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Posts tagged ‘plane travel’

The road to Turkey

It was the day after dad’s birthday with a big day of travel ahead – but not all together. Dad and I were off to Turkey and mum was heading to the Newcastle area. We would all meet up in Manchester in a few days.

About to leave the b&b

Turkey is perhaps an odd side trip to make in the midst of UK travels. It has been a long time goal of mine to go to Gallipoli because of its significance to NZ’s identity and also because of my interest in military conflict history. I decided to take the opportunity of tacking it to this trip somehow, especially as Mike has already been.

With the way the Scotland/England itinerary was shaping up, I would either have to take an extra week off work and go to Turkey at the beginning or end, or find some way of wedging it into the UK stuff. The latter it was: after St Andrews mum wanted to stay with a friend and this was an opportunity for me to shoot off.

While tossing around these plans, mum mentioned that dad seemed interested about seeing Gallipoli too. Long story short, he and I would ditch mum for five nights to go to Turkey. I would shout him the Gallipoli segment of this adventure for his birthday. Done.

So on May 4th we left St Andrews, initially just for Leuchars not far away. There we turfed out mum at the train station where she would organise to get down to Newcastle. Dad and I continued north in their rental car.

Our Turkey flight was leaving from Manchester later in the day and an internal flight was the best way to get to Manchester. The only workable option for this was to fly from Aberdeen, a bit over two hours away.

I had taken over our TomTom and just on this first day it proved its worth. Dario Franchitti was calling out the directions which was appropriate since he is Scottish.

We made it in good time. This would be as far north as I would go on this trip

It all went pretty clockwork. We dropped the car off, caught the first hour-long flight and made it to Manchester with time to kill. Going through the UK airports we twice experienced the drill of removing jackets, shoes, belts, as well as the usual things that go through the security check.

A lengthy wait here in Manchester. They even weighed hand luggage

The flight to Istanbul was with Turkish Airlines and took less than four hours.

Dad couldn’t sit still in any of my photo attempts

It was around 11pm when we arrived and walking into the arrivals area was a bit overwhelming: big crowd of people and dozens of cards being held up for people being met. I was looking for one such card and had to walk up and down a couple of times before finding our driver. It seemed a 20-30 minute drive to our hotel and for the time of day it was busy – though it was Friday night. And the city has a population approaching 20 million people. That’s big.

At our hotel, around midnight by now, we found we had to walk over to their sister hotel as we’d been moved due to a group booking or some such. This worked in our favour as it was much nicer.

Finally we were there and four busy days lay ahead.

Hi again London (and the grind of getting here)

After months and months of the trip being on somewhere on that horizon of my future, it was a bit odd when finally that last day of work happened and then d-day itself was here. I was glad I opted for the Saturday night flight instead of Friday, otherwise I would have been in a bit of a packing pickle. I managed to get my main bag to 19kg which I was pretty happy with. I remember going to US and Canada a few years ago with a 23kg backpack – now that thing was heavy.

Mike took me to the airport where I had given myself a 90 minute check in. Half an hour longer than necessary for international connections but I thought it might get me an early preference for the seat upgrade I requested online. While I had mulled over whether this was the best use of hard earned airpoints, the value seemed reasonable and I went ahead with it. And while it was only a standby request, of course I was already really looking forward to my roomier premium economy seat…

The long check in gave us an unhurried hour or so before I had to go. It wasn’t an easy goodbye. Five weeks isn’t a short time but in the big picture it’s not long.

There was time for book buying and lesiurely coffee drinking before Mike ensured I made it to the gate lounge

And then my long plane journey began. I was flying Air NZ all the way so had to first make the short hop up to Auckland, ahead of NZ2 at 9.30pm to Heathrow via LA. I was looking forward to my first long haul Air NZ experience

By about 8.30pm our gate lounge was chokka. I sat waiting to be paged to be given my new boarding pass for the seat upgrade.

