I Still Call Australia

Home – Peter Allen

Wednesday, 31 October, 2018 – Smooth flight, weather OK in Melbourne

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The meal service begins after midnight, hence the allocation of this part of the journey until the 31st.

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My Bloody Mary
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Curry prawn noodles as a starter
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Smoked Fish Salad for Julie
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Malaysian Chicken Curry for Me
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Elaborate cheese salad for Julie
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Small cheese selection for me
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Julie had not slept on the previous flight but it finally got to her

Although I am not interested in any of the movies in the selection and really needed some sleep, there is a stupid Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson movie on at a nearby seat called the Skyscraper. or something like that. It sucked me in although I never totally understood what was going on.

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My personal server who ensured that I had lots of good Shiraz while on the flight

Eventually I crashed big time. I had had some sleep on the first leg but was obviously quite tired as I slept through the lights on and breakfast service and was only awakened around when we were going to land.

When we land in Melbourne, I go on to the baggage area. The Immigration camera once again rejects me so I go into a regular line but the wait was not too bad and the Lady immigration officer was really nice.

I grab my suit case and go into the rest room, disabled of course, and get some fresh clothes as the 32+ hour of flying had left me in quite a mess. Julie has to pick up the pre-ordered duty free.

When I get out of the rest room I am surprised to have Julie waiting there with her bags on a trolley. The kids had grabbed her bags off of the carousel and put them directly on the trolley. They then left to catch an Uber home. We go through customs fairly quickly and are not searched. We go to take an elevator to the first floor where the Uber rides are from but there is a big queue so we take a taxi instead, Finally home, it was nice to be back.

Observations

* I was surprised at how many same sex couples that we saw along the way in Europe. They were in a variety of age groups from young adults to very senior people.

* Many of the same sex couples were mixed race as well.

* We were quite lucky with the weather much of the journey with “heat waves” caused by the “non-existent” global warming.

* Two of the absolute highlights of the trip were late additions and ones I had been quite skeptical about. The castle outside Versailles where we stayed with the tremendous Emma and family and Luxembourg for different reasons.

* The Kids were very useful in handling our luggage. They did have there share of fights along the way.

* The Peter Allen reference. Although we saw and did lots of nice things, in general Australia has just as good and most of the time better. For example, I could not get a decent Bratwurst in Berlin but at the Vic Market the next day after we returned I had one from the Bratwurst Shop that is really good.

Bonus

Our friends David and Kate had gone one two trips with Captains Choice while we were away. They left before Julie had departed and got back about the same time as us. So to “prove our toughness” we meet them at Dainty Sichuan in South Yarra for dinner that night. They had been to the similar areas as us in Scandinavian and around, in more depth and well before we got there. There second trip was all over South America in a private jet. We really enjoyed the food at DS, the Ants climbing trees fantastic, fish slices, etc. There were no leftovers which was unusual.

Anyway, here are some of their photos from the Panama part of their trip.

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She looks at ease
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Just a little bit of food
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Impressive presentation
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Colourful

Plus a couple of extra shots from Julie in London

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Nanny state. This is the same country that has specified that onions have t be put on a bun ahead of the hot dog or burger
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Very clever

Flight From Singapore

Tuesday, 30 October, 2018 – We are inside the airports but go through severe wind and rain squalls before we land in Singapore.

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The meal service begins after midnight, hence the allocation of this part of the journey until the 30th. We are flying in a crappy old A003 or something like that with one advantage of a little more storage space but other than that not a nice plane.

The food service begins with a chicken Ballantine which I definitely did not need. There was a decent Western Australian Shiraz from Xanadu which was OK.

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I asked for Duck and that is what I got – very good
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Julie had ordered Salmon, what else, but the grilled figs were an added pleasure
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Last thing I needed was dessert but the cheese platter was very impressive

As we come near Singapore, we are flying around and around in circles. This is due to severe storms and thunderheads. The plane gets one severe thumping.

Once we are inside the terminal, and there was some was some wait for a gate, we bypass the wheelchairs that have been sent to Julie and I and go directly to the lounge we are flying out from the same terminal at which we landed. The kids get off not long after us due to the efforts of the server in London.

Julie manages to convince the people at the lounge with her Doctors letters that Ryan and Tania were our official carers and after some hassles they are eventually allowed into the lounge with us.

I make myself a couple of Bloody Marys and then find some Australian Shiraz. I check out the food which was again quite ordinary. I had a bit of wonton noodle soup which was quite good but nothing else appealed.

We go off to the plane again board near 10:00, it is the famous SQ227 that I had flown so many times over the years. There is a decent wait until takeoff with all the other planes leaving at the same time but the bad weather has passed and the eventual takeoff was smooth.

Leaving London

Monday, 29 October, 2018 – Drizzly and Cold, but we are leaving town

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It is time to say goodbye to London after a week there. Julie arrived late last night from Oxford and I dozed a little bit. She is up early as usual to go get bread rolls and smoked salmon.

I never knew the exact checkout time for the apartment but we select 10:30. Ryan orders an Uber which arrives on time. The driver was very aggressive weaving in and out of traffic but we make it to Heathrow in good time.

