SHANGHAI, HONG KONG, CHAN MAY and PHU MY. 15th-25th March 2018.

SHANGHAI, CHINA, Thursday 15th-Saturday 17th March 2018

As we sailed towards our next port of call Shanghai the weather began to cool and the time on deck was shortened with just a few good hours of warmth in each day.

We woke on the 15th with the ship docking early in the morning around 2:30 am to find ourselves surrounded by incredible skyscrapers of all shapes as we are right in the hub of the city on the Yangtze River.

What an amazing sight and lots of surprised people like ourselves staring at the incredulous skyline around us.

We had booked a Best of Shanghai tour for our first day and it was early starts to clear immigration and get on our tour buses.

We had a great day visiting the Jade Buddha temple, old Shanghai and bazaar, the gardens a nice included lunch and a silk factory.

Pretty tired when we returned to the ship but we were keen to get on top deck to see the surrounding skyscrapers with their night lights on and watch the colourful lit up river cruise boats as they floated up and down past us for their dinner cruises.

It was time for dinner and recap of our day with Paul and Robyn before we all headed to our cabins for a semi early night as we all had tours booked for the next morning.

Our other dinner companions Karen and Stuart had departed for two nights staying onshore to explore on their own so we will look forward to hearing about their adventures when they reboard before our sail away.

Our second day adventure started with a fast elevator up to the 88 th floor of the Jinmao observatory for a fabulous view over Shanghai.

We were disappointed to find that today’s tour actually revisited several of our stops from the day before but we made the most of them by taking a chance to go further scouting around some of the better places by not joining the guide on a couple of repeated walks.

We enjoyed a lovely meal at the Grand Hyatt with our friendly small group of 15 tour members for lunch before finishing off at The people’s park and surrounds before it was time to return to the ship.

For a city with such a large population we have been surprised not to feel surrounded by masses of people and genuinely can’t believe how peaceful lots of places have been.

Our last day in Shanghai and with a 2 pm departure we had a great tour which included a trip on the worlds fastest train ride, the one to the airport which gets up to 430 kms an hour. They go this speed for two periods of time during the day and the rest of the day it travels along at a leisurely 300 kms ph

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the experience before we headed off to the top of the tower again, ( unfortunately there seemed to be quite a bit of overlapping on the tours provided) after that we stopped for a walk around the circular bridge that hovers over a Main Street intersection and allows for some magnificent views of the tv tower and highest skyscrapers. One thing we have constantly been impressed with here is the gardens and trees planted all through the city.

We have really enjoyed our time here and would definitely not be adverse to coming back.

We also along with a lot of the ship watched with awe the buildings, boat building and other happenings as we sailed out into the mouth of the ocean. The scene went on and on and this was when you really got the scope of how big Shanghai is. What an incredible and surprising place it is.

Next it’s two days at sea before we arrive at Hong Kong and we will say goodbye to a few of the lovely people we have met on board.

We also will look forward to the weather warming up again after getting out our thermals for the last few days.

We enjoyed a champagne toast to celebrate my dad Douglas as he turned 90 today the 17th, St Patrick’s day.

HONG KONG, Tuesday 20th to Wednesday 21st March 2018.

Having spent time here in November 2017 we didn’t have to feel rushed or under pressure to see it all in two days which with myself Jacquie harbouring a cold was just as well. Medicating myself up I was able to keep up with the little schedule we picked for ourselves.

The port provided a shuttle into the city from the cruise terminal which is the old airport and from there we took the underground to admiralty station on Hong Kong island and walked to Hong Kong park where we had visited in November but too late in the day for the aviary to be open so we wanted to tick that off. This is a lovely park and very close to the tram up to The Peak.

We had taken an Uber up and bus down last time so purchased our return tickets on the tram and headed up for the great ride that it is. I’m not sure at what degree the angle is but be sure it keeps you pushed to the back of your seat.

We did the reverse walk around the mountain when we reached the top and enjoyed it every bit as much as last time and wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a traditional walk each time we return to Hong Kong.

When we returned to the Diamond Hill station and shopping complex before grabbing the shuttle back to the ship James managed to pick up a couple of tee shirts at Uniqlo.

