Tag Archives: Holidays

Day 1 – Ah, the ineffable glamour of intercontinental travel!

Saturday 17 February 2024  – It all started so well, too.

We are travelling to Antarctica via Argentina, and in Argentina, we arrive in Buenos Aires before a transfer down to the bowels of Tierra del Fuego – Ushuaia, whence our cruise departs on Tuesday. Our outbound flight, a mere 16 hours of it, including popping in to Rio de Janeiro en route, was due to depart at 2210, leaving us the whole of the day to make final preparations before allowing us slightly too long to spend staring at each other with scarcely-concealed tension as we awaited the taxi.

Arrive it did, and whisked us off to Heathrow Terminal 5 with the recommended three hours still to elapse before the flight was due to leave.  The good thing about departing at this time on a Saturday evening is the lack of queues – we cleared security in a trice and headed for the lounge, an indulgence we’d granted ourselves to ease the rigours of such a long journey.

During the afternoon, we’d had a minor attack of the vapours when Tripcase, the website I use to store our itineraries, reported that our flight was delayed, first by 30 minutes and then by an hour. The BA app would hear nothing of this, and in the end even Tripcase shuffled its electronic feet and muttered that actually the flight wasn’t delayed after all.  So, having rescheduled our taxi, I unrescheduled it and so we found ourselves in the BA lounge with some two and a half hours to go.

After about an hour, Tripcase piped up again to tell us that our flight was now delayed by 80 minutes. I decided to ignore this, but then it was BA who had to shuffle its feet and admit that the departure time really was now 2330. So we settled down with a glass of something to await developments.

After about another hour, a member of staff came over, shuffled his feet and admitted that they were about to close the lounge, so we would have to leave. However, consolation was offered in the shape of access to the first class lounge downstairs. Off we trooped, where the Magic Access Code of “249” (our flight number) got us in.

The lounge is vast. And it was pretty much empty,

and underserved in one crucial area,

not that it mattered, since it was by now a bit too late to start in on the gin and also because before very long at all they called our flight anyway, so off we trooped again, through a very spookily empty departure hall.

Our gate involved a train ride. And a Sliding Doors moment. Jane was speedier than I was down the escalator, and headed towards the shuttle just as they announced that the doors were closing. So she made it through, and I, being not about to test whether the door mechanism had a “do not crush travellers” safety override, didn’t. This left me as the single person awaiting the return of the shuttle, another spooky and lonely experience.

When you are in an airport departure hall separated from your passport and boarding pass and you’re waiting for the shuttle that will reconnect you, time passes, I can tell you, slowly. But Jane and I reconnected at the gate, where they were just calling our group for boarding.

It was immediately apparent that this boarding process was not going to be straightforward. Instead of heading towards the aircraft, we were shuffled into one of those zig-zag queue arrangements.  This is the situation, then, at 22.32.

Here it is again at 22.53.

20 minutes of standing with a 13kg backpack whilst not knowing why the actual fuck we weren’t  being allowed on the aircraft was very frustrating, particularly since it looked like the odd individual was drifting past the queue and moving on. There were also a lot of people in BA suits doing the “walk fast and look worried whilst talking into a mobile phone” thing, which is rarely a comforting sight.

Eventually, some moments after they had vouchsafed that they were doing “final security checks”, we were allowed on to the plane, which pushed back at 23.25, so decently on the rescheduled time.  The nice captain came on the blower to apologise for the delay, which was caused by a technical problem with the original aircraft (an Airbus, so, whatever the problem was, all its doors were still attached), and we were all jolly glad that BA could rustle up a spare.

From that point on, things proceeded as expected, except that I declined a drink or dinner; it didn’t seem a good idea to have Fillet of Hampshire Pork Loin or a Butter Chicken Curry at midnight if I then wanted to get some sleep.  So I just got my head down. I think this is the first time ever on an intercontinental flight that I haven’t had a drink or watched a film. They even had Oppenheimer available, but I spurned this offer in favour of some shut-eye.

The rest of the journey passed off entirely uneventfully. We stopped for an hour or so in Rio de Janeiro whilst all of the crew and a good number of the passengers were exchanged for new versions, and eventually arrived in Buenos Aires at around midday. The formalities at the border were swiftly dispatched, and our bags duly arrived on the carousel about three minutes after I started getting worried.

