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Luxor at Last

Egypt - Luxor

sunny 28 °C
View Egypt on kmmk17's travel map.


Having spent the morning at Kom Ombo, we continued our drive north, making a brief supermarket stop in the very dusty Edfu, before making our way to the final major stop - Luxor. It took several hours, but by early afternoon we had arrived.

The hotel was located in the centre of town, and fortunately the room Erik and I had been given was front facing - meaning we had beautiful views over the Nile, the Luxor Temple, and the Avenue of the Sphinxes.

View over Central Luxor

View over Central Luxor

We had a few hours to chill before we headed out to the first major site we'd visit in Luxor - the Karnak Temple.

Karnak

Karnak

Karnak is a vast open air temple complex - the largest religious building ever made. It contains multiple entrances and inner temples, as well as a huge Hypostyle Hall of 134 columns.

Hypostyle Hall

Hypostyle Hall

We had a look round, saw many more hieroglyphics, some obelisks, a pond, as well as a scarab statue! Good luck is supposedly upon anyone who does 7 loops of the beetle, so I thought I'd try my luck!

The Scarab Statue

The Scarab Statue

Considering the size of the place, we didn't have that long, as by now the complex was getting ready to close for the night. Just as sunset came over Luxor we headed back to the hotel and for the first time all week had the evening to ourselves.

I joined several of my travelling companions as we were given a quick orientation by our group leader, Saad. We stopped for some falafel, before Erik and I took a short walk past the Luxor Temple to the Winter Palace

Winter Palace

Winter Palace

This hotel was built in 1905 and was the place that most foreign visitors (including the Egyptologists of the time) stayed during the early 20th century. We took a quick look inside this famous luxury hotel, before we continued back towards the centre of town.

Inside the Winter Palace

Inside the Winter Palace

After grabbing food, we walked around the outside of the Luxor Temple, and then made our way back to the hotel.

Luxor Temple

Luxor Temple

That evening I got a knock on the door. When I answered it, it was Claire, our travelling companion from Ireland. I asked if she was ok, and she said not really, and showed me her ankle where she had been bitten a few day ago - the whole thing had swollen up and did not look good at all! She was after Erik, who had just popped into the shower, and once he was done we went over to her room and he gave her some meds.

She was leaving earlier than everyone else, and therefore only had another 36 hours before heading home - hoping to be able to plod through until then. Turns out she'd gone and got cellulitis!

The next morning was another early one, as we wanted to beat the crowds and the heat. After getting up, I went to take my tablet, where for some reason I gagged... then what followed was a 15 minute episode of first feeling, and then actually being sick - it well and truly put me off my breakfast that I didn't even have time for.

We then got on the coach and made our way to the Valley of the Kings. These tombs are the locations of some of the later Egyptian Pharaohs (relative to the ones at the Giza Pyramids anyway), and dating back 3,000 years. The tombs are located in the valley immediately behind the Nile on the Western Bank, and contain almost a hundred tombs, literally carved into the hills.

Valley of the Kings

Valley of the Kings

We got given a ticket which enabled us to visit three of the open tombs. In addition, we were also able to buy tickets for any of the three tombs that aren't included within the main entrance fee. Having done a bit of research online before, I decided to visit two of them (the third being particularly expensive, at an additional £33!).

Saad recommended which of the free ones to visit, in order to give us an overview of the different variety between them. The first was that of Merenptah, which was one of the longest tombs here, but was somewhat plain.

Tomb of Merenptah

Tomb of Merenptah

Whilst the next was the double tomb of Tausert and Setnakht. This was also large as it featured two halls and more interesting artwork.

Tombs of Tausert and Setnakht

Tombs of Tausert and Setnakht

The tombs were actually quite slippy to walk around. With the corridors being at downward angles, there were wooden planks to walk on with grippers to help prevent slips. But only if you walked carefully!

As she was trying to leave, the sister of the Canadian who lost her bumbag in the Nile missed the step and fell flat on her face. No major injuries but with the tombs being so echoey, of course everyone came running to check she was ok. The Canadians needed watching on this trip!

The final free tomb we visited one was that of Rameses III, which was very pretty with more of the paintwork intact, but was only open halfway.

Tomb of Rameses III

Tomb of Rameses III

I then took a look inside the Tomb of Rameses VI (which had originally been planned to be used by his nephew Rameses V, before he took it over). This was very grand, with beautiful hieroglyphic decorations.

Tomb of Rameses VI

Tomb of Rameses VI

The final tomb I visited was that of Tutankhamun. This was located below that of Rameses VI, and is noticeably different.

Tomb of Tutankhamun

Tomb of Tutankhamun

Access was via a small but steep shaft, as opposed to the others' gentle sloping long corridors, and the tomb was much smaller. This is the only tomb here that still contains the mummy - with Tut being fully on show, despite the rest of the belongings having been moved to Cairo, as I had seen earlier in the week.

