A Travellerspoint blog

Home safe at last

overcast 20 °C

We finally reached Hong Kong (with the time change now mid afternoon). Although it was a connecting flight they made us go through security yet again, they must have taken a dislike to us as they made us empty out all our hand luggage, how annoying!! Not really what we felt like doing after the long flight and knowing we had another one to go. We got through eventually and went to wait near our gate. The camera has a new error in addition to its blackouts, now it has error 99 and asks to be turned off and on again.

I was feeling a bit ill so I had a snooze in the waiting area. Our seats were called about 1hr later and we boarded yet another plane.

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This time it was just the 2 seats on the side which was much better. I finished watching a movie I had started on the other plane then watched a couple others (plus eating 2 meals) in the 8 hr flight home. Finally we were flying over Perth city, the only landmark we could make out was Westrac which is just before landing. Jeff had always used it as a marker when returning from Telfer.

We got off the plane with all our stuff and headed for the luggage pickup section, via the passport check section, with the only electronic camera control one that we’d come across. You scanned your passport, got a little card and then went up to a camera-controlled gate and inserted the card while it took your picture. Our suitcases must have been at the bottom of the plane as they took ages to come out. Got through customs no probs then headed out to call David. He’d just parked and was coming up to the door, perfect timing! We jumped in the car and he drove us home, very nice! It was very weird to be home again (it felt very unfamiliar after being away almost 2 months!), Josh had looked after everything very nicely, even changing all the sheets and leaving us a welcome home note! It’s somewhat surreal to be home now, after travelling around every day for 8 weeks…not sure how we’ll cope, I’m sure there’ll be post-travel depression! This trip has really been one of a lifetime, we’ve seen and experienced so much, embracing other cultures, making new friends, eating local food and having such a fantastic time. Now I’ve just got to scrapbook all those photos! Dramas!

Posted by Nezabella 07:38 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (1)

The start of the long way home

rain 18 °C

Up at 7.30am, and down to breakfast. We packed everything into the car and drove to the post office.

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We posted home my Capri towel, books from Edinburgh castle and a few other bits and pieces.

We had enough time for us to go past the Argenta jeweller for my last Pandora travel charm – the enamelled 2-tone blue flower. Oh yes, plus another little necklace and very cute earrings! We headed towards the airport, filled up with petrol, then decided to go and see the Firth of Forth bridge, which wasn’t far away. We had a bit of time to kill so that was good. The bridge was pretty cool, it is used for the trains and is a marvellous piece of engineering. Hard to take photos of through the steady rain!

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Back to the airport, Jeff dropped me off at the front with the luggage and went to return the car. We had got a bit wiser this time, and I had worn the Dr Marten boots and more clothes including the heaviest jeans. We checked in with BMI, still got charged for excess luggage but only 10kg this time, yay!

Through security, then we went to the boarding gate and got some seats to wait, we were still quite early so I decided to read some more of my romance novel. We had just enough money left to get a bottle of water. The flight to London was fairly uneventful and we arrived at Terminal 5.

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Eventually the luggage came round and we loaded up a trolley. Our terminal for Cathay Pacific was No 3, which we reached through a series of travelators…such a great idea!

We reached our terminal and walked straight into Krispy Kreme heaven!! I rushed to the front counter…credit card here I come! I got 6 doughnuts, 2 raspberry, 1 lemon, 1 original and 2 strawberry glazed, yummo!! So exciting!! I was about to get drinks when Jeff reminded me that we still had to go through security, lucky he said something as they did get people to chuck out drinks. We got through ok with our doughnuts, have to keep getting out the laptop every time, so annoying!

We checked in with Cathay, no comment about our excess luggage so we escaped a 3rd charge!! Lucky no one has been weighing our hand luggage…small case was 16kg, backpack was 12kgs and my little breakables bag was 4.5kgs…!!! We took a seat in the main waiting area and ate 3 doughnuts each in quick succession, so delicious! Then one last shopping expedition in the Glorious Britain shop…

Eventually our gate appeared on the screen and we took the long walk to our gate. We weren’t looking forward to the flight and waited as long as possible to go through what we thought was the tunnel to the plane which was actually a tunnel to another waiting area! All the seats were taken so we sat on the ground and waited. It wasn’t long before our seats were called and we boarded. Another fairly new 747, but this time 3 seats on the side and four in the middle. The movies were certainly the lifesavers on the 12hr flight back to Hong Kong (with 2 meals and snacks). I didn’t sleep as much on these flights, not sure why!

