Up, up and away

The flight kept getting delayed, we are reminded why Singapore continually wins awards for service, everyone given a snack box whilst they wait.

The older A380s run by Singapore have economy on the upper deck as well. I remembered now why I’d picked this particular seat. Only 2 on the side, no one behind me but seat fully reclinable and being on the upper deck you get to board first. You can also stick things under your seat as well as under the seat in front as the exit row is behind you.

I’d probably be a little annoyed if I’d shelled out for business class on this one. Whilst the seats are roomy they are not the bed like ones and the leather looks a little tatty. Apparently this jet is 10 years old.

A Concorde is on the tarmac. Unfortunately it’s story is very sad. An historic piece of aviation history deserves a better ending than this.

The lady sitting next to me turns out to be an even bigger plane spotter / travel geek than what I am. I have someone to talk to for a while now.

Apart from the delay the flight is pretty uneventful. I don’t even mind this delay as it means I won’t be arriving in Singapore at 5am

Flying over Poland again. I’m remind myself at how awesome it and underrated it was as a travel destination. Put it on your agenda!

They ran out of the chicken before they got to me so I had the curry lamb instead. It was delicious.

Arrive Singapore. Through immigration, customs and have my bag, all in less than 10 minutes. Not sure how they can be this good, no wonder it’s consistently voted Best airport in the world. And in 5 more minutes I’m in the metro. It’s spotless and blasting nice cool air.

Perversely right at this moment it’s cooler in Singapore than it is in Europe suffering from the heat wave. Humidity still higher though. Oh, and a reminder I’m in Asia, a sign banning durians (for good reasons too!)

In 30 min I’m at Fort Canning MRT, and can see my hotel. Clarke Quay looks a nice little area to be staying

Checked into the hotel, room not ready to 12 so went for a walk around for about an hour and a half. My internal clock was telling me it’s still 3am so I headed back to make use of the pool area until the room is ready. Of course in Singapore this had to be accompanied by a Singapore Sling, but at $25 a pop won’t be having too many of these

Goodbye Amsterdam

After my coffee this morning I went back to the hotel to get my bags, checkout and head up to the station.

The hotel just after checkout

Amsterdam station is unlike any other in Europe I’ve been through, you need to scan your ticket to get on or off the platform concourse area, and once there, there is no digital board listing the departure platforms. I couldn’t find the paper listing anywhere so had to ask at the information desk. Of course my train leaves from the last platform quite a walk away. I grab an early sandwich here rather than taking it on the train with me.

The train arrives on time, departs on time and gets to Brussels on time which overall has been a rarity. This train is as fast as advertised just shy of 300kph. The only frustrating thing is the other passengers who don’t seem to be able to read the seat numbers against their ticket and hold up everyone else boarding. Hell really is other people sometimes.

The train is comfortable, only real complaint is no in seat power, which is super surprising for a first class high speed service. Thankfully I have my battery.

It’s horrendously hot for this part of the world and the aircon on the train is only barely coping. Thankfully it’s only a 2hr trip.

There are plenty of wind turbines and after a while I realise we have crossed the border into Belgium as on one of the generators it announces Wind4Flanders.

The most surprising thing really is the lack of green due to the heatwave. After a month of 30+ days with little rain everything is brown. Blink and I could swear I was on the Western Line in Sydney given the outlook. The occasional amazing church with their spires gives it away that I’m not at home.

Once in Brussels I eventually find the luggage storage area and where the Eurostar leaves from and attempt to store my luggage. I need 5 euros in coins and only have 3.50 so I have to purchase something to get coins. Do this and all is good until I then need to go to the loo and remember that in most of Europe to spend a penny it will cost a Euro ! I find a machine this time that converts notes to coins. Now I’m back to a stack of coins I won’t need. The cycle of currency waste continues….

Walking outside the station I’m hassled by two beggars in less than 1 minute. I was going to walk up to Palais de Justice but change my mind as it’s a 25 minute walk in 36c and decide to get a cold drink instead

Warm day here….

