Day #10 Thursday January 5, 2012
Up for breakfast and there are more people staying at the hotel this time. The waiter who looks like some actor, remembered what we liked to drink and got it for us. This place had the best breakfasts. We have until 1 p.m. or so Our daughter is going to work out and said that there are regular people who work out there and also a staff of the massage ladies who kind of hang out and wait for customers and get them as well. There was a local patron in the gym who didn’t appreciate that she took a long time running. (she runs about 2 hours) Heavy sighs.
After she was done in the gym we wanted to go to the National Museum which was on the square right across the street from us. We started over there and walked up to the door around 10 and it was closed. Bummer. My husbandl had come out without a coat and it was cold enough that he went back to get a coat but while he was going back for his coat, it had started raining enough to be uncomfortable and the hotel desk had never heard of the idea of hotels having umbrellas so we just gave up on going anywhere at that time. We went into the gift shop of the hotel and found some of the Cobo winery Raki which our daughter got as a gift. There was some lovely jewelry there as well which was silver and gold though so rather expensive. The guide books had said there would be silver and copper jewelry but we never really found any other than the kitsy cheap looking tourist stuff. So while the guide books had gone on and on about the handicrafts and the locally made items, we never really found any that were much different from any other tourist kind of place and never found anything truly unique besides our wooden double headed eagles.
We finally went out again after it stopped raining and I wanted to walk down the street past the museum and see if there was anything to be seen. Was pretty much a street of travel agents. Albanians must travel a lot plus seeing the news around the holidays, there were tons of people coming home for the holidays and then going back and the queues at the Greek border where atrocious.
We did pass several shoe stores and my daughter was looking longingly at the shoes and I finally said we don’t know that they aren’t going to fit until you try them on. Myself, I don’t get the shoe thing but maybe that’s because I have a lot of foot problems but my daughter is well into the shoe addict culture. So we went into the store and she came out with three pairs of shoes. She could have done much more so it is a good thing we waited until the last day to get the shoes. One was a pair that said it was Italian leather. I suppose it certainly could be and probably is although Klodi didn’t think so. But not sure he would know anything about women’s shoes. They were all nice pairs and all about what I would expect to pay for shoes in a country like Albanian and expect to pay 3 or 4 times the price in the states.
So now we have to go back to the hotel and finish packing and that means we have 6 bottles of wine between my husband and me and one bottle of Raki and our daughter has a bottle of Raki. We looked up on the internet to make sure we could come in with this much from a non EU country and we were ok. Sure did almost tilt our suitcases though.
Klodi comes to fetch us on time and we wind out way out of the city through the traffic with the useless police men paying no attention to the stop lights. Klodi dumps us at the departure door and shakes hands all around and we give him an envelope with his tip. The guide book had said 10% of the trip cost but we all felt that was a bit too much because he didn’t do anything the last 4 days except drive plus when we asked him about all the signs all over the place that said “this castle that way and this church this way” he was very, “Oh, nothing much there and it’s probably closed” but we certainly could have driven out to see if it was closed or not and maybe seen something rather than sit in our rooms in Korca or Gjirokastra or especially Saranda. Anyway, he got a nice tip for what he did.
By the end of the trip, Klodi was rolling his eyes at our requests a lot, which were stopping for lunch or stopping for fruits and vegetables or asking the restaurant to cook our own vegetables (yet this was his suggestion in the beginning and I’m thinking that if he knew that restaurants would cook your veggies for you, he has done it before for other tourists) By the end of the trip, it was obvious that Klodi would much rather have been somewhere else than taking us on a tour. Still, we did have a very good time and did learn a lot from him.
We check in without a problem. So nice being business class. Could have told her not to bother putting the priority tags on the suitcases since it doesn’t seem to matter in the order of them coming off the plane. Then we did a quick run through of the duty free, nothing, and then up to the lounge where we were the only ones there. We did get some nice snacks though and they had a nice but odd cake.
Finally it is time to board so we go downstairs and wait for another 10 minutes. They had called for families with children and business class first. We shuffled our way to the gate and they were putting people to one bus or another as we walked out the door. The plane is 100 yards away but we are going to be bussed over there. At first I thought we were getting the business class bus because usually, nice airports, have a bus for first class, a bus for business class and then a bus for the riff raff. But after about 10 people were in our bus, they kept filling it until it was full and then it went. We did go first though and most of the children and families were in the second bus so why have them go through the gate first???
Luckily, the flight was not totally as full and not as many kids and not as many whinny kids so it wasn’t too bad a flight. One of the nice things about business class and British airways is they try to accommodate you, even with odd and unusual requests. I always ask to keep the coffee cup on British Airways. So this trip, I managed to snag all the British airways coffee cups this time. Now I have a set of four.
Into Gatwick and we get through immigration rather quickly but then we stand in the baggage claim area for at least 10 minutes before we even know what belt our luggage will arrive. Then we are not coming out first like priority. I had gloated in Albanian when my suitcase was the first of our three to arrive. This time it was last. Karma! Our driver calls me while we are waiting for our luggage.
Finally we get our luggage and get outside with it. Our driver takes off with two of our bags and we get stuck behind some slow walkers and the driver is disappearing with our suitcases into the parking garage but we catch up finally. He is in a sedan and has a hard time getting everything into the car. He drives us home and stays in the fast lane almost the entire time. While it got us home faster, made me nervous to be flying that fast down the M25! So very nice to get home. So very nice to see our kitties. So very nice to be warm in our house and have plenty of hot water.
That’s our trip. We enjoyed it. We were very glad we went. We think Albania is a lovely country and full of good things to see and visit. We think we will not ever go in the winter again and would advise people to stay in the “high tourist” season for a few more years until they catch on that people like to visit at all times of the year.