A Travellerspoint blog

Final Chapter

Monday, 17 to Thursday, 20 July 2017


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This will need to be an omnibus entry wrapping up the events from Monday morning to Thursday morning. It is a cold morning here in Canberra as I try to record the significant events that brought us here.

Monday - Heathrow

A hearty breakfast and then repacked the luggage to equalise the weights as much as possible. One large case each at about 20 Kg, the small duffel that starts off empty and is pressed into service as required about 12 Kg, one carry-on each at about 10 Kg and a handbag for in-flight essentials. That's a total of six pieces that have to be herded out of the room, into the lift and onto the shuttle bus. Sets of fire-doors work against this being an easy task. Check-out is prompt and by 11:30 we're heading for Heathrow Terminal 2.

Terminal 2 Departures is a new experience for us, in recent times we've arrived here twice but this is our first departure. With all our bits on a trolley we head for the Singapore Airlines section to find out where we can dump the three main items. Customer service suggest the check-in kiosk and then the drop-off. We've never done this before and with Jenny providing an extra set of eyes it all works. We head off to the drop-off point where we're provided with boarding passes for both flights and proceed through to security.

We are now on the "Air Side" and have eight hours to fill in. Spent the last of our GB currency and Jenny registers for assistance to get to the departure gate. At the appropriate time we're assembeled in the waiting area and transported to to another waiting area in an electric cart. We're driven for what seems like miles including multiple rides in a lift to arrive to the care of yet another assistance desk. Closer to the departure time Jenny is assisted to a wheelchair and with me trailing along the attendant wheels her off to the gate. To allay any concerns, Jenny isn't injured or unwell, her feet have made it difficult to walk long distances even with a walkingstick.

Eventually we're all aboard and we take off for the thirteen and a quarter hour flight. With the change of timezone we arrive in Singapore just after 17:45 on Tuesday 18 July to the by-now almost familiar Changi Airport.

Tuesday - Changi

With about five hours to fill in we decide to buy a set of noise-cancelling headphone so that we can hear the in-flight entertainment without the irritation of the in-ear regular ones. It adds a bit to the volume of Jenny's handbag but not significantly to the weight. A quick meal at the 24/7 food street and some soft-drink from the 7/11.

There isn't a Gate Number on our Boarding Pass and the Departure Boards are a bit confusing with all the flights showing all the Code-share numbers as well. Although the helpful staff at the information desk provided the answer the pointed out the kiosks where you scan your Boarding Pass. Neat piece of technology, tells you all the required information and then draws a map with the required path from "You are here" to the gate. Very handy when your flight is showing Wellington and you're headed for Canberra.

We observed again that there is a security check before entering the Gate Lounge and entry to the lounge is opened only 30 minutes before boarding. The one security check-point servicing five Departure Gate numbers. With no fuss we board the flight and depart at 23:00 local time for the seven and a half hour flight into Canberra.

Wednesday - Canberra International

Touched down in Canberra shortly after 08:00 having made up almost 30 minutes on the way across Australia with the assistance of tailwinds. Disembarkation is uneventful but the scarcity of toilet facilities we wasted an appreciable amount of time with the result that we're at the end of a lengthy line to be greeted by Border Force. On precious advice from a Border Force Officer (BFO) we indicated that we were carrying pharmaceutical drugs. Preciously that as brought a smile from the BFO, here it caused some confusion, we explained it a second time to a supervisor who also stamped the Entry Card. On the way to Baggage Collection we were stopped again and had our Entry Card scrutinised. This BFO also stamped the Entry Card !! Memories of India spring to mind.

Although there has been a significant delay getting to this point there is still a crowd of people waiting for their luggage. I find a trolley and snatch the duffel bag from the carousel and park it with Jenny and the trolley. Back on the front line and find the first of our large cases. That too is deposited with Jenny. A long wait ss the same solitary piece of luggage rides aimlessly around the carousel. There's an announcement, the baggage handling system has broken down and technicians are on the way to repair it. Grumbles and mutterings from the dozens of people still waiting.

Amid some sarcastic cheers the machine busts into life and the the luggage start tumbling down. I wait and wait, even the unloved piece has been claimed and I'm still waiting for my last piece. Finally it arrives, missing the luggage tag because the handle to which it had been attached had been torn from the case.

Retrieve my damaged case and join the long queue to exit the area we are almost last. There is yet another BFO to inspect our Entry Cards, she's confused and signals for a more senior person. He's busy so we wait some more. He has a quick glance at the form and waves us through. At last we are out and it has been over 90 minutes and that's with half the plane load destined for Wellington being held in transit. There's a lot of improvement required before Canberra can legitimately claim to be an "International" Airport.

A quick taxi ride to Coral Park where we are warmly greeted by Nancy our neighbour and Maree. We have only one thought in mind and that's to get to bed. Before that happens Nancy calls to provide us with a container of soup "In case you don't have time to cook" it is great to have people like that.

