December 31, 2018

Hooray!

So here we all are approaching the end of another year and thinking, possibly, of what the new one will have in store. For myself, I’m not looking too far ahead, except for one thing maybe. I’ve decided to put off the work I have planned to renovate and restore my house. The main reason is that the last couple of years have been somewhat traumatic for me, wth my losing most of 2017 because of ill-health and much of 2018 recovering from the effects of the treatment.

I figure that if I go ahead with the work on my house, I’ll probably end up being totally occupied by it for most of 2019 with the effect that I’ll end up effectively losing another one. This will mean that my flying activities and other forms of enjoyment will most likely be curtailed and in particular, I might miss out yet again on being able to fly my Savannah back to the UK.

So with Brexit also hanging over us and with the potential for the £Sterling remaining unstable for at least the first half of the coming year, I’ve made the decision, and that’s that. I’ll continue making my house more comfortable and dealing with any matters requiring closer attention, such as its roof, but the main work that I’ve planned will be deferred until 2020.

So now what? My first thought was how best to get through the coming weeks of this winter. ‘Regular’ readers might recall that in February of this year following the end of my chemo treatment, I went off for a short all-inclusive break in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada in Egypt to get some sun in order to kick-start my recovery. And I throughly enjoyed it. After arriving at the hotel I just wanted to lie in the sun, read a few novels that I’d brought with me, eat, drink and enjoy the hospitality on offer.

So that’s what I did and very pleasurable it was too. I didn’t want to involve myself in any of the available ‘activities’ and wasn’t interested in going off on excursions so once there it cost me very little over and above the costs of the flights and the hotel as everything in the hotel, food, drinks, snacks, refreshments, were free. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I mentioned in a post after my return that I’d think about going again the following year, and that’s what I’ve decided to do, with some very pleasantly surprising results.

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I’ve decided to go back to the same hotel in Hurghada, the 5* Hawaii Aqua Park Resort. Last time I booked the whole break with Thomas Cook France and in the post that I mentioned on my return, I said that cursory enquiries on the internet suggested that if I booked myself direct, I could make a saving of around 50€ on the total cost. I didn’t think that this was worth bothering with in view of the extra trouble and effort involved but when I checked a few days ago, I was surprised to find that right now, Thomas Cook has nothing comparable on offer.

So that left me with Hobson’s Choice and I began my search to see what I could put together myself. Last time I went for ‘7 nights’ travelling Turkish Airways in both directions, via Istanbul, so that was my starting point. However, the description was something of a misnomer because I arrived in the early hours of the next day after commencing travelling and left in the early hours of the last day, so I didn’t really enjoy a proper 7-night stay.

But anyway, when I checked Turkish Airlines, although I would still face the same problem of arriving and leaving Hurghada in the early hours, I found that they didn’t have flghts available that would allow me a ‘7-night’ stay. A bit less or a bit more, but not 7 nights, so the obvious solution seemed to me to add a couple of days to my planned stay to fit in with the flights that were on offer.

The next thing was to find a hotel. A few nights ago I came across an amazingly low offer for the dates that I was interested in at a different all-inclusive resort to last time and made a mental note to book it later. However, as the offer included free cancellation up to a day or two beforehand, I thought that it would be silly to miss it and went back the next day. It had gone and the cost had increased by almost 100€, so this was proof yet again that ‘he who hesitates…’

So time then to search and see what was on offer for my original hotel. It had several ‘garden’ apartments at ground level outside the main hotel overlooking the gardens and pools and LastMinute France had an excellent offer available for my dates. It would mean that I’d have to walk the short distance to the main hotel building for meals and refreshments but this didn’t seem to me to be too onerous and I tried to make the booking. About ten times, but every time the web site failed to take my payment due to a system error, so I gave up and began looking elsewhere

I found another web site, Destinia, which is Spanish I think, offering a better price than LastMinute for a room in the hotel’s main building and although it was slightly higher than the price the latter had quoted for a garden apartment, I decided to book it. This time everything went smoothly so that just left me with the task of booking my flights.

