Archive for August, 2010

Day #16. Uncertainty

Woke up some time in the morning, 2 hours until landing in Abu Dhabi. Those 2 hours seemed incredibly short, when you’re in such a long flight 2 hours are nothing at all. Got some weird small really thick pancakes for breakfast, I was sorry not to have asked for the cheese omelet also on the menu. The yogurt with honey and fresh fruit was excellent, though.

Landed in Abu Dhabi, I wish we could have at least left the airport for 5 minutes to be able to say we had been in Asia, the airport is of course international area. Could have gone to a lounge but decided it wasn’t worth it for such a short stop (hopefully), save it for if the flight would be delayed. Instead we went and had a Burger King meal (I always think it’s best to eat fast-food chain food in airports, fairly cheap and you know what you’re getting), then went to the gate, hoping for the flight to be on time.

Really didn’t like that the board said that a flight to Dublin was 24 hours delayed!

Free wi-fi at the gates, now why don’t more airports have this? I’m pretty certain that a western airport having free net would get way higher popularity ratings. Managed to write a facebook status my brother misunderstood and thought we would be delayed in Abu Dhabi.

But we were hoarded inside the gate on time and boarding passes ripped in two, which made us quite a bit more optimistic. Saw on yr.no that Keflavík would be closed next morning though. The optimism rose to new heights when we got to go out to the plane too. In front of us, walking on the ramp, was a really drunk guy, to the point of actually falling on top of the poor people walking in front of him. Fortunately he didn’t sit very close to us, but I did warn the flight attendants, who thanked me for that. The plane was totally stuffed, not an empty seat in sight, no chance of finding an empty row to lay down. Amazing that after the 15 hour flight we’d already been on, we thought the 8 hour from Abu Dhabi to London didn’t seem long at all. Yep, the flight went off on time.

Fell asleep soon after, hmm, breakfast? No, dinner – or something.

Day #15. 1.st day of travel back

Meant to sleep in but of course that didn’t happen, travelling back home was starting to look like way more difficult than there – besides flying against high altitude winds so the longest flight leg would be 15 hours instead of 14 and the next one 8 instead of 7, there was this tiny matter of maybe getting stuck because of the volcanic ash. Wrote on facebook that I didn’t quite like the prognosis, London Heathrow was supposed to be closed from Monday till Tuesday and then our own Keflavík Airport to close on the Tuesday. On the exact days we were supposed to be landing there. Dislike status set.

Anyway, the last hotel breakfast, actually we wouldn’t have had any breakfast tickets but for the fact that our fellow Icelander (who left the week before) didn’t use all his tickets. Can’t imagine why they didn’t give us any tickets for the last day. Toast with jam, I think this is the first time for more than 20 years I have toast with jam (but no cheese). Australians don’t like eating cheese and definitely not cold cuts for breakfast, seem to think it ridiculous to eat ham and other meat so early in the morning. Seems weird to me, but to each his own. (I also think French breakfast is weird – coffee and pain au chocolate isn’t really what I fancy first thing in the morning, at least).

Packing, tried to stuff our checked-in bags as much as we could, for such a long trip it would be hell to have too much inside the planes. Plus one always buys something in the airports anyway, so better leave some space in the carry-on bags. Used up the half an hour or so we still had on the net and then checked out. One local phonecall extra, we could afford that.

Decided to take a cab to the airport, hailed one outside the hotel. Got a really nice cabbie (well, didn’t expect anything else as a matter of fact – almost everyone we met had been nice). Asked if we were in a hurry, which we definitely weren’t, so he took us through the city instead of the highway, a bit cheaper that way. We were in good time in the airport, it doesn’t have any automatic check-in machines yet but the queues weren’t long so that was quite all right.

The rich and famous (well the ones on first and business class) had red and golden carpets and much nicer dividing poles and lines than the rabble like us in Economy class, of course.

I had to say Eyjafjallajökull for the girl checking our passports – maybe she wouldn’t have let me out of the country if I’d not done so…

Fortunately not many people in the airport, we found a restaurant in the middle of the area with exceptionally comfortable chairs so we planted ourselves there and bought something to eat and drink – then ate and drank veeeryyy veeeryyy slooowlyyyy so we could keep sitting there until we had to go out to the gate. A really nice white wine but not quite as good chicken strips, pretty dry.

Jón Lárus
ég

Huge plane, I had hoped we could find an empty row to lay down and try to sleep, like on the way to Sydney. But no, hardly an empty seat. The sound in the entertainment system was out in both of our seats which was totally irritating, fortunately I had some TV shows on my computer I hadn’t watched yet.

flugvélin

Flight route: Sydney-Alice Springs-Singaraja-Jakarta-Kuala Lumpur-Bengaluru-Abu Dhabi. We both fell fast asleep in spite of some totally irritating guys beside and behind us, that kept yelling and throwing their pillows back and forth even when the lights were out and everybody was trying to sleep. Total bores.

