Well the last of my days in Brisbane are coming fast. The last week though was pretty full on with the trip to Sydney and the final few days at work. Was so happy with how the last few days went. I didn't want a big deal made of things, it's just not who I am anymore. I would rather slip away, quietly, with as little fuss as possible. This is what happened so that made me happy. I left a number of things at work, donated you could say, to the team. An old stereo, my old cheap coffee machine, my old disgustingly dirty keyboard. These things will be better used there than me carting over the other side of the world. One thing that did annoy me was that it was super busy last night and since I was expected to work till the very last minute of my shift, didn't give me much chance to say farewell to some people, ah the joys of working in a call centre. Today though, Brisbane really turned on the weather for my going away :/ Thanks so much Brisbane! Guess you've decided to prep me for the time ahead. Didn't bother me all to much though because my going away was indoors at the London Club in Teneriffe. It was great to get a final catch up with so many people and I am going to enjoy my next few days off. Got a few catch ups with people and no work till I begin my first day at the new job on the 7th. 4 sleeps till the big day.. Am I excited? Heck yes. Am I scared? Hell yes! This is a big move but I am up for it. A new challenge, a new life, a new adventure. Bring it on!
Month: April 2012
Ok first person to tell me I read to much gets a smack on the butt (but it is true), I blame travelling and the size of these books. This book is "My Mercedes is
Not For Sale" by Jeron Van Bergeijk. I picked this book up at a $5 sale once figuring it looked good and would make for a perfect travel read (small, not to small print and interesting enough to keep you distracted).
I was right. The book is nothing over the top but to be honest was perfect for what I wanted. It is about a Dutchman (not sure if he is a reporter or a writer you never really find out) who takes it upon himself to buy an old Mercedes and drive it from Holland to Africa and sell it at a profit all while having one of those once in a lifetime exploring adventures in the Saharan desert.
There isn't really much to the issue of cars in the desert or of the actual driving but more about the people he encounters along the way (especially other Europeans doing the same thing or adventuring to Africa). If you like to travel it is an interesting read as it gives a tiny glimpse into the life of Africa and the little discussed sides of being a native African.
This is a book you can read quickly, easily, and more than anything keep you distracted long enough for the 200ish pages so it goes into my "Good Plane Books" pile. By no means perfect, it was a good read and if you find it cheap, you could do worse.
Truth be told it sounds like a pretty cool thing to do. Buy a car that you couldn't give away in the Western world then drive it overland to Africa all the while exploring what the real Africa is about.
Apparently mercs are very popular in Africa and even beat up ones can fetch a good price.
Well today is Anzac Day and for me that is a big day. My family (on my mum's side) has quite a history from World War 2. My Grandfather had 3 brothers. All 4 of them fought in the war, 3 of them in the very same unit. All 4 of them came home, unharmed & Alive. But that is a story of its own really. But this history means that each year I make the journey down to Sydney. To visit the family, to spend the day with the rest of the "Stewarts" and to pay my respects to those of the 2/2nd who should never be forgotten. But this is always a bit of fun as well, because I get to get dressed up. Dressed up in my suit, looking good, looking respectful. Dressed up, wearing my Grandfathers Medals (well the miniatures anyway because the real ones are going into Storage for safe keeping) I do something that the RSL wishes we did not. I march in the Anzac Day Parade in Sydney. Yes, thats right. I'm the naughty person who marches in memory of someone who has past. I don't care what the RSL thinks, I would rather ensure that the 2/2nd is never forgotten and that the memories of those who fought for us are remembered. This year it would probably be my last trip for a while (might be lucky to find an Anzac Day memorial in Seattle somewhere) but it was a great trip. I flew down yesterday after work with Qantas. An easy flight, albeit delayed, the usual Qantas Experience, a feed, some news and the drop down screens on their 737s. I ended up staying at the Hilton and even though I didnt get to the hotel till almost 10pm, it was worth that little bit extra. I ended up in a room on the 43rd floor, with a view of Town Hall all the way below. But best of all, being upgraded to an Executive Room, hello free Breakfast! After getting only 3 or 4 hours sleep, getting up for the Dawn Service and freezing my butt off (I think i can suck it up considering what others have sacrificed in this life) at 430am, I decided a run would warm me up. So I ended up running around the Circular Quay area, watching as the Sun rose behind the Opera House and started to light up the harbour and the Bridge, looking at it thinking, wow.. wont see this for a little while. This little memory adds to others from this trip. Seeing family at Lunch, marching up through George Street again and seeing Dick Smith returned to his usual spot and then flying home, to watch the sun set as I landed for one last time into Brisbane this year. All these tiny little moments make you look back and want to respect the little things in life, those little moments when you look at it and think, That is worth fighting for, it's worth the sacrifice. So to the Stewart Brothers and all the others who made the sacrifice so that I can write this blog today.. Lest We Forget
