From my dose of winter sun in Hurghada, that is. And feeling much the better for it too. In fact I’ve been back for almost a week now but I’ve been sorting things out, doing things like cleaning the house, you know, all those tedious things that you know will be waiting for you when you get back from any holiday.
I’ve also been sorting out all the pictures that I wanted to post here on My Trike. It’s taken a little bit longer than usual because although I took quite a few stills, mostly I shot video on the little 4K sports cams that I use for recording flights in my aircraft. This means that I’ve had to lift screen shots off them and then crop and edit them in order to get the format and the best level of quality that I could.
Except for the shots taken in very low light, on the whole the quality of the shots that I’ve lifted from video have not turned out too badly. The trouble is, though, when you shoot with a still camera you usually only take one or two shots of a scene and leave it at that. When you shoot video, however, it’s easy to end up with so many more because each clip can produce several nice stills, and that’s exactly what’s happened.
I’ll be putting together a video in due course but don’t know if I’ll be uploading it or not. This post only contains still images, but be warned, there are over 60 of them which if you last right through to the end will take several minutes of your life to get through that you’ll never get back again! I could have put them into a picture gallery, but who looks at picture galleries? Anyway, here goes…
BORDEAUX – GENEVA
The past two times that I’ve travelled to Hurghada I’ve flown from Toulouse which is a bit of a drag to get to from where I live and also the flight times have been less than convenient, either late in the evening or first thing in the morning. I’ve also had to stop over and change airlines which have meant overnight layovers at Istanbul (not too bad) and last year at Charleroi (a nightmare – less said the better). It has also meant having to take account of each airline’s baggage rules, which resulted in my being restricted to a tiny 10kg case last year because of flying Tui for the leg from Charleroi to Hurghada.
This year I was delighted to enjoy the luxury of all my flights being with easyJet out and back from Bordeaux via Geneva with the bonus that easyJet offer, along with BA, the most generous cabin baggage allowance of all the short-haul airlines (15kg case of max dimensions 56 x 45 x 25 cm). And as my outgoing flight was scheduled for 9.30pm with just a 9 hour overnight layover at Geneva, a civilised enough place surely, what could possibly go wrong?
OK, Friday 24 January, my departure day, was a ‘jour de grève’ (strike day) in France in which air traffic controllers were, of course, involved, but I’d been monitoring Bordeaux arrivals and departures from time to time during the day and everything seemed to be flowing smoothly enough. So when I left home with plenty of time for the drive to the airport I was feeling pretty relaxed and looking forward to starting my journey to the sun.
It was dark by the time I got to Mérignac and I was gobsmacked by the amount of traffic entering the airport – two solid lanes that were only slowly inching forwards. I wasn’t worried though, as I’d allowed myself plenty of time and merely had to find parking area P4 where I’d prepaid for a parking spot (1900 hrs 24 January to 2200 hrs 5 February, 51€). Simple enough, you might think, except for one problem. There were no signposts.
I had seen a map showing the location of P4 but it was impossible to rationalise that with one’s position in this solid column of traffic. And it seemed that I was not the only one affected by this. As we came up to the first parking area, I and something like a dozen or so other vehicles turned into its entrance. Ah… this was parking P1/2, so we all had to turn round and re-enter the traffic stream.
But that was just the start. The traffic was only one-way, towards the passenger drop-off area, a pay-to-enter zone towards which we were all moving. Clearly airport management had realised the problem although they’d done nothing to deal with it eg like putting up signposts. Instead they’d gone for the more pragmatic solution of leaving the drop-off zone entrance and exit barriers open so all of the unfortunate souls like me could just drive straight through.
The problem is compounded because Mérignac airport is currently just one huge building site. OK, it’ll probably be lovely when it’s all finished (2022, 2023, later?) but presumably the unfortunate passengers will be subjected to this kind of treatment until that happens. But that still left me with the problem of finding P4 and with the possible nightmare scenario of missing it, ending back in the traffic stream and having to go around again, it didn’t bear thinking about.
I managed to ask a ‘security’ man the way but didn’t get directions that I could easily understand so just followed them the best that I could. This was tricky. Every now and again I kept seeing the odd sign to ‘Parking…’ but as none was luminous and just appeared as dark blobs, it made it hard to tell which way to go in the dark and especially with several vehicles right on my rear bumper. I thought that I saw one saying P4 so dragged the wheel to the right and went off up a rough track which brought me to a mini roundabout and… yes… a sign saying P4!!
I eventually did find my way in and here’s a shot that I took while waiting for the free shuttle bus to the terminal.
easyJet fly from terminal Billi, which is ‘low cost’ in every imaginable way, from the airlines that use it to its construction. I don’t know if it’s a permanent structure but it looks as though it wasn’t intended to be, either inside or out. Here are a couple of shots showing passenger security clearance and the beginning of the passenger waiting area.
