Europe 2017

The Beginning

A few months ago, just before the last ski season I decided that I would like to join some friends who travel to Japan in January and/or February for an extended ski holiday. This was fuelled, partly because I am fascinated by Japan and partly because I love skiing and the snow in Japan looks amazing.

Fast forward to my annual ski trip to Perisher and a re-think. After three days of skiing I was totally worn out so how would I survive two weeks in bigger mountains? My standard of skiing is nowhere near as good as the folk I was planning on going with so I would mostly be skiing on my own. Do I love skiing enough to spend much money skiing alone and relying on good weather—no I don’t think so.

Back in Canberra, telling my lovely partner Ann all about the week up at the snow and I had an ‘ah ha’ moment. ‘How would you like to go to Europe next year for a month?’. In a heartbeat she said, ‘Yes’. So the planning began.

Half the fun of these kinds of odysseys is the anticipation and the fun of preparing. Where to go, when to go, how to go and other equally as perplexing questions.

Watch this space.

Peter G

Travel Agent or … ?

When Ann and I decided that we were heading to Europe in Sept 17—not really being well versed on travel of any kind—we decided to head to a travel agent. First stop was Flight Centre where we spent an hour with a very affable chap who took our proposed itinerary and turned it into a quote.

Well, quote was rather a loose term for what was a list of our proposed flights, car hires, ferries and trains. There was an even bigger list of statements such as, ‘This price cannot be guaranteed …’, or ‘there may be penalties associated with …’, etc,.

Alarm bells rang. How do we avoid these penalties and still keep to our proposed itinerary. The answer was simply, ‘you can’t’. One of our proposals was to pick up rental cars at a certain location and drop off at a endpoints; sometimes even in different countries. This is not difficult in Europe where a 5 minute drive can take you to several countries.

Oh well, another rethink.

What we decided to do was just book our over and back flights at the moment and handle the land content ourselves when we fine tune the itinerary.

So, back to another travel agent.

With this plan in mind we asked for a price for fares over to London and out Rome 5 weeks later. Simple enough and the quotes came back rather quickly. There was a glaring issue though and that was one of our connecting flights only gave us 40 minutes to get from Sydney Domestic Terminal to the International Terminal, a reasonably lengthy journey with little room for error. Indeed we were actually required to be at the International Terminal 50 minutes before our next flight.

Back to the drawing board.

We decided to check if there was an earlier flight directly with the airline. This is where we experienced a remarkable epiphany. We decided to put in all our flights according to the quote and came up with, not only a correct connecting flight but a better price.

So why bother with ‘experienced’ travel agents.

TA – ‘Well, if you have a problem while you are overseas you can just call us’.

Me – ‘Are you available 24 hours a day 7 days a week’

[Silence]

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Are we ready yet?

Well here we are, twelve months down the track and 11 days out from ‘lift off’ and we still have heaps to do. We actually only have 7 days to get ready because, for some silly reason, we are going to Junee, dancing two days before we leave. Who’s idea was that? Oh!

One problem we have is that we are putting two folding bikes in one QANTAS bike box which has emblazoned on it’s flanks, ‘for one bicycle only’. Added to this, the weight comes in at a kilo over the limit. Out come the bikes and off comes any extraneous stuff like pannier racks, pumps, bells, mud guards (there won’t be any mud in the UK surely). Phew, we are now down below the limit but we still need to pack stuff like helmets, shoes, lycra, tools …

Note: Yes Pub Crawlers, I will be packing both my wheels.

Off to the airport this Saturday for a test weigh in on the official scales. We have three scales at home and are getting three unique and disparate readings. This is also when we will find out if it is kosher to have two bikes in the one box. [watch this space].

Accommodation is sorted for the first 10 days and all the way to Pozières. We will play it by ear after that because don’t want to tie ourselves down to a strict itinerary. I have to say that Airbnb has been terrific so far so let’s hope that ‘the proof of the pudding …’.

Chunnel booked and plenty of time to get to the station from our last overnight stop in Old Blighty—Portsmouth … we hope. We pick up the car at Heathrow; a left hand drive Renault (Dacia–Duster) and will be driving it on the left hand side, a la Australia so I hope we can deal with that ok. Once we get to ‘The Continent’ we will be at least sitting on the correct side of the vehicle albeit on the wrong side of the road. What can possibly go wrong.

Gawd what a relief it will be to finally sit in our allotted seats on QF1 at Sydney.

 

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