Going Home   Leave a comment

Wednesday, 23 July, 2014

Canberra

A bit of a flap right at the start of my, as was getting on the bus this morning to go to work, I realised that I had forgotten my UK Debit Card. So, after a quick phone call to James, who was giving me a lift to the airport later, we arranged for an earlier pick-up and then we swung by my place on the way to the airport to retrieve the card.

After my previous performance at Sydney airport when I was checking in with Emirates for my flight home at Christmas 2012 (it’s a long story, but the short version is that my tickets had been cancelled and I had to be re-booked onto the flight home), I was a little worried when the Check-in lady was pulling a few faces when attempting to check me in all the way from Canberra to Manchester via Melbourne and Abu Dhabi. Fear not! she said it was just the system being a bit slow and I was soon on my way through security, where I bumped into Tracey, one of the ladies from the Spanish Course I took a couple of years ago. After a quick chat with her and her work colleagues, who were on their way to Sydney, I was soon boarding my first flight from Canberra to Melbourne. The Virgin flight was about 3/4 full and I found myself on a empty row of seats with a window seat to look at the mountain ranges all the way down to Melbourne.

Melbourne

As my baggage was checked in all the way to Manchester, I went straight from the Domestic terminal to the International Departure lodge, where I found a pleasant open space with hardly anybody around. Looking at the boards, I noticed that there weren’t too many international flight leaving Melbourne, but through the windows I spotted what was hopefully my plane being prepared for the flight. Only four hours to wait!

Abu Dhabi

Wow, never thought that a thirteen hour flight would be so enjoyable! I was looking a bit dodgy before takeoff, as I noticed a couple of engineers working on the engine of our plane for a good couple of hours up to and including us being call to board the plane. I was sat in an elsie seat right at the back of the Etihad Boeing 777-300 next to Diane, a young lady from Melbourne who was going to a wedding in northern Greece and then on to Italy for a two week holiday with some relatives. She had the window seat which meant that there was only to two of us in our row, which gave me a bit more room to settle into. I would say the flight was full and there certainly wasn’t much overhead luggage space available by the time I got on board. Dinner was served as soon as we achieved our cruising attitude and straight after that I watched Shadow Recruit on the fantastic on-board E-Box entertainment system. Then whilst listening to Van Morrison’s album Astral Weeks on the headphones, I even managed a four hour sleep, which is surly a first for me on a long haul flight. We was woken up by a bit of turbulence, so I watched 3 episodes of Season Four of Downton Abbey before trying to get some more sleep (again accompanied by Mr Van Morrison). as dawn broke over the United Arab Emirates, the plane came back to life with breakfast being served by the attentive staff and everything being prepared for landing right on time at what looked like a half built Abu Dhabi airport.

This airport is going to be one seriously big place once it’s finished, as even the terminal we walked through once we got off the plane was massive. There was a pointless exercise of going through a security check, complete with scanners, body searches etc, especially owing to he fact that we had just stepped off a plane, but hey-ho, such is life. there was a bit of confusion as to which terminal/gate Diane and I were supposed to be at for our connecting flight, but once someone had sorted that out we wished each other a safe journey and went our separate ways. After a bit of searching, I found myself at gate 41 in terminal 3, which three members of airport staff assured me was the correct gate for my Manchester flight, although I was still a bit worried as it had the 8:55 Frankfurt flight on the the tv screen and I was surrounded by Germans!

After confirming that Gate 41 was my actual gate, I took myself off into the Duty Free shops, where I nearly bought a set of Bose Headphones ($330), but ended up buying a new 32GB Pen Drive instead ($24), cheapskate! With my change, which arrived in the local currency, I bought a coffee and then ambled back to the gate to find that the Germans had gone and had been replaced by Mancs! Got talking to a young lady who worked in Dubai (Apparently, only about an hour’s drive away) and she filled me on the history of the airport, Etihad Airways and all things concerning life in the United Arab Emirates.

Even thought the airport was full of air-bridges to the many waiting Etihad planes, we were eventually loaded onto a bus and driven along the front of the terminal to our plane, onto which we boarded in what seemed like 50C heat! The flight itself was uneventful, except for the fact that a couple of passengers were off loaded and we had to wait while their luggage was removed from the hold. Again, I managed to get some sleep, after eating breakfast (or was it lunch, or dinner or…) and watching The Hunger Games on the E-Box system. When I awoke, I was surprised to find out that we were only an hour or so from landing and a spent most of this time looking out of the window at the changing scenery below.

