Searching for locations: Windsor Castle, London, England

A fine day, on this trip a rarity, we decided to take the train to Windsor and see the castle.

This is a real castle, and still in one piece, unlike a lot of castles.

Were we hoping to see the Queen, no, it was highly unlikely.

But there were a lot of planes flying overhead into Heathrow.  The wind must have been blowing the wrong day, and I’m sure, with one passing over every few minutes, it must annoy the Queen if she was looking for peace and quiet.

Good thing then, when it was built, it was an ideal spot, and not under the landing path.  I guess it was hard to predict what would happen 500 years in the future!

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I’m not sure if this was the front gate or back gate, but I was wary of any stray arrows coming out of those slits either side of the entrance.

You just never know!

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An excellent lawn for croquet.  This, I think, is the doorway, on the left, where dignitaries arrive by car.  The private apartments are across the back.

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The visitor’s apartments.  Not sure who that is on the horse.

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St George’s Chapel.  It’s a magnificent church for a private castle.  It’s been very busy the last few months with Royal weddings.

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The Round Tower, or the Keep.  It is the castle’s centerpiece.  Below it is the gardens.

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Those stairs are not for the faint-hearted, nor the Queen I suspect.  But I think quite a few royal children and their friends have been up and down them a few times.

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And well worth the effort to reach the bottom.

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Any faces peering out through the windows?

Searching for locations: Mount Ngauruhoe, New Zealand

Mount Ngauruhoe is apparently still an active volcano, has been for 2,500 years or so, and last erupted on 19th February 1975, and reportedly has erupted around 70 times since 1839.

The mountain is usually climbed from the western side, from the Mangatepopo track.

This photo was taken in summer from the Chateau Tongariro carpark.

In late autumn, on one of our many visits to the area, the mountain was covered with a light sprinkling of snow and ice.

On our most recent visit, this year, in winter, it was fully covered in snow.

It can be a breathtaking sight from the distance.

The cinema of my dreams – It’s a treasure hunt – Episode 37

Here’s the thing…

Every time I close my eyes, I see something different.

I’d like to think the cinema of my dreams is playing a double feature but it’s a bit like a comedy cartoon night on Fox.

But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.

Once again there’s a new installment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.

 

I took a moment longer to study the differences in the maps, trying to see what our edge was.

“So, according to this map, Alex would be looking for a stretch of shore with two rivers going inland, which you say are no longer there.”

“I do because they’re not.  Well, they’re not visible these days from the seaward side, and not really visible from shore either because I think one of the two might have started where the mini marina is.”

The mini marina wasn’t as marina as such, rather an area of seawater surrounded by a promenade with a bridge over the entrance from the ocean, and a lot of expensive Italian tiles.  It was part of the redevelopment of the old marina when the shopping mall had been built.

“Wasn’t that the old marina, which was part of the old navy yard for PT boats?”

Everyone knew the potted history of the town and the navy yard that put it briefly on the map.  There had been an inlet where a marina was built in the early days.  Then with war looming, the navy was looking for a place to build PT boats, carry out repairs to medium-sized warships, and train PT crews.

“One and the same.  There’s very little in the archives about what happened back then, but I did manage to find a document, mentioned in my father’s notebook, about the navy set up a base.  Attached to it was a geological report that stated two facts, the first, they would be building over a watercourse which at the time was believed to be underground, and secondly, deep foundations would be required.  In the event all of it was ignored, they built the port and it was operational up until the end of the war.”

After which as everyone knew they shut the facility down, put up fences and signs with the words hazardous and dangerous, and trespassers would be shot, and it sat there like a festering eyesore until a plan was mooted to turn the site into a mall.

It was a favorite place for us children to go and play, having the fearless mentality that every child was born with.  Yes, there were hazards on the grounds, in for form of rusting metal and hundreds of barrels holding what must have been hazardous material, but best of all, there were two nearly intact boats moored there, and I remembered being captain at least once on a vessel that had taken on everything the enemy had.

“And then they built a mall.”

He nodded.  “My father always said that it was doomed to failure. There’s a section in his notebook about an earlier plan to rebuild the marina with facilities to repair those new larger ocean-going yachts that proliferate in Bermuda and places like that, only he couldn’t find anyone to back the project.  The Benderby’s at the time didn’t like the idea, and since they basically owned the town nothing was going to happen without their approval.”

