Diary of a travel writer: Goodbye to personal sorrow, hello to sales
2010 was the year Majorca lost the crown to the Algarve as our favourite holiday destination, when people took out the passports once more and countries such as Malta and Malaysia started to grow their Irish traffic again.
Up in my particularly airy world, I went through passport control in 36 countries, visiting six continents in one six-week period; and partied through five separate and insane cruise-ship launches, including the stylish Norwegian Epic and the giant Allure; and made a lot of amazing new discoveries in familiar countries: Baalbeck, Kakadu, Kathania, Leysin, Obidos, Trysil.
I viewed unforgettable and unpronounceable Eyjafjallajokull from an airplane, looking more like a beautiful maiden than an angry auld one as she spewed the ash cloud that wrecked the travel plans of millions. I trod on the tiles of 77 airports, escaping, forever running through departure lounges with the sense of wonderment of a small child.
So farewell then, 2010. It was a difficult year, a year of great sorrow personally, bereavement of loved ones, near-miss of others, and certain fatality of still others. A year of four books, extreme even by my standards, the last of which was nearly abandoned.
At 55,000 words, it is shorter than most. For a time, while trying to write it, I feared the B word. The one all of us at the cliff-face fear. Blocked.
Thankfully no. Departure lounges and long flights are the places to find your mojo.
My brother has come from Donegal for dinner and it is an occasion of some elation. We were told on November 4 he wouldn't be going anywhere. We drink three separate vintages of Chateau Leoville Barton, a Bordeaux that north Kildare can proudly claim as its own in the absence of any decent vineyard of our own in the Liffey Valley. The Bartons lived locally for 225 years before abandoning their estate for it to become, after a series of short, disastrous and accursed ownerships, the K Club. There is much to celebrate as we declare the 1999 vintage the winner.
What does the New Year bring? Nothing too exciting. There are about 350,000 holiday packages on the market, almost exactly a third of the number that we were offered 10 years ago. Tour ops think that will mean we pay more for our holidays, €450 for our week in the sun instead of the €300 we were getting at entry level. Aer Lingus wants us to pay an average of ¤90 for a flight instead of the €77 or so we paid last year (not counting trans-Atlantic), Ryanair wants to hike us from €39 to close to €50, and both of them want us all to spend more than the average €11 on baggage charges and sandwiches. So far in 2011 they are wrong. Lanzarote is on sale for €300. Ryanair is on sale for €6 and Aer Lingus can get you to Rome for €30. Long-haul fares are terrific too, as airlines try to offload their seats for mid-March and later, €1,040 to Sydney from Etihad, and €3,850 business class. Happy New Year indeed.
Turkey will be where the action is next summer, with 16 charter flights weekly and scheduled flights to Istanbul with Turkish Airlines and twice weekly to Izmir with Aer Lingus.
Until Monday I contemplated flight ABR407J back to that lovely low-key airport in Salzburg for a transfer to the slopes. But the day dawns and I am at home and ABR407J, with all its Crystal Ski passengers, took off two minutes early.
The Aer Lingus anniversary TV ads have begun. The airline is 75 this year. I remember flying with Paul Reutlinger's Sabena in its 75th year. The airline got new dark-blue colours for the event. Three years later, Christoph Mueller closed it down.