Posts Tagged ‘Pegasus Airlines’

Whew… that was quite the travel day. We left the guesthouse at 7am precisely (it was a bit of a struggle as no one really wanted to get up so early) and made the trip to the Izmir Airport in far less than the 90 minutes Google Maps said it would take… In fact we got to the airport so early the check-in desk for Pegasus Airlines hadn’t even opened yet. So we kind of wandered around a bit looking for something to eat (most of the places hadn’t opened yet) and a WiFi connection…

The airport is quite new and has obviously been built with expansion in mind as there’s a lot of empty spaces and room to grow.

After shelling out an arm and half a leg for some muffins (that cinnamon raisin bagel I talked Caitlin into turned out to be an olive bagel… not so good with strawberry jam apparently) and juice we checked some emails, updated the blog (I’ve been a few days behind the whole trip) and basically killed time until it was time to board our flight.

We boarded. The plane took off. They served nothing to eat or drink unless you paid for it. The plane landed. It was pretty usual stuff… But we were landing in Athens… Home of the best feta cheese anywhere in the world. And Alfa beer… We ate better in the Athens airport than we have for days. I ordered a special at one place that included the biggest piece of moussaka you’ll ever seen in your life, a Greek salad and a cold Alfa beer (for €12 which isn’t exactly cheap but Marie and I were able to share it… sort of… Marie didn’t like the moussaka and was a little greedy with the Greek salad) – I was even able to convince the woman serving it all up to let me add some extra feta to the Greek salad… It’s funny – we hunt high and low in Victoria for authentic Greek feta and this stuff from some chain restaurant in the airport was better than anything we can find at home… And Alfa beer is one of my all time favourites and I’ve never been able to find it in Victoria.

We also found the whole check-in process a lot more civilized. We’d booked the flight from Izmir to Athens through Pegasus and they have no baggage drop desks – it doesn’t matter if you’ve checked in or not, you stand in the same line just to drop off your checked baggage. With Aegean, you don’t check in at all at the desk – they have kiosks or you do it on line and the only reason you approach the desk is to check your bags… It went much faster and even though we were flying two different airlines (Aegean to Rome and TAP from Rome to Lisbon) and had book our flights through Expedia, they were able to check our luggage through and make it all work…

Soon the gastronomic delights had to end and it was time to board the plane for our flight to Rome. Again, the plane  took off. But this time they served a decent hot meal of meatballs, rice with tomato sauce and a dinner roll and free drinks… It was positively decadent compared to the budget Pegasus flights we’ve taken since we left Istanbul. The plane landed (obviously or I wouldn’t be writing this) and we deplaned and headed into the heart of the Rome airport… Last time we were here, I’d found a little paper/pen store that sold Lamy fountain pens for 1/2 what they cost at home and wanted to replace the one I’d bought a couple years ago (it’s started to leak a bit) – I was able to find it eventually and their prices hadn’t changes since the last time we were there… Score!

We grabbed a snack from a serve yourself restaurant and used the free WiFi to finish up a last blog post and then it was time to board our flight… so far we’d spent about 6 hours in lay overs and a couple of hours of actual flying so we were all starting to feel a bit bedraggled…

Again, we boarded. The flight took off. And this time they served a chicken pasta with almonds and spinach and a cream sauce… Marie salivated all over herself at how good it was and tried to steal from Caitlin and I… I thought it was pretty good but wasn’t worth gnawing our child’s off over… The flight passed without incident (although they did announce that we were flying around some 100 km/hr winds and it might get bumpy but nothing really materialized) and we landed in the Lisbon airport a little after our expected arrival time of 9:30pm.

