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Sunday, 30 January 2011

The Curse of Travel (Part 2 of 3)

Travel stress.  It gets worse
We'd really enjoyed our 5 days in gay Paree, but we had to catch the Ryanair return flight from Beauvais, which meant catching the bus near the Place de Congress (about 8 km to the North of where we were staying ,Le Grand Hotel Leveque, Rue Cler, recommended for a basic hotel)
Being of a rational and controlling nature (No, really), I had planned our journey tomorrow.
Get up, shower and leave hotel (06:30)
Buy breakfast (Fresh croissants) on way to Metro Station (Ecole Militaire) (06:45)
Board Metro, taking Route 8 to Concorde (06:55)
Change at Concorde, take Route 1 to Porte Maillot (07:25)
Walk to Bus Station (07:45)

I had even bought tickets for us all on the previous day.
What could possibly go wrong.


When we had arrived in France, the time difference was +1 hour.  All of my family changed their watches to the new reference, but I kept mine unchanged, to keep a reference to the UK.  My beloved also left the time settings on her phone to UK time for the same reason (Actually it was because she really couldn't figure out how to use the correct menu on her new phone).  But it wouldn't matter, because all I had to do was remember to add an hour, anyway our children's watches had been set to the correct French time, as had my beloved's watch.  It really wouldn't matter.


I awoke on our day of departure at 5:00, checked my watch, too early and went back to sleep.
Woke again at 6:00, better get up.  I awoke my beloved, and we started to shower and change.  Thumped on the adjoining wall to let our kids know we were up, and to remind them that they should also get up and get ready.  Silly kids, they weren't very good at getting up and ready on time.  That's what parents are for, to make sure they were ready on time.


At 06:30, I opened our door, and knocked on the kids room and was pleased to see that they were dressed and ready.
Actually they were both sitting on their beds fully dressed.  "All ready?" I asked.  "We've been waiting for an hour Daddy", said my daughter.
"It's 7:30 Dad", said my son.


I'd completely forgotten about my watch being on UK time.  It WAS 7:30
Never mind, my travel plan had some spare time built in.
We'd still make the bus.

Checked out of the hotel, and walked quickly to the Metro, buying the croissants en route.
Straight to the train on Route 8. It was 7:40. We'd still make the bus.  No worries (as we Kiwis say)


We got off at Concorde and followed the signs to Route 1 (La Defense), and as we came around the corner of the corridor to the stairs leading to the platform, 2 officials of the Metro were putting up a barrier across the stairway.
They were also putting up a little sign.

Route 1 FERMEE


For some reason (I never found out why) Route 1 would be closed until 10:00
They were very helpful, and gave me the alternative routes in quite good English (My little French had evaporated as my adrenaline levels spiked).
The alternative route would take another hour.  We were stuffed.  Miss the bus meant missing the plane, which meant buying 4 more tickets at 250 each.


Quick (but heated) family discussion/name calling/blame allocation ensued.

Ran up the stairs.  Where the Hell were we?  Place de Concorde (There wasn't a lot of Concorde amongst us at this stage)
Fast walk/waddle to the nearest road, flagged down a little taxi, piled in ("Mais Monsuir, supplement €3 pour quatre" dite le chauffeur de taxi.   "Oui, Oui, allez vite" Je l'ai dit)

Made the bus station at 08:00, and actually got an earlier bus.
Cost of taxi?
Cost of Metro tickets?

Why hadn't I thought of a taxi before?


Travel does broaden the mind.
Travel also empties the wallet.
Travel also leads to an increased incidence of myocardial infarctions, family breakdowns and random violence.

Vive la VISA

Saturday, 29 January 2011

The Curse of Travel (Part 1 of 3)

I get stressed when I travel.  Not the fear of crashing while being strapped in a metal tube 5 miles above the Earth's surface (pretty reasonable when you think about it), but a fear of being late, of missing my flight.
So, I always try to arrive at least 30 minutes before the stated time, and if I don't, I get stressed, my pulse rate goes up, I get snappy with my family and I start to mutter, curse and twitch.
Going to the UK was no problem, everything was under control, no excitement, no stress, everything in plenty of time.

Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary with two of the flight attendants who feature in this year's 'Girls of Ryanair' charity calendar
While we were in the UK, my lovely daughter had arranged a 4 day trip to Paris (Posted previously), and we were using Ryanair to fly to France.  For those readers who haven't used this service before, let me explain.  It's a very cut-price airline.  The return fare to Paris (Beauvais actually, 40 km outside Paris) cost £5, but there are severe restrictions on baggage (One small piece of hand luggage), no free refreshments (a bottle of water at £2.20) and if you don't check in 40 minutes before your flight leaves, they cancel your seat.
We had to get from St. Andrews in Fife (Scotland) to Edinburgh Airport.  When I'd lived in Scotland, I always allowed 1½ hours for the journey, and I automatically added an extra 30 minutes to my travel plan, leaving in plenty of time.

But, I'd made two small errors in my calculations.  When I'd lived in Scotland, I wasn't actually living in St. Andrews, but in a small town near Dundee (Newport on Tay), near the motorway system, 30 minutes closer to Edinburgh.  The second error was forgetting that the Forth Road Bridge that we had to cross was sometimes a bit busy during rush hours, and we were planning to travel at 7:30am on a Tuesday.  I knew we were in trouble when the motorway traffic began to slow to 5 mph . and we were still 6 miles from the bridge.

