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Colonial St. Kitts

Honeymoon - St. Kitts

sunny 28 °C
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After a sea day, this morning we awoke to find we had arrived in St. Kitts. Together with Nevis, this is the most recent British Caribbean island to have gained independence - just 39 years ago. It is also the smallest independent country in the western hemisphere, with only three Pacific island nations, and three European microstates beating it from the eastern hemisphere.

After breakfast we headed out for our Excursion for the day - a quick tour of the capital, followed by a trip to a former plantation and then to a fortress. The port here was a relatively large passenger friendly port - completely different from the last two.

Port Zante

Port Zante

Bizarrely, when on a cruise you don't get your passports looked at, and sometimes don't even need to take them with you. It makes it easy to get on and off the ship, as your room card identifies you, but it does mean that it's difficult to get a passport stamp. Here, we managed to get ourselves one, as there was an immigration office inside the main gateway (although it had appeared to be empty when we first walked in! Two officials sitting in an isolated room two doors in!).

We then went and queued up for our excursion. There were loads of excursions today and they were all queued up next to each other - it was like lining up at school! Then we were led over to a minibus where the tour guide ran over the essentials and advised the driver would be there soon. Then he walked over to the driver's seat got in, and announced he was in fact also the driver!

We began by heading out of the terminal, and driving into Basseterre. We drove past the old port gate entrance, followed by the clock tower, before arriving at Independence Square.

Independence Square

Independence Square

This square was renamed in September 1983, but was previously know as Pall Mall Square, and was the location of the original Slave Market, where enslaved Africans were bought and sold.

Being home to just 14,000 people, Basseterre wasn't very big, and after driving past the cathedral we were already heading out of the town. We drove west along the south side of the island, passing several of the international universities, and through lots of villages before we arrived at Wingfield Estate, seeing the ruins of a sugar plantation.

Former Railway line serving the Estate

Former Railway line serving the Estate

Behind this, is Romney Manor, the manor house that the owners, including one of the ancestors of the third US president, Thomas Jefferson lived in.

Romney Manor

Romney Manor

The manor has now been transformed into botanical gardens, and a batik (wax dying) factory, where locals showed us the art.

Batik

Batik

After a bit of time spent here, we then continued further west and headed to Brimstone Hill, one of the Caribbean's best preserved fortresses. As the island is volcanic and has steep sides in this area, the fort sits at around 300m above sea level and therefore has beautiful views over the nearby areas, including the Dutch islands of Sint Eustatius and Saba - which ironically is the highest point within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, despite being 4200 miles from the mainland.

Brimstone Hill

Brimstone Hill

After a long and windy route up the mountain side we arrived at the fort to find it in exceptional condition. Inside the fort, the museum detailed the history of the fort, showing how throughout the 1900s the fort was restored, and was reopened by Prince Charles in 1973, before being made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

Brimstone Hill Fortress

Brimstone Hill Fortress

The museum also had information about the Slave Trade and the Imperial Age, discussing how St. Kitts was at one time divided between the British (in the centre) and the French (on the east and west sides).

After wandering around the area and enjoying the stunning views, we boarded the bus and headed back to the Port. Whilst the weather until now had been glorious and sunny, en route we got caught in a huge rainstorm. But as was usual in this part of the world, it lasted just a few minutes before the weather brightened up again.

When we got back to the port we then bought ourselves a postcard, before heading back into the town. We wanted to get some better pictures of the sights, and so headed over to Independence Square, and went inside the cathedral.

Inside the Cathedral

Inside the Cathedral

Before heading into the port, we stopped at the supermarket to get some drinks, and then headed back to the ship. As this was a large passenger friendly port, the authority had also laid on some local dancing for us to enjoy.

Local Dancers

Local Dancers

Getting back from the excursion we arrived in the cabin to find a useful guide to all the Covid protocols in each port - just a shame we'd already been to three of them...

After spending the afternoon around the pool enjoying cocktails and snacks, we went to some entertainment this evening. The on board brochure had advertised "The Pursuit", a gameshow which was essentially ITV's The Chase. One of the entertainment team would play "The Pursuer", whilst three audience members would compete to win a P&O goody bag.

"The Pursuit"

"The Pursuit"

One of the selected competitors was a rather skanky looking lady from Gloucester. Although when they asked her to repeat where she was from as they couldn't quite catch what she'd said through her face mask she shouted out "Fred West". Not sure the serial killer who buried several women and his own daughter in his back yard is what I'd have said to remind people of the cathedral city on England's longest river but well... looking at the state of her maybe she knew him?

