Dear readers, you will no doubt be surprised to see another holiday blog entry so soon after the last one, and indeed it is a record for us to be taking another trip only a fortnight after we came back from the last one! But we are certainly not complaining, and we are surely making up for some of the lost time in 2020/21 due to Covid-19 😊
Today we were flying out to Dubrovnik, Croatia to start a seven-night land-based escorted tour of Croatia and Montenegro, with a day trip to Bosnia thrown in. Whilst we had visited Croatia and Montenegro before, on cruise ships, a longer stay would give us more time to explore these under-rated destinations in more detail.
Our Easyjet flight from Manchester Airport was not until 17:05 hours, but we were setting off at 10 o’clock to allow plenty of time. As was the case before our last flight out of Manchester last month, we had seen nothing on the news except stories of cancelled flights, colossal queues, delays and complete Manchester mayhem. It certainly ramped up the stress levels a bit, and we could fully understand why many people prefer to vacation in Britain, and avoid the holiday hassle of going further afield.
We left the house at 9.45am as we first of all needed to take Cedric the cat to the luxury cat hotel in Rainton so he could start his holidays. Cedric has been a regular visitor to Rainton over the last couple of years, and they were pleased to see him. Once we ensured he was happily ensconced in his cat chalet, we continued on our way to Manchester Airport, for which the satnav gave us an ETA of 12.30pm.
The traffic was not too bad and there were few roadworks and delays, so we made good time, stopping at Birch Westbound M62 motorway services around 12 noon. I hadn’t had any breakfast and we pondered when, indeed, we would next get a substantial meal, so we decided to go to Burger King. We each enjoyed a Whoppa and a cup of coffee, the made use of the toilet facilities. The services were very busy; there was at least one coachload in as well as many cars and campers, presumably of other people going on holiday as well.
We arrived at the JetParks long-term parking around 1.00pm, and waited a short while for the shuttle bus to take us to Terminal 1. We didn’t see any signs of any massive queues, and checking the Easyjet flight tracker app showed that our flight was on time. We had heard of cases where people had been actually sitting in their seats on the aircraft before they received notice that the flight had been cancelled, so I would only believe our flight was actually going ahead once we were airborne! 😊
It took us about 15 minutes to self-check our two cases in (we had already obtained our boarding passes online), then off we went to security. We were pleasantly surprised at the lack of queues, and it only took another 15 minutes to clear security. So far, so good. We were now airside and could look forward to relaxing with a couple of pre-flight drinks, and enjoying that happy “we-are-going-on-holiday” feeling. 😊
We made our way to the MCR Bar and, as we rode upstairs on the escalator, our smiles soon turned to dismay when we spotted the length of the queues for refreshments. They were MASSIVE! We’d never seen anything like it at Manchester, or indeed any airport before. There were only two bars open in the whole of the airport (usually there are five) and the queue for each snaked round and out of sight. Every table was occupied and it seemed that you had to have a table number to give at the bar before they’d serve you with a drink. So the queues were for tables, rather than drinks; those who already had a table could just walk up to the bar and be served.
There was nothing at all we could do but wait it out. We got talking to the people behind us and in front of us in the queue, all of whom displayed that show of good old British stoicism. We all agreed we’d rather be queueing here than at security, so at least it was something. 🙂
To cut a long story short, it took us one hour and 20 minutes to get served and sit down. It would have taken even longer, but some people nearby who already had a table and who were vacating it to go to the gates for their flights came over and said we could have their table – we certainly didn’t hesitate and I bagged a seat at table 10 while Trevor went for the drinks. “You’d better get us two each” I said. “We don’t want to be queueing again for the second one!”.
Eventually Trevor returned with four beers, and we sat and enjoyed them and made conversation with the people at the next table. We were right opposite the “up” escalator carrying the arriving passengers and, as their heads came into view, we were amused at the expressions on their faces which exactly portrayed how we had also felt at the first sight of the immense queues!