After picking our luggage up we headed for the exit and tried to figure out the best way to get to our apartment – having found out when we landed that our landlord wouldn’t be able to pick us up at the airport after all… After a bit of discussion we settled on grabbing a cab and checked with the tourism information booth about their prepaid taxi vouchers… Turns out they’re running a bit of a scam on the tourists as they were going to charge us €24 for an 8km cab ride (that in the end cost us €14 with a generous tip)… If we’d been traveling a greater distance it would have been a deal perhaps but for a short hop it was considerably more expensive to go the prepaid route… The scammish part of it was that the woman wasn’t wholly upfront about that when we asked…

Our cabbie whisked us to the front door of the apartment where our landlord’s surrogate checked us in, ran down the basics and collected our money. The apartment is located in a very historic part of Lisbon and is quite cute (albeit a bit small for three people) and the landlord has gone to great lengths to make it very homey and livable and even provides a decanter full of ginjinha – a traditional Portuguese liquor – and fresh fruit and pastries and a couple of Fado CDs (kind of a Portuguese jazz but that’s a bit of an oversimplification). Although the stairs to the apartment are something else (my shoulders touch the walls and if one were to fall on the exceptionally narrow steps it would be game over). After taking a bit to acclimatize ourselves and sort ourselves out after a full day of travel, it was lights out and off to bed for all of us after a long day of layovers and flights.

I’ll be doing an “omnibus” update on three days in Lisbon as soon as I can get to it… The short version: Lisbon is amazing. Great people. Great food. Beautiful views. Awesome architecture… I’m putting it my top 5 favourite cities of all time…

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We rose bright and early at 5:30am to be down on the street to meet our driver at 6:15am… He was there right on time (a bit early even) and we piled our stuff into his van and headed for Sohiba airport (about 60km away). Because traffic can be a nightmare in Istanbul (one blogger reported taking 4 hrs to get from Sohiba to Taksim Square) we left ourselves plenty of time to get to the airport ahead of our 8:40 am departure.

Traffic was light so we got there around 7am. It’s a good thing we left early. When you get to the airport, you go through security right at the entrance (your luggage and everything goes through the scanner and you walk through the metal detector) so there’s a lineup (it moves pretty quickly). Then once you’re in, there’s a huge lineup for the Pegasus check-in. They have electronic check-in kiosks but once you’re checked in, if you have baggage you want to check you need to stand in the same lineup as everyone else. They have no Pegasus employees floating around or directing people to tell you this (I eventually found a supervisor and was able to ask him). At first the lineup was moving pretty quickly but then the chaos started. They kept pulling people out of the line (presumably for flights that were boarding) which moved the line forward but created huge backlogs at the actual check-in counters. And the people left in the line started yelling at the Pegasus staffers (one guy spent an extraordinary amount of time and energy explaining, we assume because it was all in Turkish, how to improve the system to a guy who was probably making minimum wage). The staffers yelled back. One poor woman who was hauling two large pieces of luggage and two young kids held it together admirably for about 40 minutes – until one of the Pegasus staffers chewed her out because her three year old tried to check himself in as baggage and was walking the conveyor belt… She lost it. He lost it. It wasn’t pretty. So a supervisor pulled her out of the queue to help… She was still standing in line at the supervisor’s wicket after we had checked-in. In all, it took us about an hour to drop off our three pieces of checked baggage (we’d already checked in electronically). The system would have worked a lot more smoothly if they’d had staffers floating to talk to people before they get in the lineup (ie. the people who checked in electronically but had no luggage to check who stood in line anyways) and if they had a baggage drop for those people who just need to drop luggage…

It was now just before 8am and our flight was scheduled to start boarding at 8:10am but we still needed to clear security. They had two sections – one for international flights and one for domestic and both had quite huge lineups. We entered the line for domestic security expecting to be there for a while but they opened up another security station and we made it through quite quickly – although the extensiveness of the security check was a bit questionable as Marie packed a full 500ml bottle of water through in her pack and I’m not sure the staff were even looking at the monitors… Although they did catch the guy whose belt set off the metal detector so that’s a good thing I guess. In any case, we made it through security and found our way to the boarding gate around 8:10 and waited for the buses to show up to take us to the plane. They started boarding quite late but this part of the process was pretty smooth… Being used to the more stringent security procedures in North American airports we were a little surprised that no one checked out passports (or any other ID) at any point during the entire process. Hopefully they’re more stringent with their international flights.

