Archives for the month of: November, 2017

We flew on an Emirates A380 from London on the 10th November 2017 and arrived at Al Barsha apartments near Mall of the Emirates for a few day’s stay. It was an excellent apartment, very well equiped and located only one block from the metro station Sharaf DG and a 15minute walk from Mall of the Emirates.
The facilities at the beach in Jumeirah in Um Suqeim II were much upgraded compared to six years ago when there was nothing apart from sand. Now there is a rubberised running path, change rooms, toilets, mobile recharging points, lifeguards and kiosks with shaded areas.
Al Fannah seafood restaurant in the Fisherman’s harbour nearby was excellent serving fresh fish every day at a very reasonable price.

We met up with my UAE friend Salim with whom I studied Mandarin in Hangzhou six years ago. He was doing his military service for a year which he was enjoying.

The Mall of the Emirates doesn’t change much but there is a good choice of every type of shop from very upmarket,large supermarket and their famous ski Dubai complete with penguins.

The airport however seems to change all the time with more trains taking you longer distances to new departure halls with a myriad of duty free and other shops.
We flew to Singapore on an Emirates A380 which was a very comfortable flight as it was only half full. It was very noticeable on both flights however that the crew do the bare minimum and do not offer the service you get with Singapore airlines, Garuda or even Indigo.

In Singapore we stayed at the Parkroyal on Kitchener Road in the middle of Little India. We were upgraded to a club room on the 21st floor which gave us a wonderful view over the few remaining old buildings down below in Little India. We were again blessed with the weather with no rain which was fortunate as we explored the
‘Gardens by the Bay’ an extensive area of stunning gardens and the amazing engineering feat of the ‘Cloud Forest’ and ‘Flower Dome’.

Singapore has an amazing array of food choices and we opted for ‘Din Tai Fung’ for their wonderful steamed dumplings and then ‘Fattys’ a Singapore institution from the early 20’s. Fatty has since passed on but his son Skinny runs the restaurant.

On the 14th we flew from Singapore to Bali for a week’s R & R. We visited the Andree spa daily and had wonderful 90minute massages for $20. Spa treatments here especially in Candi Dasa are such good value. We visited our Russian friend Ksenia and partner Feisal in Ubud who had baby Fyodor who was very cute and only a week old. It was bucketing down in Bali which continued when we arrived at our villa in Seminyak which my old friend the ex Qantas manager ran and invited us to stay for a couple of nights.
At least it was hot and not cold but going to dinner Maurice had to go out in shorts and no shoes and me likewise to get to the car as it was raining so hard.

It was sad to see that everywhere was very quiet because of the expected eruption of Mt Agung. We could see steam coming from the crater in the distance but the evacuated people had returned to their homes. The island in general was much quieter than usual and our hotel told us that many people had cancelled their bookings. They were hoping for a better December for tourist numbers.

Maurice found a good app called ‘findship’ which showed real time as to where our ship carrying our van and our ship carrying our goods from Italy were. Amazing technology. The other one we used all over Europe to plot routes for the van and where we had flown was ‘’ a very useful app too.

We flew back to Perth on the 24th November to a lovely warm 33degree and blue sky day. Maurice’s sister and brother in law picked us up and we had a very relaxing lunch by the river before heading to the Subaru dealer to pick up my new red WRX car. It goes like a rocket and I love it.

It did feel strange seeing all the new developments around Perth the first few days and after spending a lovely few days with Maura and Tony we got our house back on the 27th November ready for a lot of sorting and unpacking.

It has been a wonderful six years of travel for us meeting a lot of interesting and generous people all over the world and exploring some fascinating places. We look forward to getting our house and garden in order (literally) and then continuing our travel for shorter periods except for a few months at Mantra the Indian guest house we look after during the Perth winter.

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We sailed overnight to Gran Canaria, the second largest island of the Canaries and docked at 8am.
We had been warned by our friends that some of the bus drivers were a bit reckless and drove too fast around the many hairpin bends around the mountains. We had such a driver who was eventually asked to slow down by many people. Our guide used very creative English and the non English speakers had great trouble in understanding the unusually made up vocabulary that she used a lot of the time.
The first stop was up to the volcanic crater of Bandama then back down the mountain to the centre of Las Palmas. we opted to walk around on our own and not follow the guide as she talked incessantly. We had a nice lunch at the ‘Rifugio’ where we had a wonderful view of the surrounding rugged mountains. A recent fire had just spared the restaurant and neighbouring restaurants and trees close by had been completed burnt.
We drove to the pretty village of Teror which was deserted as it was siesta time again and the churches were locked. Our last stop was ‘Gardens of the Duchess’ with it’s many cycads, ponds, palms and cacti and large banana plantation. It was a long 8 1/2 hour trip and not recommended for those suffering from motion sickness or vertigo.

