Ashes to Ashes 

Is it the end of the airline industry as we know it? Certainly the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull has sent major tremors through airline boardrooms and may even bankrupt some. Fears are well founded and in a desperate response Michael O’Leary, Chief Executive of Ryanair invited any of his stranded customers planning to claim assistance to see him in court. Until he realised he would lose.

Airlines will need major government bailouts to cope with the compensation customers are entitled to. And if the law changes to reduce their duty of care so they can stay in business, holiday-makers could turn to other forms of transport such as high speed rail. The legendary Man in Seat 61 , doyen of the European rail network, reported a record 136 000 hits to his web site on Sunday April 23rd alone, and many fans of slow travel are hoping that the tide will finally turn in their favour. Perhaps videoconferencing and telepresence have come of age too.

Has Iceland’s erupting volcano triggered a review of our ‘just in time’ travel addiction? If so, going cold turkey could be very good news for carbon emissions. According to French TV, the flight ban to Europe caused carbon dioxide emissions to drop by 520 000 tonnes per day, and the FT announced that jet fuel demand crashed by 1m barrels every day during the same period.

The impact on me personally is an unexpectedly long Easter break. My family’s return from Catalonia to Caledonia took over four days rather than as many hours, and we sampled a varied transport menu – taxi, hire car, bus and ferry. it was quite a journey – fascinating culturally, linguistically, gastronomically and geographically but exhausting and chaotic at the same time. We estimate we’ve reduced our carbon emissions by about half, and could have been even more efficient had train tickets been available.

Here’s how it happened:

Monday: Marooned in Barcelona – it could be worse. Barcelona goes bike friendly with 50 city-wide card operated bike stations

Tuesday: The only way out of Barcelona is by taxi. Trust the Catalans to do something fabulous with glass on their motorways.

Picking up what must have been the last car for hire in Perpignan

Yes, we’re in France

Overnight stop in Vienne, near Lyon. The Romans were here too

Wednesday: Map reader, sustainability advisor, refugee…

Soaking up some local colour at the Cafe de la Gare, Chalon

Thursday: A short detour to Ors, a small village where the poet Wilfred Owen was killed shortly before the end of the First World War

Safe arrival in chocolate box Bruges

Friday: Leaving Zeebrugge on the Scottish Viking

Saturday: Home at last – passing under the Forth rail bridge