The mall, however, was something the Benderby’s could get their hooks into, in the building of it, then a slice of every business that moved in.  It would also be good for employment, and people employed mean customers for their other criminal activities.  Deals were made with the Cossatino’s and everyone was happy.  For a few years anyway.

That’s when a newspaper expose on the mall was published.

Exposes were never plucked out of thin air and presented, there had to be a catalyst.  There had been allegations of corruption regarding all aspects of the mall, from planning through the opening day, and especially in the building.  Allegations of payoffs to get approvals, substandard materials used, and the worst allegation, that the builder had not properly cleaned up the site before building commenced.

All of this came to a head when, not long after the tenth anniversary of opening, large cracks started to appear in the floors and walls, so bad that nearly half the mall, that part that had been built over the old navy base, had to be closed, and now was in danger of collapse.

The mini marina, the focal point for the mall, had also been closed because the pool had become polluted from the old navy base waste that had been improperly disposed of in the foundations rather than being properly removed and stored in a special dump.  But there had also been other problems like excess water continuously flooding the lower level carparks, and flowing into the sea pool making it unusable, and at times, very smelly.

Boggs’s father had discovered at the same time as his research for the treasure maps, that the water came from the underground river that had been mentioned in the geological report made before the naval base had been built.  Just because it hadn’t been there at the time, didn’t mean it wasn’t there at all.  It just depended on rainfall back up in the hills, and the year the problems started for the mall coincided with the wettest period for the area in more than 50 years.

His father’s notebook was a goldmine of information, Boggs said.

“It appears there was a lake right where the map says it was, about a hundred years ago.  Since then an earthquake caused a fault line that drained the lake and makes a river instead.  That river ran from the hills to the sea.  Until someone decided to build on the old lake, raised the level and piped the river underground, and drawing from it for the towns and sounding areas water supply.  That in effect reduced the water flow from the lake to the sea to a trickle, or rather a stream.

“But every now and then when it rains heavily and for a long period, the stream becomes a river, and it backs up until with nowhere else to go, it floods the mall carparks.  The lowest level carpark is actually the lowest depth of the river, and it comes out at the sea where the pool now is.  Unfortunately, with the old naval waste rotting in those old rusting barrels, it collects that waste and not only stinks up the mall but also the pool area which is why it’s now closed.

“And the bad news is, it can’t be fixed.  But that’s got nothing to do with our quest.  It’s just an aside to our quest, proving that three of the landmarks on the treasure map actually existed once, and in some form still do.  The thing is, neither the Benderby’s or the Cossatino’s will realize that which means we have a clear run at getting past the first hurdle and with any luck we will be able to identify the river from the hills which is the starting point.”

A simple job, no doubt in Boggs’s mind.  He never had any trouble coming up with hair-brained schemes, only the logistics to carry them out.  This one required proper transport because there was no way we’re going to be able to cycle there and back in a morning, the only time I had free for exploring.

“How do you propose we do this?”

“Rico’s car.  It’s sitting in the marina carpark.  The keys for it are on his boat.”

“Do you know how to drive?”

“I’ve had a few lessons.  How hard could it be?”

Ⓒ Charles Heath 2020

Searching for locations: Niagara Falls, Canada

We visited the falls in winter, just after Christmas when it was all but frozen.

The weather was freezing, it was snowing, and very icy to walk anywhere near the falls

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Getting photos is a matter of how much you want to risk your safety.

I know I slipped and fell a number of times on the ice just below the snowy surface in pursuit of the perfect photograph.  Alas, I don’t think I succeeded.

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The mist was generated from both the waterfall and the low cloud.  It was impossible not to get wet just watching the falls.

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Of course, unlike the braver people, you could not get me into one of the boats that headed towards the falls.  I suspect there might be icebergs and wasn’t going to tempt the fate of another Titanic, even on a lesser scale.  The water would be freezing.

The writer’s toolbox

Travelling is always a good source of material to add to the writing store.

Writers collect anecdotes, descriptions of their fellow travellers, more the idiosyncrasies than an actual physical description, and of the experience, though it is all the better if it turns out to be really, really bad than good.

This equally applies to experiences in hotels, with hire cars, tourist spots and especially fellow travellers.

Start with the airline. This can make or break the start of a holiday and could be the difference between a great start or a horrid one.

We can usually accept the sardine arrangements, the lack of legroom, being within earshot of a screaming baby, or put up with the constant kicking in the back of the seat by the wretched uncontrollable child sitting behind you.

It’s having the person in front fully reclining their seat in your face that gets your goat. For an hour and a half or eight hours, it is still the biggest bone of contention when flying.

