It's Better to Travel than Arrive?

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive"

Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, 1881.

"Robert Louis Stevenson speaks utter tosh and has

obviously never flown long haul economy class"

Kristy, first ever blog post, 2011.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dad's Guest Blog - Part 2

Anyway there were 2 cabin crew and we had 2 comfortable seats and I had one next to the window.  They even served us a light meal and drinks.

After taking off we climbed out over what appeared to be fertile countryside all laid out in symmetrical small plots, so different to what we are used to in Australia.

Then large lakes and rivers, up over the snow covered peaks of the Alps.  As we passed over these historic peaks I thought of the pain they have caused over the centuries as pilgrims moved backwards and forwards, armies fought each other, escapees fleeing tyranny and, in more recent times, those early aviators as they explored, allowing us to fly safely today, Friday 13th.

The skies were nearly clear so the view of the ever expanding snow covered mountainous peaks was unbelievable, then for the last 20 minutes or so we flew through extremely thick cloud.  Down we went until at last the clouds began to break-up and the unbelievably blue sea and scattered islands came into view. This is what we have travelled around the world to see.

Then we began flying over extremely hilly country again.  There didn’t seem to be any beach area at all and definitely not enough flat ground to put a plane down.

The first part of Croatia I could identify was the Port of Dubrovnik in Gruz where we were going to stay.  There were at least 3 large cruise ships moored to the wharfs and 1000’s of smaller boats of all shapes and sizes scattered all over the place, but on we flew, back over this hilly in-hospitable looking country and still no flat ground.  All of a sudden the wheels went down and I could see, carved out of the surrounding countryside, the cement airstrip, we were down and soon taxiing to the terminal.

As we came to a stop, along came another bus to ferry us into customs, however before I boarded it I stopped to take a photo of the DH8 and parked close by was a jet from the airline Easy Jet and painted on the nose was the name Captain James Whalley, the name of an an old acquaintance, but that is a story for another day.

Well, we were down, no problems through customs then, guess what, our bags turned up, our courier driver was waiting then, as far as I was concerned, only one more hurdle was still in our path, would there be a booking for us at the Hotel Petka on our arrival?

We walked up to reception, introduced ourselves, were made welcome, given the key to the room, into the lift, dropped our bags and down to the bar for a celebratory drink and to put paid to the superstitions surrounding Friday 13th.  

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Amsterdam by Car? Just Say "NO!"

Firstly, let me just say, for someone who loathes inconsiderate cyclists with a passion that burns like a white hot flame, venturing into Amsterdam by car was not one of my better ideas.

We had a good drive from Koblenz, about 4 hours, and the plan was to drive to our rental apartment, drop off the luggage, and take the car out to one of the many Park & Ride locations out of the city.  Car parking in Amsterdam is currently running at 4 euros an hour, so Park & Ride is meant to be the way forward at 8 euros per day, including free public transport tickets back to the city.

We arrive at the apartment with me teetering on the edge of freaking out after dealing with hundreds of cyclists, narrow tiny streets, and a comprehensive one way street system.  I ring the number on the booking sheet only to have it ring out and go to service.  I try it again, just for laughs.  Same result.  I read the third page of the booking and discover that I have to go to an office to collect the keys first - my fault for being a bit slap dash.

I key the address into the satnav and we're off again, narrowly avoiding squashing cyclists riding two and three abreast down the middle of streets.  I find the office and park illegally, running inside to get the keys and check-in.  Then back to the apartment, in a lovely narrow street, up several thousand narrow stairs which we have to tackle with all the bags.  Dad stays at the apartment whilst Mum & I head out of town to the closest Park & Ride location at Ajax Stadium.

After about 15 minutes of futile driving in circles around Ajax Stadium, which is astonishingly poorly signposted, I see a tiny Park & Ride sign and we head into a huge parking station, drive around for another 5 minutes inside until we see a sign telling us where to get our ticket, then park and head to the office, only to be told that they're not doing Park & Ride for the next three days due to a big three day concert in the stadium.  Seriously?  You're joking me right?  By this time I'm nearly in tears.