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Posted by Nezabella 07:34 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Edinburgh Castle

overcast 20 °C

Today we got up relatively early and headed down for breakfast. It was a simple setup with a quota of 1 box of cereal, plus 2 pieces of white bread and jam and some juice/tea/coffee. Most people stuck by the allowance although there were some greedy people piling up the boxes and bread on their trays!

We checked our emails, then headed off to Edinburgh Castle, via the post office for some stamps (for my final postcards!) and a bakery selling yummy cheese/onion pasties and meat pasties. We thought we’d get some street parking near the castle and Jeff bought a ticket, but it was only valid for 1.5hrs so he had to move the car back to the carpark we’d used previously.

I had decided to walk from the other street parking and trudged up the hill, it was pretty steep and I got quite puffed! I met Jeff at the entrance and we went inside.

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The confirmation of our ticket purchase had gone missing and the autoticket machine wouldn’t recognise our phone number. I went and stood in the ticket line while Jeff tried to get it to work, but then he realised there was a priority ticket office and got them there. Very clever! We picked up audioguides and started our tour.

It was incredibly windy and there were a few rain showers but not too bad. Edinburgh Castle is built on an extinct volcano. It is very much a fortress and has an imposing façade from its position perched on top of craggy black rocks. It has the same untamed look as the rest of Scotland. Human occupation on castle rock goes back as far as 900BC and in 600AD there is historical reference to Din Eidyn, a fortress on the rock. In 638AD, Angles captured the fortress and renamed it Edinburgh. Around 1130, David I built a castle on the site, of which St Margaret’s Chapel still stands.

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The castle is home to Mons Meg, a 550yr old 6 tonne cannon which could fire 150kg cannonballs almost 2 miles away!

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There is also a prisoners of war exhibition and the Crown Jewels of Scotland (Honours). The crown, sceptre and sword were first used at the coronation of Queen Mary in 1543 – she was just 9 months old! Although no longer officially in use, they still play an important role in the official ceremonies in Scotland. The camera cracked the biggest sad yet in the crown jewels entrance, I didn’t think it was going to turn on ever again! Jeff gave it his special treatment and eventually the screen turned on again…it only has to last a couple more days!

The castle also houses the Scottish National War Museum, Royal Scots Regimental Museum, Scottish National War Memorial and the Regimental Museum of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.

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We decided to stay for the one o’clock gun as it was already 12.30pm. We got a good position at the front and waited, entertained by a single bagpipe played by a young guy who was almost blown away by the arctic wind!

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Precisely at 1.00pm, a single gun was lit and went off with a big bang! I managed to get photos of the smoke…

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We headed off to Alnwick Castle, in the county of Northumberland in the northeast of England, about 2 hrs drive, passing the border along the way.

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There was a single lane road most of the way with a huge amount of speed cameras, not really an issue as there were lots of trucks and slow cars to ensure we weren’t remotely speeding!

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Alnwick Castle is a very beautiful medieval castle, constructed of warm golden stones with a wall around the entire castle. The grounds have been used in the Harry Potter movies and also the Elizabeth movies. Alnwick Castle is the second largest inhabited castle in England, and has been the home of the Percys, Earls and Dukes of Northumberland since 1309, making this year the 700 year anniversary. Alnwick is very much still a family home and many rooms have been extensively renovated to their original glory. The state rooms are open to the public and have many personal touches including photos of the family (no photos unfortunately!).

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We were also able to walk along the walls, visit the Duke's Museum in the Postern Tower and walk around the grounds. Rain was still threatening so we had to take cover a couple of times! Again there was some scaffolding to spoil the view! On the way out we took photos from the bridge, it was a lovely view.

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On the way back we kept an eye out for a sign advertising a local pub, Jeff had seen something on the way there but he couldn’t remember where or what it looked like! Eventually we found a sign that may have been it, and drove along a little road to a charming little Scottish pub called the Red Lion.