For the next 60 minutes, time crawled.  It felt like every stupid bloody commuter was heading to Edinburgh at the same time.  We crawled over the hill, and I could see the bridge ahead, jam-packed with cars moving at a snail-like pace.  I could see the bloody airport, I could see the lines of glowing tail-lights stretching out towards it.
We were absolutely stuffed.  If we missed the 40 minute deadline (so my lovely daughter informed us) we would be off the flight. We could get on the next one, but we'd have to buy new tickets.  At £200 each.
We finally arrived at the airport with 10 minutes to spare, but I had to hand back the hire car first.

We made the gate with 2 minutes to go.  It must have been quite an amusing sight.  An elderly white-bearded gent, sweat running down his face under his possum and merino beanie (it was still -5C outside), sprinting up to the Ryanair desk, being followed by his daughter, son and beloved (wearing for some reason a full length formal coat, patterned on the Wehrmacht's greatcoat design)

 doing a fast waddle and towing a small cabin-baggage sized overnight case, with smoke drifting up from its over-stressed wheels. 
When we 'd all got our breath back, my beloved mentioned casually that it was all my fault (again), and that she'd wanted to leave 40 minutes before my set time.
I was very good.
I didn't smack her, or even swear.
I just put the scene carefully in my memory.  My time would come.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Paris was Great

Back in NZ, jet-lag under some sort of control, going in to work this morning.
Just discovered that my son's car is overdue for WOF and Rego.
Hope I don't get the same problems that The Curmudgeon had.
But Paris was great.  I've been to France many times, but we've always stayed in the country.  We've had extended stays in Bordeaux, Dijon, Burgundy and along the Loire, but never in Paris, as we had been told (by Frenchmen as well as Brits) that Paris was full of rude nasty people.
They were wrong.
Paris is a beautiful city, full of superb buildings, great restaurants and nice people.
We did all the touristy things and thoroughly enjoyed them.
    Eifel Tower
  • Went up the Eifel Tower
  • Arc de Triumph
  • Walked along the Champs Elysees, under the Arc de Triumph
  • Louvre
    Guess Who?
  • Went to the Louvre (saw the Mona Lisa)
  • Musee d'Orsay
  • Went to the Musee d'Orsay
  • Grand Palais
  • Went to the National Galleries in the Grand Palais (couldn't get in.  They were having a Monet exhibition, and the queue to get in was about 2-3 hours)
  • Bastile (July) Monument
  • Saw the Bastille monument (I didn't know they'd knocked down the prison) and walked around the old Jewish quarter
  • Notre Dame
    Isle du Cite (front) and L'Isle de St. Louis(back)
  • Went to Notre Dame and L'Isle du Cite, and L'Isle de St. Louis.
  • Sorbonne
  • Walked through the Latin quarter by the Sorbonne
  • Rodin Museum
  • Went to the Rodin Museum (Couldn't get in as they had a Henry Moore exhibition in their gardens, another long queue)
  • Les Invalides
  • Went to Les Invalides and Naploleon's Tomb
I don't think we saw an ugly building anywhere.
The food was great, but expensive.  A cup of coffee (Cafe Creme) was about €4, about NZ$7, most of the lunches (2 course fixed price)were €20 (NZ$35) and because there were 4 of us, we had to be a little careful.
I just wish we'd visited before we moved to NZ.  13,000 miles is a bit far to drop in for lunch.
Lots of pretty girls though.
A common sight in a Paris street

Monday, 24 January 2011


I'm back.
It is really so good to be back in godzone.
I don't care if it is raining.
I don't care if it's a bit on the cool side.
I'm home.
I'll try and catch up with Richard [of RBB] and The Curmudgeon et al, bit that's for later.
I couldn't get much computer access on my European trip, so no posts and few comments.
But it's so good to be back.
Listening to the immigration officers, the taxi drivers, the supermarket check-out people, listening to the soft Kiwi accent, listening to reasonable nice people.
It's so good to be back.
Being able to drink a flat white for less than $8,  being able to get a punnet of home-grown cherries or peaches, buying a Vogel loaf.
It's so good to be back.
Streets not packed with white-faced pasty cold people, no sleet in the face, no angry glares from rude insensitive slum-dwellers (I was in Dundee).
Smiles from passersby, grins from kids, warmth from the Sun.
It's so good to be back.

Unfortunately school beckons tomorrow.
But it's still good to be back.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Still freezing

Now up in the outer reaches of the Empire.  Dungwall Dingwall. Cold, miserable and grey.  Thank the Good Lord (in his many imaginary forms) for life preserving whisky.
Taking my Dad out for a Fish and Chip tea this afternoon.  I might have to get snow chains fitted to the car if the snow gets much thicker.  Envy The Curmudgeon his description of Ocean Beach, with the blue sparkling waters and frolicking dolphins.
Doesn't quite compare to miles of snow-covered desolate farmland and the cawing of a murder of crows.

Can't wait to get back home.
Even to Nuova Lazio.
Almost looking forward to seeing Ringo. No, I'm joking, I'm not.

Monday, 3 January 2011

I miss NZ

Arrived safely, arctic conditions, daughter happy, whisky cheap.  Distinct lack of sticky-out ears.  Snow turning to slush then freezing into a concrete-like hardness, and due to the reduced amount of council spending, little road clearance and gritting.  Depressing visit to the lopcal mall, hordes of pasty-faced neds and nedettes roaming around.  The scum are taking over.
I want to be back on my deck, large G & T in hand, under a kiwi blue sky, eating steaks off of the barbie.
Enjoy your lovely kiwi Christmas and New Year.  We're off to a New Year party tomorrow, then off to Inverness, then off to Paris on the 12th.
I wish I was in Wellington, licking icecreams while walking along Oriental Parade, watching the pretty girls playing beach volleyball.

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