Holiday Tales Part 5 Living in a ghost town

*Long post alert*

Some time back, during our trip to America, we had been to a ghost town. Well, we needn’t have bothered. We were to have an opportunity to live in one, not just visit one.

As I mentioned here, we decided on Greece based on a friend’s holiday pictures until then we had been debating between Turkey and Greece. So while planning it out, I spoke to my friend, and he advised us on the best places to stay. A beach and a sunset point. Two nights at each, we decided. Our first place of stay was near a beach. Our friend had said that we would not need to rent a car, there is enough to do in one place. So at the airport, we took a taxi to our hotel. Please note, we did not even bother asking the locals this time 🙂 We could not possibly handle lugging suitcases once more.

It was a scenic drive. Cliffs on one side, the sea on the other. Gorgeous! We could see those cute blue domed churches around us. Some of them had miniature replicas of themselves built near the road. I never managed to take a picture of them, though.

We reached the hotel within 20 minutes. Our taxi dropped us off, and drove off. It was only when we walked towards the entrance of the hotel that we realized that it was shut. We got a little confused. Were we at the wrong hotel?  Rechecked our booking, and it looked and sounded like the place we booked. I asked husband and daughter to wait while I walked around the building to figure out if I could find the staff. As I walked around, it just grew more eerie. Not a single soul around. All doors locked. It looked empty. Then I thought, may be everybody must be sunning themselves at the beach – it was a glorious, sunny day, when I reached the pool, which was drained! Oh my god! Did our booking get cancelled? Did we miss an email from them? Has the hotel shut shop? What were we going to do now?

I got back to where husband and daughter were waiting, worried, and tensed. I would have preferred lugging suitcases to being shut out of our hotel room anytime! Finally, we happened  to notice a paper with emergency contacts jotted down, stuck to the reception door. So we decided to call the mobile number that was mentioned there.

Thankfully someone picked up. He said he would be there when I mentioned that we had a booking at their hotel. He sounded as if it were a totally normal situation of hotel guests landing up at a shut down hotel, with not a soul in sight. And just to clarify, this was not a tiny B&B or a low-priced hotel. This was supposed to be a ‘Boutique and Spa’! And it looked grand too – only with no staff or guests.

As I said, 5 minutes meant more than 15 minutes here. Our guy here was no different. Finally he arrived with a lady. Turned out he did not know much English, nor was he very friendly. It almost felt as if he were resentful that we landed up here and spoiled his vacation. It was a change after all those wonderfully friendly Greeks we came across in Athens.

While we were waiting husband had made plans to spend the afternoon at the beach. It was a gorgeous day, just perfect to be at the beach. So as soon as our hotel manager(I assume, I still don’t know), turned up, husband was eager to know about the beach. The hotel had advertised a private beach, and we just wanted to get there.

As soon as we mentioned beach, he said, ‘Beach closed, No beach’.

‘Beach closed?’, we asked, ‘ You mean, the beach is closed? Why’?

‘Season finished’, came the answer!

‘If the season is ‘finished’, why on earth did you take our bookings??’, is what I wanted to ask, but was so flustered by this, that neither of us knew what to think or say.

‘You want car?’, he asked. We said no, because our friend had said that it wouldn’t be required.

‘Breakfast, yes or no’, he asked. I said no, because it was not included in the room tariff, and after what we had seen, I wasn’t too sure of what they would provide. He and his colleague spent about 15 minutes locating the room key. Finally he took us to our room, which was not too bad. It was quite good, to be honest. Although I could not locate a kettle, and by the time we tried to ask them, they had left the hotel – again. And we were the only guests in the hotel. Spooky, is what it felt. All alone in a big hotel with nobody else on the premises.

The view from our room.

As soon as we freshened up, we decided to step out for lunch. By then doubts and worry had started to set in. If the beach was ‘closed’, then what would we do here? And how on earth can a beach be ‘closed’? That too, when the weather was so gorgeous! We would be lucky to have such lovely weather in summer, in the UK!

