Author Archives: Demetrius Vouyiouklis

About Demetrius Vouyiouklis

Demetrius Vouyiouklis, an early retiree from scientific research, enjoys outdoor pursuits such as kayaking, hill walking and cycling.

Easyjet Runway Closure Flight Delay: Treatment and Compensation

Approximately 48h before my flight from Thessaloniki, Greece to London Gatwick on Dec 1, 2017, I received two text messages from Easyjet. My flight was going to be leaving from Athens instead, due to runway closure issues. Instead, I had to turn up at the airport and take a bus, which would leave 40min before the original flight departure time. The bus departed on time and I was handed a half-baguette cheese and ham sandwich and a bottle of half a litre of water on boarding the bus.

The bus journey time to Athens airport was approximately 7 hours. Upon arrival I had to find my way to the easyjet counter, where I was given a new ticket. The flight then left at 22.30 local time, landing at London Gatwick at 5min to midnight, a total delay of over 8 hours.

As an aside, I was to continue to Edinburgh from Gatwick, again using easyjet.

Thankfully I had managed to change my original flight to one leaving the next morning through online chat with easyjet and without charge. This however, meant that I had to spend the night at cold and draughty ‘hotel Gatwick’ airport, as by the time I arrived from Thessaloniki and would be leaving for Edinburgh, it would have hardly been worth checking into a proper hotel, never mind not knowing if I’d eventually be reimbursed for it.

In the event, the morning flight to Edinburgh, on which I had been lucky to get a seat, since it was quite busy, arrived at Edinburgh 10 min early, at 09.50am.

My total delay was therefore 14 hours from the time I’d have arrived originally, had it all gone smoothly.

Despite the original delay and the overnight stay at the airport, I felt lucky that it hadn’t been worse and I’d managed to get home without further hassle.

Which just goes to show how low a passenger can be made to feel through flight delay.

Although easyjet had not mentioned anything about potential compensation, I thought that a measly sandwich and bit of water were rather inadequate provision for a planned delay of so many hours. Other passengers, including some with families, had asked for a complimentary meal on the flight from Athens to London Gatwick and were told that they’d have to pay normal prices for any meals on board, despite the 8 hour delay.

I eventually submitted two different online claims to easyjet, one for my extra food/drink during the delay (for which photos of the receipts had to be attached) and another under EU261 Flight Delay compensation rules. Both of these forms were available from easyjet online. I soon received an email saying that the meal claim would be paid directly into my bank account within a few days, and it was.

With regard to the EU261 compensation claim, I received another email within 48 hours, saying that the claims assessor had asked the original airport (Thessaloniki) team for reasons as to the delay in order to assess the claim and would get in touch shortly.

Two months after the delay, and despite having again contacted the airline’s claims dept and been assured they would decide within additional, defined time periods, my claim is still unresolved with their own deadlines have not been met.

Regardless of the future outcome for my EU261 claim, I felt that I had been well treated by easyjet staff with regard to my altered journeys. However, the airline had failed to make sufficient food and drink provision during the long expected delay, which, in my opinion, was inexcusable. It was clear that a lot of passengers did not have sufficient food and drink with them; why on earth put them through the extra hassle of claiming for purchasing it? And as for the EU261 compensation claim…not too sure what I can say at present, except that easyjet, I expected better from you.

I aim to add to this article, when and if I receive a final decision as to my EU261 compensation claim.

Update 27 February 2018 – I eventually received a very late reply from easyjet, stating that my claim was not eligible for compensation. I then examined the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) options, and also contacted a no-win-no fee firm of solicitors. I finally decided that on balance, I was not going to pursue my claim any further.

The Shibden Valley from Halifax: A Circular Walk

This walk is about 5 miles long, with some uphill sections.

From the centre of Halifax, you can choose to start either near the railway station (pay parking, free toilets) and walk through the shopping centre to Kirkgate (5-10min), or look for parking near Kirkgate.

The walk starts at Kirkgate. Right on to Bank Bottom; cross Hebbie Brook at the bridge and head uphill for about 200 yards, cross the road and enter a cobbled lane (Southowram Bank), from which you get a great view back to Halifax,

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Walk uphill, until the path forks onto another cobbled footpath, go right and emerge on a proper, metalled road.

Cross at the right of an industrial building (Aquaspersion) onto another cobbled path (Magna Via which is pictured below).

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Cross the gate and bear left, looking at Shibden Valley (in photo below) to your left and keep left at the next fork.

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113. Downhill path through Shibden valley
After about 100yards, a narrow walled track through hedgerows to the left leads downhill and eventually through a new housing estate.

