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A Journey to Jersey

Channel Islands - St. Helier

sunny 22 °C
View Channel Islands on kmmk17's travel map.


In this post* Covid world, travel has restarted - but it is not 2019 again. Being the first summer in three years there is pent up demand, but equally the travel sector has not recovered from the massive lay offs. Add to that the Brexit effects and the virus still lingering in the background to make people ill it's still not easy to travel.

After a lot of time spent at home, we wanted to get away somewhere but had a lot of indecision about where to go that suited us - somewhere warm but not too hot, safe and with decent flight times from Luton. Waiting for the airlines to decide which flights they weren't capable of running after the chaos at Easter and Half Term, it meant a lot of the places we had thought about still hadn't returned to the same amount of flights as in the past. With few exciting places to choose from we had to have a wide open search, and that's when we thought about Jersey.

Although still (sort of) in the UK - to get there it was easiest to fly, and being the middle of July the weather would almost certainly be good - a great place for a long weekend.

We left on Thursday lunchtime and headed up to the airport. It was a relatively quick flight across the South Coast and the English Channel before we made it to the Channel Islands. There were some beautiful views of Alderney, Sark and Guernsey before we flew right over Jersey and landed at the airport.

Alderney

Alderney

By now we could already see that surprisingly for a small island like this, it was relatively hilly. The end of the runway sat on an embankment overlooking the beach below, whilst blustering winds hit us. In anticipation of up to 30C by the end of the holiday, right now vests were a bit optimistic.

When landing we noticed a Jet2 airlines plane next to ours... were there some tropical destinations for these islanders or was this the tropical paradise? (turns out it's the latter.... bad luck!) Entering the small terminal building there was lots of bunting, celebrating the recent Platinum Jubilee.

Arriving at the Tropical Paradise

Arriving at the Tropical Paradise

We then took the bus and after around half an hour we arrived at Liberation Square in the centre of town. This square commemorates the liberation of the island after its occupation during WWII - which we'd explore in more detail tomorrow. From here it was just a 10 minute walk to our hotel. After checking in we then headed over to the nearby supermarket to get bits for the stay before grabbing a quick dinner.

Liberation Square

Liberation Square

By now it was already evening and so we settled in for the night before our first full day on the other side of the Channel.

The following morning after eating some breakfast we headed out back to the bus station and boarded a bus to the War Tunnels. After around half an hour passing First Tower, one of the many defensive towers on the island, we arrived at the tunnels.

First Tunnel

First Tunnel

These tunnels were built by the Nazis beginning 1941, firstly as a barrack and ammunitions store, then later as an underground hospital.

War Tunnels

War Tunnels

It was built by slave labour and although never finished, is now open as a museum detailing the occupation period of the islands from 1940 to 1945. This was the only part of the British Isles to have been occupied during the War, and was a fascinating insight into what could have been.

Inside the Tunnels

Inside the Tunnels

After this we headed back into St. Helier. Once here we walked down to the Port. We had decided to visit Sark on the Saturday but were having issues with the ferry tickets. As there was no refund policy if we caught Covid, we didn't book the tickets until just before going. But after keeping an eye on them, when we finally came to book they suddenly all disappeared from the website - every ticket with the company to any port over the next few days was no longer available. I emailed the company to query this, but after not having heard anything in the meantime we figured it might be worth heading down to the port. I had managed to buy the tickets through Condor Ferries, who although not providing the service directly were taking orders on their behalf.

When we got to the port, it as as we feared. Few people around to speak to. No one at the ferry desk for Sark, and at Condor Ferries' desk, only confirming that our tickets were confirmed at their end, and that we should arrive early as the other company "don't know what they're doing". In the meantime we checked the websites - Jersey's Port website said the ferry was still due, and the actual ferry company had now relaunched their tickets. We'd just have to head down in good time to ensure we'd sort it in the morning.

After this, we headed back to the hotel to change. We had worn cooler clothing as the tunnels were a constant 17C. But when we got back to St. Helier it was much warmer.

We then made our way to the Jersey Museum. The museum detailed the history of the island, from it's Norman rule to the present day, and was worth seeing with lots of exhibits.

The closest we got to a Jersey Cow

The closest we got to a Jersey Cow

After this we headed back across St. Helier for a walk across the now dry causeway over to Elizabeth Castle. Although we didn't go in due to the very overpriced tickets, it was still a nice place to see from the outside.