We set off on the road, hoping to find a decent place to eat. We crossed a bakery, and a super market, and our hopes rose. I went into the super market and asked a lady where we could find a restaurant. She indicated the direction in which we should go. So we walked on. We found a few restaurants which had menus hung outside, but were closed. It looked weird to say the least. It was as if people had abandoned them abruptly. Some even had ‘Today’s Menu’ written in chalk, and closed. I wish I had taken pictures, but at that point in time, we just wanted to find a place to eat. It was hot, and tiring to walk down an empty road, in a place where beaches were closed. We kept going, and kept finding these abandoned restaurants. Finally, we decided to turn back and go to that bakery we saw. Hopefully we would get something in the form of lunch.

The bakery had some food. Some pies, and being extra hungry, we even bought some baklava, which were delicious, but a tad too sweet for me. The biggest bonus was the owner of the bakery who was such a wonderful person! He told us that the season was drawing to a close and most of the restaurants and hotels shut shop during this time. Apparently in November, all the hotels and restaurants in this area would shut shop. He told us to rent a car, as that would be the easiest mode of transportation. The local buses were hourly and would go only to the capital, Fira. The best thing he told us was that the beaches were most certainly not ‘closed’. In fact according to him, this is the best time to come to the beach, as it would not be jostling with tourists. Nice and peaceful – his words. Needless to say, we felt less disheartened now. All we needed was a car, and lunch, of course.

So we went back to the hotel, to relax and have our lunch. Daughter did not like the pie too much, but husband and I ate what we could. After lunch we decided to go and rent a car.

We had been told that rental cars are available, the agency was about 1km away.

So off we went, the three of us. The only people on the road was us! We craved to see one tourist. One little proof that we were not the only crazy ones 😦 Whoever said that it is nice to be away from touristy places, was certainly not us. I have never wanted to see people so much before this. People and open, functioning restaurants.

Every second shop on that road was a restaurant(closed, albeit with their menus out there, for us to see, and maybe come back to, in summer?) or a car rental place(again, closed). Oh, I forgot to mention that the hotel manager had given us pamphlets of car rentals, with their numbers on them, but none of them picked up the calls. All in hibernation, I guess.

Finally we walked, and walked until we reached the one shop that was open, and busy – the Tattoo shop! The lady in the tattoo shop had no idea if the car rentals next to her place would open or not. Nor did she have their numbers to try to call them. By then we had reached the beginning of the beach.

See that mountain? We were right there. The road ended at the mountain, and a little road led us to this beach. One thing that was in plenty were directions to the beach. All roads to the right( from the main road), apparently led to the beach.

Given that we were so close to the beach, we decided to make the most of it, and forget about cars and rentals, and just enjoy the beach. As you can see, finally, we managed to see some tourists 🙂 Most of the beach was empty, for us to relax and enjoy.

See the boarded up shops/restaurants..

Finally, we managed to find a few open restaurants, buzzing with activity, music and tourists further on the beach. We also managed to get the numbers of one car rental, that everybody said is open. It was such a relief to find people! I think it gave us a perspective of how it would be to be far away from civilization.

Getting a rental car, still took some time. The owner of the car rental told us he would be there in 10 mins, but as expected, it took him over half an hour – but we were just delighted to get our freedom 🙂 Now we could go somewhere, drive around, find a place to eat! Yay! Armed with the car, and a map, we set off! After ages, it was different driving around in an unknown place, without a GPS, but as our friend, the baker said, it was impossible to get lost there.

We stayed in our ghost hotel for another day, but it was much better because we managed to get away and explore the rest of the island. It was a little spooky coming back to an huge, empty hotel. I just hoped that no cats or bats would jump out to scare the wits out of us 🙂

We did have a tough time finding a place that was open for breakfast, but our trusty little bakery saved the day.

