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Posts Tagged ‘London’

The journey home from Chile

January 30th, 2016 No comments

Normally I consider paying extra for better seats a luxury or an unnecessary expense, with standard seating usually being adequate, but after my final flight home I think the ones I paid extra for were worth every penny. In total I paid in the region of 150 euros for an over-wing exit row from London to Madrid and front row exit row seats on the flights to/from Chile, electing to save my money and have a standard seat on the final flight from Madrid to London. Big mistake.

Never in my life have I had such uncomfortable seats and so little leg room, on any aircraft and with any airline all around the world including the North Korean state airline. The seat was uncomfortable and gave me a back ache, the head rest was too low for my height which hurt my neck and even spreading my legs as far as they could go without squashing the person next to me or tripping people over as they walked past my knees were still pressed into the seat in front of me so solidly that walking off of the plane upon arrival in London caused me a lot of pain. I am just thankful that the person in front of me didn’t even attempt to put their seat back or I could have sustained real injury. Apparently Iberia don’t think people above the size of small child travel on their aircraft.

Iberia have horrible leg room

Horrible leg room Madrid – London

Iberia ()lack of) leg room

Another photo of the painful conditions I found myself in on Iberia.

The flight itself was made worse by a large group of Uruguayan school children who, after hitting me in the face with their bags several times as they boarded, proceeded to be so loud that it gave me a headache. We also did not receive any drinks or food service for the entire flight due to severe turbulence which, although I am not affected by it usually, combined with the lack of food and drink made me feel quite sick. Neither of these problems were the fault of Iberia, but they made my uncomfortable conditions a lot worse due to the fact I couldn’t get up to stretch my legs, use the bathroom or drink any water to calm my stomach or head. Although I guess in some way at least the turbulence meant that the Uruguayan kids couldn’t run around and annoy everybody like they did during the first 30 minutes of the flight as they had to remain in their seats.

Maybe next time I will fly with a different operator, or via a different route, although if Iberia work out to be the best option again I will definitely book the extra leg room seats no matter what the cost especially for the transatlantic legs. No way could I have survived 13 hour flights in those conditions.

Luckily the rest of my journey home was much better. After breakfast we left the apartment for our journey to the airport, which went fairly smoothly. It was a short metro ride to Los Heroes, where the airport bus starts, and the next bus started boarding shortly after we arrived. It is a very efficient service, has a bus every 10 minutes during the day, and is cheap but I do wish they had more space for luggage. By the time everybody boarded the small luggage area on board looked more like a jenga tower. Hopefully they will extend the metro to the airport soon which will make the process even easier, but I had no real problems with the transfers.

Santiago de Chile

Our apartment was in the smaller building in the background

Santiago de Chile

The neighbourhood that our apartment was in

I was able to check straight in when I arrived at the airport which gave me a chance to have a quick lunch and final catch up with Steven. There aren’t that many food options at Santiago Airport, just a couple of cafes from what I saw, so while the airport seems to be very efficient don’t get here too early as you will end up frustrated.

I always like to write about issues that I encounter when I travel just so that anybody reading my blog has an idea of what to expect. I don’t generally moan or complain about anything I encounter when I travel as it is only fair to play by the rules of the countries you visit, and my return journey from Kyrgyzstan to London last year was far worse than anything I encountered returning from this trip. However, the more information you have the more you are prepared and the more you are prepared the more you will enjoy your trip as you won’t let little things get to you.

As I said though the extra leg room seats were worth every penny I paid. I had an extremely comfortable flight from Santiago to Madrid and, while I didn’t sleep for more than a few minutes, I arrived in Madrid refreshed and relaxed. I saw some interesting cloud formations and watched some good movies but other than that the flight was fairly uneventful.

Extra leg room on Iberia

Extra leg room Santiago – Madrid

Santiago Airport

Santiago Airport, waiting to depart

Cloud formations over Brasil

Cloud formations over Brasil

Arriving back in your home city from a great trip is always a low point, but having been in Latin America for 11 days I almost had a culture shock when I got back to The UK. After leaving the aircraft it was well over an hour before I saw anybody smile and in that time I heard 11 people either shouting at people or having arguments with random strangers, in most cases over the smallest of things, and there was a severe lack of eye contact compared to Chile. I guess when you live somewhere you get used to the way things work, and the attitude of the population, but this enforces what I have said several times about travel being essential to personal growth and to opening you up to new ideas / cultures. The more you travel, especially off of the beaten track or at least away from tourist hotspots, the less things tend to bother you and the less you tend to rely on things being exactly how you expect them. That is my experience anyway, I don’t know about in general.

