After the best part of two years of pandemic enforced staycation, I eventually got to spread my wings a little last week. I honestly don’t think I would have made any effort to get away if it weren’t a work trip, but I was secretly happy at being ‘forced’ to make a business trip to Düsseldorf.
I always get nervous travelling, especially without Titchy alongside me to share the stresses, but the additional pressures of it being a work trip with high expectations and the virus issues just compounded everything.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t worried about the virus per se. I have already had the corona flu and I am double jabbed and more than happy to follow any rules and regulations required of me, but the idea of missing a form or not having the right paperwork and being pulled up on it or sent home in disgrace was a huge additional worry I could have done without.
That being said, the idea of being back on the mainland again was, on balance, much more of a buzz than a worry.
I had booked flights on Eurowings for just £220. This is about the same sort of price it would be for a train from Newcastle to Kings Cross, so that was a pleasant surprise! As there was a major event on in the city, the hotels were in the £300 per night range, and that was the budget hotels. Being the tight arse that I am, I would have taken a tent at the side of the runway before paying that!
I resorted to good old Airbnb. I didn’t need anything fancy, just a bed, a shower, a toilet and decent WiFi. I managed to book exactly that for just £375 for 4 nights and as a bonus, it appeared to be within easy walking distance from both the airport and the conference centre.
I was all set….what could go wrong?
As usual, I was at the airport around 3 hours before departure or, to put it another way, far too early. But that gave me a very leisurely walk through check in, security and departures. Just how I like it. Maybe I like the comfort of knowing that I can have a problem and still not be pressured for time. Maybe I like being in an area where you can only be if you have a ticket to travel and I want to enjoy that moment for as long as I can.
The flight was easy and effortless. With very low cloud cover I couldn’t see anything and after 5 minutes or so, we were above the clouds and into lovely bright blue skies.
After a gentle landing in Düsseldorf, we were bussed to the terminal and quickly through the airport and onto the next stress; finding the accommodation. I walked out of the terminal and started to follow the blue line on my map and there, right outside the airport, was a taxi. All parked up, engine on, ready to go….I couldn’t refuse.
It was only a short drive, it was actually further than the more direct walk would have been, but I was dropped at the door in 5 minutes. The host of the Airbnb met me at the front door and very politely showed me to my room, showed me how the fancy remote for the lights and shutters worked and let me be with a cheery wave.
I unpacked and lay on the comfortable bed and tried to work out what was going in with the pillow. It must have been about one meter square and had about half as much stuffing as a standard pillow. I had to fold it in half twice in order to get a decent pillow but it felt like it was desperate to un-twang and so felt like it was pushing my head up. A small issue in a smart, clean, spacious and warm room.
After resting up and trying to work out if there was any decent TV that I could understand (there wasn’t) it was time to have a wander about and get my bearings and pick up some tea. When I say ‘tea’ I mean evening meal, not a cup of tea. Titchy had packed a little bundle of tea bags in my case with a note saying they were just in case the Germans didn’t have proper tea. They didn’t. Nor did they have a kettle, sugar, milk or a teaspoon and mug. Who knew that Germany was a third world country?
I walked about 15 minutes in each of the four directions on the cross roads on which I lived and hardly saw another living soul never mind somewhere to eat. It felt brilliant to be overseas again, just noticing the little differences and appreciating them.
Every house had a number of bikes leaning on their fence, not many of them locked up at all, but all perfectly safe. There was very little litter but way more graffiti.
The shutters on the houses that mean the houses are totally blacked out. In England you would have curtains and see people going about their business, but this felt like I was walking around one of those fake villages at a military base they use for training.
I think I walked past one lady walking her dog and maybe 3-4 people zipped past on bikes; that was it on an hour long walk. The food situation was a worry as I had skipped lunch and it was nearly 7pm now. The fact that the boarded up houses seemed to be filled with home cooking was making things worse as the smell was delicious and making my mouth water.
With nowhere to eat, I returned to the house and decided to give takeaway a try out. Within minutes I had found a pizza restaurant, automatically had it translated into English, paid for it and it was delivered all within 20 minutes. Magic.
Having wolfed down my pizza, it was time to get back to my hobby, unnecessary worrying. I had forgotten the charger from my laptop, how would I deal with that? Where would I meet my workmate? Would I find the venue? Would I wake up in time? Would they let me in? Would the rules change on covid and would I get sent home or get stuck in Germany?
I was in the middle of this mind fog that I had a moment of clarity. I had been to the most wonderful shop in Whitley Bay on the Saturday before my trip, Maddi Bakes. Maddi has a sign on her window and a new tattoo on her arm that reads “What’s the Best That Could Happen?’ Exactly. Whatever happens, happens. Relax. Enjoy it.
My colleague was flying in from Manchester and she was due to get in around 11pm. As soon as she sent a message to confirm that she was alive and safely tucked in, the lights went off and I was out like a light, but not for long…..