Category Archives: Madeira Vacation 2012

Are holidays supposed to be dreaded?

Our time in Madeira was wonderful. Great apartment, lovely flowers, great food and pleasant weather. What a shame it had to end with easyJet.

While in Funchal I upgraded us so that our return flights would have speedy boarding included. We still arrived early at the airport and got checked in OK. Then security which was nowhere near as bad (or careful if that is your viewpoint) as at Inverness or Gatwick. In fact, I had left a tiny pair of scissors in my washbag and, of course, the X-ray picked them up. This was a lovely pair of Wilkinson Sword bathroom scissors which we have had for more than thirty years. I thought I was going to lose them, then the security officer just put them back in the bag and waved me on. How sensible for a change. He made a value call that I was not going to attack the crew or passengers with them. Most grateful. There is some common sense left in the world.

Once through security, though, things went downhill rapidly. easyJet announced at least an hour’s delay which would see it close to midnight before we’d get back to Gatwick. We would be stuck in the departure lounge for some two hours. Now, I use the word “lounge” advisedly as ALL of the seats were moulded wood. They were the most uncomfortable seats we have ever had to sit upon and it was impossible to find a good position to read or anything else. Looking around the “lounge” everyone kept shuffling and standing up and sitting down and moving positions. Hopeless.

The Madeiran tourist board chiefs and the airport managers should be forced to sit in this waiting area for two or three hours and see how they are punishing their visitors for having been stupid enough to come to Madeira in the first place. It will be a close run thing if ever we go back because of this and the fact that aches and pains get worse as you get older. How they could do this to their visitors? Giving us an unpleasant experience at the end of our visit. Crazy!

Eventually we got airborne and the speedy boarding meant that we managed to fight our way quickly to some good seats in the front half of the plane. If they allocated seats at check in this problem would not occur and there would be no scramble for seats. They don’t do that because they do not care about the stress, comfort and experience their customers endure.

However, being close to the front did not mean that we were far enough forward to get the cheese and pickle sandwiches which ran out by row five or six. The choice was then the  Madeira standard cheese and ham or ham and cheese or ham with cheese or cheese with ham. Once again I felt sympathy for any Jewish vegetarians travelling with us! With all the wonderful things we ate in Madeiran restaurants, why does this country serve nothing but a ham and cheese combination in its sandwiches and rolls? Weird.

The seats, of course, are far too close together and I noticed that the tall German gentleman in the isle seat could not get his tray to sit flat enough to put his drink on. What is going on in easyJet management. People are getting taller and their seat spacing is getting smaller. Why don’t they go the whole hog and strap us all up vertically. Could double the capacity. Could maybe triple it if they strapped couples face to face!

Flight over, we arrived at Gatwick. Once disembarked we were then held standing for some fifteen minutes in the corridors approaching immigration. This happened three more times at different locations. We really were being herded – literally! So, we were 40 minutes roughly just getting to immigration. No seats anywhere along this route for elderly or infirm and, frankly we are both rapidly approaching both categories. I really don’t think I could have managed it if my gout had chosen that time to play up.

At last we reached the immigration queue which is like a DisneyWorld queue doubling back on itself about eight or ten times. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, carrying heavy on-board carry-ons, this was absolute torture.

Finally we are allowed into the UK from the EU country we were leaving, immigration having finally decided that all these holidaymakers were not terrorists or trying to get into the country illegally. What is wrong with these people? Do they really think what they are doing is necessary? Madness.

FINALLY, we got through immigration and walked to the board which shows where you have to go to get your luggage. We stood here for more than an hour – no seats whatsoever in this area, until a gentleman we had been talking to decided to go off and take a look at the baggage areas.

What he discovered was that all the baggage areas were underneath the waiting area so we had been standing up completely unnecessarily and could have been sitting downstairs. With my ankle problems all this standing was no joke.

In the baggage area we continued to wait. There was no one to ask except a baggage expediting desk who knew nothing. It was even rumoured that the bags were locked on the plane until morning. Anyway, it took close to two and a half hours after landing to get our bags at 2.30am.

The customer issues here are obvious. No one from easyJet gave a damn about our wait and would probably blame it on the baggage handlers. The baggage handlers didn’t give a damn about us and, worse still, hid themselves from us utterly so that they could not be questioned or asked to provide some customer service. If they had been there, they would probably have blamed easyJet. There were no airport managers or support staff anywhere to be found because they don’t give a shit about us or easyJet or their baggage handlers.

The whole experience was a disaster. There was now no point in us getting a taxi for, probably, yet another dreadful Travelodge experience as the check in for our Inverness flight was 5am so we paid for a night’s accommodation we were not able to use. Could we have got there for a shower and an hour’s kip, yes I suppose so if we didn’t mind lugging all our luggage around the airport to a cab and then lug it all along endless corridors to a Travelodge room which would probably have been awful anyway given our recent experiences. We’ll never stay with them ever again and do everything in our power to stop others staying with them.