I was going to title this “The 980th reason I hate flying”. We get to the airport to check-in and the Singapore Airlines Business Class counters are not to open for another 7-8 hours. So our choice is to fight the hordes to go through economy. Julie shows the guy in charge her Doctors letter and we are sent down to a special queue for special requests. One group crowded in front of the queue and took ages with plane changes booking changes, etc. Then there was a dog in the queue in front of us. The girl in charge disappeared for ages before finally coming back.

Finally it was our turn and although she had acted like a dingbat, she was very efficient, tagging all of our suitcases with priority tags including the kids flying Economy class, move their seats up to near the front of Economy that was the only good part of this whole process. There is still another 9 hours to wait until the flight is to take off, so the kids decide to go back into London. We finally escape into the restricted area and walk for about 30 minutes to the one Singapore airlines lounge, near the boarding gate.

That whole process took around 4 hours of hassles etc.

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This becomes my home for the next 8 hours

Julie went prancing around the airport for ages. She caught up with the kids on their return from town. The lounge started making announcements ages before airplane departure that the plane was about to depart. This was obviously to gather novices towards the boarding area. The lounge was mostly full with people who had seen this gross trick before.

I made myself a few Bloody Marys, found some OK French wine although it changed in place to place over the next 8 hours. The food was fairly ordinary for Singapore Airlines.

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Good collection of juices and waters
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The only Asian dish was Chop Suey – that went out of fashion in the 60s
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The cold cuts and salads were OK, if you like that kind of thing
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Sandwiches, same comment
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Finally some spicy chicken wings that were quite good

The airplane is to depart at 10:45 and then they tell us they will send a cart to pick us up at 10:15. Julie had elected to walk to the gate which wasn’t too far away and when the cart dropped me off, Julie and the kids were waiting there. We get sent to a special boarding area and there are about 20 of us cripples waiting to board.

The airplane is a new wide body with extra wide seats. One means of achieving these wide seats was to cut down on storage space. Also there was no overhead storage against the side of the plane, we were in a 1-2-1 configuration and had to share the overhead bin in the middle with the passenger against the wall. Minor whinges really.

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They served me a Bloody Mary as the clock reached midnight

Bonus – more of Julie’s Graduation Photos
Some of you have already seen these.

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In clobber, apparently was very cold
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Getting presented with the plaque
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With the group – Paul Fischer said unkindly that Julie was over twice their age, Julie put it a different way – she was older than all of their parents
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Listening to the speeches

The School of Rock

Sunday, 28 October, 2018 – OK but Cold

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After Julie’s late arrival, she is up early to go to the shos for the usual roll, Salmon and water. I have a piece of toast with Ham and melted cheese.

There has been discussion about going to see a matinee today. Tanika has a sore throat and decides she will stay in bed. Julie goes out again and buys the ticket in Covent Garden.

The show we are seeing is School of Rock. For details of the basic story, please see this website which describes the original movie starring Jack Black, who was supposedly tremendous

Ryan said that Jack Black, as Dewey Finn, was absolutely tremendous. At one stage this was the highest grossing musical of all time.

Any way, in this musical play, co-written and produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the music / songs have all been rewritten.

The show is at 3:00 PM but Julie insists that we get away at 1:45. The trip involves a walk to the station, Earls Court, and a train for several stops to Covent Garden. Ryan and Julie guide us to the Gillian Lynne Theatre.

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The Theatre
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The Guys waiting to have bags checked before entering the theatre

Ryan has not eaten so goes out for some food, dumplings we understand. We go up to our seats, which is a long climb of a lot of stairs. We purchase a very expensive small glass of wine and take them to the seats. It is a smallish theatre and we have seats near the back and to the side but they are OK.

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The Stage
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Looking towards the Orchestra

Eventually Ryan shows up. Shortly after the show commences with the voice of Andrew Lloyd Webber saying he is always asked if the (10 yo) kids are really playing those musical instruments. The answer “definitely”. And they are damn good.

As the show begins, we are told that no photos were to be taken. So I obeyed that but towards the end, the character playing Dewey Finn, the Jack Black part, told the audience that now was the time to take some photos.

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The Band
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another view of the band

After the show ends, we take the long walk down the stairs, which I hate. It is even worse as we are going to the street, another 4 or 5 flights. As we walk to the station, we go quite the wrong way. Eventually, we follow the crowd to the station. Our detour may have been a good thing as it enables the crowd to thin out a bit.

Convent Garden station is not as bad as it used to be, with 4 elevators up where there used to be just one. The train is very crowded but I get a seat, the others are happy to stand. When we get to Earls Court, Tanika is waiting for us to join us for dinner. We decide to go to our old favourite Thai place that I photographed the entrance the other day. Gary and I first went to this restaurant 10 years ago.

It takes a while to get our order taken but then service moves relatively quickly after that. The place was quite full but starts clearing out quickly shortly after.

