A Travellerspoint blog

London first

sunny 24 °C

So here's the thing - the first born now lives in London, our flight to Havana, Cuba departs Gatwick on the Monday. I know - let's increase the holiday budget with a 2 night hotel stay in London plus whatever super deluxurious restaurant meal he just happens to suggest this time, and visit our son before we jet off. We book a central London hotel for the Saturday night and a Gatwick airport hotel for the Sunday night. Great plan, all except fort he part that "git face" that's our little pet name, bless him, now informs us, after we have made all the arrangements months ago, he can't possibly miss his mate's birthday party in, wait for it - Lancaster. So he'll be up North where we live and we'll be in "dahn sarf" (down south) where he lives, brilliant! Train ticket is non amendable, well not without losing an arm and half a leg anyway. So that's how it is. Oh by the way Mum & Dad mind if we sleep in your bed seeing as you're not at home?

We have a lovely relaxed rail journey Saturday afternoon and we did manage to see Simon & Chloe for a couple of hours at ours before we left. We arrive in London Euston and take the tube to London Victoria to book into the Park Plaza Hotel where upon we receive the good news we've been upgraded to an executive apartment on the 8th floor. Nice, very nice. Huge bed and flat screen TV, lounge seating area, dining area, lush bathroom (robes and slippers) and a kitchen area complete with hob, microwave, dishwasher, fridge and wait for it, wait for it - a nespresso machine and capsules. Say goodbye to boiling a miniaturised plastic kettle and pouring over instant granules, we've got a nespresso. We take advantage of the facilities and buy in a pizza, a bottle of wine and some cake from Sainsburys and save over 150 quid from what a night out with the lad would have cost had we met up in London as per our original plan. Mick feels better now. We have a great day on Sunday seeing the sights of London on what turns out to be a glorious spring day. Everyone in shirtsleeves enjoying the sunshine.

The gatwick Express isn't running today so we're on ordinary southern trains. The queue at Victoria is horrendous. Not so much a queue more of a flash mob near Platform 6. This could get ugly. Then they announce the train is actually on Platform 2. This could get very ugly. It's at times like these I wish I was French or German instead of the polite, do it proper, wait my turn stand in line, shy quiet reserved, complaint Englishman that I am. Hang on bugger that, they're overtaking me on the outside edge of the platform. I manouvre my 2 pull along cases so now I am taking up the space of 3 people and i have one wheel of the suitcase right on the edge of the platform. They'll have to go on the tracks to get past me now. It's a free for all down Platform 6 and along in front of Plastforms 5, 4 and 3 to get to Platform 2. Jo's holding her own in the melee that ensues as the passengers that have just disembarked the train on Platform 4 try and exit by cutting through the hordes making there way from 6 to 2. I can see all Jo's training in the Primark sale is now paying dividends as she emerges on Platform 2 with a clear view of the train to Gatwick. We sprint along Platform 2. This train is pretty long. We overtake the elderly and the infirm, those with infants and suitcases which are quite clearly over every airlines size and weight restrictions. Suddendly platform officials are blowing whistles and shouting we should board immediately as the train is about to depart. With that we leap into the next carriage surprised to find that it's half empty and we've got seats. So our train, with plenty of available seats in the front carriages, and standing room only in the rear carriages, departs a still crowded Platform 2 dead on time! Good old southern rail.

Its a short covered walk to the Hilton at gatwick airport south terminal where we check in and almost immediately go back into the airport to drop our cases at the Virgin check in for our flight on Monday morning. After checking our bags in we have a pint and a meal at Wetherspoons and return to our hotel for a good nights rest. Breakfast in the Garden Restaurant at the Hilton was good and then a short stroll into the airport and straight through security in plenty of time for some airport retail therapy. Jo must be really relaxed the amount of therapy she got. We board to find someone in our seat, he moves and we feel a little guilty as he had a broken foot. We settle into our seats and we are airborne before we know it.

Posted by justchilling 17:30 Archived in England Tagged london airport cuba havana hilton gatwick Comments (0)