Elizabeth Castle

Elizabeth Castle

By now it was getting on for early evening and so we headed over to one of the only chain restaurants on the island - TGIs.

After a post meal crash at the hotel, we headed back out into town to meet up with one of Chris's friends - Andrew, who now works at Jersey Zoo. We had a few drinks and a catch up before finally heading back to the hotel for the final time today after a busy day exploring.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 19:06 Archived in Jersey Tagged museum island tunnel plane war ferry channelislands Comments (0)

A Summer's Birthday

Honeymoon - Barbados

all seasons in one day 29 °C
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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)

Cooler in Cappadocia

Turkey - Capadoccia

overcast 18 °C
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After last night's storm we had started to become a little paranoid. As we were flying into Kayseri airport, Chris asked if that was lightning he had seen outside. It was just the lights on the wing I replied - before looking out the window to find fork lightning! Going round and round in circles before eventually coming in to land, there were many more flashes and I just wanted to get on the ground sooner rather than later.

Having avoiding being hit, we arrived at the airport just minutes after another internal flight and so the tiny baggage hall was packed full of people. Eventually collecting our baggage after what felt like hours, we headed outside and met our transfer to Cappadocia.

Inside the hotel

Inside the hotel

An hour or so later and we made it to the hotel, where we were staying in a cave room built into the hills surrounding the small tourist town of Göreme. By now it was pitch black and so we took a quick walk around the corner to see night time views of the town lit up.

Nighttime views

Nighttime views

Originally we were supposed to arrive mid afternoon, but a few weeks ago our flight had been rescheduled, meaning we now only had one morning to explore the town. Therefore we got up early the following morning and headed up the hill again for views over the area.

Normally the sky would be full of hot air balloons, but unfortunately the weather was still not great, with risks of thunderstorms and so these had all been cancelled. It was also a lot colder than it had been elsewhere up until now, with us needing jackets all day long. In fact with a heatwave at home this weekend, it was actually hotter there! Nevertheless there were still nice views over the town, where we could see all the buildings built into the cliffs.

Views of the town

Views of the town

After heading back for breakfast before checking out of the hotel, we left the bags at the hotel and headed towards the Open Air Museum, where there were many churches carved into the rock. Upon arrival, even early in the morning it was full of tourists, and it was difficult to explore without people being in the way.

Open Air Museum

Open Air Museum

After an hour or so we had seen many of these amazing chapels, which from the inside looked like they had been constructed normally, rather than carved out from the rocks.

Inside one of the chapels

Inside one of the chapels

We then headed back into the town, which had now woken up and was full of many little souvenir shops. After buying a keyring, we slowly made our way back to the hotel for a last rest this holiday. The weather then perked up slightly and we enjoyed some final views of the town in the sun.

Göreme town

Göreme town

We were then picked up for our trip back to the airport and our final flights back to London via Istanbul Airport.

Although the holiday had been cut short by a week, we still had a nice break and got to explore new areas, as well as relax and spend time with friends, and would recommend it as somewhere interesting to visit.

Posted by kmmk17 11:13 Archived in Turkey Tagged churches hotel church cave plane turkey2019 Comments (0)

A Visit to the Vatican

Rome 2019 - Vatican City

sunny 36 °C
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Our next holiday this year was to Rome, my second time in the city after having previously visited after New Year in 2015. This time however it would be much hotter - by about 30˚C.

My cousin and aunt from New Zealand were also going to be in Rome at the same time, so after checking our plans we decided to head out on the same flight as my aunt, to be there at same time.

After working on Friday morning, we headed up to the airport and met up with my aunt just before security. Heading through and into the departure lounge we had a catch up after having not seen each other for three years.

The weather at home during this weekend was abysmal, and after sitting down in one of the restaurants, where we were joined by my sister who works up the airport and was on her break, we could see (or rather not see) the sheer level of rain hitting the roof window from outside. It was so heavy for so long that eventually one of the seals broke and the water started gushing in like an indoor waterfall. The people sat by the window themselves had to run to escape, leaving their belongings to get soaked, including one woman's entire dinner.