They asked her what she did for a job. "Retired" she said. To looks of bemusement - how could she be retired when she's clearly no older than her late 40s? Then she announced that she'd won the lottery! Well, I guess that explains why she was there with a bunch of kids - some of them were probably her own, and others we assumed must be their partners?

In the end the contestants won the game. After a bit of fun watching this, we headed back to the cabin for the night as tomorrow we'd have yet another island to explore!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 15:21 Archived in St Kitts/Nevis Tagged islands fort cathedral port caribbean games colony botanicalgarden Comments (0)

Kept Out Of Kingstown

Honeymoon - St. Vincent

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As many of us have found - travelling during a pandemic is difficult. Even two years on, in parts of the world things are still far from normal. As mentioned in the last chapter, some ports were not letting independent wandering outside of the port. This was the case in St. Vincent, where the only way to see anything was to go on an excursion.

We had already booked some for tours we definitely wanted to go on in other ports, but for St. Vincent we weren't quite sure what we wanted to do. After having another look through the list of options once on board, the night before we got to Kingstown we decided we'd go on the Catamaran tour of the west coast.

Having sailed away from Barbados last night, by the time we woke this morning we had already arrived and docked in Kingstown, St. Vincent. And with the port being located at the far end of the bay we had a nice vantage over the town of just 12,000. The port also felt much different from that of Bridgetown - which had been very industrial. Kingstown meanwhile had a small jetty and then a collection of shops.

Kingstown

Kingstown

Having had breakfast and about to embark on our first cruise excursion we checked out of the ship, before being guided to join the relevant queue. Not long later, we were led to board the catamaran, from inside the port terminal.

Once everyone was on board we then headed out of the harbour. There were beautiful views as we sailed up the western coast, and we headed as far as Richmond, where there were views of La Soufrière, the highest peak on the island.

La Soufrière

La Soufrière

In April 2021 this dormant volcano had exploded and half the island was severely affected. Thankfully over by the time we arrived, the damage caused by the pyroclastic flows was evident. As we returned towards Kingstown the excursion's guide showed us a video he had taken during the peak of the volcanic activity, where plumes of smoke were shown rising almost endlessly, seemingly close to his home - and this was just from the Green zone!

Damage from the Pyroclastic Flows

Damage from the Pyroclastic Flows

Not long later we passed by Walliabou Bay, which had doubled for Port Royal in the Pirates of the Caribbean films. In fact much of this stretch of coastline had been used as a filming location in the franchise, and as we passed these locations they were pointed out to us.

Walliabou Bay

Walliabou Bay

Although we weren't allowed to stop at these places (to prevent us mixing with locals in light of the Covid situation), we were able to stop at Mt. Wynne Beach, as it was more isolated. We were taken almost to the shore, where the catamaran descended it's ladder and we were able to walk quite easily (if timed with the waves) to get onto the beach.

Getting off the Catamaran

Getting off the Catamaran

As the island is volcanic, the sand here was black, and we stayed here for around half an hour. The sea wasn't freezing but wasn't super warm, so I didn't do anything more than dip my feet in. However as it was pretty rough, it was probably wise. In front of us were some older ladies, and one of them misjudged the tide and quickly became submerged, spinning around like she was inside a washing machine!

At first it looked hilarious, but quickly the situation became quite serious. She didn't get pulled in, but as she couldn't swim (I know!) it was a close call. She made it out all shaken, but her sunglasses had not been so fortunate, lost forever more.

On the Beach

On the Beach

After a nice bit of time on dry land, we reboarded the boat and were served some rum punch - the local cocktail. And unlike in much of the western world they weren't afraid to make sure the rum was noticeable. After thoroughly cleaning out any lingering bacteria from my throat, it then went straight to my head - and it wasn't even lunchtime yet!

On the Catamaran

On the Catamaran

We enjoyed some beautiful views of St. Vincent in the glorious sunshine before we arrived back at the port. We weren't allowed into Kingstown which was a shame, but we could at least see it from the harbour. We bought ourselves some postcards before reboarding the ship and gabbing some lunch.

That evening before dinner, we managed to catch the sailaway as we left port, and grab some final views of a town we'd never seen!

Sail Away

Sail Away

The following day was our first Sea Day. We wouldn't be seeing anywhere new, instead spending the day on the ship as it sailed the Caribbean Sea. However as it doesn't actually take two days to get to the Leeward Islands, instead of hugging the Lesser Antilles, we did an unnecessary diversion well into the Caribbean Sea to waste time!

