Monday, 30 June 2014

Our last two days in London

No post yesterday because we didnt actually do so much...and the wifi at the hotel was having a r-e-a-l-l-y bad day. I kid you not. It was so slow it was like dial-up.

We learned two things yesterday though, weather forecasters here get things wrong too, and when it rains; it RAINS.

Storms and rain were forecast for lunchtime and the afternoon, so we set off (minus umbrellas or coats) to use our HOHO ticket and travel the alternate route since it was valid for 24 hours. We intended to go to the market at Portobello Rd and wander through Kensington on our way back, and to beat the rain.

The bus though took forever getting anywhere and while we were on it it rained. We decided to get off earlier than planned and walked through Kensington Gardens up to the Palace. No-one opened the gates for us though. 

We wandered up further and had a drink and scone with clotted cream at the cafe, all the while eyeing up the ominous black clouds. While we were in the shop looking at royal souvenirs there was another heavy shower. Anyway once it was stopped we set off on our walk again in the sun. On our way I spotted a wee squirrel. So cute.

And also this gorgeous colourful carousel.

Then we walked up toward Notting Hill Gate to get to our destination. Almost there and down came the rain. In torrents. Like a rainstorm in Sydney. We were soaked. We decided the market wouldnt be so much fun so jumped on a bus to get us back to near where we needed catch the DLR back to the hotel to dry out and blob for the rest of the day.

So today we decided we'd just use a combination of transportation to get around and see some things before we leave London tomorrow.

DLR from hotel to Tower Gateway; tube from Tower Hill to Blackfriars, then a walk along the embankment toward Westminster. A lovely elderly gentlemen saw Lauren taking photos of the London City School and stopped to give us a history lesson. We walked with him to Temple station where he was off to Lords for a picnic. He was great, told us all sorts about all sorts of places. He was lovely.

We stopped and had a cuppa at a tea shop in the Victoria Embankment Gardens, then carried on our way. So many people though once we got to Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament. From there we walked up to Buckingham Palace and then alongside St James' Palace to Green Park tube station.

how funny is this - on a little laneway behind St James' Palace

From there we caught a train to King's Cross to check out Platform 9 3/4 which was a bit of a let down having become a gimmicky commercial enterprise. We managed between us to get a photo of the sign and of the luggage trolley disappearing into the wall sans the queued up posers wearing the "house scarf" held by the photographers accomplice.

From there we caught another tube to Bank and then changed to the DLR to go and check out the shops at Canary Wharf. Omigosh ! So much to look at, but nowhere to fit anymore into our luggage right now.

So we had a bite to eat at "Leon". We cant get over how many healthy option places there are here and vegetarian as well. Why had no-one told me about "Pret a Manger" "Vital" or "Leon" (plus more that seem to be dotted all over the place).

Finally the train from Canary Wharf back to the hotel. Quite a productive day I think.

And then down came the rain in torrents again. But at least we were inside this time.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

To the Tower

After a ten hour sleep, we were awake at 5.30am. What ?? A bit of early morning tv and then it was time for breakfast, which is included in the cost of our room.

And then we were off. To the station nearby where we got oyster cards and jumped on to the DLR (Docklands Light Rail) heading for Tower Gateway and the Tower of London. I had been before when I came on holiday in 2007, but there were parts I didn't go to then, or that have been altered since, so it was good to revisit. Being a bit of a history geek, I just want to turn into a sponge and soak up the atmosphere and store every bit of new information in an easily accessible part of my mind.

White Tower

Cradle Tower

one of the Tower Ravens

some residences of the Yeomen of the Guard (how cool would it be to live there ??!!)

centuries old graffiti

Tower Bridge which is actually only 120 years old

After we had seen all we wanted and had a sit down and a drink, we found a nice spot to watch the river and eat some lunch, then went to get HOHO tickets. 

The Shard over the river from our lunch spot

Turns out there are 3 providers of this service and 2 of them have vulture like salespeople who pounce on you while you are trying to absorb the facts and differences between each service. They also still will not leave you alone when you ask for time, squabbling with each other about the benefits of their tour compared with the other and actually forgetting the customer experience. 

Houses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge

Needless to say we went with provider number 1, the sales person for which had wisely withdrawn himself from the melee at the onset. We took the circuit all the way around in its entirety and by the end were suffering from information overload. But it has helped us decide where to go back to (or not) tomorrow. We left the tour at the stop where we had joined and went to find a coffee and tea before heading back to the hotel.