Mummy of Tutankhamun

Mummy of Tutankhamun

Photos are not permitted in this tomb, but the guards are more than happy to ignore this for some money, and I fell into the trap of having a photoshoot here...

Inside Tutankhamun's Tomb

Inside Tutankhamun's Tomb

After having spent a little while at the Valley of the Kings, we then headed to the other side of the hill, to the Temple of Hatshepsut - the mortuary temple of one of Egypt's few female Pharaohs.

Temple of Hatshepsut

Temple of Hatshepsut

It is a huge complex, and unlike any other temples we'd seen so far... a far more modern type design with huge terraces, despite being around 3,500 years old.

After this we then paid a visit to a local alabaster factory, and it was here that I was once asked the same old question I get asked every time I go travelling:
Them - "Where are you from?"
Me - "England"
Them - "Which [football] team? Manchester?"
Me - "I don't like football"
Them - "What?!?"
🙄

Having seen some very odd ornaments, we then made our way around the corner to the Colossi of Memnon. The site contains two large statues of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III, that guarded his mortuary temple.

Colossi of Memnon

Colossi of Memnon

The temple was built in 1350BC, but was destroyed around 150 years later by an earthquake. Then in around 27BC, another earthquake destroyed the statues, after which they were rebuilt (pretty badly) by the Romans.

After a long busy morning, it was now time for lunch. We visited a local family who live close to the Nile, and after eating we then took a brief tour of the house, including seeing the traditional stove that the food had been cooked on.

Traditional Stove

Traditional Stove

We were now done with the western bank, and instead of heading back on the coach, to take the long trip to cross the bridge on the southern outskirts of the city - we instead took a boat across the Nile to right outside the Luxor Temple.

Boat

Boat

By now I'd seen enough temples and hieroglyphics, so whilst we had a few hours to ourselves I had a rest and used the WiFi

We then went for a last group meal together at a restaurant around the corner from the hotel. Here we had reserved a large table on the rooftop balcony, overlooking the centre of the city.

The final day had a horrifically early start, as we were booked on the day's first flight back to Cairo. After waking up at 3am, we headed to the airport half an hour later for our flight departing at 5:30am!

Via the Avenue of the Sphinxes

Via the Avenue of the Sphinxes

Ridiculous security checks endured - including three bag searches, where we had to physically write down our passport document numbers in a book... Eventually we boarded the small plane and flew over the Sahara and parts of Cairo before landing before 7am.

Cairo Citadel

Cairo Citadel

We had been advised not to book our onward flights before 2pm, as the flight back to Cairo is prone to delays. My flight wasn't now until 6pm - but there was in fact an earlier flight heading back to London in jut two hours time!

I tried my luck, and went to see if I could have my flight brought forward. Things looked good - until they told me I'd have to pay £400 for the privilege. No thanks - I'll stick out the 10 hours...

There was a final, additional excursion taking place for the group today - a visit to Saqqara and Memphis. However as I wasn't sure how I'd get back to the Airport, and wasn't that bothered about seeing more Egyptian ruins, I decided to stick it out at the airport instead.

Most of the group were headed off to continue their trip in Jordan, and so had all been booked on the same flight which was leaving at lunchtime. However annoyingly it was departing from the other terminal, so I wouldn't be able to sit with them!

But Erik was more than happy to give me company for a few hours, so we sat in the Arrivals Hall chatting the time away, before eventually saying goodbye. I then moved around the Arrivals Hall to try and waste more time, before eventually it was just a few hours to go.

Sadly, after all the waiting, the departure lounge was pretty poor - having only a few shops and little to buy with my remaining Egyptian Pounds, and no Currency Exchange.

I eventually bought some overpriced sweets and chocolates and then continued waiting for the flight, when I realised the details had gone missing from the board!

Eventually it came back on and confirmed I was in the right place. Not long later it was finally time to board. At the gate there was a final document and security check. Everyone seemed to take ages, being asked many questions about why they were travelling to London. Then it got to me - I showed them my British Passport and went straight through! Western Privilege....

The return plane was certainly nicer than the outgoing one, but after such a long day, I spent half of it napping. Before long we were coming in to land and after a relatively quick journey through immigration and baggage collection, I was on my final leg home. It was good to be back, but I wasn't enjoying the cold at Heathrow!

Egypt was a great trip. It had been 32 months later than planned, but finally I had got to see the Pyramids!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 20:47 Archived in Egypt Tagged boat temple hotel airport river egypt tomb ancient mummy Comments (0)

Chaotic Cairo

Egypt - Cairo

sunny 25 °C
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For a long time I had wanted to visit Egypt. A land full of ancient wonders. However this part of the world has been through a lot since the Arab Spring, and it took until 2019 before I finally felt it was stable enough for a trip.

