Buying a Bag

Time is rocketing along and tomorrow marks 11 weeks until we depart for London.

In order to travel you need luggage and for some time we have been debating as to what suitcases we need to take.

These are the two small cases which we bought before our trip to the UK in 2014.  These have served us well for that 6 week trip and again for 6 weeks in 2016 when we went to the USA and Canada.

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Although we are only going for 4 weeks this time we felt that we needed something slightly larger as we will have winter clothes whereas both of the other trips were in the height of summer in the northern hemisphere.

So, today we ordered this bag online and it should arrive early next week.

We will take the new suitcase and the blue one pictured above which is the slightly larger of the existing ones as well as a backpack, small daypack and my camera case as hand luggage.  I will be packing a spare set of clothes for each of us in the backpack as we have learned from our experience of spending 24 hours in Los Angeles at the end of our last trip with no spare clothes.

I think we have pretty well seen the end of winter here so in the next couple of weeks I will make sure all of our winter clothes are washed and set aside ready to pack.

I will not really be taking much extra but the clothes themselves are a bit more bulky.  We will be in the one place for 3 weeks and there are washing and drying facilities.

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Marvellous Melbourne

A couple of weeks ago we spent the weekend in Melbourne.  We do not live there but have been there often enough to sometimes overlook some of the special sights in this city.

The purpose of our visit was to see the Van Gogh exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria.  Additionally, we timed our choice of weekend so that we could catch our football team playing at Ethihad stadium.  Sadly, it was not a good match to see as Essendon chose that night to give Port Power a football lesson.

We spent less 36 hours in this city and I tried to capture a few special views.

We walked a short distance along St Kilda Road from the city to the NGV.  I stopped and took these photos as we crossed the Yarra River.

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Early winter day as we walked through Carlton Gardens.

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Lunch at Hell of the North in Fitzroy.  It is a delightful French bistro nestled behind this unassuming facade.

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Local Fitzroy streetscape.

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Like cities all over the world, Melbourne has so much to offer and this post barely scratches the surface.  We will definitely be back again.

 

 

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Staying Safe

Apart from the occasional pickpocket or bag-snatcher, safety is not necessarily a prime concern when visiting other developed countries with similar values to our own here in Australia.

However, in the light of the events in various parts of Europe and the UK in recent years, and particularly in the past few weeks and months, it would be remiss of us not to seriously consider our safety while travelling.

We are not about ditch our plans and realise that there are risks whenever you step outside the front door no matter where you are.

Nevertheless, I did say to GMan yesterday that I do not think I will be walking across any bridges while we are in London.  Pedestrians on bridges have been targeted twice in a matter of months in the UK capital.  I can only assume that the ‘reasoning’ of the perpetrators is that there is nowhere for the pedestrians to escape.  What an awful thought process!

Even though I would love to attend a Remembrance Day service in November that may be off the agenda as I feel that being anywhere there is a large gathering may be too great a risk.

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We will continue to monitor the situation over the coming months but at this stage I do not envisage making any other adjustments to our plans.

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Paris Plans

The title of this blog post seems rather odd since our trip is to the UK and primarily London.  However, GMan managed to convince me that a day trip to Paris would be a good idea.

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We have booked our return tickets on the Eurostar and done a bit of research on how to get around as well as what we might like to see and do.  It will be a long day and I know we will only scratch the surface.  I am hoping to take a stroll through Montmartre, see the Sacre Couer, visit the Musee d’Orsay as well as a river cruise and walking some historic areas of the Left Bank.  There may be time to see other sites but I am determined not to rush madly from one location to another.  I would much rather have time to just enjoy the surroundings.

The other thing we have booked is tickets to a show at Royal Albert Hall.  It is the Classical Spectacular which is staged for about 4 days twice a year – in March and November.  You can watch a preview of it here.  I stumbled upon it when I was researching tours of Royal Albert Hall so decided that tickets in the front row of the first level balcony was far superior to a tour.

It is now just over 5 months until we depart and last weekend we met with the housesitters who will be taking care of the house, garden and most importantly our animals.  That was just about the last piece of the puzzle so I feel as though we are pretty well ready to go.

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Countdown – 7 Months

I realised this week that in 7months we will be in London at the beginning of our next overseas adventure.  In the 2 months since my last post we have organised a couple more things.