We are taking one airline down to Melbourne the one that makes a big deal out of the full service it provides, and another airline back, formerly a low-cost airline but now trying to match its so-called full-service rival.

The flight down is smooth, and the food reasonably good. The landing, even though the pilot was battling sharp crosswinds, was very heavy and left us in no doubt we had reached terra firma again. I’ve been on worse.

Hire cars are a rich field to pick over and I’ve read some interesting experiences involving even the best. So far I’ve not had a problem. I pre-booked as far in advance as possible to get a small fuel-efficient vehicle. Sometimes we are upgraded and while they think they are doing you a favour it is not necessarily the case, especially when you finish up with a large car that barely fits small provincial French roads one lane wide. It does happen.

There is also the waiting time at the car rental desk, particularly when it’s the rental company you picked, while other company desks are empty. You also quickly discover that most of the people in the queue didn’t think of pre-booking a car, which to my mind is expecting trouble with it being the peak holiday period.

We had to wait in a long queue after taking a chance it would be less crowded at the pick-up point than the desk in the airport terminal. It was no surprise to discover that a lot of other travellers had the same thought.

Hotels can also be one of the major letdowns of a holiday. If you are going to use a travel agent to pick a hotel for you, make sure you check as much as you can because no matter how it is described, seeing it, in reality, is always completely different than the pictures in a brochure and sometimes on the Internet. It requires research and a good look at TripAdvisor. Or word of mouth by someone you know and trust who has stayed there.

Take, for instance, staying in a five-star hotel the usual stomping ground of the rich and famous, it is always interesting to see how the less privileged fare. Where hotel staff are supposed to treat each guess equally it is not always the case. Certainly, if you’re flashing money around, the staff will be happy to take it though you may not necessarily get what you’re expecting.

We are lucky to be in the highest loyalty level and this accords us a number of privileges; this time working in our favour but it is not always the case. Privilege can sometimes count for nothing. It often depends on the humour of the front desk clerk and woe betide you if you get the receptionist from hell. Been there, done that, more than once.

Then there is the room. There is such a wide variety of rooms available even if the hotel site or brochure had representative pictures the odds are you can still get a room that is nothing like you’re expecting or were promised.

Believe me, there are rooms with a view, overlooking pigeon coops or air-conditioning vents.

A bone of contention often can be the location of the hotel and sometimes parking facilities not the least of which is the cost.  Valet parking; forget it.

We are reasonably near transport if we could walk, the km to the nearest bus or tram stop is a long long way when you can’t walk and that’s when the hotel starts to feel like a prison. Taxis may be cheap but when you have to use them three or four times a day it all adds up.

Be wary when a hotel says it is close to public transport. While that may be true in London, anywhere else especially in Europe you could find yourself in the middle of nowhere. Its when you discover your travel agent didn’t exactly lie but it is why that weekly rate was so cheap. In the end, the sum of the taxi fares and the accommodation turns out to be dearer than if you stayed at the Savoy.

So airline, hire car and hotel aside those front line experiences are fodder for the travel blogger, these people who are also known as road warriors.

I wondered why until we started travelling and discovered the incredible highs and lows, of flying, yes there are good and bad airlines and the bad are not confined to the low cost, of rental cars and of hotels. There is a very large gulf between five stars and three and sometimes three can be very generous. And of course, l now have a list of hotels l would never stay in again, the names of which might surprise you.

Unfortunately, my travel exploits are sometimes as boring as the day is long, but even then, there’s at least one calamity to deal with.

Our airport experiences are all without incident, although from time to time the sight of police or soldiers patrolling with guns can be disconcerting.

We have also experienced the odd problem in London at Heathrow firstly trying to get hep from the designated help staff and then to find the check-in desk of an airline apparently no one available knew existed.

That was momentarily exciting after phone calls were not answered and internet contact was not possible. Not until a little footwork found the agents desk and the misunderstanding was sorted out.

By the way, the airline itself was a pleasure to fly on, the staff pleasant and most of all we arrived just before the airport closed.

On the way home, only a flight stands between us and getting home. After days sometimes weeks it is that moment we all look forward to sleeping on our own beds making our own food and getting to the gym to work off those extra kilos put on by delicious hotel food or local fare where calorie counting is not part of the dining experience.

Of course, getting to the airport from the hotel can be an experience in itself whether by taxi perhaps the taxi driver from hell who knows only two speeds fast and stop and is also, unfortunately, colour blind.

