Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

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23 July 2017

Hong Kong

Hong Kong and Kowloon Skyline

Well that was money worth spending.

By the time most of you get this, we will be in the air, winging our way home…. Hopefully. Sunday morning, we had a note stuffed under our door which advised us of the potential scale 8 tropical cyclone passing right over us.  By breakfast time, the local government had issued a warning and posted that the cyclone was indeed hitting level 8. It advised that all shops would be closed (V is most upset) and that all public transport would be shut down (that is how we would get to the shopping so V was now distraught!).  A whole day in our room or get soaked wandering the streets like some homeless person looking for Housing Corp housing (oh, that’s another story).

So it gave us time to reflect on the last 5 weeks.  Hong Kong is a tale of two areas and some more.  There are Dings and Dangs, Wings and Wangs  and of course Pings and Pongs everywhere.  Anyone with a name with more than 4 letters is foreign …we almost pass as locals if it wasn’t for our civilised non-Mao Tse Tung look alike hair doo’s and our odd shaped eyes. This is both a vibrant modern city and a dirty, smelly and backward facing one too.  I’m just not into millions of hobbits with almond eyes in my personal space.  The woman and girls have no sense of respect and are only interested in holding up everyone as they worship the mobile phone like some deity. At dinner last night we watched three early 20’s woman eat their dinner with 1 hand and phone in the other so they could take photos of each mouthful they and the other two took.  Knives should be deleted as necessary items of cutlery as forks will lift the food to your mouth and you either stuff everything into your mouth or you nibble like some rat to get it into your stomach.  We were astonished at the supercar per population ratio. McLarens, Lambos and Ferraris everywhere. But the transport system is to die for.  They tunnel and bridge everything that can’t be driven easily….brilliant.

The Dutch and their fucking bicycles!  How they ride them as stoned as most seem to be is a skill to be harnessed but they are a danger to everyone else.  Trained by the Japanese, these Kamikaze pilots ensure they have your undivided attention as their attention span has been artificially mellowed. Walking home from the Red Light district one evening, a tram stopped beside us and as the doors opened, a fug of dope smoke fell out and crop dusted our fellow pedestrians in a 15 metre radius.  Those on the train be they smokers or not were just sitting there with a silly smirk on their faces….probably thinking of snacks.  We loved Amsterdam and everything was a pleasant surprise, even the cannabis Trumpets/Cornetto’s in the ice cream freezer in the various shops.

France is fantastic, even those that live in Paris were lovely and tolerant folk.  A bit dirty but nothing that a little Cif (French Jif) and a waterblaster couldn’t fix.  If only Britain could purge themselves of some of the twats that call themselves British, it too would be a paradise.  Those reliant on handouts (including government supplied cars) need a reality shot as they (mostly) are a blot on the landscape.  The Eastern Europeans scare the bejesus out of me.  They look like fattened Russian spies and they wear too much cologne and gold jewellry to be trusted.

We have loved our time, loved all those that have helped us and interacted with us especially our new emergency taxi driver Simon.

See you soon….we hope

V (Ping) and Me (Pong)

 

 

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19 July 2017

AMSTERDAM

Amsterdam

Doing the miles this week.

It all started on Sunday when we had to vacate our gite in Southern France to return to England for a night so that we could repack and head to Amsterdam the next day.  This mammoth trip involved 12 hours on the road using rental car, taxis (2), trains (2) and the underground in Paris.  Like some military exercise, we knew how many minutes we had between rides and thus the pace was picked up when necessary and with much gesticulating, the 5 of us agreed long enough on which direction was probably the best to head to catch our next mode of transport.  We made it though.

The next day involved a simple drive to the London City airport on the banks of the Thames.  Due to traffic snarl-ups, we ended up driving on and off a car ferry that went from one side to the other and almost at the airport.  By this time we just wanted a sit down but and hour later, we were able to check our voluminous bags and head upstairs for the usual immigration and security regimes. It appears the Brits are more than a little gun shy currently, both V and I had our bags emptied, items of clothing removed and rescanned and rescanned. I had to remove my belt and shoes and place them in to a plastic bin held by a bombing suspect family member.  As I did, he moved the bin and a shoe fell out.  So I picked it up and as I went to hurl it in he moved it again.  Luckily my shooting was better than his catching. He then looked up at me (he was also vertically challenged from the weight of his bomber jacket I suspect) and asked if I was alright.  I acted all grown up and told him it was but wanted to tell him that he would never make my football team as goalie or did he need a hand to hold the tray? Allah my arse.

