"Hello again Vicar". A second marriage is a trifle strange, calling for a different kind of celebration. So Netty and I are having our engagement party for just 12 close friends in Portugal where we've hired a Quinta (http://www.quintadafranqueira.com) for 5 days. Northern Portugal is a fabulous holiday destination for so many reasons, but more of that later. Then we're on to a 3 week holiday/honeymoon in Brazil.
The party is funded by us cutting back to economy on our Star2-RW-fares. Sadly these are M class, ineligible for Star-partner-upgrades using our specially-saved UA miles. Being too new here for CC, we are consigned to the Y cabins for the long sectors across Asia and across the Atlantic. Still it's only a holiday, not a business trip.
To get the maximum out of Star RW fares ex Australia, one buys a low-cost internal flight to get across the country rather than using up 2,500 miles of the RW allowance. So we're setting off on C award tickets tomorrow on the 5-hour flight from SYD to PER. [36,000 QF miles each, ouch.] On a 747, the UD we hope: QF's domestic admin is very basic, no seat-preassignment, no OLCI. :cool:
Next week, we'll be on the (only) daytime flight from Aus to Europe, SQ PER-SIN-FRA and then LH FRA-OPO. Then OPO-LIS-SSA on TP, and, if there's still a Varig, SSA-BSB-MAO-GRU-GIG on RG. And home on UA, GIG-GRU-ORD-IAH-DEN-LAX-SYD.
Sep 2, 06, 11:57 am
Love the title, love the approach. Did you rent out the Quinta for your group? It looks delightful.
Sep 5, 06, 1:22 am
Thanks yes, have been to the quinta before and it is wonderful. We have hired all 6 rooms and scheduled a few things, bus trip up the Douro, garden party in the courtyard, visits to port-cellars
Sep 5, 06, 1:49 am
We're down among the penguins as QF583 veers towards Antarctica to avoid a fierce headwind. Back in Sydney, domestic checkin and security was smooth as ever. The salt-free cook at the QP (Qantas Club) had prepared Minestrone soup, splendid once you replenish the salt. Sir James champagne, quite palatable.
Looking forward to Perth, now a thriving boom-town thanks to China's iron imports - but still a spectacularly pretty place with Kings Park (http://www.totaltravel.com.au/travel/wa/pertharea/perth/guide/kings-park-gardens) and its wildflowers in the centre.
Snagged the last two seats 19H/J at the back of the UD of VH-EBT, Qantas' domestic-outfitted 743 with a very overcrowded seating configuration (http://www.qantas.com.au/infodetail/flying/inTheAir/ourAircraft/743-52J398Y.pdf). Not a capsule to be seen. But a working electric seat - max 45 degrees recline - and the largest personal IFE screen I've ever seen. Also working laptop power ;) but not permitted to attach Dell computers :(
We are hoping for warm nuts and cocktails, but from the galley behind us emerges only crashes, shrieks and muffled curses as the (learner) FA's prepare the meals. But when they finally arrive, the wine and food are good, similar to QF Y food, which has dramatically improved this year.
Now as they turn down the lights, not even Qantas' comical service can spoil the magical ambiance of the upper deck of the 747, the low ceilings and tiny cabin recalling the days when flying was a real adventure. :-: :-: :-:
Sep 5, 06, 2:02 am
Rattling with aspirin and bulging in unfamiliar places, we show up at 6am for our 7.45am flight. Perth airport has an absurd fixation with the weight of your cabin-baggage: an inspector with a set of scales lurks just ahead of the security-check. So the plan is to remove heavier objects and secrete them about one's person, or in plastic bags, and replace them after passing the inspection.
We breeze through and find the SQ-lounge refurbished though still cramped, offering an excellent breakfast if you can stand the noise of the colossal blaring TVs. :(
SQ224 leaves on time, 80% empty in Y - Tuesdays aren't very busy. We each secure a bank of 3 seats on the 777, lie down and resume our sleep. :)
I dream I am on a driverless bus, heading through pitch blackness...
.. which has actually happened, on a previous departure from Perth. The international terminal is 5 miles beyond the domestic airport, and there's a free bus between the terminals - why not? The bus is very crowded with luggage everywhere; I am hanging on a strap with several others. A barrier swings up and the bus sets off across the tarmac. Two miles into the journey, complete darkness outside, the bus comes to a halt in the middle of nowhere. "The damn door again" mutters the driver, steps down and around the bus and gives the passenger-door a hefty kick.