Or whether you have arranged for a transfer only to discover it’s not coming because the company went out of business or you changed hotels and someone forgot to tell them.

Or the travel agent made a mistake or forgot to confirm the booking.

Oh yes, it happens.

We have a hire car and will be returning it t the same place. Let’s hope the signage at the airport makes it easy to find the rental place. In London we had a hell of a time trying to find it; good thing we were hours earlier than we should be.

And just because the sign says rental returns for the lane you’re in it doesn’t necessarily follow it’s the right lane. Then as you miss the exit, and get stuck on the one-way road system, all of a sudden you have left the airport and you’re heading back to the city.

If you’re running late …

But if everything goes to plan you get to the airport with time to spare.

We manage to arrive early at the airport. Rather than wait three hours for our flight we decide to try and get on an earlier departure. This will depend on our ticket type and whether there are seats available, preferably together.

We line up in the service queue, which by its very description means you have a long wait as service is mostly between difficult to impossible depending on the request.

We wait for twenty minutes. There’s a long queue behind us. Our request is taken care of quickly and efficiently making it almost seamless, certainly painless. I’m sure our request was one of the very few easy ones the staff will get.

Today it seems it is our lucky day. The transfer to an earlier flight is free and there are two seats available together. All we have to do is alert the pick-up driver at our destination we are going to be an hour earlier. Done.

Checking in bags is usually the bane of the traveller’s existence.

No matter which airport in whatever country you are departing from the only difference is the length of the queue; from incredibly long with a half-hour wait to the head of the line to up to an hour. Our queue is 15 to 20 minutes.

One assumes this is why intending passengers are asked to go to the airport two hours ahead of their fight. There are times of the day where the queues are horrendous, and that not only applies to Heathrow.

And if you are late, just panic.

And if your bags are overweight be prepared to have your credit card hammered.

Especially if you’re flying Air France from Venice to Paris. Domestically in Australia, it’s not so bad.

Now its time to relax. There is an hour before we have to be at the gate so just enough time to get coffee and a doughnut.

And be horrified at what shops charge for simple items like sandwiches. I think $10 is very expensive. But if you’re hungry and forgot to eat before getting to the airport then be prepared to pay more than you usually would for the same fare.

It’s also time to observe our fellow passengers, and there is always the one who has a last-minute dash for a plane that is just about to leave, passengers with panic-stricken looks.

We all know what happens if you miss the flight even as you’re downing that last cocktail in the airline lounge while thinking, yes they’ll hold the flight for me!

Apparently not because airlines want to keep their ‘on-time’ record.

Even so, there’s still three more calls for the missing passengers and then nothing. If they missed the plane there their problems are just beginning. It’s the same feeling you have when your name is called out before the flight starts loading.

Only once have we been called up and given an upgrade, and once in the US to be told we could take another flight because our flight was overbooked. Business-class was greatly appreciated and was worth the extra hour we had to wait.

The next bottleneck is the scanners and sometimes the queue here is very long and moving slowly because the scanners are set to pick up belts and shoes so people are scattered everywhere getting redressed and putting shoes on. Today being a weekday the queue is not so bad.

Loading is painless and reasonably organized except when the passengers in high numbered rows try to board by the front door instead of the rear door and clash midway in the plane. After they untangle themselves and get to their seats we’re ready to go.

This flight still has a manual safety demonstration which most people ignored but is slightly better than the video demonstration. Let’s hope we don’t go down over the water.

I’ve charted my path to the emergency exit and l have quite a few people before me. I guess there’s more than one way to be last off the plane.

Sometimes you get to pick who you get to sit next to, especially if you are travelling with your partner which this time l am, but in a three-seat arrangement, you have no control over who takes that third seat.

We are lucky this time because it will not become a tight squeeze but unfortunately, our fellow traveller has a cold and in a confined space for several hours it could turn out to be a problem.

The flight is smooth, the snacks edible, but there is no liquor service like the full-service rival but that might be a good thing.

No air rage on this flight.

Time flies, pardon the pun, and we have arrived. Even though it took forever for the baggage to be delivered we still got home early.

Until the next time, we fly.

 

The writer’s toolbox

Travelling is always a good source of material to add to the writing store.

Writers collect anecdotes, descriptions of their fellow travellers, more the idiosyncrasies than an actual physical description, and of the experience, though it is all the better if it turns out to be really, really bad than good.

This equally applies to experiences in hotels, with hire cars, tourist spots and especially fellow travellers.