It was immediately obvious from the mass of people in the area that departure delays had been accumulating since I’d last checked during the afternoon. In fact, nothing was moving and all of the (few) flights on the board were shown as being delayed. My flight to Geneva was the last one on the list.
So I did what everyone else had done, which was take my time having a pee and then join the massive queue for some kind of refreshment.
Slowly but surely the flights above mine on the list were called and got away, much to the delight of two guys I spoke to who were heading off to Bristol and seemed quite happy to wait as long as it took all the while they could keep knocking back their Heinekens. And at last my flight was also called and we all surged for the gate in the hope of at last leaving Billi behind us.
But there was still no relief. A large group of passengers were arguing about being asked to cough up a surcharge for some reason or other, but instead of the young easyJet agent taking them all to one side to deal with their problem and allow the rest of us to pass through unheeded, we all had to stand there and wait while the arguments went backwards and forwards. I’m afraid that customer service isn’t a French forte. Surely it couldn’t get any worse?
I’m afraid so. It turned out that because of the delay to which our flight had been subjected, we wouldn’t be able to fly into Geneva, which closes at midnight (along with the rest of Switzerland, I think). We were told that we could only fly as far as Lyon from where we’d be taken to Geneva for our onward connections by bus. Here’s a shot that I took of us all at Lyon waiting in the freezing cold foyer to board the double-decker bus that had been laid on by easyJet.
And here are some shots of the journey, crossing the frontier into Switzerland and our arrival at Geneva in the early hours of 25 January.
Geneva has a splendid, modern airport terminal. And scrupulously clean too in the Swiss way, which was lucky because there is no passenger seating to speak of and I and many other hardy souls ended up stretched out on the floor trying to catch a couple of winks while waiting for our flights several hours after we’d arrived. How thoughtful of the airport authorities to have thought of such a thing – surely nothing to do with the fact that employing a drove of cleaners who you need anyway is much, much cheaper than providing inconvenient things like chairs for passengers to sit on.
While wandering around killing time I did come across something like half a dozen seats outside the police and crew areas, but nothing like the amount of seating needed given the volume of passengers. So Geneva turned out to be yet another nightmare airport for a layover. But eventually my flight was called and I at last joined the queue at the departure gate for my flight to Hurghada, but what an effort!
GENEVA – HURGHADA
The easyJet flight to Hurghada was fine. Having bought a breakfast for myself before departing Geneva partly because it gave me a chance to sit on a proper chair at last, I didn’t bother buying anything to eat or drink on the flight. I didn’t have ‘Easy Boarding’ or whatever easyJet call their priority service but there was plenty of space for my baggage and I was comfortably esconced in a window seat that gave me good views behind the Airbus’s starboard wing.
The desert views as we descended for our approach into Hurghada were spectacular.
Our approach into Hurghada airport was from the south and eventually we turned left for final to land over the beaches, hotels and other buildings along the coastal fringe to the south of the town – there’s nothing inland apart from desert. My hotel is a few kilometres to the north of Hurghada town so was not visible.
We were transferred to the arrivals terminal by bus at which point it began to become a bit chaotic. Before passing through immigration you have to buy a visa costing $25 from one of the banks on air-side, otherwise you are turned back as I found when I came the first time. The problem is that there are only two of them and as several flights had arrived bringing passengers from various parts of Europe speaking several different languages, the queues and the delay were considerable.
However, I eventually got through, found a taxi outside the terminal (the taxi driver found me by grabbing my case out of my hand) and after negotiating the fare to my hotel (50€ demanded, 20€ offered, 30€ demanded, 20€ agreed, although I also gave him a 5€ tip after he’d complained as all the taxi drivers do of having umpteen mouths to feed and working 26 hours a day to do so…) I eventually arrived for the third time at my hotel.
My hotel experience was, as usual, very enjoyable. After the first day, that is. I told them that this was my third visit but even so, they tried to pull one over this old dog by giving me what must be the very worst room in the hotel. It was on the ground floor in the back corner with no proper balcony therefore, where no sun could reach so was very dark and gloomy as a result. It was also in incredibly poor condition. It had a low table but no chair in which to sit at it (they suggested bringing in one of the outdoor chairs, one of which was broken) and the in-room safe was also broken and not working.
So I promptly told them what they could do with the room and demanded another, which I got the next day. This turned out to be one of the newest rooms in the hotel (a level has been added onto what was the old top floor and it was one of those) and certainly the best one that I’ve been in on the three occasions that I’ve stayed in the hotel. Nevertheless, because of previous guest abuse, I still had to remount the wardrobe doors on their runners and repair the chairs on the balcony, but that was little, if any, inconvenience.
Below is the view from the end of my floor overlooking the hotel’s outdoors showing the view to the right (south).
And below is the view from the same position showing the view to the left (north). I think that this hotel is one of the very best in this part of Hurghada, if not the best.