And waiting …

…but the page never happened. I guess there was plenty of demand for them as normal bookable seats. To rub salt into the wound, after boarding the plane I had to walk past all the business and premium economy seats. I shook an imaginary fist at those who had denied me this experience.

One's seat in row 51 suggests one's upgrade request did not work

Much further back in the plane, I found my seat and sat down with some trepidation. But was happy to find my knees weren’t resting against the seat in front. Rejoice!

I booked an aisle seat which is my favoured position for long haul. While I don’t like missing opportunities for views from windows, it can be quite claustrophobic hemmed in there, especially when legs and butt start to complain after sitting down for too long.

And we sat going nowhere for longer than planned after the pilot announced there was a reconciliation issue with fuel figures which took half an hour to be sorted.

My happiness about the leg room didn’t last. I happened to sit behind one of those people who reclines their seat at the earliest opportunity without regard for the person behind. Not that seats in steerage recline very far at all, but I didn’t want to inflict that on the person behind me so put up with it. My icy glare into the back of the seat had no effect. In any case it wasn’t long until dinner was served, after which time everyone settled back for the night.

Or tried to. I slept poorly.

Oh well, row 51 it is. And while my seat was absolutely fine, another few inches of space would have welcomed

My immediate neighbour was a tall solid American chap. He could’ve done with a wider seat as not only did his knee encroach into my space, but also there was also no avoiding his bare arm flesh being pressed into mine. Nice. Luckily they were only going as far as LA.

I made good use of the screen entertainment thanks to my hairdresser’s number one tip for long haul travel: good quality comfortable noise cancelling headphones!

After about 12 hours and 6500 miles we reached LA early afternoon and got herded into one of the infamous transit lounges. It wasn’t that long a stop and the free wireless access helped pass the time. I was feeling a bit zombie-ish by now, definitely not the sharpest tool in the toolbox, and fortunately when my turn came to go through the US immigration check there were very few questions asked. Though the regulation photo was taken for their massive database as well as prints of all fingers.

The exciting transit lounge at LAX

Queuing with other transiters for the US immigration check

The gorgeous Californian day as glimpsed through a small round window once back on board

Once back on board I was happy to find the middle seat right next to me was empty! Another tall-ish female was in the window seat and we both cackled with delight knowing there was a bit of extra space we could spread into.

Sleep was very hard to come by on this leg too and the hours ticked down very slowly. All in all I was happy with the Air NZ experience, everything is really top notch. Especially I imagine if you were sitting at the front. Clearly I haven’t let that one go yet!

To avoid turbulence the pilots took us on a more northerly route, over Canada, Greenland and Scotland. Shame we weren't able to see the view below

The pilot announced that the weather in London was fairly miserable and it looked very drab and wet when we finally touched down.

By this time I had transitioned to full zombie. There was a bit of waiting in the immigration queue but it wasn’t as bad or long as I’d seen reported recently. Brief inquisition with the official who processed me but I made a big effort to sound onto it and they let me in.

Terminal 1 is a bit boring but they had a cafe type place so I plonked down for a packaged sandwich and red bull. It didn’t give me wings but hopefully would help me stay alert for a bit longer.

I bought a local sim card for my phone from the sim card vending machine and then trundled over to Underground terminal. I’d kept my oyster card from the last visit to London so managed to top that up at the machine. There was a short walk and short wait for the next train.

Picadilly Line from Heathrow took about an hour but must be the most economical way to get to or from the airport

Train from Heathrow runs past Russell Square which isn't far from my hotel

Russell Square is a deep level tube station and after hauling myself and bags out I had to wrestle my bag up a flight of stairs. And then blessedly a lift that went up to street level.

Near here on the Picadilly Line, between this station and Kings Cross, was the scene of one of the London terrorist bombings in July 2005.

My hotel wasn’t far away and looking like a tourist fresh off the boat, I trundled along the streets with map in hand. At least in London there are always a ton of other people doing the same thing.

