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London - Tobago

A bit more comfort than expected

View Bird watching, snorkelling and sunbathing. Sunbathing? Tobago & Trinidad 2012 on Grete Howard's travel map.

At one time, in our younger days, we would have travelled up from Bristol to Gatwcik overnight, but getting older means we value our comfort somewhat more, so we booked into a hotel near the airport for the night before the flight. We had a superb meal and made a new friend in the waitress, before retiring to bed early last night. After a dreadful night's sleep, we were glad to get out of the overheated room. It was way too hot in the bedroom and we were unable to turn the heating off, so the temperature remained at 24.5 C overnight. On checking out, we suggested to reception that they should have their maintenance staff look at it, before going to sit in the car to cool off for a while, After a couple of minutes, the receptionist came out to us and they offered to refund the cost of the room for the night, as they have a 'good night sleep guarantee'. You can't argue with that!

Another creature comfort that we often allow ourselves these days, is valet parking, and the one at Gatwick was really well organised. You just drive in to the specially allocated car park next to the terminal building, report to reception (who already have your details ready from seeing your car registration on the CCTV as you drive in) and they park the car for you off site. That's the theory anyway, but when we arrived, the receptionist couldn't find our details on the computer. After a few seconds of panic, we realised that we'd booked it in for the wrong date! Doh! It was no problem for them though, and they were very good about it.

From the Valet Parking, it was a short walk under cover to the terminal building, where were greeted by a nice uniformed 'meeter-and-greeter' who seemed to know every flight leaving Gatwick that morning and directed us to the correct check-in desk with ease, where there was no queue. We were even lucky enough to be able to upgrade our seats to those with extra legroom at a fraction of the advertised cost. This day is getting better and better. Even more so when the check-in girl told us the plane is not actually a Monarch, it has been sub-contracted to Titan Airlines. I have never heard of Titan, but having sworn never to fly Monarch again after the most uncomfortable flight ever back in 1997, I am delighted. I think. I hope.

Monarch Airlines are exceptionally strict with their hand luggage allowance, at a mere 5kg, which I have had several sleepless nights over, until I came up with the idea of wearing a jacket with large pockets. My camera equipment alone is well in excess of that, before I even start to think about other stuff to carry on. Fortunately, we were allowed 30kg each for checked in luggage, which was a real bonus. We have never checked in so much luggage in our entire life – by the time I had packed the snorkel, mask, fins, tripod, binoculars, bird book, guide book and hiking boots, my bag was full, so we ended up checking in three bags between us, at a total weight of 46kg. Gulp. We're only going for a week!

Earlier today, a friend excitedly told me that a mutual acquaintance was going to be on the same flight as us today, but despite looking out for Salli at the departure gate, I couldn't spot her, until we were seated in the aircraft – she was three rows in front of us. The nice girl at the check-in was wrong about Titan (the plane is still a Monarch), but the seats are actually very good, with plenty of leg room – well worth the extra cost! The meal, however, was another matter altogether – what a joke! Airline food is never good at the best of times, but this really took the biscuit. They called it breakfast, but it came in a small cardboard box about one-third of the size of a normal in-flight food tray, and contained a small 100ml pot of yogurt, and a blueberry muffin so tiny it would rattle around in said yogurt container. I was extremely pleased we treated ourselves to a decent breakfast at the Weatherspoons in the airport before we boarded. No wonder the crew come round almost immediately afterwards selling snacks and drinks. Almost exclusively flying scheduled these days, I had forgotten what charter flights were like.

Barely half full, the plane left half an hour late – not that I was aware of that at the time, I was fast asleep long before we took off. I slept on and off throughout the flight, waking up for the food (lunch was a vast improvement on breakfast) and the (overpriced) drinks. It really goes against the grain to pay for drinks on a flight... Makes us realise how spoilt we are with scheduled flights out of Europe with their never-ending supply of free drinks.

I have never known an airline pilot to announce the arrival time, not in local time at the destination, but the time at the departure point – ie London. Very odd.

On arrival at Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson International Airport (that really rolls of the tongue doesn't it?) we began to feel the notion of 'Tobago time' immediately. No rushing out of your seat to get your bags out of the overhead lockers and queue up to deplane – we were instructed to remain in our seats with our seatbelts on for several minutes after we came to a complete stop, and even then there was some confusion about which end of the plane to get off (for ground crew to connect the services). Long, slow queue for passports and an even longer, slower queue for security/customs and x-ray.

Outside, Prince was waiting with a welcome sign, two complimentary beach bags and a large people carrier for just the two of us, to take us along the east coast of Tobago to the opposite corner of the island where our hotel is located. The road was narrow and winding, but apart from around Scarborough (the capital), there was precious little traffic.

We'd read on several websites that the Tobagonians can be a little off-hand and appear unfriendly, but so far we've found the complete opposite. They have all been exceptionally friendly, from the lady in front of us in the queue for immigration, to the airport officials, to Prince, our driver, to the hotel staff.

A nice touch and a warm welcome

The view from our balcony

After half-heartedly unpacking, we made our way to the bar for our free welcome drink – a very strong, very tasty and very welcome rum punch. We only just made it to the hotel during daylight hours, so will wait until tomorrow to explore the hotel and surrounding area further. The internet signal here is weak and rather patchy, so my updates may not be as frequent as you are used to.

We enjoyed a lovely dinner of crab cakes with a spicy sauce, black beans soup and grilled tuna with lime, Instead of a dessert with took a mud-slide cocktail back to the room and settled in for an early night. It's been a long day.


Posted by Grete Howard 08:16 Archived in Trinidad and Tobago

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Wow, keep us updated. Sounds like it's going to be a good one, now the flight's out of the way! Have Fun, Enjoy.

PS - we have just returned from Mexico. Loved it!

by Marion

Fantastic account of your travels thus far ! Can't wait for the updates and photos.!

by Homer Gardin

Love reading your blog! Enjoy the Caribs! ;-)

by ilona

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