A few shots of the general reception area which also contains a bar and a few small shops. The coloured glasses contain free cold drinks for guests to take and drink as they are passing through.
And now shots taken in the hotel’s gardens showing the pools and other facilities, which are superb. Gardeners, cleaners and other staff are working constantly to keep everything pristine and it shows.
The ‘menagerie’ which was there the last two times that I visited has now gone, and not before time I think. It doesn’t do to keep a large pelican in a small wire cage or a stork that stands all day in its tiny enclosure on one leg with its head dipped into a filthy trough. Now it’s been replaced by more pools for adults and children.
The hotel has given careful consideration to the possible clash of cultures. The main swimming pools can be used by anyone meaning that there are scantilly dressed European ladies there and also arab ladies in burkhinis. However, the pool where I go to lie in the sun and read the books that I take with me is designated ‘Only for Bikini’ which means that arab ladies are discreetly turned away and only Europeans use it.
Next to the pool is a refreshment stand dispensing free hot and cold drinks (the hotel is ‘All Inclusive’) during normal hours and everyone is given a free towel every day using a ‘towel card’ that they receive on arrival.
As last year, the hotel offers two restaurants, the main one for any guest on the floor above the reception area – Level 1 means different things depending on which lift you use 🙂 – and another one called Bon Apetit designated as ‘Only for Europeans’ at ground level in the back corner adjoining the horrible room that I was originally allocated.
Having experienced the pandemonium that always seems to reign in the main restaurant, I always used the Bon Apetit, an experience that I always enjoyed despite thinking that the food on offer hasn’t been quite up to the standard on the last two occasions that I found when I first visited the hotel.
Any final comments about the hotel? Yes, just one. Regrettably some arabs (a lot) like to spit and they do it almost anywhere, including in the corners of the hotel lifts and the area facing the doors while they are waiting for a lift to arrive.
I mentioned to the General Manager who I bumped into one day in the Bon Apetit that the lifts were filthy and he had them cleaned within the hour. But not including the shiny metal walls that remained covered in spatters, of what one can only imagine. It seems that they can turn a blind eye to certain aspects of cleanliness that we Europeans regard as important, and although I still thoroughly recommend the hotel, I would suggest that parents keep control of babies and young children accordingly in such public areas.
And so it eventually became time to leave and I found myself in the hotel foyer on 5 February bidding farewell to Jean and Pete, an English couple from Kent in England and living not far from where I used to, and waiting for a taxi that I’d booked through the same chap in the hotel as last year, to take me to the airport for, once again, 20€.
The helpful young driver carried my case out for me and on this occasion I enjoyed the privilege of being carried in a fairly modern Kia with seat belts!
HURGHADA – GENEVA
I disembarked at the airport thinking that it looked a bit different this time and my taxi drove off. It was only when I went to enter the terminal that I found I was at the wrong one – this was Terminal 2 and I wanted Terminal 1, although my e-ticket didn’t show this. The worst thing was that it was not possible to walk between them – I had to get another taxi which wasn’t difficult of course, because yet again there was a bevy of waiting drivers ready to bite my hand off. But it still cost me another 10€ 🙁
Compared to the outbound flight, everything was fairly relaxed at Hurghada. Save for easyJet’s awful ‘Rapid Boarding’ option. Ryanair have a similar system and have got it right by having two clearly designated queues. easyJet just have one and think that calling for priority boarding passengers is enough. It isn’t because nobody listens and many don’t speak the language anyway.
As a result everyone joins the boarding queue and at least half are then turned away to start another ‘queue’ to one side. Then when all of the priority boarders have been processed, all of the passengers who have just been standing around ignore this second queue and just make a dash for the gate, causing mayhem. It’s something easyJet needs to deal with – for goodness sake, it wouldn’t take much just to put up signs at the gate showing who is entitled to board and when.
And so onward to Geneva, this time in an aisle seat so no views of Venice and Italy for me, and eventually, after a short layover, finally back to Bordeaux where the whole thing started 11 days before.
It was a marvellous break which I thoroughly enjoyed, especially the people whose company I enjoyed in the hotel and that of the French gentleman who was next to me with whom I chatted the whole way from Geneva to Bordeaux. I was worried about the possibility of my C-Max not starting after standing out in the cold for this period of time as I suspect that it’s battery is getting towards its last legs, but no worries in the end on that score.
So now what? Well, as the prospective Belgian purchaser of my Weedhopper has been back in touch, I need to get that out of the barn, give it a good clean and get it ready for sale. The next priority will be to get my ex-pat Xair, 24ZN, over to France from the UK. Before I can do that, I’ve got a scan coming up in early March but hopefully I’ll be free to do it after that.
I’ve also said that I’d like to give my pal Roger a hand to trailer two Shadow microlights down from Abbeville to the Corrèze and if possible, help him bring his main Shadow over from Ireland, so I’ll have to see how things play out. But all in all, busy times around the corner. So no change there, then… 😉