A Walk Around Battle Abbey

One of the great things about where I live is that I don’t need to go far to visit a historical site.  I finally went into Battle.  No, I didn’t put on any armour or anything like that.  I went to Battle, the town.  Last Christmas, I went to visit a friend who was staying there, but I never got a really good look around.  Besides, it was really cold and icy, with snow on the ground.

Although the Abbey is open pretty much all year round, most of the tour is actually outside.  It is best seen when dry. And sunny.

The Battle of Hastings was fought here.  I don’t know why it is called The Battle of Hastings when Hastings is a bit further away (6 miles), but that is one of the things about the English that I will never understand and just leave it as is.

Anyway, here is where the battle was fought:

The Battlefield

Hmm, it doesn’t look like much of a battlefield, but many men lost their lives here and The Battle of Hastings changed the history of England.  The Normans conquered England, so basically that makes the English French.  No? 🙂

The entry fee includes an audio tour which is very informative and entertaining.  If you didn’t know anything about The Battle of Hastings before the tour, you will learn a considerable amount during.  The Battlefield walk takes about 30-40 minutes, but that is only if you stop and listen to the tour at various points, otherwise it will take less time, around 20 minutes.

Access to The Abbey is rather limited as a large part of it is taken over by a school which is in the great hall and library.  However, there are the dormitory ruins and undercrofts that one can go into.  I didn’t go into the exhibition which is housed in a modern building.

Battle has a small town centre.  There are some lovely shops and plenty of places to eat.  We were a bit late for lunch, so by the time we finished the Abbey tour, about 5pm, there was nowhere to have tea.  It is a good idea to get there early, have a wander around the town, eat lunch, do the tour (about 2 hrs), and then have a cream tea.  If you have energy and enough daylight after that, there are some lovely walks in the fields around the town.

The Hilton Waterfalls, Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt

I stayed at The Hilton Waterfalls during my recent visit to Sharm el Sheikh.  The Waterfalls is classed as a five-star hotel.  Five star in Egypt is not the same as five-star in Europe.  It doesn’t even come close, so one needs to be fairly objective and sensible when writing a review.

I was looking for a bit more luxury and comfort on this trip than what I had been used to previously.  I booked my holiday with Sportif.  I got a very nice deal for 2 weeks that included airport transfers with Marhaba Tours, all-inclusive accommodation, and an 11 day dive pack with Ocean College.

One reason for upgrading is that the hotel I have used in the past is currently closed.  Also, Ocean College are no longer based there.  However, they have their main centre at the Hilton Fayrouz in Na’ama Bay, and a centre at The Waterfalls nr. Hadaba.  The Waterfalls is closer to the area that I wanted to be in.

How it went:

I was collected at the airport and fast tracked for my visa.  I didn’t have to wait in line for anything.  I had the same person collecting me as the last few times, and as before I was the only passenger.  The representative at Marhaba Tours helped me check in at the hotel.  I got door to door service.

At check-in, the staff were friendly and efficient.  I was given information about the hotel with a map and they explained how things worked if I needed anything.  There was a box waiting for me in reception for my diving gear.  I had arranged this prior to arrival with Ocean College.

A cart was ordered for me and I was taken to my room.  It would have been a long walk otherwise.  Although the room was very nice, there were two twin beds in there.  I called to see if I could have a different room with a double bed, but one wouldn’t be available until the next day.  Fine!

Dinner was still being served, so I went to see what was on offer.  There was a variety of hot and cold food and desserts.  Afterwards, I went to the bar to order a drink.  I had a nice cold Sakara on tap.  Being all-inclusive, I was entitled to soft drinks, beer by the glass, local wines and spirits, water and coffee and tea.  There was a coffee machine for lattes, etc.  I was also given two large bottles of water a day in my room.

Being tired and diving the next day, I had an early night.  Before I went back to my room, I ordered a packed lunch to take on the boat as it was part of my all-inclusive.  When I got to my room I left the air conditioning on low as I had a lovely duvet on the bed.  The bed was very comfortable for a single.  There was a large bathroom with a shower/bath and bidet.  There was a hairdryer in the bathroom and Crabtree and Evelyn bath and shower products were available.  You didn’t have to bring any soap, shampoo, etc. if you didn’t want to as it was all provided.  There was also an iron and ironing board and plenty of closet space and drawers for clothes.

I slept well as I was very comfortable because of the duvet, not too hot or cold.  The bedding was very nice and the pillows were good too.  I usually have an issue with pillows or mattresses being too hard, but didn’t have that problem here.

Breakfast was varied and interesting.  There was a lovely selection of breads, muffins and Danishes, all fresh.  There were cold meats and cheeses and salad items, typical in many European hotels.  There were eggs, omelets, pancakes, donuts and waffles with different sauces and syrups to go on them.  There was porridge, sausages, falafels, potatoes and other hot items.  There was whole fresh fruit and fruit salad with yogurt in individual pots.  In all, there was something for everyone.  Freshly made juices were available as were coffee and teas.  Hot drinks were served at your table, the rest you had to get for yourself.

After breakfast I called for a cart to help me take my kit to the dive centre. 🙂  I dished out some goodies, sorted my paperwork and got ready for my first day of diving.

My packed lunch consisted of 4 sandwiches, 2 cheese and 2 meat, a small bottle of water and 2 apples.  Not very exciting.

On my return after a lovely day of diving, I was moved into another room, with a double bed.  No problem. 🙂  It was just like the twin room, except with a double bed.

