That’s two days of my life I won’t get back

Yep…

I just spent 26 and a half hours in planes and in airport terminals getting home, and lost two days in the process.  The 15th of January just didn’t exist for us.

This is what happens when you fly from Vancouver in Canada to Brisbane Australia, via Shanghai.  The thing is, everywhere way, way overseas is a two-stop run.  We have to break our journey somewhere, like Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Shanghai, Abu Dhabi, and for the sake of managing delays at the originating end, we usually end up with a mid airports stay of five to ten hours.

It all means that when you finally arrive in Australia, you are tired, and look it.  I feel sorry for the Immigration officials who must rarely see people looking good on their arrival.

This time we were fortunate to get back in the morning.  To save being picked up by relatives we arranged for a limousine service, and it worked out well.

I couldn’t say the same for some of the pickup services overseas, but that was more the fault of the travel agent here than anything else.

It only reinforced my thoughts on travel agents, some are excellent, and some are complacent, relying too much on travel wholesalers whose knowledge of the products they sell is appalling.

The original bookings were fine, the agent we used knew her stuff.  But she left and someone else took over, and not so good I’m afraid.

However…

On the whole, it was an incredible expedition, from temperatures of 30 plus celsius to temperatures of -21 degrees Fahrenheit, and rarely above 6 degrees Fahrenheit.

The highlight:  Lake Louise in Canada.  Everyone should see this place in Winter at least once in their lifetime.  Certainly, my wife’s 65th birthday, spent there, was something she will never forget.

And the sleigh ride, in -14 or -15 degrees, well, we might be eligible to be declared start staring mad, but seeing the frozen waterfall was just another of those magical moments that reinforces why we should be preserving the planet, not trying to destroy it.

But…

We’re back home and glad to be so.

 

 

Waiting, perhaps, for the robots to come to life – maybe?

It seems that we spend nearly as much time waiting as some of us do sleeping.  In fact, I’ve been known to be sleeping while waiting.

What is it in this era of mechanization and computerization that we still have to wait.  Is it the human element that is still holding us back?

But, hang on, isn’t it the human element that creates the mechanization and computerization?  Perhaps we are building in redundancy so that we are not replaced by the very things we are creating to make our lives easier?

We don’t have robots who can perform the same tasks as a GP doctor because we still need the human factor, and since one size does not fit all, no consultation can ever be fit into a specific time frame so there will always be waiting especially as the day wears on.

We cannot completely automate phone call answering except for the part where you are put in a queue and told your call is important and then you sit there listening to some awful music, seemingly forgotten

There will always be hundreds of calls in a queue for the most important services. or when you need an answer in a hurry, because only a few people are available to answer the phone.  Robots will not be able to answer calls either, because once again, only a real person can respond to the randomness of callers questions.

Artificial intelligence only works in science fiction.

Then there is the time we spend waiting at traffic lights, and then, even when the lights are with us, in traffic jams.  We are still stumped by trying to find an all-conquering answer to moving masses of people, either by the roads or by public transport.

The latter is all too frequently suffering delays and congestion due to the number of services needed and decaying networks and infrastructure, all of which is only going to get worse, with, of course, longer delays and more waiting.

Maybe the answer is to work from home but sadly the internet, that so-called answer to all our off-site networking, is not going to cope, and in fact, in this country, our latest update is a retrograde step on speed and availability, ie more waiting and less work.

Waiting, it seems, we are stuck with it whether we like it or not.  Good thing then our lives are longer.  But, if we delve into the mystery of longer lives now against what they were back when there was less waiting, maybe we still have the same amount of life, and the fact we’re living longer is negated by all the waiting.

I’m sure we didn’t have to wait very long for anything a hundred years ago.

Just saying.

Searching for locations: Queenstown from the Skyline observatory

You take the gondola up to the Skyline and get some of the most amazing views.

Below is a photo of The Remarkables, one of several ski resorts near Queenstown.

You can see the winding road going up the mountainside.  We have made this trip several times and it is particularly frightening in winter when chains are required.

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In the other direction, heading towards Kingston, the views of the mountains and the lake are equally as magnificent.

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Or manage to capture a photo of the Earnslaw making its way across the lake towards Walter Peak Farm.  It seems almost like a miniature toy.

Searching for locations: Hong Kong

This is not so much about searching for a location, as it was for the experience.  Seeing is one thing, but experiencing a different culture, and what it might have been like back in another era made that visit all the more worthwhile.

Not that I’m about to be writing about Hong Kong in the early 20th century, but you never know.

 

I’ve seen in many times when we visited Hong Kong, but never quite made it to stay at the Peninsula Hotel, not until I decided to put it on my bucket list, and, having just turned 65, we decided to spend my birthday there.

 Of course, arriving in a green Rolls Royce helps to enhance the experience. and is, if you are going to stay at the Penisula, a mandatory extra.

It is rather difficult to imagine what the hotel would have been like in 1928 when it was built.  Without the central tower behind the old hotel building, the tall buildings around it, and all the buildings between the hotel and the waterfront, it would be easy to say it had a prime position.