We have to pay, and leave the stadium, heading in a 5km loop to the other side of the stadium to another Park & Ride location, that was not only open, but even staffed by someone who was willing to help - yay!

He gives us our tram tickets and points to the tram about 200m away, so we head off on foot, only to find that there was a high fence all around the area and we couldn't get through.  We re-trace our steps only to find he'd sent us in the wrong direction and eventually found the tram stop, the absolute last one on the line.

Then it was 30 minutes on the tram into town, plus another 20 minutes on another tram that was meant to have a stop at the end of our street.  It didn't.  It had been re-routed on another track and when we finally got off, we had no idea where we were.

"I always depend on the kindness of strangers" (okay, which movie was that in?) and asked a gentleman passing by if he could help us, thrusting our map at him.  He pointed out where we were and where we should be and we thanked him and headed off, eventually finding home about 10 minutes later, by which time I was almost catatonic with stress, and actually shaking with nerves.  In the end, it had taken us 3 hours to park the car!

Luckily my father had used his time at the apartment very wisely, venturing out to find a local store that sold alcohol, and after a bit of a sit down and a large glass of vodka and apple juice, I slowly calmed down.

Now that all the drama has ceased, we're having a ball in Amsterdam - it's a fabulous city.  Hubby flew in from Zurich on Friday night, and Jim flew in from London.  Friends of Mum & Dad's; Heike, Volker and their son Stefan, drove over from Hannover, and we're all really enjoying it.

More adventures will be forthcoming, but right now we're headed out on a canal boat tour, well away from those bloody cyclists!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I'm Outta Here!

I'm leaving today with Mum & Dad to drive to Koblenz, Amsterdam, Bruges and Luxembourg.  We're back home next Wednesday and I'll be posting some hotel reviews, both here and on  If you're looking for my previous hotel reviews on Trip Advisor, my user name is livingitlarge.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mystery Guest Blogger ...

Well, it's not such a mystery really, it's my Dad!

As he and Mum travelled from southern Germany to Dubrovnik, Croatia,
on Friday the 13th of May, Dad wrote a bit of a story about their adventure.

Part 1 of 2

My name is Jim and I am Kristy’s Father.  My wife and I are what Kristy would call “Trailing Parents” for because of her travels we are given the opportunity to trail after her, visiting places that 10 years ago we would never have dreamed of.  Anyway, these are my thoughts on travelling on Friday 13th.

What a day to travel into a country that less than 20 years ago was in the depths of a cruel civil war,  in a plane that had only 2 propellers and over the highest mountains in Europe.  Had no idea how the currency worked, couldn’t speak the language - the list goes on!!

We left Radolfzell about 11.30am heading for Zurich Airport.  On the way we stopped for lunch at IKEA.  Their meatballs taste the same wherever you are in the world, however the price changes dramatically, especially in expensive Switzerland.

Into the airport car park went like “clock work”, parking on the 2nd floor.  At the lift entrance we took a slip of paper telling us where we had parked, what a great idea.  We confirmed our tickets and processed our baggage, then up to the departure area. Up until this stage, there were no security checks, unlike Adelaide.

As we proceeded into Passport Control, all we have to do is show our passports, have them stamped.  Then on through to Security where carry-on luggage is screened, and, guess what, as I walked through the metal detector it activated the alarm. This security bloke comes up mumbles something I couldn’t understand and escorts me into this secure room for a body search/pat down.  At this point he puts on a pair of rubber gloves that didn’t look clean and my blood pressure began to rise.

Things were moving at a rapid rate by this time, as he was saying things I couldn’t understand and, after all, it was, Friday 13th.  I was thinking why did he pick me??  Anyway all that happened was a pat down. I think they just pick people at random to break up their boring job.