We were met by the impressively well-organised Mariana, who whistled up a driver to take us into the city. On the 40-minute journey she told us about all the great things we could do: antique market! wine tasting!! shopping!!!  Since we’re (a) only here overnight and (b) only one of cares about only one of those things, we let them pass, but worked out the bare bones of a plan that suited us for when we get back to Buenos Aires, on 13 March.  In the interim, we got a couple of recommendations for places to eat.

At the hotel our room was ready for us (praise be!) and so we relaxed a bit before going out for a walk. Obviously.

My original plan was to include some pictures from the walk, but actually it was a very engaging experience, one that is well suited for its own blog post.  So, this post is merely a self-indulgent ramble about the vagaries of intercontinental travel. The next one (a) takes the story on a little further and (b) has some more interesting photos in it.  I will now start writing it whilst you skim through this one.  See you soon, I hope!


Gran Canaria Day 8 – Bandama Run

Friday March 11 2022 – The day started with the usual mixed feelings; sad to be leaving, but with a sneaky feeling that it might be nice to be home again after two splendid weeks away.  Read on to see whether that latter hope was actually realised.

We checked out of the hotel, having given the excellent Augustin at reception our feedback on the restaurant (which, by the way, he seemed to be in agreement with).  Then, since Jane hadn’t done the hike up Bandama, the local volcano, that I had enjoyed, and since there was a road available to its top, we thought we’d spend a few minutes driving up to take a look. It’s a drive with its own idiosyncrasies.

We made it without actually crashing in any significant way, and went right up to the mirador to look at the view.

In one direction, it’s a great panorama.

In the distance, towards the right of the photo above, you can see the island’s capital, Las Palmas, and the peninsula of La Isleta beyond it.

Walk round to the other side of the mirador, and this is what you see;

further proof, were it needed, that you can put a golf course on the side of a volcano. This is the same crater that I saw during my hike of a couple of days earlier.

Before wisdom prevailed and I forswore golf for the rest of my days, I had developed quite an astonishing slice; I think I would have been in real trouble right from the first tee, given that playing your ball from inside a volcanic crater is not easy.

That view was the last great piece of scenery of a great couple of weeks exploring two of the Canary Islands.  The rest of the day was spent in the relatively dull administrative side of getting home – returning the hire car, sitting on a delayed flight awaiting takeoff, stumbling through the dark and cold and rain from the taxi back in the UK, discovering that the boiler had broken down a week before and the house was freezing, that kind of thing.

That last item quite ruined our plans for a relaxing final glass of something cold in a post-vacational glow at home.  Instead, we put a drip tray under the apparently now-leaking boiler, made a cup of tea and climbed into pajamas to try to keep warm during the night, with a firm plan to try to get the boiler mending people out on the next day. This last plan was also kyboshed by Jane’s honesty in confessing that we’d been in The Foreign for a couple of weeks; now, it turns out, we have to do two Covid LFT tests, 24 and 48 hours after we landed in the UK, before (assuming they are negative) they’ll even consider looking in the appointment diary; so it may be several days before we’re warm again. The only consolation is that excess electricity provided by our very recently-installed solar panels has at least furnished us with hot water in our tank without actually collapsing our roof.


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(We’re also lucky in having a gas fire so we can at least keep warm whilst we check that we are not plague-ridden in order to receive the necessary service visit.)

And that’s about it for the holiday.  It’s now Saturday 12th March, and we have kept our spirits up by continuing what had become something of a habit during our time in the Canaries – a glass of something cold followed by a decent lunch (although we had to cook this one ourselves).

We’ve had a great couple of weeks, exploring two very different islands.  The weather was by and large wonderful, the scenery was superb and overall the experience was just what a holiday should be.  If you’ve been following the blog for the last couple of weeks, thank you for your company, and come back to these pages in a couple of months (all other things being equal)  to read about our next excursion, which should be a great deal more exotic.  See you then!


Afterthoughts: So…..Croatia, eh?

In the midst of dealing with the fallout from being away for a fortnight (laundry, mainly, though having lots of nice cups of tea also features heavily), I think it’s worth gathering our thoughts about the last couple of weeks and sharing them here, just in case it helps others planning something similar. Generally, both Jane and I thoroughly enjoyed our experience of Croatia and would heartily recommend it (particularly the Dalmatian coast) as a walking and/or sailing destination.

Timing. July and August can be fiercely hot all over Croatia. The best time to visit is May or (like we did) September. This is the second time we’ve visited in that month and the weather we experienced was, by and large, lovely. The Croatian tourist season runs out at the end of September or very early in October and things start to wind down quite markedly, so getting hotel rooms later than September might be challenging.

