Weary travellers are returned

We’re home. Arrived back on Thursday, about lunch-time and something like 38 hours after walking out the door of the apartment we rented in Paris.

The trip home was long and somewhat eventful. Long because it was Paris -> London -> Singapore -> Sydney -> Adelaide. Eventful… well…

The fun started with a suggestion to take a shorter, faster way to the airport: “Don’t take the metro and RER. Go to Porte Maillot and there is a shuttle bus.” We did this, and after much wandering around eventually found the bus stop, and then found it was an Air-France shuttle bus. We were flying British Airways. But for 14 Euro each, it would take us. Trouble was, the buses were not running because the drivers were on strike. A taxi sorted that problem, costing 39 Euro for the 4 of us – meaning that the taxi was CHEAPER than the shuttle bus – by a long way. The delay was not a problem, we had plenty of time.

But on arrival at the airport in Paris – the stupid self-check machines so loved by BA would not work until 3 hours before flight departure, meaning we had to mooch around the shitty draughty departures hall. Fine… but until we could do this step we could not get through departing customs and into baggage check in. And the flight to Heathrow was running late, jeodardising the connection on to Australia. The check in supervisor was a very nice chap, who was able to fight the booking system and shift the Paris -> Heathrow portion to an earlier flight.

London to Singapore was uneventful, but Singapore to Sydney had its moments. The first was #2 son deciding he felt sick – something which happens everytime he travels anywhere and misses food and sleep. A big upchuck in the transit lounge helped. As did the plastic bag to catch it in.

Later, during the flight, somebody in deep economy must have gone ga-ga or had hysterics or something. About an hour after leaving Singapore, the plane was filled with screaming. The sort of scream you get in cheap Hollywood movies. The screams were repeated, with gaps between of about 10 to 20 seconds, and this went on for at least 2 1/2 hours. The flight crew came and fetched a stretcher-like thing (which I’m pretty sure has straps for restraint), and as far as I can gather from other conversation, the person was tied down and (most likely) sedated. An hour or so in, there were people being relocated from economy up into first / business class – presumably those closest to and suffering most from the noise. During this episode, the pilot announced what was going on and told everybdy that we would be pressing on to Sydney. But from the moving map display it looks like the flight path was changed in preparation for an emergency landing in Alice Springs – which was not needed in the end. The final couple of hours were mercifully silent. Strangely enough, there was a large welcoming party in the airbridge on arrival in Sydney. Police, medical people, etc.

We have about 1800 photos, and 6 to 12 months of blog fodder :)

Some general comments on airports and airlines

  • London Heathrow Terminal 5 had a lot of bad press on opening, with lost bags and so on. We went through it twice with no trouble. It’s bright and shiny new, and seems fine.
  • London Heathrow Terminal 4 must be about 18 or 19 years old now (I’m pretty sure it was new when last we were in London). Now, it’s looking tired and dirty. The lighting is lousy, there are bad smells. It’s a shitty dump.
  • Paris Charles de Gaulle airport is poxy dump.
  • Singapore, Zurich and Adelaide airports are nice.
  • The new terminal in Bangkok is space-age and BIZARRE.
  • The shittiest, horriblest airport terminal we went through has to be Sydney – especially the domestic / international transfer. It is old, tired, dirty, badly organised, has smells. (From other travel, Melbourne international comes close to Sydney in the poxy stakes)
  • The most unpleasant, officious airport security turds have to be the British. Until now, I’d found the Australians to be the worst pains. But now the British take the prize for sheer f#@$wittery.
  • Everywhere you go, the stupid liquids ban is in place. We all know the “common household liquids” explosive has been shown to be a scientific nonsense, but they all persist with this rubbish.
  • Every time you are treated like a criminal by the security morons, there is a sign proclaiming that the nonsense is “for our safety”. Yeah right. Singapore goes one step further, by proclaiming that not only is the security screening and liquids ban for our safety, but also that if there is any comment or criticism then shut up – because anything heard to question the procedures or threaten the aircraft safety will result in arrest.
  • BA was Ok to fly with, but the best airline we flew on was Air Berlin – the low cost carrier. Their aircraft fitout was good, the legroom was acceptable, the staff were courteous, and the service exceeded expectations. VIRGIN BLUE and JET STAR could learn a lot from Air Berlin.
  • We paid extra and travelled on the long legs (Sydney / London) in Premium Economy. It is nowhere near as good as business class, but you do get quite a lot of extra leg room and this makes a huge difference to comfort. It’s worth the extra money.

And Finally

The chocolate hunt yielded all sorts of strange goodies:

The best hunting ground seems to be Germany – the range everywhere was extensive, and particularly in some more obscure Lindt varieties. The most peculiar has to be the Dark Chocolate with sesame seeds that we found in France. I was specially taken with one from Germany: “Schwartze Herren” (”Pour Messieurs”). [Black man... for men]. Why they mix German and French is beyond me. Didn’t see it in France, it seems to be a german brand: “Fein-herber Edelkakao macht Scharze Herren Schokolade zu einem besonderen erlebnis fur den anspruchsvollen geniesser”. Indeed!

As you can see from the above, we have yet to try them all!

And no, your eyes do not mislead you, there really is a 99% cocoa product readily available. Just not here.

3 Comments

Hey Wally, long time no see.

I have finally started getting back into the zone for blogging again, been a hard stressful few months with crappy work and then starting a new job.

Thought I’d start catching up on the blog list and I read you lost Spike.

I’m sorry that this has happened, and I know you’ve been away and finally back so you have dealt with your loss, but I wish you the best :-)

Lori

Comment by lori | October 12th, 2008 6:05 am | Permalink

Hey Wally, welcome back and thanks for the tip.

Next time I fly to London (three weeks today) I’m going to try the screaming every 10 seconds thing. Flat on my back in a stretcher-like thing might be more comfortable than the cattle-class seats.

I’ve often noticed that a taxi for a family is chearper than trains and shuttles.

Cheers — Mike

Comment by MikeFitz | October 12th, 2008 5:19 pm | Permalink

I. am.so. very. jealous about your chocolate haul!

Can agree with you re the Sydney international/domestic airport – we literally thought the place stank like an overflowing septic!

Comment by Kath Lockett | October 12th, 2008 6:52 pm | Permalink

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