Anyway, on to the allocated waiting area where we thought we had left plenty of time before the flight and noticed people gathering at our terminal about the time we should be boarding.  There was no announcement, so we lined up and were directed onto a bus.  Couldn’t understand a word being spoken, were we going to the correct plane?  After travelling quite some distance we stopped at a small twin engine D.H. 8 Bombadier aircraft, similar to the commuter planes used in South Australia to service the mines.

Pauline, who at the best of times dislikes flying, wasn’t at all impressed.  For it seems incredible, we flew from Singapore to Zurich in an A380, one of the largest passenger planes in the world to this little one and it was Friday 13th.

... to be continued

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ryanair? Love it!

We're lucky enough to live in Europe and have access to the real budget airlines, Ryanair ( being one of my favourites.

Ryanair really divides opinion.  People either love them or hate them.  They're cheap, nasty and absolutely no-frills - but they've never claimed to be anything else.  They have the highest on-time arrivals and departures of any airline in Europe, and they've never lost my luggage.  Though, apparently, if they do lose your luggage you can pretty much wave goodbye to ever seeing it again (ask my cousin Mel whose bag they lost, containing her first and only pair of Chanel heels).  Chanel heels?  Swoon.

I'm a big fan of Ryanair.  They don't claim to be anything fancy, and they're out for any free bit of publicity they can get (e.g charging one euro to go the loo whilst on board - every paper in the world picked up on that rumour).  My best ever deal was 0.01E each way from Friedrichshafen to London Stansted return (yes, that's one euro cent each way).  I had to pay the mandatory 5E each way on-line check-in fee (you can't escape it), but no-one, absolutely no-one can knock a total fare of E10.02.  If you're flexible you can pretty much always get VERY cheap deals.  Just scroll through their on-line flight calendar day by day for a month and you'll find them.

You're allowed 10kg of carry-on luggage at no cost, as long as you keep your one piece (and, trust me, they will only allow one piece) of luggage within their prescribed measurements.  They weigh your bag before they'll let you through security, and if you've got more than 10kg they're going to either charge you for it or you've quickly got to find another way to get it on board.

I always wear a coat with BIG pockets (regardless of the weather, I've always got that coat) so that I can put my heavy things in the pockets (purse, camera, keys, book) so they don't get counted in my 10kg carry-on weight.  The stuff I've carried back in those pockets is astonishing - packs of bacon, custard powder, pots of Harrods Roquefort ...

I've also been known to wear more clothes than required, because I've been over my 10kg.  My last Ryanair flight back from London saw me wearing a pair of Joules ( pink chicken printed rubber boots on board because they were so big that a) they wouldn't have fitted in my carry-on, and b) they were really heavy.  I got some strange looks that day for sure!

My cousin Moose, who was back-packing around Europe in 2009, flew Ryanair from Germany to the UK and was very concerned that he would be over his 15kg check-in weight, and his 10kg carry-on weight, so he decided to wear his pair of cargo shorts under his jeans, to save weight.  Mistake.  At security the staff became aware that he looked excessively bulky in his nether regions.  They took him into a secure room and he had to strip in front of a man armed with a machine gun.  Great story, but lesson learnt!

One other thing to keep in mind when flying Ryanair, be very careful which airports you fly in and out of.  The airports that they use are quite deceptively named, e.g Munich isn't really near Munich, and Frankfurt isn't really near Frankfurt.  The money you save on their cheap flights can be totally blown with one cab fare to where you need to be.  Use Google Maps to figure out where the airports actually are.

Easyjet (  is another low-cost airline, but it's not nearly as cheap as Ryanair and they tend to fly from bigger airports, so I don't use them so much.  One good thing with them is that they don't have a carry-on weight limit, you can take as much as you like, so long as you fit within their prescribed luggage measurement.  Again, they allow only one piece of carry-on.  Not even a camera around your neck and one piece of carry-on.  Not a handbag and one piece of carry-on.  Seriously, it's only one piece of carry-on.