We had dinner with Paul and Robyn as Stuart and Karen had again taken the opportunity to hotel it in the city for the night and as it was Paul’s birthday we had a sparkling or two to celebrate and shared the birthday cake the ship provided along with the crew singing happy birthday as well.

As we had another port day to follow we headed to bed after dinner which to be fair doesn’t finish till almost 10 pm as our sitting is 8 pm.

The next morning we once again took the shuttle in and right across from Diamond Hill station is the gorgeous gardens and nunnery.

Truly worth a visit, they came recommended and didn’t disappoint. Get there early for a leisurely stroll with less people.

The nunnery doesn’t allow for photos inside the buildings which is a shame but understandable but the Buddha’s are gorgeous as are the flowering lotus’s in the pools.

We decided to purchase a few accessories for my phone and glad we did this in Hong Kong where English is still spoken, though not as widespread as it once was. The staff were able to walk us through The apps and instructions needed for what I wanted and we went off happy.

Spent our last money on a few treats to take on our future shore excursions and left the city after another pleasant visit.

Dinner was a great catch up hearing each other’s stories of their time spent and we watched the late show guest comedienne as we had a Sea day the next day.

We lost quite a few passengers at Hong Kong and welcomed on a new batch of friends to share our cruise with and we said hello to our new neighbours Jennifer and Paul from Queensland and chatted to another new couple in the gym Vicky and Mark also from Queensland and we were able to introduce them to our dinner companions when they walked past later that evening.

There’s only one Sea day till we arrive in Chan May, Vietnam for the first of our two stops there.

CHAN MAY, VIETNAM Friday 23rd March 2018.

This is our first visit ever to Vietnam and we have been looking forward to it immensely as it’s been on our “ want to go to “ list for some time. In the past when it’s come up our dollar had been quite strong so we had decided to keep returning to Europe and the last couple of years we had other things booked including our first world cruise so knowing this cruise had several stops in Vietnam was one of the reasons we had persevered with the booking and visa hassles.

We had a ships tour booked to Hoi An along with Karen and Stuart so we met beforehand to get on the same bus.

It’s always good when the tour means driving through the countryside and several towns as you get a feel for the place.

We drove past Marble beach a.k.a China beach from the war that the Vietnamese call the American war.

Hoi An is a gem and apart from hawkers every few steps wanting to sell wares it’s an incredibly easy town to be in. After our tour with the guide we spent our free time walking the markets including the local fresh food and seafood before finding a lovely cafe that made an excellent flat white and sat watching the world pass us by.

Lunch was quite a ride away but an extensive buffet was offered in a lovely river front setting.

It was a late lunch and afterwards it was just the drive back to the ship with a stop at the beach for a few photos as we had an early sail away at 6pm and in fact we slipped off about ten minutes early.

PHU MY, VIETNAM. Sunday 25th March 2018.

What an awesome day we had here and big thanks to Karen and Stuart whom had booked a private tour which had room for several others so when they offered, we jumped at it.

Xuan and his driver met us at the port entrance and after quick introductions we boarded the very spacious and comfortable van for our incredible day.

Xuan is a delightful young man of 27 who has taught him self English online and by utube. We could understand most of what he said except when he got excited and talked quickly.

He had a great itinerary planned with room for changes so we were able to forgo going to a temple and do a walk around Saigon ( Ho Chi Min) in the afternoon.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We headed off to see the Cu Chi tunnels which was a long drive as our ship was docked a fair way from the city but, Xuan filled the time with lots of information and pointed out lots of interesting facts about local life which we were grateful to find out about.

We drove through the middle of Saigon and though Xuan said it was quieter as it being a Sunday the colossal amount of motor scooters we witnessed and the hair raising driving at the intersections was entertainment enough till we got to the tunnels.

Xuan with his knowledge made sure that we really experienced as much as possible at this site.