The world of cheap airline flights is murky and confusing and I’m not sure that it’s one that anyone understands. Instead we are all in the hands of ‘booking engines’ on web sites which do some mystifying things after they’ve finished searching for the most competitive flights for you, as I indeed found. I knew that I could book Turkish Airlines in any event but thought that it would be interesting to see what else I could find, and I’m glad that I did.

After trying all the usual ones, I came across a web site called Bravofly. When I typed in my planned dates, it came up with some very interesting results, both in terms of timings and prices. In particular, it found me a flight the next day after my planned date of travel that allowed me to arrive in Hurghada in the early afternoon as well as a return flight also leaving at a civilised hour mid-morning. This made me think about bringing my ‘leave-home’ date forward by a day, and sure enough it worked.

To cut a long story short, by leaving home on the Tuesday and taking a flight from Toulouse that afternoon, I could arrive in Hurghada in the early afternoon of the next day, the day my hotel booking commenced. So here’s what I’ve now got planned.

Tuesday – leave home for a mid-morning flight from Toulouse to Brussels by Ryanair. Layover, somewhat extended unfortunately, at Charleroi but so what, I’ll be on holiday!

Wednesday – flight from Charleroi to Hurghada by Tui Air

Friday week – flight from Hurghada to London Stansted by Easyjet. Layover, fairly brief, at Stansted.

Saturday – flight from London Stansted to Toulouse by Ryanair.

And now the best bits. Last time I had a ‘7-night’ break that really wasn’t because I arrived in the early hours of the day after commencing travelling and left in the early hours of the final day. This time I will be able to enjoy a full 9-night stay in the hotel and travel, with some minor inconveniences due to unavoidable lay-overs, at more civilised times.

But the very best bit is that last time my Thomas Cook booking cost just over 627€ including insurance whereas this time, by booking it myself and making a large saving on my flight costs, I will get a longer break for less – just 535€ including insurance. So I think that a little bit of web-surfing was well worth the effort and now I just can’t wait to go 😉

As a footnote, to amuse myself I checked with Bravofly to see if I could save even more money by driving to Brussels and flying from there direct to Hurghada and back. No. The simple return flight on one airline would actually have cost more than my present arrangement involving three different airlines and a leg via London Stansted. So, cheap flights, a murky world or what!

In conclusion, thanks to all those who have commented on My Trike and sent me messages during the past year. They were all greatly appreciated and I hope that we will be able to continue the journey together for a long time to come.

I’ll be making more posts here before I leave for my sunshine break but for now it’s ‘Joyeuse Année’ to all my French-speaking friends and ‘Happy New Year’ to my English-speaking ones. May you all receive what you want the most but may you and those you love especially enjoy a year of peace and good health.

December 29, 2018

Back in the air

After a few weeks’ break, with a precious cargo. But on a terribly murky day. I hadn’t flown for a while due to getting my house ready for the extended planned visit of my sister and brother-in-law so I was keen to get airborne in any case. So when Wim said that his 15-year-old granddaughter, who has ambitions of becoming a pilot, would be excited at the idea of a flight before leaving for home today after visiting with her family, I jumped at the idea of treating her to one.

But first I needed to make sure that 77ASY was all good and ready to go after standing hangar-bound for several weeks, so after repairing a hose that had split on my electric refuelling pump, I topped up the tanks and did a short local flight taking in Condat and Galinat on the afternoon of 26 December with the idea of taking the young lady on a longer flight the next day.

I didn’t take my camera with me so was only able to take few shots with my phone whose camera I’ve now decided is all but useless due to its abysmal quality. First a shot on the grass at Condat.

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Two more parked at Galinat in the feeble winter sunshine.

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Any idea of doing a flight the next day was dashed, however. We are currently in a high-pressure period with very little wind and as a consequence, we’re being dogged by banks of very low cloud and mist. The trouble is that the cloud cover is preventing the sun breaking through to raise the temperature to burn the mist off and as there is little or no wind to clear it away, some days are remaining cold and gloomy from dawn until dusk. And unfortunately, Thursday 27th was one of those days.

So it was fingers crossed that conditions would improve by yesterday as that was the last day my young passenger would be able to fly and luckily, although it was still far from an ideal day, we did manage to get up and away. Here’s the route that I’d had planned, taking in landings at Sarlat, Figeac-Livernon and Fumel, the latter being a first for me even though it’s only about half-an-hour’s flying time in the Savannah from Malbec.

