In the half term this past week I packed up my suitcase and headed south…like really really south, almost as far south as you can get. I went to Sydney in the state of New South Wales, in Australia. I have never been before, all i knew of sydney was a few of those iconic images that we have all seen and that things are super pricey there. But not much else. I boarded a plane for my first leg of the trip after bidding farewell to my OH and kids. A lone traveller. Its been a long time since i could write that in reference to myself. But so i was, journeying around the world for the very first chapter of our exciting adventure as a family.
Im not a massive flying fan, i dont like turbulence, it freaks me out when the plane wobbles about and i remember that im not on a train and actually hanging in the air. I had read somewhere that sitting near the wing means that the turbulence is less. Which may well be true but the other thing about sitting near the wings, you are directly above the landing gear and when they pull up and go down it makes a large thump under your seat and every hollywood disaster flying movie when the landing gear doesnt quite go down properly and the plane somersaults when it hits the tarmac, goes through your mind. (or is that just me?)
May have to review my ‘where to sit’ policy next time round.
Anyway I flew to Abu Dhabi in the UAE. 7 hours of flying, with seemingly efficient but slightly grumpy stewardess and stuck next to two fellow single travellers who sat down, did their seat belts up and promptly went to sleep. Not great for a window seat traveller who needs to move their legs and visit the ladies room a lot. The day before i flew i ran a half marathon and was a little worried my legs would seize up. So instead of asking them both to move 500 times during the flight I, instead, jigged my legs around in my seat. They must have thought i was a complete neurotic!
Arriving in UAE we had to catch a bus to the terminal and im not kidding when we stepped out of the plane at maybe 6pm at night the heat that greeted me was incredible. 38 degrees of hot, hot air. I had no idea it was going to be so hot, may have altered my wardrobe choices. But we were whisked onto a bus and into an air conditioned terminal and beckoned towards the transit desks. Top tip! Get your boarding passes from your first check in, you dont need to queue at slow moving transit desks and you can just make your way to your next flight’s gate. (whilst obviously sending a quick prayer to the Transit baggage God that your suitcase is going to follow you onto the right plane!)
I had to wait a little while before the flight was boarding and i thought i would visit the ladies, get a drink etc etc. I used an old 10 Euro note in the shop, you can pretty much use any currency but their exchange rates are generally pants. But I was so hot i think i would have paid 10 Euros for a cold drink!! The one particularly unpleasant thing about the airport was the smoking rooms. Which were little 7ft perspex boxes where anyone who wishes to smoke goes to stand. They were pretty full and the smoke spilling out into the walkways was really nasty. They were next to the airport prayer rooms which had a selection of shoes discarded by the front door. Such an interesting juxtaposition. Praying for purity of your souls next door to the little boxes full of folks frantically satisfying their addictions to little cancer sticks. bluuergh.
Boarding the next plane the two young guys who sat next to me introduced themselves as ‘in a band’ and ‘playing at the Royal Opera house.
Reeeaally? i say, in a not too discreet manner…this is the moment i thought to myself where i sit next to singer of some super famous band for 12 hours, we chat and become friends forever and he leaves the plane in Aus giving me his personal phone number and promise for as many seats as i need at his next gig. 😉
Turns out they were in fact playing in an orchestra of sorts and it was part of a wider festival at the opera house. pffffttt..not popstars then, although i guess it would be unlikely that they would be back in the cheap seats! They were both pretty focused on how much sleep they might get on the plane and after the doors were shut they set off to see if they could find any spare spaces. Incredibly they both found spaces that were better than sharing with me (no offence taken!) and i got left with three seats to myself. So I did manage to sleep.
Meals are interesting on a long haul. They seem to want to force your body from a nutritional point of view to accept your new time zone and getting towards sydney the cabin crew started serving meals. Expecting a kind of breakfasty, croissant type thing but was offered a casserole. hmmm…not for breakfast thanks When I initially booked i thought i would plump for the vegetarian option. Im not a massive fan of airplane food, it all seems to taste plastic no matter what it is and i thought that a veggie option might spare me the rubbery chicken casserole. Which it did, to be fair, but it would seem that the folks at Etihad airways opt for when it comes to the veggie option is essentially a few different ways to present a bean casserole. So after the second helping of a bean based plate of food I stuck to the little fruit bowl and a few bread rolls. I have to say that Virgin (who took the first leg of my ride back home) were much more imaginative!!
Arriving in Sydney in late evening I was trying to work out the temperature and have a sneaky peek before we got to boarder control but alas it is autumn/winter time there and so the sun goes down pretty early in the evening. I was pretty fortunate to be near the front of the plane so i got off early and managed to get into the queue for passports. Which was a good thing as there were only two folks on the desks.
I had been scared by a women i had got chatting to in Abu Dhabi. When I had mentioned to her that I was bringing in some chocolate for british friends she gave me a serious warning about not declaring it and what might happen if i got caught. So i declared it and on arriving into customs got sent to a little carosel with my suitcase. The lady took my customs form off me and looked at what i had checked.
“what is it that you have with you?’
me: “just some chocolate for some friends, as gifts…you know…’cos they miss it…its not the same…so they tell me…just cadbury…oh and some galaxy, i think thats made my nestle, or it is mars, im not sure, its all sealed and i packed it….’
I mumbled on and on. She eventually cut me off with:
‘is that it? no fruit? no vegetables?’
Me: thinking why would i be bringing vegetables? ‘er..no…just chocolate’
She just waved me on to the exit lane and said ‘have a good stay’
Me and my chocolate stash had made it down under.
Let the adventure begin!!