We booked our accommodation for the night in Cardiff.  As usual, we aimed to find somewhere that was fairly central.  We opted for a large chain hotel which is within walking distance of the train station were we will arrive from Swansea.  It is close to the city walking tour, the stadium as well as the departure point of the cruises to waterfront.  It will be a brief look around but we are looking forward to visiting Cardiff as it will actually be the only place on the trip which we have not been to previously.  The other places on our itinerary are London, Swansea and Cambridge.

The other thing we did was buy a lightweight down jacket for each of us from Uniqlo.  They squash up and can be rolled into quite a small carry bag,

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While it is not high-end fashion, I hope the jacket will not scream ‘tourist’ as I step outside the door.  I chose a mid-grey as it will co-ordinate with the other clothes I will be packing.  I will do a separate post at a later date about what I will be packing but it is mostly black, grey and red and of course, denim jeans.

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Where Next?

At the end of my last post I alluded to the fact that our next major holiday might be within Australia.  I was considering a houseboat trip on the Hawkesbury River but when I began researching the idea it became less appealing.

The lure of overseas travel was just too great so we have opted to go back to the UK in November.  This trip will be somewhat different from our previous trips to the northern hemisphere for several reasons.  We are going in late autumn rather than the height of summer and relying entirely on public transport instead of hiring a car during any part of the trip.  This is because the focus of the trip is quite different – we are not taking a touring holiday and sightseeing along the way but are planning on staying in just a handful of major centres with the majority (3 weeks) of our time in London.

This also means much less time will be spent researching, planning and booking the trip.  In fact, we could pretty well leave tomorrow as we have current passports and have booked our flights, accommodation except for one night in Cardiff and have a list of things we hope to see and do in London.  Hopefully, the queues will not be as long at the Sherlock Holmes Museum.

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Perhaps we will be able to take the tour of the Royal Albert Hall, too.  It was closed for cleaning last time so I only managed a photo of the exterior.

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I have also given brief consideration to what we might need to pack.  As always we have chosen accommodation which includes laundry facilities which allows us to keep the clothes we take to a minimum.  Due to cooler weather, we will need some warmer clothes but I still expect to be able to just have one small suitcase each.  I am looking at buying a lightweight down jacket for each of us.  I think these would be a useful addition and take up minimal space.

 

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The Final Numbers

I apologise for the hiatus, but as promised, here are the final figures for our 6 week trip to USA and Canada.

I will begin with the easiest figure – the grand total for 2 adults for 42 days and nights was $18,764.36 which is remarkably similar to our UK trip 2 years ago.  You can see the details for that trip here.

This is how it was broken up.

Airfares $     4,563.99
Accommodation $     6,335.44
Insurance $         559.94
Transport $     2,799.08
Food/Drink $     2,757.53
Sightseeing/Tours/Events $     1,258.61
Souvenirs/Gifts $         229.37
Other spending $         260.40

It is interesting to see where the money went.  Once again, accommodation was the biggest single expense.

Airfares includes 2 internal flights as well as our return flights from Brisbane to Chicago.  I included the cost of our visas and also car parking in Brisbane as it was all part of getting there.

Transport was trains, ferries, car hire, fuel and parking fees.

Food and drinks included everything that we ate or drank from restaurant meals, drinks at the pub, groceries to an occasional ice-cream or cup of coffee.

Sightseeing etc was made up of admission costs, guided tours, cruises and two shows.

We bought limited souvenirs with a couple of items for our granddaughters as well as some maple syrup and a boxed set of ‘Anne of Green Gables’ DVDs.

The final category of ‘Other’ was a couple of things from the chemist, a dental visit, a top and trousers for me as well as hats to replace the ones we left on the train early in the trip and phone recharge and some internet access.

As with our UK trip we pre-paid as much as we could with a total of $11,580.21 spent before we set out.

Our total budget was $20,000.00 for everything and although we kept very accurate records of what we spent we did not keep an exact running total.  It was not until today when I sat down and gathered up all of the information, converted our spending into AUD and completed the final spreadsheet that we knew exactly how much we spent.

This will be the last post on the blog until we start planning our next trip which will probably be within Australia.  In the meantime, I can be found on my other blog, Organised Castle.

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Adversity to Adventure

It is a few days since my last post about our day trip to Niagara Falls.  We had one full day after that in Toronto during which we caught up on some domestic chores, explored a little of the city and most importantly, spent our last night at a Cirque du Soleil performance.  It was magnificent and certainly worth seeing.