What can you say about this piece of history that all those of our era and older have heard about, except it was mind blowing, the incredible spirit to survive and the cunning needed to ensure this was shown to us over and over as we witnessed the magnitude of the tunnels used to not only get around in, but the forced need to live underground with the surface area wiped out by agent orange and napalm. The building of wells, traps for their enemy, hospitals underground where women had to also give birth and raise children. After crawling around only 20 metres through one tunnel we emerged hot, sweaty and puffing as though we’d been in a race.

How anyone existed for the years they were forced to do this for is totally a study of mans resilience and survival instinct.

After an ice cream break we headed into the city and Xuan took us to an incredible restaurant for lunch. Nothing beats having a local help you order and teach you how to eat the delightful array of dishes we had. By far I think our favourite was the seafood hot pot with its delicious soup that Karen and I would have happily bottled and bought back to the ship to finish later.

No one left hungry and we all had a couple of beers so at just over $20 a head we left smiling and ready to explore more.

Our next stop was the war museum.

All I’m going to say about this stop was that it was compelling but the most heart wrenching story told by photos that I’ve ever witnessed, in easy comparison to images of concentration camp survivors but somehow worse were the photos of the deformities caused by agent orange on children born of survivors both Vietnamese and opposing soldiers.

There was no way I could take any photos it was just too emotional and almost disrespectful to do so. It will stay with us all for a long time.

There are a couple of famous photos that most will remember from the Vietnam war with America. One is the photo of the Napalm girl and the other is the shot of the last helicopter leaving Saigon from the top of the CIA building.

Xuan knew a guy who was able to allow us access to the rooftop and we got great shots of ourselves at this historic site.

Apparently the building is scheduled for demolition and this piece of history will be lost.

We had a walk through the city seeing the post office and Catholic Church and then enjoyed a delicious coffee before it was time to take the 90 minute trip back to port.

We had almost 11 hours of touring and we were surprised how we were all still awake enough to head for our 8 pm dinner but we did, although I was well ready for bed afterwards, still harbouring the last of a cold I’ve picked up.

Vietnam was everything we hoped and we will definitely have it on our return visit list.

We have one day at sea before we anchor at one of our favourite places Koh Samui, Thailand.

COLOMBUS CRUISE, SYDNEY to LONDON 10 weeks 24th Feb -6th May 2018

HERE WE GO AGAIN!

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Right from the start I want to say in all honesty we didn’t mind loosing the first seven weeks of this cruise as it gave us a chance to spend time catching up with family and friends. I still could have stayed longer to spend more time with the kids who lead such busy lives time is always hard to find to share lots of good quality time together.

So this time out was a bonus and we will make sure our scheduled visits home in the future allow for longer time frames.

We boarded at White Bay and found our cabin to be in both a good spot in the middle of the ship ( good for me with my tendency for seasickness) and a good size. We packed backpacks each for this trip with an extra shopping bag full of books and an emergency folding duffle full of toiletries.

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Having ample hanging space and drawers we quickly had things away and backpacks stored under the bed.

We did the requisite walk through the ship and were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the refitted public areas. Lovely bright and open bars where live music is played and two good sized pools on the main open deck.

The gym was perfectly placed on the 2nd deck which for me is fantastic. Little movement there means I’m likely to get there more frequently.

We have made a decision at this point to not drink at all or very rarely on this trip. Having travelled for over nine months now it’s time to pull the “this is a lifestyle” not a full on holiday of indulgence 24/7 and reign in the bad holiday, habits. we both want to walk off fitter than we have been lately.

I’m sure a few drinks will be had but we’re trying to keep it to the minimum.

Over the next few days we settled into life at sea and after a couple of sleep ins began getting up earlier and doing our exercise thing after a quick coffee one floor up at the Plantation restaurant I started walking the circuit with a group and James headed to Pilates. This followed by breakfast and a session at the gym meant we were starting on the right foot.

The rest of the day while the weathers been pleasant is spent poolside on a lounger in the shade reading and snoozing.

Dinner is at 8 pm and after sitting on our own for two nights with no shows from whom ever was supposed to be sharing our table we happily accepted an invitation to join Robyn,Paul, Stuart and Karen at their table.

This has ensured great starts to our evenings and often we all go onto the 10 pm show from there together.

