These were rather quiet days for me because Marina was now back at work so I had the days to myself and she came to see me after work at about 6pm. I usually buy paints when I go to Kharkiv because they are very cheap (everything is cheap!) but the quality is the very best - they come from Russia. This time I bought oils. I chose my regular mix of colours, two reds, two blues, two yellows and a green. Also the four "earth" colours, umber and sienna. These caused slight alarm in airport scanners so by the time I was going through security at Kiev, I kept the bag outside my case. Rather in the same way as computers are always placed outside bags in a separate container.
On Monday evening we went to a Lviv Chocolate shop. Lviv chocolate is famous and there are branches of the shops around Ukraine. Marina ordered some tea and made a selelction of chocolates.
Marina went straight home and I walked back to the hotel. I guess by then the temperature had dropped to between -15 and -20c. On average, the daytime temperature was around -10c. I don't know how they stick it for weeks on end. It didn't snow while I was there, too cold I guess. The perma-snow which was everywhere, Marina explained that it fell back in October! And then it is so cold that it remains for the whole of the winter.
On Tuesday evening, we went to a social group rather like my Meetup group in Girona, the idea being to improve English. I was interested to see how Marina got on with a table-full of young guys because it was her first time there also. When we arrived, the room was quite noisy and I had difficulty hearing what some of them were saying. But they treated me like a celebrity, asking me lots of questions about myself. There was one guy, rather burly who trained in boxing. He had travelled quite a lots and Marina was very keen to hear about Rome, which he had visited twice.
And after the meeting, I bade farewell to Marina - she took a taxi home - and I headed back to the hotel. We didn't plan to see each other on the following day as she was working and, by the time she finished work, I would have been at the airport.
So, on Wednesday at 3pm, I checked out of the hotel. I took a flight to Kiev at 5.30 which only takes an hour and checked into Ligena Hotel which is in Boryspil close to the airport. I then took their shuttle bus at 7.30 next morning back to the airport to catch the 9.50 flight to Barcelona.
There is a direct connection from Kharkiv to Barcelona but it requires catching a flight to Kiev at 7am and that means getting up very early. I know the Ligena Hotel very well now and it makes a very pleasant stop-off on the way home.
Both flights were very smooth apart from a young teenage girl who was kicking the back of my seat from time to time so I got the Ukrainian guy next to me to ask her to stop. That improved things.
The plane flew over Marseilles and very soon I could see all the regular landmarks from the coast where I live: Cap Creus, The Bay of Roses, Pals, Palamos. We flew down the coast but as we approached Barcelona we headed out into the Mediterranean. We seemed to circle for ages, every time I've flown into Barcelona, it seems like we just go straight in - it's not Heathrow! Maybe there was an emergency of some kind.
I could see below us a plane heading off towards the airport so I could calculate that we had to do two more turns before getting to the bottom of the stack. I'm glad there was enough fuel on board to cover for this diversion. Maybe it's best not to ask how many minutes of waiting in a stack is allowed for. I guess Air Traffic Control in Barcelona asked the captain, "Got enough in the tank for a few more circuits, mate?" Not a problem, I can swim and I always watch conscientiously how to blow the whistle on the life-jacket.
Oh yes, as we passed Barcelona before heading out to sea, I could see the dirty blue haze of pollution in Barcelona, like a bowl of soup overflowing. Particularly bad on that day. Horrible!
I always take the train from the airport to Barcelona Sants, it runs every 30 minutes and I know the times. And then I was very soon on an AVE to Girona and I got home at around 5pm. Not really tired. The flight was only 3.5 hours, I had slept well at the hotel, and being too lazy to think about cooking, I went and had some food in my local bar.