Amsterdam also gave us a wait at both ends.  The KLM ground staff need to take a clog up their arses. Over an hour to check in and over an hour to produce our bags at the other end.  This meant our taxi driver had to wait around also but he charged us so he was at least placated.  Even tying a tie for him for his next job didn’t seem to help.

V and I are about museum’d out after today.  We hit the Rijksmuseum at 9.30, the Heineken museum and tasting at 12, the market at about 2, the diamond museum 3,30 then the Van Gogh museum at 4.30.  Probably a record but we are so smart and so enlightened as a result of it.  Very much enjoyed learning about Vermeer (Girl with the Pearl Earring etc) and Rembrandt. Seeing these paintings that are so old and famous sent shivers down my spine.  Just about got the hang of avoiding being collected by cyclists and scooter pilots.  Not only do the trams that run up the middle of the road have the right of way, if you stray on to the clearly demarcated bike lanes, you will be lined up and bowled by these two wheeled projectiles….and they ride on the wrong side of the road so come at you when you are right-left-righting when you should be left-right-lefting!

There is the smell of dope everywhere and dope products for sale next to the souvenir t-shirts and clogs in the numerous shops including some in a museumwinkel we went into today,  Pot flavoured chupa chups for god’s sake.

Going to see how to make clogs today.  With the management structure at work skewed towards those that chew tulips, I feel it will be a good career move to learn such skills or at least purchase some.  Take care,

V and Me (Hans)

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14 July 2017

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Check out those Prices

Another day, another wine. Another wine always means another cheese

Rather than be seen to be taking advantage of the well-priced wine and goodies, we like to think we are trying hard, exceedingly so actually, to support the local growers and producers…le vente directe or du Producteur au Consommateur.

We have visited a lot of markets and supermarches and been buying up a storm….. to keep the locals in business of course.  At an average €3 a bottle (NZ$4.75), we are having to up our fluid uptake to help the local economy.  But even at those prices, the red wine is still more than drinkable….so we do.  Vanessa picked up a litre of Rose the other day for less than NZ$3 and pronounced it to be better than wines at home costing 5 times that.  Then there are the comestibles from the local boulangerie, fromagerie and markets where a baguette will cost you less than a Euro.

Of course buying all these delights forces us into having gourmet sessions to reduce our growing stockpile and to also discuss the merit of a particular $4 wine versus another of similar value.

So determined are we to understand the back story and history of our food, we chose to drive for 2 hours the other day (admittedly, 40 mins of it was when we got lost) to learn about the art of gavage or force feeding ducks and geese so you can produce the king of pates, foie gras.  The brochure said ‘degustation gratuite’ and we have learned quickly that whenever you see that it means free tasting!  So we lined up with 20 or so others to be enlightened when this charming young man I recognised from the brochure turned up and commenced the lesson … in French. Completely in French. La petite histoire was a waste of time except for the degustation gratuite.  My finely tuned French language skill could pick out words such as duck, goose, foie gras, wine, walnuts and acorns (duck food).  The wine was terrible, like some 70’s Lincoln rd Dally plonk dad used to drink.  Vive la France.

Vanessa has taken to the Confit Duck, even having the confidence to order it at restaurants (using her newly found French speaking skills).  When done poorly it is like KFC for duck, when done well it is a crispy leg and thigh of soft ducky greatness and mostly served with salad (lettuce) and frites (chips).  An epicurean delight. We are still over ordering on the baguette needs of the group, feeding the local chooks most days with our superfluous daily bread.

On a Tuesday and a Friday, a little French woman beeps and toots her way up the hill in her van, stopping to tempt us with her freshly baked goodies.  You can buy any number of varieties of bread but we have a liking for her croissants and pain au chocolat.  This morning V and I had one of each because we could, because we hadn’t had breakfast and because they are about €1 each!  Washed down with a coffee and a glass of Pamplemousse (grapefruit juice). Not sure if the juice was local.