We have continued to be surprised by the difference at the attendance of people out late each night compared with our last cruise. For a ship of mostly over 50s they’re a party crowd and the bars are well attended till very late. Even the parties which haven’t started till 10 or 11 pm have been well patronised including the 60s night held on top deck.

YORKYS KNOB: Wednesday 28th February.

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Our first port of call and we were SOOO EXCITED to be met by the fabulous Ms Julie whom we had met onboard our World cruise 2017, along with her husband Matt they had been part of our family of friends till they left us at Dover, but the powers of Facebook meant we had kept in touch and here we were reunited for a fantastic day of a personal tour of Cairns and surrounds.

We first drove to Palm Cove a gorgeous seaside area reminiscent of Noosa and met up with her brother Michael whom joined us for some of the day and as we drank coffee in a local cafe we listened as the days plan began to unfold.

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A coastal drive up to Ellis beach gave us views of the long stretch of coastline that goes to Port Douglas and beyond.

It’s beautiful country where the rain forest meets the sea.

White sand and inviting blue water gives you that idyllic tropical view but deadly repercussions should you dare swim in those waters from September till end of April.

Giving the nippers surf clubs up this way the normally “out of season” “in season”.

We took a short side trip to Smithfield shopping centre for us to pick up a few things and we drove on up to visually attractive town of Kuranda and stunning Bowen falls before heading to Julie and Matt’s stunning home for a little “scan” ( senior citizens afternoon nap) of around 20 minutes on their comfy outdoor lounges overlooking their pool and magnificent views to the hinterlands beyond.

Julie dropped us off in Cairns as she had to do a short 1 1/2 hour stint at work. We had a walk around the seafront shopping area and had a drink with Julie and her delightful daughter Cassidy when they came back to reclaim us.

What a wonderful day we had and from the sounds of everyone else’s story I think we had the best day. Look forward to taking our caravan up that way and poking around this gorgeous area in a much more in-depth way.

I confess I was a bit teary saying goodbye, good friends are just the best.

The next few days on the ship we met more people, kept up my morning walk and James his Pilates but changed our gym to late afternoon and made more use of those sun loungers .

DARWIN, SUNDAY 4th MARCH 2018.

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We looked forward to meeting James cousin’s daughter Nadine in Darwin who had offered to pick us up and show us her home town even though she had never met us before. What a lovely gesture and what a lovely person she is.

We really felt immediately relaxed in her company and we went into town for a coffee and chat about what we’d do that day.

As we drove all around Darwin we were impressed with the many public green areas some teeming with kangaroos. Had a stop at the museum to go through the Cyclone Tracy exhibit and other great exhibits including some awesome art. We enjoyed lunch on the waterfront at one of the marine clubs after looking at some beautiful homes on the waterways very reminiscent of the Gold Coast and Mooloolaba areas.

Another stop at K Mart to pick up a few last things we felt we needed to make our cabin stay more comfortable. A lovely walk through the botanical gardens and before we knew we had come to the time to say thank you and goodbye till next time to Nadine.

Our next stop will be Komodo Island and a visit onshore to see those mighty dragons the islands famous for.

KAMODO ISLAND, Wednesday 7th March 2018

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We were taking a ships tour today for the Dragon experience and although it was fantastic to see the Dragons up close and a lovely walk through the forest I wish I had checked out private tours as there is a lot more to this gorgeous island paradise than it’s namesake monster lizards.

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It is beautiful here, lots on very green undulating hills, beaches and marine life to enjoy as well.

I would definitely consider a tour here for more time to enjoy it all.

It’s exceedingly hot today and as our tour only was for a few hours we have plonked our selves poolside hiding in the shade with frequent pool time.

The Dragons are an incredible story of survival as the likelihood of making it to adulthood is extremely difficult what with predators after them from the time they’re just an egg till they’re hatched and growing to adulthood and not just other animal predators but they’re cannibals and even parents will eat their young.

The island is home to humans as well and of course you have to walk the gauntlet of store holders wanting you to buy. Sadly if they left you to look at leisure you would be more inclined to stop and peruse. James did want a tank top for the gym but they were quoting ridiculous prices even with bartering would have been way too overpriced and the shirt ended up being bought at our next stop Manila.