Our last port of call in the Canary islands was Tenerife, the largest of the islands and our 4 1/2 hour tour there took us first to ‘Playa de las Teresitas’ a beach with yellow sand brought in from the Spanish sahara in Morocco. The tour to the northern part of the island was with a much more sensible driver and guide.
The views down to the coast from the Anaga mountains were spectacular. It was a national holiday so it was slow going with the large bus having to pause many times for cars coming in the opposite direction. Down at the coast past the isolated village of Taganana we had local wine, cheese and olives and then drove to ‘Pico del Ingles’ with amazing views of Mount Teide Spain’s highest mountain before descending down to the coast to the ship.
We sailed from Tenerife for two days before reaching our last port of call ‘A Coruna’ on the coast of Spain.

Known as the Crystal city because of it’s glassed in balconies which glitter in the sun, A Coruna is a charming city with interesting architecture. The balconies have been so enclosed against the fierce winds which blow from the Atlantic ocean. It is a short walk into the city from the cruise ship dock. Our tour of the estuaries or Rias took us to the south to the medieval town of Puertodueme. The second stop was a beautiful view point over the estuaries and beaches where we enjoyed a tapas lunch with the good local Ribeiro wine. We had a photostop by a castle on a small island. From there we could overlook the city of A Coruna in the distrance.
We left for our final days’s sailing via the Bay of Biscay to Southampton which took another day and a half.

The dress code on the ship was informal until 6pm where we could wear shorts etc but after 6pm a jacket was required and on the three formal nigts a suit or tuxedo was required. We had bought Maurice a suit from M&S the year before which we kept at our friend’s house until required for the cruise. We had no need for it in the campervan.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time on the beautiful Queen Elizabeth and it’s lovely art deco furnishings, excellent food and services. We did decide however that shore excursions on a large tour bus were not our thing so if ever cruising again we would opt for touring independantly.

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The ship was very luxurious (like staying at a 5star hotel on the water) and although there were 1600 cabins we didn’t notice the large number of people except if we ate at the buffet at meal times. We ate mostly in the dining room in the evenings where we had a reserved table for 8.30pm (the second sitting) and the service and food was excellent. One of our restaurant wait staff Sylvia was an Australian middle aged woman from Sydney who wanted to try something different, Jay Jay from South Africa,Visham from Mauritius and Marco the Sommelier from Romania. The service staff was comprised of many nationalities but the majority were Filipinos. Everyone we encountered were very professional and friendly at the same time and Dada from the tours desk gave us very informative and interesting information about the tours available in each port.
It sank in what organisation and team work must go into running a cruise ship.

We were given a credit type card which we could use anywhere on the ship for purchases from drinks to diamonds (not that we bought any of the latter). There were several dining options (some for an extra charge) and several lounges and a two storey library. The art deco style and decor was beautiful. The Queen Elizabeth was built and fitted out by an Italian company ‘Fincantiere’.

We sailed for three days and Cunard offered a myriad of activities on the ship from Deck sports to theatre performances, indoor games, dance lessons etc.
One day we experienced the formal afternoon tea in the ballroom and were served by white jacketed waiters with white gloves. They served a selection of sandwiches (as well as a raft of other savouries), cakes,scones with jam and cream and very good tea. I had missed my dancing from before we left home years ago so I took advantage of going to the ballroom after dinner to refresh myself with ballroom dancing and the jive. The dance partners from the ship ranged from geriatric to a younger couple who were all good dancers.

We had lovely weather and calm seas through the Bay of Biscay and on to Madeira, our first port of call and only Portuguese one we were to visit.
Funchal it’s capital is named after the Portuguese name for fennel (a variation thereof) which was found all over the island when it was settled.

We opted to do a tour in each place, not having been there before. We went on a jeep excursion for 4 1/2hours with only two jeeps and about 12people which suited us as we went where a tour bus could not go and therefore we had a very quiet time up in the mountains and had a good guide in David who took us to various viewpoints in the interior of the island and then along the south coast to Camara de Lobos. He gave us much information about the island and it’s inhabitants. Some of the narrow two way roads were very steep but the
offroad portions which looked very much like the bush tracks in Australia were not as bad as expected. Much of the mountains were covered with Australian Blue gums which have proved to be a curse but the island has started in the last few years to fell the trees and send them to mainland Portugal to make pulp. We stopped at a very local bar and tried the ‘poncha’ a mixture of rum, honey and orange or lemon juice and I tried the middle dry Madeira wine for which the island is famous. The island is very mountainous and most of the arable land is a patchwork of either banana, sugar cane or vines which were turning a redish/brown colour. The farmers have a hard life trapesing up and down many steps or paths to tend their crops,most of which are planted on mountain slopes. Some farmers wisely cover their houses with the vines for shade in Summer and other vines grow at least a metre from the ground so that potatoes or other vegetables can be grown underneath. Bananas seemed to be the main fruit exported from the Canaries.
We were returned to the ship and we could then walk back into Funchal to wander the streets. It was very quiet as it was a Sunday and people were having their siestas. Most of the shops even on weekdays closed in the afternoon only opening at 5pm.

Our next port of call was Santa Cruz on La Palma where we again docked within walking distance of the city. Our tour here was on a coach which took us up to the ‘Caldera de Taburiente’ in the national park which was unusually not a crater made by a volcano but from an enormous landslide millions of years ago. The island had been covered in palms but now these had mostly been replaced with pine trees. We saw the remains of a fire which had swept all of the Canary islands with varying degrees of damage. La Palma’s main crops were again bananas, sugar cane and Avocados. Just off the old airport runway we stopped at an old 17th century farm for some local refreshments. The garden was beautiful with the most amazing crop of Strelizias (bird of paradise) plants which the owner cultivated and sold. We later stopped at the ‘Mirador de la Concepcion’ to take in the wonderful views along the coast and to the north of the island. We had a stop at the ‘Santuario Virgen de Las Nieves where we could buy a coffee or relax for a while. We were again returned to the ship and later walked into town with our friends to have a look around the city.
We saved money as the shops were closed again for siesta so we used the internet at a local cafe before returning to the ship at dusk.
The internet on the ship was a little too expensive for us $48 for a couple of hours.

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We experienced a blustery night in Treaddur Bay in North Wales. The wind was howling as it came off the bay. The sign in the facilities said ‘no wetsuits or dogs in the shower’ so some people and dogs must have ventured into the sea.
We set off for Windermere in the Lakes district reasonably early the next day which was fortuitous as the clutch went and we broke down about 20miles from where we were heading. It took us many phone calls to get us picked up and to a garage 4miles away where the owner and his sidekick at the garage were very helpful and managed to take the gearbox out, replace the clutch and rear brake pads in a day and a half.
We made the most of it by taking a scenic bus route via Windemere to Keswick further north in the Lake district where it was very cold but the views along the way were spectacular.

Roger at the garage let us plug in the van for two nights so that we could stay in it rather than having to find a hotel which was lovely of him to do. On the third day we made our way back to Windermere to see the ‘world of Beatrix Potter’ a favourite of mine from my childhood and we took the ferry across the lake to see her house in the very small village of Little Sawrey. It was a long day’s drive from there across the beautiful Yorkshire moors to Wyse House farm campsite near Malton which was a great campsite.

We visited my mother’s cousin’s wife and had a nice day with her before visiting Castle Howard of ‘Brideshead Revisited’ fame and then we continued on to Hitchin Leisure where we bought the campervan and could stay there for a week. We had a few things to do to the van and to catch up with friends there. We walked into Hitchin every day or to the train station to get to London on several occasions to visit various friends and relations and catch up with Maurice’s sister Maura who was on her way back from Canada to Perth.

We made the most of our forays into London visiting the famous architect ‘John Soanes’ house which contains over 40,000 pieces of memorabilia and is quite amazing.
I found it a bit overwhelming with everything that was crammed into the four storey house.

A very interesting renovation was ‘The department store’ in Brixton which cousin Hugh and Joelle took us for an afternoon drink as they were both members.
A group of architects had renovated beautifuly the building which was now their offices, a bar and restaurant.

A highlight was seeing the ‘Lion king’ at the Lyceum one night before we descended the old 193steps to the Covent Garden Metro. The metros are a swift way of getting around London but to be avoided if possible at peak times and around the tourist areas especially if you are at all claustrophobic.

We left Hitchin to spend a week with our friends in the Chilterns near Cholesbury and we were again lucky with the weather. It was cold (for us) but it hardly rained for our three weeks in England.
I had the good fortune to also meet up with a cousin from my mother’s de Jong side of the family whom I happened to find on facebook after having been given a name by my mother’s cousin’s wife in Yorkshire. I am going to join Ancentry and plot as much of my family tree that I can which might be of interest to others years ahead.

We drove from Cholesbury down to Southampton on the 25th October to join the Queen Elisabeth on a 12night cruise to the Canaries with our friends. This was our first cruise and we were looking forward to it.

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