We left (what is now) yesterday from Grindelwald for our 36 hours of travel home. It was pretty much a reversing our of journey here except we had a 8 hour lay over in Doha. We had to take 3 trains from Grindelwald with the first one leaving at 9:19am. And as this is Switzerland, you can bet it will definitely leave at 9:19am. We walked down to the station and managed not to slip on the icy/snowy road down to the station. We changed trains at Interlaken Ost onto an ICE (Intercity City Express) train which was actually heading to Berlin as it’s final destination. That is a long way from Interlaken. We changed again at Bern onto the train for Zurich airport. All the trains ran exactly to time and we arrived at Zurich airport at 12:19pm.
Once we had checked in and cleared security we found a good Swiss restaurant to have lunch at – Burger King. Stephen reckoned it was the most expensive fast food meal we have ever had (a Burger and Fries cost over R100 without a drink) and I suspect he is right. We looked at the duty free shopping and did buy some T-shirts for each of the kids (it is our tradition to get the kids a T-shirt from the places we go on holiday). The most amusing thing we saw in the Duty Free was the 5 kg bottle of Nutella (Stephen took a photo for you Lara).
The flight from Zurich to Doha left at 3:15pm. Chloe and I watched as a lady clearly had some issue with boarding the flight. The discussions went on at the door for some time and eventually she and her partner got off and they announced that they had to now find the luggage of the two passengers and do a security check of all the baggage on board by getting people to identify their luggage in the overhead compartment. I had never thought about that issue previously but clearly as they had been on board they could have left something on the plane and then disembarked feigning illness. Once that was completed they closed the doors only to find a problem with the one door which required an engineer to come and check it out. And once that had happened we had missed our takeoff slot and so air traffic control told us we had to wait another 10 minutes before taking off. That resulted in us leaving about 45 minutes late. By this stage only Chloe and I were awake of the family – the rest of them had fallen asleep.
The plane was very empty – there were only 10 people in our compartment and so our family made up 50% of them. The service and food were again very good. Chloe and I counted coming over we had 10 hot towels brought to us (the others missed out on some as they were asleep). So far on the way back we have had 3. (Chloe is my favoured travel companion – she is the only one that doesn’t fall asleep on takeoff and actually communicates with me when we are on board so I always sit next to her on flights.) The wines on board are ridiculously good. Helen had Bollinger champagne (which is the official supplier of champagne to the Queen). I had a white Burgundy followed by a 2007 Bordeaux. Both were excellent. With the cheese I had a 1974 Port – yes you read that correctly – 1974! And they opened the bottle for me as I was the only person having it and no doubt they had to pour the rest away. You have no idea the pain I experience at that thought …
We landed in Doha at 11:45pm. We had pre-booked a hotel for the night (paid courtesy of Qatar airlines). Unfortunately it is a real process to get into Doha as we need visas. But they at least make it relatively painless for us. We had to just sit in a lounge while they sorted out all the paperwork. Then they cleared passport control for us in the lounge as well so that we could skip the immigration queue. They walk you through immigration and straight to the hotel kiosk. Fortunately the hotel was relatively close though we had to do two U-turns to actually get to the hotel. By this stage it was 12:45am Dohaian time. It took another 15 minutes of paperwork, scanning of passports etc to get the hotel room keys.
It was a 5-star hotel (pic from airport of it) – very nice from what I saw for the short time. Our vouchers entitled us to dinner and breakfast. Neither of which we used as at 1am in the morning all we wanted to do was go to sleep and we had to leave at 5am for the airport again. At about 1:30am the TV suddenly came on ensured we had not fallen asleep! No idea why except that it started with the procedures for evacuating the hotel and then stopped. Might have been the start of a fire alarm. We all took some time to fall asleep and so we probably only got 2.5 hours or so of sleep. So excuse any typos or grammatical errors or missing words in this blog (I get heavily criticized by the family for all my errors usually).
It is now 6am and we are back at the Doha airport waiting to board the flight to Cape Town (which goes via Johannesburg). The hotel refused to allow us to take the shuttle bus – we had to be taken in two separate cars to the airport. They do drive like lunatics in Doha. And they are an amazing number of people up at 12:30pm and also at 5am in the morning here. It doesn’t seem that anything stops operating. We had some breakfast in the lounge. They have an Oriental breakfast but they even marked that as ‘Foul’ so we avoided that and had the scrambled egg instead.
I will do one more blog post on the trip home and my usual post on some thoughts on Switzerland.