Archive for October, 2012

Octoberfestivus Day 28

Posted: October 31, 2012 in Travel

Dubai to Brisbane

That’s all folks. Woke up on time and went down for one last plentiful but largely non satisfying breakfast. Smooth check out and BC chauffeur was waiting well on time. He may have been expecting the Bay City Rollers as it was a Volvo van with seating for 6 but no, it was just the CLP and me. Smooth drop off and check in including 2 passport checks. Then we had a 20 minute walk to our gate. It was 21 mins to First Class lounge so we went there first . The plane was running 30 mins late at present but expected to arrive in Brisbane 30 minutes early – you gotta love Math. The lounge at Dubai is much like the breakfast in hotels – looks a lot better than it actually is at least for this little black duck. Too much sweet stuff or cold meats for me in the morning. The pork bacon is burnt to within an inch of its existence in one last act of defiance I imagine. So will sign off now for this trip but first some awards

Best Organised trip – Wine tour through Chianti
Best Accomodation- Rome Apartment
Best meal – Beef Bourguignon in Paris
Best Dining – L’epi Dupine Paris
Best Event – Moulin Rouge
Best View -burj AL Arab Skyview Bar
Best City to visit – Florence
Best City to stay for a while – Paris
Best Fun – Segway tour Prague
Best Bath – Sofitel Dubai
Best Beer – Cafe des 2 Moulin (yeah I was surprised too)
Best Coffee – no winner but had one good one near Bastille in Paris
Best Wine – sharing a bottle with brother in Chablis – some French stuff
Best Relaxation – beer and Shishah around pool at sunset in Dubai
Best Pampering – BC trip from Zurich to Dubai with Emirates
Best Statue – David in Florence
Best Building – Colosseum
Best Train trip – Paris to Zurich
Best short visit – Venice (only nominee actually but it was a great 6 hours)

Hottest Women – Prague

Worst Experience – Overnight Train from Venice to Paris with Thello

Octoberfestivus Day 27

Posted: October 30, 2012 in Travel

The Final Countdown

As we enter our final full day on holiday I am ready to come home. It has been wonderful but a month is about my limit. I have family at home and 3 wonderful grandsons to catch up with. Think CLP and I would also agree a break is about due, too much of a good thing yada yada yada. But first I have to endure 14 hrs of business class on the way home….

We are staying at the Sofitel on the Marina and it is fine but nothing special in this class of hotel. What it does have though is the best bathtub we have see for many a year. Slept better last night as no construction going on – from memory in this part of the world they do have different days off to our standard weekend. Started off with the usual buffet breakfast but honestly not too much is all that appealing at this stage. Then it was down to the Not Quite Dead Sea where it was very pleasant to float around in the high salt concentration. Made the mistake of drifting too close to shore at one stage and 2 smart asses rolled me back out to sea. Bloody Greenpeace everywhere. Then it was back to our poolside cabana where the most difficult decision of the last month awaited us – we had 600 AED to spend in one day. I could get all of my underwear pressed I guess or better still – search out that poolside menu. Of course, no alcohol before midday so we swaddled by the pool for a couple of hours and then ordered 2 beers and a few mini burgers. I should have got the “extra cold ” Heinekin on tap rather than the bottled Corona. I decided to leave it for 10 minutes in the Dubai heat to see if it would cool down! The burgers and chips burned a few hundred AED and then in a simple last act of defiance went for a swim only 10 minutes after lunch! What can I say- I live life on the edge .

Leaving the Glass House mantra to one side momentarily there are not a lot of flash bodies around this pool in Dubai. There is a lot of flesh on show but not the good kind. Good luck to them if they are relaxed about it all but would suggest there should be a general rule enforceable by expulsion from pool area that has 2 criteria – if > 60 kg then your bikini must cover > 20% of your flesh. Cruel but fair. In general Dubai would seem to have an obesity problem worse than Australia especially amongst its young men. Fat tourists are expected but it is a concern amongst the resident population I would imagine. Anyway I have my own problems to deal with………. namely 300 AED to spend by days end.

