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20060803_C_0004 lo-res
Planning the final leg

We were up for an early start today to make the journey back to Poland to start “part two” of our tour of central and eastern Europe. We had breakfast together with Mama and then drove to the airport in our hired Chevrolet something. Fortunately there was no rush hour madness, just normally heavy traffic and we were on time at Zaventem, dropped the car and keys off and made our way through the airport to our gate. The flight left with a minor delay and a change of gate.

A few hours later, after an uneventful air-conditioned cocooned flight we were back in Warsaw. It took a long time for our flight’s baggage to arrive, well over an hour and after remaining phlegmatic for most of the time we finally went to enquire. Minutes later our bags turned up. We found Eddie and drove into the centre of Warsaw, opting for the anonymous but convenient Ibis, a few tram stops out of the Old Town. Oh, tourist info at the airport were totally useless, no help on accommodation but an acknowledgment that it was a big problem, and we should try the Sheraton as everywhere else would be full. Rubbish, as we managed to book a room at the Ibis without any trouble. We checked in and used the rest of the day to plan and deal with “admin”, before we got going again. We plonked downstairs in the surprisingly cosy (for such an anonymous hotel) l’Estaminet, with red and white checked tablecloths and done in a French country café style.

We had a pile of books and the colourful Europe map and worked our way through the highlights sections of our Rough Guides and Lonely Planet, which took us a couple of very pleasant hours. I love this bit, this stage, where we’re poring over maps, pointing at bits of (for us) terra incognita, circling dots, and building up the sense of anticipation, the knowledge that you’re going to go to these new places. In the process we had to make choices and, in the interest of conserving our limited and dwindling budget, had to leave out many potentially interesting places, but fewer places also meant more time in the places that remained on our list, and that meant a more manageable pace and ability to get to know a place. Anyway, it was a lot of fun to do this together. We took a break and went upstairs to use the internet in our room, but the hotel had run out of Orange cards and so we had to give up on that, and instead went downstairs for dinner, a tasty pork chop I think, and continued planning in l’Estaminet, and had an early night – and a double bed!