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We overflew Galinat but didn’t land there as I’d found two days before that the runway had been badly damaged by wild boar and didn’t want to take any risks, having a passenger on board. Flying conditions deteriorated quite dramatically the further south and east that we flew, with visibilty decreasing due to mist and the cloud base lowering to not much more than 2000ft. I shot a video of the flight that I’ll be processing and editing shortly and a screen shot from it taken as we were approaching Figeac shows what I’m talking about.

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But we made it OK. It had brightened up quite nicely by the time we took off from Malbec and although there were a few bumps due to the broken low cloudbase, conditions were still pretty good by the time we got to Sarlat. Rather unsurprisingly, there was nobody around and I noticed when we taxied in and parked that the airfield had had a bit of a spruce-up with newly painted lines and new yellow markers for what is now the long-term grass parking area, as can be seen in the next shot.

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We didn’t hang around for very long and as there was nobody else flying in the area, after taking off on runway 28, I did an immediate sharp right-hand turn to head off for Figeac. The further east we flew, the less broken the cloudbase became until we were eventually just below the base of continuous cover. And it became noticeably colder too. However, despite being considerably reduced, visibility remained quite safe to fly in and eventually Figeac hoved into view.

I called and approached normally but it was evident that yet again, there was nobody else flying in the area. After parking in front of the clubhouse and taking the following shot, I did find that there was a young chap in the aero club who was thinking about flying and planned to top up the tanks of the club’s Cessna 152, which he was doing when we eventually taxied out to take off. We didn’t hang around too long because it was actually pretty cold outside the aircraft!

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Next stop Fumel. The route there took us back out of the murk and the sunshine began to break through the increasingly more broken cloudbase as we proceeded westwards. I also noticed that the radio traffic was growing in volume, from several aircraft operating at Belvès, which we were getting closer to by the minute the more we headed west.

By the time we were approaching Fumel, the sky was quite bright with broken patches of cloud so it wasn’t difficult spotting the airfield, which is on a plateau with only a single runway with no taxiway and access only at its northern end. It was again clear that nobody else was flying in the area but I still did the normal radio calls and an overhead join to approach and land left downwind for runway 35. Here are the final shots that I took there with my young passenger out stretching her legs before taking off on the final leg to return to Malbec.

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Shortly after leaving Fumel, we passed overhead Belvès town and to the east of the airfield. We were well clear of the airfield zone and circuit but could clearly see the aircraft in the pattern and were surprised by how slowly they seemed to be flying!

The whole flight took just over two hours including engine starts, taxying, takeoffs and landings. It was definitely not the best day to fly but it was warm enough in the Savannah’s cabin with a bit of hot air coming in from the engine’s exhaust. It blew my cobwebs away anyway, and my passenger also said that she’d enjoyed every minute, so taken all round, it was well worthwhile 😉

December 13, 2018

All change… again

And quickly too! My sister and brother-in-law, bless them, arrived as scheduled for what was supposed to be a six week stay over Christmas and New Year. After weeks of non-stop work I’d managed to get everything ready for their arrival but nothing went to plan right from day one and finally, due to a medical emergency, it was decided that they should cut their visit short and return home again. So after arriving as planned on 1st December, I sadly waved them good-bye on Tuesday 11th.

So our immediate plans have unfortunately now been cancelled, which is deeply saddening as we hadn’t seen each other for two years on account of my own ill health last year. We’re hoping that we’ll be able to arrange something for the Spring, maybe with my flying over to the UK in the Savannah, but we’ll have to wait for now and see what transpires.

I’m hoping to be able to make the trip for more than just the one reason because Roger, a friend of Micro-Trike who is moving to the Charente this month, is planning to fly his Shadow over at that time and we’ve loosely pencilled in the possibility of doing the trip down together, from Headcorn at least as far as the Loire, possibly Saumur, before going our separate ways. It’s an exciting prospect if it should come off.

But that’s for the future. Between now and then are Christmas and New Year and I’m sitting here for the moment wondering what to do with myself 😐