Today is Bastille Day, a day our family has celebrated since my sister was born (July 14).  So this evening, we are off to the local village hall for a soiree to celebrate both.  It includes free wine to go with the €12 BBQ.  There is a trend.  They butcher animals from this rural town and the town pitches in to feed everybody. The horse from the paddock next door has gone this week….just wondering.  V has an extra zing in her step today as the posters promoting the event make a big point that Rose will be available and free. Let’s support the locals!

 

Next time we speak, V and I will probably be in Amsterdam as our English and now French sections are coming to an end.

V and Me (Jean Pierre)

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10 July 2017

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Somewhere to stay in France

Another day, another train.  Another train, another destination.

This time, we are heading for the south of France and our booked gite in a wee small town called Cahus.  A long story cut short, but the owners are old work colleagues and rellies of Debs Moffatt.  It should be a 2-3 hour journey then a couple of hours (note: this does not factor in potential got lost delays) in a rental car and Bob’s your uncle.

 

It was sad checking out of our Parisienne base, we have had a hectic but enjoyable 4 days exploring the city and avoiding the major tourist spots and the annoying crowds of rude people however we did relent by spending a day at Disneyland Paris (no longer Euro Disney apparently). Spaniards and Italians with their booming voices, the Japanese with their fucking sun umbrellas, stupefied looks and complete disregard of others around them and lastly those overly tattooed Pommie woman and their boyfriends/husbands all dressed up in their ‘leisurewear’. All ready to take the pitch and represent their favourite team, regardless of their physical unpreparedness.  I have yet to work out why the woman have tipped out their scrapbooks all over their bodies and had the mish-mash of drawings and sketches permanently inked for all to see.  No themes, no stories being told; just 10s of unrelated pictures in the loudest colours like some form of graffiti.  I don’t get it. Disneyland had 4 or 5 really good roller coasters and the queues were no bad at all with only 1 ride taking more than a half hour wait.

We managed to get lost every day.  Incomplete and erroneous maps are blamed but by asking/pleading for help, we managed to find most of the sights that needed to be seen.  A cultural day was had at the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay where we were able to see the famous paintings and sculptures on offer.  Very impressive.  The afternoon was topped off by getting lost for 2.5 hours trying to find the Hard Rock Café.  In the end, we stopped walking and took to the Metro but even then, we had to ask the Chemist for final directions.  The trip home was a lot smoother by sticking to the subterranean methods rather than legs up on the surface.

We went on a small tour party (3 of us and a driver) to the Palace of Versailles and then the afternoon in Giverny in the north to revisit Claude Monet’s home and garden.  We both enjoyed those and even though there was lots of walking to be done, sitting in an air-conditioned van in between was pretty good.  The van had a mechanical issue coming home where the cover that sits under the motor etc came off after a previous off track excursion had done some damage.  This meant a very slow trip home whilst the cover rubbed on the road sounding like a locomotive more than a diesel Mercedes van.

So we are off to the French wop wops; taxi to the train station, train to Limoges (about 3 hours), taxi to the airport because on a Sunday there is only one place to pick up the rental car …half a bloody hour out of town, source the car ….a bubble car (Holden Trax) then a 2 hour drive to our place …saw lots and had a ride that was as challenging on the neck and senses as anything Disney could fling at us.  Never mind, wine and smelly cheese saw us in bed at midnight.  Look out rural France, we have arrived and looking for some of that €3 wine we like.

 

V and Me (Jean Pierre)

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22 June 2017

 

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The Hallowed Pork Pie

 

The demand from Vanessa that we only fly Premium from now on is testament that it was worth my last years’ bonus being splashed out on airfares.

The Dora the Explorer conference can’t have been on this year as our flight to Hong Kong was not full of Dora lookalikes of all ages as was the last time I flew in this direction.  It was fairly uneventful as flying goes but the early morning champagne before breakfast for the honeymooners was much appreciated.  Not sure what the plebs in cattle class were eating but you know it is going to be good when you get a menu to choose from and 2 kilos of chilled cutlery each time a repast was offered. My suitcase weighed in at 19 kilos but of that 19, the contraband chocolate and all things Pineapple Lumps accounted for 9 kilos.