Start with the airline. This can make or break the start of a holiday and could be the difference between a great start or a horrid one.

We can usually accept the sardine arrangements, the lack of legroom, being within earshot of a screaming baby, or put up with the constant kicking in the back of the seat by the wretched uncontrollable child sitting behind you.

It’s having the person in front fully reclining their seat in your face that gets your goat. For an hour and a half or eight hours, it is still the biggest bone of contention when flying.

We are taking one airline down to Melbourne the one that makes a big deal out of the full service it provides, and another airline back, formerly a low-cost airline but now trying to match its so-called full-service rival.

The flight down is smooth, and the food reasonably good. The landing, even though the pilot was battling sharp crosswinds, was very heavy and left us in no doubt we had reached terra firma again. I’ve been on worse.

Hire cars are a rich field to pick over and I’ve read some interesting experiences involving even the best. So far I’ve not had a problem. I pre-booked as far in advance as possible to get a small fuel-efficient vehicle. Sometimes we are upgraded and while they think they are doing you a favour it is not necessarily the case, especially when you finish up with a large car that barely fits small provincial French roads one lane wide. It does happen.

There is also the waiting time at the car rental desk, particularly when it’s the rental company you picked, while other company desks are empty. You also quickly discover that most of the people in the queue didn’t think of pre-booking a car, which to my mind is expecting trouble with it being the peak holiday period.

We had to wait in a long queue after taking a chance it would be less crowded at the pick-up point than the desk in the airport terminal. It was no surprise to discover that a lot of other travellers had the same thought.

Hotels can also be one of the major letdowns of a holiday. If you are going to use a travel agent to pick a hotel for you, make sure you check as much as you can because no matter how it is described, seeing it, in reality, is always completely different than the pictures in a brochure and sometimes on the Internet. It requires research and a good look at TripAdvisor. Or word of mouth by someone you know and trust who has stayed there.

Take, for instance, staying in a five-star hotel the usual stomping ground of the rich and famous, it is always interesting to see how the less privileged fare. Where hotel staff are supposed to treat each guess equally it is not always the case. Certainly, if you’re flashing money around, the staff will be happy to take it though you may not necessarily get what you’re expecting.

We are lucky to be in the highest loyalty level and this accords us a number of privileges; this time working in our favour but it is not always the case. Privilege can sometimes count for nothing. It often depends on the humour of the front desk clerk and woe betide you if you get the receptionist from hell. Been there, done that, more than once.

Then there is the room. There is such a wide variety of rooms available even if the hotel site or brochure had representative pictures the odds are you can still get a room that is nothing like you’re expecting or were promised.

Believe me, there are rooms with a view, overlooking pigeon coops or air-conditioning vents.

A bone of contention often can be the location of the hotel and sometimes parking facilities not the least of which is the cost.  Valet parking; forget it.

We are reasonably near transport if we could walk, the km to the nearest bus or tram stop is a long long way when you can’t walk and that’s when the hotel starts to feel like a prison. Taxis may be cheap but when you have to use them three or four times a day it all adds up.

Be wary when a hotel says it is close to public transport. While that may be true in London, anywhere else especially in Europe you could find yourself in the middle of nowhere. Its when you discover your travel agent didn’t exactly lie but it is why that weekly rate was so cheap. In the end, the sum of the taxi fares and the accommodation turns out to be dearer than if you stayed at the Savoy.

So airline, hire car and hotel aside those front line experiences are fodder for the travel blogger, these people who are also known as road warriors.

I wondered why until we started travelling and discovered the incredible highs and lows, of flying, yes there are good and bad airlines and the bad are not confined to the low cost, of rental cars and of hotels. There is a very large gulf between five stars and three and sometimes three can be very generous. And of course, l now have a list of hotels l would never stay in again, the names of which might surprise you.

Unfortunately, my travel exploits are sometimes as boring as the day is long, but even then, there’s at least one calamity to deal with.

Our airport experiences are all without incident, although from time to time the sight of police or soldiers patrolling with guns can be disconcerting.

We have also experienced the odd problem in London at Heathrow firstly trying to get hep from the designated help staff and then to find the check-in desk of an airline apparently no one available knew existed.

That was momentarily exciting after phone calls were not answered and internet contact was not possible. Not until a little footwork found the agents desk and the misunderstanding was sorted out.

By the way, the airline itself was a pleasure to fly on, the staff pleasant and most of all we arrived just before the airport closed.

