I'm currently in Manchester (hi Stu!) and will probably not get to the internet much as we're off to the Lake District tomorrow for a week. The cottages we're staying in don't really do wireless!
I'm trying to update as much as possible, but it's hard when you're constantly on the move.
So... on Monday, my sister's fiance drove us to Slough to pick up our hire car. There's really not much you can say about Slough. It's where The Office was set. Our hire car is a Peugeot 307, who we've nicknamed Brutus:
After depositing the car back at my sister's house, we walked into Windsor with the intention of visiting the castle. It was great timing as we came across the changing of the guards parade on the way:
We followed them to the castle (we had a vague notion that they would know the way!)and watched the changing of the guards. Unfortunately the section where the ceremony was taking place was being renovated, so the changing of the guards occurred outside a port-a-cabin. Very posh!
Windsor castle was still crowded with tourists even for a Monday. I liked the garden in the moat, and Henry VIII's fat suit of armour. Man, he was a tub-ster.
Walked over to Eaton and looked at the school. We found a pub and had the worst meal we've had in England yet!
One observation: I can’t believe the current fashion for women in their teens and 20s is skinny jeans tucked into Ugg boots. They’re all bogans!
Next installment: Stratford-upon-Avon via Oxford University.
England is bloody freezing! I didn’t take a jacket with me so I’m going to have to buy one.
It’s strange being back after five years. I’d forgotten that there were so many old buildings and it all looked so pastoral. The birds gently twitter in the rain (of course it’s raining) unlike Sydney where the lorikeets kamikaze along in bright sunshine.
We’re staying with my sister and her fiance in Windsor. B picked us up from Heathrow in the morning and our plane was delayed by 2 hours in Singapore. Customs at Heathrow was a joke. There was nobody even on duty. That would definitely not happen in Australia where we are paranoid about someone bringing in a foreign banana.
As we were driving into Windsor, traffic was halted for a cavalcade of the Queen’s horses who trotted across the road in formation being led from one paddock up to the castle via the Long Walk. B said she had organised it just for us…
We had a quick nap and then a walk to the shops to find a jacket. The shopping journey was a fail because it’s all summer clothes over here and I was too jet lagged to go shopping properly.
We had a pint in a pub, the Two Brewers, next to Windsor castle then went for a walk down the Long Walk. We turned in at 8:30pm and woke up at 4:30am, so had a solid 8 hours sleep. I feel like we’re conquering the jet lag… A bit.
On Sunday B and I rushed out to buy a Barbour jacket - against the Bloke's wishes who think Barbour jackets are snobby. I didn't care. All the other shops were selling summer clothes and I needed a good quality, warm jacket. B put in some money for it as my birthday present which justified the expense... somewhat.
We then walked to a restaurant for lunch with some friends we haven't seen in years. We all came back to B and G’s for coffee and cake afterwards. We then went back to the Two Brewers next to the castle. The Two Brewers is very old and more local pub than some of the others. It's amazing how with good friends, you can just pick up from where you left off.
So, that A380. Marvellously quiet. Take offs and landings were very gentle and, in the dark, it was difficult to tell if you‘d actually landed or not.
The only dampener to the flight was that the Bloke and I were not alocated to be sat together. We seemed to be the only couple on the plane not sat together! Are Qantas trying to tell us something?!!!
It was irritating - on check-in the woman told us that it was because we’d checked in later than everyone else. This was at three hours before take-off! We managed to get shuffled around so we were at least sitting the same area with the Bloke sat behind me and me on an exit-row. In the middle lot of seating. I was talking to the couple beside me and they checked in one hour after us and still managed to get seated together. Hmmmm.
My theory behind the seating arrangements is that we don’t have as many frequent flyer points as others, therefore are the lowest priority when it comes to seating. The stewards on the flight said that because the airbus has a 2-3-2 seating configuration in premium economy in a small cabin of about 30 seats, it is difficult to seat couples.
On the second leg of the journey, Singapore to London, we arranged with another passenger to swap seats and we ended up sat together in a window and aisle seat. So humans triumph over technology yet again!
Premium economy is well worth the money. Everyone’s friendly because no one is squashed. It’s very civilised. And the interior, despite us being located behind the engines is whisper quiet. You're also one of the first to board the plane and check in is done via the business counter, so no long queues.
We managed to get 5 hours on-and-off sleep on the Singapore to London leg, so that's helped with the jetlag somewhat.
Two days to go until our Europe trip. It's pretty much all I think about at the moment!
I've printed off our itineraries and tickets, found the passports (multiple as we're both dual citizens), got medication and travel toiletries (all under 100 mils!) from the chemist and started washing the clothes we'll take.
Now all that's left is for us to pack. And look forward to seeing family and friends and not working for an entire month!
In keeping with my aim to view my city as a tourist, I've been walking around the city at lunch-times instead of eating lunch at my desk.
I work close to Terminal 8 , which is the Darling Harbour cruise ship terminal. It's the terminal for "smaller" cruise ships - i.e. the ones that can fit under the harbour bridge. Here are a few shots of the little ships: And here's one from the other side of the harbour, looking back towards Darling Harbour and Terminal 8:
The larger cruise ships dock at the overseas passenger terminal at Circular Quay. The super-liners, however, have to dock at the naval base at Garden Island.
The area you see in the foreground of photos 2 and 3 is where the container shipping yard used to be before it was moved to Botany Bay. It's going to be turned into parkland, office and residential areas, which is great on one hand, and sad on the other because that's part of Sydney's working harbour history gone. And they'll be getting rid of Terminal 8 too. I'm betting that the developers of the site decided that having a cruise liner parked beside some office towers would spoil the water views.
So it'll be shunted over to Balmain, which will cause traffic hell for residents and will be a disappointment for travellers. Imagine thinking you'll be in the thick of things in Sydney, while in reality you'll be parked in the suburbs! I'd want my money back!
The cruise season (October to March-ish) is over, so there aren't as many ships in port as there have been. It's still a pretty spectacular sight when they reverse out of the berth and do a 180 degree swivel on the spot because there's not much room between the quay and the Balmain headland. To have that degree of control over such a huge vessel in such a tight space is very impressive. I'll try and take some shots of it happening next time I see it.
Still, I don't think I'd enjoy cruising. Imagine being stuck on a ship with hundreds of other people for days at a time. No thanks. More like a floating RSL club than a nice holiday!
The Bloke and I have a lovely dining table and with recycled wooden benches. However, the benches aren't really good for sitting at for long periods of time.
So on the weekend, I bought two dark brown leather chairs from a furniture seconds store.
I had several sales people say to me:
"You do know that you'll have to assemble those chairs yourself, don't you?"
What? Did I look completely incompetent? Did they not realise that they were talking to a woman who had assembled a 6-burner BBQ, a queen sized bed and soldered together the TV and stereos' cables in order to get surround sound? HA!
It all went fairly smoothly at first. Unpack chairs from box:
Screw in the base of the chair to the back and legs of the chair, then screw the front legs to the base of the chair:
And there you have two chairs!
With supervision of course! However, the second chair proved harder than the first to put together. The screws wouldn't go in the whole way. I think the holes hadn't been drilled properly at the factory. I guess that's why they were so cheap.
So it's a bit wobbly. Let's hope that nobody large sits on that particular chair!