As everyone was on board instead of in port, extra entertainment and activities had been laid on today - beginning with a mid morning quiz which would accumulate points on every port day - let's hope Covid won't knock us out from some points on the other days!

Quiz Time

Quiz Time

After this we headed over to another of the pools, where the SeaScreen was located - a huge cinema screen that showed films four times daily, where this morning the film Encanto was being shown. However like in resort hotels, if you don't get your towels out early you miss the good spots! We managed to find two loungers right at the top of the ship, but being a bright sunny day, and sheltered from the wind it was baking. There are no parasols, so even after some ice cold cocktails we were still baking! We managed to stay until the end of the film, before heading to find some shade.

SeaScreen

SeaScreen

We had some lunch and a wander around the ship before heading back to the first pool for musical bingo and a guess the tune quiz.

Unlike many other parts of the travel industry, cruise ships still keep up many of the old fashioned traditions, and tonight was going to be one of those - it had been declared a Black Tie Night, where we would dress up very smartly in our suits. Feeling fancy, we decided to go to the formal dining room for our evening meal where we were treated to a five course meal.

The couples on the neighbouring tables were clearly different people to us however, complaining about the quality of the wine they had been given, and where on earth the Sommelier was, whilst the lady on the other side (who appeared to have plucked a whole family of blackbirds for her dress) seemed to have an endless list of complaints about her cabin, not receiving her Amuse-Bouche, and the fact that the captain had not awoken everyone at 6am to congratulate the Queen (who I note was not on board) on her Platinum Jubilee the previous day.

Black Tie Night

Black Tie Night

After a quick go on the roulette in the Casino, that night we went to enjoy our complimentary glass of champagne whilst watching the onboard comedian. He was ok, but trying to match the demographics of the room meant I didn't find a lot of the jokes that funny. Nevertheless it was a nice evening.

Posted by kmmk17 18:00 Archived in St Vincent/The Grenadines Tagged sea boat beach volcano scenery caribbean entertainment covid Comments (0)

Cruising the Caribbean

Honeymoon Cruise - London to Barbados

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After every wedding, there's a honeymoon. Back in November 2019, we had booked ours. We would marry in July 2020, and four months later (avoiding the hurricane season) in the November, we would head off on a Caribbean Cruise. Then as we all know, a few months later it all went to pot. Covid came, and lingered. The stag do to Riga got cancelled, then the wedding was pushed back a year, and so I postponed the cruise by a further year, to November 2021.

The situation did not improve very quickly, and we had no idea whether the wedding would even take place. In the end it did, and we were fortunate to have delayed as much as we had, as little did we know the previous year, we were just 12 days from having to uninvite most of our guests! However, 6 weeks before our special day, we had been informed that the phased restart to the cruises would mean all on our ship up to and including ours would be cancelled.

Our wedding gift list revolved around our honeymoon, and people had lovingly bought us excursions for trips that were no longer happening! We had to make a decision on what to do about the honeymoon. We had spent a lot of time back in 2019 choosing the right one for us - visiting the places at the time we wanted to go. Either we rebook for a third time to the same cruise and ship, or we do something else entirely - the ship was not returning to the Caribbean for the next two winters, and other P&O cruises would not be visiting Grand Turk, one of the places we had wanted to visit most, but equally we were sick of continually rebooking things only for them to not happen at all.

In the end after weighing it all up, we decided we would risk it again, as we really wanted to go on this cruise, and things were improving! We therefore had to pick some new dates, and in the end we opted for the start of February - where we could get flights for London, and as an extra bonus we would be away for my birthday (making up for the Lockdown 30th the year before).

Then Omicron hit, the red-lists and hotel quarantines retuned and Christmas plans were once again ruined. The run up to the cruise was not fun - there was no excitement, just anxiety as to whether a) the cruise would even run, and b) whether we would be able to dodge Covid to be allowed to go. As the cruise neared, we received more information on the protocols we would need to follow. Barbados is one of the strictest places to visit in the Covid world - not only would we need a Covid test, but it needed to be a PCR undertaken by a medical professional, three days prior to the flight. We would also need to undertake a further lateral flow test at the airport 3-5 hours before our flight. Only if these were both negative would we be allowed to go. Fortunately P&O had been good throughout. They had let us rebook back in 2020, and had either of us been positive in these tests before the trip we would be able to reschedule the whole thing. But with everything scheduled and really not wanting to rebook for a fourth time, we were anxious!