We would visit Cairo, Luxor and Aswan for a week in mid-March of 2020 - just in time to enjoy some summer sunshine before the summer would arrive at home. We had everything booked, and our suitcases packed.

But as the global pandemic was coming ever closer, lockdowns inevitable, and the thought of being stuck in Egypt unappealing, two days before our flights we cancelled. In hindsight it was right - what would have been 5 days into our week long trip, Egypt itself went into a partial lockdown, closing all the airports. And just two days after we intended to fly back home, the UK went into a full lockdown itself. We had managed to reopen our flight tickets, which could be used later in the year. No problems - we'll just postpone it all until October.

Two long years passed and in 2022, with the pandemic finally easing, maybe Egypt was back on the cards?
However I was now going to be going alone. And after three years of non-exotic travel, I decided to join a tour instead of attempting a visit alone. G Adventures (who I'd gone to Antarctica with a few years back) had a tour that covered near enough everything I'd wanted to do anyway, and so I booked one of the last slots on the tour running during the week I'd already booked off.

A few weeks later (and coincidently the 100th anniversary since Tutankhamun's tomb was opened, beginning the modern age of Egyptology), I was at Heathrow. There were flights with both British Airways and Egyptair available. Both similarly priced, but as BA classed the 5 hour flight to Cairo as short haul - hence no entertainment or food, I went with Egyptair.

Time to go!

Time to go!

Annoyingly, the flight was delayed by over an hour, so it meant getting to Cairo super late. The plane was pretty old and grim, meals were average and the entertainment was poor. There was also three separate sets of turbulence en route - one of the worst flights I'd ever had!

Eventually I arrived in Cairo, and after getting off the plane I walked towards immigration, where I was met by a representative from G Adventures, who was picking me up and taking me to the hotel. "Your flight was so late" she says - as if I didn't know. She was now behind as had another pickup, and so whizzed me through the airport. Immigration was instead done in a side room that I didn't even enter. Not that the jumping the queue made much difference - I now needed to collect my baggage, and this took ages. However she was so paranoid about the time that I didn't get chance to get to the cash point, instead watching the luggage belt like a hawk.

Whilst waiting, she had a call from the group leader, Saad. As I had missed the welcome meeting, he was updating me with the essentials. I'd be sharing with Erik, breakfast was at 6:30 tomorrow morning, and we would leave at 7:30.

Eventually my bag arrived. We then whizzed again through the airport. She chatted to the staff and I bypassed all the security checks. We then eventually headed out of the airport and into a taxi to head to the hotel. "Pharaohs [Hotel]?" she asked - I dunno, you tell me...?

I was then driven through the streets of Cairo. It wasn't quite India, but the lane markings were clearly guidance only. After an hour of chaotic road travel, I finally arrived at the hotel. Jumping out of the minibus, I whacked my knee on the door, making it super achy - but I didn't have time to worry about it. Reception gave me an overview of the basics - basically everything Saad had already told me, plus the WiFi codes. The porter then took my suitcase to the room, knocked on the door and then showed me in - despite Erik now being half asleep - bit awks...

After finally getting the porter to leave, I introduced myself to Erik, and we got to know each other a bit whilst I quickly tried to sort myself out ready for tomorrow's early start. It was now almost midnight and there was very little sleep achieved. The pillow was incredibly firm, and then the dawn prayer woke us up at 4:45.

Managing a few hours of sleep scattered through the night, as dawn broke I realised we had a balcony overlooking the Nile - not that we got to use it. I gathered my bits ready for the first day in the city, before we headed up to breakfast. I started to meet my travel companions - a lot of Canadians, a few Brits, and a scattering of others (Irish, Spanish and Swedish).

View of the Nile

View of the Nile

Breakfast was bland - lots of bread, an omelette, boiled eggs, (frozen) butter and some juice. I had a bit and then headed down to reception to meet Saad properly. The Irish lady, Claire, was also down there as she had arrived on the slightly later BA flight last night (which had also been delayed).

It was now time to leave and start exploring the city. We began by heading to the iconic symbol of Egypt - the Pyramids. It was still early, but even now it was still warm enough for shorts! A welcome treat.

The complex was already very busy even early in the day. For anyone who isn't aware - the Pyramids are on the very edge of the city, and surrounded on all sides by developments or roads - but thankfully enough distance not to be fully consumed by it.

The Great Pyramid

The Great Pyramid

After some security checks, we entered the complex right outside the largest one - the Pyramid of Khofu. After a brief overview from Saad, we were then free to wander around and explore. I decided against heading inside the Pyramid, as I didn't want to overdo it too quickly, and knowing it would be a long sweaty experience. I did nevertheless walk on the Pyramid, which is made of huge limestone blocks piled to 140m tall.

