Third Time’s The Charm…

Hey Campers,

As I sit before my laptop, huddled for warmth against the harsh Parisian winter, I’m wont to reflect upon our recent scorching-hot sojourn to The Land Down Under. To be fair, I’m actually feeling rather toasty, as while the current outside temperatures leave a great deal to be desired, our central heating works wonderfully well and even when I’m occasionally forced to venture outside, my wardrobe contains a most fabulous array of winter finery to protect my delicate self against the unforgiving elements. But I digress.

It’s hard to believe that our time in Aussieland has come and gone so damn quickly. It seems like only yesterday that I was at the airport fretting about the prospect of taking a toddler on two long haul flights to reach our destination. Happily, our offspring was relatively well behaved, but it’s still not an experience I’d recommend to anyone…unless you have a nanny taking care of them in cattle class while you relax in the comfort of first…one can but dream.

Sadly, it wasn’t possible to catch up with everyone we would’ve liked to, as family obligations and the breakneck passage of time conspired against us. In all honesty, I’d already presumed that this trip was going to be rather different to my typical jaunts back to the motherland, mostly due to the fact that we’d added a new member to our travelling party. Naturally, my ridiculously extended family was all very keen to spend time with the newbie around his first Australian Christmas, meaning that my usual schedule of evenly dividing my time between family and friends was forlornly cast aside. The relentless heatwaves and a carsick-prone child also hindered our ability to get out and about, and left us with just a touch of cabin fever and a few familicidal urges. My husband then flying back to the Continent – somebody needs to keep working – and leaving me a single father for the second half of the trip certainly didn’t help matters.

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My feelings of frustration were further amplified by the fact that when I was able to briefly escape my parental duties, the weather gods decided to taunt me mercilessly. The first two visits down to Sydney saw the previously aching-hot, blue-skied summer days replaced by grey unpleasantness – only for the duration of my stay, mind you – and consequently prohibited my so desperately sought after solitary beach time. As something of an avid, and admittedly borderline-obsessive, sunworshipper, the whole experience was absolutely devastating and had me questioning my life choices and wondering why I was being punished so unjustly. Fortunately, on the third such attempt, the weather gods relented in their cruelty and I was able to enjoy the sun, sand and surf for two whole days just before returning to the Arctic north.

That being said, we still managed to have an agreeable summer break. Indeed, my darling son had a most fantastic time being welcomed properly into the family fold by his cousins – a daunting amount of excitable littl’uns running riot all over the place.  Then, of course, we were finally able to keep our promise of holding a third and final nuptials in Australia for my extended family and friends who’d missed out on the previous celebrations of our love. In spite of the oppressive heat and vicious mosquitoes, it proved to be a lovely day and it was thoroughly delightful to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in a long while, as I proceeded to get drunk on bubbly.

Hopefully, next time we visit we’ll be slightly better prepared and see more of our adoring fans, although by then there’ll be yet another travel companion, so it’s anyone’s guess really.

Must away, the gym is calling and I need to answer for my holiday sins – namely those unwanted kilos that crept on over the festive season as I seemed helpless to stop myself devouring anything vaguely edible that crossed my path.

Tchao! Tchao!!!

Scotty, Beam Me Up!

As we edge ever closer to the second decade of the 21st century, I’m dumbfounded that we still don’t have instantaneous travel – à la Star Trek transporters – or at the very least, frequent supersonic international flights.

It must be said that while I absolutely adore visiting different places, I very much detest the process of getting there. Now, I don’t mind the odd high-speed train or road trip but when I intend on going further afield, flying becomes the only option, and we all know what a trying process it has become.

The drama begins with the necessity of arriving hours in advance to allow enough time to pass through the ever-increasingly levels of security. Frankly, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we are forced to pass through the checkpoints completely naked with transparent carry-on luggage. Granted, it’s supposedly all for our own safety but I do find the restrictions a little ridiculous at times. For my part, I tend to think that if someone can highjack a plane with a pair of nail clippers and a bottle of shampoo then they probably deserve to have it.

