I opened my eyes as the wheels of the aircraft hit the tarmac with a deep and loud rumble. Through the cabin, an applause erupted. We looked at each other and shrugged – it was only later on that I was told that the Russian airlines have contributed generously to the number of global aviation accidents and perhaps that could’ve been the reason. The plane was small; a narrow aisle divided the sea of blue seats, three on each side. We’d arrived.
I don’t know about you, but I never seem to be able to fall asleep in airplanes. There is always someone moving the curtains around and letting in the light into the cabin like a stun gun, a baby crying somewhere, or the dry cabin air. But largely, I attribute it to tight seats and having to sit for hours. I end up trying out all sorts of contortions on the long haul flights, from curling up sideways on the seat like a prawn to just going for a full stretch with my legs straight under the seat in front of me and my arms folded behind my head. The good thing was being on a plane meant I was going somewhere, and that’s usually a good thing.
I looked out through the oval shaped window to catch my first glimpse of the city called Sochi. Located on the Black sea coast and right at the Georgian border, I thought it was funny how it’d never crossed my mind to visit the place and yet, now, here I was. Funnier still, was that this town that was known to me as the town of the Winter Olympics was everything but it – bright, sunny, with a scorching heat.
We were hosted at the Rodina Grand Hotel and Spa, and on arrival were served with Raspberry cocktails. The lobby had tall columns and high ceilings, with an eye-catching tiered chandelier dripping in crystals as a centrepiece. Walking its depth, one would find that it opened up into another area, curved, with five full-length windows framed by royal grey-toned green curtains from which I could see the lush greenery beyond. The area was fitted with sofa seats of intricate upholstery, and a waterfall chandelier hung overhead. My room was on the ground floor, with a balcony that led right into Rodina’s gardens. Because the hotel was on the hillside facing the sea, the sparkle of the sea could be seen in the distance. Each morning, I would go out to take a deep breath of the fresh, cool sea breeze.
The inaugural Russian Formula One was at the Sochi Autodrom – the 5.858km track weaving by spectator stands which can take up to a whopping 55,000 people – and started off with a troop of traditional Russian performers decked out in their national colours of White, Blue, and Red, armed with spears and swords, performing to a lively Russian tune.
Across from the balcony where I stood, the crowds were enthusiastically waving flags at the Grandstand. I wished they hadn’t implemented noise reduction measures on the cars though, because it dampened the oomph that used to send my pulse racing – especially the splutter of short, sharp bursts that happened each time the drivers braked to navigate a tight corner.
I’ve always been a little torn between Toro Rosso and whichever team Lewis Hamilton joins. Nonetheless, here’s a shot for Team Toro Rosso and for the Vettel fans!