Often Partisan

The Braga Experience Pt II

“Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go I wanna be sedated
Nothin’ to do and no where to go-o-oh I wanna be sedated
Just get me to the airport put me on a plane
Hurry hurry hurry before I go insane”

Although it didn’t run through my mind at the time, Joey Ramone had it down when he sang “I wanna be sedated”. I’m not a fan of long trips home anyway; having to trundle home after a Blues defeat is harder – but the idea of at least a day travelling home after a defeat… well, no-one said this trip was going to be easy.

It seemed quite convenient that the coach was right outside the away exit, and indeed within ten minutes of actually getting out of the stadium, we were rolling again and on our long journey back to the ferry terminal in Caen. Having had a fair bit of Sagres and Superbock to drink, I was feeling rather tired at this point and I slowly drifted off into a slumber –  I can remember thinking that by the time I woke up we might be in Spain, maybe even close to the French border. How wrong I was.

I woke up to the coach slowing down, but unfortunately for me we were still in Portugal. What was worse was that the coach had had a blowout in one of its rear tyres – and whilst no real damage was done and there had been no major driving issue we weren’t going anywhere fast until it was sorted. Again, I drifted off, thinking by the time I woke up it’d be fixed and we’d be on our way. Again, how wrong I was.

It was about 1am when I woke up again – some four and half hours after leaving Braga – and having managed to round up the lads who’d gone off to the bar whilst we waited for the Portuguese version of Kwik Fit to come out, we were on the move again to their garage, which they’d opened especially for us. Another half hour or so for them to jack up the coach, take the wheel off, stand around sucking their teeth and tutting (like all mechanics do) before finally replacing the wheel, and we were off on our way again.

I should interject here that with it being late at night, most people were either asleep, dozing off or in that horrible indeterminable state where you don’t know if you’re awake or not. Consequently there was a veritable symphony of snoring on the coach as we slowly made our way back to the highway – from the high-pitched “harry” sound made by one passenger to the blokes sawing logs three seats in front of me. Being around lots of people who are asleep when you’re not isn’t that fun. Some people do more than just snore in their sleep too; as I found out when my travelling companion Connor stole a pillow from the poor lad in front of us whilst still clearly in a deep slumber, making ungodly sounds as he did so. I’m just thankful he didn’t try anything else on.

Unfortunately, it appears you can get better than a Portuguese Kwik-Fit fitter as we had to make two more unscheduled stops to allow the driver to tinker with the wheel (apparently there was something inside the wheel arch that hadn’t been pushed back into place), and then to fetch one passenger who’d wandered off to the petrol station on one stop and hadn’t got back on the coach before we’d pulled off.

All these shenanigans put us way behind schedule and as the sun rose on Thursday we were still well within Spain – and whilst the aim was for the overnight ferry from Caen it did look like we might be hard pushed to make that. Bearing in mind we were supposed to be back for around 1am Friday morning, the idea of having another night on the continent didn’t particularly appeal whatsoever and there was a half-hearted chant from some for the ferry from Santander.

I think I mentioned it in the first part, but food started to become a bit of an issue coming back. We were limited on what stops we could make, and it appears that French and Spanish service stations think people driving long distance on the autovias and autoroutes live on Doritos or Pringles, because that’s pretty much all there was to eat in any of them. You know things are bad when you’re actually excited that the hostess has bought some Pot Noodles for people to buy on the coach, and when a Batchelor’s cup a soup tastes like manna from the Gods.

However, despite all this the drivers did us proud and we were delivered safely to Caen in time for the overnight crossing to Portsmouth; the cabin on the ship was nice and it was sheer bliss being able to sleep on a bed that was actually flat, to go to the loo in something a bit more private and to be able to take a shower. The ferry crossing was a lot smoother than our outward bound trip, and as the sun rose on Friday Portsmouth came into sight. I’ve never been so pleased to see it before.

The trip wouldn’t be complete without one final cock-up; once the lad without his passport was processed we went to drive out the terminal only to find that they’d locked the gates. Cue another five minute wait until some red-faced bloke in a high vis jacket half-ambled half-ran to the gates to let us out. The roads back to Brum were fairly clear, and we arrived back in God’s own city around 10:30am – thirty-eight or so hours after we left Braga.

I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I hated this trip; whilst I don’t really ever want to spend three days on a coach ever again it was an experience, and it’s something I can laugh about over a few drinks. I got to see some of the pretty countryside of Northern Spain and Southern France (even if it was just from a coach window), and I made a few new friends on the trip. All in all, it was worth it – even if Blues did lose.

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