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My Diary

by June VK4SJ

June Sim VK4SJ, is a longtime friend of Elizabeth VE7YL, and a member of CLARA. She took a wonderful trip this year with her family that included the ceremonies at Galipolli. We are going to give you a wonderful 15 day tour complete with pictures of her wonderful trip. Sure hope that you enjoy the reading.

Day 1-- Sunday 29-03-2015 Mooloolah Valley Queensland to Singapore.

My family arrived on the Friday from Moree New South Wales to get ready for our departure on Sunday 29th March 2015.

My house sitters arrived on the Saturday with their Caravan and 2 little Silky Terriers as company for my Bichon Frize Suzi while I am away and we were all woken by a dog fight a little after 6am when Lily, the neighbours Rottweiler dug under our fence and attacked little Randy, Randy, suffering little dog syndrome most likely started it all but came off 2nd best. I caught the Rottweiler and took her back to her owners next door and that filled in the hole that had been dug. So started the first day of our 5 week tour.

Our transport driver arrived early, around 9.30am and it was a good run down to the International Airport Brisbane.When we got to the Airport Simone, Peter, Bronwyn's brothers partner was waiting to see us off, after coffee we were able to check in which was not too painful even though the queue looked awfully long at first but going through the security / customs was a different matter when I set off the alarms because I had forgotten to tell them I had the knee replacements.

We took off at 2.35 Aus time with a full plane load by the look of it as I have not seen any empty seats. We are travelling at 877 klms an hour and at 37994 ft with 600 klms to go to Singapore and now at 6.55pm we have traveled 5986 klms and the outside temp is MINUS 51 degrees Celsius.

We landed in Singapore on time and once through Immigration and Customs, we were met by a driver with a mini bus who was to drive us to the Hotel, Royal Plaza on Scott's, actually the old Hyatt Hotel that Doug and I stayed in when we were here in the 1970's with the Holiday Inn Hotel now called the Grand Hyatt over the road.

Tangs and some of the shopping plazas I remember from previous visits are still here but they have been modernised to upmarket shops in the majority of the cases.

On the way from the Airport, the driver pointed out places of interest like the road from the Airport that can be used as an emergency landing strip for the air-force fighter planes like the Mirage Jet Fighters. 

Singapore has again expanded by reclaiming land from the sea and building skyscrapers, gardens, sports grounds etc and 50 to 60 floor skyscrapers. After a “full on” day, we are all rather worn out, so we retired to our room and settled down to be refreshed and see what tomorrow would bring.

 

Day 2--Monday 30-03-2015 Singapore. 

I think the boys were quite surprised at the many and varied types of dishes available for breakfast, from cooked, continental as well as Asian foods fresh fruit and pastries to cater for the tastes of just about every nationality.  Breakfast was charged at $ 32 a head plus surcharge and VAT.

We went for a walk to work breakfast off and ended up at the top of Orchard Road where it changes name, up past the Thai Embassy.  We then walked back to the subway and bought tickets to Marina Bay and plus passes that cover the underground as well as the buses. We walked over the Marina Bay complex and the Hotel that is down there is actually triple towers cantilevered out and spanning the top of the Hotel to look like a huge ship. We had lunch in the food court there and watched some young folk on a Teflon type of “ice rink” going around with quite a few having falls. After lunch, we walked back to where we could get an elevator to the 56th floor then another to the observation deck on the 57th floor to take panoramic photos for most of the Southern part of Singapore including out to the "roads" as the mooring area for the huge fleet of ship waiting to load or unload, mostly by lighters.

From the Marina Hotel, we walked across to a new area called Gardens by the Bay consisting of a Flower Dome and Cloud Forest a man made waterfall and hundreds of beautiful Orchids plus other rain forest plants and trees.   There is also a children's water park and various huge Tree like structures that have solar panels on top that generate enough power to light up with spectacular light and sound show twice a night. It is inside the Cloud dome that there is the waterfall and  beautiful orchids and thousands of other plant species.