On the way home, only a flight stands between us and getting home. After days sometimes weeks it is that moment we all look forward to sleeping on our own beds making our own food and getting to the gym to work off those extra kilos put on by delicious hotel food or local fare where calorie counting is not part of the dining experience.

Of course, getting to the airport from the hotel can be an experience in itself whether by taxi perhaps the taxi driver from hell who knows only two speeds fast and stop and is also, unfortunately, colour blind.

Or whether you have arranged for a transfer only to discover it’s not coming because the company went out of business or you changed hotels and someone forgot to tell them.

Or the travel agent made a mistake or forgot to confirm the booking.

Oh yes, it happens.

We have a hire car and will be returning it t the same place. Let’s hope the signage at the airport makes it easy to find the rental place. In London we had a hell of a time trying to find it; good thing we were hours earlier than we should be.

And just because the sign says rental returns for the lane you’re in it doesn’t necessarily follow it’s the right lane. Then as you miss the exit, and get stuck on the one-way road system, all of a sudden you have left the airport and you’re heading back to the city.

If you’re running late …

But if everything goes to plan you get to the airport with time to spare.

We manage to arrive early at the airport. Rather than wait three hours for our flight we decide to try and get on an earlier departure. This will depend on our ticket type and whether there are seats available, preferably together.

We line up in the service queue, which by its very description means you have a long wait as service is mostly between difficult to impossible depending on the request.

We wait for twenty minutes. There’s a long queue behind us. Our request is taken care of quickly and efficiently making it almost seamless, certainly painless. I’m sure our request was one of the very few easy ones the staff will get.

Today it seems it is our lucky day. The transfer to an earlier flight is free and there are two seats available together. All we have to do is alert the pick-up driver at our destination we are going to be an hour earlier. Done.

Checking in bags is usually the bane of the traveller’s existence.

No matter which airport in whatever country you are departing from the only difference is the length of the queue; from incredibly long with a half-hour wait to the head of the line to up to an hour. Our queue is 15 to 20 minutes.

One assumes this is why intending passengers are asked to go to the airport two hours ahead of their fight. There are times of the day where the queues are horrendous, and that not only applies to Heathrow.

And if you are late, just panic.

And if your bags are overweight be prepared to have your credit card hammered.

Especially if you’re flying Air France from Venice to Paris. Domestically in Australia, it’s not so bad.

Now its time to relax. There is an hour before we have to be at the gate so just enough time to get coffee and a doughnut.

And be horrified at what shops charge for simple items like sandwiches. I think $10 is very expensive. But if you’re hungry and forgot to eat before getting to the airport then be prepared to pay more than you usually would for the same fare.

It’s also time to observe our fellow passengers, and there is always the one who has a last-minute dash for a plane that is just about to leave, passengers with panic-stricken looks.

We all know what happens if you miss the flight even as you’re downing that last cocktail in the airline lounge while thinking, yes they’ll hold the flight for me!

Apparently not because airlines want to keep their ‘on-time’ record.

Even so, there’s still three more calls for the missing passengers and then nothing. If they missed the plane there their problems are just beginning. It’s the same feeling you have when your name is called out before the flight starts loading.

Only once have we been called up and given an upgrade, and once in the US to be told we could take another flight because our flight was overbooked. Business-class was greatly appreciated and was worth the extra hour we had to wait.

The next bottleneck is the scanners and sometimes the queue here is very long and moving slowly because the scanners are set to pick up belts and shoes so people are scattered everywhere getting redressed and putting shoes on. Today being a weekday the queue is not so bad.

Loading is painless and reasonably organized except when the passengers in high numbered rows try to board by the front door instead of the rear door and clash midway in the plane. After they untangle themselves and get to their seats we’re ready to go.

This flight still has a manual safety demonstration which most people ignored but is slightly better than the video demonstration. Let’s hope we don’t go down over the water.

I’ve charted my path to the emergency exit and l have quite a few people before me. I guess there’s more than one way to be last off the plane.

Sometimes you get to pick who you get to sit next to, especially if you are travelling with your partner which this time l am, but in a three-seat arrangement, you have no control over who takes that third seat.

We are lucky this time because it will not become a tight squeeze but unfortunately, our fellow traveller has a cold and in a confined space for several hours it could turn out to be a problem.

The flight is smooth, the snacks edible, but there is no liquor service like the full-service rival but that might be a good thing.

No air rage on this flight.