We stayed at home for the last part of Jan, invested in some KN95 masks, and managed to test negatively in our PCR (despite the sore throats we had caused by the repeated lateral flows we'd undertaken all week in paranoia). Our flight was scheduled to leave at at 11:20am, but as we would need to go to an offsite car park for a lateral flow test at 7am, and Gatwick is already two hours from home, we decided to stay over at Gatwick the night before the flight.

Seeing the London sights en route to Gatwick

Seeing the London sights en route to Gatwick

We took the train from Luton on Thursday evening, masked up and seeing some sights as we passed Blackfriars Bridge, before checking in to a Premier Inn outside the North Terminal.

Getting a pretty appalling nights sleep, the next morning after leaving our luggage in our room, we took the bus to get our Lateral Flows. On board we met other hopeful passengers and discussed the mountain of paperwork we had had to fill in over the last few days (with a lack of guidance from P&O) to be allowed to go. Arriving at a marquee in an airport car park we went inside and took our tests. "Are you looking forward to your holiday?" they asked. "Until this comes back negative and I'm on that plane, I don't believe it's happening" I thought.

Thankfully 15 minutes later, no positive line had appeared, and we were finally off on our trip - thank God for that! Could you imagine if at this final hurdle it all went to pot? - later we would hear that for some, it had!

Negative!

Negative!

We then boarded the bus and headed back to the airport terminal - finally being able to get excited about going on this trip! We picked up the luggage we had left in the hotel, and went to check in for our flight. This was the first time I'd ever been on a cruise and P&O had chartered the flight. Therefore when we arrived we headed to a section of desks just for our cruise's passengers. After the pages and pages of documentation had been checked, we were handed our flight tickets and made our way into the departure lounge.

Our plane in rainy England!

Our plane in rainy England!

After a few hours, we were boarding the plane. Leaving a rainy and cold England, for the next two weeks we would be enjoying a brief bit of summer. Looking at the other passengers, the demographics were as expected - lots of grey hair, and no kids (as they couldn't be doubly vaccinated, they wouldn't be able to join). We managed to get the whole row to ourselves and after taking off and enjoying some on board movies, the trolley service came around a little later. Did we want any drinks? Well as we had finally allowed ourselves to be excited about the trip, lets have some alcohol! After hearing what they had on offer we settled on a white wine - two please. We were then given two white wines - each! Having skipped much of breakfast so as not to invalidate my LFT, this went straight to my head, and in the end I only had one, which was a good job as when they came around to give us some lunch, Chis knocked his over and it leaked over our trousers and the floor! He could finish my other wine, as we tucked into some food and sobered us up.

The flight to Barbados was around 8 hours, but as they were four hours behind we would be landing in the late afternoon, and so our later food offering was a light snack, so not as to ruin our dinners.

Almost there!

Almost there!

Eventually we landed in a lovely warm Barbados, where after disembarking the aircraft, we immediately boarded the plane, not even entering the terminal building. We would be driven across the island straight to the port, where we would show our final bits of paperwork, go through a security check and then finally board the ship.

Our Cabin

Our Cabin

We headed to our cabin, which we had selected in advance - a partially obstructed non-balcony room, giving us a view outside without costing us a bomb! We met the housekeeper who let us know about where to find our life jackets etc, and waited for our suitcases. In the meantime we went for a walk around the ship. Sussing out where we are, what's what, and where we needed to go. It was still a large ship, but others in the fleet are larger. Nevertheless there were 17 decks, four pools, various pubs, bars and restaurants. However it was clear that the planned refurb in April 2020 had not yet been carried out, particularly in the cabins.

The Atrium

The Atrium

We headed down to the reception to ask about the Covid protocols in port. We had prebooked some excursions already but wanted to know what the deal was. We wanted to explore every port, but were unsure where there were restrictions how much would we be able to see? Would we be able to explore the ports, or would we need to book excursions to even get off the boat? Every fortnight P&O produced a Covid guide on their website, advising of the current protocols. However when asking at both reception and the shore excursions desk we got conflicting information - there are no restrictions other than Grenada... right that's not what the website said. What about testing? Some ports needed us to Lateral Flow before we could explore... "well, if you need a test, go to the medical centre" - that's not the same, surely that little room isn't going to be testing the majority of the ship at once? It seemed the actual situation was completely different. Of course changeable, but generally we wouldn't need to test and would be free to wander around the port, and most of the landside too each day. I guess we will see what happens, but in the meantime, if there's tours we want let's book as it'll be easier!