But for now it is time for sleep. It has been an exhausting but absolutely amazing two weeks which I have enjoyed immensely, and one which has made me fall in love with another country all over again. This is only the second time I have been to Latin America but I always have such an amazing time so I know I will be back. I don’t know when, I don’t know the countries I will visit and I don’t know what format my trip will be but I will definitely be back. So many good experiences and so many good memories.

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A nightmare journey home

June 6th, 2015 No comments

After arriving back in London I think I needed the luck that I wished for in my previous post as the journey was certainly an experience. This is going to be a fairly text-filled post as I didn’t take many photos due to it being a travel day and due to the crazy fellow passengers – sorry about that.

When travelling, especially on trips like this, I plan for the unexpected. That’s why when I was told I wouldn’t need to arrive at Bishkek Airport until 2 hours before my flight I told my hotel the wrong flight time in order to arrive there 3 hours before and I’m glad I did as the first half of the return journey, from arriving at Bishkek airport until transferring in Moscow, was a nightmare.

I arrived at the airport about 3 hours 15 minutes before my flight was due to depart, as they were starting to set up ready for check-in to open, so I ate the on-the-go breakfast which my hotel provided while waiting. By the time I finished eating the check-in desk was open and I joined the queue behind maybe 4 groups, totalling around a dozen people. You would have thought that check-in would have been quick with that few people there but this was not the case. No sooner had I joined the queue but a couple of coaches of Russians arrived all at once and caused chaos. A large number of people decided to just push in because they didn’t want to queue (some used trolleys as battering rams, some picked up children and placed them in the queue so that when they got to the front and started crying the family would join them). During the time it took to get to the front more queues had formed either side of the real one so that people could just barge in. Several of the people who jumped the queue, after being checked in, then proceeded to walk back up the queue to attempt to sell mobile phone sim cards to fellow passengers. I eventually got to the check-in desk over an hour after joining the queue.

Then came the fun of passport control. After completing check-in I proceeded straight to the passport control queue and there were maybe 100-150 people in front of me in the queue. Once again I use the word queue lightly as it quickly turned into one big mass of people all pushing each other out of the way to try to get to the front quicker, which delayed things for everybody. It took so long for the queue to begin to clear that they had to keep calling passengers forward when their flight was boarding. Other than the fact people were pushing in I’m not sure why it took so long to go through passport control as both myself, and a friend I made in the queue who was on the same flight, were processed in less than a minute. We were both stamped with the incorrect exit date but were told that it was not a problem – we didn’t query the officer in case he sent us to the back of the queue.

By the time I made it through security and into the departure lounge my flight was due to board within 10 minutes, despite how early I arrived at the airport. I grabbed some snacks in the shop and then tried to find which gate my flight was due to depart from, but it was not listed on the board. I tried to find some staff members to ask but other than the shop cashier there were no staff to ask. Eventually me and the other passenger walked up and down the departure lounge until our flight appeared on the screens at one of the gates.

About 5 minutes after they started processing people for boarding an announcement was made in Russian which prompted everybody, including the gate staff and passengers who had already been processed, to start rushing to the other end of the terminal. I asked a lady near us what was happening and she told me that the announcement said the buses which were due to take us to the plane had turned up at a different gate and the drivers didn’t want to move. No I’m not kidding!

I eventually made it to my seat, after what seemed like a mission, and found out that I was sat directly behind a large, drunk, loud man whos first act after sitting down was to slam his seat back with such force that be broke it and slammed it into my knees making me jump in pain. Throughout the flight the Aeroflot staff did a brilliant job of trying to control him, and refused to serve him any alcohol, but he proceeded to open a bottle of cognac he had smuggled onto the plane and became even more annoying. He was so drunk by mid-flight that he couldn’t get out of his seat to go to the toilet so tried to call for help. Unfortunately he couldn’t focus enough to work out which was the call button so ended up making some sort of disco effect with the overhead lights of his row until he eventually pressed the correct one and was pulled out of his seat by Aleksei, a very patient flight attendant.

On the way back from the toilet he tried to get back into his seat but couldn’t work out how to so launched himself sideways, headbutted the man in the middle seat, and ended up with one leg over the arm rest and waving into the aisle. A lot of people were getting embarassed by this point, including the elderly Russian lady next to me who started shaking her head muttering various things under her breath.