Day #14. Last whole day

Wakey-wakeys at half past six, Freyja had sent an sms, totally happy about the kangaroo photo, had shown it to all her friends. Well worth having visited the garden if only for this Awwwww! response. Was really looking forwards to seeing the kids again.

Must say that by this time we had started to worry just a bit about getting all the way home the next days. Had been seeing all sorts of “cancelled” messages on flights in Keflavík Airport, old Eyjafjallajökull didn’t show any signs of stopping. Really, really didn’t want to get stuck in Abu Dhabi, really far away from home, no visum so we didn’t know if we could go into the country at all for a hotel or if we’d have to wait for god-knows-how-long in the airport. London Heathrow did seem to be open so hopefully we’d get there.

Jón took his daily jogging, I really wish I enjoyed jogging but I hate it, and so never do any of it… After breakfast, went to the market and bought the last souvenirs to bring the kids and took a few photos. When we came out again I saw that it was actually forbidden to take photos in there, whoops! But nobody had noticed and my camera wasn’t confiscated or anything. Can’t imagine why it would be forbidden anyhow, didn’t see any secrets around.


Nice fishmarket


Better take care with those crabs, even though they’re tied.

Took the monorail round centrum, out at the stop closest to the Maritime Museum. Jón had seen a wine tasting advertised in a pretty nice wine shop close to Darling Harbour so there we went. The tasting wasn’t very exciting though, only 2-3 reds and whites but lots of sake which isn’t really up our alley. Tried the white and red and walked back to town.

Did see a humongous bottle of Chateau d’Yquem – that one probably would be enough for a party of 100 people as a dessert wine.

Still hadn’t tried any Vietnamese food so that’s where we headed. In a small area close to the hotel we found 5 Vietnamese restaurants, didn’t fancy 3 of them, one was too crowded but the last one had an empty table so there we went. This was easily the best food we had all the trip (maybe except for the kangaroo and crocodile the day before). Thit kho to – caramelized pork, believe it or not. Amazing. We’ve of course found a recipe and tried but couldn’t quite duplicate it. Might have to try a few more times.

Back to the hotel for a few minutes, we’d almost checked everything on our list to do in the trip so now we just went to Hyde Park (which is very much smaller than it’s namesake in London), laid in the grass with our books and read. Got about a half an hour or so in the garden until the sun went down and it got too cold. (this would be like the middle of November in our hemisphere, I really don’t think you could lay down in the park in Iceland in November, even for half an hour).

“November” or not, tons of beautiful flowering plants:

Walked around for a while, bought some bread and muffins to take to the hotel for dinner. Later in the evening we went outside to try to finish the checklist, out in the garden by the train station to try to see the Southern Cross.

Well, we did, even though the garden was too well lit to see stars very well. Would have been best to try this in the mountains, but that evening was cloudy so no go.

Hotel, dinner in the room and a bit of internet and Formula 1 (Jón) and reading (me). Sleep.

Day #13. Finally kangaroos!

Day #12 I’ve already covered here but here’s the 13th:

Slept in AGAIN, didn’t wake until half past seven, nice (well we did go to sleep pretty early the day before). Husband took a slow morning run (hahahah, he wouldn’t be able to run slowly even though he really tried) while I took a shower. French toast for breakfast, different from usually.

Anyhow, this day we really meant to see some kangaroos. It just didn’t seem right to come all the way to Australia and not see a single ‘roo. National flower we saw the previous day. We’d given up hope of seeing any wild ones so we had to go to a park. Didn’t fancy the zoo, but we had seen a flyer from a small animal park in the Sydney suburbs. Took the metro to Pennant Hills and bus from there. Actually it wasn’t easy, the train was delayed for more than half an hour, according to the station announcements first because of an accident on a previous station, then it changed into a sudden death and finally police action. Not nice. We had a similar incident in Copenhagen once, rather eerie.

Well, finally a train arrived and the trip didn’t go too badly after that. Went over Harbour Bridge, unfortunately I wasn’t quite quick enough to pull the video cam up from my bag, would have liked to have a short vid from the bridge. One photo I did get.

The metro trip took about an hour. Went the wrong way out of the station in Pennant Hills and couldn’t find the bus stop but fortunately it didn’t matter, caught the bus when we figured out where we were supposed to be. Can’t really say the signs in and around the metro are clear at all, no maps or list over the stations inside the wagons, nowhere you could see where it was going, maps and markings in the stations weren’t very clear or easy to understand at all, either. Some colour coding but that also could be put to better use. Nowhere as clear and easy as Paris or London to name only 2. Maybe the designers of the system use Metro equally much as the planners of Reykjavík Buses use the bus (that is not at all).