After a brief walk through the shopping mall it was back to the pool for the afternoon and into a lovely sunset. Very pleasant indeed and a faint sea breeze made it all very comfortable. We had planned to go back into mall for dinner but was so relaxing by the pool ordered a few beers and a couple more hamburgers and then hit the Shisha. Good times. Of course by now we had blown our 300 AED so a quick trip to the ATM allowed us to settle our hotel bill and have 7 AED left. What a pity there are no beggars in Dubai

So a rough start to the “relaxing” few days had ended well and now with only the Business Class journey home to deal with I may just survive for another holiday anther year. Of course being unemployed after December 7th may mean that one occurs in Australia – not a bad result at all

Octoberfestivus Day 26

Posted: October 29, 2012 in Travel


Ok Emirates Business Class is sweet as, bordering on life- changing, from the Zurich lounge through to the arrival in Dubai. After that things deteriorated somewhat . We got through passport alright but the “chauffeur” service at this end of the line is a glorified taxi service – no one waiting with a name board or anything. Then we hit the highway and drive like only the Dubaians can – fast. Then we hit a dead stop about 2 k from home – Sofitel Jumeirah on the marina. It was 1 am in the morning and the traffic and people around ridiculous – some big special event apparently this week where everyone descends on Arab Town. It took us another hour to move this 2 km and the amazing thing was a lot of the problem was simply young men, and I use that term very loosely, driving around in their hot cars simply to be seen. Some clown was driving a red Ferrari around a frigging round about at 0.00001 kph and the only thing that could happen would be for it to get scratched! Finally we checked in and then had more fun and games – straight away the CLP was ignored and all questions (as the man) addressed to me even though booking in her name! Bizarre – not even eye contact with her. Finally into a very nice room on eighth floor at 0230 in morning. Then we became aware they build very tall building here but not familiar with the concept of double glazing. I swear I could still hear that same bloody idiot revving his friggin Ferrari ! And of course 24/7 construction going on so simply could not slip. Finally found some ear plugs which helped a bit and guess I drifted off.

Woke at about 0800 so down for breakfast. Everyone looked grumpy – no surprises. Only thing we had booked in Dubai was High Tea at Burj Al Arab on the 27th floor in Skyview bar at 1 pm. So lets hit the pool. Strangely the swimming trunks felt a bit snug and I have no reason why unless it was that damn Chinese laundry woman. Anyway this revived us somewhat and we headed off for another foodie flogging. The first thing you need to do when in Dubai is use Maths otherwise you may have a coronary. One Aussie $ is worth about 4 AED so no need to faint when first taxi fare is 50 AED. In fact taxis are very reasonable and what costs $40 A in Australia(where we are ripped off ) costs 40 AED here. You can’t get near Burj without a reservation as they are locked down with security guard but we arrived nice and early for some great photos outside and in. Then up to 27th floor for the best high tea we have ever had. Mind you did cost 450 AED each. First tourist tip I always say is tell them I is a special occasion and you always get something extra – I got an individual little birthday mud cake:)

We then had grand plan to go to Raffles to have a 125th anniversary Singapore Sling and paid another 70 AED to get there by taxi and arrived about 4 pm. Sorry sir, no alcohol served before 6 pm. Damn! Another 70 AED taxi home and back down to the pool. Very noice as the sun set. We then walked down into the thronging masses for some dinner and in keeping with the ambiguous nature of Dubai found an Italian/Chinese restaurant and had a simple noodle meal with no alcohol! It was a balmy 30 degrees but rather pleasant sitting outside under the lights.

Then that farkin Ferrari drove past again……

Octoberfestivus Day 25

Posted: October 28, 2012 in Travel

Fire and Ice

Woke up to snow in Zurich and a balmy 0 degrees. Today we fly out to Dubai in the afternoon for a sultry 37 degrees although luckily we don’t get in til midnight. Did I mention we are flying business class. Sweet. Early 55th Birthday present from CLP. So will get to airport nice and early and hook in to the freebies in the Emirates Lounge before getting onto plane and hooking into more freebies. Luckily the baggage allowance for BC is 40 Kg and you can include your gut in there as well. Those clever Emiratiennes. Chauffeur delivery to airport was way cool and early check in worked smoothly – apart from the 4 Indians in front who seemed at a total loss as to what to do! Did security check thing and then had to catch a bullet train to actually get to our terminal. Swiss Air rules baby. Then we had to walk up stairs to get to our Emirates lounge. Imagine!!! Once there all was forgiven. The biggest problem of course is not to overindulge too early before the flight. Harder than it sounds actually.

So as we bid farewell to Europe some final thoughts.

Prague was a pleasant surprise though should not have been as everyone does the rave. Food and alcohol is very reasonable priced if a little lacking in variety at times. About 2 days would knock off the major highlights in the city but it is an easy one to walk around. The women are rather stunning but I think I may have mentioned that previously. Segway is a fantastic way to see th city.

