NEW ZEALAND, 15-28th January 2018

Continuing our travels down to Auckland we had a few hours stop over at Sydney airport. Just enough time to click on the wifi and get a few messages away and relax before re-boarding.

Auckland airport is one of the most efficient we have come across and within 45 minutes of landing we had baggage, toilet stop, customs, immigration and duty free and were sitting in shuttle waiting to go to Te Atatu on the bus…..

Mum and Dad were relaxing in their armchairs when we arrived and it was great to see them looking so well.

We hadn’t organised anything really except a nice stay away with our cruise buddies Paul and Michelle for later in the week and a Tuesday afternoon catch up in the “big smoke” with friends Angela and Duncan whom we’d also managed to hook up with in Hong Kong (wonder where it will be next time?. Duncan in the end couldn’t make it but old mate from way way back Anthony did, so was a great time chatting over a glass of wine or two before heading back to TAT on the bus again.

Brother Graeme and sister in law Kirsten popped around later that evening with car keys for us to use Graeme’s car and something for supper.

Wednesday we slept in, those sleepless nights and different time zones left us not zonked but definitely not recalibrated.

The day really just became a shopping and coffee out at TAT shops. That evening we were invited to share a meal with Graeme and Kirsten at their home which gave mum and dad a little outing as well. It was a lovely evening and great company.

Thursday we slept in yet again and it was a struggle to be motivated to do anything except our mates came at 4 pm to whisk us away to their awesome beach home at Omaha.

After spending a world cruise together it was fantastic to see them again and reminisce over photos and stories.

Paul and Michelle are two of the greatest friends I’ve had from way back when we were teenagers and it’s so easy to be in their company.

Paul plays tour director and driver and the next five days were excellent.

Lots of little tiki tours from their home base with Matakana markets, walking track around Tawharanui which we did with their friends Gavin and Jan, long walk around the Omaha beach and estuary, Martins Bay, Scandretts Bay, Leigh, art galleries, golf club for drinks and dinner with their friends Robert and Lesley, craft beer brewery for tastings. Really Beautiful scenery just surrounds this whole area and we have taken so many photos which just don’t do it justice.

Michelle is quick to whip up a meal out of her fridge and pantry a skill we’re very happy to be the recipients of.

It’s great to be so relaxed and comfortable in someone else’s home and company and we look forward to hopefully getting away with them again sometime in the future.

We all piled in their car Tuesday late morning and headed to Ponsonby for a street stroll and something to eat at the numerous cafes there. The old homes and beautiful tree lined side streets really look gorgeous.

From there we cruised over to our friend Craig’s place for 4 pm drinks and nibbles catching up with old mate Rex there as well and several of Craig’s brothers. Craig had booked restaurant for 7 pm where another friend Andrew and wife Kay joined us for a great evening of laughs and catch up on each other’s lives. I really appreciate how Craig will organise the guys for a catch up when we’re in town, he’s an awesome organiser and much loved friend.

Michelle and Paul dropped us off at mum and dads before driving to her mums place which is literally around the corner. Luckily they were staying the night as we just caught them the next day before they headed back to Omaha to hand over Michelles sunglasses which I found in my handbag!

We drove from there to pick up my dad from North Shore hospital where he had had an operation on the Monday. A few stops for shopping and a walk around the local neighbourhood that evening and we called it a day.

The humidity in New Zealand is really high and not many places have aircon or even ceiling fans so you suffer more than we do in Australia because of this. The sun here burns quickly and you can feel it burning after just a few minutes. You really need to be super sun safe here and don’t be fooled by temperatures in the 20’s, it feels much hotter than in Australia.

we spent our last few days mooching around Te Atatu, a few walks, shopping and cooking, catching up with cousin Stephanie and her son Thomas, Graeme and Kirsten and the nephews and a drive with mum and Dad just locally seeing all the new builds that have sprung up every where here.

Before you know it, it’s time to stuff everything into our suitcases and prepare for our 4 am pick up Sunday morning for the flight back to Sydney and our first stop brunch at Surry Hills with a few of the kids.

BANGKOK, THAILAND. 5 nights only 9-14th January 2018

Having decided to forgo the first seven weeks of what was to be our second world cruise in a year due to visa issues we made plans to fill in that time fairly easily. An extended time in the U.K allowed us our three nights in Brighton and wanting to catch up with family and friends in NZ we booked a five night stop over in Bangkok before flying onto Auckland New Zealand.