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Cross the road and enter another downhill path, just by the entrance to a farm, on your right – this entry point is pretty easy to miss.

Eventually you walk under a railway line and into Shibden Park.

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This is a lovely space, complete with rowing lake, mini-railway and children playgrounds.

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A circular walk through the park, possibly stopping for a coffee, prior to walking up to the Elizabethan Shibden Hall, is highly recommended.

Shibden Hall

You walk uphill past the Hall, exit the park and meet a road. Turn right, walk on pavement to Lister Road Bridge.

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At the left of the bridge, take the steep steps downhill, then follow the pavement downhill. When you meet another road, you will be able to retrace your steps through cobbled Southowram Bank back to Halifax.

Bingley Circular Walk via St Ives Estate

This Bingley circular walk, via the St Ives estate is around 8kn in length and takes 2-3 hours, depending on pace. There are some ascents and mud proof footwear is advisable.

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I started this in the town of Bingley, about 15km NW of Bradford where we stayed in April 2016. Parking in the town centre permitted me to cross the River Aire at the Old Horse pub, immediately turning right again to walk by the riverside.

bingley walk

Keeping straight and slightly uphill for about a mile, mainly past a few equestrian farms, the path acquires a more uphill character after a metal gate. Once through a short stretch of pasture, follow the path past Blakey Cottage uphill, until a stile permits entry onto a narrow path trough bracken.

There are views of Airedale on the right as you climb the hill.
Once a wall has been reached at the top, turn left just before it and walk along for about a mile – now this is much more level!

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You soon come upon the rocks known as Druids’ Altar at the top, a good place for a break with great views.

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Follow track right, enter St Ives Estate, go through stile on right and follow the wooded path round the golf course. The path eventually leads downhill, with the course, then woods, on your left.

Look out for modern art in the woods.

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The path eventually reaches a fork, the right side leading to the picnic bench complete with sculpture.

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Next you’ll see Lady Blantyre’s Rock plus Inscription (if you can read it!).

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Further downhill, you arrive at Coppice Pond with its wildfowl and hop onto the road on the right you enter the grounds of the House. Further down is the Main House (now a nursing home).

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A bit further down is a car park (so, really, you can also do this walk in reverse).
There’s Pennine Bridleway sign and entry point, as this walk joins on to the very extensive, recently joined up Bridleway.

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Now it’s simply a matter of following your way through woodland paths on your left for about 1 mile to arrive back at the Brown Cow.

That completes the circle, as it’s across the River Aire from the Old White Horse pub where you started. Feel like a refreshment?

bingley walk brown cow

 

Kirklees Light Railway in Clayton West, near Huddersfield, Yorkshire

I visited the Kirklees Light Railway on a Sunday in mid April 2016, after I’d dropped Karen off at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (in West Bretton, near Wakefield), as it’s only about 5 miles from there. The railway station was easy to turn into from the main road and there was ample free parking.

The first thing that I saw upon entering was a miniature train ride.  It cost 50p per person for three rounds of the pond.

Kirklees Light Railway1

When I visited it was Kirklees Light Railway volunteer recruitment open day, so I had to fight for photography spots with the local paper reporter, who was much better equipped for those more professional snaps.

The narrow gauge steam train was puffing and ready to go.

As I was trying to mainly get out of the official photographers’ way, I ended up walking to the train shed, where a rather forlorn-looking train (named OWL) stood quietly on its tracks. It was missing the fancy day out, when the other two trains/engines were in full and working display. so, I thought I’d give it some sympathy in the form of taking its photo.

Kirklees Light Railway engine shed

However, the friendly mechanic, a permanent member of staff, informed me that it was only on the basis of rotation that little OWL had been left out, as its tank of water (the main thing that stops the engine from overheating and melting, by turning into steam which escapes) was full – you can probably see the glass/brass water gauge in the photo, inside the driver compartment, at an angle.

Kirklees Light Railway mechanic

This train was also the reserve, having a full load of coal, in case one of the other two became somewhat indisposed.

I left the depot for a walk on the nearby bridal path, as also advised by the friendly mechanic, where, after a couple of miles I came upon a truly magnificent modern day construction. The Emley Moor Transmission Station’s 1,084-foot (330.4m) tall concrete tower. The transmission station covers Yorkshire as well as some of Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire.

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On my walk back, I even managed to spot one of the little steam trains making its way over a hill.

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Newbiggin by the Sea on a Sunny Winter Afternoon

I visited Newbiggin by the Sea, in south east Northumberland, on a sunny afternoon in late February.