|Anzac Day 2012|
Not a great book but a quick review anyway. The book is "Fighting them on the Beaches" by Nigel Cawthorne and is pretty much a short, easy read on the Allied invasion of Normandy. Not a very thick book, fairly easy to read. This was given to me by someone at work and has sat on my shelf for so long I figured I would read it and get it out of the way, save me having to carry it over to the other side of the world. Now I have read more in depth books on the D-Day Invasions (D-Day by Stephen E Ambrose for instance) however this is a very broad, very brief coverage of it. For someone who is travelling to the region and wants a quick over view or isn't to interested in the War then this book would be perfect. But for me, someone who is into this kind of history. There is just not enough details in this book for me. It is just to brief. I am not saying its a bad book, it is just not for me. It was a good read though for me at the moment as it managed to give me a good flash back to August last year, when I was standing on these beaches, in some of these spots and it brought back so many good memories. This book was good for something at least.
Another book down, slowly but surely getting through this massive pile (about 25 to go I think), unfortunately I am gonna have to take these with me, or I won't ever get through them. The Book is Walking the Gallipoli Peninsula by Tony Wright. A good book for this time of year, with Anzac Day fast approaching, it was a good time to read it. The one thing I did find about this book (it was a gift) was that it was not what I fully expected. The book is written about a Journalist's journeys to Gallipoli over a number of years and follows him predominantly through one journey in the early 2000's. What I had expected was a more indepth look at the peninsula and more of a guide book, although this book is great travel fodder (big print, 250 or so pages, great for a long haul flight) reading it is not what I would normally read I guess. Not saying this is a bad book or anything, just not my kind of book. The book is definately good accompaniment to someone who is on the typical young Australian's pilgrimage to Gallipoli, giving a great insight into the area from someone else's perspective. But where it lacks though is in the historical details of the campaign. Something I would still dearly like to read about. This is a great book and reinspires my desire to visit Gallipoli (still aiming for 2015), and at this time of the year, its definately an appropriate read. Still a good book to read.
The song that goes "I'm leaving on a jet plane, don't know when I'll be back again" is totally and utterly perfect in my situation. The dates are set and I am leaving to begin my new adventure. My last day at work will be the 27th of April, which is also the day of my 8 year anniversary at work. So i finish up exactly 8 years to the DAY that I started. I mean seriously how wierd is that. I then begin the packing process over the weekend as my flight over to Seattle will leave on the 2nd of May. Once in Seattle I am sure it will be a whirlwind of paperwork and trying to settle in for the first week weeks/months but I am prepared... well kind of. It is exciting yet scary for me, to be stepping off on this whole new adventure, but it is a big big step. I have never lived out of home before, so there is that step but I can manage. I think the biggest/scariest part is that I am moving to a whole new country, with a new way of life to live, new people to meet (and thanks to twitter I am already starting to get a base of people over there) and it is a challenge I am willing to meet. I already have some trips planned for when I hit the US (couple of trips to vegas, still tossing up birthday plans) but the one thing I am looking forward to is the new opportunities in life, the new adventures and the new challenges. So as my time in Australia rolls towards an end, I start to look at the people close to me etc and start to think... What can I do before I go. One thing on my bucket list is to cook a meal for those people I cherish the most. I would have to say that would be my parents. I mean seriously they have done a lot for me. So today I am cooking them a couple of meals. My aunt was up for her annual easter trip so we had a big family breakfast and I cooked, but dinner tonight, I will cook. Nothing extravagant, nothing overly special, just a small family dinner, nice and casual, its those little things that count right?
