50 Today!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, 17 February 2011 – my 50th birthday!  I can now go on Saga holidays, ha ha (as if!!)  😀 

We were woken at 7:10am by the sound of cruise director Ricky’s voice bellowing over the tannoy, announcing that the Braemar was alongside in Bridgetown, Barbados.  We got up and went out on the balcony to have a look; we could see RCI’s Serenade of the Seas which had been in dock when we arrived here.  It looked massive compared to our little ship, but to be honest I don’t think I’d ever want to go on a RCI cruise; their ships are far too big and one of them holds over 6,000 passengers and 3,000 crew – far too crowded and impersonal.  I prefer smaller ships like the Braemar.

Looked in the mirror to see if I could see any more grey hairs or wrinkles, but all I could see was the few extra pounds I’d put on this last fortnight with all the fine food, champagne and goodness knows how many caipirinhas!  🙂

We went to the Palms Café for our breakfast, and we said hello to Paul and Lyn, who were also breakfasting outside in the Caribbean sunshine.  We didn’t actually have to disembark the ship and leave for the airport until 1.30pm, so we had the whole morning to spend in Bridgetown.

After breakfast we went back to 7054, picked up our hand-luggage, and took a last look round to make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything.  Then it was “bye bye” 7054 and we went along to the Neptune Lounge where we could deposit our bags for safekeeping until later.

We disembarked the Braemar and walked into Bridgetown proper, as it is only about a mile away.  It is a pleasant walk; the sun was already quite hot but we enjoyed a lovely sea breeze.  We wandered along the sea front and then had a look in the different shops on the way.  Hey, it was my fiftieth birthday, and we had a long, boring flight later on, so I was going to make the most of the time we had left in Barbados.  🙂

Once we were in the town centre, we decided to find a bar and have a “Banks” beer.  This is their local lager and it goes down very well!  We thought we’d look out for a place where the locals drink and have one or two there, as they would charge the local prices and not the inflated tourist prices!

We found a little ramshackle bar and snackbar consisting of a few rickety kiosks and mis-matched tables and chairs that looked just perfect.  The beer was $2.00 a bottle… Barbados dollars that is, so in other words 1 US dollar, or only 67p in English money!!  We ordered a Banks each and sat down to enjoy them.  Loud reggae and soca music was blasting out of massive speakers; yeah man, I could think of worse places to be on my birthday!  😀

The lager was ice-cold… and I mean ICE.  It was actually frozen and you had to wait for it to melt a little before any of it would come out of the bottle.  It was like a beer-flavoured ice pop!  However, it didn’t take long to melt in the tropical sunshine, and we enjoyed it so much we had a second bottle!  We then decided to take a slow amble back to the ship (after first visiting the loos in the bus station).

When we arrived back at the harbour about half an hour later we noticed that the bar there was doing a roaring trade from the cruise ship passengers.  We thought “what the hell” and decided to have one more drink, as it would be our last until we got to the airport.  I had a Caribbean rum punch (yummy) and Trevor ordered a Banks.  His beer was three US dollars, in other words three times the price of the ones we’d had in town!

We then boarded the Braemar one more time to collect our bags and go for a last lunch.  We were called to disembark at 1.30pm, and off we went on the bus for the 45 minute ride to Grantley Adams Airport.  Once again, the disembarkation and airport checking in was extremely efficient; we were off the bus, into the airport and through security in no time, as we already had our boarding passes and our cases were already checked through.

After browsing round the duty free shops I bought a bottle of Barbados Mount Gay rum, then off we went to the Airlines executive lounge.  They had a good selection of drinks and nibbles (although it was too soon after lunch to eat) so we’d thought we’d enjoy the free booze while we were waiting for our flight to be called.  We hadn’t been there very long when in walked Colin and Liz!  They came over to join us, so it was just like extending our holiday a little bit. 🙂

We enjoyed the conversation along with a few beers and vodkas, and then all too soon we heard the announcement for our flight.  We said goodbye to Colin and Liz and off we went to board our Thomas Cook A330 Airbus, for the 8-hour flight back to Manchester.  😦

There’s not much more to write after that.  Same old, same old.  Pre-dinner drinks.  Food. In-flight entertainment.  Cabin lights dimmed.  Boring.  Unable to sleep.  Watch the sky-map to see where we were, what altitude we were flying at, how long we had to go. Boring.  Lights back on.  Breakfast. Coffee.  Queue for the toilets.  Then I perked up a bit when the captain put on the seatbelt sign and announced we were on our final approach.

We looked out of the window as the lights of Manchester on the ground grew closer.  We heard the thud and the hydraulic whine as the wheels of the plane came down.  We saw the ailerons move on the wings, as the lights of the runway approached.  Then… the plane’s engines roared, and suddenly the runway lights began to recede into the distance.  Another whine and thud as the wheels were retracted.  What the hell…?

As the aircraft climbed again we were left wondering what on earth was going on.  Why was our landing aborted?  All the captain told us was that we were unable to land and we had to circle round in a holding pattern a couple of times.  Then we started coming down again and this time we landed.  Hooray!  🙂

Then back in the car for the three-hour drive back to Durham.  At 9.00am we were home again.

Here’s to the next time…  😀

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