On the Pyramids

On the Pyramids

I then went for a wander right around - there is an entire complex including mini pyramids for the Queens, tombs and buried artifacts.

We then headed back to our coach, to drive over the the other side of the complex for views over the area. From here there were beautiful views of the scale of the Pyramids, and somewhat benefitting from the haze over the city obscuring it from view.

Pyramids

Pyramids

The second (middle) pyramid appears bigger, but only because it is built on a mound slightly above the others. It does however still have a cap of the original casing stones.

After a while around here, and getting to know some of the travel companions a bit better, we headed over to the other side of the complex to visit the Sphinx.

Giza Pyramids and Sphinx

Giza Pyramids and Sphinx

The Sphinx sits as a guard to the complex from the city side entrance, and was unsurprisingly surrounded by tourists trying to grab a view. We walked through the Temple, seeing how huge the slabs used in the construction were, before getting close to the statue itself.

Huge blocks in the Temple

Huge blocks in the Temple

After eating some local food at a restaurant opposite the entrance, I finally managed to get some money out of the adjacent cashpoint. We then headed back into the centre of the city, to the Egyptian Museum in Tahir Square.

Egyptian Museum

Egyptian Museum

Thankfully, despite being "99% ready" since the Spring, the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza has not yet opened, and thus many of the famous artifacts have not yet been moved out of the Egyptian Museum - including the mask of Tutankhamun, allowing us to view them.

Tutankhamun's Treasures

Tutankhamun's Treasures

We were guided around the museum viewing many of the different sights, before being left to wander around ourselves. I took a look at the collection of Tutankhamun's treasures (the only thing left in his tomb in Luxor is his body and coffin), as well as the various statues and mummified pets.

Mummied Cats

Mummied Cats

After a good look around, I headed out to the gift shop at the exit, bought a souvenir, and then met the rest of the group in the café outside. It was then time to head back to our hotel to collect our baggage, before finally making it to a supermarket.

Hurray! finally I could stop rationing the water I had brought with me from London... It also gave me an opportunity to buy some snacks in case the next breakfasts were also bad. Along with some drinks, it equated to just £104EGP, (around £3.50) and helped break down my large notes. We then headed to the station. It was still a few hours before our train so we all sat at a café and got to know each other.

Eventually the train arrived and we boarded our cabins. The train was the best Egypt has - it wasn't too bad, but far from high quality. Erik and I were given dinner and then went for a bit of wander.

Our Cabin

Our Cabin

We joined our companions in the bar carriage before heading back and trying to get some sleep before we would arrive in Aswan the following morning.

Bar Carriage

Bar Carriage

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 18:46 Archived in Egypt Tagged food airport train city egypt pyramids pollution mummy covid Comments (0)

The Road to Rhodes

Rhodes

sunny 29 °C
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When it came to our summer holiday this year we were pretty open minded - all we wanted was somewhere warm, a nice hotel with good food, and not in Spain.

Nothing against Spain - they do what they do really well, but after going to Gran Canaria last year, and having been to Spain 11 times before, I really wanted to go somewhere new this year.

We looked around for a while and started to settle in on Greece. I had been to Athens 10 years ago, but that was all. Visiting one of the islands would be a different experience, and we started to settle in on Crete. Nevertheless, we didn't want to book anything too far in advance - all the Covid related cancellations and reschedulings had scarred us, so we waited until relatively close to the time.

Then just as we were ready to book at the hotel I had found, I had a thought - is Crete the island we wanted to visit? I started to think about Rhodes, and realised it had more to see. Last minute change of plan!

We looked at the flights and they were all pretty awful timings. Looked at hotels and last minute bookings meant a small choice that met our wants. In the end it worked out better to go on a package with Tui than to book everything independently. Going All-Inclusive with Tui was no more expensive than our usual Half Board independent trip, so we decided to make our lives easier and do that. Let's treat ourselves - after all, we had scrapped a holiday in August anyway!

The hotel we found looked pretty good - but there were some sketchy reviews - ants, dodgy WiFi, smelly nearby sewage works. But the reviews for other good places we'd stayed before had sketchy reviews, and did some of this matter anyway? We took a punt and decided just to go with it!

The Kresten Royal

The Kresten Royal

Several weeks later, it was almost time to head off. Then two days before we were due to leave, the Queen died. How annoying - all the drama, special TV programmes and general excitement of this generational event was taking place whilst we were heading out of the country. We had talked about going down to London - maybe to see the lying in state. Then there was the funeral - when would this take place and would be able to see it?

As our flight wasn't leaving until mid afternoon, we got to see the official proclamation of the new monarch on TV that morning. We had heard rumours that the funeral would take place on the Monday after we returned, which would give us time to head down to London the day before (the day after we got back) but this wasn't yet confirmed

Mourning

Mourning

It was soon time to head off. Once arriving at the airport there was no mistaking the country was in mourning. There were images of the Queen everywhere, as well as a Book of Condolence, which we had signed as we didn't have time to visit one at home.