Sailing away through the beautiful waters with glorious green islands was stunning and a real highlight.

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The ship life is continuing to agree with us and we’ve had pretty smooth sailing.

Our dinner companions are great company and the shows at night have been enjoyable.

Drinks packages on here have been very reasonable and they’ve captured quite a few purchasers and probably one of the reasons the bars are busy and full till late.

MANILA, PHILIPPINES, Sunday 11th March 2018.

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We arranged to be picked up by Ronnie at The Manila hotel which was just off the port we were docked at for our stay in the city.

Ronnie was our room steward during our world cruise in 2017 and James and he have kept in contact via Facebook.

We were delighted and thrilled to be invited to his home to meet his family including his wife Tina and their two daughters, son in law and brand new grand daughter.

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We were welcomed into their home and given lunch before we walked around to their friends home where the son was celebrating his 21 st birthday with karaoke which had we stayed later would have got louder I’m sure as more friends were expected to arrive as the afternoon wore on into the evening.

Not knowing we were coming they certainly didn’t blink an eye and made us very welcome. Opening wine for us and bringing out different dishes for us to try.

Not wanting Ronnie to have to leave the party to drive us back we grabbed a Grab and headed to the Robinsons shopping mall where the ship had organised a shuttle from.

James bought that tank singlet and a real coffee before we took the shuttle back to the ship and a lovely warm evening on deck as the three main male singers entertained everyone as we sailed out of the harbour and started our journey to Shanghai China.

We had had a great day and as we drove through the city and suburbs we got a good view and tour by Ronnie. There’s a lot more to see here and who knows there may be another time to explore more.

Tips and things we’ve learnt travelling in our first year.

My number one saying is “a plan is just a plan to get you started” it doesn’t matter if the plans change along the way it’s more important that you started.

Of course once you get started the list of tips grows the more you travel and a mistake becomes a reminder of what not to do next time the same or similar situation occurs, but these are a few that we see as being important for travelling for us as a couple.

If you’re travelling with a partner make sure you’re compatible!

Can communicate with each other, plan together and most importantly laugh together.

We’ve had some bummer moments and have really relied on each other to rally our spirits and move forward.

We’ve also had more incredible WOW moments as well that we’re thrilled to have shared.

Know your comfort zone, reach beyond it when you can safely but don’t feel you have to do everything or anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or scared.

I’ve done lots of things I wouldn’t normally do and am glad I have but I don’t let myself feel pressured to eat the crazy stuff that makes my stomach turn just thinking about eating, because guide books or other people say “ while you’re there”. But I do like to try new foods and experiences.

Ask for what you need to make your stay comfortable in your accommodation.

Even when we stay budget we will ask for second pillows, an extra bed covering if needed, in the Philippines we only ever were given a top sheet and we would ask for a second one as often the aircon was facing the bed and although you needed it on, it can be a little cool when directly pointed at you.

Sometimes you don’t get toiletries, as we like to travel light and on a budget, I’ve found dishwashing liquid or cheap shampoo is a good buy. I use it for body wash, shampoo and washing our clothes.

If you get a fan in your room, while you’re out keep it on and face it at your clothes drying, usually they’re hanging on coat hangers and we get several loads dry this way.

We carry a universal sink plug with us, which we’ve used several times, validating it’s place in our bag, along with a stretch clothes line and blow up coat hangers. The hangers are excellent for drying clothes with as well as for their usual purpose, we use them lots, we carry four between us.

Talk to people, initiate conversation, you learn heaps this way and make new friends.

Travellers all want the tips from where you’ve been just as you want theirs.

We’re talkers and love company so will happily chat to most people.

It’s also good for us as a couple as we’re together pretty much 24/7 to have some new conversation.

Keep in touch with your family and friends at home. Make sure you talk about what they’re doing not just what a great time you’re having.

And let’s be honest, travelling isn’t always fun. You do have bad days, things break, get lost, don’t work, aren’t available, not the same as at home, you get sick, food isn’t always great, transport isn’t always on time, accommodation can be bad, it rains, weather delays tours, transport, flights etc.

