November 2009

November 2009

Intro

Intro, November 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Working at Agni travel is more than simply sitting at my desk. I'm often out and about and it's not uncommon for me to be away for 3 or 4 days at a time. However, this October has been exceptional even by my standards. In four short weeks I boarded no less than 22 flights and travelled to more European destinations than I did during the whole of last year!

Intro, November 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

The jet setting experience has, by and large, been a pleasurable one, so I thought I'd share some of the highlights with you...

Taxi Time

Most of us have done it at some point haven't we? Been late for meeting or appointment and driven just a little bit faster than perhaps we should to try and make up time.

Taxi Time, November 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

I found myself in just this situation a few weeks ago when heading to an airport in Germany. I wasn't actually driving, but travelling by taxi when I looked at my watch and realised I was running late.

I explained to the driver that I had to be at the airport within a few minutes and, after a quick mental calculation he floored the accelerator and speedo swiftly moved in a clockwise direction!

We were travelling on a dual carriageway that runs parallel to the runway when I heard the driver mutter an expletive and felt the car slow considerably.

300 metres further and we were flagged in by roadside Polizei who was frantically waving a piece of paper indicating a 'clocked speed' of 138kmph (about 85 mph), almost double the speed limit for that stretch of road.

It didn't take long to produce documents and be issued with a speeding ticket. We made it to the airport just in time, but I felt hugely guilty. Unable to discover, due to language barriers, quite what the penalty was to be I had to settle for giving the driver a large tip when he dropped me off. It didn't make him look any happier. I also wrote to the taxi firm and explained that my driver had only been speeding because I had told him I was late, in the hope that this error wouldn't cost him his job.

Taxi Time, November 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

But who was really at fault? The driver for speeding, me for urging him or a bit of both? I thought I'd booked the taxi to allow plenty of time to get to the airport, but hadn't anticipated the unusually heavy volume of traffic. Wherever the blame lies, the experience has been a reminder to me to always expect the unexpected when travelling, and give yourself some extra time!

A heated encounter

...Whilst I'm on the subject of taxi drivers, I had another unexpected experience whilst in one's company a couple of weeks later, again heading for an airport, but this time in Turkey.

I had an early morning flight and a good 2 hour drive from hotel to airport, so, remembering my earlier experience, I booked the taxi to pick me up at an unearthly hour! Thankfully we made good time and, with only about 30 km remaining it became apparent that we had time for a breakfast pit stop.

My driver, a likeable chap who spoke a little English, stopped at a roadside cafe. We found a table and the driver beamed at me "special soup?" he half recommended half enquired. I nodded. Soup for breakfast sounded a bit strange, but when in Rome and all that (or Dalaman in this instance).

A heated encounter, November 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Two steaming bowls of what looked like semolina and vegetables arrived, with a side dish of crushed chillies, sliced tomatoes and whole plump red chillies.

The driver picked a large, juicy chilli and munched on it whilst liberally sprinkling his soup with the crushed variety. The look on his face suggested that the fresh chilli was a tiny bit warm, but the gauntlet had been thrown.

Now I enjoy a hot curry and am a fan of spicy food, so how bad could this be? Did I want to lose the challenge without a fight or showing what I was made of?

I took a teaspoonful of the crushed chilli and was about to sprinkle it on my semolina when the driver stopped me, looking aghast and saying "hot, hot, hot". Eventually I put just a 1/4 teaspoonful. Better to humour him, I could always add more later.

Mistake.

First my lips tingled and went numb. Then my gums, and finally my throat started to burn. I slurped down my tea but that didn't help one iota. The driver was watching gleefully, chomping his way though more fresh chillies.

A heated encounter, November 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

I know, I know, you should never try to cool the effects of hot spices with a cold drink, but when you're in agony common sense can sometimes fly out of the window. Half a litre of iced water later the steam was still coming out of my ears, my eyes watered and the pain in my mouth was even more intense. I gave up.

The driver spend the next couple of minutes in fits of laughter, but in fairness insisted in paying for our food, indicating that it was worth it to see the expressions on my face. Salutary lessons had been learned. Never eat chilli for breakfast unless you've been brought up with that diet, and never, ever try and outdo a local!

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Agni Travel's Top Travel Tip

I've spent an inordinately large amount of time in airports recently. Initially it can be interesting to do a spot of people watching and browse the duty free shops, but eventually the novelty wears off.

Agni Travel's Top Travel Tip, November 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Not long ago I found myself experiencing a prolonged airport visit thanks to a delayed flight. Bored stiff with waiting around, backside numb from the hard seats and spending a small fortune on sandwiches and beer just for the sake of something to do, I went exploring. I made an interesting and beneficial discovery that I think is well worth sharing.

If you find you're going to have to wait around for a few hours don't hang about. Instead, go straight to the airport information desk and ask to purchase a pass for the business class lounge. These aren't expensive, often not much more than the price of a beer and sandwich in the standard departure lounge. Once in the business lounge you can enjoy comfy sofas, TV, internet access and other business services, complimentary snacks, soft and alcoholic drinks. A much more refined and pleasurable way of waiting!

