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Summer At Last

Maspalomas

sunny 29 °C
View Maspalomas on kmmk17's travel map.

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)

Coastal Comfort

Turkey - Antalya

semi-overcast 34 °C
View Turkey on kmmk17's travel map.

For the last few years we have had a relaxing holiday during September. However with the ongoing Brexit mess at home putting me off an EU bound trip at risk of cancelled connections, and having been invited to the wedding in Istanbul during this time anyway, we decided to have a big all encompassing holiday, visiting various different parts of Turkey, which would include a stop on the coast. So after doing a bit of research for the route we booked ourselves a nice hotel for a few days of relaxation in Antalya.

Having boarded a bus from Denizli, after four hours we arrived in Antalya which was noticeably more humid than anywhere else we'd been on this trip so far. After making our way from the bus station to the city centre, we walked past the Old City which we would explore again soon, before shortly arriving at our hotel for the next few days, which was shaped like a big pyramid.

The Hotel

The Hotel

Inside the lobby was also impressive, as the building narrowed as it got higher creating a pyramid effect.

Inside the lobby

Inside the lobby

We got the keys to our room and found we'd be upgrading to a suite with a sea view and huge balcony overlooking the Taurus Mountains on the other side of the bay. We had a sofa, a bath and shower, and even a walk in wardrobe.

View from the balcony

View from the balcony

After settling in, we took a quick look around the hotel complex, before heading down the restaurant for our first dinner, choosing from the big variety of food on offer.

After a long day we settled in for the night and the following morning, awaking for the second day in a row with no stomach ache (the longest period in months), we headed down for breakfast before our first day getting to chill by the sea - finding it already a pleasant temperature even at first thing in the morning.

We started by getting a sun lounger by the outside pool, and were surprised to find that the pool itself was quite warm, even this early. After a few hours of dipping in and out of the pool, we headed down to the sea. The hotel itself was built on a cliff, and so didn't have a beach of it's own, but still had access to the sea via several staircases that wrapped around the hill.

Platform

Platform

Just above the access point to the sea was a platform full of sunbeds. After finding some to settle on, we headed down to the sea. It was slightly colder than the outside pool, and the sea was a little bit rough, with waves crashing against the rocks, so it wasn't the most enjoyable experience. I headed out for a swim and made my way to the floating platform the hotel had just off the shore.

After a while at the sea, we decided to head to the indoor pool, but when we arrived, found it was actually the coldest! Not enjoying the experience very much, after a quick go in the sauna, we headed back to the outdoor pool.

By now having spent all day in and out of the pool we decided to head back to the room for a shower and rest before dinner. However I made the mistake of holding my hunger for dinner, which caused me to feel shattered and too exhausted to really eat very much by the time dinner arrived. Heading back to the room afterwards I took an early night to try and get my energy back, and the next morning I felt more refreshed.

For our second full day we decided to explore some of the city, and took a short walk from the hotel to the Old City. We started off by walking through the park adjacent to the hotel towards the Hıdırlık Tower, one of the towers on the edge of the former city walls that is sometimes used as a lighthouse for the port.

Hıdırlık Tower

Hıdırlık Tower

We then continued our journey walking through the well kept streets of the Old City, past restaurants, bars and a few mosques.

The Yivliminare Mosque

The Yivliminare Mosque

We then arrived at the port, with many fancy boats offering tours of the area, before heading back up walking past shops and arriving the city centre.

Antalya Port

Antalya Port

We took a look around the Old Bazaar, before walking back towards the hotel, where we spent the rest of the day relaxing around the pool.

Our the following day (our last full day in Antalya) felt much different. Although technically warmer, it was much less humid, and slightly cloudy - from the balcony we could see the Taurus Mountains in their full glory, rather than being covered in humid haze.

Fancying seeing something new, we headed out of the city centre to see the Düden Falls - a waterfall that ends at the cliffs on the coast and tumbles straight into the sea.

Düden Falls

Düden Falls

After catching a bus back, we spent the afternoon around the hotel once again, before our last dinner. After this we took an evening walk into the old city to see Hadrian's Gate by night, the only remaining gate along the city walls.

Hadrian's Gate

Hadrian's Gate

The weather had been pretty good for us up until now, but it was suddenly about to change. As we were nodding off to sleep, we suddenly started to hear thunder. Taking a look a look outside our worst fears were confirmed - fork lightning in the bay that was headed our way, whilst we were in the tallest building around. Luckily we weren't hit, and it passed after around half an hour.

The following morning after breakfast we repacked our suitcases and left them at reception to spend a bit of time relaxing one last time. After a last few hours in the hotel we then made our way to the airport for our onward flight to our last destination in Turkey - Capadoccia.

Posted by kmmk17 06:15 Archived in Turkey Tagged waterfalls sea sun waterfall swim swimming relax turkey2019 Comments (1)

Polar Plunge Madness

In Search of the Penguins - Deception Island & Hannah Point

sunny 3 °C
View In Search of the Penguins on kmmk17's travel map.


Today was the final day in Antarctica. After a wake up call and breakfast, we entered the caldera of Deception Island, anchored up and landed ashore.

Deception Island

Deception Island

Being geothermal, the island was almost barren of wildlife. Being much more rocky and with almost no snow compared to our previous landing sights. Nevertheless there were many points to view over the caldera, and after a short walk we arrived back at the beach for the Polar Plunge.

Polar Plunge

Polar Plunge

I certainly was not going to take part in this, but half the group did - stripping down into swimwear or nudity and then racing into the sea. The geothermal heat warms this part of the sea from around -1 to 1C, and this chilly temperature was clearly visible on many of people's faces.

After that experience, we then headed back to the ship for lunch, whilst the ship left the caldera and headed towards Hannah Point on Livingstone Island in the South Shetlands. This would be our last landing point, and we weren't to be disappointed! After enjoying perfect weather for the last few days, we landed to find huge penguin colonies covering the entire area.

Penguins

Penguins

Upon arrival, the G Adventures flags caused complete bewilderment amongst the penguins, and then with all the tourists landing on shore they simply didn't know what to do. After a little walk around the area, I sat down and attempted to get a penguin selfie. With curious penguins coming over to see what I was or simply running past ignoring my presence.

Penguin Selfie

Penguin Selfie

At one point a group of chasing penguins literally ran into some people's legs, falling over and then trying to work out what to do next! What an experience!

Penguins

Penguins

After a few hours soaking up the last of these unforgettable landing experiences I headed back to ship for the day's review and then dinner. As tonight was the last evening in Antarctica, we celebrated by having a fancy dress contest. However as I turned up too late to get a costume I didn't join in. Nevertheless the turnout was pretty high - including our Aussie friends as The Jackson Five (Minus 3), Cameron in drag and funniest of all - Gary, the stripper penguin.

Evening Entertainment

Evening Entertainment

After a really enjoyable evening I then headed up to the bar with the group for drinks with the crew band, before finally calling it a night.

What a great way to end the Antarctic adventure. And yet there were still two whole days on the ship to come!

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Antarctica Tagged beach party swim penguins drunk penguinhunt antarcticcruise Comments (0)

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