Flooded Airport

Flooded Airport

As we moved away due to the floor flooding, my sister called security to advise them, but they weren't interested - turns out this was by far the only place that had flooded and the whole airport was full of water. Not long after the water had broken through, the rainstorm had ended and the sun was shining again- however the sheer level of water that had entered meant it was going to take a long time to clean up. We could now see just how much rain there had been, as our view that had previously been blocked by water was now clear to see a plane at one of the gates surrounded by fire engines as it's cockpit was on fire! What an experience today!

By the time we were boarding the rain had ended and there were no problems, we took off as planned and arrived in Rome's airport a few hours later after having had a nice catch up on the journey over. Using the EU queue at immigration for what might be our last time, we headed for the train station to make our way to our hotel. Saying goodbye to my aunt until the following day in the city we finally arrived at our hotel just before midnight and after quickly settling in, headed to sleep before our next four days in the city.

Our first full day was spent at the Vatican. After breakfast we made our way to the Vatican Museums, waiting outside for my aunt and my cousin to join us. We spent the trip around the museum catching up with my cousin, who is travelling around Europe and who I hadn't seen since 2016.

Vatican Gardens

Vatican Gardens

Starting with the view of the dome and gardens we eventually made it to the highlight of the trip, the Sistine Chapel. After viewing the famous painting by Michelangelo, we headed through the secret entrance for tour groups only, luckily not being stopped and made our way directly to St. Peter's Basilica, saving us 2 hours and a wait in the hot midday sun.

Before entering the cathedral itself we made a trip up to the roof and dome. Getting the lift up, we entered around the inside rim of the dome looking down over the altar.

Inside the Dome

Inside the Dome


Walking up the dome

Walking up the dome

We then climbed up the dome itself, which at times felt like a fairground ride with slanted walls. Little did we realise at the time this is the tallest dome in the world and still meant another 231 steps after taking the lift! Nevertheless at the top the views were stunning and absolutely worth it.

Views from the top of the dome

Views from the top of the dome

After taking in the views, we headed back down to the roof before taking the lift down into the cathedral itself to explore.

Inside the Cathedral

Inside the Cathedral

We then made our way out of the cathedral and into St. Peter's Square crossing the border back into Italy.

St. Peter's Square

St. Peter's Square

By now it was early afternoon so we headed to a nearby restaurant for some food, which we followed afterwards with gelato. Having now seen the Vatican, and with three more days to explore the city, we left my aunt and cousin and headed back to the hotel via the supermarket to chill for the rest of the day.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 08:30 Archived in Vatican City Tagged rain church airport city cathedral plane border christianity Comments (4)

Off to see the Wrestling

Lithuania & Belarus - Vilnius & Minsk

semi-overcast 27 °C
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After 8 months without any foreign trips, it was finally time for this year's to begin. The first being a trip to Lithuania and Belarus.

We began with an early start to get to Luton Airport for our flight just before 8. Annoyingly however as we waited to board our flight, our aircraft was given to the delayed Warsaw passengers and instead we had to wait two hours for a new aircraft to be flown over to us. This wasn't helped by the fact every morning I'd had terrible stomach pains from a virus I still wasn't over.

Two failed boardings later we eventually made it onto the aircraft. As with my previous flight to Vilnius, I was once again delayed and ended up having to change plans for the day.

Vilnius Town Hall

Vilnius Town Hall

We no longer had all afternoon to explore Vilnius, and instead only a few hours for a quick wander. It also meant that we didn't get chance to visit the KGB museum as this would be closed on our only other opportunity this weekend. A real pity.

Gates of Dawn

Gates of Dawn

The following day - our only full one on this short weekend trip - we made our way to Belarus to watch the wrestling!
I had wanted to visit Belarus for some time, with it being a blank on my map. However normally visas are required (unless flying in and out of Minsk Airport, which has no cheap flights). Meanwhile there are tonnes of convenient cheap flights to Vilnius, just across the border.

Back in 2014 Belarus had temporarily removed their visa requirements for the World Ice Hockey Championships. But as this was right at the time I got my new job I therefore didn't know whether I'd have the time or money to go, and so had missed the opportunity.

This time things were different. Belarus were hosting the European Games, and by purchasing a ticket for £4.60, the whole visa process was unnecessary. We were free and could have a cheap and easy holiday. Looking at the dates we could go and the events that were on so that it would look convincing, the best option was to visit Belarus on Sunday 30th, when the finals of the Wrestling were on for just two hours during the middle of the day. Did I know anything or care about wrestling? No. But it could be fun anyway!