Manchester

Passport control and retrieving my luggage was a breeze and I walked out into the Manchester Sunshine to jump on a bus which took me to the Car Hire Village, where I jumped into the rental car that I’ll be using for the next 6 days.

Posted July 23, 2014 by yermandownunder in Back Home, Observations, Travels

Shanks’s Pony   Leave a comment

Sunday, 20 July, 2014

Since Skippy took out my car back in early June, I’ve hired cars, borrowed cars and caught many a lift of various people (thankyou all!), but today I thought that I would try to get around Canberra without the use of a car!

Okay the day without a car didn’t start too well as I had to return the car that I had borrowed yesterday back to its owners over in Kambah, but as it was such a beautiful day I decided to put my hiking boots on and walk back home once I had dropped the car off. The only problem is that there’s a bloody great big hill called Mt. Taylor in the way, but after looking at the map I reckoned that found a way back that took in the summit of Mt. Taylor and used mostly footpaths which avoided nearly all the main roads.

Additionally, I planned to visit one of the places on Lake Burley Griffin that I’ve never been too, The National Museum of Australia (NMA). Looking at the bus timetable early this morning, I worked out that the local bus that passes my place would take me right past the NMA, but the problem was being a Sunday it only came by once an hour. The best bet seemed to be the 12:13, which would get me to the NMA by 13:00, where I could spend 4 hours or so looking at the exhibits before jumping on the 17:04 outside and returning home, simple!

So setting off from Kambah after dropping the car off at around 09:15, I kept up a fair pace in order to stay on schedule. I reached the top of Mt. Taylor without too much trouble, stopping to take some pictures on the way and then made my way down the other side into Torrens, where I picked up a footpath which cut through the suburb into Woden. The last stint was to retrace the route I take when returning from work on my bike back into my apartment complex. 1 Hour 50 minutes to do exactly 10km wasn’t a bad effort in my opinion and it meant that I had plenty of time to jump in the shower, make breakfast and update my Facebook site, before walking out to the bus stop to catch the bus.

At this point, things started to unravel as even though I was at the bus stop in good time, the bus never turned up and after a good fifteen minutes waiting I started to walk into Woden in order to catch the Blue Rapid into Civic. Sods law came into play, because as I was in between bus stops the bus came round the corner and went sailing past me, bastard! Fear not, if I walked fast enough and caught a Blue Rapid in Civic straight away, I would only be ten minutes or so behind the bus I just missed. Sods law part two, just as I was approaching the bus station, a Blue Rapid bus went sailing past me which meant I had a 15 minute wait for the next one. Also, when I did get into Civic I had to walk through town and along the lake shore to get to the NMA, meaning that I arrived nearly 45 minute later than I expected.

To be honest, once I was inside I was a little disappointed in the NMA. Maybe it was the design of the building, which meant that I kept finding myself retracing my steps through some of the exhibition halls or maybe it was just the content of the exhibits, as I found some of them quite boring. So as I sat down in the excellent café having a coffee, working out what I had seen, what I had missed and wondering if I should go home, I spotted an exhibit that was only opened on the hour for fifteen minutes. As the time was approaching 16:00, I made my way over the Garden of Australian Dreams! to the Open Collections. On the way I bumped into Eng, one of the museum helper who offered to show me around. Well, Eng and the open Collections saved the day, as I was treated to a wonderful insight into Indigenous culture by viewing the many artefacts that the NMA had in their procession.

As I was leaving a little earlier than I was expecting, I decided to walk back around the lake’s edge, over the bridge, take a few pictures of the setting sun and catch the Bus Rapid back into Woden and connect with the local bus that passes my place. Sods law, part three, it didn’t quite work out that way, as when I was taking a couple of pictures of the lake, museum and Black Mountain from the bridge, the bus went sailing past me again…

Posted July 20, 2014 by yermandownunder in Observations, Out and about

Big Hike 23   Leave a comment

Saturday, 12 July, 2014

As you know by now, every 3 months or so, I join a few colleagues from work and go on a hike somewhere in one of the many National Parks that surround Canberra and the ACT. Phil (He’s from Bradford, but don’t hold that against him), the guy who organises these things, has so far arranged and taken part in 22 of these ‘Big Hikes’ and this morning, Patrick and I took a trip out to the Namadgi National Park Visitors Centre, via the café at MacDonald’s for a Brekkie Roll and coffee, to meet up with Phil, Brian and Tony in order to participate in ‘Big Hike 23’, which would take us up the North face of Mt. Tennent to the summit and back again.