The little park seemed to not have very much money, a bit lacking in the surroundings but the animals seemed to be OK, not too crowded, enough water and shadow for them. You could pet both kangaroo and koala bears, the koala fur wasn’t as soft as I had thought.

Took quite a few photos, some on the phone to send to the younger daughter – the only thing she’d asked us to do was that if we saw a ‘roo we’d take a phone photo and send to her. So of course I did just that.


That was Freyja’s photo.

Finished the walkthrough and then had to wait a few minutes for the bus back to the station. Saw a shrub I really want for my garden (my family laughed when they saw the photo – I really like this colour)

Back the same way, stopped 2 stations earlier since we meant to go out to eat in Circular Quay (which I think I already mentioned is nowhere near to circular). My brother and sister-in-law had strongly recommended a Chinese restaurant with the view of the Opera House on Circular.

What they’d failed to mention was a specific menu they’d been really impressed by in that restaurant, so as we’d been eating a lot of oriental we decided to go to another one, and have a really nice Australian meal. Jón had some Barramundi, always wanted to try, and I went for kangaroo and crocodile on a mashed potato bed with a really nice bearnaise.

Amazingly good and of course lovely to sit in an outdoor café with a view of the most famous and probably the most amazing opera house in the world.

So I saw and ate kangaroo on the same day. The croc tasted like chicken…

After dinner we walked to the Opera, meant to take a walk through the house but when we saw how much it cost we decided not to. Wouldn’t have minded paying quite a bit for a couple of tickets to a show, but we were off-season and no shows or concerts we fancied. The price for just walking through the house with a guide was rather too steep.
No thanks – but this does give us a reason to go back to Australia and see and hear a proper opera show…

Went to the Australian Wine Centre, not far from Circular, bought a couple of bottles of this wine we’d been drinking. The prices of wine were really steep too, but we’d asked the store attendant to point us towards a nice, not too expensive wine. He then told us to try a wine in a sales rack, for 18 AUD. We were totally amazed by the wine but failed to find any reference to it on the net. So this time we asked about it. Turned out to be a wine from a top producer which didn’t think his grapes measured up that year. So instead of lowering his standard, he made this wine, with a non-recognizable label, a white one with the words Secret Label, Barossa Valley. The attendant told us his wines normally cost about 85 AUD. We tried to press him for who it was, since we actually would have liked to be able to buy his wines – even for 85 dollars, but no go.

Took a Sydney Ferry from Circular to Darling Harbour, 3 stops on the way, getting dark, nice. Here you can see the entrance to Sydney’s Luna Park, the main theme park.

Quite lovely to sail in the evening, I think the harbour and well, sea is what amazes me about Sydney. Endless coves and inlets, islands and beaches and somehow all so clean. In big cities you normally wouldn’t fancy taking a swim in the harbour – I wouldn’t have minded it there at all.

Hotel, net, book and a lovely red wine in a water glass. Only one whole day left.

Day #11. Fire alarm

Managed to sleep in, didn’t wake up until half past seven (yes, AM) first time all trip we both slept through the night. About time, we were looking at departure in a few days… (pretty funny actually, translating, to sleep in in Icelandic is “að sofa út” which literally means to sleep out).

Might even have slept longer, hadn’t the fire alarm sounded at the aforementioned time. We, of course, like very atypical Icelanders jumped into some clothes, grabbed our pocketbook/purse and were ready to run out of the room when the alarm bell stopped ringing so instead of going all the way outside we went to breakfast. Debated if we dared take the elevator, there’s no open stairway in the hotel, only the emergency one. Decided on risking the elevator. Saw a couple of fire trucks with blue blinking lights outside from the breakfast hall window, the alarm went off for a short while during breakfast but neither staff nor guests took any notice of it so we didn’t either. Seems like Australians are equally careless about this sort of thing as are we Icelanders.

The Blue Mountains trip was delayed one day, so instead we decided to make this a museum and park day. Went to the Australian Museum and saw an exhibition on Australia’s flora and fauna plus a magnificent show on dinosaurs. A really impressive interactive table with the most dangerous animals – they seemed to jump out at you.

Japanese lunch, an all-you-can eat buffet with sushi and other Japanese food. I really liked their concept – if you take more than you can eat you have to pay extra. Never seen that sort of warning or rule before.

Then for another round in the Botanical Gardens. I’m sure I could put on an half an hour show with all the photos I took there. Amazing to see all those exotic plants – one didn’t really recognize any of them, except for some popular houseplants at home – hardly any of the same. Even the grass looks different. Saw a rosemary bush, about the same size as our house pride plant we have in our front room.