We couldn’t do Vienna justice in the short stay we had but like Prague would think 2 days knocks off most of the highlights in the city. Easy to walk around and the KK Maria Therese was an excellent hotel to stay at. The famous schnitzel was a standout and the Rathaus etc look stunning at night time. The Schonbrunn was an impressive Palace and gardens if that is your thang

Rome was warm but had plenty to see and the obvious ones are the standouts. The driving and parking of course is fascinating. The food is not all that varied at least at the lower end of the scale – am sure there are amazing restaurants. The women look unhappy. Metro stations are fairly widely spaced. It’s less easy to walk due to its hilly nature but we needed full week to see everything. Nothing though left to drag me back really whereas can visit Paris yearly simply to enjoy it.

Florence was great although to me their museums are overrated, a couple of standout items not withstanding . It is a lovely town to walk around and has great food. The wine tour through Tuscanny was a standout and could easily spend more time there. Plenty of leather goods for you S&M fans.

Paris is of course Paris and in this week we saw a few lesser known sites which was great and also discovered some wonderful eating places. The weather got increasingly cool which was great but the fog/haze does not help photography. Moulin Rouge was an unexpected treat and of course the day trip to Chablis was great. The metro is the equal and probably better than anything else we have tried. Easy town to walk around and the river forms a great centrepiece.

Zurich is expensive – end of story. It is certainly a nice little town but does not offer a lot for the tourist. Our excursion into the countryside, though somewhat ruined by rain, certainly indicated some lovely areas that could be worth visiting for longer such as Lucerne and Interlagen. Hotel Continental was great. Was great to see some snow though.

The apartments we stayed at were all great using predominantly VRBO. The one in Paris through Paris Nice Home was very well equipped etc but suffered from one of its charms – slate floors. We were on the first floor and had a herd of mating elephants staying above!

Well better sign off now as they just bought out the hot buffet. First of course the hostie with the mostie sought us out to inform us of of our gate . Guess it saves having to actually get up and look at a board. Life is pretty easy for rich bastards I would suggest. I will take my 15 minutes.

Octoberfestivus Day 24

Posted: October 27, 2012 in Travel

Mt Titlis (giggle giggle)

The day dawned as predicted – cold , raining and sleet on the way. They say you should not book Mountain trips in advance and that may be true but then again there was not a lot to do in Zurich for another day either. So sloshed down to meeting point at appointed time to see what horrors awaited. It was looking ok until kick off time of 0930 when some problem with one ticket caused a 10 minute delay which then allowed an Indian family of 5 including a toddler rock up 15 minutes late and still get a ride. They were going to be a problem- you could just tell. Just out of interest why do so many Indians seem to holiday in Zurich?? Have seen then everywhere. Anyway we got away and then the next problem started. We were on a Viator tour to Mt Titlis with a 1 hour stop off in Lucerne for lunch. What we did no know was there were about 4 other tour groups with us with various drop off and pick up points which we had to travel to as well!! First drop off and of course the Indian family were 15 minutes getting back which would mean we had 15 minutes less on the mountain. Thanks a lot. Our 1 hour in Lucerne was also cut back to 40 mins which made it very difficult to have a proper lunch. Anyway eventually we got to Mt Titlis and let me add the bus driver was excellent, as they always seem to be. It was cold. It was snowing. It was whiteout. Anyway 4 cable cars later we were at 3000 m where it was colder and whiter. For some obscure reason we walked out into this for an “ice flyer” ski lift ride in the blizzard. I could not see anything except my life force draining before my very eyes. We somehow made it back and thought we would have a roll and share a beer for lunch – 30 francs! Is there a dearer place in the world to eat then Zurich?? By now I think everyone was keen to get warm back on the bus so we actually left on time and only had one pickup in Lucerne on way back which went smoothly. All in all it was ok, the weather is just one of those things but organised bus tours really do piss me off as you always get some ignorant people on it. The meshing of 4 tour groups, unstated on web site, by Viator was poor form.