Time flies, pardon the pun, and we have arrived. Even though it took forever for the baggage to be delivered we still got home early.

Until the next time, we fly.

 

Searching for locations: Shanghai, China, by night.

When we arrive at the embarkation site we find at least 100 buses all lined up and parked, and literally thousands of Chinese and other Asians streaming through the turnstiles to get on another boat leaving earlier than ours.

Buses were just literally arriving one after the other stopping near where we were standing with a dozen or so other groups waiting patiently, and with people were everywhere it could only be described as organized chaos.

Someone obviously knew where everyone was supposed to go, and when it was our turn, we joined the queue.  There were a lot of people in front of us, and a lot more behind, so I had to wonder just how big the boat was.

We soon found out.

And it was amusing to watch people running, yes, they were actually running, to get to the third level, or found available seating.  Being around the first to board, we had no trouble finding a seat on the second level.

I was not quite sure what the name of the boat was, but it had 3 decks and VIP rooms and it was huge, with marble staircases, the sort you could make a grand entrance on.  The last such ornate marble staircase we had seen was in a hotel in Hong Kong, and that was some staircase.

But who has marble staircases in a boat?

We’re going out across the water as far as the Bund and then turn around and come back about 30 to 40 minutes.   By the time everyone was on board, there was no room left on the third level, no seats on the second level nor standing room at the end of the second level where the stairs up to the third level were.

No one wanted to pay the extra to go into the VIP lounge.

We were sitting by very large windows where it was warm enough watching the steady procession of the colored lights of other vessels, and outside the buildings.

It was quite spectacular, as were some of the other boats going out on the harbor.

All the buildings of the Bund were lit up

And along that part of the Bund was a number of old English style buildings made from sandstone, and very impressive to say the least.

On the other side of the harbour were the more modern buildings, including the communications tower, a rather impressive structure.

I had to go to the rear of the vessel to get a photo, a very difficult proposition given here was no space on the railing, not even on the stairs going up or down.  It was just luck I managed to get some photos between passengers heads.

And, another view of that communications tower:

There was no doubt this was one of the most colourful night-time boat tours I’ve ever been on.  Certainly, when we saw the same buildings the following day, they were not half as spectacular in daylight.

I never did get up to the third level to see what the view was like.

Searching for locations: Driving in ice and snow, Canada

This morning started with a visit to the car rental place in Vancouver.  It reinforced the notion that you can be given the address and still not find the place.  It happened in Washington where it was hiding in the back of the main railway station, and it happened again in Vancouver when it was hidden inside a hotel.

We simply walked straight past it.  Pity there wasn’t a sign to let people know.

However…

We went in expecting a Grand Jeep Cherokee and walked out with a Ford Flex, suitable for three people and four large suitcases.  It actually seats 7, but forget the baggage, you’d be lucky to get two large suitcases in that configuration.

It is more than adequate for our requirements.

Things to note, it was delivered with just over a quarter of a tank of gas, and it had only done about 11,000 km, so it’s relatively new.  It’s reasonably spacious, and when the extra seats are folded down, there is plenty of baggage space.

So far, so good.

We finally leave the hotel at about half-past ten, and it is raining.  It is a simple task to get on Highway 1, the TransCanada Highway, initially, and then onto Highway 5, the Coquihalla Highway for the trip to Kamloops.

It rains all the way to the top of the mountain, progress hampered from time to time by water sprays from both vehicles and trucks.  The rain is relentless.  At the top of the mountain, the rain turns into snow and the road surface to slush.  It’s 0 degrees, but being the afternoon, I was not expecting it to turn to ice very quickly.

On the other side of the mountain, closer to Kamloops, there was sleet, then rain, then nothing, the last 100kms or so, in reasonably dry conditions.

Outside Kamloops, and in the town itself, there was evidence of snow recently cleared, and slushy roads.  Cars in various places were covered in snow, indicating the most recent falls had been the night before.

We’re staying at the Park Hotel, a heritage building, apparently built in the later 1920s.  In the style of the time, it is a little like a rabbit warren with passages turning off in a number of directions, and showing it is spread across a number of different buildings.

It has the original Otis elevator that can take a maximum of four passengers, and a sign on the wall that says “no horseplay inside the elevator” which is a rather interesting expression that only someone of my vintage would understand.  And, for those without a sense of humor, you definitely couldn’t fit a horse in it to play with.

The thing is, how do you find a balance between keeping the old world charm with modern-day expectations.  You can’t.  Some hotels try valiantly to get that balance.  Here, it is simply old world charm, which I guess we should be grateful for because sooner rather than later it’s going to disappear forever.