Goodbye Daios Cove

sunny 30 °C

Friday morning and it's our last day, we fly home at stupid o'clock tonight. Our airport taxi pick up is coming for us at 7-30 pm so we are going to make the best of our last day here and spend it on the private beach at Daios Cove, the sunbeds are the comfiest I think I've ever laid on. We have to vacate our room at 12 midday. We could extend our check out to 6-00pm if we wanted but I thought 60 euros was a bit steep! Anyway they will allow us free use of a courtesy room, 5-00pm to 6-00pm with all the same facilities as our room except no private infinity pool, how will we cope? A leisurely breakfast and then the rest of the morning packing. We called for a golf buggy to take our luggage for safe keeping and we settled on the beach for the duration of the afternoon. It's over 30 today phew! After using the courtesy room we head to the taverna for dinner and enjoy an excellent meal, a bit better than eating at the airport or on the plane. We collect our luggage and amazingly for Greece, our taxi is dead on time. We say our goodbyes and are whisked away by our taxi driver. At Heraklion, lest we have forgotten, we are quickly reminded that we are at a Greek airport. There are cars, coaches, luggage trolleys and people everywhere. There are the usual package holiday queues outside under long bus type shelters, snaking the full length of the outside of the airport building. We join the easyjet queue inside to drop our bags and go through passport control. If you thought outside was chaos you should see it on the other side. Queues for toilets, queues for refreshments, queueus for duty free shopping, even queues for a seat - it's mayhem. The air conditioning isn't noticeable and there appear to be two competing alarms sounding, as if doors that shouldn't be opened have been left open somewhere. It's almost as effective a form of torture as water boarding, I imagine. Eventually we are called to our gate and we then experience that impossible marriage of Greek organisation and easyjet speedy boarders! Indignant people holding bits of papers aloft saying 'we're speedy boarders!' Eventually the poor Greek chap has to surrender or suffer more cries of 'speedy boarders' and he allows them to form their own separate queue. The speedy boarders are placated and marginally a little less hot under the collar. More queuing ensues. Then the traps are opened and the speedy boarders are allowed through an open door to form another queue just outside on some steps but, this being Greece, ordinary passengers i.e. Non-speedy boarders are accidentally released at the same time, yours truly included. By the way it's worth pointing out at this stage that Easyjet now allocate seat numbers so we have all known where we are sitting since we self-checked-in online before we set off from the UK! So now there is a queue on the steps just outside the gate doors, yes we've moved approximately 5 meters from inside the building to outside the building, of a mix of resentful speedy boarders still holding their bits of paper aloft and rather smug ordinary passengers who haven't paid a premium price to be able to hold a piece of paper aloft. The airport ground service girl is severely rebuked by a much larger Greek chap when she makes the decision to lift the rope at the bottom of the stairs to allow a stampede of passengers, including non-speedy boarders, to board the awaiting bus. He's a big chap and he steps across calling 'speedy boarders only' at which point the said group of people still waiving their bits if paper, appear from various places up the stairs and in the queue and start fighting their way to the front 'excuse me, I'm a speedy boarder, look I have a piece of paper' At this point I suddenly notice Jo has a double who is a speedy boarder. I catch a glimpse of her, no piece of paper being waved, striding past the big Greek in his dayglow safety vest, and she settles into a seat on the bus. I follow avoiding eye contact, I hold my ordinary boarding pass aloft, I'm not checked and I too board the bus and take my seat. It soon becomes apparent as the bus doors close and we lurch forward on our way to the awaiting aircraft that the bus contains a heady mix of speedy boarders and quick witted ordinary boarders. We pull up along side our plane but the bus doors do not open. We are obviously much too fast speedy boarders as they aren't ready to allow us to speedy board. The bus is packed with boarders of all categories. It's stifling and the speedy boarders now find a new use for their pieces of paper. Rather than indicators of a higher status of airline passenger they now use these documents as personal fanning devices and wave them rapidly to and fro in front of their ever reddening faces. I imagine the newspaper headlines the next day... "A group of Easyjet passengers were found dead packed into a sealed airport bus on the tarmac at Heraklion airport yesterday. The first to suffocate were the speedy boarders" Eventually we are released from captivity and there is a sprint to the awaiting aeroplane steps. Jo and I saunter across the tarmac holding aloft our boarding passes which confirm we are to be seated in 28A and 28B and our empty seats await us. We arrive in Manchester in the rain at exactly the same time as the speedy boarders.

Posted by justchilling 02:50 Archived in Greece Tagged crete heraklion_airport daios_cove_luxury_resort Comments (0)