Costa Coffee - take it how we provide it or go somewhere else!So we planted ourselves in the sitting area by the Costa Coffee bar. I went to get coffees from them and they gave me my latte in a cardboard mug. Red rag to an already upset bull. I asked for it to be transferred into a china mug. “No we don’t do that at night, as there are only two of us on”, the server said. I asked if I had had a discount because of this. “No”, was the reply. Costa, you are not providing a proper service. If there is too much washing up for two people in the middle of the night then get a third person on. Don’t give the customer a reduced service. At the price charged for these coffees, if they cannot keep up with the dish-washing, then there MUST be money there for the extra staff. Greed, Costa, GREED!

With that our final easyJet flight was as OK as they can ever be and we returned home to blazing sun having had a terrific break, but a lousy time travelling both ways.

easyJet, Gatwick management, Gatwick baggage handling agents, British Immigration and even Costa Coffee – it is about time each of you realised that you are in the customer service industry. You are all failing British tourism or British people – probably both.

Will we go back to the beautiful island of Madeira? Before our flights home it was a definite yes, now I really don’t know. So sad, so unnecessary, so twenty-first century!

Espaco Funchal Restaurant in Rua da Carreira – Madeira – brilliant

We had already eaten in this restaurant for lunch on 11th May 2012 and returned on 15th to try it out for an evening meal. Images taken during the lunchtime visit.

The evening was perfect from beginning to end. The host is an amazing guy who is utterly charming. There were some six or seven tables outside, but as more people came along he just added more tables across the street and up the street, too. Couldn’t extend down the street owing to another restaurant in that direction, rather devoid of customers.Wendy at Espaco at lunchtime on 11th

Wendy had Avocado with Madeira wine as a starter which arrived with a wee pool of Madeira in the space vacated by the stone. There was a tiny, beautifully arranged salad on the plate too. My starter was melon with ham which was also good, but did not have quite the visual impact of Wendy’s.

We both decided to go for the traditional Madeiran skewers for main course. Wendy’s was chicken and pineapple and mine mixed meats which included beef, chicken and pork. Firstly a contraption is attached to the side of the table so that these huge skewers can hang from it allowing you to take your meat (or fish if a fish version) as required. Very impressive.

I was a bit concerned about the beef as it seemed a bit tough when cutting into it, but once it was cut it just melted in the mouth. As good as a Highland fillet steak any day. The whole came with salad and French fries.

Tony at Espaco at lunchtime on 11thTo be honest, after the main course I was stuffed, but old hollow-legs opposite me then took on crepe with fruits of the forest and ice cream while I sat and watched drinking a rather nice Lello wine.

We began talking to the couple alongside who had been coming to Madeira since they bought a time-share in the eighties. They’d never eaten in this restaurant before and were much impressed. On the other side was a farmer and his wife from near Nottingham.

So great company, great food, great banter from the host, lovely location. Perfect evening. Will be back before the vacation ends.

Madeira Vacation 2012 – Why do holidays have to begin with EasyJet?

With faithful house-sitter safely installed, we arrive at Inverness airport to check in.

When the flight was called we had to go through security. All passengers seemed to be shady characters as they were all forced to remove their shoes, belts, empty their pockets into a tray, remove their laptops from their bags and then walk through the metal detector.

While trying to hold trousers up I was then thoroughly frisked in case I had explosives in my underpants or hidden under my socks (that’s a new one) and finally allowed to collect my belongings.

It really is ridiculous that there is no profiling. Let’s face it, the bulk of suicide bombers travelled on their own, have been of middle eastern extraction or, as in the case of the infamous moronic shoe-bomber, looked bloody weird. So why are ordinary families and couples subjected to this ridiculous search. Is it that they don’t want to be accused of victimisation? How crazy! Profile the people, look for the ones who might be of concern and, yes, if necessary, stop and search everyone from the middle east. It is not the fault of the entire rest of the world that it is people from those parts of the world that normally carry out these bomb attempts. Let them be inconvenienced for what people from those regions have done. Don’t penalise the entire population of the world who has a need to fly in order to remain racially neutral. It does not make sense. Dare say I’ll now get a knock on the door and be arrested for inciting racial prejudice! However, this is not that and is clearly different. Flying has been turned from a pleasure into a pain by these attempts to blow people out of the skies. Perhaps they have won? They have so inconvenienced us that they consider that a victory. Now please excuse me while I take my 20ml Optimist spray out of its little plastic bag and return it to my carry bag! Madness.