The weather this morning looked promising, although when we reached the bottom of the mountain we could see that the top was obscured by low cloud. So it was with a spring in the step that the five of us set off from the Visitors Centre, however, once we hiked up to and into the cloud base the temperature and the visibility dropped and by the time we reached the top, any chance of viewing the magnificent views had disappeared. I think the plan was to take a break at the summit, but the poor weather put paid to that and we didn’t hang around, save to take a few pictures.

As we made our way back down the hill, we soon realised that the cloud base had dropped even lower and it was only when we got near the visitors centre that the visibility improved much. Today’s hike wasn’t too long by our usual standards at only 15km, but the climb up was steep and the decent down a little tricky, so I suspect that I’ll be a little sore in the legs in the next few days.

 

Posted July 12, 2014 by yermandownunder in Observations, Out and about

Melbourne (Day 3) – I’ve Reached the Edge   Leave a comment

Sunday, 22 June, 2014

Just about managed to force myself out of bed this morning. Note to self, try to get some sleep in the bank before you go away on weekends like this!

Anyway, spent an hour or so in the gym/swimming pool before packing up and leaving the apartment at the allotted check out time. My flight back to Canberra didn’t leave till 3:30pm and although I still needed to get to the airport in good time, via the excellent SkyBus, I had around 4 hours to kill on a beautiful Melbourne morning.

I considered taking the tram down to St. Kilda beach, but considering the time I had left I reckoned that I would only have an hour or so down there before I had to return to the station to catch the bus. The answer has been looming over me all weekend! The Eureka Tower is Melbourne’s tallest building and being one of the highest buildings in Australia, they’ve not missed a trick by having an observation deck up near the top and by all accounts it was something worth taking a look at.

First things first, breakfast! On the way to the Eureka Tower on the South Bank of the Yarra river is a vast array of bars, cafés and restaurants which all looked very inviting as I walked  along  taking pictures. I opted for one that had a great looking outdoor area bathed in sunshine and after being seated next to a patio heater I was soon enjoying a full English whilst being entertained by the live singer located somewhere inside and by the sights of the locals doing their Sunday morning things.

After breakfast I walked around the corner to the SkyDeck entrance of the Eureka Tower, paid my money (you didn’t think it was free did you?) and took the 40 second lift trip up the 88th floor to the SkyDeck. For an extra $15 on top of the admission price to the SkyDeck, I was given a beeper which would tell me that my time to experience ‘The Edge Experience‘ had arrived, so I spent the time in between walking around the floor to ceiling windows taking in the magnificent 360 degree views of Melbourne and the surrounding area. The only problem was that the glass was very reflective and I struggled to get any decent pictures through it.

Finally after around 45 minutes, my beeper went off and I walked over to the entrance to ‘the Edge’. After a brief safety talk and slipping on a pair of special socks over my shoes, we were ushered into a room where we had to leave all our stuff, including camera, phones etc. before entering the glass box that is ‘The Edge’. The glass on three sides and the floor (we had been assured that it was very thick glass!) was frosted and the eight of us in there took up positions around the edge of the box, strangely nobody wanted to stand in the middle of the box! This is where it got weird, as as soon as the attendant closed the door, the whole box started to move away from the building. There was a bit of dramatic music and suddenly the frosted glass cleared and we found ourselves 300 metres above the streets below. Once the box was safely brought back in, we all posed for pictures inside (another $15).

I returned to the airport a little bit early after taking a walk up through town to the train station where the airport transfer was located and was rewarded by being able to watch extended highlights of the earlier Germany v Ghana World Cup match in the airport lounge, before brooding the flight for my journey home.

Posted June 22, 2014 by yermandownunder in Observations, Out and about, Travels

Melbourne (Day 2) Football Crazy!   Leave a comment

Saturday. 21 June, 2014

After what seemed like only a few hours’ sleep, I was awake and getting ready to nip down for session in the gym and pool in the basement of the apartment complex. Great facility, but I would hate to see what the body corporate fees are for this place! Anyway, time for to find some breakfast and a bit of retail therapy at the DPO on the South Wharf. I only bought a couple of shirts in one of the menswear shops and as I was paying I was telling the shop assistant that I was down for the Hawthorn v Collingwood match at the ‘G. “Who are you supporting” she asked and when I asked her for a recommendation she replied “Anyone but Collingwood”. It turns out that everybody hates Collingwood because their fans are so boorish, so I promised her that I would be a Hawthorn fan for the day. After dropping my stuff back at the apartment, I headed into town for a quick look around before heading off to the MCG to catch the match.