In light of the Covid world, an online web portal had been developed, in which we could sign in, and book tours, activities and dinner slots. We booked some bits for our trip and then went off to grab some dinner in one of the buffet restaurants. Things (I guess) were different from usual - hand sanitizer stations everywhere and the buffet food being served to your plate

By now it was getting pretty late on a very long and busy day, so we headed back to our cabin for the night and finally received our suitcases a short time later. Normally we tend to live out the suitcase rather than unpack, however as we would be here for 2 weeks, and had a lot of stuff with us we actually did for once!

The following day, unsurprisingly we woke a little earlier than planned due to the jet lag, and after enjoying our first buffet breakfast on board, got ready to head out for our first day of exploration.

We headed down to Deck 4 to disembark, using our cruise ID cards to check out of the ship, and then walked alongside it towards the cruise terminal.

The Ship

The Ship

As we had undertaken a PCR and Lateral Flow to fly into Barbados, we did not need to do a test to get out of the port, however we did need to do a temperature check. Scanning our foreheads and getting a normal result, we then walked past all the shops and eventually made our way out of the port. We then took a left turn around the back of the huge port towards an unassuming residential street.

Rihanna's house

Rihanna's house

It used to be called Westbury New Road, however in 2017 it was renamed Rihanna Drive. We wouldn't see Rihanna, but we would get to see her childhood home.

Rihanna Drive

Rihanna Drive

We then made our way into the centre of town. It wasn't particularly big, but Bridgetown did have a few sights around National Heroes Square, with the parliament buildings, the bridge the town is named after, and the Independence Square.

Bridgetown

Bridgetown

After a little look around, we then headed towards the beach, which was absolutely beautiful! White sand and turquoise water, it was just as you imagine the Caribbean to be.

Brownes Beach

Brownes Beach

We spent some time swimming in the warm water and doing a bit of sunbathing, staying for around an hour or so before heading back. It was only 11am, but we were already feeling tired! The early start, jetlag, and lack of outside exercise for weeks at home meant this was exhausting!!

In the Sea in February!

In the Sea in February!

After stopping at the nearby supermarket to get some soft drinks, we headed back to the cruise ship. Temperature and security checks again, then in the cruise terminal we bought ourselves some souvenirs, before checking ourselves back onto the ship.

We then went and grabbed some lunch from the buffet, before heading outside to sit by the pools, and enjoy a Piña Colada. It didn't take long to overheat in the burning sun, so after around an hour or so we headed back to the cabin to cool off.

Piña Colada time

Piña Colada time

That afternoon we went for another explore of the ship, watching the other half of the ship's new passengers arrive from their afternoon flights, before we headed for a dinner in one of the A La Carte restaurants. Later that night we went to join in the pub quiz (no, we didn't win), as the ship left the harbour and began it's two week journey sailing around the Eastern Caribbean.

Posted by kmmk17 17:53 Archived in Barbados Tagged honeymoon beach caribbean swim covid Comments (0)

Summer At Last

Maspalomas

sunny 29 °C
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As we all know, Corona has ruined the 2020s so far. It also caused us major disruption, firstly by cancelling our Egyptian trip with just a few days to go, but also by completely ruining our Wedding plans. The whole thing had been moved backward by 53 weeks, but with Covid still in full swing a year later, there had been no Stag Do, no fun lead up, no Mini-Moon, and from a fortnight before the wedding, also no Honeymoon either.

2021 was also a pretty miserable year weather-wise. The summer in the UK was pretty cold and wet, with just a handful of decent weeks of sun and heat. After having moved home, and spending a year decorating, by the end of Summer 2021, having been on just two UK holidays in the last 2 years, and having not been abroad this decade, we were desperate for a week to relax and enjoy some sun and heat.

With things starting to stabilise, and having been vaccinated, we decided to finally get away to the Canary Islands and finally have a break. This wasn't our honeymoon, or even a mini-moon, this was just a well overdue relax. We decided to go to Gran Canaria, where things looked good Covid-wise, and there wasn't too much we wanted to see, so we could just settle in the hotel where it was safe, without feeling like we were missing out on local sights.

The testing regime was a nightmare to get our heads round. At the time we travelled there was a three category list of countries which changed every three weeks, and there were different rules for those who had been vaccinated or not. Spain was looking like it would not move to the dreaded Red List (where expensive hotel quarantine would be required), and we deliberately chose to go during a week between announcements so we could be sure it would all be fine once away.