We took off a few minutes late (after the somewhat worrisome announcement from the cabin staff that the flight was bound for Kayseri and could people please check they were on the right plane…) and the flight was pretty routine. We’d paid in advance for a package that guaranteed seat selection and also provided a sandwich and drink on the flight (otherwise you get nothing… they must have studied the Air Canada domestic flight model). Our chicken sandwiches were “interesting” but appreciated given we had not had time to grab anything to eat at the airport as we’d planned due to the lengthy check-in process. Marie and I choked down a few bites of our sandwich (way too much mayonnaise for me and Marie just couldn’t stomach the chicken and peppers first thing in the morning… Caitlin managed to chow down on her whole sandwich by washing every bite down with a drink of cherry juice (we also got a full bottle of juice – a major bonus on domestic flights anywhere!) It was a pretty good value pack – for 8 lira you got a guaranteed seat, a sandwich and a drink… We felt bad though because we were those passengers (you know – the ones who get something to eat and drink before everyone else).

As we were part way through our sandwiches, the plane started its descent… I’m not an expert on air travel but this descent seemed awfully steep (as in about a 45° degree descent)… I sort of expected the oxygen masks to pop down. With a couple of little pockets of turbulence as we descended, we even got a couple of roller coaster style stomach lurches (Marie was not amused) but the cabin crew seemed unconcerned so it must have been normal for this flight. We landed without incident, picked up our luggage (eventually) and headed out to meet our shuttle bus (we’d booked on through our hotel) for the drive to Goreme (about an hour away). We loaded with about a dozen other passengers (including a young Asian couple who left their pack on the seat beside them despite the bus filling up pretty quickly… until another Asian traveller (not traveling with them) got on the bus and then they quickly moved their pack so she could sit… We were also joined by a young Turkish couple who quite literally talked non-stop for the entire hour… Leading me to this conclusion about people in general: in any public setting you will have people (like us) who talk in whispers and who essentially keep a private space within the public space and there’s another group of people who treat the public space as there own and carry on conversations at full volume, etc. as if there were no other people around… This couple were the latter type of people… They jabbered away and laughed and yelled as if they were the only two people on the bus. I slept on and off for a lot of the trip which is probably what saved their lives…

Eventually we arrived in Goreme and started the milk run of drop-offs at the various hotels (glad we didn’t try to find our place on our own – we’d have needed a GPS unit at least). We piled out of the van and headed into the reception area of our hotel. There was no one there so we headed up to the restaurant where Hassan – one of the young staffers at the hotel immediately greeted us, explained that our room wasn’t going to be ready for a couple of hours (it was only 11am after all so we weren’t expecting our room to be ready) and showed us some things to do and places to go while we waited.

So we changed into some lighter clothes and headed out to find something to eat. We stopped at one of the usual touristy restaurants offering a variety of Turkish and Turkish-style dishes and ate and drank our fill… Then headed for the Goreme Open Air Museum – a UNESCO World Heritage site… To say that it was hot would be an understatement of colossal proportions…. But that didn’t stop us from making the 1km or so trek to the museum (made longer by a couple of wrong turns)…. Once at the museum we joined the usual tour groups and started exploring the site. Basically it’s the remains of a small Christian community who made their homes and their churches and monasteries and nunneries in the fairy chimneys and rocks… It’s pretty cool. You have mini-cathedrals carved out of the rock and living spaces and kitchens, etc. all carved out of the rock with tunnels connecting the various spaces. There’s lots of places they won’t let you go and you can’t take pictures in any of the churches but overall it’s a great way to spend a couple of hours… At one point we stopped to play with an adorable 7 month old German Shepherd puppy (it was a good thing his owner was there or Marie and Caitlin would literally have stolen him and snuck him home in our luggage).

After exploring the “museum” we headed back to the hotel and checked-in to our room – which is really cool. We have one of the actual cave rooms so the whole space (even the bed platform) is carved from the rock. We all took advantage of the best shower we’ve ever had in a hotel (a true double rain shower) and cleaned off the grime of travelling and refresh ourselves a bit before heading out to get something to eat. We chowed down on some delicious pitas and played some cards before exploring some of the shops on the main tourist drag. Goreme is a small town entirely based on tourism so there are lots of shops and tour agencies booking balloon flights, ATV tours, horseback tours and bus tours of the various attractions in the area.

We’d been up early and were tired out from a week of exploring Istanbul so we headed back to the room around 10:30 and called it a night. Tomorrow we’ll make some plans for what to do with our two days in the area.

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