In my writer’s mind, given the importance of the railways, this was probably a thriving place for travelers, and once upon a time, there were a lot more hotels like this one.

There are so many things I haven’t done

Does it really matter, you ask?

Perhaps not, but now seems to be an appropriate time, past the age of 65, to take stock.

We have achieved a lot in the last 15 or so years once the children had grown up and could look after themselves.

Unlike a lot of more modern couples who are doing the traveling in their 20’s and 30’s then having children, we chose to do it the other way around.

To me, it seemed easier to deal with teenagers when we were in our 40’s rather than our 60’s.  With the benefit of hindsight, I can truthfully say we were right.

We were older and wiser when we traveled and more aware of the dangers around us, sometimes overlooked or ignored by a youthful devil may care attitude.

But, in saying that ….

No, I don’t think I’ll be getting to see Mt Kilimanjaro, observing the wild animals in the Serengeti, climbing Mt Everest, or seeing the ancient pyramids.

Which is a sad state of affairs given the world has changed so much in recent years and has pretty much ruled out going to a lot of places, and in particular, the middle east, and because of COVID 19, just about everywhere else.

But, if it is ever possible before I die, I still want to go to the Greek Islands, and, Santorini is at the top of my travel bucket list.

We’ve been to London.  We’ve been to Paris and Euro Disney.  We’ve been to Rome and seen the ancient ruins.  We’ve been to Vienna, Schonbrunn Palace, and, particularly for us, a visit to Swarovski crystal world, near Innsbruck, we’ve been to Salzburg, and been on the Sound of Music tour.

We’ve been to Florence and loved it, we’ve been to Venice and loved that too, and we’ve spent a few days in the heart of Tuscany, and want to go back for longer, much longer.

In fact, that’s the second item on the travel bucket list.

We’ve also been to Singapore and Hong Kong, at first out of necessity as an airline stopover, but then we went back to see the city and tourist, and non-tourist attractions.

I will not forget staying at the Hong Kong Conrad hotel as a Diamond Hhonors member.  Oh, the memories.

We’ve also stayed on the French Riviera, in a timeshare apartment in Antibes where every morning when out back you had a view of the shimmering Mediterranean if the sun was out.

Nice, Cannes, Monte Carlo, the billionaire’s yachts in Antibes harbor, Monte Carlo and ‘that’ casino, taking the same drive along the coast as Grace Kelly did in To Catch a Thief, and feeling like James Bond arriving for a new adventure, minus the half-million-dollar sports car.

But, now, crashing back to earth with a very hard thump ….

Travel in the future is looking difficult for both of us, not only financially but from a health aspect.  We are both not as sprightly as we used to be.

Yet given the restraints and if it is at all possible, aside from the Greek Islands and Tuscany, the next items on the list are:

Germany, visiting both Berlin, from a cold war aspect, the Brandenburg gate springs to mind, and Munich at the time of the Octoberfest.  As a beer drinker that is also high on the bucket list.

Scotland, more so since we’ve started watching Outlander, and besides being a beer drinker, I am also partial to a good Single Malt, the Whiskey trail.

Ireland, because my wife’s previous name was Murphy and at some point, in the long distant past some relatives emigrated to Australia, and she would like to visit the country of her forebears.

But with the current state of the world, our health issues, and that all-important requisite money, or the lack of it, perhaps it’s time to visit other parts of our own country.

Perhaps it’s time to do a culinary trip, particularly down south.  It’s practical and achievable and safe.

And it’s a big country.

A photograph from the Inspirational bin – 28

Just what everyone needs in their backyard:  A Gazebo, or a small bandstand!

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Often when we go to different places, it gives us ideas, sometimes ideas beyond what is possible.

I have always wanted a gazebo, perhaps not on the same grand scale as the one above, but one where we can put a BBQ and a few seats, and relax on a sunny afternoon.

Shade, a cool breeze, a cold glass of wine or beer, and the aroma of meat cooking on an open flame.

But…

Reality sets in.  The backyard isn’t big enough, so my dream will stay just that.

But as an idea for a story, I suspect this might be the place where you first met the love of your life in circumstances that become the stuff of legends.

It can definitely be a meeting place, whether to carry on illegal activities, whether it’s after sneaking away to be with someone whom others will not approve, or whether it is many, many years later to reminisce, or to reconnect.

As usual, the possibilities are endless.