A somewhat ironic title given that as I type this on my laptop we’ve been without electricity for around five hours following some fierce winds that we experienced late morning and it’s just starting to get dark. But that’s not what this post is about.
Following the conclusion of my 8 month course of chemo in early 2018 I felt the need for some winter sunshine to boost my spirit and restore my feeling of well-being and booked a short break in an all-inclusive hotel in Hurghada on the Egyptian Red Sea coast. This did the trick and I came back feeling much better for the experience.
So much so that I decided to do the same thing again last year despite my health needs not being foremost that time around and felt all the better for it. Afterwards, although I’d enjoyed it and planned taking some winter sun the following year, I thought that I wouldn’t return to the same place again but would instead seek out another destination. But after looking at the alternatives the economics of going to Egypt again are the deciding factor and I’ll be off again to the same hotel at the end of this coming January.
And I’m delighted with what I’ve been able to arrange for my upcoming visit. The first time I went I booked through Thomas Cook and got 7 nights in the hotel having arrived after midnight on the first one for a total of just under 627€ including taxes.
Last year Thomas Cook was not offering a similar package (it was on its way to going bust) so I decided to make my own travel and hotel bookings and by doing so I got 9 nights in the same hotel, again arriving at past midnight on the first one, for just over 535€. So I made a saving of nearly 100€ for a stay of two more nights, thus revealing what Thomas Cook’s problem was in trying to stay afloat when people like me have the power of the internet at their fingertips.
But last year I was to find that there were two major problems, both actually as a result of my connecting flight to Hurghada being with Belgian-based TUI. The most major was that it departed from Charleroi which must offer one of the worst customer experiences in the whole of Europe.
The terminal offends the eye by being decorated in shades of black and grey but that was not the main source of my misery, which was two-fold. Firstly, in order to make my connection I had to catch a morning flight from Toulouse which meant that in order to be sure of making it, it was best to travel the day before and stay in a hotel close to the airport, thus incurring an extra cost. But the worst was yet to come.
The timing of the flight from Toulouse meant that I had an overnight layover at Charleroi of over 16 hours which turned out to be one of the most excruciatingly awful experiences of my life. I was in the company of several hundred other unfortunate souls doing the same thing, but not by choice I’m sure because not only was there only enough seating for not much more than half of the people, but what there was was cramped and extremely uncomfortable.
And I say that as one of the lucky ones who did get a seat and did not end up either lying on the floor or on their cases or on anything else they could find, like old baggage pallets. The year before I’d had a night-time layover at Istanbul but it was shorter and at least the seating on offer was somewhat more comfortable. I for one will in future try to avoid Charleroi like the plague, especially if I have to stay over there for any length of time and especially if at night.
TUI also have a ridiculous baggage policy, rather like Ryanair. With the latter, though, although you can nominally only take a small bag on board, you can take a ‘proper’ case for an extra 12€, which is disingenuous but is, at least, transparent. With TUI, however, you are saddled with only being allowed a smallish overnight size case and if you want to take something larger you incur a fairly large financial penalty.
As a result I ended up taking just a small case with me, much of which was filled with the books that I took with me to read in the sun and it didn’t help when I saw the locals boarding at Charleroi with much larger cases, apparently ignoring TUI’s rules and getting away with it.
So what of this year? I’m delighted to say that I’ve managed to do even better than last year in almost every way! Firstly, I’ve succeeded in booking flights plus a stay of 11 nights for just over 569€, so two more nights for just over 30€ more. But that’s just the start. And this time all of the flights that I’m taking to get to Hurghada are with Easyjet and that alone offers a whole bunch of benefits.
Firstly, they allow a Cabinmax size case on-board, the largest permitted by any airline, at no extra charge so this year I’ll be able to take all the books that I want plus a decent amount of clothing. Secondly, I’ll be setting off from Bordeaux in the evening, so no need to leave the day before and incur an overnight stay in a hotel.
Also, the connection to Hurghada will be made at Geneva, which I hope will be more accommodating than Charleroi. There will be another overnight layover, but this time half of the duration of the one at Charleroi last year, thank goodness, and I’ll also be arriving in Hurghada at a civilised time and not in the middle of the night.
So is that all? No! The return flights via Easyjet will also be through Geneva but with only the briefest of waits for the connection to Bordeaux where once again I’ll be arriving at the reasonable hour of 9.00 pm giving me time for a comfortable drive back home.
Taken all round, I’m incredibly pleased with this year’s plans even if I will be going back to the same hotel for the third time. And there’s one last thing. Last year I flew out from Toulouse and back in again by Ryanair. Receiving the boarding pass for the outbound flight was OK because I was able to download it at home before I left. However, due to Ryanair’s petty, in my view, policy of only providing the boarding pass for the inbound flight just before you need it, while you are still abroad, I did not receive mine which was sent while I was actually at Stansted but with a flat phone battery.
Consequently I had to go to the Ryanair customer service desk (an oxymoron if ever there was one) where I had to pay an extra £20 for the privilege of having one printed out in order to board. Easyjet, on the other hand, sends you all of the boarding passes you need for your flights with them before you go. Guess who I’ll be flying with again next time if I get the chance 😉
BTW, at the time of posting it’s been completely dark for quite a while – no electricity for over 10 hours… 😐
Update, 4 November. The electricity came back on again at just before 2.00 pm today, so we had a power-out of just over 26 hours, one of the longest for some time. It came back on again while I was trying to get my old generator to work that I brought with me from the UK and haven’t used for something like four, or even more, years. It looks as though no fuel is getting through so its carburettor needs to be stripped and cleaned.
I’m wondering if I have the enthusiasm for it. I bought it second-hand so it doesn’t owe me much and I think I’ll probably put it onto Leboncoin ‘for parts’ and buy a new one. The question is, is it worth it? A few of my neighbours had theirs running but although power-outs happen quite frequently, long ones are quite rare. I’ll have to think about it before shelling out…