Book of Condolence

Book of Condolence

By the time we would arrive in Greece, we would miss dinner so we grabbed food from the recently opened Burger King in the departure lounge, before boarding our plane.

It was a four hour flight, so we'd got some newspapers, puzzle books and music to keep us entertained. Some beautiful views en route over the Alps and Italy and then just after sunset we arrived at Rhodes Airport.

The Matterhorn

The Matterhorn

Frustratingly most of the UK flights were arriving at the same times, and so there was a lot of hanging about. Baggage reclaim took around an hour, and then we waited ages for our transfer coach to leave. It then decided to reverse the drop off route and so we were one of the last to get dropped off. By the time we arrived at the hotel it was just after midnight - even accounting for the loss of two hours, this still meant 10 hours end to end. Being late there was just one poor man on he reception dealing with all the new arrivals. Eventually we managed to get our key and head to the room.

The bar was still open for another half hour, so we decided to go and get a drink so we could at least do something on our first day!

The following morning we headed down to breakfast, had our fill and then headed to the nearby supermarket to get some supplies. We sussed out the local buses and headed back to the hotel. It was then finally time to start enjoying ourselves! We made our way to the top pool - just next to the hotel where there was a bar. Found ourselves some sun loungers and grabbed some drinks. All-inclusive meant free, so we started working our way through the cocktail list.

By the Pool

By the Pool

After having dinner we headed down to the bar and then sat and enjoyed some evening entertainment.

The following day we decided to head down to the lower pool, which we realised we didn't enjoy as much, despite being closer to the restaurant with the Souvlaki. We briefly went to the beach, where the pebbles hurt our feet, before heading back up to the top pool.

After two days in the hotel, on the Tuesday we had a day out - heading south to visit the ruins at Lindos. After breakfast, we headed to the bus stop and got on a direct bus to Lindos. It took around 90 minutes and picked up more and more people until there was no room left, but eventually we arrived at the very busy tourist town.

The buses stop on the outskirts of the town, and everyone then walks down the hill, passing numerous stray cats, towards the quaint, traditional Greek town.

Streets of Lindos

Streets of Lindos

Many winding streets made this very busy, but before long we arrived at the entrance to the ruins. We bought out tickets online so we didn't need to queue for ages and headed straight through.

Lindos

Lindos

To be honest, these ruins were no more special than any other set of Greek ruins, but nevertheless they were still pretty and had beautiful views over the nearby bays.

Lindos Bay

Lindos Bay

We had a nice look around, before we headed back down through the beautiful town and eventually back to the bus station.

Arriving back at the hotel earlier than expected, we had time to go into the main restaurant for lunch (normally the effort to get dressed meant we opted for the Souvlaki and Pizza at the outside restaurant). We then had some more sunbathing before dinner and a visit to the bar that night.

After a day out, Wednesday was spent chilling in the hotel. However we overdid it a bit on the alcohol today. Too many strong cocktails too quickly. I had aimed to beat my record of 7 earlier in the week - but with 5 before lunch I ended up feeling queasy all day and gave up! A lesson for the rest of the week...

Cocktails Galore

Cocktails Galore

That afternoon there was a big changeover at the hotel. Many of the nice courteous (and mostly German) guests headed home, to be replaced by bus loads of Israelis who can only be described as "pushy". They made their presence known instantly and it meant and end to the nice orderly queues in the restaurant and the peaceful relaxing by the pool for the rest of the holiday...

The following day we again headed out of the hotel - making our way up to Rhodes Town. There is a lot of history here and it was a beautiful place to visit.

Site of the Colossus

Site of the Colossus

We started around the harbour - heading past many of the old buildings before reaching the site where the Colossus stood before being destroyed in the earthquake in 226BC, and now graced by a pair of Does. Pretty, but not quite on par with one of the seven Wonders of the World.

The Doe

The Doe

We then headed around to the other side of the harbour, passing three beautiful traditional windmills.

Mandraki Windmills

Mandraki Windmills

Just past these was a man looking after numerous cats, and finally at the end of the harbour entrance is another doe statue, and from where the Turkish coast can be seen, just 12 miles away.

Cats

Cats

We then headed south, entering the Old City, to where many of the most important old buildings on this island are located.

Grand Master's Palace

Grand Master's Palace

We walked past numerous souvenir shops, cafés, defensive and religious buildings of different types, representing the history of the rule of this island by the Romans, Ottomans, Italians and Greeks.

Old Town Streets

Old Town Streets

We then headed back towards the bus stop and eventually our hotel. Once again, being back at lunchtime we headed into the main restaurant for lunch. It was outside the entrance where we noticed one of the new guests, a young girl from Britain was hurriedly buying a T-shirt from the neighbouring gift shop, so she could enter for lunch - apparently dismayed that this 5* resort won't allow their guests to enter (barely) wearing a bikini...