Anthony and the boys did the 22 mtr high OCBC skyway walk while Bronwyn and I waved to them from below. Included in the complex which had only been open from 2012 there were many restaurants, and a display of Stalagmites and Stalactites.

We finally made our way back to the underground train and back to the hotel and freshened up to go out and eat again. We ate where a lot of the locals ate, Sushi and miso soup plus fried chicken that was served with a crisply fried whole fish seemed to be the most popular.  Then back to Hotel to get some relief for our tired and sore feet and to retire after a very interesting day

Day 3 Tuesday 31-03-2015 Singapore

After breakfast in the Hotel which again offered many and varied dishes from various cultures, we set out to go to Sentosa and Mount Faber. We used the underground and a 1 hour train trip cost us a whole $1.90 each.

We went first to Harbour Front where we walked around to the Singapore cable car and rode it up to Mount Faber, there was a Superman and Batman promotion on but not much else so back to the original "get on" point and on to Sentosa Island, now a huge resort and fun park area.

The boys and Anthony went on the Luge 4 times, they were having so much fun while Bronwyn and I had ice creams while we waited.

Once back on the main island, we lunched at Harbour front and then caught a bus back to Orchard Road.  At a camera store in the complex I looked at some of the latest cameras. The Nikon I usually use is a wonderful camera but rather heavy to carry around all day so I looked at the new Casio Exilim EX-100, macro to 28ml to 500ml f2.8 and retains that focal length right through to 500mm AND small enough to slip into a pocket or my bag as this camera is only a fraction of the weight, and size compared to the NIKON with its standard lens let alone the 300 ml telephoto lens.

The Casio also connects via WiFi to the IPad for the downloading of the photos so no cables to lose and it was the size, weight and the versatility that sold me so I have retired the NIKON and only use it at home and small trips away.  The low light facility was also a real blessing as I proved later at the light and sound show at the Gardens by the Bay. After the light and sound show finished around 8.30, it was time to head back to the Hotel stopping only to feed a couple of hungry boys (they were always hungry).Finally after a very interesting day we all turned in after long day.

Day 4

This is our last day in Singapore so we have made the most of it by going to areas we had not been before, to near Raffles and checking out the various huge shopping complexes before heading back to the Hotel for our late,11.30pm flight to London.

As I write this, we are heading toward Moscow at nearly 11000 ft doing 875 klm an hour, outside air temp is minus 67 degrees. The plane is a big jumbo jet with an upper and lower deck and we are around 6 hours out of London.

This flight has been in darkness for the whole time we have been in the air. Singapore was great, and the boys loved it and they are already talking about a return trip there in the future. There has been just so many changes since I was there last. Huge big complexes have been built on reclaimed land. Another terminal, No 4 is being built and it will not take them long once they get started, they do not appear to sit around and discuss projects for years and then maybe make a start, they, the Singaporeans just plan and build as quickly as possible.

The flight path has just come up on the screen in front of me again and I usually keep an eye on it and this flight route has taken us up through India, Afghanistan etc, we appeared to have flown over or close to Kabul.

We are now in the arrivals hall waiting for our driver to pick us up to drive us to Southampton. What a contrast to what we have left as Singapore was mostly clear blue skies and in the high 20s and here at Heathrow, it just after 8am and the weather forecast is for drizzling rain and 7 degrees. Brrrrr. Welcome to the UK.

Day 5-18

 

-Roaming around the UK.

 

Our driver arrived at Heathrow to take us to the Southampton Airport where we had arranged for a hire vehicle for part of the time we will spend in the UK.

We spent several days around the New Forrest and the Southampton area where Anthony, Bronwyn and the boys went first to the RAN Naval Base where they were able to go over the HM Victory, Lord Nelsons flagship, the oldest still fully commissioned naval ship in the world.

They also went to Beaulieu Castle, home of many famous and vintage motor vehicles as well as the home also of the Top Gear vehicles. I stayed back with friends and their families.