Walking outside I see this thing against the side of the wall in the middle of nowhere that looks just like a toilet. 2 seconds later a passerby uses it and removes any doubt. I guess it saves people just wizzing against the wall anywhere

Inside I find a cafe and get a cold iced coffee and am reminded I’m in the French speaking world as the coffee it terrible. Most station coffee is rubbish but it’s hard to mess up an iced coffee, even Starbucks do a decent iced coffee

You know you are in Belgium when the vending machines do waffles !

The Eurostar is again having issues (possibly heat related) delayed over an hour and a half out of Brussels. it’s reliability has certainly decreased over the past 12 months given my recent problems with them. They do promote themselves as better than flying but add in the delays and the now airport like security check and queues its not as clear cut. I did consider getting a ferry from Amsterdam to the UK, I’m thinking that would have been the better option. They announced we can claim compensation after 48 hours.

The queue behind me is way way worse. At least here in Brussels the waiting area is properly air conditioned unlike Paris.

finally on board. Was starting to worry they might cancel it

Once it gets going it really gets going. One slight bonus with the delay is that I won’t be dealing with peak hour on the tube getting from St Pancras to Paddington.

Hundreds of kilometres of fencing at Calais to prevent illegal immigration though the tunnel. At the section where the fencing starts it’s protected by two border guards.

9pm finally back in the UK. Flight leaves in the morning for Singapore

Leaving London

I’m leaving London yet again this holiday, third time in as many weeks I’ve departed this wonderful city once for Poland, once for France and now for Denmark. It’s a very weird feeling as Sharon and Emma are heading back to Sydney whilst I continue on. Emotionally it’s holidays ending, holidays starting and saying goodby to the family for two weeks all rolled into one.

We were in bed pretty early last night from the final day in Paris and transfer to London. Our day technically started again at about 20 past 12 in the AM when the fire alarm in our room went off for a few seconds. In my dazed half slumber I thought it was one of the multitude of electronic gadgets I have going off but then realised it was the alarm. It stopped then 5 minutes later came on again and didn’t stop. Looked in the corridor to see lots of people heading out, but couldn’t see or smell any smoke and looking out the window everything seemed fine. Before exiting into the cool night half naked I called reception who confirmed that another guest got busted smoking in their room. I could tell from his tone he was super pissed about it. For him it turned a quiet nightshift into a nightmare.

Once we were up and out (at a more reasonable 10am) we jumped on the tube to head to the Science Museum. Totally wow wow wow. For me this was complete nerd heaven. Not sure why I never visited it on my last trip, but on my next one I’m spending a full day in there.

Before entering we grabbed a quick bite at a mini Pret store, and the coffee was a surprisingly good one, better than I expected. Maybe it was just I’d gotten used to all the crap coffee in Paris.

Whilst we are on the subject of Paris, as much as I love Paris, as a city to visit London wins hands down. Paris may be the city of light, but as the saying goes when you are tired of London you are tired of life and I’m by no means tired of London. And as it’s only 2hrs by train you can hop over for the weekend.

They have James Watt’s workshop here in the museum.

They have stacks of cool stuff on display. Remember I saw someone riding a chopper bicycle in London about 2 weeks ago?

They even have the first computer I ever owned displayed (VIC20). Now I do feel old. They had all the greats from the 80s here

John will recognise this blast from the past :-

One fantastic thing about London is all the free museums. We spent a few hours here at the Science museum and it cost nothing (I donated the recommended £5, but it’s by no means compulsory). Could could spend a week visiting all the museums here and not spend a cent (or a penny) and London has some fabulous museums.

I couldn’t resist this t-shirt

After the science museum we headed over to the Guildhall to look at the underground Roman amphitheater they discovered, and again entry was completely free. Our day only cost us breakfast, lunch and a few tube rides.

Lunch was a few sandwiches and salads we bought at Tesco and at in the shade on the grounds of the Guildhall.

After checking this out, we tubed it back to the hotel, picked up our luggage and took the Heathrow express out to the airport. Sharon and Emma were departing from terminal 3 and I terminal 2. After helping Sharon and Emma checking in and saying our goodbyes I headed to terminal 2. I was through checkin and security in record time of about 5 minutes to discover my flight is delayed about an hour. C’est la vie…. at least it’s giving me time a plenty to write this blog post.