Introduction Brisbane to Sydney to Melbourne Park Hyatt Melbourne & Melbourne to Canberra Canberra to Melbourne to Brisbane Conclusion What a trip. What can I say. It has been months since I have had time to get some solid spotting in, let alone travel so this trip just made it all worth while. A few things I do want to close out with and will cover it bit by bit. Some impressions and stuff. Spotting: In Sydney there aren't many guides on where to go etc with half decent maps So below I have put up a quick grab of the 2 areas I went to. If your wanting to get to Shep's Mound without a car you can do this by using the long term parking shuttle and walking but a car gives you flexibility if the weather goes to crap. Spotting on the Observation Deck is at its best in the afternoon with arrivals into 16L & 16R. The mound is best for the same in the mornings and ok for 34L arrivals, you would only get taxi shots for 34R. Morning is best for the heavies and late afternoon with domestic at all times really. Park Hyatt Melbourne: Probably my new favourite hotel in Melbourne. But a little out of my usual price range unless good industry rates are on offer. Definitely not as central as some of the other hotels in the same category (Sofitel, Westin, Intercontinental, Crown) but definitely a great location. It feels quieter up where it is, set back away from the hustle yet close enough it doesn't worry. 2 minutes walk and your at Parliament train station on Spring St. Fantastic facilities (love the gym) and a Lounge with staff who were fantastic (my friend thought I was a regular as they were greeting me like I was there all the time but they were just that friendly. Rental Car/Car Service: Although the rental service at Sydney was a tad unorganised and badly sign posted at both terminals, I can't fault Avis for the fantastic car they gave me and the one day rental was a good price. The car service with Royale was good and worth the lack of hassle in Melbourne for the late arrivals. But wouldn't use it for daytime flights as Skybus runs more frequently and I don't mind the time it takes during the day. Virgin Australia: Well what can I say. Great flights and service this time around on the Business sections. They have improved so much that I can't see why people keep complaining. The crew is still a big factor but now that I know more info about what to expect I am happy. Yes the site needs some work to cover this but that's out of the day to day stuffs control. The hard product is great, and the soft product has definitely improved in the 2 months since my last runs. I am now Gold till September 2013 so that will make my life in the US so much easier. Delta lounge access here I come. It wasn't a cheap 2 day trip that's for sure, but do I regret it no way in hell! I loved every minute and I am glad I did it, leaving the Japan trip for next time.
Introduction Brisbane to Sydney to Melbourne Park Hyatt Melbourne & Melbourne to Canberra Canberra to Melbourne to Brisbane Conclusion After a good catch up with friends and visiting Australia’s largest Big W right next to a Costco (sadly closed), I was dropped back at the terminal to head through security and make my way to the lounge. As I was heading to the lounge I managed to walk past the entire New Zealand Warriors football team. What is it with football teams this weekend! With about half an hour to boarding I grabbed a little bit of a light snack/late lunch of some minestrone soup and some salad (in hindsight looking back I could of avoided this) in the lounge before settling in. I liked the Canberra lounge, it was not overly big (but for the size of the airport it wasn’t to bad, and I loved the fact it had unparrelled views. When they refurb this into the new lounge look, Canberra would be my pick over Melbourne I think. But time will tell how this will change with the Terminal renovations, if the lounge will remain in the same place or not (will know in 12 months I guess). I again chilled out for the little while, and once again when the plane landed I gathered my things and headed to the gate area. The gate area was a Tad over capacity as It seemed this night flight was going to be full. I had to wait about 5 or 6 minutes before boarding was eventually started (and seeing a total male crew come off the inbound flight, a very rare site these days). Virgin Australia DJ278 Canberra to Melbourne 1700-1810 Boeing 737-800 (VH-VUM) Business Class – Seat 1A Boarding: 1640 (Gate 8) Push Back: 1658 Take Off Roll: 1707 (Runway 35) Top of Descent: 1735 Touch Down: 1758 (Runway 27) Shut Down: 1807 (Gate 7) Boarding was called and I wanted to be first out onto the ramp to grab a photo and ensure I could spend as much time in Business as I can to get my moneys worth. After not getting yelled at for the photo (but a dirty look from a Virgin staff member way out of voice distance) I walked up the steps into the Aircraft and was greeted by the gorgeous all female crew. Little did I know, this was about to begin one of my best ever flight experiences with Virgin. I was pointed in the direction of my seat, got my