Day 10

Yesterday, we drove to Port Isaac, passing on the way, Stonehenge  which we could get a good view off from the road, I also got some great telephoto photos of the rock formation that makes up this famous and historic site.

Port Isaac is now famous for being the setting for Port Wenn, the site of the Doc Martin TV series and every 2nd Wednesday Martin Clunes who plays the part of Doc Martin and the cast, film another part of a new series.

We had stayed in an old fishing village type of hotel, little rooms and sloping ceilings with exposed beams that would leave a nasty bump if one came in contact with the beam. After a good night sleep,we went down to walk the area where "Doc Martins" surgery, the school house, the chemist shop and Large's restaurant are to be found in this fishing village. The boys bought T shirts and as I collect fridge magnets I was able to get a couple for my collection.

From Port Isaac, we drove to Clovelly, another fishing Village dating back to the Roman times where we walked a very long way down a steep cobble stone path that ended with even more long steps to the bottom. There is NO WAY I would have attempted to walk in the "wet" as the cobble stones were so worn, they would have been like glass. Vehicles of any sort are banned from  driving anywhere in this village, not that they would be able to as the streets are so narrow and steep, anything and everything can only be brought to the shops and houses is via sledges pulled by donkeys.

There is a back road that by-passes the the main part of the village that can be negotiated by a four wheel drive but residents have to park their vehicles up at the entrance to the path down to the village. It appears to be the only coastal village that bans motorized vehicles in the world.

Thank goodness for the 4 wheel drive that took us back up another way to where we had parked the vehicle. I did not fancy having to ride a donkey back up to the car park.

Speaking of vehicles, the car originally booked was a 7 seat mini van but the vehicle was upgraded to 8 seater Ford Tourneo, a vehicle we have not seen in Australia.  The vehicle is basically, a Ford Transit van with 3 rows of seats, front bucket seats then 2 rows of 3 bucket seats each with room behind for all our luggage and very very comfortable and glass all around for viewing.

We then headed inland away from the coast to the North East towards Warwick, Peterborough and Norfolk with stops along the way. The weather had cleared away to fine sunny days after the 2nd day in the UK and this made the sightseeing all the more enjoyable.

From Clovelly, we left the coast line and turned East  stopping off at Stafford on Avon the home of William Shakespeare and his wife Anne Hathaway so we went through the lovely grounds and the cottage they lived in. This beautiful cottage thatched roof is kept in tip top condition and it was well worth the visit.

From there the boys had a lot of fun at Warwick castle, castle dating back hundreds of years with a drawbridge over a now dry moat, a castle surrounded by a huge  block and stone thick wall with keeps and narrow windows where the defending archers could fire their arrows at the invading forces. Then we all visited the dungeons, more funny than scary with a mirrored maze that had us all well and truly lost as well as some blacked out rooms with scary moans and groans and rattling chains plus the odd scream or two. Then we all toured through the huge rooms with the various types of armour and weapons like swords and crossbows etc even armour for the Knights horses. We then went through the kitchen that had a fireplace where an ox could be cooked whole over the fire as well as the plates and cutlery suitable for banquets. Out in the grounds we watched falconry as well as a big catapult type of weapon that could sling rocks or bales of hay that had been set alight into the enemy camp or advancing forces. This was one of the many castles in the UK that is now open to the public, most likely to cover the taxes and cost of upkeep.

Next morning, it was straight on the road again towards Peterborough, Werrington in fact where Anthony caught up with his old school teacher from when he was a lad in 1978. We, along with his brother Andrew and my husband Doug were there at that time to give the boys a taste of living and going to school overseas and staying with their grandmother.

Anthony's old teacher was thrilled to see Anthony again as he was 9 when he started school there and was in her class. Mrs Eddington enjoyed meeting Anthony's 2 sons as well. While we were in Werrington the boys went to see their Great Grandmothers house and also Anthony and Andrews old school plus we knocked on the door of the house next to what was Great Grandma's house for a brief visit to the parents of my sons playmates before going to have lunch with Anthony's ex teacher at a typical English pub called The Ruddy Duck.