But even booking last minute, we still didn't manage to avoid all the potential drama, as a couple of days later, La Palma started erupting. This was 150 miles from Gran Canaria, but that hadn't stopped Eyjafjallajökull in 2011, and this is the volcano that is predicted to collapse into the sea and cause a massive tsunami, flooding even the south coast of England. Maybe a hotel on the beach wasn't such a great idea after all?

Arriving in Spain required a form to be filled out. Staying in the hotel needed confirmation we were vaccinated, and then we would need to pay for tests two days before flying home, and also two days after as well as fill in a form to arrive back home.

After getting everything prepped, we were finally able to get away, and on Saturday morning we headed to the airport. Once inside it was the start of a long day wearing a face mask. Dropping the bags off took ages as everybody was subjected to a document check - forms, vaccine certificates, boarding passes, passports etc.

After breaking the machine, we had checked our bags in and headed up to the Departure Lounge to grab some drinks and magazines before our long flight. The airport was busy, and there was little social distancing. The airport is simply too small for the amount of people that were there. In an effort to try and give us more space, as we arrived at the gate, they only processed half of us until we were actually boarding the aircraft. Of course, there were still many who weren't fully prepared. Mostly those who had hand luggage only and so hadn't been checked at bag drop off. This included an old couple who had printed out their Spanish health form, not understanding that only digital versions were permitted. The boarding staff decided to help them, and started filling in the form on their behalf. Once complete it needed email validation, but the old couple had no idea how to get to their emails so just sat there claiming blankly "I don't know how to get to them". Well good luck getting to Spain then - no one else is going to know, Doris!

It would take over four hours to reach Gran Canaria, so as we boarded the plane we used the opportunity to lower our masks, and get some fresh air - but instead all we got was Kerosene for a few seconds before being masked again for the duration of the flight.

En Route

En Route

As the time zone was the same in the Canaries at home, and our hotel was an hour from the airport it was going to be a long day. We also realised that the local shop would be closed the next day so we wanted to get to the hotel as soon as possible. This was our first trip to Europe since Brexit, and so we would be entering the slow queue, and as we were at the back of the plane, we were one of the last to disembark. Once we were off we tried to get through as quick as possible. But this was actually not necessary. In what was the slowest baggage claim I'd ever seen, twenty minutes after the last person got through immigration, the carousel as finally switched on. With just 5 minutes until the bus we needed was due, we expected we'd end up missing it, and so we planned to head to to the shop in the airport before boarding, rather than wait until we were at the hotel.

However a stroke of luck, our bag was the very first one to come out. We grabbed it and headed to customs, where they quickly scanned our health form, and we were free to continue our journey. We had four minutes to get to the bus stop, so we ran. With a mask still covering our faces we ran as fast as possible for what seemed like ages. Along corridors, up escalators and more corridors, we then found the right exit, headed outside and arrived at the bus stop with a minute to go. We could finally lower our masks, get some air and have a drink. It was hot already, and it was quite a shock to the system. Not knowing whether we had missed the bus (it was stopping here en route down the east side of the island) we waited. Just a few minutes after arriving, the bus showed up. We put our masks back on and then boarded for the long trip down to the south end of the island.

An hour later we arrived in Maspalomas. Just a short walk away was the hotel, and after arriving at reception they did a temperature check. Although hot and sweaty it obviously didn't cause too much concern as they let us in anyway. As a large Irish group was already being processed we had to wait a while.

Views from the Hotel

Views from the Hotel

Eventually we were checked in and able to head to our room. As this was Covid, we had to book slots at the restaurant, so we decided to book for 45 minutes time, at 8:30pm. This gave us chance to head over to the supermarket, next to the bus stop, get back and freshen up for dinner. Bearing in mind we had left home at 10am, and Covid has made us lazy, we were already pretty tired!

When we headed down to the restaurant it wasn't too busy. And thankfully they still had a large buffet dinner for us to enjoy, just as normal. After eating a bit of everything, we headed back to the room, and finally got to chill after the long day!

Delicious Puddings

Delicious Puddings

The following day after having our fill with a large buffet breakfast, we had a chill day. We spent all day sitting around the pool, swimming and sunbathing. It was amazing. After the last 18 months this had been long overdue, and getting sunburnt and needing After Sun was a pleasure!

In the Pool

In the Pool

I never normally like to go on holiday, and then spend the whole time in the resort. But with the risk of Covid stopping us getting home, this time we made an exception. Maspalomas was the perfect destination. Hot, sunny, and only a few things outside the resort to see.

On Monday we headed over the the Dunes. It was around a half hour walk down the coast, passing many other hotels and the lighthouse.