We finished our beers just as the departures board told us that passengers on Easyjet flight 1807 to Dubrovnik were requested to make their way to gate 32, which is exactly what we did.
We stood in the queue for a short while, then it was along a corridor, down some steps and across the tarmac to the waiting Airbus A319. Then we boarded the aircraft, stashed our carry-on bags in the overhead lockers and made ourselves comfortable in our seats. Our flight should take about two and a half hours and we were due to land 21:05 local time.
Once everyone was on board, the doors secured and the safety demonstration carried out, the aircraft began to taxi to the runway, and we breathed a sigh of relief as it meant our flight hadn’t been one of the many cancellations. 😊
The flight was smooth and uneventful, and we enjoyed a couple more drinks and a carton of Pringles each during the journey – Easyjet, like many budget airlines, does not offer full meals, only snacks, sandwiches and toasties.
We touched down in Dubrovnik a little late – about 9.20pm. As we walked down the aircraft steps, the air was still very warm, even at that time of night. We made our way to arrivals and stood at the luggage carousel; we didn’t have long to wait for our bags.
Once we were outside, we immediately spotted the guy holding up the “Mercury Holidays” sign, so we went over and gave him our names, which he ticked off on his list. Only one other lady was on our flight for this trip; in fact, we were told there were only seven of us in total; the other four had arrived on an earlier flight.
Strangely enough, while we would be spending two nights in Dubrovnik later on in this holiday, we were starting by spending two nights in Montenegro, a couple of hours drive away. So it would be going on for midnight when we got to our hotel; a bit of a wasted day really. 🙁
Our minibus was already waiting for us, and we had a very pleasant driver called Míro. He loaded all our bags into the boot, we took our seats, then off we went through the night-time streets. The vehicle was comfortable, roomy and air-conditioned, so it was a reasonably pleasant ride, even though we’d had a long and trying day and just wanted to reach our hotel.
At one point we reached the border between Croatia and Montenegro and we handed our passports to the driver, who in turn passed them to the border check, who stamped them and passed them back.
When we were about half-way, an hour into the journey, the mini-bus drove up a ramp and it was with some surprise we saw that we were on a ferry! Míro explained it would cut quite a bit off the ride, and it also gave us the chance to stretch our legs and enjoy the cool night-time sea breeze, as we watched the lights of one town recede into the distance as the lights of another town grew closer.
The ferry ride only took about 10 minutes but was a pleasant interlude, and blew away any thoughts we had of sleep. Míro kept us entertained on the journey by talking about Croatia, and what it was like to live during the war that heralded the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.
Around 11.40pm the minibus slowed down and pulled up in front of an attractive-looking white building which proclaimed itself to be the Hotel Budva – our home for the next two nights.
We were pleased to have finally arrived. It didn’t take long to check in, and we were allocated room 213. The guy on the reception desk informed us that a cold meal had been left in our room for us; this is because dinner was supposed to have been included tonight.
Our room, on the second floor, was situated at the front of the hotel and had a Juliet balcony looking out onto the main entrance and car park. There were twin beds, a chair and table and shelves with some hanging space in which to put your clothes – you wouldn’t really call it a wardrobe as it didn’t have a front on it. There was a handy ledge on which to place our suitcases; we decided against emptying them out as we were only here for two nights; we just hung up anything that creased easily and removed from the case anything we’d need for a couple of nights.
On the dressing table some cling-film covered dishes had been left; there was a type of spiced cooked meat (a bit like chorizo), a couple of different cheeses, some olives and bread. Dessert consisted of some sort of chocolate Swiss roll and slices of melon and grapes. As the bar had long since closed (!!) I washed it down with a bottle of cold beer out of the mini bar. 😊
Looking at the itinerary we had been given, we saw that our meeting time tomorrow morning was 9.00am, so after getting washed and undressed and into our pyjamas, we set the alarm for 7.30am and settled down to sleep. We’d finally made it, and we looked forward to what tomorrow would bring.