris or Frankfurt, but you might ask, you have to get from Paris to London at a cost, if London is your final destination.

A few years ago the UK Government increased the landing charges for intercontinental flights, so when I decided on a ‘combi’ ticket in 2012, the difference in landing in Paris and staying the night, plus the cost of the Eurostar (economy) was cheaper than flying direct to London. I have since realised that Frankfurt is cheaper again.

We returned to Europe in 2014 using Frankfurt s our gateway. Our final destination being Norwich in Norfolk.

I decided that we would fly KLM from Frankfurt, to Norwich, the overall cost being cheaper than a direct flight to London, plus the train fare to Norwich.
I checked KLM and found that a one way ticket was more expensive than the round trip cost, even though I didn’t wish to fly back to Frankfurt.

I booked return tickets and when I completed our ‘return’ booking, even though we would not be using the return ticket, the ticket cost would be cheaper still if we agreed to fly via the 6.00 am flight from Norwich, because it was FREE!

We booked our flight from Frankfurt to Norwich, and we were ‘no shows’ for the return flight, because we had tickets on the Eurostar to Paris, because at the end of our holiday we would be flying home from Madrid.

KLM F70

I couldn’t fault the service or the aircraft, which was a Fokker 70.

So it does pay to investigate more than the direct service to save money.