What's been your cheapest ever flight deal?

Just in case you were wondering why I've put links to the companies I've mentioned above, there's no benefit to me for doing that, I just thought it might make it easier for you to find them.  Though, if Ryanair are reading this and want to give me a free flight, please, go right ahead!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sleeping on Planes? It Pays To Be Nice.

I'm a firm believer in being nice to air hostesses (I know, they like to be called "flight attendants" now, but I'm old fashioned).  I think their job, whilst not terribly difficult, wouldn't be much fun.  Saying hello and smiling as you walk on board doesn't do you any harm, and I also like to find my seat, then find the closest air hostess and ask her if there are any empty rows on the flight.  They pretty much always say no, but if anything opens up "they'll let me know".  And sometimes, just sometimes, they do ...

Last year we flew out from Zurich to Johannesburg for the World Cup and, like the rest of my life, it was an interesting trip.  We boarded and the flight was absolutely full, but I asked our hostess if there were any empty seats so that I could have a snooze.  She said that there wasn't even one spare, but if something came up then she'd come and get me (they all say that, I never believe it).

So hubby and I are chilling out while the plane becomes even more jammed, and there's someone being loud in the background, but I'm not really focussing on it.  Then it gets louder.  And louder.  And there's a lot of swearing.  Bad, loud swearing.  I turn around, and in the very last row there is a black guy going totally insane, screaming a selection of the following on high rotation - he's not going to fly on this plane, he hates this plane, he hates us, he's a dog, he's a monkey, he's not going to fly on this plane, no way, no how, it's NOT going to happen.  Everyone has turned around and is looking at him and he's not stopping.  Then the doors get closed and we start push back.  And he's still going off his head.  I ask the hostess if it's actually safe to fly with this guy going bonkers in the back and she says "Oh, no, it's fine, he's handcuffed to the seats, and to the policeman on either side of him."  Oh, goody, that's fine then.

Then I see another guy go up to another attendant and tell him to tell the captain that they were going to sedate the crazy guy now and that should calm him down.  It didn't.  He's still furious and isn't shy about letting us all know about it.  By this time we're rolling out to the runway and you can see that everyone is thinking "this may be the longest 10 hours of my life", when the Captain comes on and says "You may have noticed that there is someone on the plane that doesn't want to fly with us tonight, so we're going back to the terminal to let him off".  Cue the cheers and clapping.

We roll back to the jetway and then the guy realises that he's actually managed to turn the plane around and now he's going to have to get off with three big, angry, white South African policemen.  And he starts to panic because there's a fair chance that he's going to get the beating of his life fairly shortly.  Now he doesn't really want to get off the plane after all.  One of the policemen had to walk in front of him and drag him whilst one walked behind him and pushed him, and the other carried their luggage.  Then it went blissfully quiet for a minute throughout the whole plane.  And then?  Then the hostess comes up and says "Quick, there's an empty row now and I'll take you up to it."  And there it was - a lovely empty row, still warm from the b*tts of a crazy guy and his police escorts.  And I slept, laying down, for 10 hours!!!!!!  I know everyone else on the plane must have hated me, but it was worth it. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

These Boots Were Made for Walking?

These boots were made for riding actually.  Riding like a cowboy (swoon).  I have an admission to make, I love cowboy boots.  I may actually have an addiction.  I've got five pairs, including a hot pink ostrich skin pair from Arizona that I bought to wear to a rodeo three years ago - and I wore them precisely once, but I love them, and no, I'm not ever giving them away.

Anyway, I love cowboy boots.  I wear my fave pair of boots year round, and when I put them on in the morning I can wear them all day with no problems.  I've worn them walking dogs, riding horses, in supermarkets, cafes and restaurants.