Well that was the plan, until I jumped on a tram outside my place which I thought was heading the right direction, as where I was expecting the tram to turn down Bourke Street and into the CBD, it carried on Spencer Street toward North Melbourne. No problem, I’ll just jump off and walk the rest of the way. All well and good, until I had just stepped off the tram and realised I had left my hut on the seat, worst still inside my hat was my trusty phone, SHIT! As I turned round to get back on the doors had already closed and the tram had started to move off down the road, SHIT! Most of the trams that run in central Melbourne do so on the street where of course cars travel as well, so you had the sight of me running (not very fast) after a tram with a line of cars following me. Anyway the lead car sounded his horn and pulled up beside me and after a bit of explaining got me to jump in and off we raced after the tram. A few hundred meters down the road, the tram stopped at the next stop and out I jumped to reboard and retrieve my hat and phone, which were still sitting on the seat where I had left them. However, when I got back off the tram and returned to the back of the tram to thank the driver for his help, he was gone!

Anyway, I took my stroll around the shopping street of central Melbourne and then decided to catch another tram on the other side, which took me down to the MCG, where I was meeting Rory, Aaron and Dave. Rory and Aaron are the two oldest sons of James and Grainne, who live just up the hill from me in Garran and Dave is a friend of Aaron’s whom he meet on his Australian working holiday. Immediately, I could tell that today’s crowd was going to be a lot bigger than last night’s and by the time I had contacted Aaron on his mobile to see were we should met, I had noticed massive queues outside the main entrance points. At the gate where we could enter the ground, we had some fun and games trying to distributed the eTickets that Aaron had purchased around the various smart-phones we all had and in the end we just got Aaron to stand at the gate and scan each one in turn to let us in. We were back up on the forth level, so by the time we made our way up there, grabbed some beers and found our seats, the game had already started.

As with last night, my strategy was to see who the majority of people sitting around us were supporting and fall into line with them, so imagine my relief when we found we were sitting in the Hawks (Hawthorn) supporters’ club section! Anyway the game itself was close for the first half, with the Hawks just edging a high scoring first half. However, the break they scored several quick goals and were soon out of sight of Collingwood with the final score coming in at Hawthorn 115, Collingwood 86. After the usual post match club song etc. we left the ground and headed towards Richmond High Street where Rory had assured us was the best little bistro serving delicious American BBQ. He was right, MeatMother was excellent and the four of us enjoyed some fantastic meats from their Meat Tray selection. After a couple of beers in the pub across the road, Rory did the sensible thing and went home, especially so as he had had been on a heavy night last night was still feeling the after effects.

Aaron and Dave had other ideas, so we decided to head home, grab a shower and change of clothes and meet again in the World Cup zone at the casino in order to meet some of their friends and maybe watch another World Cup match in the small hours of the morning.

Postscript
When coming out of the World Cup Zone after the Italy v Costa Rica match on Saturday morning, I was presented with a free $10 bet to be used in the casino> As I was pretty tried I just stuck in my wallet and forgot about until I was walking of the same place tonight. I’d already said goodnight to Aaron, Dave and their friends and as I walked place the $10 roulette table I remembered the free bet in my pocket. Sod it, so I put the voucher on red and won. Wow! double your money, that was easy. Okay $10 on Evens, won again! Upshot is after a few more goes I was $100 up and going home a happy man.

“I wonder if I put that $100 on Black …”

 

Posted June 21, 2014 by yermandownunder in Observations, Out and about, Travels

Melbourne (Day 1), are you a Tiger or a Swan?   Leave a comment

Friday, 20 June, 2014

It’s a funny thing, but the most popular sport in Australia (viewing wise anyway) is Australian Rules Football or Aussie Rules or just plain old Footy. It’s played mostly by teams in the state of Victoria, but there are teams from Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth in the Australian Football League (AFL). However, the mecca for all Footy fans is the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) or the ‘G as it’s affectionally known. This 95K seat venue is used by the cricket people in the summer, where I watched England get murdered in the Boxing Day match late last year and the AFL in the winter.