One positive about Terminal 2 is I found a place that does decent coffee. About a 7/10. Not bad for an airport

I’m now at the gate waiting for my flight to start boarding after a bit of a delay. Next post will be from Denmark. Home of Hygge and LEGO !

Au Revoir Charlie

Today is a relocation day. We are leaving Paris and heading back to London for a night so Sharon and Emma can get their flight back to Sydney tomorrow night, and I can get my flight to Copenhagen.

We had mostly packed yesterday afternoon so we would be ready early. We had to checkout by 11 and our train wasn’t till 3 so we had a few hours to look around. We used stasher.com to find somewhere near Gare Du Nord to keep our luggage for a few hours whilst we looked around. I’d been super stressed about our ability to get across Paris on Bastille Day, but need not of worried as the traffic was less than normal. Apparently it doesn’t get crazy until sun down. It will also be insanely crazy on Sunday with France in the final for the World Cup. I expected to see tri-colours everywhere but it seemed quite subdued and really just felt like a normal Saturday morning.

Gare Du Nord was its usual eclectic mix of grimy streets, strange smells, throngs of people, back packers, dodgy characters, beggars and shite souvenir peddlers. One dodgy looking bloke was just hanging around the subway entrance looking to push past someone and get through on their subway ticket for free. I’d seen a few people do that over the past week and could spot their MO getting close to people and trying to follow them through. I blocked him from trying this as Emma went through.

As soon as we had dumped the luggage we got a train back to Gare Saint Lazare to check out the Primtemps Haussmann department store. The less time I spend at Gare du Nord the happier I’ll be.

This department store (Primtemps Haussmann) is wonderful. The true Parisian shopping experience and prices to match. They have a roof garden with a great view but unfortunately it’s closed today. We settled on coffee and a cake. Again sigh….. this was a commercial Nespresso machine. Ok and consistent as Nespresso always is, but not worth €5 a pop.

This store also has a pretty spectacular food and grocery area which we wandered and oogled all the nice looking food products for a bit. For lunch we grabbed some packaged sandwiches from the local carrefor supermarket to take on the train and avoid paying Eurostar prices for substandard food, and also to avoid joining the expected far-queue at the restaurant car on the train.

Cookie kit in a glass jar!

Not sure I’d want to explain “happy plants” to the guys at customs in Sydney.

View from the cafe

Inside Gare Du Nord looking down from the Eurostar check in area.

We started the check in process just before 2pm. Took a while to get though but thankfully not as bad as the trip to Paris. For some reason our seats were reassigned and we lost the table seat we had and were across from each other on the train. Eurostar experience overall is down on my expectations given the great trips I had last year and in 2016.

Bastille Day M&M’s for sale today

Just in time for the World Cup….

I picked up my copy of Charlie Hebdo from the station to browse through on the train back to London. I do wish they would do an English version, oh well some entertainment for the next few days over coffee with google translate to fully appreciate it

Train arrived in London on time but they screwed a few people around by not stopping at one of the designated stops (Ashford) and had to organise other transport for them. London has it all over Paris as far as arrivals go, St Pancras is clean and well maintained. We took the tube from St Pancras (Kings Cross technically as that’s the tube station attached to St Pancras international) to Paddington where we have a hotel so we don’t have to relocate across London in the afternoon tomorrow to get to Heathrow. Just jump on the Heathrow express.

Our hotel in London is right on the “CS3” cycle super highway where it’s mostly separated from traffic and crosses London. I wish Sydney could do something like this.

Our room has a mezzanine level

Eurostar or Jetstar ?

Our first bad experience with the Eurostar today. Thankfully we were on the last train out of London and we didn’t get the full Jetstar treatment with our train being cancelled. That happened to one or two earlier today due to some signalling issues on the tracks in France. Luckily we only copped a delayed departure and far-queues from hell trying to get though immigration and into the departure lounge

Love the British and their orderly queuing, a few queue jumpers got caught, publicly shamed and sent to the end of the line.

