After our brief stop in Carmel, we headed on to spend one night each in Monterey and Santa Cruz, which are both pleasant enough. Bizarrely, Monterey is home to numerous “British” themed pubs of a kind that would be considered authentic only by people who’ve never actually set foot in the UK, while in Santa Cruz we inadvertently found ourselves walking for miles to reach a restaurant over by the marina that, although blessed with cracking views of the sunset, unfortunately wasn’t blessed with either good food or service (at one point, for example, the waiter asked me if I wanted dessert–while Sally was still eating her main course).
Still, it was probably worth it for this…
The next morning was Sunday, and it was an early start for us for the drive back up to the airport in San Francisco. On reflection, if we’d known where it was, it might have been more sensible to have booked an internal flight that left from San Jose. But never mind, we thought, at least we’ve left ourselves plenty of time to make it all the way to SFO before our lunchtime departure to Vegas.
A few miles down the road, with the low fuel light blinking ominously, we decided it would probably be a good idea to stop to fill up both the car and us (the carton of sunny delight and box of cheerios that had passed for breakfast at our motel not quite having cut it), so we pulled into sleepy Los Gatos, and parked up by the village green.
Petrol wasn’t a problem, but Los Gatos seemed to be rather poorly equipped for two hungry travellers looking for a bite to eat. Aware of how much further we still had to go, and wondering if we really did have enough time after all, I suggested we should just get something to take away… Unfortunately, after much searching, we ended up in what appeared to be our best option, a small French cafÃ©, waiting for an interminable period of time for what turned out to be the most disgusting croque monsieur we have ever had. By the time they eventually finished preparing our food, Sal had already gone back to bring the car round, and so I eventually emerged from the shop and ran down the street to reach her, dodging khaki-clad locals milling around and chatting after church as I went.
“Well that wasn’t really worth the wait, was it?” I said to Sal, after we’d both bolted down the rather unpleasant soggy cheesy mess that we’d ended up with. “We should still make it, though, I think…”
20 minutes later, just after passing right next to the airport at San Jose, we found ourselves unexpectedly slowing down. Oops. Maybe we had time for either a lengthy wait for some shoddy food or a big traffic jam, but both? Well, it was going to be tight. And then, as the minutes ticked ominously away, and as the hour before departure check-in deadline came and went, I realised that not only were we going to be late, but that our rental car had to be returned to somewhere one exit past the airport itself. Oh dear…
As we pulled up to the Dollar rental lot, there were approximately 30 minutes left before our departure time… Perhaps this wasn’t the best moment to find out that the chap checking in the cars couldn’t get his hand-held scanner to work.
“Do we need to be here for this?” we asked, unused to the formalities of car rental returns. “We’re late for our flight.”
We did not.
No doubt used to this kind of behaviour, he pointed us towards the transit train we had to catch.
As we reached the platform, there was a train pulling out… “Next train within 5 minutes”, said the sign. Oh. Bugger.
“You’re late” said the friendly lady at the check-in counter.
“Er, yeah… We know. Are we too late?” I asked hopefully, glancing at my watch to discover that our plane would be taking off in about 15 minutes.
Luckily, it turns out that if you’re going to choose somewhere to miss a flight for the first time, then an internal flight in the US is probably the best time to choose to do it. Within 5 minutes she had rebooked us on the next one, leaving us with just 1 1/2 hours to kill. Phew…
We chose to spend much of our 1 1/2 hours having a much needed sit down and calm down.