The first thing that struck me was the good availability of good parking spaces on the attractive high street. From there, it was a case of crossing the relatively quiet road over to the sea side and the promenade.

The 13th century Parish church of Saint Bartholomew overlooks a wide green space with attractive benches overlooking the sea (Little Bay).

newbiggin by the sea st bartholomew parish church

There was also ample parking in a designated space by a children’s play area, near a modern building housing the Maritime Centre. The Maritime Centre combines a museum, attractive shop and cafe. I was particularly struck by the interesting shaped mirrors in the men’s loo.

newbiggin by the sea martiime centre

The UK’s oldest operational boathouse (1851), Newbiggin’s  Lifeboat Station, was established after ten fishermen drowned.

newbiggin by the sea lifeboat station from front

It is on the promenade and the lifeboat gets launched by tractor.

newbiggin by the sea lifeboat station launching tractor

There are plenty of interesting art installations on the Newbiggin Art Trail.

newbiggin by the sea art trail

In Little Bay, there’s a huge modern statue of a couple looking further out to sea.

newbiggin by the sea the couple sculptue out at sea

It was the UK’s first permanent offshore sculpture, installed in August 2007, the creation of artist Sean Henry. A smaller version can be found by the Promenade.

newbiggin by the couple sculpture on dry land

There are some murals too.

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newbiggin by the sea wall art

Despite the time of year, there were some floral displays in the town.

newbiggin by the sea flower bed

All in all a well spent couple of hours in Newbiggin by the Sea.

 

Another Example of Superb Service by easyJet

My easyJet flight from Thessaloniki, Greece on the 16th November arrived early at Gatwick, London.

On that flight, I’d experienced an example of ‘above the call of duty’ service, whereby a flight attendant had retrieved a ticket with luggage stubs from the rubbish, which the young lady sitting next to me had disposed of in error.

easyjet plane

Upon arriving at Gatwick airport and immediately checking the departures, I quickly contacted EasyJet Customer services. I’d realized that, since having left sufficient time for delays between my original flight and its connection to Edinburgh and having arrived early, I might be able to board the earlier easyJet flight and save myself 1 hour 30 minutes.

The lady at Customer Services was very friendly and efficient, acknowledging that passengers usually request to join later, not earlier flights, due to delays (like I did when easyJet saved my Moussaka last year). She agreed that, since I was a return-ticket passenger who’d left sufficient time between flights and there was availability, I could board the earlier flight to Edinburgh free of charge.

I made the flight with time to spare and got home in good time for a relaxing cup of tea before bed time – thanks again easyJet.

Well Done East Coast Trains

On the 4th of November I was booked on the 16.22 Cross Country train from Berwick upon Tweed to Edinburgh, aiming to get the bus to Edinburgh airport and catch my flight to London Gatwick with a connection to Thessaloniki, Greece.

east coast train

I’d left plenty of time (or so I thought) for any possible mishaps/delays, including getting to the airport 1.5-2 hours before the flight.

My original CrossCountry service, originating in Conwall, was delayed by 80min. I was either going to cut it pretty fine or not make it to the airport on time.

When I enquired at the ticket office at Berwick upon Tweed, I was informed that although there was not another Cross Country train due in good time for me, an East Coast train, about 25minutes after the original Cross Country service had been due, had been contacted and the driver had agreed to take the Cross Country passengers on board, as there were enough seats available.

The East Coast train arrived on time, my Cross Country ticket was inspected, scanned and accepted and I made a time-wise comfortable onwards bus journey to the airport.

Well done East Coast, I hope in future this attitude is reciprocated by Cross Country so that  passengers do not miss flights, appointments etc.

Alexandroupolis, North-Eastern Greece by the Turkish Border

Alexandroupolis is a Greek city close to the North-Eastern Turkish border. The city is a remnant of the Ottoman (Turkish) empire and started life as a fishing village. Old Turkish houses can still be seen amongst newer buildings in the newer part of the city.

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A modern port caters for large cruise and commercial ships. The attached marina is developed in such a way that it forms an important part of the city’s trendy cafe culture and nightlife scene.

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A large, centrally posistioned lighthouse, is a prominent landmark of Alexandroupolis.