A few trains departed with out catering. Luckily it’s only 2hrs to Paris. Thankfully even though it took forever to get through our train was only 40 minutes late. I was also somewhat surprised we had a spare seat next to us given the earlier cancelled trains.

The Eurostar people even helped load our luggage. Not long after departure I’m reminded of all the things I love about the Eurostar, comfortable seats with legroom, it’s fast and you get a great view.

At the end of the day, the Eurostar wasn’t Jetstar.

Sharon brought these delicious strawberries to nibble on during the trip. They were perfect, sweet all the way through. At home we sometimes get strawberries with a slightly tart taste, not these ones.

We have finally made it to Paris. We get our apartment tomorrow. For the night we are in this corner room on the 6th floor of a hotel right between Gare Du Nord and Gare Du Est stations. More pics of that tomorrow.

It does have a lift but I love these stairs

Working towards the Globe

Whilst I was at work (and sampling a few coffees) Sharon and Emma were doing a little more sightseeing around London. Their plan had been to check out the Churchill War Rooms (I’ve done this twice already – they are awesome) however the three hour queue for entry killed that idea.

Instead they headed over to the Victoria and Albert museum. Before heading in for a look around the coffee and cake there was sampled, with reports that it was quite good. The cake certainly looks alright !

after a good look around here they had lunch in the grounds of St Paul’s. A truly wonderful spot for lunch on a warm London summer’s day

At 5pm we all headed down to the Globe Theatre for a evening showing of Hamlet. Stopped for some Italian food along the way at Zizzi

Some excellent advice from Josh back at home we got great seats. More info on which seats to pick below

Even if you are not a Shakespeare fan, from a historical perspective its worth a visit. In terms of tickets, for London theatre its reasonably priced, you can get seats for around £30 (way cheaper if you want to stand in the pit in front of the stage, only £5). Whilst the building is a modern construction, its as close to the original as modern safety and fire codes will allow. Its not on it original site where it was in the 16th century, but its very close. The original site is only a few hundred meters away and its worth walking around the corner to look at it.

One of the most interesting facts about the theatre is that its the only building in central London thats allowed to have a thatched roof (they learnt a lot after 1666). Lots more info on it over at good ol’ wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakespeare%27s_Globe

In my opinion the best value seats are in the lower gallery. There are a handful of cheaper seats (slight view obstruction) but they have no one in front of you so there is stacks of leg room and no on behind you so you can lean up against the wall. Also very close to the exit.

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After Dinner we walked back to the apartment and took some photos. Glorious warm night to be walking along the river

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Double Coffee and Gherkin

This mornings coffee on the way to the office was from the notes chain, which have a coffee shop on the ground floor of the Gherkin. Below is a picture from the inside looking out as well as a selfie with the Gherkin ” A Gherkie”. The coffee was surprisingly good, at least a 7.5/10

It’s possible that it’s because it was my first morning coffee after a few pints last night that made it so good, rather than the quality of the coffee itself. Ones own perception of these things is impacted by many factors….

I had to pop out to Houndsditch Post Office again today to post home the second tsunami of books. I’m really thinking I should buy shares in Royal Mail as this is costing a right royal fortune in postage.

On the way back I passed secret frog coffee and the temptation was too great to resist. This coffee is great a decent 8/10. They sell coffee in cup sizes equal to the sizes at home for a similar price. This one was £2.85. I’ve been paying that or £3 for what would be a small or below small at home

On my way back I ran into Wilson and Rikesh from the office who got their coffee at “Association” coffee, right behind the Gherkin. This is another great coffee place that is rated highly by the Australian contingent in the office.

And of course since it was behind the Gherkin, another opportunity to provide the Obligatory Daily Gherkin pic.

Lunch was from the Japanese Canteen behind the Gherkin. This is right next door to “Association” coffee. This lunch spot is excellent and it’s extremely popular.

One more thing…

If you like my blog you will probably like my mate John’s blog. John and Perry are currently traveling through the USA and Canada. Here is the link

http://johnandperrystravels.blog