Before leaving home, the following services are arranged, almost exclusively by ‘organiser’ G:
• Flights booked – www.ryanair.com. Manchester to Carcassonne – flights on Mondays and Fridays all year round. We book ‘Priority’ seating which affords shorter queuing times at the airport before take-off and ensures that if we have hand luggage on a busy flight, we are entitled to keep it with us (meaning a much faster exit as we usually only take hand luggage with us.) Also, following recent changes, being a ‘Priority’ passenger ensures that the second ‘smaller’ bag can still accompany you in the cabin, without additional charge.
• Car parking at Manchester airport –There are many car parking options. We use ‘Holiday Extras’, again part of G’s online planning. It is at this point that we take the opportunity to book ‘FastTrack’ passes for an additional £5.00 per person, which can save so much time and frustration at UK customs. How nice to minimise the time standing in stocking feet clasping belt, bag, transparent toiletries, phone…..I could go on.
• The ‘Escape Lounge’ – On arriving at Manchester Terminal 3 we usually leave the car in the multi-storey, after registration recognition, and slickly negotiate customs. We have recently taken to sitting in the ‘Escape Lounge’ – the cost of this is a basic £25.00 per person, though seasonal offers are worth checking for – we recently visited with a 20% January discount. This expense is so worth it, in our experience. The area is quieter, more airy and less ‘communal’ as the downstairs areas. Fresh food and drink (tea, coffee, mineral waters, herbal teas and wine and beers) are included and are of a good quality. Repeated visits to the hot/ cold buffet are not scowled upon. There are newspapers and all important charger points for your tech, indeed it has become part of our ‘holiday experience’ and we seem to be leaving home earlier to factor in a little more ‘Escape’ time. I would suggest that you could save on your airport expenses by visiting the ‘Escape Lounge’. No more having to shout your order over the hordes of hens and stags, of having your warm white wine knocked down your favourite holiday top and certainly no more having to watch others eat with their mouths open at close quarters; eating food that you bought because it’s even more expensive and less healthy of the plane. There are screens updating boarding gates and delays but no-one to announce or remind you to actually catch your flight…. So don’t get too settled.
• Car hire – Firefly or Hertz (see below)
Priority boarding and chocks away! The flight can take as little as an hour and a half before the plane swoops round to descend into Carcassonne airport. As you circle this beautiful medieval city, those sitting by the window can see the remarkable citadel as well as the Canal Midi and, of course, the stunning Pyrenees.
Carcassonne airport is small and well organised. (On your return journey, don’t expect an ‘Escape Lounge’, or a Duty Free shop come to that.) You walk a short way across the tarmac and into a temporary but clean and efficient Customs Area. Quickly through, and bags collected (recently we did bring over a suitcase which was unloaded along with 10s of other bags by one man through a roller door) – as I mentioned, the airport facilities are a ‘work in progress’.
The car hire places (Firefly, Europcar or Hertz – check for offers) are across the road, accessed by an underpass. These too are under development. Presently run from ‘Portakabin’ type buildings, the staff are efficient and friendly. Do make a ‘note to self’ to take your Driving Licence with you if you intend to drive. ‘Distracted’ G forgot his recently and had to be a passenger for the week, which was an ordeal for both of us!
Basic shopping is usually first on the agenda and we drive about a mile to the Giant Casino superstore, which is a pleasure in itself. The stocks of fruits, cheeses, breads and wines … not forgetting the chocolate and coffees available are so mouth-watering, especially as it must be at least two and half hours since our last snaffle in the Escape Lounge.
The snowy Pyrenees – the backdrop to a recent drive from the airport
Most cars have Sat Nav and on posting in the address (Hammeau Lafage 11420) so begins a beautiful 40-minute drive, first through vineyard country, then through small old villages, almost always with the Pyrenees creating a formidable backdrop to the journey. Driving through the village of Fage is always as exciting as it was the first day we came with the house keys in our hands. By arrangement, the shutters are opened and the heating is on. The house is always clean and stirs as we walk through every room. ‘Caveman’ G get the wood burning fires going in winter, I light a few candles and it’s like we’ve hardly been away from the most relaxing, peaceful haven we’ve encountered. Goodbye day to day bothers, hello Frome.
After reacquainting ourselves with the home we have worked hard to create, it has become a tradition to have a first (and very convenient) meal of Toulouse sausage, potato and salad washed down with a glass or two of red wine, followed by fruit and cheeses. Weather reports are checked and according to the time of year, plans are made for the days to come.
Our traditional ‘welcome’ meal at Frome
In further blogs I will share some of the outdoor adventures we have had and suggestions of trips and visits that we have not yet enjoyed but which have been highly recommended. After all, you don’t come to such a lovely place to off charging around all the time; the swimming pool and outdoor eating areas make an excellent base for days on end, as long as you’ve stocked up on provisions of course!
From arrival at Manchester airport to walking through the door can take as little as 4 hours, it really is a commute to a different pace of life!
Useful websites/ Apps to plan your trip:
Not coming by air? Try these websites/
If you are driving in France you can ease the stress at the AutoRoute barriers by buying a gadget that clips to your rear view mirror before you set off. This small box automatically notifies the barriers allowing you to continue your journey with more haste and less hassle – no need to scrabble for change or have your passenger hang precariously out of the window to feed the machine! Enquire at: www.saneftolling.co.uk/Loading Likes...