We hit the bed and sleep until late afternoon. I start to unpack and create just a lot of chaos in the living room. Drop that approach and bake a damper to go with the soup, at least that worked. Struggling with some electronics, the door chime decides to play randomly, the PVR won't respond to the remote control, my FitBit fails to synchronise. Watch some TV, eat the soup and damper and into bed again.

Thursday - Day One At Home.

Wake up frequently during the night and finally got up to record these notes.

Thanks for sticking with me thought this journey, this will be my final entry.

Until next time wishing you good health and safe travel.

Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 14:12 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Relaxing Sunday at Heathrow

Sunday, 16 July 2017


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We're spending this extra day in Heathrow to tie in with the airline schedule that allows us to fly directly to Canberra from Singapore. Spent some time hunting down my toilet bag which has managed to hide in an unexpected place in an unexpected case. It contains among the normal those items that are not permitted as carry-on. A misplaced toilet bag has cost me a pocket knife or two over the years. All sorted now though.

We go down to the restaurant for breakfast to be told that my vouchers have not been validated. I explained they had been paid for, I was requested to show the receipt from check-in. He was prepared to let us in and for me to bring down the receipt later. Decided to get it done there and then. He took the paperwork to the front desk and assured me it had been 'fixed'.

We wanted to explore the immediate area and watch the aircraft movements. Not so easy as there are no public vantage points that overlook the airport. So we walked East along Bath Rd for a while and were surprised at the presence of a traditional pub "The Three Magpies" in splendid isolation facing Bath Rd and the Terminals as back yard neighbours. It appeared to be well maintained and patronised, looked like a great place for a group to meet up for a drink.

Walked on to the local MacDonald's for some fries and a soda. With a healthy breakfast under our belt we didn't need a full meal. Crossed to the South side of Bath Rd we walked back towards the hotel Jenny spotted a great vantage point to view the aircraft that is parked in the roundabout at the entrance to the airport terminals. It is a fantastic billboard for Emirates airlines.

Back at the hotel we struck another glitch in the check-in system, our keycard would not activate the door lock. Off to the front desk for a quick re-codding of the card and an apology. Perhaps one of Norway's trolls has stowed away in my luggage. Settled down to watch the Wimbledon classic final on the TV in real time, almost like being there. Tremendous result, he's Jenny's favourite player.

Afternoon drifted into evening as I caught up with some of my Project 365 friends. Tomorrow we're in transit as we spend time at Heathrow departures before boarding the flight to Singapore at 22:00

Until next time. Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 09:59 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

A Day on the Buses

Saturday, 15 July 2017


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Arrived in Dover at about 06:00 with overcast sky and a light haze making the famous White Cliffs barely distinguishable. Breakfast in the Buffet and we made our way to the Pacific Lounge to await our departure scheduled for about 08:00. It is a venue we've rarely visited as it isn't often for shows or movies. By way of entertainment we watched two of the crew bring in a grand piano and take out a faulty one. An amazing range of skill to be found on board.

Our departure is announced just after 08:00 and we check out for the last time. There's no congestion in the luggage collection area and an obliging porter takes all our luggage out to a taxi. The driver suggests that catching the bus from the Ferry Terminal will be more comfortable than at the in-town stop that we're booked for. We go along with his suggestion and appreciate the covered waiting area, conveniences and snack bar. Our coach is due at 10:20 and it is now just 08:30 so we have a long wait. The driver uses his phone to check if an earlier departure is available but he has no luck, suggested we try the booking office in the terminal.

We sit for an hour or so while an earlier bus passes through fully booked so we resign to a longer wait. To our surprise the taxi driver turns up expressing his concern that he may have given bad advice and offers to take us to the in-town bus stop at no expense. We thank him profusely and decide to remain where we are watching the traffic arriving and departing this busy ferry terminal. We are further entertained by a gentleman from Macedonia who neither spoke or understood much english but made his feelings known with gestures. He LOVES Australia, he doesn't like England but comes here to work. He has six kids and carries a small photo of each in his wallet.

The coach arrives at 10:25 and the three of us board, leaving about 30 or more seats vacant. Next stop Canterbury where about half the empty seats are occupied. On to Kent University and we fill the coach to capacity. A lady in the front seat and the driver discuss the virtues of this part of the UK. We are one seat back and eavesdrop the conversation. He lives in this area and is a keen student of the local history. We encounter some brief showers but the clear up as we approach London. On the way to the terminal he keeps up a commentary on some of the many landmarks and famous buildings. On arrival at Victoria Coach Station at 13:10 he digs out all the luggage and signals a porter to help us with ours. In no time we're escorted through this maze and arrive at the correct departure gate with our next departure due at 14:30 for the next leg to Heathrow.