Holy crap.  The flight from HK to London was a very long 13+ hours.  We took off early morning, a little late as we had to wait for some rough weather to pass but as soon as we did, we were offered a light meal as opposed to a breakfast then the lights went out and we were in darkness including the shades on the windows all closed.  I think the little HongKonese staff toddled off to bed themselves, so the movies got a thrashing again.  Very weird indeed.

First day on the loose (Wednesday), we headed to the nearest sizeable town to sort out phones and stuff and to let the wallet open and close freely.  Praise the Lord, pass the tambourine and Hallelujah in no time at all, we had found the mini pork pies that I covet so so much. As they were priced at 3 packs for a few pounds, we took them up on their offer.  At the point of writing this, I have report we have lost a pack so are down to a dozen of these morsels.  V has declared her love of them too so competition for them is now at all 4 of us vying for them.  Before we could settle down, we were frog marched to the ‘Allotment’ where we saw the politics and selfishness of fellow gardeners first hand.  Using sprinklers thus taking water pressure away from others… how inconvenient.  The lads have been very industrious with vege and fruit growing.  We are being force fed strawberries and berries and salads almost hourly.

Today saw us toddle off to Camden town to indulge in the wacky markets.  It took me back to the days of strolling through the Cook St markets in Auckland with Annie Wyness ….incense and beads competed with the obligatory t-shirts, hoodies and food stalls.  But they had much more and V managed to but a top from nearly every stall even though she has a suitcase full of them already. One can never have too many tops and jandals.  We did a lot of walking in the middle of the road as it seems safer that way with all the mad men running down pedestrians.  The poms seemed to appreciate it and tooted at me often.  I think they had empathy for us or they were just pleased to see us. Waving to them just seemed to encourage more tooting….what a friendly bunch we thought.  We avoided all potential bomber looking people or those with big coats and backpacks …. Can’t trust the bastards is our motto.  Anything that looked like a rubbish bag was also treated with care.

Going wine tasting tonight ….because we can and is our want. Tomorrow is unplanned at this point but an early night tomorrow as we are off to Champagne at stupid o’clock Saturday morning.  The things we put ourselves through in the name of culinary research!  A quick weekend trip and a stopover in Dunkirk to soak in the history…. Well it’s on the way.  Apparently there is also an obligatory stop required in Calais before loading the car on the train, to a supermarche for some duty free alcohol.  We are not wasting any opportunity.

Take care, we are…. V and Me

June 2017

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I will always give you an opportunity to placate me, especially when you have displeased me so.

 

As we commence the pre packing planning and procrastinating that is mandatory when preparing to travel, I am reminded of a situation that was never resolved to my liking and thus helped us to decide not to travel with Emirates airline this time and any time in the near future. We had been told how fantastic they were and there were new planes and shiny knobs and buttons to amuse us, comfy chairs to lounge about in and hot and cold running hostesses to attend to our every want.  Based on that, we booked with them to take us to Great Britain and back including a 3 day stopover in Dubai to drink in the ambience.

 

And that is when it all turned to shit.

 

The issues:

We were late taking off and therefore late landing in Sydney, missing our ‘slot’, where we changed planes. Waiting in a line to reboard for over an hour, not able to sit just made us later and us more tired.  Never mind, we had a long-ish stopover in Bangkok which we were both looking forward to even if it was only in an airport.

 

As we approached Bangkok airport, by now most annoyed at the gaps between the seat in front and mine. My knees were now being skinned by the back of the seat of the fully reclined passenger in front of us. We were so close to the runway, you could see the ground crew ready to service our shiny new plane, we suddenly powered up and headed for the sky again so as to miss a small plane on the ground crossing our path.  The flight had been a good one but we were still running late….apparently.  We were instructed to stay put, awaiting further instructions like we were waiting in the school hall about to be released to our classes. Not allowed to use the toilets even to empty the contents of our pants after that close call on approach.