So what's in store tomorrow ? You will just have to wait and see.

Friday, 27 June 2014

'ello, 'ello, 'ello

Before we fall asleep again, I will try to write a coherent post.

We're a bit cranky with Qantas. They were a bit officious about having the blinds down so that people could sleep this morning. So we missed most of Europe. I said to one of them "how long do we keep the blinds down" and she said "until we tell you. You should sleep so you have your body clock in the right time zone" I said "I think we had enough of that in the last 14 hours" Most people slept most of the way on that leg. But no. They were useless - the new crew who joined at Dubai. Mealtimes were a debacle, but that didnt seem to matter which crew it was. We got ours way early, but sometimes the others around us were still waiting 30-45mins later. We had 2 pastas and some curry looking thing which we didnt eat. The salad on the two occasions we got it was just lettuce or spinach leaves with dressing - not even a tomato in sight. Breakfast this morning (which was nice), the useless crew hadnt even started serving to the rest of the plane 80 minutes before we landed, and we'd hardly seen the 10 of them during the other 7 hours. The crew from Sydney were much better, they were slow with meals too, but every seat was full so they'd have had their work cut out to begin with. For a customer facing role, most of them had no interaction with their passengers that I saw. (rant over - until I send them feedback directly)

Dubai was a welcome break, we got a cold drink at McDonalds and then had rush to get to the gate because the gate opened an hour before the flight and close 20 minutes before...and they wont let you on after that. Lots of people almost got caught out. It is a monster airport, we didnt have time to wander around much, but it was good to stretch our legs. When we landed there, it was so smooth you didnt even notice. It was like driving on the road then onto the footpath. No jolt like Wellington. It was warm there and the middle of the night.

Getting through immigration was pretty quick. Actually a lot quicker than I thought - and getting out of Auckland too, now that we have new passports. The most stressful bit was steering the luggage trolley and getting to the train....then getting to the taxi rank at Paddington once we were off. Train cost 21GBP each. Taxi cost 45GBP and took about 45 mins - we'll have to remember that on Monday - our train to Bristol goes from there, so at least we sort of know where we will be going.

We are about a 2 minute walk from Canning Town station and there are buses from there as well as the Docklands Light Rail and tube. The HOHO (Hop On, Hop Off) buses have extended the red route and it now comes out this far ! There is a stop at the skyway (gondola thing over the river), the Thames Barrier Park and somewhere else. The first two are about a 5-10 minute walk from here, so we might fit that in to our day tomorrow and get back here easier.

When we got here and the room wasnt ready so we put our bags in their lock up, then thought we'd get a cold drink and have a sit down for a while...and then the room was ready. We had shpowers and thought about going out, but decided to have a couple of hours sleep first. Felt much better when we woke up, so went for a walk down to the skywalk & rail station. Got some nibbles at Tesco and came back here...and changed rooms. The sofa bed wasnt made up in the first room and they had no staff left to fix that, so moved us. A pity really as I think the first room was better. Oh well. Then we went and got pizza from the fancy restaurant next door, which also does takeaways - and isnt too pricey. They were monstrous, but I said we might be hungrier than we thought, and we did both manage to finish them.

The rain is here. It was quite warm when we arrived (didnt see weather to know how hot) but had cooled off when we went for a walk, and even more when we went for pizza. There were even raindrops when we walked back with the food...and then we heard Wimbledon had stopped play, and there is rain on the windows here.

We're about to fall into bed again and hopefully wake up in the right zone. The plan is to catch the DLR into London and go to the Tower, it stops near there, then either wander around or save our feet and get on the HOHO buses. Hope the rain isnt too persistent.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Part One done,

We've arrived in Sydney after a few bumps at both ends, but all good. Auckland's grey weather replaced by Sydney's sunshine.

Look what I spied out the window from the departure lounge.

Our distinctive "owl" bags. 

They should be easy to find at the other end. And after all the stressing about weight, mine went from way lighter than Lauren's to heavier. Woops. But just scraped in.

Plane 1

and I think Plane 2 with the skyline

We're here for a couple of hours before the next leg begins. 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Last sleep in New Zild

Tonight is it. 