After going through passport control we boarded our train with our breakfast in tow, ready for our two and a half hour train ride to Minsk. After around 45 minutes we reached the border, and Belorussian military-looking border officials boarded inspecting everyone's passports. We gave them our European Games tickets which they inspected, and accepted and not long after we were back on our way through the Belorussian countryside.

Eventually after a slightly rough train ride (which didn't help my stomach) we made it to sunny Minsk. We had several hours to explore the city before the Wrestling began - which we decided we should watch just in case we were checked on the way home.

After changing €40 into Belorussian Roubles, we headed into the city - beginning at the Gates of Minsk opposite the station, two Stalinist towers marking the entrance to the centre of Minsk.

Gates of Minsk

Gates of Minsk

[We then headed over towards Independence Square, home of the parliament and the city's iconic Roman Catholic church, where there were lots of flags and banners for both the European Games and the upcoming 30th anniversary of Belorussian independence.

Independence Square

Independence Square


Victory Square

Victory Square

After then taking the metro across the city towards Victory Square, dedicated to Minsk's time through the Second World War, we then headed down Independence Avenue towards the Palace of the Republic.

Having seen much of the city's Stalinist architecture, we were now headed into the old part of the city, which had more of a feel of Poland and Lithuania.

The Orthodox Cathedral

The Orthodox Cathedral

Stopping off for souvenirs by the town hall, we then walked past the city's Orthodox Cathedral, towards the Opera and Ballet Theatre.

Opera Theatre

Opera Theatre


Trinity District

Trinity District

Beside the beautifully meandering river, with it's parkland banks is the oldest part of the city, the Trinity District, with small old winding streets and houses that have mostly been converted into shops and restaurants. On the opposite side of the river is the Sports Palace where we were headed to for the Wrestling, as well as an open air fan zone with local entertainment, food, souvenirs and photoshoots with the Fox mascot - Lesik.

Local Entertainment

Local Entertainment

By now we were on track and the event was starting in just half an hour, so we entered the Arena and found our seats watching the build up before the event itself started. I had no idea what was going on, but nevertheless the chance to enjoy an international event, and mix up the long day in the city was actually pretty enjoyable.

Inside the Wrestling

Inside the Wrestling

Thomas Bach awarding the medalists

Thomas Bach awarding the medalists

After the event ended, we walked past Thomas Bach, head of the Olympics, who was attneding the event also, and headed out of the city towards Victory Park, where there is a more modern and grand monument to the city following it's awarding as "Hero City" following it's occupation during the Second World War.

Victory Park

Victory Park

The parkland beside the river was a pleasant place to spend time cooling down from the heat of the summer sunshine, and we walked further north towards the Palace of Independence, Expo Centre and Flag Square.

Palace of Independence

Palace of Independence

After a lot of walking we decided to take the bus back into the city. However despite my best efforts we still could not work out how to buy a ticket! Apparently we could buy one from the driver, but as he was in the front compartment we didn't pass him to buy one. After then abandoning the first bus ride we hovered around thinking whether to walk (but ruled out as being too far and too hot), or ride illegally (it was only 4 stops). Maybe we could just hop on and off the next few stops so we wouldn't be arrested! I mean we had the money anyway - maybe could we play at being stupid foreigners?

And then we saw it, a different bus passed by, and someone reached into the hatch and bought tickets from the driver! So there we were, let's take the next bus and ride properly. However when we got on it was packed and we couldn't reach the driver. Debating whether to get off at the next stop and board a quieter bus or push our way through, we arrived at the next stop when a local woman boarded and pushed her way through. We followed her and then managed to buy our own tickets! What a stressful experience!

Not long later we arrived back in the city centre. After buying some souvenirs we then headed back towards the station to grab some snacks and have dinner. After a long hot day of sightseeing we were ready to go home. Changing our money back and getting €35 returned, we waited for the train to turn up and board back to Lithuania. Three hours later we were finally back from our busy, but interesting day trip to Belarus.

It was a surprising experience, I had few visions of this generally forgotten part of Europe, and had expected it to be a tragic dump, but actually it was very beautiful, clean and green, and I would really recommend it to anyone who can be bothered to go through the process of getting a visa!

Posted by kmmk17 03:58 Archived in Belarus Tagged park airport river sport city old plane border sickness lithuaniabelarus Comments (2)

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