The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse

After an easy walk along the pavement, once on the sand it was a different story. We headed east, where it was quieter, passing the family bit, the nudist bit, before reaching the gay bit. By now we had had enough of walking and it was starting to get quieter, so we sat down and watched the sea. I then decided I wanted to head up the dunes, so climbed up the nearest empty one, took some pictures and then slid down it.

On the Dunes

On the Dunes

We then headed back to the hotel, and after popping to the supermarket to replenish our supplies, we went for another dip in the pool.

At Playa del Inglés

At Playa del Inglés

The following day we also headed out of the hotel, taking the bus into Maspalomas, and Playa del Inglés. There wasn't much there but it was nice to have a look around. Upon returning back to the hotel we once again chilled by the pool.

The hotel has a kids club, and a mascot - Daisy. But with there being almost no kids in the hotel, the entertainers were clearly kind of bored and so instead walked around talking to the adults. "Do you know Daisy?" they asked. "Yes I do" I said. Daisy was the same mascot the hotel chain had when I was a kid myself in 2003!

With Daisy

With Daisy

I asked if I could take a picture with Daisy and they were quite happy to. Then I sent it to my family chat an we all had a laugh at the silliness.

Being part of the hotel's member club I not only got a large discount when booking, but also get a free drinks token. As tonight was Flamenco we decided to use it, and headed down at 9 to watch.

Free Cocktails

Free Cocktails

Not that Flamenco is actually traditional to the Canaries - it's actually Andalusian. But they know what the foreigners want and unsurprisingly the crowd was pretty large.

Flamenco

Flamenco

Half an hour later, they were done, and as nightclubs were still not permitted, that was the end of the entertainment for the night. Spaniards must have been appalled at this early hour - Siesta only ended a few hours ago!

After two days out, we had another lazy day, spending it all in the hotel. That night we headed to dinner and found for the fifth day and ninth meal in a row, we were once again served by Raquel. Is this woman not allowed out? Is she a human slave? By now she knew what we wanted - two still waters thanks!

Working in a place like this they must get used to odd characters. We had noticed them ourselves:

  • Judgey Couple - Who looked down on us getting up more than once per course (don't they know it's a buffet?)
  • Nutty Woman - Complaining about everything from having to pay for drinks (the website does say), to having her plates cleaned. And went to adjacent tables to steal their cutlery
  • Workaholic Man - Who brought his laptop to the table every day, and sent out emails whilst eating, leaving his wife sat there looking bored (are you incapable of stopping work for just twenty minutes during dinner on holiday?)

Workaholic Man

Workaholic Man

The following day, after seeing Daisy at breakfast, we headed back out to the Dunes. They were fun the first time so we thought it might be nice to see them once more before the holiday was up.

The Dunes

The Dunes

After arriving back at the hotel we took our return tests. Thankfully they were negative, and after registering them we received our certificates and could complete our UK arrival forms.

As it was the last day of October, the hotel had laid on an Oktoberfest theme for the guests. The entertainers were dressed up in traditional outfits, and they had brought in an accordion player. They told us to come over as there would be beer and sausages

Say no more, we headed over and they started handing out tonnes of food and drink to everyone: beers, sausages, sauerkraut and pretzels - we weren't even All Inclusive but they didn't mind. There were silly games and silly costumes which made for an entertaining afternoon.

Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest

After dinner we noticed that there were cats eating from bowls in a flower bed by the restaurant. It transpired that the hotel has its own cats and so we headed down to say hello. There were three - a very friendly black one, a very scared and thin baby one, and a chunky one that had clearly eaten too much food. We said hello to the cats and they were very friendly to us.

With Chonk

With Chonk

The next day was our final full day. We spent the day in and around the pool, before enjoying our last fancy dinner, where this time Raquel brought us two still waters without even being asked!

It was still around 30C here, but at home the weather had changed and cooled to around 15C. As this was the last warm evening we'd be getting for months, I decided to take a little walk around the hotel and the beach. En route I got distracted by the cats so in the end I'd been gone well over an hour!

Evening Stroll

Evening Stroll

The next morning we were shocked to discover Raquel had been given time off, and after enjoying a last big meal, we headed back to the room to pack. As we didn't need to leave until almost 2pm, we dropped the bags at reception, and then sat around the pool.

Around 1pm one of the entertainers came round and asked us if we wanted to play the 'Cocktail Game'. "Yes I did" I said - I had been waiting all week to play this game! I asked how we played and it was basically Play Your Cards Right, and the person who gets the longest run of correct guesses wins a cocktail. "But we are leaving in half an hour" I said. "No worries, if you win you'll have time to drink the cocktail before you go", he claimed.