Tomorrow we will wake up, squeeze everything back into our bags and begin our adventure proper. We have travelled this week from Blenheim, north visiting as many friends as we could fit into three days, and saying goodbye to special places on our way. 

It isnt really goodbye, because there will be a return, Just not sure exactly when it will be at this stage.

Looking forward to being able to meet new people and reconnect with others on the other side of the world as well though.

A bientot.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Revelations and discoveries

While we have been staying in Blenheim, we've also been planning things and trying to make sure we have done things we want to do, and been to places we want to go to before we leave for that other hemisphere.

We've been to Mapua and briefly to Nelson. All going well we want to revisit Nelson again this week. We have become a little more familiar with Blenheim and Picton, and have had a couple of days in Christchurch.

Last time we visited Christchurch was six months after the February 2011 earthquake. The city and it's people were still in shock and the inner city was completely closed, shut down and no access for anyone. Organised demolition hadn't even started and aftershocks were a normal part of life. It was sad. It seemed empty and soul-less. We felt a little ghoulish taking photos of the damage, while trying to recall how it had looked before.

Things are changing though, albeit too slowly for some. We were heartened to see a new vibrancy emerging in the inner city. The Re:START mall, the transitional (cardboard) cathedral, art installations of different kinds and people. People enjoying their city again and embracing the changes, while still honouring and respecting the event that has changed them all.

On our way home, since it want as stormy and wet as our trip south we stopped to photograph the seals near Kaikoura. There were more than I have ever seen on other trips. We also walked up the stream which is a playground for seal pups. They were gorgeous, so close to us and so unafraid (until a train went over the bridge). we could have stayed for hours if it hadn't been so cold.

Then today we went exploring and found the cob cottage lived in by our ancestors. It is on a private farm, on a road which only has public access in weekends. I'm not sure which of the ancestors actually lived in it though. I am sure my great great grandfathers brother and his wife lived there and raised a large family but I'm unsure whether the generation before also lived there. They lived somewhere there though after moving from Nelson with their young family in the late 1840's or early 1850's. My great great great grandfather was drowned in the nearby river in 1860. One of their sons also drowned nearby. Perhaps there were other cottages and this one is the only surviving one. But their name (Bartlett) lives on in the creek which runs through the valley to join the Wairau River, and the name of the road.

They must have been a tough lot of people, determined and stoic. So different to us with our gadgets and sometimes first world problems. I'm proud of them and what they achieved. I hope they look down on us and are proud of what they see too.

Funny that soon we will be making the journey back to the country they all left. But we will travel in just over a day the distance which they travelled in three months by sail.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

And so it begins

So all the packing has been done and anything we forgot to keep to one side is now in a box until who knows when. The cleaning too. Which is the worst part about moving ? The packing or the cleaning ? I think both.

All of this squished into the poor wee car and we spent one last night in a motel in the city before catching up quickly with a couple of people before heading on down to the ferry. What an awesome last few days you turned on for us Welly. Trying to melt the resolve about leaving the crap weather and incessant wind, huh ?

But actually the weather is only part of it, and leaving just has to be done regardless of how attached we might feel. There are some things I have absolutely loved about living in Wellington and others I have abhorred with a vengeance. It was never intentionally my choice to live there.

We moved when I was still at school, maybe 13. Part of the machinations of Government. A promotion for Dad - "You have been transferred to Head Office". It never really felt like home, particularly in those first years when every opportunity to go back north to visit family and friends was captured. But over time it changed. It was where Mum and Dad where when I lived in Australia and so visits back became "visiting home" - but home as also someplace else. The place I lived when I wasn't "visiting home". Then after I moved back permanently and had settled in the Waikato I needed to decide where the next "home" was going to be. Where there was employment, schooling and assistance as I started out on the next phase of my life. Wellington was the obvious choice again.

But no more. It is time to find a new home. It is a tad unsettling since all the well worn routines have been thrown into disarray, but it will get better I'm sure.

For now though, we are visiting with Mum and Dad who have made a new home which looks and feels like their home, albeit it not where we have always known it to be. There is still some work to do - creating a garden. We will be able to visualise what they are doing though, and how it might change, once we are no longer close enough to see for ourselves.

It's pretty quiet here. Good for recharging our batteries, but quite alien to the lives we normally lead. Time enough though to sort out how we are going to manage to make what possessions we have with us, stay within the allowed baggage weight when the time comes to leave.