Walking. Our experience of walking in Dalmatia is very positive, but it was definitely a good thing to have thoroughly researched the level of difficulty in prospect, and the levels of fitness required, before booking the walking tour. We were operating towards the top end of our range with many of the group younger (and fitter) than us… Anyhoo:

  • The tracks are plentiful and well-marked (though I wonder how many of them we would have found without having an expert guide to do this for us).
  • Most of the routes we undertook were short on shade, which means that the walking can be pretty hot work, and taking lots of water is essential.
  • The tap water is perfectly drinkable, so take your own bottles and refill.
  • Very few of the walks we did passed any outposts of civilisation, so it’s advisable to take some food with you as well.
  • Mobile signal appeared to extend over much of the terrain we covered.

Sailing. This is big business along the Dalmatian coast. There are lots and lots of sailing boats, even some small towns sport large marinas and generally this part of the Adriatic is a good place for sailing, with or without an engine (take note, however, of the section below about the weather).

Landscape. The Dalmatian landscape tends towards being mountainous and scrubby – the land is difficult to farm, being stony. So the trails through it are pleasant enough and will occasionally offer great views from the tops of hills, but are otherwise not particularly scenic and are in some cases quite challenging. Our admiration for the local people who used these trails simply to get from A to B (often with their livestock, and often despite advanced age) grew day by day! We followed a couple of trails through woodland, which were more rewarding.

Townscape. The cities we visited all had old towns, which are all worth looking around. The towns and villages are by and large somewhere between pretty and handsome – well-maintained, tidy and picturesque.

Money. Croatia is no longer the cheap destination it was, but it’s not too expensive, either. In the towns, debit cards were widely accepted in shops, cafés and restaurants, and it was easy to find ATMs. You might find places that will accept Euros, but it’s best to have local currency (Kune) available. If you’re off the beaten track, you’ll need cash to be able to buy anything.

Eating out. Tourism is an important industry in Croatia and so there is usually a plentiful supply of cafés and restaurants in the towns, with English spoken and good service.

Cuisine. As you’d expect, there’s some good fish on offer, and seafood (especially squid and octopus). But emphasis tends to be towards meat and potatoes – the vegetarians in our group had some difficulty getting anything more imaginative than a plate of grilled mixed vegetables on occasion. For non-vegetarians, a couple of traditional dishes are worth seeking out: Pašticada, a slow-cooked beef stew; and Peka, a baked dish of meat and, yes, vegetables, cooked under a dome in barbecue coals. But there’s no problem finding more cosmopolitan fare such as steak, pizza or burgers – the burgers I had were very good, and served without bread, which I prefer.

Drinking out. You’ll find that most restaurants have a limited selection of wines and what is offered is likely to have been made locally or nationally. Croatia has a well-developed wine-making tradition and the local wines are perfectly good without being stellar. Local beers tend to be of the lager persuasion and are perfectly good.

Liqueurs. Something of a Croatian speciality is the production of liqueurs based on local produce – one we found to be very nice is based on sour cherry, but you’ll also come across walnut liqueur and something called Prošek, which is grape-based and quite sweet, among other variations such as olive and cornelian cherry. These are quite often offered as a welcome drink and I think it’s polite to sample at least one…

Bloody Cruise-Ship Tourists. Many of the larger or more attractive towns in Croatia are magnets for the big cruise liners – Dubrovnik and Split have a constant stream of them during the holiday season, for example, and Trogir during the height of the season is reportedly an utter zoo. So you may find that such towns are crowded during the day.

Bloody weather. Actually, for the most part our weather was pretty much perfect – a bit hot for me for going uphill, but sunny, warm and lovely for sitting outside when eating or drinking. But the Bura wind that we experienced is capable of wreaking havoc on sailing boats and travel itineraries. I was grateful for the experience of our captain to know it was coming (it took many others by surprise) and plan accordingly; if you’re considering sailing in the Adriatic, this is the sort of thing that can become very suddenly of very great pith and moment. Having said all that, and with the benefit of hindsight and no havoc having been wreaked, we’re glad to have experienced it; apart from anything else, the Bura clears the air and the visibility after it died down somewhat was vastly improved.

For anyone interested in sailing, walking, history, archaeology and/or pretty places to visit, the Dalmatian coast of Croatia is somewhere that we think should be high on the list. We hope that these thoughts, along with the descriptions of our various vacation days, help in understanding the possibilities that Croatia presents to the tourist.