The following day was our last full day. We again spent it around the pool, with cocktails and snacks before heading for dinner. Tonight the entertainment was "International Night", which basically meant getting out the bouzouki.

Bouzouki Time

Bouzouki Time

I decided to take a nice evening walk around the resort, taking a night time walk down to the beach and around the complex.

Evening view from our room

Evening view from our room

Our final day was now upon us, and thankfully our All inclusive wristbands weren't taken off us at check out, so we could again enjoy some drinks and snacks - particularly useful as our pick up was just before dinner time.

The airport was again full of faffing - lots of delays and extremely busy. A particular 'highlight' was the boarding of our flight at the exact same time as those at the gate next door. Everyone must get on an airport bus, and as there wasn't room to board both at the same time, we had to wait for all the stragglers heading to East Midlands before we could even start. In the end it meant boarding the flight 90 minutes later than departure was supposed to be - at around midnight - with estimated arrival back home at 2am (accounting for the time difference). Great...

This essentially made this a short haul overnight flight, and we eventually arrived home at around 3am (5am Greek time).

As planned, the following day we got up and headed into London to see the interesting, but busy and hectic funeral preparations - thank God for the extra bank holiday giving us chance to finally rest... even if my Out of Office was completely wrong...

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 11:45 Archived in Greece Tagged sea architecture history airport memorial sun pool tourists drunk Comments (0)

Back To The Past

Channel Islands - Sark & Rural Jersey

sunny 28 °C
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The Channel Islands are a collection of islands located off the coast of France, and made up of two distinct British Territories - the Bailiwick of Jersey, which contains Jersey and some other off shore islands; and the Bailiwick of Guernsey, which contain all the other major islands. Although they are often collectively grouped together, they haven't been united since the 13th century.

We would today aim to get to Sark, the fourth largest of the Channel Islands, and located within the Bailiwick of Guernsey, just a short ferry ride away from Jersey. However not having full confidence things would run smoothly, after yesterday's visit to the Port, we made sure we were there nice and early.

It was relatively quiet when we arrived. We headed to the check-in desk and advised that we had bought through Condor Ferries rather than direct from them. "Oh" the sole lady on the desk said. It wasn't on her system, and so she ran over to speak to someone from Condor. We then spent the next half hour bouncing back and forward between the desks, where Condor stated that they had got us on their system, and had passed this over to Manche Îles; whilst Manche Îles claimed they hadn't received the information from Condor. This wasn't an automated process, and someone somewhere hadn't processed the email with this information. Thankfully we weren't the only ones with the issue, and multiple people were put aside at check in as they also weren't on the system.

As time went on, many of the people at Condor who were helping us left as it was the end of their shift, and we got more and more anxious about whether we would actually make it to Sark. Although the tickets weren't super cheap, as we were here I didn't mind buying new tickets and trying to sort out a refund later - it would be more expensive to come back to Jersey at a later date to visit Sark then. But then, just 20 minutes before the ferry was leaving, the printer started sending out loads of tickets - the processing had finally been done. We received our tickets and were finally able to make our way into the departure lounge, where everyone else was sat waiting!

It had been a long day already and we weren't even on the ferry yet! The small foot passenger ferry would only take an hour to get to Sark, and spent half the time travelling along the beautiful south and west coasts of Jersey, past lighthouses and other defensive infrastructure.

German WWII Defensive Tower

German WWII Defensive Tower

Sark is an interesting island. It was a fiefdom until 2008, and is entirely car free. The island has relatively steep sides, and from the port there are two options to get into the town - either walk up the hill or take the tractor bus for £1.50. Along with most others, we waited for the tractor.

The Tractor

The Tractor

When arriving at the top of the hill it was instantly reminiscent of traditional villages from historical dramas. We walked down the main street past the post office, cafés and shops, enjoying the ambience.

Sark Village

Sark Village

Being a small island it was only half an hour before we arrived at the beautiful La Coupée, the isthmus linking the peninsular of Little Sark with the mainland.

La Coupée

La Coupée

The path sits above a huge ridge with stunning views over the local area, and as far as the island of Guernsey. After spending time here, we headed back towards the town, past many fields as well as the Methodist Church and Cricket pitch.

Views from La Coupée

Views from La Coupée

The weather was hotting up. Although the middle of July is always nice (part of the reason why we had come here this weekend to begin with), there was a massive heatwave coming, with Monday due to be the hottest day in UK history. Even with the sea breeze, Sark was boiling, and any time out of the shade was hard going! After a surprisingly strenuous walk back to the centre of the village, we went to one of the Cafés for a cool drink and a bit of food, before making our way back to the Port.