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There weren’t many cars (it was still early) but it turned out to be a very good choice. They actually had a vegetarian dish of the day which was a lovely tomato risotto, steak for Jeff plus fluffy mashed potatoes, handcut crispy chips, green veges and then bread and butter pudding/strawberries and cream for dessert. What a lovely way to end our holiday, our last real meal!

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All that yummy food stole the blood from my head, so I had a little snooze for the rest of the journey back to Globetrotters! We still had to take all the suitcases up to our room and it was raining pretty hard, but we were able to park the back of the Focus under cover and grab everything out. It took ages to pack everything properly again, then we had to check emails, try to update blog and do our online check-in for tomorrow’s flights. By the time we’d finished I was well and truly overtired and just wanted to go to bed!

Posted by Nezabella 06:51 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Edinburgh Military Tattoo

overcast 19 °C

Up early, we had breakfast (egg, buns, muesli and juice) and got underway. I drove Jeff to the Porsche museum, which was about ½ hr away with all the traffic light stops. There was a bit of a detour which confused the GPS a bit, hope I get that right on the way back! Jeff got out and I set up the laptop on the passenger seat. It was all confused and couldn’t tell me which direction to go! I drove out to the set of lights and sat there for a bit (they were red) until I figured out the right direction to go. I got that bit right and then it was okay (I don’t think it liked the massive overhanging roof at Porsche).

Navigating back to the Pandora shop wasn’t as hard as I thought, luckily! I couldn’t get the enamelled flower charm I wanted, but I got the flowered chain charm instead, plus some gifts. While I was there, I was able to get some of my charms cleaned, bye bye Pompei dust and Cinque Terre sweat! By the time I got back to the car it was time to leave and pick up Jeff by 11am. I got back to Porsche with no problems, yay! I was really glad I had had the opportunity to drive our left-hand drive car by myself!!

Jeff really enjoyed the museum and these are his pics.

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Jeff took over and we headed for the airport. We were only a few km off having done 10000km in our car, but we knew we didn’t have time to drive around and make up the extra distance to kick it over. We stopped at the petrol station, filled up and Jeff checked the car’s trip computer. Turns out we were only 30kms off! The lady had written the wrong numbers on our sheet when we’d picked up the car …but the trip computer was definitely right as we’d zeroed it before we left the airport when we first picked up the car. We had over an hr left so we decided, stuff it, let’s drive around and make up those 30km…after all, what’s 30 when you’ve done over 15000??? Well, it was incredibly difficult to get those kms added! There seemed to be hardly any roads where we could get some speed up, where are the unrestricted speed limits when you need them!! We ended up on the autobahn but discovered a huge traffic jam. Luckily there was a break in the road and we could cross the yellow lines over to the exit lane, illegal of course! We tried another highway which took us back to the same position, but we were able to get off at the exit in time at the proper place. In desperation we headed for a quiet country lane and drove up and down it 3 times to get the last 3kms to tick over, talk about hard effort!

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Satisfied, we headed back to the airport, and left our car behind, lugging all the heavy suitcases and extra hand luggage to the check-in counter for Lufthansa. Unfortunately our friendly Aussie smiles were unable to save us from the excess baggage charges…ouch!! Mine at 29.9kg and Jeff at 27kg. Dammit!! We checked in, went through security (shoes off!) and then waited for our plane. I did a bit of blog writing and photo editing, then we were ferried out to our small plane via bus. The plane ride was short and we soon landed in Frankfurt for our transfer flight, more security (lucky they couldn’t charge us again for our luggage!). It was lovely flying over Germany and seeing the patches of green, brown and the rivers. When we landed in Frankfurt, another bus took us to the terminal and then another bus took us to our plane which was in the same area as the plane we’d just gotten off!!

As we flew towards Edinburgh, the clouds got thicker and greyer…dramas!!! I must say it was a bit of a relief to get back to an English speaking country and know we’d be able to understand all the road signs and people that we’d meet! We got our luggage on a trolley and headed for the car rental area, a bit of a trek away from the terminal into the freezing weather outside! The grey clouds threatened to rain on us…This time we finally had a Ford Focus (black), but as it turned out we had been better off with the C-Max (our first car in the UK) as the Focus was definitely smaller in the luggage department. We drove to the Globetrotters Inn, not that far away from the airport. It’s a beautiful old place, a bit out of the way, with the Firth of Forth flowing past in the backyard.