I’ve been to a few AFL games at the Manuka Oval, where the Greater Western Giants (GWS) are contracted to play 3 or 4 of the regular season games this season and although the action has been fine, I was left wondering what it would be like to go to a big game in the best AFL venue of them all, the MCG. So a couple of months ago I got a few friends to scan the league schedule for me and let me know which weekend would be a good one to head down to Melbourne and catch a few games at the ‘G. As it turned out the best weekend would have been about two or three weeks away, but when I checked out the flight prices I decided to look at another weekend a little further away so that the flight cost would be cheaper.

And so it was that this afternoon I flew down to Melbourne from Canberra, checked into my apartment, grabbed some lunch/dinner and then headed down the Yarra River towards the MCG. Tonight’s game was between the local team Richmond (the Tigers) and the Sydney Swans (Surprisingly known as the Swans). I bought a general admission ticket from the box office, headed around to the gate and into the ground. I wasn’t sure who I was going to support tonight and on the way I decided that whichever fans I would be sat with, then that would be my team for the night. So when I eventually got to my seat high up on the fourth level and found that was sat next to a family of Swans fans, I knew that I was a Swan for the night. As the start of the game approached, it didn’t look like much of a crowd was going to be in attendance, but I was surprised to learn later that the crowd was 37k, even though it looked smaller than that in the massive stadium.

At the start of the match, the Tigers raced into a decent lead at the end of the first quarter, much to the surprise of most people, including their own fans, as they are current rooted near the bottom of the ladder, whereas the Swans were coming into the match having won their last 8 matches. This lead was maintained throughout the second and third quarters, although the Swans were reducing it slowly but surely all the time. In the final quarter, the Swans suddenly clicked into gear with a couple of their big stars, Buddy Flanklin and Adam Goodes coming to the fore and in the end they ran out 61 – 51 winners over a very disappointed Tigers team.

On the way back to the apartment, I took a quick walk through Federation Square and back along the Southbank of the Yarra River to see what was going on. My plan was to ditch the camera equipment and coat back at the apartment, take a break and then head over the Crown casino where I had heard that they had created a massive World Cup zone based around the Sport bar and watch the Italy v Costa Rica match starting at 2am. Last night England were beaten for the second time in the group stage and this meant that we needed Italy to beat the Costa Ricans in order to keep England in the tournament. The Sports bar was packed with hundreds of Italian fans, which a few Costa Ricans thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, Costa Rica scored first and Italy didn’t have enough in them to get back into the game and it was with a heavy heart that all those Italian fans and me trooped out of the Casino and home.

Posted June 20, 2014 by yermandownunder in Observations, Travels

You’ve Killed Skippy!   Leave a comment

Saturday, 7 June, 2014

Tonight I was going to tell you all about my perfect day at the beach.

I was going to tell you that I left Canberra early this morning with some friends, stopping off at Braidwood for the customary pie and coffee, arriving at Pebbly Beach at around 10:30. Then I was going to tell you about being the first on the beach, taking pictures of the kangaroos sunbathing on the dunes, perfecting my body surfing technique in the crystal clear sea, relaxing on the sand by reading the newspaper, doing some exercises in the shade and taking a stroll along the beach to the rock pools at the end.

Then, when we realised we were hungry, I was going to tell you that we drove up the coast to Mollymook for fish n chips at the beach side cafe, took another stroll along the beach to watch the surfers in the turning tide and then leave for home. I was also going to describe how we stopped off in Bungendore on the way home for a beer/coffee sat beside a roaring fire in the local hostelry.

I was going to tell about all those things and more, but unfortunately on the way out of  Bungendore, on a long straight stretch of road, I picked up a couple of kangaroos on the side of road heading towards us in my headlights. The next few seconds were a bit of a blur, but the upshot of it all meant that I struck one of the roos with the front left hand side of my car. After pulling over, we ran back to check on the kangaroo, but with the force of the impact, it was already dead on the side of the road, along with the little Joey it was carrying in its pouch. Checking the car revealed extensive damage to the front headlight, bonnet and wing of the car, but luckily the car was still driveable, so it was with great sadness, we drove the last few miles back into Canberra.

When I got home, I posted an update on my Facebook page and although most people were sympathetic in their comments, one in particular stood out for its frankness, cheers GerdyBo!

Posted June 7, 2014 by yermandownunder in Observations, Out and about, Travels

yermandownunder

A Blog about Mario's life down under!

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