stuff together and decided to settle in. The CSM Savannah greeted me and welcomed me onboard and let me know that she would be looking after me this evening and let me know that I was the only person in Business class today and that if I wanted to sit in another seat feel free to take whichever one I wanted and offered me a Pre Departure Beverage. I just asked for a water (as usual) and she tried to get me to take one of the signature mocktails but I declined and was happy with water which she suggested some sparkling water. This was a good sign. The water was promptly delivered with a beeming smile and some easter eggs as a little welcome onboard. Savannah offered me a newspaper, anything really as she doted on me while the rest of the crew boarded and then she let it slip that she would be looking after me all the way to Brisbane, as my continuing flight was also on this same aircraft and with the same crew (first time that’s happened). This was a bit of a shock and then Savannah also let slip, I was the only person in Business again on the next sector as well. 3/3 flights in Virgin Domestic business with the whole J cabin to myself. O yes! As we pushed back on time, I was offered another drink by Savannah as “theres plenty of time for another one” and as we slowly got ready to taxi and taxied out to the active, my glass was cleared mere moments before we started our take off roll. We were airborne and quickly getting set up for climb out as we had to make a big long loop to the East to head south back to Melbourne. As the crew were free from their seats, Savannah was back to offer me the afternoon snack service which I had a feeling was going to be the “infamous” cheese plate. Which it was, but to be honest, I think is quite enough for a quick flight like this one of like 40 minutes air time. I wouldn’t want this served on a several hour flight but for this short hop with a few more glasses of sparkling water (although Savannah looked disappointed I declined any wine to go with my cheese) it was definitely more than enough. I slowly enjoyed my cheese plate and the lovely decadant brownie that came with it. We came into Melbourne with the most magnificent sunset started to light up the area. Savannah and her crew were always around offering me anything, making sure I was ok and with some change in my pocket and a quick visit to the lounge planned to see my friend again before she went off shift, I hatched a plan. When we docked in Melbourne I said a quick “see you in half an hour” to Savannah and the other ladies and made my way quickly up to the lounge. I tried to see my friend but she had gone off shift, I grabbed some nuts (o glorious nut mix I must find out where they get it from) and got my Seat allocation changed from 2F to 1F just so I didn’t feel bad about having 2F allocated since I had determined to try out that seat originally and feeling bad for leaving the seat unused on the manifest). On the way back to the gate, I picked up some chocolates for Savannah as a little gift to say thank you for being so fantastic so far and I mean she was doing everything she could. As I made it back to the gate, a scrum from a Chinese Tour group was starting and they didn’t even have time to call boarding before they had started to push their way on, so I just jumped into the Priority Queue and was let onboard once they got through some of the pushy group. Virgin Australia DJ351 Melbourne to Brisbane 1900-2110 Boeing 737-800 (VH-VUM) Business Class – Seat 1F Boarding: 1830 (Gate 7) Push Back: 1855 Take Off Roll: 1905 (Runway 35) Top of Descent: 2032 Touch Down: 2055 (Runway 01) Shut Down: 2100 (Gate 48) I stepped back onboard with a “Welcome back… again Mr Muir” and this time I hopped into my new seat to which Savannah told me I could sit wherever I wanted and she would be with me shortly (once she had done some paperwork it seemed). I was given a bit of pre flight entertainment as one of the guests from the group then realised they had lost a bag in the terminal and wanted to get off which they had already been scanned onto the flight obviously could not be deboarded so as one of the crew went up into the terminal to search for the bag, Savannah was desperately trying to help out greeting the other passengers, her paperwork, look after me and also calm down the guest with the missing bag who could not speak any English (and manage to do all this with a never ending smile). Once it had calmed down a little bit I was offered another drink, suggested perhaps a soft drink this time and accepted a pepsi max and settled in with the ongoing enterainment of the bag drama. Once all was quiet I hopped up and presented Savannah with her gift and wished her a happy easter and this caused an even bigger smile as I had happened to get her favourite chocolate…. Score one for me! She was shocked and her service went into over drive and to be honest, I didn’t do it for this, I did it because of how great they were and it is easter after all, don’t we all deserve some chocolate? We pushed back and then as we were heading out after the safety briefing, a