To be honest I’m not a huge fan of plane travel (unless it’s premium economy or business class) it’s hours at the airport beforehand even if you’ve already checked in online just to get through all the airport hoops these days.

Then crushed in like sardines with little in the way of customer service and for most of us travelling either from or to home in Australia or New Zealand its a bloody long slog.

Just to get to Bangkok we had to change planes in Dubai and we were exhausted by the time we arrived at our hotel in Bangkok.

Even with a supposedly upgrade to a mini suite it’s pretty much in need of a refurbishment and their breakfast buffet leaves one wondering how they could possibly do worse. The area around is much like Kuta in Bali without the beach and the prices are much more than you would pay in Bali.

Ok sounds like we’re suffering from firstworlditus. We’re actually not that hard to please but we found our first real stay in Bangkok looking less than what we were hoping for.

Except it got better! The three day rule kicked in and apart from the noise from the nightclub across the road not stopping till 4 am in the morning ( this has seriously impacted on us not being able to recalibrate our time changes) we started to relax and enjoy our time here.

The first evening we were starving as we hadn’t eaten on either of the two flights we had and decided to keep our appetite for some yummy Thai food when we arrived.

After satisfying our tummies we had a walk around the local area before calling for time out.

We spent the next day leisurely waking up, grabbing some breakfast from downstairs and strolled around stopping to wander through a shopping centre and really didn’t do a lot. Really feeling the jet lag and still recovering from the cold I caught on the last day of our Christmas Cosmos tour.

We had dinner at Chilli culture a restaurant recommended by our friend Eric and tried for another early night.

Thursday the 11 th we decided the weather had perked up enough to spend the day poolside which is exactly what we did. I think this was the turning point as we really started to catch up on that exhaustion and after a real Thai massage that evening which began to soothe out some tight muscles we were ready for dinner and bed.

We booked a private tour for the Friday and our lovely guide Sundra? Picked us up from our hotel and off we went ….

two skytrains, two boat rides, a tuk tuk, shuttle and walking we got a good idea of how to use the public transport which is what we were hoping for, for return visits and we got to see The Grand Palace,

Jim Thompson’s house some local artisans plying their trade and a fair amount of of the diversity of Bangkok.

After arriving back on the skytrain near our hotel we left our guide and headed out for late lunch, this turned into a lovely afternoon tea at The Landmark hotel instead. Home to the hotel and a few hours poolside before we headed out in the evening for dinner and to finish the day James had a massage and I had a facial.

Starting to get the holiday vibe on by now and so on our final full day the Saturday we had a very late start, missed the hotel breakfast so went out for that then took the sky train to Mo Chit to the weekend markets which are HUGE! We spent three hours wandering around being surprised by some of the great quality we saw as well as the usual market tat.

Wandered around on the other side of the Main Street near our hotel and had an early dinner over there as prices were better and actually was the best meal we’ve had here. A last visit to our Praw spa girls for a final massage to loosen those kinks some more and it was time to tick off another day.

next day we simply relaxed by the pool before it was time to head to the airport for our next stop Auckland with a quick two hour stopover in Sydney.

LONDON AND BRIGHTON, DECEMBER 28th 2017 – 8th JANUARY 2018

It doesn’t matter how quick your flight is it still takes all day to travel and getting to our accommodation in London from Munich was no different.

It was a hard day for me as I had unfortunately succumbed to the coughing cold that had spread through our coach tour. So it was with great relief to knock on the door of our Airbnb in Sidney Square and be welcomed in to a warm home.

Our room is spacious and comfortable with a large bathroom attached. The only thing missing is a bath which would be just lovely.

We have use of the kitchen which has been helpful with not spending too much money on eating out.

Although not feeling awesome still want to make the most of our time so on our first full day ventured off on foot to Brick Lane and enjoyed a coffee and look at the vintage markets and generally had a good look see.

We then caught the bus into the Saint Paul’s area and strolled around taking in the Millennium bridge which was blowing a gale so fairly unpleasant. Had a meal of fish n chips as you do when in the UK.

We headed back home and opened a bottle of red and made chilli con crane and rice and thought about our next days adventures.

Although we’re starting off late morning we’re spending as much time out as we feel up to.

The Saturday ended up being a fairly long day as we started off at Trafalgar Square and ended up walking down The Mall past the Palace and finally ended up at The Victoria and Albert museum which is BRILLIANT and we highly recommend a visit there. We definitely need more time there.