We took a detour, and headed via Sark Henge, a modern Henge located on the south coast, before heading down the hill to the Harbour.

Sark Henge

Sark Henge

After exploring the older, Creux Harbour, we waited for our ferry return back to Jersey.

Creux Harbour

Creux Harbour

We arrived back with beautiful views of the island, and once again wandered through the town, past the Jersey Cows monument - where they even real?

The elusive Jersey Cows

The elusive Jersey Cows

The next day was our last on Jersey. However as the flight wasn't until the evening, we had lots of time to still explore. Leaving our room and checking out of the hotel, we headed back to the bus station, bought some day tickets and then headed north. We got off the bus a few stops before the end in the middle of nowhere and walked down a track. We then arrived at the northern coastal path and made our way westwards.

Coastal Path

Coastal Path

There were some beautiful views along this rugged coast, but we didn't walk too far. It was already getting very hot, and with some very hilly sections and our luggage in tow it was already getting exhausting. At the next access point we headed back into the interior, and walked the short distance here to the Zoo.

Getting exhausted

Getting exhausted

Andrew met us inside the zoo and whilst on his break gave us a tour of the various enclosures including the Orangutans, Lemurs and Bats.

A shading Orangutan

A shading Orangutan

By now it was already mid afternoon, and so we headed on the next bus towards Mont Orgueil Castle that sits imposingly over the village of Gorey. As it was hot, we decided not to explore the castle in too much detail, and instead took a connecting bus along the beautiful south coast towards St. Helier.

Mont Orgueil

Mont Orgueil

After grabbing a bite to eat, we then jumped on our last bus this holiday, taking us back to the airport. The airport was lovely and cool compared to the warm outside air, and once through security we sat upstairs in the viewing gallery where we could watch the other planes coming in.

The flight home was again short, and as it was a glorious day there were beautiful views over the other islands, the Cotentin Peninsula and Southern England.

It had been an interesting visit to the Channel Islands - lot of unique things to see and do, and we had been fortunate with the lovely weather. A shame we didn't have more time to visit Guernsey, Alderney, or even some of the nearby French ports like St. Malo, but it was a lovely place to visit for a long weekend.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 10:21 Archived in Guernsey Tagged cliffs airport zoo island castle ferry channelislands Comments (0)

A Summer's Birthday

Honeymoon - Barbados

all seasons in one day 29 °C
View Honeymoon on kmmk17's travel map.


Having a birthday in February has never been overly exciting, but spending my 30th in a lockdown, not being allowed to go anywhere or really see anyone was a particular low point. This year things had improved and we had ended up booking our honeymoon over my birthday, and so for the first time in my life I could wear shorts on it!

Today was our last full day on board, and a sea day as we headed back to Barbados. As usual we had breakfast, nabbed ourselves some sun loungers and joined in the quizzes. Sitting in the sun and around the pool, I was able to enjoy a summer's birthday for once!

Shorts in February

Shorts in February

After a lovely last day on deck, when we got back to the room I found a card from the captain wishing me a happy birthday. However the imminent end to the trip was lingering, and as the UK's Passenger Locator forms had not yet been abandoned, we were required to fill one, and given guidance of how to complete them as we were in the middle of nowhere. It was one of the few websites the on board Wi-Fi allowed access to - because of course, even in 2022, free Wi-Fi doesn't exist when cruising - no wonder there so few under 50s on board.

Birthday Cards

Birthday Cards

After having dinner, I decided to go for a wander around the ship for a final exploration. Even after two weeks on board there were still parts of the ship I hadn't seen. I went to the back of the ship, but coming across the Covid Isolation cabins, I made a quick dash.

Isolation Cabins

Isolation Cabins

Walking around the highest parts of the ship, there was a section that looked down on the pools covered in AstroTurf. In the night-time darkness I could see something odd and tried to focus my eyes on what looked like a dog!? Then I heard a noise, and realised to my horror, it was actually a couple trying to enjoy some private time.... I made another quick dash and headed back down towards the cabin. There'd been enough shocks for one night!

Up On Deck

Up On Deck

It had been a nice day, and certainly a lot better than last year, however in hindsight I'm not sure I really enjoyed it. There was no internet so I didn't get any birthday greetings, I had few cards as we'd needed to receive them a fortnight in advance to take them with us, I had no birthday cake, and it quite frankly just didn't feel like my birthday - it was like summer! It had felt like I'd missed it, just as we'd missed Easter 2018 when we'd visited Japan over the whole thing.

For half the ship, this was their last night on board, and so to enable this huge logistical challenge to run smoothly, we were required to leave our suitcases outside the cabin by 10pm that night.

Although the flights were not until the evening, and our pick up was not until 2pm, we had to vacate the cabin by 9am. We were allowed to leave the ship, but as additional Covid testing would be required at a charge, and as we had already seen what we wanted of Barbados on our first day, we decided to remain on board for this last day.