Day 14-Lowestoff to London

Straight after lunch, it was on the road again to Norfolk and the town Lowestoft where we were booked into a seaside beach front hotel. This hotel was first built in 1875 and added to over the years. I think I got the original broom cupboard as my room was tiny but it was very comfortable.

We were able to catch up with friends in the village of Carlton Colville and then this brought an end to our car hire as the vehicle had to returned at Norwich so we caught the train down to London, a 2.5 hour train ride through some very interesting country and villages with one change at Cambridge.

What was most surprising from previous visits I have had to the UK is the number of "solar" farms that can be seen from the roads and the train. Around an acre or more at a time, just given over to rows and rows of solar panels and homes and factories with the roofs covered in solar panels. This is most surprising for a country with the well known English cold and wet climate. Also evident, were the wind farms with various types of wind generators from huge 3 bladed windmills down to smaller 2 and 3 blades all twirling around generating, I guess megawatts or more.

Once in London, we settled into our hotel for the next 5 days. In the afternoon of day 1, we went to the British Museum and spent a pleasant time there until nearly closing then back to the hotel. Yesterday, after a hearty breakfast, we headed out to tackle London proper.

We bought Hop on Hop off bus tickets that covered us for 2 days so the first stop was down near Baker Street where we changed buses and went to the Tower of London. The family went through the central tower, the White Tower but because of many stairs and steps, I sat that part out.

They saw part of the dungeons and another area full of shields, swords and other part of armaments. We then all went to admire the Crown Jewels, these are said to be the real ceremonial crowns and jewel encrusted swords and a mace and orb used on Royal occasions and the opening of Parliament.   NO photography was allowed and we were kept on a moving walkway which took us past the showcases of Diamonds, Ruby's and Emeralds including the Culinmore Diamond in one of the Crowns.

As one guards, a Beefeater explained, they are not usually superstitious but it is said that if the Ravens, big black birds ever leave the Tower, Britain will fall, so to be on the safe side, 8 resident Ravens have had their flight feathers clipped, the eldest bird there to date is 40 years of age and they are fed twice a day.

Day 15-The London Eye

From the Tower, we got on another bus and went to the Embankment where my grandson Christopher and I went up on the London Eye, a huge,(the largest) ferris type wheel where we had some fabulous views of London to all points of the compass.

The next day, the first stop was near the Horse Guards where we had a guided tour of part of the stables, we got talking to an old chap who I think might have been one from this regiment until retired and he told us quite a few of the facts of the training regime then we watched the hourly display of the changing of the the mounted guards. We then walked through to the Mall and on to Buckingham Palace and did all the usual tourist things like taking photos of each other out side the gold and black gates etc.

From there, we went to Westminster Cathedral and made a quick tour through there before getting a cab to go to Westminster Abbey, the driver was a funny fellow
and had us laughing all the short way. Once there, we found we were an hour late for admittance as they admit the last one in at 3.30 and it was 4.30 when we got there.

That is now on our list for an early visit tomorrow or Wednesday. We returned to our hotel via the normal double decker red bus. The boys enjoyed going up to the buses top deck for better views.

County cricket is on at the famous Lords cricket ground so we may go tomorrow for an hour or so just to please the boys and my son as they are all cricket lovers and play the game back in Australia and Anthony is an Umpire.

Day 17

After another good nights sleep and another hearty breakfast, we set out for Lords Cricket Ground. We arrived there and our tour guide was Graham, a very knowledgeable and pleasant young man.

First of all, we started in the visitors centre full of Cricket memorabilia starting with W C Grace and there was quite a display and old cricket gear that had belonged to our Don Bradman. One highlight was to see the little urn that contain The Ashes, the trophy that stays at Lords but is fought over every few years in 5 -5 day test matches. We were told about the membership details and the number of years it takes to become a member, 47 years at present unless you can sponsor a new stand etc like Mick Jagger or Paul McCartney who "donated" a million Pounds each.