digiplayer was dropped off at my seat (no galaxy tabs on this flight) and then Savannah rather than taking my dinner order, had an offer for me. “Are you hungry this evening?” Expecting bad news after this thinking to myself dear god no meals have been loaded. “They ended up fully catering us this evening so did you want to try all of the options? You don’t have to eat it all but you can sample them if you wish. We have a Chick Pea curry with Cous Cous and Shepheards pie” I thought to myself, what the hell, I am writing a trip report for this.. so why not! As we taxied off I was blissfully enjoying myself, not really paying any attention at all. As we climbed out and the post take off speeches were made the usual thank you to all business class guests was given, to which I smirked and giggled at since it was only me and being in line of site of the crew, Savannah almost broke out laughing herself. We headed up to be released from Seat Belts, and the tray of glory was placed in front of me. So much food, thankfully a 2 hour flight to get it all done! I got the digiplayer going, selected a movie and settled in to enjoy a movie, some dinner and the company of some lovely cabin crew as they did everything to make sure I was comfortable. How can you not love flights like this? Dinner went down a treat, the cous cous while a touch bland on its own went really well with the Chick Pea & Pumpkin Curry however the Shepheards Pie was a touch to salty for my liking. Salad was good and the bread roll, fluffy and warm. I did enquire if there was any of the Ice Cream Sandwhiches onboard and disappointment again as they had been onboard the previous 2 nights, but nothing this evening. After a few pepsi maxes and more movie, relaxing fully reclined I was needing a pick me up and declining a refil of pepsi which magically appeared, I asked for a cup of coffee in a little while. Just after that I was thinking to myself, I could go one of those lovely cookies from up the back. As my coffee was delivered I was going to ask for one. What I did not expect was Savannah already standing there with one when she delivered my coffee, and a block of Toblerone. It was as though she could read my mind. I accepted the cookie with glee and declined the chocolate to which I was told to take it anyway, you may want it later on tonight. I settled in with my coffee and more of the movie as we cruised north towards home, enjoying the light show out the window as a storm was lighting up the sky orange off in the distance. We started descent into Brisbane and I was totally unaware of this and was shocked as I was having such a good time and enjoying what had been one of the best experiences I’ve had to virgin to date. The crew were amazing, the food good, the flight just flew by. I didn’t want to get off. A farewell to the crew thanking them for making this the best flight I have had in the last 12 months with Virgin and an even bigger thank you for making one of my last domestic flights in a while so amazing I was off into the terminal, determined to send Virgin some feedback about the crew (I had gotten Savannah to write me down all their names earlier) and contemplating the quick journey home as the airport was deserted. My bag was making its 2nd lap around the carosel by the time I arrived and in true Brisbane fashion, it may have come out in the first group but it was upside down… as usual! I was in my car less than 10 minutes after landing and home within half an hour. A fantastic weekend had come to an end!
Introduction Brisbane to Sydney to Melbourne Park Hyatt Melbourne & Melbourne to Canberra Canberra to Melbourne to Brisbane Conclusion After arriving at the Park Hyatt o so comfortably in the S class, I did not want to get out, but sadly, the driver was already at the boot getting out my bag and the Porters were already opening the door before I had even thought about moving. I was greated and offered to take my bag, however as I did not want to let the camera bag out of my site, I let them just take the suitcase and I kept the camera bag with me (although it felt like it was going to break me in half by this stage). I was escorted through to the check in, where I was greeted and checked in. I was informed of the lovely Diamond amenities and told that I had used "points" to upgrade to a Park Suite and I had been upgraded further from this to a Terrace Suite. I was asked if i had stayed at the hotel previously (I had not) and was then explained the facilities, services of the hotel etc, before being pointed in the direction of the Cathedral wing. I made my way up to the room and damn... colour me impressed! I will let the pictures do the talking but for what little time I was spending in Melbourne, It was just not fair!! I mean seriously this room was awesome! Even a nespresso Machine, I was in heaven. I had a quick explore before hitting the sack. Sunday 08th April 2012 Woke up a bit earlier than I thought I would as my body just did not want to let me rest, and I headed down to the Park Health Club & Spa (their Gym area) for a morning work out. The gym was modern