Alexandroupolis6Alexandroupolis city and lighthouse

There is quality and interesting shopping within the city proper and traditional as well as modern restaurants do a brisk trade, mainly with the locals. At some restaurants, an eating mode that’s emerging in popularity is the ‘lathokola (or lathoharto)’ plate-free style, where the food, usually chips, kebabs, suvlakis etc are brought to the table together, on a piece of strong greaseproof paper (lathoharto) and placed on the middle of the table for everyone to tuck into. It’s a real success, as it encourages socializing even more. It also makes local sense, as it follows from the Greek style of salad eating, which is usually brought in a large soup plate that everyone tucks into with their forks.

The nearby Evros river delta is a very important biodiversity area, with sizeable flocks of permanently resident and migratory birds such as duck, cormorant, goose, flamingo, swan, pelican and several types of reed warbler. The birds visit to take advantage of the rich sources of food such as fish, grains and insects.

The Evros River Delta near Alexandroupolis

On a recent visit to Greece, I was invited by my cousin George to spend sometime visiting the Evros river delta, an extensive semi-wild area which forms the border between Greece and Turkey in the North of Greece.

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Evros river delta where it joins the northern Aegean sea

George lives with his wife Eleni and young daughter Artemis by Alexandroupolis and has access to a 10-bed fully equipped riverside ‘hut’ which he shares with three pals, all dedicated to countryside pursuits like nature watching, fishing and hunting.

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Wild horses at rough ground by the the Evros river delta

I visited at the start of November and it was unusually mild for the time of year. George took us in his 4-wheel drive Suzuki out of Alexandroupolis heading East, and about 15 miles later turned onto an unmade road. A few miles down he entered a military/conservation/unprotected zone system, denoted by massive man-made land uplifts forming a series of cirular unmade roads snaking through protected and unprotected bird habitats. Some areas were enclosed (salt lakes), while others were mixed river/north Aegean sea domains, all rich in reeds and many types of bird life.

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Flock of cormorants taking off in front of our boat

The area is a real maze of waterways, separated by great sheaths of reeds. Huge flocks of swans, peewees, flamingoes, pelicans, cormorants, various species of duck and many other bird types, including herons, egrets and reed warblers were in rich abundance. We also spotted a couple of wild horses. We tried fishing from his home-made river delta/sea boat, but only caught a couple of small bass.

evros delta greece

Morning view from George’s hut towards the riverside and small church

We spent the night in the cabin cooking rough-cut chips and home-made wild boar sausages over a gas stove, also eating various types of local cheeses and salads, while drinking locally produced red wine and chipouro (a kind of strong ouzo, sometimes an aniseed drink) and recounting stories from our shared youth. Sleep came pretty easily, we turned the generator off and enjoyed the light of a lantern consisting a wick in the centre of a round piece of cork floating over a glassful of water and olive oil. Breakfast was George’s friends’ home produced honey over rough-cut wholemal bread with strong Greek coffee.

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Home-made Evros river delta boats

This type of excursion is not readily available commercially, however my cousin said that several other hut owners organise such events for gun shell/fishing hook-and-bait money.

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My smiling cousin George by his boat

Needless to say we eventually had to get back to civilisation, when his accommodating wife kindly let us use the shower facilities in exchange for our poor catch. Still, the sightings and experience were pretty unique, at least in my experience.

Ithaki Restaurant by Syntagma Square, Athens

During a recent visit to Greece, I gave our 26 year old sons a whistle-stop tour of central Athens. We started late in the morning  and visited Monastiraki, the Acropolis and various other locations such as Hadrian’s Arch and the Zappion building. By the time we got to Syntagma Square we felt like a decent meal and we opted for going Greek.

A short walk from the Square and down Mitropoleos St, we came upon the Ithaki restaurant, which seemed to be in a relatively decent spot, central but relatively quiet, and served a variety of Greek-style meals.

We ordered a large mixed tomato/cucumber/feta cheese Greek salad as a starter to share, which we ate during the time it took to prepare our main meals.

One of our sons ordered Giaurtlu, which consists meat with Greek yoghurt cooked in a rich cumin/tomato sauce.

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Giaurtlu

My other son plumped for Exohiko, lamb-stuffed Phyllo pastry with extra virgin olive oil, oregano, fresh thyme, onions and garlic.

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Exohiko

I went for the staple Greek meal Moussaka, consisting of layered potatoes, eggplant (aubergine) and spiced minced-meat, all topped with creamy bechamel sauce.

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Moussaka

The food was freshly cooked and regularly tasty, the portions adequate, but we felt the experience was slightly expensive as everything, including bread which is usually included free at Greek restaurants, was charged for. The meal, which cost 42 Euro (around £36), was probably quite good value by comparison with the competition and also considering the central location, so we gave the restaurant an overall rating of 7/10.

Ithaki Restaurant AthensKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff