A Travellerspoint blog

Flights and arrival home

overcast 25 °C

As I was part of the group that was getting the morning transfer from the hotel to the airport, Hilary had set up a wake-up for me but I didn't need it as I was awake 10 minutes before it was due (I actually heard the phone ring while I was in having my shower). In addition, I didn't have to worry about lugging my large suitcase down to the lobby as porterage was included as part of the transfer! So, after ensuring I had everything packed, I put my bag out, had breakfast and checked out of the hotel (for the last time) and then made my way to where the others were waiting so that we could board the bus to the airport.

Made it to Charles de Gauille airport with plenty of time to spare so said my goodbyes to those that were on the same transfer as me and then mulled around for a while. Found my way to where the check-in desk was for my flight and got a bit worried when I saw the scales read 25.7 kg for my large suitcase (weight limit for checked in luggage is meant to be 23 kg). However, the lady didn't charge my for excess luggage and it was only after I put my carry-on suitcase (which in my opinion weighed no more than what it had when I'd left Australia) on the scales, that it dawned on me the scales may have been out.

Got to the boarding gate and waited for the PA to say that boarding would commence. Had been waiting for about 2 hours when the announcement came to say that the flight was boarding from a different departure gate to the one that had been shown so made my way to the right departure gate. As soon as I got there, baording commenced but I got a bit of a shock when I boarded a bus instead of a plane...realised when it started to move across the tarmac that it was a shuttle bus ferrying me and my fellow passengers to our plane.

I had an aisle seat this time but as I didn't need to use the toilet throughout the whole trip (and neither did the man sitting beside me), I was able to fall asleep without needing to get up. Before falling asleep though, I watched the new Robin Hood movie (the one with Russell Crowe) and had some lunch. I woke up again with only half an hour of the flight left (which meant that the pilot was about to start the descent into Abu Dhabi airport).

The plane landed smoothly in Abu Dhabi and thankfully, didn't have a long wait until the boarding of my flight to Sydney commenced. However, we didn't leave straight away as there were some issues with the loading of the checked in luggage and the stewardesses thought that the man sitting in front of me may have had a heart condition so wanted to make sure that he'd be alright for the long flight ahead. After ensuring everything was okay, the plane taxied down the runway 15 minutes after our scheduled departure time...no sooner was the plane in the air, then I dozed off again! Because I was asleep, I missed out on the in-flight dinner and snack! I actually didn't end up waking up until about halfway through the flight (tracking the progress of the flight is now a part of the in-flight entertainment), which meant that I'd had a good 6-7 hours of unbroken sleep! I watched the movie "Kick-ass" and snoozed on and off while listening to music for the rest of the flight.

Arrived at Sydney around 6.45pm and had to deal with Customs as I'd brought chocolate (for mum) and a gift made of wood (for dad) back. The Customs lady cleared the chocolate but told me I had a choice as to what I could do with the gift for dad...I could throw it out or pay $60 for it to be treated. I thought about it for a bit and thought "Well, I don't want to throw it out but, at the same time, I don't have $60 on me!"...then it dawned on me that mum would be waiting for me with Mic and Pete (Mic's dad) so I told the Customs lady this and she said she could escort me round to where they were (leaving the wooden gift behind). Mic gave me the money so the lady escorted me back to where I could pay for the treatment before saying I was free to go. Ran back to where I'd left Mic, mum and Pete (hugs all round) and we set off for a late dinner at the Mojo lounge and then home.

Well, that's all there is folks...my Europe trip is officially over and I've now got to unpack, wash the clothes that need washing and sort out which souvenirs go to whom (still waiting on the parcel I sent from Sheffield!).

Posted by ali4mick 16:45 Tagged in transit Comments (0)

Paris Sightseeing

overcast 22 °C
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The final day of my Europe Trip was spent sightseeing in Paris. However, instead of going to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower again, I decided to have a lie in and meet up with the tour group after they had done it. Hilary (obviously not realising this, even though I’d mentioned that I’d been up the Eiffel Tower before to her the night before) rang my room at the time the group was supposed to be leaving to see where I was. I told her that Clair and I were going to go check out the Catacombs (kind of underground burial chambers) and would meet up with the group, for the group photo, out the front of the Invalides. Content with my reply, she hung up and I dozed back off for a little while.
When I woke up properly (only about 10 minutes after talking to Hilary), I got up and prepared myself for the day. Met up with Clair after having breakfast, and the two of us set off for the Catacombs.

We caught the metro train to the station closest to the Catacombs and had some difficulty finding where the entrance was…eventually had to ask for directions and when we got there, we realised the entrance had been right in front of us the whole time (DUH!!!). Instead of blaming ourselves however, we blamed the signage, or lack thereof, which would have made it obvious where it was. Waited in line until the guard opened up the entrance to the Catacombs (at around 10am) so, by the time we actually got in, we had to rush around to see everything within the Catacombs as we were meant to be meeting the rest of the group at 10.45!

Got a cab to the Invalides and, due to the lack of description as to where exactly we were supposed to be meeting the group, we missed out on getting in the group photo by roughly 5 minutes! (Of course, Clair and I were not happy about that!). To make our moods worse, the local guide who took us round the Invalides and Napolean’s tomb had left the headsets she was using to convey the information on certain things to everyone on the bus…and hadn’t accounted for us at all. This meant that Clair and I had to stand close enough to her to hear what she was saying all the time, otherwise we’d miss out! Anyway, the tomb itself was amazing and had quite a few marble/stone carvings on the walls depicting the things that Napolean had created or put in force during his reign as Emperor. After seeing Napolean’s tomb, the group was separated into those going off to have free time and those going to the Louvre (I was part of the latter).

We walked quite a bit around the Louvre but only really saw the highlights. Oh well, I still got to see the old Medieval Moat, the sculpture of Aphrodite (better known as the Venus de Milo), the Winged Victory (another sculpture) and, of course, the famous Mona Lisa! We also walked around the apartments of Napolean III (i.e. Napolean Bonaparte). Thankfully, we were allowed to take photos within the Louvre (provided we didn’t use flash), but as well as taking photos, I got some postcards of the things we’d seen.

After wearing ourselves out, we made our way back to the hotel to freshen up. Went back out again for our farewell dinner where Hilary handed out the group photos…Clair and I got a surprise when she actually handed one to each of us!!! Since I knew everyone’s face and name, I instantly started working out where they all were in the photo and writing out a list in order (like the ones you’d get with school photos). I actually offered to do the same for the other people in the group (free of charge) but only had a few takers (which was good I suppose since I would have been writing it out 33 times and my arm would have been very tired!).

Left for the optional ‘Paris illuminations’ tour, which meant boarding a boat that took us up and down the Seine River, to see Paris' main tourist sights lit-up at night. I was lucky in that, my camera's batteries lasted long enough for me to get one shot of the Eiffel Tower sparkling (as it does for 5 minutes every hour through the night) before it died.

Went back to the hotel afterwards to do some last minute rearranging of souvenirs, clothes etc. and pray that my luggage wasn't going to be overweight before going to bed!

Posted by ali4mick 15:51 Archived in France Comments (0)

Omaha Beach to Paris

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Apologies for not writing the next three entries up earlier but the internet connection at the last hotel was dodgy so I decided to wait til I got home...

Did not want to wake-up this morning when the wake-up call came through (at 6.15)…mainly because the bed was so comfortable but also because I’d been having such a nice dream (didn’t have many of those while I was overseas…at least not ones I could remember so well!). Underwent the usual morning routine after I had a shower which woke me up somewhat.

Boarded the bus and set off for the day. Our first stop was Clause Monet’s house and gardens…which I’ve been looking forward to for most of the trip. We got to see the lily pond that inspired so many of his paintings and were able to wander around his house. The house was full of oriental pictures (obviously not his own work) but he apparently loved everything to do with the Orient thus the pictures plastering his walls. I then ummed and ahhed over what to buy as a memento of my visit...ended up getting a 2011 calendar, 2 small prints, a notebook and some postcards (which I’ll use when I start scrapbooking all my photos). Once again (like yesterday), we all made it back on the bus in time…before it started to pour with rain! Left the parking lot for Claude Monet’s house and made our way to Paris where those of us going to Versailles were dropped off while the others went to the hotel. I was amongst the group going to Versailles!

The castle of Versailles was absolutely breath-taking. The ceilings in every room were painted to relate to different Greek/Roman gods. The gardens were so extensive (about 3.5 kms in length, all up) that I only took a photo of the French garden (seen from the King’s bedroom)…if I had have gone for a walk around the gardens to see them all, I would have run out of time!

Went back to the hotel to freshen up before heading out again…to the famous Moulin Rouge. The show ‘Faerie’ was absolutely spectacular with a lot of sparkly and showy costumes to catch your eye. For the men, the women in the show were predominantly topless (most of them with small perky breasts); and for the women, there were plenty of good-looking guys dancing around as well (although they weren’t always topless like the women were)! Clair and I both bought a program for the show so that people back home could see what all the fuss is about (since no photography or filming was allowed!).