I got a dismal 3, but Chris got an amazing 11. "You're probably the winner" he said. Well let's hope we find out soon, cos we need to go! 15 minutes later he was back. "You won! Enjoy your drink and safe flight home!" As Chris didn't want it, I quickly headed to the bar and ordered a drink. But the waitress didn't take my token. "Keep it and have another later at the Tirajana Bar!". If only she knew I was leaving the hotel for the last time in 10 minutes... what a pity as we'd've loved this earlier in the week!

Free Cocktail!

Free Cocktail!

I downed my cocktail and we headed back to reception, grabbed the suitcase and made our way to the bus stop. After an hour on the bus we arrived at the airport, changed into warmer clothes, and then joined the bag drop queue. This was so slow. After an hour and a half we had finally dropped the bag off, and there as just 45 minutes until we were boarding.

After getting through security we had hoped to grab and eat a meal at the Burger King. It was 5:30 and we wouldn't be landing until almost 11! But after the slow drop off and with a large queue at the Burger King we had to give it a miss. Instead after boarding we purchased a hot meal on board. Thankfully they had started at our end of the plane as there wasn't much available, and those served after us didn't even get any hot food on offer.

After landing back at home, we then found that due to a busy departures hall, we had to get on a bus and be driven to a door on the other side of the terminal. Luckily we had got off the plane quickly and managed to get on the first bus to depart. Upon entering the Immigration Hall, we were at least in front of almost everyone on our plane, even if there were at least two other plane loads in front of us.

They weren't even checking documents other than passports. The reason for the slow processing was because so many dimwits kept their masks on whilst using the e-gates - despite the staff endlessly shouting "Take your masks off". How on earth will they know it's you if half your face is covered... welcome back to the UK...

Eventually we got through, grabbed our bag and headed out into what felt like blistering cold. My brother had come to collect us, and after heading home via McDonalds, our trip was now over.

Two days later we posted off our arrival tests, and somehow had managed to avoid Covid despite the chaos at the airports.

Despite the agro, the holiday was well worth it. We needed the break and the heat. Now just 6 months of winter to get through....

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 16:15 Archived in Spain Tagged sea beach hotel sand summer sun swim swimming pool entertainment flamenco Comments (1)

The Fens

Fens

semi-overcast 22 °C
View The Fens on kmmk17's travel map.

It had been a long time since we had had a relaxing getaway, and so we booked ourselves a lodge with a hot tub in Norfolk, and went up with my brother and sister.

We travelled up after work on Friday, getting dinner en route, before dropping our bits off at the lodge, located in the Fens in Norfolk. The Fens were historically marshy underwater land that was drained in the 1600s. Very much like the Netherlands they are incredibly flat, and contain lots of straight roads and drains, and arable crops.

After popping to the supermarket in Downham Market, we headed back to the lodge and made our first use of the hot tub, enjoying drinks and music in the soothing tub.

The following day we made use of being in this part of the world, by visiting the city of Ely. Ely was historically an island within the Fens, and although home to just 20,000 people is only of the most important places in the area.

After eventually finding a space to park we headed into the centre, walking down the High Street, before turning into the churchyard. Here the huge Ely Cathedral came into view. The cathedral has an iconic Octagonal tower, and dominates the skyline of the whole city.

Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral

Admission was £8, and so for the four of us this would have been £32 - but as the pay point was just inside the church we went inside took a quick look across the barrier, went inside the gift shop and then left.

We then headed across the Green, past the canon captured from the Crimean War, before arriving outside the family home of Oliver Cromwell, the leader of England during the Republic after the civil war. Inside, the building also functions as the Tourist Information Centre, where we bought some souvenirs, before heading along the circular walk around town.

Oliver Cromwell's House

Oliver Cromwell's House

This walk heads to the south of the cathedral through gardens dedicated to the Queen's Golden Jubilee, before arriving along the banks of the River Great Ouse.

After making it back round to the car, we headed to the lodge, where after a bit of lunch we spent the rest of the day in and out of the hot tub, mixing it up with games and chats.

Hot Tub Fun

Hot Tub Fun

The following day was our last. We had a pretty lazy day, in and out of the hot tub, and only leaving it to go for a wander around the edge of the campsite. At late afternoon we then packed up our stuff and headed back home, once again getting dinner en route.

It was a lovely weekend, just being able to relax in a nice environment and have fun and games with my siblings.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:22 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged history city cathedral family lodge Comments (0)

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