and pretty damn good actually. Heaps of cardio and free weights, all modern machines with full cable tv set up in most of the cardio machines (albeit with crap reception on the treadmills). A Decent looking pool (although closed at that hour of the day). Couldn't ask for more. After the work out and a few coffees fresh from the machine, I met up with a friend next door at St Patricks Cathedral for morning mass before we returned to the hotel to indulge in the breakfast in the Park Club (lounge) up on the 19th floor. There was 3 of us and fully expecting to have to pay for the 3rd person, they mustn't of worried as when we arrived the lounge was pretty empty (but almost full by the time we left). Although breakfast was continental in the lounge, they do offer A La Carte options at additional expense but the range on offer was by far exceeding my expectations and the fruit was just divine (best strawberries i've had in a while). All that was lacking was some chocolate options and being easter.. a tiny bit flawed imo. After a good healthy breakfast, a number of coffees and some good conversation. It was time to venture out of the hotel. I checked out and bid farewell to my friends, declined the offer of Transport to the airport and decided to walk to Bourke Street to get a tram. After a 5 minute stroll through the Paris end of town, past lots of tourists and families out on this Easter Sunday. Soon enough I was onboard a tram and making my way to Southern Cross station where luckily a Skybus was about to pull out of the station to the airport within a few moments and i made it onboard just in time without a seat though =(. At the airport effortlessly I was checked in within moments and relaxing in the lounge within 5 minutes of the bus pulling in. That is the one thing I do love about the lounge in Melbourne, there is no need to go through security prior to getting to the lounge so you don't need to worry. Unfortunately my friend was not yet working today (she would start later on) so I headed up to my favourite area of the Melbourne lounge and one of the super comfy red seats was free. I settled in, camera in hand with a view of the active runway, drink and book out, chilling and relaxing. Is there a better way to spend a sunday? After a catch up in the lounge with my friend, some more spotting, the inbound aircraft landed and pulled up to the gate so figured it was time to head towards the outer pier and through security. On the way stopping to get a couple of photos of XFB and other aircraft sitting around. Expecting a bit of a queue at security, there wasnt one so I was through within moments and sat down at the gate, just relaxing and waiting for the flight to be called. I was excited to be flying an Embraer with Virgin for the first time. Virgin Australia DJ271 Melbourne to Canberra 1330-1435 Embraer E190 (VH-ZPL) Economy Class – Seat 3A Boarding: 1310 (Gate 13) Push Back: 1329 Take Off Roll: 1336 (Runway 34) Top of Descent: 1400 Touch Down: 1421 (Runway 35) Shut Down: 1425 (Gate 5) Boarding was called and I was first through the doors and headed for the aircraft. Although my usual seat was awaiting me (3A) since the Embraers are not yet refurbished I wasn't sure what to expect. A Few observations onboard these Embraers though. The legroom is ample, windows are nice and high (pretty much what everyone will already know) but what got me was the windows are offset so you kind of have a bit of a wall where there should be a window right next to you. This was not preffered and in the end distracted me more than anything. We pushed back early after a quick load and I did have a seat mate on this fairly full flight up to Canberra, we were told it would be a quick trip but would be a long taxi as we had to taxi out to the end of the active which wasnt exactly right next to our gates. O well you win some you lose some. We lept into the air in the style that Embraers have and shortly the seat belt sign was off and the service commenced. What I didn't realise was that Melbourne to Canberra is also Captial Connect service, designed to compete with Qantas and they offer the free snack like they do out of Sydney. Not all that hungry after breakfast and expecting some food on the next few flights (and some snacking in the lounge of course) I declined the food but accepted my usual coffee and water as I started into a new book. The flight was great, no hassles and as they started to collect the trash up, we started our descent into Canberra, down through the cloud layer as we came into the surrounding farm lands of Canberra we had a straight in approach from the South and came in with a very distant view of Civic and Black Mountain Tower way off into the distance. We landed with one of the most impressive touch downs I have had with Virgin (it was as though he barely touched at all) and we taxied back to the terminal. Pulled into an Airbridge (which is always a good thing at Canberra with so much renovations underway) and was off into the Terminal to collect my bag and catch up with my friends (after first checking back for my next two flights).