Before you know it the end of the year approaches and it was Sunday the 31st December and nothing planned for New Year’s Eve. Having to have tickets to get into London for the fireworks and not feeling that being out in the cold night air is a great idea with my cold and now James starting to cough too. We decided just to go into the city for the early afternoon and be home warm and dry before it got too dark.

We headed to Coventry, Leicester Square, and surrounds and were delighted with all we saw. Unfortunately it started to rain quite heavily and we came home a little earlier than planned but with full intentions of returning another day.

we could hear the fireworks quite clearly from our home in East London but couldn’t see them at all except great coverage on the telly.

New Year’s Day and we decided to walk to Poplar where the tv series “call the midwife”is based on. Actually I don’t think any of the show is shot there but it was an interesting walk anyway. Then we hoped on the train and went to the Tate Modern for a looksie, but not before going to The Anchor pub for a humongous nosh of roast beef with all the trimmings. Best meal we’ve had for a while.

There’s great views from the top of the Tate, but the apartment blocks next door seem almost like another exhibition with their floor to ceiling glass.

Second of January and we headed to Notting Hill Gate and walked Portobello road and then walked over to Kensington gardens. Took a look at The Princess Diana memorial fountain which to be honest was quite underwhelming and resembles a giant street curb.

The gardens are quite lovely though and although the whole day has been drizzling we didn’t let it stop us enjoying the fresh air.

Tonight we’re having a home cooked curry by our Airbnb hosts Jon and Ella. Jon it turns out is quite the cook and has made scones twice and a banana bread as well as home baked bread every day. We’ve supplied the wine and wouldn’t you know our luck at the local shop they stocked the same red we drink at home.

we had a lovely evening and went to bed full of good food and slept in a little the next day, before getting ready to go into the city to catch the matinee of Kinky Boots the stage show which we had booked for knowing that we were going to go on to Notting Hill again to the Churchill arms pub to catch up with a work colleague of James, whom had also left just before James did to travel. He and his wife have been lucky enough to be able to get English passports so can work in the U K no problem. The pub had a great Thai restaurant attached so by the time we got back to our accommodation we had had a brilliant day out. The show was fantastic and such good prices to catch shows in London you would go regularly if you lived here.

Thursday the 4 th January and we hit the trains to Windsor and visited Queenies Castle. What a great day out the town is gorgeous and the castle was superb, we even caught the changing of the guard.

Thoroughly recommend a Day there if you have time.

Friday the 5 th an we were originally going to be starting our second wold cruise from Tilbury, London today except visas got in the way and we cancelled the first 7 weeks and will pick up the ship in Sydney now on the 24 th February.

So with seven weeks till then we booked flights onward but not till the 8 th January so we took the bus to Brighton for the next three nights and couldn’t be happier with our hotel. It has all the comforts we want and in a great size room and James is thrilled to have a bath oh and a tv.

We’re in a fantastic location and straight after checking in we went off walking the streets stopping for a bit of late lunch and walked for several hours. We’ve been here before but only for a day visit so looking forward to exploring a bit more. Hotel includes breakfast so at $105 Aus a night great value for the quality we have.

there’s a great breakfast room at our hotel and it’s included in the price so made good use of the lovely food on offer including cooked breakfast if wanted before we head out for each day.

After our first night sleep and breakfast we took the bus to Eastbourne another seaside town further around the coast towards Hastings. The drive through the countryside is a big factor on going there and scoring front row upstairs gave us a great view.

After a good look around and a great meal at a French patisserie that made beautiful quiche and salads we weren’t hungry for dinner back in Brighton and made do with tea and biscuits and a bag of crisps while watching Midsommer murders on the telly in bed.

Sunday we decided to do the coastal walk which was brilliant and we ended up 5 kms down the road at Rottingdean. This town turned out to be a real find, full of period places and was once the hometown of Rudyard Kipling and some fine little cafe and restaurants and village green and gardens.

We had a traditional Sunday roast beef and Yorkshire pudding at the cutest cottage and really felt like we had enjoyed a great day out.

Took the bus back into Brighton to the shops to grab a few things before heading home for the evening and repacking our bags before we start the trip South towards home the next evening with a plane to Bangkok for five nights and some much warmer weather.

Another chapter in our travels nears its end and we will leave the UK with great memories and be excited to hit the shores of Tilbury in May when our ship docks there and we catch the train to Cornwall and our three weeks in Mousehole.

In the meantime we have plenty to look forward to so keep watching this space.