Sunday, December 26, 2010

Joyeux Noel! Happy christmas

Christmas in St Saturnin- always our favourite place!

Out for a 'Boxing day walk' blue skies, cold crisp air to blew away the cobwebs!

One of our favourite spots, walking up to the chateau overlooking the ramparts of the village.

Recent temperatures of minus 11 have frozen the water to this shrub creating an ice sculpture.

The church, Marie's office and Luberon beyond.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

En Vacances!

One of the reasons we love Goa, and in particular the Taj Exotica is the sheer peacefulness and relaxation. 

The hotel is set in beautifully kept grounds which are passionately cared for by an army of friendly staff. There are ample sun beds with staff on hand to offer towels , chilled water and water melon. 
The pool is usually deserted as is the beach which gently slopes into the warm sea. 

The beach today
And the food is too our taste, especially with Karen a non meat eater. Each day the fish is caught and includes Lobster, Snapper, Prawns, King fish, crabs to name but a few. Cooked as you like, our favourites being  on the bbq or in the Tandori oven. 

One of the many beach shacks 

There are endless curries to suit all tastes, as hot as you like (or not). 

Star fish
A large kingfisher will set you back 70 Rupees (a UK Pound) and a bottle of Indian wine, which really is good stuff including Sauvignon & Viognier at 675 Rupees, abt nine Pounds. The perfect time to visit is November to end of March .

Fishing boat heading home

Sunday, December 05, 2010

A little travel log of our journey to Goa

What we thought would be a straightforward trip to Goa became quite a challenge!

We were due to take the Easyjet flight Thursday from Marseilles to Gatwick, so we could then fly to Goa Friday morning.

Hearing Wednesday that Gatwick was shut with more snow forecast we had to make a quick decision between  taking the train or flying to Heathrow as we had seen on TV it had no snow. With Kent badly hit we were concerned about getting stuck and  so booked a flight to Heathrow via Paris.  And so we grabbed the last few items into our bags and set off.

Our flight to Paris was fine, although as we arrived there it started snowing. The incoming aircraft  was delayed so we boarded late, at 8pm for our 7 pm flight. We then sat on the runway an hour watching the snow build up before spending another hour queuing to get through the deicing process. Eventually we landed at Heathrow just before 11pm.

Karen all togged up for Reigate

Our friend Martin kindly picked us up to take us back to his house in Reigate, as we left Heathrow the further East we traveled the snow was getting harder and harder with little evidence of gritting taking place. As we left the M25 motorway at the top of Reigate Hill we witnessed lorries unable to get to the top and starting to slide back down! Scary stuff as was the drive we had to do down the hill into Reigate which was actually closed off by Police with several inches of snow  compacted and frozen.

A week day in the park, Reigate

As expected the snow continued Thursday , falling heavily. We had managed to get the last room at a hotel next to the airport for the Thursday night ready for our 5am check in Friday morning, although we were highly doubtful the flight would run  let alone be on time.

So our spirits were raised when we checked in at 5am to be told we were going to be delayed until 9.15 instead of 7.55. We must have been amongst the first people to go through security which took all of 60 seconds! No queues , no shops open , still a ghost airport! Most flights were  still saying cancelled.

After a couple of hours they shifted the departure time to 12.15. So we sat and chatted with fellow frustrated passengers in the bar - where else!  As mid day  neared we began to get concerned and requested what was happening as one or two other flights were departing .

Airport information had, well no information, just wait we were told an announcement would soon follow. And then 13.15 came up on the board. We were told the plane was in , but the Apron was frozen so they were working to clear this and with in half an hour we would be boarding.. An hour later no news, fellow passengers were becoming angry and frustrated with the continued lack of info. Then we were told 14.15, the plane was now being deiced. We were becoming less and less convinced. The staff from the information desk fled! 15.15 departure came on the board at which time we were beginning to lose  hope, passengers began demanding their luggage back and all sorts of strange demands were being shouted ‘my children are starving - we want vouchers!’ seemed strange to us as they appeared to have no children ! ‘Where is the boss of Thomas Cook - get him on the phone’ yes , right highly likely - not!

Any way we sat and considered what we might do, go home, a fortnight in the UK, not appealing with a suitcase full of summer gear, and suddenly it came up - board gate 15, you can imagine the stampede.

On arrival at the gate , the problem became more evident. There was our aircraft, covered in snow and icicles, serious amounts, another passenger witnessed one man standing on the wing trying to sweep the snow off! The de icing unit arrived and started trying to spray off the snow and ice, and cover the aircraft in an anti freezing agent. The airport by this time was covered in freezing fog and darkness was falling. Not a good sign. We boarded.

The captain informed us the plane had sat on the ground since Wednesday morning when the airport was first closed. The towing ‘tug’ was left with it. When they had tried to bring the aircraft to the apron  it was completely covered in snow and ice, as was the towing truck, Gatwick had at least 10 inches of snow. And there were barely any resources to deal with it. The Captain announced  the runway was  now closed again as it was freezing but they were hoping to re open it for us to take off.

The deicers dispersed! We were ready - but there was much activity ‘up front’ with  ground crew coming and going. By now we could see it was dark and very foggy and below zero.  Everyone was very nervous we were going to be off loaded. Then the captain announced the plane had  starting freezing over again and another round of de icing would have to be done. You can imagine the mood in the aircraft.
As this was completed the Captain announced that we would taxi to the runway and see if we could take off. Nervousness and excitement! This could be it - in all sorts of ways!  As we prepared for a short and fast take off the captain announced that the runway had been cleared just for us to take off and then it would be closed again for the rest of the day. Despite a day of frustration and waiting we were finally heading for Paradise……. I should mention how much we appreciated the crew, who had been bussed down from Manchester the night before and like us spent the day hanging around at Gatwick and were well over their rostered hours. After 9 hours we landed in Goa, which had not changed since our last visit 5 years ago, the Leyland buses which must be 40 years old were there to meet us.

Our villa at the Taj (bottom right)

And the oh do busy pool!