Always recheck your plans for onward travels way before you’re packing your suitcase to go, we’ve had a few misplaced bookings which have caused minor panic till the email with the information had been found.

Keep things in the same places to avoid panic. Money, passports, credit cards, keys etc all freak you out when you can’t find them in a hurry.

Buy the SIM card, get the data, it’s worth it if you’re in a place long enough with bad wifi as was the case in The Philippines.

If you can afford the time, stay longer at a place so you can relax as well as do all the day trips etc you want to do.

We have been so glad to have extra days to allow for bad weather, getting plans sorted for the next lot of travel, relax and take time to feel familiar and comfortable in a place.

When booking accommodation use the filters, how handy would a fridge be in hot climates for keeping bottled water and beer in.

What will make your stay better than just ok?

Do you want breakfast included? Some places the breakfast on offer isn’t worth the extra bucks. Other places it’s a real winner.

Read the reviews, does the internet they offer really work!

You don’t have to do everything in the guide book.

A lot of times it’s just fun wandering around and discovering cool places on your own.

Use local transport when you can.

The google maps app is brilliant for this. Put in where you are and where you want to go and it will come up with the how and when and where. We have used this all around the world.

We have used Uber in quite a few different countries as well.

But don’t be afraid to book tours to save time and get some of the touristy things ticked off, it can help decide if you want to go back and spend longer somewhere, and some times it’s just really nice to have someone else organising things. You also meet new people on tours.

Can’t iterate this enough TRAVEL LIGHT! Most times a carry on bag really is all you need. Toiletries are everywhere in the world, it’s true, believe me.

So are shops! You can always replace an item of clothing with something similar or something that works even better.

You will be glad you haven’t checked a bag over and over when you’re waiting anxiously at the baggage carousels world wide.

It’s also easier to transport a carryon size piece of luggage than bigger suitcases.

I am always amazed at what I can fit in my 46 litre Osprey Porter backpack.

I am using this for our 10 week cruise and 17 weeks in Europe/uk.

I admit I am also taking a large beach bag with me on the cruise to carry toiletries that I don’t want to spend my precious time off shore looking for, and some books. Even though I have a kindle I still like a genuine hold in your hand book occasionally and as I have a few waiting to be read, well they can come along and be left for other passengers onboard.

Keep a colour theme and add a few colour accessories or a bright top/ scarf just to liven things up.

I have started taking more dresses that I can also add some thin long pants to giving them a different look and carry me through some changes of weather. These give my wardrobe some colour too.

Take some thin thermals and use them as your long sleeve tops and leggings. Uniqlo have a great range of these.

Clothing and shoes are always packed with the locations we’re going to and their climate in mind.

We also take along with the earlier mentioned blow up coat hangers, universal plug and stretch clothes line, a small sewing kit ( I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used the safety pins for completely random uses).

Cables for all our devices and universal charger/ power point converges ( these have changed to just USB style charging ports now)

A small travel towel which used with a sarong is all you need for beach days.

Zip lock bags are fantastic and we use them all the time.

Photocopies of all our important documents eg: birth certificates, marriage certificate, passport front pages, travel insurance and any travel documents for flights etc are in a folder.

We research constantly about the places we’re going to for places of interest, transport options, accommodation and we use lots of different travel apps and read quite a few bloggers for ideas and inspiration so our I pads are a valuable and essential tool for us. We back everything up on “the cloud”.

Most importantly is enjoy what you’re doing and where you’re at. There’s a three day rule which states you can get used to most things in that time frame if after that you’re not maybe it’s time to make a change, be that accommodation or location.

We travel because it’s our passion, hobby, lifestyle choice and we hope we have a lot of years of travelling ahead of us. That means we have to keep practicing being safe and following the tips we know to keep it fun and as easy as possible and add more tips as we go along.

Happy travels friends.

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.

COSMOS TOUR 20-28th DECEMBER 2017″

December 20th.