Apparently the bus' motor is disengaged if the door is open. But, now shut by the driver's boot, the bus obligingly sets off again. Driverless we proceed, across runways and grass with passengers swinging from the straps - and the driver running desperately alongside. Finally he is able to catch up and swing himself back into the driving seat, but there were a few anxious moments... :confused:
Sep 12, 06, 6:39 am
Is it the eggs themselves, we wonder, or the butter they are fried in? How can Continentals make fried eggs such a treat when in the US and Britain they're just greasy sludge?
After the extra mile that never gets creited we caught our conection to FRA. As greedy as ever, SQ is still jamming window seats into row 60 where there's no room for them so the seat is missing an arm. But we dodged row 60 and had an uneventful SQ flight. IFE with 80 bad movies and 108 bad TV showsbut 1 good speaking-book.
It's breakfast in our favourite German retreat, the Hammer family Hotel (http://www.topinternational.com/site/PropertyInformation.asp?data_set=Complete&PropCode=TP;041687&HotelName=TOP+Hotel+Hammer&InDate=&OutDate=&Submit=&LandCode=DE&ShowLanguage=EN) in Mainz. And if that's full there's the Konigshof (http://www.info-mainz.de/hotel%2DKoenigshof/index2.htm), Tulip Central Hotel Eden (http://www.goldentulip.com/PropertyInformation.aspx?PropCode=GT;20691&Language=EN) and the Hotel Schottenhof (http://www.info-mainz.de/hotel-schottenhof/)
Oh, that extra mile? That's the dash across Changi airport from E to F to make our connection.
And some of the many reasons we love this part of Mainz: it's a $3 train ride from Frankfurt airport, no cab necessary; reasonable prices including the magnificent breakfast; book on hotel.de without a creditcard guarantee; and you don't need a car because within a few metres walk you can find
(10m) the Tapas bar on one side, Portuguese restaurant the other;
(30m) the Biertunnel with wonderful Bavarian beer from the Andechs monastery;
(40m) the mainline railway station;
(50m) the call-shop where you can call internationally at silly prices;
(60m) the bus to Hahn Airport and those $5 Ryanair flights to London or Europe
(200m) the English second-hand bookstore in the Zanggasse;
(300m) Semmermeyer's deli and sausage shop
(400m) the Gutenberg museum with the first printed books;
(500m) the Stefansdom cathedral with stained-glass windows by Chagall;
and (600m) the Rhine river with cruises to the Lorelei-mermaid-rocks and enchanting gothic castles.
Unlike the tourist-trap of Wiesbaden across the river, Mainz is a real thriving city.
Sep 12, 06, 6:58 am
Late gate change, Gate A36 turned into gate A40 at FRA, that's about 1% of the journey to Oporto completed on foot. Another mile we'll never get credit for.
LH's intra-europe airbuses are functional but seldom comfortable. Still they generally leave on the right day, if not on time, which is a bonus compared with other European airlines. Today for example we see that our next flight out of OPO (to Lisbon) is cancelled, as is Ryanair's flight from OPO to STN - that means lots of angry British drunks in the airport.
Oporto Airport has quadruled in size since last year - a project for the European football tournament, sponsored by the soccer federation and the long-sugffering taxpayers of the EC (that's Germany, Austria etc.) So we walk for 20mins to get to the carousels, no need to hurry as you know you're up for a half hour wait for baggage at this latitude.
Those generous EC types have also equipped Portugal with a complete new network of freeways in the last 2 years, so getting to the Quinta (quintadafranqueira.com) was a breeze.
Entertained by a Gigi (ftp://outgoing:firstname.lastname@example.org/portugal/fado.jpg) - a local 22 year old Fado singer, that's the traditional bluesy folk music of Portugal - our party is quite entranced with the music and the surrounding. She sings for 6 hours with a 4 person-backing and the cost is derisory, 150 euros. One day she will command a much higher fee.
Sep 12, 06, 2:09 pm
Keep it up, I LOVE your style of writing harryhv! Did that bus thing really happen?
Sep 15, 06, 7:11 am
Keep it up, I LOVE your style of writing harryhv! Did that bus thing really happen?
Never been to Australia, eh? :)