Throughout the remainder of the flight he kept asking for alcohol and was continually refused. From the little Russian I understood I worked out that after being denied alcohol he just kept asking for Vodka, because apparently that isn’t alcohol, and was then denied this because on Aeroflot only Business Class are served spirits. He wasn’t happy about this so waited for the cabin crew to walk away before getting out of his seat, storming into Business Class and being chased by the cabin crew for a few minutes.

I wish I had made the above story, and the details of my bus ride to Bishkek yesterday, up but unfortunately it is all true. The general response of people who I have told the story to has been utter disbelief, and a lot of open-mouthed shock. I have a feeling that I will be telling this story for many years to come, but for some reason the entire experience didn’t get to me. I sometimes let things get to me in my day-to-day life but when travelling you have to expect crazy things like this. I must admit I wasn’t expecting so may crazy things all in one journey but whether you enjoy travelling to unusual destinations like Kyrgyzstan depends on whether you are able to handle things like this. I did keep thinking “this has to be some sort of test” to myself throughout the journey and maybe in some way it was – I now know that when travelling I can overcome some pretty crazy things!

Moscow Airport

Transiting through Moscow Airport

My transit through Moscow airport and the flight back to London were fairly uneventful. The flight, in comparison to the last one, was luxurious and I had an entire 4-seat row of a Boeing 777 to myself to be able to stretch out and watch TV in.

After arriving back at Heathrow I changed my unused US Dollars back before making my final journey back home. I already know that my next trip will be to Chile, I just don’t know when it will be yet. Either way hopefully my journey will be less eventful. Stay tuned to my blog!

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Charlie : London 2012 Olympic Games

August 13th, 2012 No comments

Charlie has spent the past few weeks helping me volunteer at the London 2012 Olympic Games. While not foreign travel he did travel all around London, and helped me in my duties driving Park Yong-Sun (The President of the Korean Olympic Committee), so think that a post here is required.

As the person I was driving was extremely busy we visited a lot of places in London including hotels and restaurants in the city itself, the Excel Arena, Wembley Arena and Stadium, Eton Dorney rowing venue, Greenwich, Greenwich Park, North Greenwich Arena (The O2), Lord’s Cricket Ground, The Royal Artillery Barracks, Brunel University, Heathrow Airport, The Olympic Park and the Athlete’s Village. He even had a chance to come with me to the Closing Ceremony after I was given a ticket by the Korean Olympic Committee as a gift to thank me for my work during the games. I didn’t have a chance to take as many photos as I would have like, but here are a selection.

Charlie

Charlie in the London 2012 Athlete’s Village

Charlie

Charlie at Brunel University

Charlie

Charlie at the Olympic Rings in the Residential Zone of the Athlete’s Village

Charlie

Charlie in the Olympic Park

Charlie

Charlie in the Olympic Park

Charlie

Charlie in the Olympic Park

I had a great time during London 2012, and will remember these weeks for a very long time.

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Helsinki Day 1 – Travelling

September 17th, 2009 No comments

A very early start today to pick my friend George up from her house in Canterbury before travelling to Gatwick for our flight to Helsinki with Easyjet.

The journey to Gatwick was quite quick and when we arrived at the car park it didn’t take long for a bus to arrive to take us to the airport. We had already checked in online so went straight through passport control but got stopped by security – they were checking quite a lot of people today. Not quite sure why my bag got picked maybe it was a random sample or maybe they were having problems with the machines.

Icky at Gatwick Airport with our plane

Icky at Gatwick Airport with our plane

Time for a coffee at Nero before walking to our plane. Boarding was a little late and the scrum for the plane was as usual but we managed to get an exit row which was great – I like extra leg room due to my long legs! The flight was uneventful and we didn’t see much due to cloud cover but we arrived in Helsinki on time. We took the local bus into the city and it went through all the housing estates on the way before arriving at the central train station 30 minutes later.

Me at Helsinki Harbour

Me at Helsinki Harbour

It was a little early to check in so we took a slow walk to the Eurohostel and took in some sights on the way such as the Orthodox Cathedral, Marina and Presidential Palace.

Helsinki Harbour

Helsinki Harbour

Helsinki Orthodox Cathedral

Helsinki Orthodox Cathedral

A photo of our room at the hostel

A photo of our room at the hostel

Another view of our room

Another view of our room

The third member of our group, Anna, was arriving another day but we let them know this so she could check in when she arrived. After checking in and travelling up a very questionable lift to our room we relaxed for a bit before randomly wandering the city to take in some more of the sights.

We are both quite tired and getting used to the cold so will have an early night ready for the next few days.