I’m sure it doesn’t sound like we did a thing that day but it was already about 3 PM when we were done with the park. Back to hotel, 3 shops on the way, bought a big jigsaw puzzle with a world map, Australia in the middle, for our youngest, and a couple of books – since we hardly had any with us (see this post)

Divided the remaining net hour between us – the hotel room was actually freezing. Maybe Australians are like the British, don’t turn on the heating until a certain day, instead of when they feel cold like we would do.
Wasn’t freezing out or anything, about 11°-19°C, but a bit down from the previous days’ 26°C or so. Put my warm computer under my bed covers to keep them warm while we went out to eat.

Went to a Thai place, living in the middle of Sydney’s China Town we used the opportunity to taste all sorts of Asian cookery. Done Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, South Korean, now Thai, which left Vietnamese and possibly Taiwanese too. Really nice. Hadn’t seen any Australian places really, some Italian, Spanish, German, even British and Portuguese but none advertising Surf’n’Turf or kangaroo or crocodile. Weird.

In this obviously popular Thai place (totally stuffed on this Wednesday evening) we just had to try the Pad Thai noodles, which we always get at our favourite Thai place here (Krúa Thai) and, well Krúa’s are actually more tasty. The ice cream and coffee were amazing, though.

Back to the hotel, donned our pajamas and straight under the duvet, computer wasn’t quite cold yet. Really thought about taking a hot tub bath every day for the rest of the trip to get even with the hotel…

happy Gay Pride day

today in Reykjavík we have Gay Pride, which here is a huge family festival, almost everyone goes downtown, young and old, to be happy for and with gays and lesbians. Today our (heterosexual) mayor was in drag on one of the wagons – yay him!

Day #10 Sailing and more

Husband woke up at 6 AM, weird how the jet-lag hits us differently. Went jogging at 7 and then woke me up when he got back about an hour later. He’d run some water in the bathtub to see if the water circled anticlockwise in the southern hemisphere. That it did:

Breakfast, shower, and out we went.

Started by checking when to catch the train to Leura in the Blue Mountains. A perfect one at 9 o clock, meant to go there the next day. Takes about 2 hours.

Walked to Darling Harbour, way shorter from the hotel than Circular Quay. On the way there we stopped at the Chinese Friendship Garden, there the battery in the video recorder gave up, I must try and find an extra battery for it. Totally irritating not being able to switch when it runs dry. Fortunately the camera in my phone is excellent so the day didn’t go by unphotographed.

The Friendship Garden is lovely, glad we decided to pay the entry. Not touristy at all. Might go there again, depends on how much time we’d have. Loved the lizard in the tea house.

Jón Lárus had read in our travel book about a restaurant in Darling Harbour where one could get Hokkien noodles. We once bought a jar of Hokkien sauce and I’ve never tried a better canned sauce in my life. Of course you can’t get it any more though :( The noodles in the restaurant didn’t even taste nearly as good – apparently Hokkien isn’t a uniform anything. The duck that the noodles accompanied was delicious, though.

Down to the harbour, didn’t want to spend $35 each for Sydney Aquarium, maybe later. Took a water taxi to Circular Quay, only the two of us on the boat so we chatted with the taxi captain (must be his title, right?) all the way. Asked about the volcano, of course…

leigubátur

Arrived at Circular, walked to The Rocks, went back to the Australian Music Information Centre (I’m chairman of the board in the Icelandic sister centre actually), I bought a CD with one of the pieces we heard at the concert. Decided to skip buying the printed music, it’s published by Ricordi in London so it shouldn’t be hard to get a copy if we wanted to sing it sometime. Let my conductor hear the piece first.

Meant to buy another piece, an Australian string quartet but the composer hadn’t yet put the piece in the centre. Got the composer’s email address, might be in touch later if my daughter and friends would like to play the piece. Might try to see if he’s on Facebook, though.

After the visit to the centre we found a microbrewery stationed in Sydney’s oldest hotel, all the way on top of The Rocks. Not bad. Then Sydney Observatorium, a pretty interesting stargazing museum, there we also heard some Aboriginal folklore about how the world came to be. Amazing.

Saw these signs on the way back:

Back to the hotel, both really tired even though it was only 5 PM. Took an hour to walk back, stopped a few times, bought the handbag I fell for a few days earlier, also went into the best-arranged used book shop I’ve ever been in, the used-book shops here tend to be mostly not arranged, at least not like this – by type of book and then alphabetical. Not all just jumbled together. Didn’t find the Garth Nix books I was looking for, though. Saw a Culinaria book, really cheap, decided to maybe buy it if it would still be on sale later on in the week.

At the hotel, Jón made dinner, cut down the rests of yesterday’s steak, a few chips along and then cheese and muffins for dessert. Net and sleep.