Back in warm hotel , thought why not get a burger and beer x 2 for room service . 73 Francs later and I should come to in an hour or so they think. Daylight saving ends tonight so we get an extra hours sleep. Somehow I suspect it will be added to my bill

Octoberfestivus Day 23

Posted: October 26, 2012 in Travel


We bid farewell to Paris on yet another foggy morning. The prebooked taxi arrived on time at 0900 and it was all smooth sailing to Gare de Lyon and onto the SCNF Lyria to Zurich leaving at 1020. First class was very comfortable for the 4 hour trip and we received an excellent lunch. Only a short walk from train station to our Hotel Continental in Zurich and it all seems fine. The weather was cool and overcast – much like Paris! – and we headed off into the old town to see the highlights. There are not many but it is still a beautiful city on both sides of the river. Then our fun started. First up could not use CBA card at Swiss Bank ATM because it was not chipped. Then we found one that would take it so we asked for €200 – and got one bloody note! We decided to head back to our hotel and check our dinner options but first a beer in the hotel bar. Once again excellent ambience and service and the waitress gave us some great tips. Then over the local ” apple cider” asked her about the attached Chinese restaurant Luo? Best Chinese in Zurich – ok sounds great. We went down early around 630 pm and were seated easily and ordered our drinks. Food? Only the chef can take the food order. Odd but ok. 10 minutes later we placed our order, 1 entree to share and 2 mains. Took a while to arrive and were starting to worry about the system in place here. The food was fine but nothing special. Then we asked waiter for the bill after being ignored for about 15 minutes despite personally piling up our plates on top of each other as a clear message. Finally grabbed him. ” sorry, only chef can give bill” You said what??? Fark me. Another 15 minutes and chef turns up with bill and starts to walk away. No so fast mate!! And that was our mistake. The bill was 102 francs which was expensive but expected and we just wanted to get rid of our 200 franc note. So we gave it to him and waited while he dealt out the change but sadly we were in a rush to get out. The bloody mongrel only gave us 88 change instead of 98!! Sorry end to a great day. Avoid Luo Restaurant in Zurich folks.

Off for bed time as we have day trip to MT Titlis ( giggle giggle ) tomorrow and they are predicting snow and sleet and – 4 degrees!

Octoberfestivus Day 22

Posted: October 25, 2012 in Travel

Au Revoir Paris

This was our last full day in Paris and at last the early morning fog of the last 2 days appeared to have evaporated and it was a cool clear day. Of course in Paris clear is an ambiguous term as we found out later while scouring the horizon on high – more on that later. Today was a day to catch a few sites we had overlooked so far such as Hotel de Invalides. This was impressive and also includes the Tomb of Napoleon. We left him to lay in peace and checked out the Pompidou Centre which was certainly an interesting looking building and rather large. As it was basically a museum an outside look would satisfy the burning curiosity bubbling away inside. As it was such a glorious day CLP came up with the rather brilliant plan of going to the top of the Montparnasse building viewing platform – all 207m – for a view of Paris. I enquired as to the availability of an elevator- like device and she assured me there was. So for 13€ we went up the 56 floors to some rather stunning views. Cue the comment about “clear” days. Even the Eiffel Tower which was not a million miles away was not clearly defined. The views were superb, you just could not do them justice with a camera. Of course there was the obligatory black screen shot of us superimposed on Paris at night which we got because we could and we had some € we needed to offload. Off to Zurich tomorrow and those clowns want francs apparently. We then thought we would metro back to St Germain de Pres for lunch and this time landed at Cafe de Flore. It was crowded but fine and we only ate relatively light as we had a special meal planned for dinner. We thought it was ok to have a few drinks though of course because that simply passes through you. Then a slow wander home to have a quick look at some packing. Tonight it is off the L’epi Dupin for the seven course degustation as one last memory of Paris

Next few days should be interesting. Down to about 17 max at present in Paris; Zurich on Saturday is expecting snow and about a max of 4 and then on Sunday into Dubai and 37 degrees. Packing is a bitch

Octoberfestivus Day 21

Posted: October 25, 2012 in Travel

The Breast of Both Worlds

Still rather sick so a quite day was planned before Moulin Rouge visit for dinner and show at 7 pm. The weather now was certainly cooler but with it came fog basically for the whole day. Not a real drama except we had planned for a picnic lunch at Eiffel Tower. Still we trudged on to the markets and picked up our fresh supplies of meats, cheeses and breads along with a small bottle of champagne as we had not bought a corkscrew. We are “spoilt” in Australia with all of the screw cap bottles available! Second disappointment was to find all of the grassed off areas fenced off so we had to sit on a bench and look around the corner at the tower. However the food was great. Then it was a slow wander back home for some R&R before the big night. We took our two metro stops to get to Blanche which comes out across the road from Moulin. But first a visit to Cafe de 2 Moulins made famous in the movie Amelie. We had a beer and it was the coldest we had tasted so far. We had another. Then we went and lined up. The line ups are long but the whole process is handled well and we were seated well before 7 pm and we had 4 other Aussies at our table which I put down to great planning by the reservation people dealing with online bookings. That theory went out the door of course when Olga the lone Russian tourist in France was also seated at our table. The table was in an excellent location and while snug was still comfortable. We had the Toulouse Lautrec menu – small servings ! – which was fine for a production line service feeding several hundred people. As warned by others, do not buy extra drinks as the price is prohibitive eg £80 for half bottle of basic red. The show kicks off at 9 pm and is spectacular though lacks variety. There are only so many stunning costumes, pert bosoms and mimed music you can take on loop but the acts in between we’re simply superb – juggler, acrobats and mime – to the point I was waiting for the show to break so we could see next act! So overall it was a great night and certainly an experience not to be missed when in Paris.