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Africa Day 18 – Crazy Airport Security

September 7th, 2009 No comments

Today I got up at 5am, had a quick shower and checked out before saying goodbye to people that were leaving at the same time. I took my taxi to the airport and it was really quick with no detours unlike on the way in. My driver asked for less money than on the way out but asked me to pay it before we got to the airport otherwise if the police saw it they would have asked for some.

Security at Nairobi airport was intense. I had my ticket checked, went through a metal detector and had my bags scanned before even getting into the terminal. Then after checking in I went through two levels of passport control before getting to the departure lounge. I shopped for a while before going to the gate that had been called where I found even more security. I had my passport and boarding pass checked before walking through a metal detector and having my bags scanned again. I went to put my belt back on but was told not to as there was another set of checks – where my passport was checked, I walked though ANOTHER metal detector and had my bags scanned AGAIN before getting to the departure gate.

All of this made you feel safe but did feel excessive.

The flight back was quite nice. I requested a seat on the aisle and I’m planning to watch some movies before getting some sleep. I’m due to arrive at Heathrow this afternoon where I will be met by my family to be driven back home.

Our tour group in Eldoret Hospital visiting Janneke

Our tour group in Eldoret Hospital visiting Janneke

Overall I had an amazing time in Africa. The highlight was of course trekking with the endangered Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda, and being grabbed by one of them, but I saw and did so many great things. Lovely scenery, lovely people, great new friends and almost 2000 amazing photos! Al and Jono were awesome tour staff and it’s almost impossible to say how great Den was – awesome chef and great guy too. I miss his food already.

There are so many places I want to see in the world but every time I go to Africa (real Africa not the bit up north) I feel home. Africa is definitely on my list of possibilities for next year and if I do go I’ll seriously consider Dragoman again!

Here’s a small map of our route for future reference – courtesy of the Dragoman website.

Tour map of Dragoman trip ZNN159

Tour map of Dragoman trip ZNN159

Dragoman Logo

Dragoman Logo

Ps: I know I wrote a lot here – sorry about that – most of the length is photos anyway. The blog does go onto two pages… and if you want to just read stuff from this trip click on “2009 Africa” in the categories menu to the right and the most recently dated page of the two will be shown.

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Africa Day 1 – Travel to Heathrow

August 21st, 2009 No comments

I got up fairly early this morning and made final preparations for my holiday before getting a taxi to the train station. The train ride was rather uneventful, as was the tube ride until we started approaching Heathrow. The door I was standing next to wasn’t closed properly and as it was raining water started coming in and getting me wet.

I got to Heathrow fairly early so I could check in and pick a good seat – my flights for this trip are with Virgin Atlantic and they have automatic check-in machines where you decide which seat you wish to have. I checked in and had a quick coffee before going through passport control, doing a little bit of shopping and having a meal at TGI Fridays. After the meal, which took a little longer than I’d have expected, I wandered around the terminal for a while during which time I saw Calvin that worked for Canadian Airlines on that Airport show a few years ago.

The flight was a little late arriving at Heathrow so we were a little late boarding but I was in for a nice surprise when I got on board – they asked me to move to the exit row since there was nobody there. I tried to select it at check-in but the machine said it was unavailable. I was only required to stay there for take-off but decided to stay there for the entire flight due to the extra leg room, as did the guy next to me who was from Fiji and being sent to Kenya by the British Army to do logistics for some military manoeuvres.

It’s getting late and they’ve turned the lights off on the plane so I’m going to try to get some sleep. Next stop Keyna!

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Singapore is warm but nice!

June 15th, 2007 No comments

For the last few days I’ve been in Singapore on the start of my trip to a land down under and I’ve been having a great time. I think I should have extended my stay here by a day to be able to take in either Malaysia or Indonesia, or to explore some more of Singapore that I didn’t see, but I’ve had fun regardless! The people have been so friendly and it’s just a different world to the UK.

On the 13th I made my way up to Heathrow on the Train and Tube via London. It was a bit chaotic getting there with a big rucksack and it was made worse when the tube driver announced we would not be stopping at Terminal 4, forcing us to get off the tube, only to announce “next stop Terminal 4”. We eventually arrived at the airport but were still nice and early. There was nothing to do in the public area of the airport but I checked in my bags nice and early, due to Qantas using the British Airways all-day check-in facility, before haing a long wait for my time to board the plane. I passed the time with 2 meals in Wetherspoon’s and a couple of drinks in Starbucks before saying goodbye to Mum and heading through to departures.