Then, one must deal with the horrors of economy – unless you happen to be well off enough to afford seating in the higher classes…or are sleeping with a pilot to the same end. Long gone are the glamorous days of air travel, where people actually made an effort with their appearance, instead of looking like they just rolled out of bed after a heavy weekend. There also used to be enough legroom so that one didn’t run the risk of involuntary amputation. Obviously, I am aware it’s a business and that for the airlines to make a profit and keep fares relatively low they must cut corners. In saying that, there surely must come a point when they need to realise that they are still transporting people and not merely sentient cargo.

The Wrath of the Travel Gods.

As I sit in yet another airport, not so patiently waiting for yet another delayed flight, I am once again compelled to ask – what on earth have we done to piss off the travel gods? You may remember that barely a week ago I was complaining about the very same thing and a few weeks before that…and a little before that as well. This time round, we don’t even have the civilised option of sipping champagne in the comfortable surrounds of the Air France lounge, as it was overcrowded due to all the delayed flights and even the staff recommended we’d be better off outside. Frankly, I’m seriously beginning to believe we’ve cursed! It’s all I can do to stop myself from falling to my knees and screaming – ‘why gods why?’

Granted, I’m far from a patient man and today is only a postponement of a few hours – rather than the tortuously long Barcelona ordeal – but it is thoroughly aggravating nevertheless. Of course, we’ve experienced issues whilst travelling before – late transports, misplaced luggage and such – but not consistently for every single time we take leave of Paris. It’s been going on for months now! Our woes aren’t even restricted to planes, as trains and buses are also seemingly a part of this grand conspiracy. It’s gotten so bad that I find myself getting pre-emptively angry as we walk out the door with our bags in tow.

The Unfriendly Skies.

Hell hath no fury like a Jimi scorned! I’d like to start my rant today with a very big FUCK YOU to Vueling Airlines, whom we would happily never fly with again apart from the fact we are booked to go home with them…may the gods have mercy on their souls if they screw us around again on Saturday, let me tell you.

What should have been a most lovely start to our summer holidays turned into one of the most frustrating travel experiences that I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter. Granted, the plane didn’t crash and there was no loss of life – although it looked like some of the passengers were keen to hold a lynching near the end of our ordeal – but it was still enormously annoying nevertheless.

So, dear reader, it all started off simply enough with my beloved and I arriving at the airport an hour before our flight, as you do, only to be told that instead of the original departure time of 8.10pm it would now be 2am. This news was delivered with a goofy ‘what can you do’ kind of smile and not even a hint of an apology or vague attempt to explain why our flight was suddenly six hours behind schedule. This was a theme that continued through the evening with no real effort ever being made to justify the situation.

Schnitzel, Strudel and Sisi!

If lashings of culture and delicious food are what you’re after, then Vienna is certainly the place for you. Located in Austria – and not Australia as some befuddled tourists may be wont to think – it was once the capital of a formidable empire that stretched far across the lands. Today, the city remains steeped in history with museums, churches and castles as far as the eye can see.

The city itself is most pleasant to walk around, although it does tend to have a somewhat equine smell due to all the horse-drawn carriages for tourists whizzing about the place.  That aside, I highly recommend strolling about Vienna to soak up the sights and burn off some of the food you’ll no doubt be consuming. We did our very best to combat all the calorie-laden goodies on offer, but still I fear the strudel may have won.

Speaking of the food it was interesting to see the extensive labelling of everything edible, with every restaurant menu proclaiming what was for suitable for those with allergies, vegans, the gluten intolerant and the like. It was almost as if the whole city had become hipster. That being said, this practice is also found in the supermarkets, so one imagines it is a legal requirement rather than everyone just being extra annoying about their dietary needs.

Banging in Berlin…

Berlin is one of those mythic cities whose grand reputations precede them, keeping good company with the likes of London, New York and Paris. I’m ever so happy to report that it was everything I had been warned about. A delightfully harsh mistress, I am somewhat enamoured – or enlusted – with this charming city and all the decadence and debauchery that it contains Truly a place where one can be oneself without fear of shame and recriminations, unless that’s what you’re into of course, all the while giving a brand new interpretation to East meets West.

Don’t get me wrong, there are more than enough cultural pursuits on offer to balance out the less seemly ones. Not to mention exploring the difference of the formerly separated city halves. The first thing that I saw when crossing over to the east was a Starbucks, nothing says forward momentum quite like American capitalism. In general, the east seeming to be funkier and more progressive, although I tend to think that it is all meshing rather nicely.