Came back to the hotel after the show (around 11.30) which meant those who’d gone were quite tired due to the long day we’d all had…because of that Clair and I went straight to bed!

Posted by ali4mick 15:49 Archived in France Comments (0)

Tours to Omaha Beach

all seasons in one day 24 °C
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Woke up at 6 this morning and figured since there was only 15 minutes before the wake-up call was due, I'd get up and get everything ready. Had a shower and when I got out, Clair hadn't even realised I'd had one! Went down to breakfast and, as per usual, made sure that I grabbed a few extra things for snacks on the bus. Then because everyone was on the bus, we left earlier than we were expecting to! Set off for Mont St Michel but had to take a detour as our turn off was blocked by an accident (suppose it's a good thing we left early then!). Eventually got to Mont St Michel, after having a 20 minute convenience break at a servo on the way.

I went up the 362 steps to get to the Abbey positioned on the top of the mountain. Had a wander round the Abbey, which was built predominantly as a place of worship of Saint Michel (i.e. Saint Michael), the head of the heavenly militia. While wandering around the abbey, I had a chuckle at the fact that there was a Saint Martin crypt within the abbey itself (Michael's brother's name is Martin so it seemed fitting that the two places were close by LOL). Came back down (this time I didn't count how many steps there were) and waited for everyone else to board the bus so we could make our way to Omaha Beach.

Got photos of as much of the coastline from our viewpoint at Omaha Beach as possible since Omaha Beach was one of the landing beaches for the American troops and I was hoping to perhaps get a photo of the landing beaches for the British...these of course were further along the coast than where we were. We then went to the Normandy American Cemetary and Memorial which (although catering to the Americans) was still very moving! We even saw the graves of Quentin and Theodore Roosevelt (sons of the American President, Teddy Roosevelt) and Preston and Robert Niland (the brothers who's story inspired the movie "Saving Private Ryan").

Made our way back to the coach as thunder started to roar across the sky. Thankfully we all made it onto the coach in time before the heavens opened up. Made our way to the hotel we're staying at tonight and were given an hour and a half before meeting in the restaurant for dinner. Had a salad, pork with prune sauce and apple tart for entree, main and dessert, respectively. I came to the main part of the hotel (the restaurant was in a separate building) before everyone else did and it had started to sprinkle...everyone else got caught in the downpour that ensued...haha! Had a shower and got ready for bed. Another early morning tomorrow as we make our way back to Paris.

Posted by ali4mick 21:01 Archived in France Comments (0)

Bordeaux to Tours

all seasons in one day 24 °C
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Not much to write about for today, even though it had sounded like we'd be having a long day...

Because Hilary had made it sound like we'd be having a long day, I was expecting an earlier wake-up call, but we had the wake-up call at 7 o'clock. Back to the normal morning routine of getting ready, putting the bag out for the porters etc. Set off from the hotel at 8.30 so I was expecting to be getting to the hotel we're staying at tonight quite late! However, we drove along the motorway for the majority of the day so made relatively good time...of course, being on the motorway meant that I slept for most of the day too since there was nothing to look at (and I'd felt a bit sickly too...nothing nurofen and some rest wouldn't fix though!).

Woke up when we had our morning tea stop and hopped out to grab something to eat. Bought two plain bread rolls and a coke before sitting down with the rest of the group (who were having coffees and pastries/cookies). Hopped back on the bus again to head to the Chateau de Chenonceau. We were given two hours to wander around the chateau and its gardens...think some people thought that it wasn't enough time to have lunch and wander around, but I thought it was plenty of time! Then again, some of the people went and had a sit down lunch in the restaurant instead of going to the self-service place so that would have taken up some of their time. The only thing that slowed me down...people getting in the way of me trying to take a photo!

Continued on to the hotel and actually arrived a little before 5pm. Were given an hour to freshen up before going back on the bus for those people doing the optional excursion or those that wanted to go into the town for dinner instead of going to the hotel's restaurant. Clair and I were the latter and wandered around the little town (trying to find a restaurant that sold frog's legs so I could at least say I'd tried them). In the end, we picked a place that looked comfortable and had dinner there (no frog's legs). Got wet while waiting for the bus to take us back to the hotel as it started to rain before we left. Got ready for bed as we have an early morning tomorrow...

Posted by ali4mick 22:29 Archived in France Comments (0)

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