Thankfully, we had a fun time, despite the initial hiccups. It will be something that we will always remember. In a way, because it was so empty, we ended up driving around and seeing the rest of the island. I am quite sure that we would not have bothered had the place been buzzing with activity. Silver lining, and all that.. Certainly made sense to us that day!

Edited to add: Husband read this and reminded me of how he tried to spook me out. He wanted to tell me the story of the movie ‘The Shining’. I did not let him tell me though 🙂 

Weekend tales

I can’t help wondering if I was right in the mind, when I decided to take up the NaBloPoMo for this month. Whatever made me think that it would be do-able?

From the look of it, every single thing is trying to ensure that I do not complete it. For one, the weather is so beautiful, despite it being not-so-sunny, that it is impossible to be indoors, and then to top it all, Poohi decided to run a temperature.  So it means that I have no option but to write this inane post, which by the way, I am giving you enough warning to skip 🙂

The weekend was one unexpected bonus. We woke up to a clear and sunny sky and that had us scrambling for the phone to check the weather at a nearby seaside resort. Turns out that it was all sunny and gorgeous and not one bit windy. Now, that is too good to be wasted, so we started calling all our friends and getting together a plan to spend the day at the beach. We set off, all excited, all the beach gear in place and praying that the weather stays the way it was.

We got stuck in the longest queue of traffic, within half an hour. Husband started figuring out detours on his beloved android phone. And turns out, Google Maps reported heavy traffic ahead and gave us a much better detour. That lead to him declaring his love for google, which incidentally he declares far more than his love for me. Did I mention that I drove this time, and it was my first really long drive – 70 miles, so it gave husband all the more time to spend with his phone and google( all the while declaring how great google is, btw).

Finally,we were about 10 miles away from our destination, when Poohi notices dark clouds in the horizon. Within minutes, we were being pelted by the heaviest rain we had experienced in the recent past. With disappointment weighing us down, we continued on our way, deciding that we might as well go and shop, since we are this close. Husband kept refreshing BBC weather and exclaimed that BBC still shows sunny! As if, that will make the rain go away.

Once we reached, we decided to take our time, have lunch and wait for our friends, who by the way, had not taken the detour, we had not been able to contact them before we took the detour. After lunch, the weather still looked dismal, and we decided to walk around the town,when suddenly the rain disappeared and it got sunny again.

It was the best moment ever! We could not believe our luck and we raced to the beach. Needless to say, we had the best time ever. Plenty of splashing around in the water, making sandcastles, lazing around in the sun.  It was the perfect way to make up for the previous disaster of a weekend.

We are still recovering from that one day of fun 🙂 And poohi most certainly seems to have exhausted herself and has come down with a temperature. So she has ended up missing school today. She was so upset because she was looking forward to meeting her friends again – they had a half term break last week. And I was looking forward to her going to school, so that I could get some work done, but it was not meant to be 🙂

So how was your weekend?

The weekend that refused to get over..

You know what they say about good things not lasting and unpleasant things lasting forever.. Well, we had a taste of that, last weekend.

It was the last long weekend till August, and we did not want it to get wasted by lazing around at home. Prompted by the lovely weather that we had the weekend before this, husband got down to business and booked us a three-day holiday in Blackpool. Husband also persuaded another friend of ours to join us.

Now, all I knew about Blackpool was that it was something similar to Vegas. All the websites we checked talked about family fun and we fell for it – hook, line and sinker.

Things started going wrong from around mid-week. BBC weather, which has initially forecast, a nice and sunny weekend, slowly changed its mind and decided that we would have a ‘white cloud’. Now white clouds are comparatively benign. It is the rain that we worry about. And before we knew it, the forecast changed again. It was ‘light rain’ on Saturday, sunny intervals on Sunday(with a wind speed of 24 mph) and sunny(Yay!) on Monday. Now that isn’t too bad. Given the fact that whole weekends could be awash with rains – this seemed quite reasonable.