But no. the plane was refuelled, restocked  and cleaned around us as we stood in the aisle and little people swept and brushed our seats and emptied the seat pockets with our stuff they deemed rubbish. Only to pile it on to the waiting elephants they rode to the plane on. (We couldn’t actually see the elephants but we knew they were out there). Pity we didn’t see this as my book I was reading may have stayed in the pocket for me to continue to enjoy. But we were making up time apparently.

 

A lovely flight ensued to Dubai where we landed at the airport we were looking forward to spending a couple of hours shit, shaving and shampooing and to buy some duty free for our hosts whom had told us were very thirsty! As we entered the terminal having been shuttled from the plane, we heard our flight being called to move immediately to gate…..as far as fucking away as it could be.  So now fully x-rayed, the loo beckoned and right now was how my bladder explained it.  So running was in and shopping etc was out.  Arriving at the gate sweating but now bladder issues dealt with we then had to sit for an hour before we could board.  But on the bright side, we had caught up all the time we had lost on the first legs of our journey.

 

An uneventful flight to London saw us arrive at the terminal eagerly wanting to start our holiday. Let’s go!  As we approached the baggage collection area with its carousel that tempts me to ride every time, we heard our names called out and to immediately proceed to the information counter to the side of the room.  As great as it was that our journey had caught up the lost time, our baggage hadn’t and was now having a wee break in Dubai …without us!  Never mind we were here and the suitcases would be delivered to the apartment tomorrow.  Oh well, never mind.

 

I had now been in the same clothes especially undies and socks for over 24 hours by now so a quick trip to M&S in the morning saw us topped up with essential attire components. We both changed in the stores changing rooms and stowed our dirty, and I mean dirty stuff into the shopping bags.  My testicles were as happy as they could be, cupped gently in brand new slightly knapped cotton undies and my feet were equally happy with their new mates.

 

Several phone calls and days passed before we were reunited with our wayward luggage with Emirates fobbing us off because they contract such services to a man in a white van type operation. It was their problem.

 

The homeward journey the reverse direction and stops with the break in Dubai to get closer to our desert selves. Arriving early in the morning, our pre-ordered chauffeur was there to meet and transport us.  Things were looking up.

 

Arriving at 5.30 in the morning to catch our ride home, we were advised that the flight had been cancelled even though the day before we had confirmed and chosen our seats. Left for over 2 hours whilst they sorted things out which is Arabic for I’ll forget you two and get on with more important stuff like keeping my uniform curtains that are attached to my hat out of my eyes.  We were eventually allowed to fly on the last 2 seats available to Christchurch…. One of us at the front of the plane and one down the back.  A little bit of ‘outside voice’ came out and suddenly we were sitting beside each other at the very back of the plane.  I also had to be convinced that a connecting flight to Auckland to be reunited with our car had been organised.  The look in her eyes, hiding behind her curtain told me otherwise however.

 

The whole journey to Christchurch had queues up the isles beside us with people wanting to deal with their own ablution issues and talk loudly. When I checked why they weren’t using the toilets in the middle of the plane, I found them to be full of blankets, pillows and assorted flight paraphernalia.  I know them to be full as when I tried to peek in, a whole lot fell out into the isle. Which is where I left them.

 

Once we had renegotiated a flight back to Auckland from Christchurch as I knew was going to be the case we praised the Lord that we were now on an airline that knows about customer service. Air New Zealand delivered on all its promises and got us back to Auckland on time …including our somewhat independent luggage.

 

After weeks and weeks of our travel agent failing to be able to make contact with the airlines’ representative in NZ, I took over and finally after another few weeks made the connection to a woman claiming to be the New Zealand managerwhom was prepared to listen to my concerns.

 

‘What is your problem? We got you there and back safely, our job was done’. She calmly brushed me aside.  I did manage to wangle a top up of airpoints that made our total enough to redeem for a return trip to Australia.  This small token hardly made it right in our eyes and why did I need to have to ask for some recompense?

 

And your chance to win me back Mrs Emirates was not taken by you and therefore why my business with you will be only by necessity, not choice. Did you want a second chance?

II