After a day doing not too much except the Deutsches Museum and moving to the hotel our tour was leaving from, 6pm rolled around and it was time to meet the tour director and other tour members for a quick run down on a few housekeeping issues for the trip. After the quick meeting James and I headed back to the Greek restaurant close by for our last meal. They treated us to a nip of ouzo at the end of our meal and wished us safe travels so that was a pleasant end to our stay in Munich.

All very civilised the next morning with breakfast at 7.30 am and on the bus for an 8:30 departure with our first stop to be at Nuremberg. Very glad we spent the day there on the Tuesday as it was a only a two hour stop and it was raining whereas Tuesday had been a beautiful clear day. We Spent our time having coffee and cake and a tour of the medieval dungeons with a quick walk through the streets back to the bus.

We scored the front seats on the bus which was a bonus as we will be rotating every day and this was one of the longest driving days.

Headed into Prague about 5pm and what a groovy old hotel the international is, she sure is a grand old lady and we could not be happier with our room which is extremely large and comfortable.

We didn’t sign up for the optional dinner at 48€ each we decided we were more keen to hop on the tram and head into the old town to catch it in all its Christmas glory.

Prague was looking simply stunning and we spent three and a half hours wandering around and grabbing something to eat and of course a beer.

Friday the 22nd and we had an included tour of part of the city, which we went on then left the group at 11 am.

The municipal building has a grand feel from days gone by and we booked a tour through it and also tickets for a couture exhibition there as well. But before that we enjoyed coffee and cake in the restaurant.

The tour was excellent, really great guide who was knowledgeable without throwing so much at you, you wouldn’t take it in.

After there we attacked an art gallery with exhibitions by Salvidor Dali, Andy Warhol and Alfons Mucha. All terrific and really informative.

By then we were happy to catch the bus back to hotel and relax before meeting everyone for dinner at 7.

Saturday 23rd and it’s off to Vienna and a tour of the town. James and I have been here three times in the last seven years so didn’t take many photos during the day.

but after arriving at our hotel in the afternoon we quickly headed back in towards town to catch a couple of the Christmas markets. It’s not just the stalls but the decorations, lights, and atmosphere that really are the winning combination that pull you in to these markets.

All too soon it was the 24th December and we hopped on the bus and off to Schonbrunn Palace, where some were doing the inside tour. Having done that twice already we walked the gardens and up to the Gloriette to enjoy the view back over the gardens, the palace and beyond to the Vienna woods.

It was so glorious with so few people around to really enjoy the serenity…

A coffee and stroll around the Christmas markets before getting back on bus and heading back into the city for a few hours free time and then it was off to BUDAPEST.

we have been so lucky with the hotels on this tour, due to the low season pricing we’ve been scoring much better hotels in great spots.

What can you say about Budapest, except she’s beautiful and a Christmas Eve Danube Cruise was a lovely way to spend the evening and have some fun with the tour group.

Christmas morning and after breakfast we had an included sightseeing tour taking in all the usual sights, Heroes Square, Parliament House, fisherman’s bastion and then it was back to the hotel for Christmas lunch.

We had planned to go to Gellert Spa in The afternoon and we were joined by Karen and Terry from Willoughby for a lovely walk there and back and a wonderful couple of hours floating around in the luxurious surrounds of these thermal pools.

And then it was time to pack our bags for Salzburg.

It was almost dark by the time we arrived after stopping for lunch on the way at Melk to see the ornate inside of their monastery.

We checked out the bus timetable and headed into the old town hopefully to catch the last of their Christmas market which was finishing that day. They were just starting the pack down when we arrived but we still got a taste of what it was like and after a couple of lovely hours strolling around we headed back for the hotel and call it a day.

The next morning the 27 th we had an excursion about the sound of music and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Really saw some parts of the city we wouldn’t know were there and the local guide was excellent.

I am sixteen going on seventeen………..

James outside the convent where sister Maria went.

We had another couple of hours in the town before we all climbed aboard for our drive back to Munich and our farewell dinner.

We have really enjoyed our Cosmos tour and everyone was friendly and good company.

The youngest 13 and the oldest not quite sure but I know someone turned 68 on the tour.

So we waved and hugged everyone goodbye as we all leave for our next adventures and we take a flight to London.