The title of this post comes a comment from a friend, “Great way to turn adversity into an adventure” and I will explain why.

We were up bright and early the morning after Cirque du Soleil as we were heading for home starting with a flight from Toronto to Chicago followed by another to Los Angeles and finally the long-haul flight across the Pacific Ocean to Brisbane.

However, things did not go according to plan and we arrived in Los Angeles too late to connect with the 11.20pm departure of the Brisbane flight so ended up being accommodated at the Sheraton Hotel near Los Angeles airport.  We were rebooked on the same flight the following evening so would have the whole day in Los Angeles.  We had never spent time here previously and so decided to make the most of the time we had and opted for the Hop On, Hop Off bus which does a route up the coast to Venice and Santa Monica.

After going to the end of the circuit at Santa Monica pier we hopped off and walked the majority of the way back to Fisherman’s Village near Marina del Rey.  It was a warm, sunny day and here is some of what we saw.

The lighthouse at Fisherman’s Village.

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Santa Monica beach.

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Santa Monica pier which also happens to be the end of the legendary Route 66.

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Some interesting merchandise at one of the beachfront stalls in Venice Beach.

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And artwork.

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Venice is so named for the canals which were designed in the early 1900’s but many were filled in and turned into roads in the 1920’s but a few canals remain.

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There was plenty to see and we made the most of our enforced stopover.

We are now safely at home so that is almost the end of posts on this blog for the time being apart from one final summation of the the costs.  I still have some calculations to do for that so it will probably not be until next weekend.

In the meantime, I will be back blogging at Organised Castle in the next day or so – once I have caught up on some sleep.

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Next Stop – Niagara Falls

Today we took a full day tour from Toronto to Niagara Falls.  I am struggling to remember the last time we did a group tour but I am really glad that we chose this option to visit Niagara Falls. Judy was an entertaining and informative guide who made sure that everyone had the best experience possible.  There were a couple of stops along the way, including almost an hour at the picture perfect historic town of Niagara-on-the Lake.

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There were flowers everywhere.

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Then it was on to Niagara Falls.

The buffet lunch at the Sheraton Hotel gave us our first real view.  This photo is taken from the table where we we sitting for lunch.  The falls in the foreground are described as the ‘American’ falls while the ‘Canadian’ falls which are regarded as the more spectacular ones are in the distance and partially obscured from this angle.

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Although the falls are a natural phenomenon there is plenty of man-made tackiness around them.  Some of the streets look like sideshow alley.

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However, the attraction of the falls drew us here and it did not disappoint.  We boarded the boat for a short cruise up to the base of the thundering waterfalls (‘Canadian’).  Even complimentary disposable ponchos did not keep us completely dry.  Being so close was an amazing experience but photographs were difficult to capture.

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Finally, the bus took us to where we could walk along the promenade which overlooks the falls on the Canadian side.  This was the highlight for me and I was able to take many photos from different angles.  Here are a couple of views.

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Amazing scenery and we are so glad to have had the opportunity to witness the power of the water first-hand.

 

 

 

 

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Ottawa in One Day

Like Montreal, we had just one full day in Ottawa.  Our run of luck with almost perfect weather ran out as the rain began on the evening we arrived and continued well into the next day.

After a slow start we braved the showery conditions and walked from our accommodation to Parliament Hill.

On our way we walked through the old market area of Bytown (the original name for Ottawa) and across the Rideau Canal.  The series of locks at the junction of the canal and Ottawa River proved irresistible as we watched a vessel make its way through.  It is all manually operated.  It took almost an hour for the boat to navigate all of the locks.

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Looking the other way along the canal.  In winter, the canal becomes a giant ice-skating rink as the entire waterway freezes.

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The Parliament Building has commanding position atop the hill on the southern bank of the Ottawa River and overlooks the city.

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As you can see from the sky in the photographs, it was not a great day for sightseeing but we persevered and took in as much of the city sights as we could.

The weather fined up late in the afternoon and we were able to go back to the Parliament Buildings to see the “Northern Lights:Sound and Light Show” set against the backdrop of the building.  It was well done with amazing technology and we really enjoyed it.

The next day was fine and sunny for our train trip to Toronto which is the final stop in our trip.  We have a couple of big events planned during our 3 nights there but more on that in the next post.

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