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Special mixed entrée for all of us, some of it was quite good
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Our Australian Wine, better than the one we ordered
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Tanika’s Chicken Curry
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My Duck Curry
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Julie’s Whole Fish with Spicy sauce, a bit much but she eats it all
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Ryan had Pad Thai
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An extra green chicken curry arrived, Ryan ate most of it
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My Coconut Rice
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Tanika’s Sticky Rice

We walk back to the apartment. The end of a long and eventful day. We leave London for the long trip back home tomorrow.

Graduation Day

Saturday, 27 October, 2018 – Drizzly and Cold, but better than yesterday

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For those of my followers that know Julie well, e.g. Dawn/Chas, Lois and Peter, Brenda, Gary, Dave and Kate, sorry if I left out some worthwhile people, this is probably the main post that you have been waiting for. Here are some photos taken of the graduation by friends up in Oxford, we were still in London.

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Julie in graduation clobber, I could go for someone like that
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Julie and Classmate Friends
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Julie in the Sheldonian Theatre

We had gone to the Sheldonian last year to see a music performance. The Theatre is circa 1669 with the most amazing roof design.

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Julie with another classmate friend who I met last year
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At the graduation dinner, Julie had a smoked salmon starter
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and a white fish for main course

The afternoon fines up to be quite a nice day. I go for a lengthy walk around the blocks. The French restaurant had a special on where one get get all you can eat salad and fries, all you can drink champagne and rose and a main course for 30 pounds. However, it was only at lunch and the kids weren’t interested. I walked by it and there was only one patron participating, not a roaring success.

When I get back near home, I take a couple of photos of our apartment from the outside.

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We are in the ground floor just up those stairs
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Those two windows are where I worked

In the mean time, while back in the ranch, Ryan and Tanika come back about 4:00. The plan is to go out for dinner at another Pub but Tanika eats some food and is not hungry.

So, since Julie has left a couple of dinners for me in the fridge, I make an executive decision that we will eat in.

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Thai Green Curry and Rice for me

Ryan has a gourmet pie that was scheduled for me. Then after all that, the two of them go out for dinner.

Julie is scheduled to come back in around Midnight. I end up having a 3 hour nap while waiting. The Kids get home around 11:45 and not long after Julie arrives. Naturally she is quite wound up and ends up not going to bed until around 2:30 AM. I surprise myself by going back to sleep for a few hours.

Julie goes to Oxford

Friday, 26 October, 2018 – Drizzly and Cold

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Yes, Julie gets up early to go off to Oxford. She was supposed to leave at 6:30 but was late leaving again. She made the train on time, probably by running all the way with her suitcase, and arrived at Oxford. Julie is staying overnight in Oxford. Her accommodation was a long way away from the station, she was going to the physio, hairdresser, etc. Julie logged up 22 KM that day.

With the cold / wet weather I stayed inside until the late afternoon. Ryan and Tanika come back around 5 PM and after a quick wine we go out to go to a local Pub.

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Our selected Pub, not that far from home
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The Pub is from the 1880s, note the Halloween decorations
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Ryan went to the bar and ordered drinks, this beer came back for him and a wine we eventually shared
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Bangers and Mash for me, just OK

Ryan said that there were so many foreign type people working there they did not know the term bangers and mash.

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Beef burger and triple cooked fries for Ryan, fries were great
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Fush and chups for Kiwi Tanika, with mushy peas

The chips were also triple cooked and bigger in size that the fries. The fish was one I did not know but was said to be pretty good by the guys.

Back to the apartment for me and more good wine. No word from Julie in Oxford.

Borough Market

Thursday, 25 October, 2018 – nice but cool, cold at night

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Today we go to the Borough Market near London Bridge. Two trains does it. Now we have been to this market several times before and I don’t take many photos.

I suggested the night before that we go at 11:30 which was a dumb idea because the market was packed with people as it was the whole time we were there. We fight our way through the crowds and eventually find the shop that does confit duck.

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Selfie of me and my Confit Duck roll

It is clear that there is nowhere to sit. I stand behind a pole next to a stall that labels itself the best Burger in the market. There is a queue for that stall that just keeps growing. A big black guy at the front takes the orders, collects the money and cooks many of the burgers. There are also two other assistants madly cooking away too.

Julie wanders off to theoretically order food but is unsuccessful. She initially could not find me when she returned empty handed. She then spotted a wine bar across the way. We go inside and I take a seat while she goes out again to get her Salmon for lunch.

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Fine slicing of what looks like pate
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Using a blowtorch to melt the cheese on a pulled roll
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Looks like Julie buying Salmon from an outdoor grill
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I invested 35 Euro in a bottle of wine and a seat for an hour or two
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Main bar area
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There is an upstairs completely booked out

There is also a downstairs which has a private room, not in use. It also has 4 clean toilets. There were that many mothers that came in, pretended to look at the menu while the kids went downstairs to the toilet and then said nothing suited them and left. I imagine that these guys have seen it all many times before.

Finally Julie returns and has her 3 course meal – wine, coffee and (sparkling) water. Although she doesn’t drink any of the wine, just yet and heads out again into the market. Apparently it is still just as crowded.

When Julie comes back again, she is keen to leave as she has to go to Oxford tomorrow and do some packing / rearranging. We go out the door on the street and straight to the train station. Two trains and a walk and we are home.. No more photos