I have trouble bending to put shoes on at the best of times, but airports have nothing to assist, no chairs, stools or other areas where you can lift your foot to tie laces etc. I managed to get  my belt back on without resorting to removing my trousers to thread it through the tight loops at the back and, joined by Wendy we went into a crowded waiting area.

EasyJet have again changed their boarding procedures and they now have children and infirm first, speedy boarders (extra charge) second and then absolutely everyone else in a total free-for-all charge for the best seats.

Why do they do this? In the past, when you checked in they gave you a boarding sequence – A, B, C etc. depending upon when you checked in. That worked quite well and at least it prevented the latecomers from barging their ways to the front by sheer brute force. Now everyone is at it. This is quite obviously a cynical attempt by EasyJet to coerce people into paying the extra for “speedy boarding”. When they have achieved this with a large number of flyers, what is the betting they’ll add a new higher charge for “Executive Boarders” and then “Superior Boarders” etc. What a con?

We got to Gatwick in normal time to be greeted by the most awful rain. All would have been well after that, except that we had made the insane decision to choose Travelodge for our overnight accommodation.

If you have read my review on Trip Advisor then there is no need to read the following duplicate report unless you enjoy laughing at others’ misfortune! 188 of 496 reviews of this place were one star “terrible”, a further 89 were two star “poor”. More than half the reviews are therefore bad. Here is mine:

I started off to write a review criticising the room, but I soon realised that it is not the room’s fault. The room has four walls, window, bed, cupboard, TV, shower and usual facilities. It was quite happy being a room. If you are going to exist as a room, the tip corner of a Travelodge is probably not a bad location to spend its time on earth. There is nothing wrong with the room, but there is everything wrong with the management of this hotel and, thereby the whole business.

We walked into our room after a long flight and found it roasting hot. The windows are sealed and cannot be opened. I turned the air conditioning thermostat to 10C which was the lowest it would go. After an hour there was no noticeable change to the temperature. It was still blowing air at about 25C out of its blower. Filthy cracked sink at the Travelodge in Lowefield Heath, Gatwick

In the bathroom the toilet seat was coming adrift. The wash hand basin was cracked. The shower curtain was mouldy. The grouting in the shower was brown with dirt. The corners of the bathroom had never been cleaned. The plug for the sink was undersized and did not keep water in the sink for more than a few seconds.

So, what is going on here?

When we went down for some food I complained to a nice young man on reception and I asked why the cleaners don’t report these faults to the management. What he said was that they are a separate company and no one talks to anyone else. Well judging by one of the staff we met in a landing, very few of the cleaning staff speak it is unlikely that they would be able to report back nor understand any training provided. Obviously no training had ever been given to the people who cleaned room 354 for many months.

It all comes down to the manager. One Kellie MacDonald apparently. It is the manager who is responsible for making sure the problems we encountered are dealt with. It is the meaning of the verb “to manage”. How simple it would be to call the staff together and start a new regime. Any loose toilet seat found should be reported. Then the room closed until a work order can be given to maintenance to fix it. The same with the cracked wash basin and the filthy grouting and shower curtain. NO ONE ELSE IS TO BLAME BUT THE MANAGER AND HER SUPERIORS IN THE CHAIN OF COMMAND. While putting this right the manager should visit each room with the cleaning contractors, point out how they miss the corners in the bathrooms and when shower curtains need replacing.

This place really was the pits and any manager staying in our room for more than ten minutes would have also spotted the awful air conditioning.Filthy plug hole and plug which didn't stop water draining at the Travelodge in Lowefield Heath, Gatwick

I fear that this company is on a downward spiral to oblivion if they don’t wake up and take some action now.

I can’t finish without mentioning the meal. Wendy’s battered fish appeared to have been cooked in blue-circle batter! The fish was wet and soggy, the batter like concrete. When we mentioned this to the very pleasant restaurant supervisor he came back a short while later and offered us free tea and coffee in compensation, but we turned it down as we didn’t want any.

Then I remembered we were going to buy some bottled water and when he came back to the table with our ice cream, I said we’d like to take up his offer, but a bottle of still water instead of two coffees. No, he couldn’t do that because he had no authority to take bar stock.

HOW INSANE. Talk about failing to empower the managers! Well Travelodge, I intend to get the cost of that fish and chips back from you and that will cost you more than the 20p for which you pay for a small bottle of water.

Get real Travelodge – and visitors – avoid it like the plague! As a British citizen I am embarrassed for the way guests are being handled by this company.

By the way, we’d got a special deal because we booked six months in advance, but someone else in the lobby was also complaining and they had paid £130. Unbelievable!

However, after this night, what did we have to look forward to? Oh no, another EasyJet experience to Funchal, Madeira!