We checked in, dropped some of our stuff off and headed off to try and find parking for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. When we got near the castle, most of the streets had been blocked off, but we managed to find parking in a multi-storey carpark. We walked up the hill in Princes St Gardens, only to find that the gate at the end was locked…go figure! We walked back around and made our way to the road leading to the castle. There were heaps of people waiting so we joined the throng which moved fairly smoothly towards the entrance which had only opened about 15 mins earlier. The wind was pretty cold and I was well rugged up, but luckily clear skies had been forecast for the night. The stadium seating was incredibly cramped, Jeff’s knees were in the back of the person in front and if someone needed to get to their seat the whole row had to stand up!! I set up my tripod as a monopod which worked quite well although the lady next to me tried to say it wasn’t allowed!

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The show was fantastic, the highlights for me were of course the bagpipes, the drummers from Switzerland (first time there) who played with glow in the dark sticks, the army demonstration plus the different themed and coloured patterns projected onto the castle. The night we were there was one of the nights they were filming for the dvd which will be released later this year. It all went quickly and then it was time to leave. The parking was incredibly expensive, about 15GBP!

We headed back to Globetrotters, deciding we’d use our first hour of internet that we’d paid for. Annoyingly, it wouldn’t work in our room, only in their internet room so we thought we’d just do it in the morning as we were too tired.

Posted by Nezabella 07:23 Archived in Scotland Comments (1)

The drive to replace Biggles

sunny 32 °C

We got up early today and started packing everything as we were leaving Germany by plane tomorrow. We had already retrieved basically everything out of our car, so I spent the next couple of hours wrapping any packing everything, fingers crossed for no breakages!

We got in the car and I drove the first couple hundred kms, it feels really weird to change gears with your right hand! We stopped for fuel and got some lunch, then Jeff drove.

We were trying to get to Rothenberg by 6pm, as Biggles the flying frog had crash-landed in the back of the car, squashed by my case. Doh! Partway through Germany we were done by a speed camera for 10km above the limit of 100km, how ironic getting done for speeding on the autobahn!

A new top speed of 200km (just!) was achieved with the help of a tailwind, downward slope and slipstream of another car as eager as us to push the accelerator to the firewall! This all helped us to reach Rothenberg with 10min to spare before 6pm, so we could get a replacement Biggles. We drove into the town and found some parking near the market square. I ran towards what I thought was the right direction to the shop (the previous Biggles had been purchased there) …then had to run the opposite direction! By the time I reached the shop I was well and truly puffed…! Luckily, they were still open and there were plenty of Biggles choose from!! This time he was wrapped carefully in bubblewrap for his plane ride home. Kathe Wolfharte’s Christmas shop was still open, so I decided to have another look this time, as we weren’t in a hurry. Well, what an Aladdin’s cave! The shop went back and back with all these different nooks and crannys with all the Christmas ornaments you could imagine, sorted into different sections, but very pricey. I got a few little things, but not too much :-) Then I had to find my way back to the car, I hadn’t taken much notice of the street as I’d rushed down!! I tried to make the Christmas bag look small when I found the car and hid it behind my seat, but Jeff knew that I’d obviously been buying something else as I’d been gone so long!

We had a bit of dinner at the Burger King and filled up with petrol. We were trying to use up the rest of our Euros so we didn’t have to take too much home, except my special coins (we'd been trying to collect 2009 coins for each currency). It was a couple hours drive to Stuttgart so we got on the road at a more sedate pace.

Here is the lovely sunset we saw on the way.

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We reached Stuttgart and found our hotel which was right in the middle of the city next to a tram line. There was no real parking but we managed to find a spot in one of the side streets. The hotel didn’t have internet so we decided to go to the closest Macca’s. It wasn’t far away, so we walked there with the laptop. We eventually found it, but were disappointed to find the internet was pay only. We decided no way and took the laptop, looking for free wifi on the way back! It just so happened that the Pandora jeweller I needed was on the same square, so I knew where to come the next day. We looked for wireless all the way back, but no joy. All the networks were secure or pay-as-you-go!!

Posted by Nezabella 07:29 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

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