We had our breakfast and then went back to the room to collect our last bits. Then at ten to 9 a knock on the door from the maid - "you need to leave the room, it has been booked out from 9:30!". Well, we have until 9 I thought to myself. The door was propped open and we were being chased to leave.

Why should I care if someone has booked out the room for the day - we have it until 9, and why has an occupied room been booked out when half the ship is empty?! Yet another irritation...

We headed up to the pool to enjoy the last bit of heat. However it was an iffy day, and after three rainstorms we gave up trying to sunbathe. Unlike every other day, today we had not been given the newspaper telling us what was going on during the day, but it appeared there was nothing going on anyway. Quite ridiculous when today is the one day everyone was definitely out on deck.

One of the sunny intervals

One of the sunny intervals

At home, Storm Eunice, one of the strongest storms since 1987 was wreaking havoc, and like the St Jude Storm back in 2013, I was instead sunning myself in the Caribbean. The irony of missing hurricane force winds by being in the Caribbean instead...

However we soon got wind of just how much it would still affect us, as the flights this afternoon were all returns of those leaving the UK this morning, which had been affected. Two of the three flights were delayed, whilst the third (to Bournemouth) had been postponed until tomorrow. They would get a £25 onboard voucher, but would not receive their suitcases back despite the overnight delay - I'd rather have gone home!

As we had a long wait until our dinner on the plane and nothing better to do, we decided to head to the fancy restaurant for a final posh lunch. We were given a seat by the window and ordered a tikka buffet. Next thing a nearby table was occupied by another British couple who started chatting to us. They loved cruising, with her loving the ambience, whilst him liking the variety. Azura was nice, but apparently it was nothing like Cunard, with the white gloves!

Lunch Time

Lunch Time

She was lovely, but very very chatty. They asked where we were from, and when we said Luton, she told us she was originally from Hemel Hempstead - coincidently the town where I work. It all now started to make sense... she then proceeded to tell me all about Hemel in the 80s before she had left, like the Butcher's on The Ramp and asked me if I was in "the Hemel FB group". Of course I wasn't - I just work there.

After a lovely last meal on board, we headed back to the pool for a last bit of sun, and dipped our feet in the pool. We said goodbye to our Quiz friend, and then headed down to the other restaurant where everyone on our flight was waiting for the airport transfer.

Before long we were leaving the ship, getting on coaches and making our way across the island to the airport. Only this time we'd actually be heading inside the terminal building. After being wished that my birthday yesterday was nice at passport control, we were soon inside the terminal and before long sitting at the gate waiting to board. By now it was exhausting. It had been a long day, and our flight was still a few hours from leaving.

Goodbye Summer

Goodbye Summer

After a change in gate, we eventually managed to board the plane, and with many Grannies on board, for the first time ever we ended up being the first people to board the plane. After the drama of the flight tickets, we found our new seats were actually Premium Economy, and were reclining seats! When boarding was finished, surprise surprise, there were tonnes of free seats, including the entire row behind us, and several others in the vicinity. An absolute joke considering the aggro we'd been through a few days ago.

Annoyingly, the first round of service on board was for a glass of champagne, and so by the time the actual dinner came round I was too exhausted to eat. They asked if I as ok, to which Chris responded, "he's just shattered". The flight was only 8 hours and so overnight was tough going. It was now midnight Barbados time, and so 4am UK time.

I don't do well on overnight flights, struggling to sleep, and so by the time the 'breakfast' came round a few hours later, I was awake and ended up being one of the few on board who actually took it - at last my jet lag was sorted! Not long later we were landing at Gatwick, and after two weeks of acclimatised Caribbean heat it was freezing! We collected our suitcases and noticed that if we hurried, we could make the next fast train back to Luton.

We ran with the suitcases, made the next shuttle to the other terminal and arrived at the train station with a few minutes to spare before the next train. And then we waited... with there being a lot of damage from yesterday's storm there were knock on effects still, including our train being late. When it eventually did turn up it was decided that the train would in fact now stop at most of the stations it was planning to whizz through. In the end, we eventually arrived back in Luton around 45 minutes later than planned, and so by the time we got back home I only just about made it to bed for a nap before I collapsed... what a long journey...

It had been amazing to finally get on our honeymoon, and amazingly it had all gone to plan. I wasn't a cruise convert - I would go on one again, but equally I'd also go on a normal fly/hotel holiday too. It's just a shame that P&O were unable to provide a good quality holiday for us. I'm sure it was mostly because of Covid, but equally we had paid a lot of money and not received as good service as we should have. Maybe in a year or so when things are more settled they'd provide a better service.

Posted by kmmk17 16:47 Archived in Barbados Tagged airport sun caribbean birthday plane covid Comments (0)

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