We watched about 15 to 20 minutes of the County match that was in progress and learnt about which end was the Pavilion end the other, the Nursery end.
We also got a chance to go up into the commentary box but we had to be very quiet as they were taking notes and broadcasting from there.
Like all good tours, this one ended up in the gift shop.

From Lords, Anthony, Christopher and I went to see the longest running stage play in the world, Agatha Christies "The Mouse Trap". This play has ran for 63 years without missing a performance with 6 nights a week and 2 Matinee performances Tuesday and Saturday.

This was very enjoyable and Chris and Anthony both thought it was funny and it was as well as being a murder mystery and we were all asked NOT to reveal who the killer is, I think the ending keep changing anyway.

When the show was over a little after 5, Bronwyn and Nicholas were waiting outside so we all went and had a nice Italian meal then walked to what we thought the bus stop was and waited and waited until we gave up and caught another of the famous London cabs and on the away back to the Hotel, we found out, we should have been waiting around the corner for the right bus back to Kings Cross and our hotel.

Tomorrow, I hope to visit the National History Museum while I think the others want to go to Piccadilly Circus, St Paul's, Ripley's Believe it or not and the Wax Works. I do not think they will get to fit it all in and due to a 5 am pickup for the Airport the following morning, something is going to get missed.

 

Being our last full day in London we split up and went our own way I went first to the National History Museum and I could have spent several days there. The most striking exhibits were the complete skeletons of now extinct animals, some dating back thousands and thousands of years to the Jurassic period, huge dinosaurs to tiny ones as well as the earliest flying predators right up to today's mammals and birds still left on this planet.

There is something like over 170 million recorded and stored specimens with only a fraction on display and the the scientists who are behind the scenes number hundreds. I spent quite a lot of time there going from section to section and sat in on a lecture and question and answer show at the Attenborough section with an Australian Marine Biologist lass who specialized in Molluscs and Giant Clams. This lass had dived all over the world and spent a great deal of her time diving on the Great Barrier Reef and the Western Australian reefs, going back again and again to these reefs to check on the effect of Global Warming and pollutants to the clams and bivalves etc.

From the National History Museum, I then went next door to the Science Museum with exhibits of the Past, Present and the Future in the way of exhibits of early propulsion and house hold appliance exhibits to what we may experience in the future with controlled atmosphere living in huge bubbles to ordinary jet propulsion travel. Several of the early space capsules and satellites were on display also. The rest of the family joined me here and the boys enjoyed this museum as there were quite a few "hands on" displays.

The family had enjoyed their day, they went to Westminster Abbey then wandered around to Harrods and then finally ended up at the science museum with me and from there, we all caught a double decker bus back to the Hotel and after a quick freshen up, we had dinner then turned in for the night for an early start the next morning.

We all had to be up and dressed and ready for a 5 am pickup for Heathrow, terminal 5 to get the flight to Athens. The drive to the airport was OK at that hour as the roads around London are now known as "car parks" due to the congestion and bumper to bumper traffic. We just had time for a quick breakfast at the Airport before our flight to Athens then once on board, we were served another breakfast. Had we known, we could have saved quite a bit.

We found England to be very expensive with fuel around the £1.19 a litre, that equate to $2.38 a litre in Australian money so what we first thought was on a par, we soon realised that every thing we bought or paid for, cost us double in Australian Dollars. Dinner for the five of us usually was around a £130 or $260 as the boys ate just as much as we did if not more on occasions and the rail tickets for a 2 hour journey from Norwich to London was £151 for us all with the boys half price and just normal seats or $300 Australian. In complete contrast, we have found Athens to be quite cheap on comparison as we have eaten the same if not more exotic food for around $110 for the lot of us.

For the rest of June's story, please click here.