We decided to take the Metro home as well assuming even at 1130 at night there would be people around and I would not get molested. They were jammed in like sardines – what are people doing in Paris at 1130 pm on a Wednesday night out in the boondocks??

Octoberfestivus Day 20

Posted: October 24, 2012 in Travel

Catching up in Chablis

Officially sick as a dog but today still turned out great. Many moons ago we had arranged to meet up with my brother John and his travelling companions including wifey Lorraine as we were both going to be in Europe at similar times and specifically in France. While we were in Paris they were cruising the wine districts. So a 2 hr train trip for us to Tonnerre and a 90 minute car trip for them from Varzy saw us meet up in Chablis. A quiet , beautiful and immaculately clean village despite the number of amazing vineyards enclosing it. First up was an hour long tour and talk with the very helpful and knowledgeable Francois around the different vineyards and then it was time for lunch. Left the wine selection to John the expert while we chose a blast back to the last century with a beef fondue. The food and wine were excellent but the service pretty ordinary with our typically arrogant French waiter and we waited 40 minutes for any food to even appear. Luckily the company was great. From there we wandered around town for a short while walking past several wine “houses” and taking a tasting in one. All too soon it was back in the car for the trip,back to Tonnerre and onto Paris. We had only been able to spend about 6 hours together but it was great. Apart from coughing ones lung up every 5 minutes of course. It was at last pleasantly cool.

Octoberfestivus Day 19

Posted: October 22, 2012 in Travel

Pere Lachaise- Down among the Deadmen

The day dawned bright and clear eventually around 0900 so we headed off on our Metro jaunt to find the famed cemetery of Pere Lachaise. Only a couple of connections required and must say that the colour system used in the Paris Metro makes it very easy to follow. The cemetery was very quiet at this time of dead ,no doubt partly helped by the fact it was full of dead people but we had avoided any tourist crushes if such things happen. First stop was to get a map as this place is big – the celebrities are numbered but can still be difficult to find as many are simply sites compared to some. Money buys you a bigger shrine than fame apparently. First stop was Jim Morrison which was barricaded off for fairly obvious reasons but still easily seen and read. Then it was onto Chopin, Marcel Marceau, Balzac, Edith Piaf and Yves Montand. Outside of Morrison the other notable is most likely Oscar Wilde and as one would expect a rather distinctive site – once more barricaded off.

Then it was off on a gourmet gallop through St Germain-des-Pres. First stop – Les Deux Magots Cafe, a favourite haunt of Hemingway for a coffee. Then a quick wander through the famous La Fayette shopping monstrosity. Just around the corner we sauntered for our lunch recommended by our host Pascale at Le Relais del Entrocote. Lunch was the preferred time due to the crowds at dinner and we had no waiting. It is a set menu and certainly interesting though not necessarily spectacular . A sour hostess subsequently dubbed Happy Harriet for rest of stay seemed to find our presence mildly annoying . We had our walnut and lettuce salad to start which was fine but were suprised that HH left behind the knife and fork we used – ok the steak may be tender but would prefer a knife without salad dressing on it. The Entrocote was indeed tender and properly cooked and was served with a mountain of fries and nothing else, apart from obligatory sauce. The lunch cost us €75 and was more filling than memorable. Time to walk home slowly for a break from a busy morning before we headed out later for a very nice coffee at Le Cafeotheque- the coffee du jour was Costa Rican and just fine and dandy.

After a heavy lunch we will search out some light crepes for dinner. As it is such a beautiful day will head out on sunset for some pictures hopefully. Full day tomorrow travelling to Chablis to catch up with brother so looking for an early night. Day 2 of a full blown head cold is not helping at all.