Given the pleasant and helpful nature of the last driver it was a disappointment to be put through the third degree by an officious driver who enforced the rule that bus-cards must be shown. Jenny found hers, mine is buried in the luggage he's not amused. He then informs my that the carriage of the fifth item of luggage should be charged at 5 pounds. I'm quickly getting to dislike this guy, Out on the road he drives aggressively pushing his vehicle into the smallest of gaps and explaining that this is the only way to drive in London. This will be the fourth drive through London, the other three were much more tolerant and got through just as quickly. At the scene of a fender-bender he blocked both free lanes claiming he couldn't see sufficiently to pass the cars involved. After some loud horn blasts from other motorists and an exchange of threatening gesturers from him and some frustrated motorists he found he COULD manoeuvre his vehicle. He had made his point. We were happy to get off that coach at the Heathrow Central Bus Station.

Found a baggage cart and loaded our lot for the underground passage to the Terminal 2 Arrivals forecourt to connect with the Hoppas service to our hotel. We've visited this part of the complex previously and confidently found our shuttle coach to the Leonardo Hotel. We check in and sign up for the full breakfast option for Sunday and Monday. The room is superb and Internet is free and fast. Absolute bonus !!

We're a bit hungry and order a room service meal of steak and ale pie with vegetables and masked potato. Excellent meal and fully satisfied us. We haven't done much walking but are quite tired after the travel and managing the luggage.

A full day and two nights at the Leonardo and then we start our journey home.

Until next time. Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 12:44 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Last Sea Day

Friday, 14 July 2017

Overcast and windy to start the day and the addition of rain and rising seas later in the day. Little of any consequence to report just the usual administrative tasks on the day before disembarkation. There are the staff commendation forms and an envelope with some monetary recognition of excellent service.

The Culinary Demonstration in the morning was one of the few highlights for us. The tour of the galley included more of the preparation areas and we got to see more of the cooks than is normal for the usual tours.

After lunch started the task of packing the luggage. Lots to be considered as we have two nights in Heathrow, the hours to be spent in the airports and the chilly temperatures awaiting us in Canberra,

Managed to get everything packed away and we're still within the weight limits. Even had time for a short nap before heading up to the buffet for dinner and to say goodbye to the many who have looked after us. I've gorged myself on grapes which have remained remarkably fresh throughout the cruise. I tried a piece of "All American Meatloaf" dressed with a wild mushroom sauce. The taste was tremendous.

The first show this evening was at 18:45 so we decided to join what turned out to be a meagre audience. Tonight's act is Michael Bacala a violinist from Poland. His selection of music and the perfect techneque of his playing evoked frequent and genuine applause, just a shame there were so few to hear it. There have been a number of memorable entertainers on this voyage, he certainly ranks up there with the best.

There's a break in the clouds and the waves have abated as we continue Southwards. Clocks go back tonight by an hour thereby returning us to British Summer Time. We're due to arrive in Dover about 06:00 tomorrow.

Until next time. Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 11:18 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Haugesund in Brilliant Sunshine

Thursday, 13 July 2017


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The outlook for our day in port was somewhat depressing with dark clouds crowding the sky to the horizon. This will be our last port before disembarking in Dover on Saturday. We're not due to arrive until just before noon today and with time on our hands we visited the Future Cruises Consultant and paid for two more deposits. We also discussed the pros and cons of booking multiple segments with or without the option of an upgrade. It all gets a bit complicated and not always logical or financially beneficial.

We slipped into the port which is located on a bay or sound just in from the sea. It was unusual to have relatively flat country around us rather than mountains and steep cliffs. The pier was welcoming and for a change we're the only cruise ship in town. The community has provided a free shuttle bus into the heart of the town. Equally welcoming was the bright sunshine and just a mild breeze. The free shuttle is a strong incentive for passengers to visit the town and spend some money. There's little profit for local stores from ship organised shore excursions, passengers are bundled onto the bus and have little opportunity to spend. Those passengers that are left are most likely to spend in town if they don't have to pay to get there.

The town is easy to walk around with the main street being a pedestrian mall for a good many blocks. From the dominant landmark of the "Our Saviour's Church" we walked down to the tourist Information centre then wandered Northward through the tidy and almost deserted suburb of well maintained houses. Back to main street where the many visitors and locals enjoyed their coffee in the sun. We were both a little footsore and headed back to the shuttle pick-up point. Called into a supermarket for some ice-creams which cost just 46 krone including tax. Our only currency the Euro was not accepted so we charged it to the Visa card. By my reckoning that's just over AU$ 3.00. Just as well the plastic is widely accepted.
A quick ride back to the ship where we slipped out of our boots and into comfortable slippers. With little else to do I've caught up with this story, checked my emails and started the review of paperwork, what to keep, what to toss.

Dinner in the buffet and picked up another hot chocolate on the way back to the cabin. Tonight's entertainment is "Max Francis" a comic magician highly acclaimed in the UK who blends comedy, magic and mentalism with audience participation. If he'd delivered even a small percentage of any one of those attributes he'd have received some enthusiastic applause. Didn't cost anything and got us out of the cabin for a while. Disappointing.

We are heading out to sea for our last leg to the Port of Dover arriving there on Saturday morning.

Today's temperatures were a high of 17 °C and a low of 11 °C with clear sky and bright sun in the afternoon. As we sail southward we are experiencing increasing periods of darkness overnight.

Until next time. Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 12:07 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

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