One thing you need to know about travelling is that, on some holidays, you do a lot of walking.  And when you do a lot of walking you need shoes that are really, really comfortable.  You need to know that they're going to be really comfortable and you need to have broken them in before you start trying to wear them all day.

I'm not talking about shoes for walking holidays here, heavens no!  Trust me, I'm not a "walking holiday" type of person, but you'd be surprised how much walking you do on a day in London, or in NYC.  If you actually want to see things in the cities you're visiting, you need to walk.  Of course, if you've won the lottery you can take taxis and skim over the surface of the places, but to actually experience a place, you need to walk.

No matter how much I love my cowboy boots, I discovered that I can't wear them if I'm going to be walking all day on holiday.  I can certainly wear them all day at home, from the car to the house, walking through the supermarket, sitting on the sofa, taking the dog for a 30 minute walk or doing the housework, but last year halfway through London's Hyde Park I started feeling a blister on the sole of my left foot.  There were no taxis and I still had a 30 minute walk home to our lovely friend Jim's apartment in Paddington.

By the time I got home, pretty much the entire sole of my left foot was a massive blister and I wasn't a happy bunny.  Luckily I had a pair of hiking boots at Jim's and I could hobble around for the rest of the trip with thick socks and hiking boots, but what I'm trying to say is that you need to think about what you're going to be doing when you're travelling and pack appropriate footwear.

I know hiking boots aren't terribly chic for posh cities, but I'm a big fan of bootleg jeans, and with the right length jean you can't actually see much except the toe of your hiking boot and you can get away with wearing them into fab shops and cafes - no-one can see and you'll be so very comfy.

The only shoes I've found I can wear all day in summer are Birkenstock Gizeh thongs (or flip flops for you US readers).  When we lived in Bangkok I wore them all day, every day, for 18 months.  Not only did they not wear out, I was comfy and you can also wear them on the beach or by the pool.  Birki Gizeh rock my world!  One note about Birkis, make sure you're fitted for your first pair.  You can buy subsequent pairs cheaper from the web, but fitting the first pair is pretty crucial for ongoing comfort.

Step out in style if you can, but definitely, whatever you do, step out in comfort
if you're planning on a glorious day at the shops in your holiday city.

Happy feet = happy holiday.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It's Better To Travel Than Arrive?

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive"
Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, 1881.  

"Robert Louis Stevenson speaks utter tosh and has
obviously never flown long haul economy class"
Kristy, first ever blog post, 2011.

Firstly, a little about myself.  In international relocation parlance I am what is officially known as a "trailing spouse".  The term trailing spouse is used to describe a person who follows his or her life partner to another city because of a work assignment.  That makes it all sound a bit clinical to me, and what I actually am is a very lucky, incredibly happy chick who loves moving from interesting place to interesting place with her fantastic husband.

Thus far we've lived together in Adelaide (my home town), Bangkok, Detroit and now southern Germany.  My husband is Scottish, and we are so lucky to have friends and family scattered all over this fabulous planet, hence we do a LOT of travel.  I would guess that I'm on a plane at least 20 times a year, and my husband would do many more flights than that.

I primarily travel economy class unless I'm lucky enough to get bumped (rare, oh so rare) and within Europe I fly on budget airlines.  I think the last 10 years of international travel give me some sort of insight into what to do and what not to do to get the best out of your travel and adventures overseas.

Not saying that I always have fabulous travel experiences - far from it!  But I always have a bit of a giggle, even when things go bad, and I thought you might get a bit of a giggle from my tips and adventures.

If you like my blog, please tell your friends.  If you've got feedback or great travel hints yourself, please tell me.  If you don't like my blog then I guess you'll stop reading, and then you'll never get to hear about the screaming prisoner handcuffed to the police on the flight to Johannesburg last year, and how I ended up laying down and sleeping for 10 hours on an empty row of three seats in economy on that very same flight (which was absolutely packed to the rafters).  Your call.