After a bit of phfaffing I managed to find it. I wanted somewhere close to the Kings Cross station for my train to Edinburgh tomorrow. This is adjacent to the St Pancras station which is very close to the stunning St Pancras Renaissance hotel which was quite an eyeful when I rounded the corner and saw it. So there is plenty to ogle at in my short stay in this neighbourhood.

I’m happy with my more modest hotel choice, especially that they upgraded me into a newly refurbished room, slightly bigger than the single I had booked. First order of business: a shower! And then out to explore the neighbourhood.

My dinky room

Vietnam: 3~Hello Saigon, hello culture shock

The relatively short afternoon flight whizzed by thanks to the window seat and clear skies. Read more

Kia Orana! Rarotonga Day 1

After several months in the pipeline our first visit to the Cook Islands was underway. Mike and I gleefully left work early for the flight to Auckland. Once there we mooched around the international terminal for a couple of hours.

Killing time

The next flight was fairly full and noisy with one or two wedding groups aboard. Tis the season for it, and also our reason for going. We arrived in Rarotonga just after midnight.

No need for air bridges here!

The first order of business was a spot of shopping at what are apparently the cheapest duty free prices you can find anywhere. We finally checked in to The Rarotongan Beach Resort around 1.30am.

When we woke up to our second Thursday 3rd November – CI being 23 hours behind NZ – we got our first view of the place in daylight.

Our beachfront room was pretty much that

Surveying our patch of beach

The main resort area perched amongst white sand, clear water, blue sky!

Blue skies and sunshine were present as ordered. In front of the beach is a lagoon featuring fish and coral and other things of appeal to snorkelers. Beyond is a reef which the Pacific Ocean crashes against all day long.

We quickly located our breakfast food source, the main dining area which has wonderful views across the lagoon and the beach beyond the adjacent adults-only resort. Off the deck fish can easily be seen in the beautiful clear water.

The breeze was a bit more prominent than we might have expected but we lined up a couple of loungers just above the beach near our place and settled in for some reading and surveying of our surrounds.

Not sure I expected to see this

After lunch and some more being busy doing nothing, we went for a walk to find the supermarket. Mike at least knew which direction to head and we did find it after a hot 40ish minute walk made longer from our numerous deviations for photos and exploring.

An old store on the side of the road

Don't walk under the brown coconuts Mike

I was especially fascinated by the large resort complex abandoned during construction. It has an interesting history and was meant to open as a Hilton in 2009, but I guess that fell through.

Such exertions required rest and refreshments on our return, though Mike also summoned the energy to check out the marine life.

Later on just down the beach from us a wedding took place so we had a bit of a sticky beak at that and lingered to watch the sunset – though that didn’t amount to much.

A good place from which to survey wedding photos and sunsets

A good place from which to survey wedding photos and sunsets

The day’s walk and a poor sleep the night before made for a bit of an early one. Discovered this is the place to come if you want to watch reruns of American sitcoms – including The Dukes of Hazzard of all things.

Fleeing a hurricane

On my walk to the Daytona raceway I saw evidence of the last hurricane / tropical storm to have visited the area.

There were warnings of another on the way. My plan for the following day had been to pop down to the Kennedy Space Centre but that instead became ‘get out of Dodge’.

My cousin was a flight instructor and the pilots were tasked with taking their little trainer planes away to safety. I would’ve been happy to catch another bus but I was assured that as well as my cousin, his girlfriend, their cat and other belongings, there would also be enough room for not-so-small me and my not-so-small pack.

That night was spent packing up their apartment and taping the windows. It was an early start in the morning out to the airport and getting ready to go.

After what felt like ages we were able to leave. While a bit freaked out from being up high in a teeny weeny plane, the views were great.

A couple of refuelling stops later I developed a migraine and had to bail – think this was in Mississippi. After a few hours in the little airport lounge I recovered enough to taxi over to the bus station where I resumed my itinerary.

From memory the hurricane/storm didn’t amount to much.

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