Gridlock in Aghios Nikolaos

sunny 30 °C

Thursday night, our last night. We decided to drive into Aghios Nikolaos. Now there's a couple of things you need to know about this place. It sits on a bit of a promentory and is therefore surrounded by the sea on three sides. It is impossibly always busy with pedestrianised streets and a one way traffic system that can rival kendal for the title of most confusing. It has an inland lake, it's really a bit of a sea inlet around which bars and restaurants have congregated to make it all in all a very pleasant place to sit, eat, drink and generally watch the world pass by. There is also a port and the more observant amongst you will recall we caught a boat trip here to spinalonga island. Well the plan was to drive in, park as near as we could and spend a couple of hours in a suitable establishment around the inland lake. The lights from the main road to the turning for the town seemed to be in our favour, traffic was moving and we were heading in the right direction. Amazingly we drove straight into town, straight to the harbour and straight into a car park with spaces close to where the boats were, 3 euros, thank you very much. What a doddle, the peugeot 107 automatic in pillar box red had behaved itself with no erratic gear choices, all in all mission accomplished. Now lets stroll to that lake for a well earned cafe frappacino with ice cream on the rocks and settle down for some people watching. Well, we strolled, and strolled some more but could we find the lake. We were near the boats so it must be around here somewhere. Up here said Jo, around this corner said I but no sign of the lovely inland lake with the restaurants and bars. Then we spotted a map with a you are here arrow on it. Sure enough there we were next to the boats. It was at this point we made the startling revelation that aghios nicoliaos, as well as being spelt several incorrect ways, has a harbour and a marina, both with boats but only one of them is next to an inland lake, sadly not the one we were next to parked in the marina car park. We got our bearings from the 'you are here map' jumped in the peugeot 107 automatic in pillar box red and travelled all of one street, it looked further on the 'you are here map' and there we could see the inland lake. Could we find a parking space? There were cars everywhere, every inch of kerb side parking was taken and we seemed to be getting further and further away from the inland lake with nice restaurants and bars. Finally I spotted a fiat seicento manual in cobalt blue about to move off. I stopped all the traffic behind me and signalled and waited for the driver of the vehicle to put something in the boot, open the drivers door, go back to the boot, open it and get something out, go back to the drivers door which had now shut again by itself. The queue behind me grew but we stood firm and resolute, avoiding any kind of eye contact with the drivers of the vehicles behind us. The seicento driver got in but didn't close the door. She leant across the passenger seat, I imagined to do something with the glove box. She sat upright in her seat. She closed her door. Still we waited. The peugeot 107 automatic in pillar box red demonstrated its frustration by setting a noisy fan in motion under the bonnet, we were all overheating. She looked in her rear view mirror and smoothed a couple of annoying stray hairs on the side of her head. How could she possibly contemplate driving off in a fiat seicento manual in cobalt blue with two hairs out of place! The queue by now was as far back in my rear view mirror as I could see. For a moment there was no movement from inside her car. Both driver and car were motionless. Then a faint shudder of the vehicle and brake lights appeared. Hurray! She knows how to stop it, let's see if she knows how to make it move. A reversing light, a good sign. It reversed, signalled, she again checked the rear view mirror and to her astonishment there was a nice peugeot 107 automatic in pillar box red waiting to let her out. That was the last we saw of the fiat seicento manual in cobalt blue. I didn't attempt any fancy parallel parking manoeuvre, I drove in as quickly as possible. It wasn't prettily parked and amazingly, as the queue of traffic drove past, they couldn't see anyone in the red peugeot 107 automatic in pillar box red as both driver and passenger were about as low as they could possibly get in their respective seats. Once all cars had passed we readjusted our kirb side position, locked up and went for that well earned drink, sat in a comfy chair, in a very pleasant bar by the inland lake and we watched the world and his dog go about their business.

Posted by justchilling 02:22 Archived in Greece Tagged crete aghios_nikolaos Comments (0)

Most Southern Town in Europe

What more mountains!

sunny 29 °C

Thursday morning and an early start, well for one of us anyway. Took some early morning photos of the resort before anybody was about. Then after another superb breakfast we set off for Ierapetra, the most southerly European town not only famous for that but also the biggest expanse of greenhouses you have ever seen in your life. Checked out the old town and the fortress and had coffee with a load of old Greek locals onviously putting the world to rights. Think they may also have been taking the p**s out of my favourite holiday shirt! The drive back took us through the centre of greenhouse land and up into the mountains past the reservoir. Some glorious scenery and the whole place smells like a herb garden because of the abundance of wild thyme growing everywhere. Loads of kodak moments, some scary bends in the road and the peugeot 107 automatic in pillar box red absolutely clueless as to what gear it should be selecting! Back to the resort for Pitta stuffed with herbs, with Tzatziki and olive bread with olive and tomato tapenade, does it get any better? A good old laze on a sunbed on the pool terrace and a dip in the pool followed by a ride in the funicular elevator and a lift from reception to our room in the back of a golf buggy. Time for a snooze before getting ready for dinner.20130620_054246.jpg

Posted by justchilling 08:05 Archived in Greece Tagged greece crete ierapetra Comments (0)

Elounda, elluva place

sunny 28 °C

Drove to Elounda after breakfast. Lots of boats skipping over to spinalonga island every 20 miuntes but already got that tee-shirt. Did some shopping, got some goodies to take back to the office. Beach in front of the calm lagoon looked inviting sospent some time there soaking up the sun, very hot. Swimming was perfect as it was very calm and still and extremely floaty, hardly had to paddle. A few long tall frappes with ice cream in fact the best I've had this holiday. Decided we'd drive across the causeway. Could we find the turning anywhere? Went down a few likely looking dirt tracks ended up parking down one of these and walking accross. Back to the resort for a plunge in to infinity and a relax before dressing for dinner.

Posted by justchilling 07:47 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

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