It’s not far from the Star Ferry terminal, the main transport from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island.  Since then, there is the MTR and the underground tunnel for vehicles, but back then it was the ferry or nothing.

Outside, the centerpiece to the driveway is a fountain.  Around the edges are the cars, the Tesla’s, the Mercedes, the Audi’s and a Rolls Royce or two.  There was even a Lamborghini.  I could see myself doing a tour of the island by Lamborghini.

Or not.  The traffic would be very unkind to such a machine.

Inside the front door, the main part of the ground floor foyer stretches from one side of the building to the other, save for arcades of shops at the ends.  High priced goods can be bought here by the rich and famous.

What is interesting is that they have a very smartly dressed porter at the front door to open it for you.  It seemed very appropriate for a hotel steeped in old world charm.

Either side of the entrance walkway that leads to reception and the concierge desk, and two magnificent staircases.  It is all marble floor, marble columns with sculptures at the top and ornate ceilings.

And the endless cacophony of sounds you would expect in such a large space.  Either side of the central walkway is the cafe, elegantly set tables, each with its own flower.

People coming and going, people meeting other people, people arriving, people departing.  Hotel staff bustling from place to place and serving staff moving among the guests dining in the Foyer cafe.

The staircase leads to the mezzanine floor where there are more shops, and then up to the first floor where the veranda cafe and the Spring Moon restaurant is located.  The Spring Moon is where we will be having dinner tonight.

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Searching for locations: Waitomo caves house, North Island, New Zealand

A relatively unassuming lane leads to what could be described as a grand hotel, called Waitomo Caves Hotel.

The original hotel was built in 1908, and it was later extended in 1928 it was extended.  Part of it is ‘Victorian’, based on an eastern Europe mountain chalet, and part of it is ‘Art Deco’, the concrete wing, and a feature, if it could be called that, is none of the four corners are the same.

Views from the balcony show part of the surrounding gardens

and the town of Waitomo in the distance.

In gloomy weather, it does look rather spooky, and I suspect there may be a ghost or two lurking somewhere in the buildings.

I’ve always wanted to be in a disaster movie

But not one where the plane crashes, though the figurative kinds of disasters always seem to feature, aeroplanes, airports, and passengers.

Certainly, every time I go near an aeroplane there’s a plethora of detail available for the next plotline, or even a short story.

It seems almost inevitable when travelling anywhere on a plane that something can and will go wrong.  Not necessarily with the plane, but that happens too, but rarely, if ever, have I been on an overseas flight that has not left or arrived late for any one of a multitude of reasons.

The last was just one in a long line of many…

It is not always a problem with the aircraft that causes delays.  Whilst often it is a case of technical difficulties, but this time it wasn’t.

We are missing a passenger.

Yep, on a plane that carries 301 passengers, we were missing the one.  And because they have not made the boarding cutoff, their baggage has to be offloaded.  Since there are 300 plus other bags to sort through, it will take time.

Scheduled departure time 8:45, an announcement about the offloading was at 8:35, it’s now 8:50.  Ok, now we’re closing the front door.  Let’s see what happens now.

8:52, the captain says we’re sorted, but…

Oh, the dreaded we’ve missed our slot and now have wait for the next.  Last time that happened, in France, we waited an hour.  In New York, Newark actually we just pulled over to the side of the taxi area and switched off the engines.

This is Brisbane, not so large an airport so it may not be a long wait.

9:01, we’re pushing back.  Finally a slot.

But…

There are five other planes in front of us, so it’s all adding up to a delayed arrival.  9:15 and still taxiing.

9:30, 45 minutes late we finally take off.  Let’s see how this affects our arrival time.  The flight time is advised to be 2 hours and 25 minutes.  This means if the flying time is correct, we should be landing in Auckland at 13:55 pm, local time.  New Zealand is, by the way, two hours ahead of Brisbane.

11:45, (or 13:45 local time) we commence our descent.  Landed at 14:10 local time.

It could have been worse.

What am I saying, we have now to negotiate immigration and then find our baggage?

Searching for locations: Greve-in-Chianti, Tuscany, Italy

When we first planned to stay in Tuscany for a few days, we wanted to be in a central area.  We had thought of staying in Florence and making daily treks, but the tour operator we selected told us it would be better if we stayed closer to Arezzo.

We picked Greve in Chianti, and a place called Antico Pastificio, we booked a standard apartment with two bedrooms, and it was about as authentic Italian you could get.  The building we stayed in was the yellow pasta factory, and the apartment named ‘Iris’.

It was only steps away from the main square, shops, restaurants, and at the opposite end, the quaint ringing of church bells at various times during the day.

Gaining access was through a very narrow arch which required some deft driving and then up the road.  There were villas and two large apartment blocks.

You can just see the archway at the end of the road.

This was the entrance to our room,

along a passage and up the stairs, turning left at the top.

Going straight ahead through the gate to the car park,

and access to the grounds behind the buildings.

This was the view from the lounge/living room.  The days were hot, and on several evenings it rained, breaking the heat and making the evenings sitting by the window cool and refreshing.

And the last view is looking towards the town piazza and the church

 

© All photographs Charles Heath 2015-2020