The hotel’s grounds are lovely and well maintained.  There are quite a few pools and a few different restaurants that you can try at least once as part of your all-inclusive.

As I was diving, my routine consisted of having breakfast, waiting to be collected to go diving, spending the day on the boat, having a beer on my return, sitting by the pool to watch the sunset, getting ready for dinner, eating, having a coffee or drink while reading, and going to bed.

Although I was all-inclusive, I barely made use of it as I was out of the hotel most of the day and I can’t drink much alcohol after diving.  I can’t eat a big breakfast early in the morning.  However, after requesting lunches without bread and not getting much of a variety, I gathered supplies from breakfast instead.  Frankly, it was too hot to eat much.  I paid for drinks supplied on the boat so I didn’t have to lug around large bottles of water.  I drank loads because of the heat.

Overall impressions:

The Hilton Waterfalls is a very nice hotel.  It has been around for a little while and is starting to show a bit of wear and tear.  However, it is generally very clean.  I say generally as although the hygiene standards are a hundred times better than where I have stayed before, there still seems to be a problem of using bleach to clean the shower area.  I see no reason why I should be looking at a bit of black mold in some areas of the grouting in the bathroom.  Both rooms I stayed in were like this.  However, to give them credit, the public toilets in the hotels were very tidy.  If I have issues about this, it is because I worked in that industry.

There are many activities available if you want to take advantage of them.  I sat under a hut in the shade overlooking the sea on my last two days off of diving and wasn’t feeling energetic.  It is extremely hot in August.  The swimming pools were warm.

The Bars:

There is a bar in reception that serves cold Sakara on tap, in glasses.  I didn’t have a problem getting served and after a few days, the bar staff knew what I wanted and would bring it to me where I was sitting.  The pool bars were a different story.  It seemed that the bar person was also the glass collector, so there were times when nobody was available to serve drinks.  That was very annoying as there should have been more staff.  Also, you couldn’t guarantee that your beer would be cold.  The bars outside served bottled beer, usually Stella (not the European brand), into a plastic tumbler.  Sometimes you might get one that had been opened for a while and it might be warm.  There were other times that the bar staff would just disappear.  What was just as annoying as having only one bar person when it was busy, was the fact that a lot of the customers were quite rude.  Most people would just walk up to the bar and shout out what they wanted.  No please or thank you.  And that was the adults, the children were not much better.  Having worked behind a bar in a previous life, I don’t generally have a problem with bar staff and getting drinks.  I also smile, and say please and thank you.  As it was tricky getting served at the pool bar after a hard day’s diving, I would usually grab one from the lobby bar and take it with me outside.  At least I didn’t have to wait and the drink was cold.

The Food:

As stated earlier, there was a wide variety of food for breakfast and dinner.  There were themed food evenings, such as Italian and Chinese.  The salads were mainly in a local style as well as there being a traditional salad bar.  There was always soup and a variety of breads.  Sometimes there was a grill as well as the usual fare in the main hot food section.  There were plenty of vegetables, meat, potatoes, rice, etc.  I think the hotel really tried to cater to different requirements and yet make it interesting.  On the whole, I found the food to be very good and of a good quality.

The Downside to the Food:

Dinner was served at 7pm.  All of the food, hot and cold, was set up and ready to be served at 6pm.  That meant that the hot food was sitting in the heaters for an hour.  This meant that crispy food sometimes got a bit soggy or dried out on the bottom.  I really can’t imagine what the health and safety implications of leaving hot food out for so long are, especially rice.  Not to mention the flying creatures that could get into the building quite easily.  I thought at first that this had something to do with Ramadan, but it continued every night even afterwards.

The Staff:

On the whole, the staff were very helpful and polite.  I was waited on at breakfast and dinner by the same young men.  After a few days, I didn’t even have to tell them what I wanted to drink as it would appear on my table.  The young lady who served me at the reception bar each evening was particularly helpful.  I would usually go there for a coffee after dinner and read a bit of my book.  I didn’t encounter any sleaziness from any of the staff as I had experienced from other places in the past.  If I had a question at Reception, there was always someone to help.

Would I go back?

Yes and no.  I go to Sharm mainly for the diving.  When I go alone, I try to get as many days diving in as possible.  That means that I spend most of my time on a boat, away from the hotel.  My main priority is that my room is clean, the air conditioning works, I can get a cold beer and have a nice breakfast.  Oh, and that the place is quiet.  The Waterfalls is not a diver’s hotel.  Although there are people staying there that dive, there weren’t that many so there wasn’t that social aspect of a diver’s hotel as there was in the hotel I used to stay at.  Even though I will not ever be staying in that other hotel again, there are other hotels in the area that are just as clean and tidy as the Waterfalls, but also a lot less expensive.  Divers like to economise as they don’t spend much time in their hotels.

I kind of missed the camaraderie of the after diving beer and chat about the day’s diving.  If I was with someone, it would have been a different story.  The view of the sea in the evening is stunning and the setting is very romantic.  I did meet people and talked to them, but the holiday makers tended to be either families or couples.  If it was my first trip diving and I didn’t know anyone, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it much.  There were a couple of nights I went out and met up with some friends, but for the most part, I holed up in my hotel as it was too convenient not to.

The Hotel tries hard, but doesn’t quite make it enough for me to say that I would definitely go there again.  It depends on what kind of deal I can get.