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Archive for June, 2017

The Big Trip 2017: Sydney to Heathrow

Man, what a week! (…and a bit). On Monday 5 June at 6.05pm, it finally happened – we left the country! Ben, Sarah and I have just finished the first week of our 10-and-a-bit week trip around the UK and Europe. It was only meant to be London and Europe, but due to our accommodation not working out we headed north to Tranent, Scotland for the week.

Anyway, let’s wind this back a bit to the beginning of the trip…

The Plan

After Ben sold his share of Bean Ninjas in December 2016, we decided to take the opportunity to see some of the UK and Europe (as we had planned in 2013, before I fell pregnant). Due to my uni commitments and Ben’s work schedule, the only time we could really depart was early June – 5 days after my final exam. Anyway, between December and now (yes, we’re still booking) we slowly came up with a plan:

  • London for a week or two, so we were in a not-too-different country to deal with the jet lag;
  • Paris for two nights – one day to see the Eiffel Tower (the highlight of Sarah’s trip) and a day either side for travel;
  • Florence for two weeks – Ben’s Italian experience, plus gelato;
  • Munich for 4 weeks, to see how much German I really know;
  • Bratislava for 1 week (I’m going to a Blind Guardian concert);
  • Berlin for 1 week, because we thought that Legoland Deutschland was there (it’s not); then
  • back to London for a couple of days before the flight home.

It’s quite an ambitious trip, particularly since both Sarah and I have never left the country before, but Ben was really keen to try and skip the Australian winter altogether this year so we thought we’d give it a go. We won’t quite miss all of winter, but it will be close.

The Lead-Up (or rather, The Crazy Time)

So, I mentioned that my final uni exam took place a mere 5 days before our flight. This was hard, but in theory possible. I only needed to achieve a 50% pass mark (including a minimum 50% mark for the final exam) in order to exit with an Advanced Diploma of Arts. Easy, right?

Well: in amongst studying the most challenging German unit so far (with a new teacher and a new textbook and much stress) we also had to pack all of our stuff into storage and move out of our rental place to share with family… one week before the exam. Plus, Sarah picked up a terrible cough that wouldn’t go away and kept waking her up at night. And, and, and…you get the picture. It was pretty crazy. Even so, we managed to see most of the family before we went, just because, well, you never know…

Anyway, all of this going on made the trip (for me) seem surreal. Right up until…

The First Leg: Sydney to Singapore

My flight anxiety didn’t actually hit me until we had dropped our bags and said goodbye to our lift to the airport (thanks Cheryl!). Sitting down at the Maccas while Sarah had a much-needed play on the equipment, I finally realised that we were actually going to get on a plane for 8 and then 13 hours OH MY GOD WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE!?!?!? Luckily, all of that disappeared once I sat down on the plane – I think it’s because the flight attendants are so calm and cool and surely they wouldn’t do this job if it was too dangerous, right? Plus, we only hear about the flights that don’t work, rather than the millions that do etc. etc. Or, it may be because by that point there’s nothing I can do to stop it so I’d rather die happy than fighting something I can no longer control. Maybe a little of both.

Anyway, thanks to Singapore Airlines’s super awesome in-flight entertainment system, the time passed pretty quickly. Sarah worked out the touch screen almost instantly, and enjoyed watching the first half-hour of Trolls on repeat for most of the journey. She also tried some of the games, but the controls were a bit tricky. Between that and her Nintendo DS (we came super-prepared) she napped for maybe an hour, but was otherwise happily distracted for the whole trip.

Changi Airport, Singapore

We arrived at Changi Airport around 12.10am local time (2.10am Sydney time – ouch!). By then we were all understandably pooped, but still managed to navigate our way to the other end of the airport for our 24-hour stopover in the airport hotel. That’s right – we got to sleep in beds before the next leg of our journey, and we didn’t even have to leave the airport.

Our room at the Aerotel Changi Airport. Not pictured: bathroom to the right.

Our room at the Aerotel Changi Airport. Not pictured: bathroom to the right.

After a decent rest (about 6-7 hours) and a shower, we set off to find some food. On the way, we stumbled across a neat little play area which was great for getting Sarah to burn off some energy. Unfortunately, she was still pretty tired, so she didn’t have much patience or understanding for the kids that weren’t speaking English: “Stop speaking German! Speak English!” (The poor other kid wasn’t speaking German, and had no idea what she was going on about.) After lunch and nap she was much better though, even finding a friend before we so cruelly dragged her away to have dinner.

Play area at Changi Airport.

Play area at Changi Airport.

Between all this eating, napping and playing we did manage to explore the airport a bit, and it was AMAZING! I was constantly surprised to remember that we were actually in an airport, as the carpet, shops, places to eat and things to do made it feel more like a really upmarket shopping centre. There were beautiful gardens, a butterfly house, fancy shops, and surely more that we just didn’t see. The acoustics were really good too – even with the planeloads of people coming and going it was pretty quiet. All in all, it’s convinced me to go and visit Singapore at some point.

Sorry for the blurry photo - I'll have to go back and take a better one sometime soon.

Sorry for the blurry photo – I’ll have to go back and take a better one sometime.

Around 10.30pm local time we headed over to our gate to wait for our 11.30pm flight. While we were there, Sarah found two little girls to play with – well, Sarah followed the littlest one around, and the other one followed Sarah, and they just wandered around like that for around 20 minutes before Sarah got distracted by the little play house. (Airports with play areas are the best!) Before long, we heard the boarding call and were all ready for the next leg of the journey:

Singapore to London

While we were still flying with Singapore Airlines, the in-flight entertainment system was a little different. Not a big deal, but Sarah had to work a little harder to get what she wanted without the touch-screen. This trip’s theme movie was Tangled, with the occasional Moana or Trolls thrown in. Once the lights were turned off, she managed to sleep for 6 hours straight – hooray! (I think that the new, rectangular travel pillow helped with that. The U-shaped one was U-seless.)

Ben managed to snooze on-and-off for about 4 hours, but I just couldn’t get comfortable so I watched Logan (kickass) and The Space Between Us (predictable but safe enough choice in case Sarah woke up or I did actually manage to fall asleep). Toward the middle of the flight I got a bit restless (What do you mean we still have 6 hours to go?!?) but again, it was pretty uneventful… at least until the last half hour.

As we approached London, we were advised that we’d have to fly in a holding pattern for a little while. Not long after this announcement, we heard a loud thump from the underside of the plane. It was probably the landing gear (as Ben tried to explain to me) but nevertheless I was tense for the remainder of the flight.

All things considered, it was a really good flight and I would definitely fly with Singapore Airlines again.