The rest of the day went smoothly – the flight was without a hitch and we arrived at Singapore Changi airport a few minutes early. It was already night time when we arrived but it was still so hot and humid and I was glad the hotel (Quality Hotel, Balastier Road) was air conditioned when I arrived. I had problems getting to my room initially as my swipe card wouldn’t operate the lift but after being told what I was doing wrong I made my way up to relax and unpack in my room. My flight to Cairns is at 10pm and I’m being picked up at 7 so I enquired with reception about keeping the room on a bit later. They said I could keep the room until 6pm and there would be no extra charge which was really nice of them

Yesterday was my first full day in Singapore so I decided to get up early. After breakfast I explored the area around the hotel to see what it was like and acclimatise to the climate. Even at 7am it was really hot and after an hour of walking around, slowly and in the shade a lot of the time, I needed to rest and change my clothes before my tour in the afternoon – the humidity here does take some getting used to!

View from my hotel room

View from my hotel room

Exploring the area

Exploring the area

Exploring the area #2

Exploring the area #2

I was collected from the hotel just after lunch with a few other people from various hotels and taken to a central meeting point. Instead of having all of the coaches travel all over the city they Tour East have minibuses that pick people up from a few hotels at a time then you all meet in the city centre at a cafe with a lot of bus bays outside where you wait for your tours departure time and I found this to be an efficiant system. After getting on the coach we made our way back into the city to our first stop at the Asian Civilisations Museum. We checked out the statue of Raffles outside next to the river before heading into the museum to see various exhibits about Singapore and its history. Our time here wasn’t very long but it was enough to get an overview of the country and learn more about the rich history and culture that have developed over centuries.

Statue of Raffles

Statue of Raffles

After the museum we made our way to the world-famous Raffles hotel which was something I had been looking forward to since booking my trip. Our visit started with a short tour, where we were shown the grounds and told some of the famous guests that had stayed there, before being taken into the cafe for tea and cakes. The cake tasted amazing but was so rich you couldn’t eat a lot. After tea there was time to explore on our own and buy souvenirs in the gift or, as some people decided would be better, to visit the famous Long Bar for a Singapore Sling Cocktail. I wasn’t in the mood for a cocktail so after souvenir shopping I relaxed in the grounds and made a call home.

Raffles Hotel

Raffles Hotel

Inside Raffles

Inside Raffles

Cake at Raffles

Cake at Raffles

Outside Raffles Hotel

Outside Raffles Hotel

Our next activity was a cruise along the river and it was a nice way to see the city, if a little short. We travelled south from the quay past many of the buildings we had seen previously and had full commentary from the captain of the boat. We travelled out into the bay for a view of the new watersports complex before having a close-up view of the Merlion and then returning to the quay for our final stop – a pewter coin factory. At the factory we were shown examples of how all of the coins and other pewter items were made historically (and how this place still makes them). I wouldn’t have chose to visit here but it was nice as part of the tour and taught me something I didn’t know. I left the group at this point without heading back to the hotel and explored the city on my own for a bit before eating at a nice Thai restaurant along the river and then catching a Taxi to the hotel.

Bumboat Cruise

Bumboat Cruise

Merlion

Merlion

Weird Statues

Weird Statues

Singapore by Night

Singapore by Night

Today I woke up after another storm that created quite a bit of flooding… they seem to be a regular occurance in thie part of the world! I deciced to visit the city centre but decided to walk since I was only a mile from Orchard Road. This turned out to be a big mistake as the rain had made the humidity worse and my shoes actually disintegrated around me during the walk. The destintion was worth it though as Orchard Road was a nice area and allowed me to both people watch and stock up on souvenirs.

Orchard Road

Orchard Road

After catching a taxi back to the hotel I relaxed in my room for a bit before heading out on another tour. This was to the Night Safari which is a zoo that is only open in the evenings so you can see the animals from a different perspective. It was a really good experience and we saw lots of animals including Hyena, Tapir, Hippo, Giraffe and more. There are jungle walks you can take to see some of the animals but I highly recommend taking the safari jeeps which will get you very close to the animals. The zoo is designed in such a way that it looks like the animals are all roaming free around you rather than being in cages and this adds to the atmosphere and experience. After the safari I had dinner at the food court and watched the entertainment before getting on my coach back to the city. As my hotel was on the way a minibus met us half way in a lay-by and drove us from there which was efficient but we almost didn’t make it back to the hotel as the driver really should have driven a little slower.

My feet are really starting to hurt now as I wasn’t able to do anything about them before the night safari. I’ll get some new ones in the morning in the shopping centre I saw just down from the hotel while making my way to Orchard Road.

My Hotel

My Hotel

My Hotel Room

My Hotel Room

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