So we got all our beach stuff ready, got all our wind-cheaters and also threw in some warm coats – you never know, you see and set off on Saturday morning, afternoon. It took us that long to get everything done. Here, it was pouring. We could barely see the cars ahead, in the heavy rain. BBC weather still told us that our destination had ‘light rain’. Never had we looked forward to ‘light rain’ before.

Turns out that ‘light rain’ was not very pleasant either. It just rained and rained and rained. We check into our hotels and decided to find some place to grab a bite, hoping that the rain stops in that time. Well, no such luck, so we decided to brave it out,  kitted out in protective gear. I can’t tell you how annoying it is to be wearing rain coats and stuff when you had been hoping to lather on sun screen lotion instead.

This is not the first time that we had been in such a situation. We are, by now, quite used to contrary weather, so we aer in most situation, well prepared and we try to make most of the it.  We decided that a little rain was not going to spoin our holiday, and decided to walk around and soak in the atmosphere. It became very apparent that there was not much of an atmosphere to soak in.  Everything looked like it had not had a lick of paint since ages. There was a pier which did not look all that exciting. Just a few rides, which made us wonder why we bothered driving all the way here.

We girls would have loved to shop a bit and have some fun, but the guys were just not willing to step into a shopping centre, anything but shopping. So finally, we entered a sad-looking casino, which were the only other things there and for the lack of anything else to do, gambled away a few pounds. I ended up gambling here, when I was able to resist even in Vegas. But then, in Vegas, there was so much to see.. here there was nothing else to do. We took the kids on a few rides and then decided that we have to have dinner at a decent place, that was the only way to bring some cheer to a dismal day.

The next day, began no better. On most holidays, husband and I wake up, raring to go, but this time, we just could not summon any excitement. We had decided to go to an indoor place called ‘The Tower’. The only reason we considered it was because it was indoors. With a wind speed of 24 mph, there was no possibility of being outdoors. The Tower, looked like a cheaply made imitation of the Eiffel Tower, in desperate need of some spruce up.  It boasted of an aquarium, a ballroom and a circus. To cut a long story short, the circus made up for the lack of everything else. It was great! It had been ages since we had been to a circus and this was just wonderful. Finally something to make up for the bad weather and lousy location.

We had high expectations of the last day. It was supposed to be 22 deg – which is almost heaven for us. The forecast the night before showed no change at all, so we went to bed anticipating a good time. Poohi wanted to go to the beach and we had not been able to go anywhere near it so far.

The last day at Blackpool, dawned nice and sunny. Poohi could not contain her excitement. Not a hint of a breeze and a glorious sunny day. It looked like all our prayers were answered. We got ready, ran down from breakfast and got dressed in summer clothes. All those shorts and t-shirts were finally being put to use. We ran down, check out (this was our last day there) and opened the door to step outside, only to be hit by a cold, cold breeze. Not to be put out, we decided that it must be temporary and got all our things in the car, and drove down to the beach. Our friend, by then, had decided that they had enough and returned back home. We, being more optimistic, decided to head to the beach and hope that the chill goes away. On route, we saw several people wearing fleece jackets over shorts – that should have told us, but we were blind to all signs at that point.

By the time we reached the beach, we knew, that the only way to survive was to cover up, wear our jackets and then try going to the beach. So finally, instead of lathering sun screen, we donned our jackets, pulled on our jeans, and decided to brave the weather and make a few sandcastles to satisfy Poohi.

All we all wanted by the end of the day was to get back home as soon as possible. It was beyond doubt the only holiday, that I would happily classify as a disaster. But then, what’s life without these little disasters 🙂 At the very least, we made some sandcastles 🙂 Never before were we happier to get back home. And on the way back, our GPS decided that we needed a break, and took us via a scenic route. I have to say, we clicked more pics on our journey than we did during our actual vacation 🙂