If you know in advance that you're going to have to wait check online with the airport as you can pre-book your pass. And if you're travelling with easyJet check out their own easyJet Lounges that are available at various European airports.

Eat Out all the time - on a diet!

There are not many men who would admit to being on a diet, but I'll put my hand up and confess. Those who know me may remember my years of running a taverna, when I would gain weight during the winter when things were quiet. With the arrival of the holiday season I would soon shed those extra kilos by working long hours in the intense heat. The difference between my winter and summer weight could be as much as 10kg (22lb).

These days, I'm office based and so inevitably less active. The delights of tavernas Vitamins and Roumeli a short walk down the road don't help either. They're the Greek equivalent of first rate convenience meals; tasty food, available quickly and without having to cook! If we have friends visiting the office it's so easy to pop out for lunch, and when we don't have that excuse we'll contrive 'team building' events in order to justify our trips to the taverna.

The math isn't difficult. A more sedentary lifestyle plus constant eating out equals extra weight. A fact that, embarrassing to admit, hit home a few months ago when I glanced at my physique in our full length bathroom mirror whilst shaving. Oh dear!

Enough was enough. At lunch that very day at Anthis Taverna, over a pleasant bottle of red, I consulted my business guru, Tom Clift. What should I do? Short of giving up the business and returning to work in the Taverna I couldn't see a practical way of shedding those extra kilos.

Eat Out all the time - on a diet!, November 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Tom was quite sanguine about my predicament. The answer was simple. The Mediterranean diet is a very healthy one, but we tend to misinterpret it when browsing the menu. You can eat out regularly, but choose your dishes carefully. Fried vegetables may be very tasty, but are still fried food and shouldn't be an daily staple. Stick to salads and grilled meat or fish. Avoid chips, potatoes and mopping up the last traces of Stifado sauce with bread. Substitute some of the wine and beer for a long glass of ice cold water.

That was it. No exercise regime, not a crispbread or low-cal cuppa soup in sight.

Eat Out all the time - on a diet!, November 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Since that lunch with Tom in mid August I've been travelling extensively and have eaten out pretty much daily. From Greek tavernas to Italian ristorante (and I'm not sure I should even mention the Turkish restaurants) the food has been fabulous. However, I've had Tom's advice ringing in my ears and I have, pretty much, with just the occasional seafood linguini forcing a momentary lapse, stuck to it.

I was 86kgs and my target weight was 80kg. In less than 3 months, without having to agonise over calorie counting, feeling hungry or craving for some black listed food, I have just one more kilogram left to lose. There's been no opportunity for extreme exercise, just nipping up and down the occasional hotel staircase rather than taking the lift, so I have to say that Tom's 'thoughtful Mediterranean diet' is a winner in my book and I'd thoroughly recommend it.

If that isn't enough of an incentive, a recent study has shown that a good Mediterranean diet won't only help reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease, but it is also proven to help combat depression. See: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8290632.stm. I rest my case!

Agni Travel - New Destinations

Agni Travel - New Destinations, November 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

With all of this traveling, you may be asking what new destinations we are planning to offer. We spend time searching out the best locations and properties so you do not have too - you can be assured that the properties offered by Agni Travel have already been tested and will be the perfect option for your next holiday.

Agni Travel - New Destinations, November 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

For 2010, Agni Travel will be offering Italy and Turkey alongside its Greek Islands program. Properties and destinations are now being added to our site: Tuscany, Apulia, Skiing in the Dolomites, Summer walks and Turkish Beaches. Contact our office for more details: sales@agni.gr

Our New Italian Properties can be viewed here: Agni Travel 's Hidden Italy
Our Villas in Turkey will be available, from next week, here: Agni Travel Specialist Turkey

A trusting soul

If you're lucky enough to be invited out with local people when you're on holiday you might be forgiven for being hopeful of experiencing a little of the local culture and the opportunity to get off the tourist trail. I certainly am. Therefore it wasn't surprising that I jumped at the offer of an evening out in Rome recently with friends who live in this fabulous city. After a very pleasant meal we took a leisurely wander, heading for what I was promised was the most popular hostelry in the area.

We passed plenty of bars and clubs, all packed with evening revellers, but on we walked. "Not this one, no, not that one" my friends kept saying. Wandering away from the main street and down a side road my expectations soared. Ah ha! We're going off the beaten track; we'll end up in some amazing traditional bar that has never heard an English voice before! Eventually we came to a narrow alleyway with a sign, in Italian, heralding the proximity of a bar. "This one," smiled my friends. And in we went.

It was empty. "Not to worry, you just wait, soon it will be filled to the rafters". We ordered drinks, sat down, and waited.

A trusting soul, November 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Three or four rounds later we were still sitting, waiting. The barman, bored of polishing the glasses, was playing a game of solitaire darts and we were still the only customers. I'd had my fill so suggested we settle up and call it a night; after all it was 1am.

Who knows why the place was so empty, my friends could offer no explanation. But there is a moral to this story - don't ALWAYS believe the locals.

end of column