JQ3

With thanks to Jetstar for my day. Other than gaining a middle seat, I had a lovely time in the F lounge (though that may have perhaps been more of Qantas’ doing).

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Once in Sydney I checked into the Westin with Martin, had drinks with Jeff at the Sheraton and eventually the party headed out from the Pullman to N2 Extreme Gelato for dessert together. A good day.

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Australia to Europe

I started my journey to Europe on Wednesday the 11th June, and although I got there on the 12th, I spent the next 24 hours travelling to the first actual pit stop, Florence.

Dee-Anne saw me off, driving me to the airport and then herself home. I didn’t get an upgrade, but the seat next to me was blocked and I had the First class lounge to look forward to in Sydney. The food there was well worth the 14 hours in economy I was to suffer on the way to Dubai. I think I nearly had an upgrade at the gate, but after some typing into the computer, there was no seat change for me.

First lounge delights

I ended up having 3 starters, the buffalo mozzarella with roasted red capsicum, grilled sesame tuna with red cabbage & salmon tartare. As none of the mains really interested me, I finished with the chocolate croissant bread and butter pudding, which was to die for! Along with some Champagne and a massage, I was well prepared for economy.

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The flight turned out to be fairly easy to survive, with another frequent flyer onboard, and a combination of sleep/talking to the FA’s a productive way to pass the time.

Emirates impresses

At Dubai I had another massage, and another impressive dinner, octopus carpaccio, saffron cashew chicken & umm ali (a traditional Egyptian dessert, about as local as I could find – that was amazing). Only downside was the top Champagne offered was simply Moët.

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At the gate for the final flight to the UK my boarding pass beeped though, providing some respite in the final 7 hours being in the comfort of business class. Having only travelled economy on the A380 in the past and other than on an A330 to Perth trying a skybed in the day, I’d never really had the experience of sleeping in one. Unfortunately, not a lot that’s positive, other than it being lie-flat… I found it very exposed to the aisle, very little privacy. Still, better than economy.

With the flight on time, I met mum at arrivals in Heathrow, she having arrived on an earlier flight from Hong Kong. The Tube to St Pancras took an hour… but once there we had a bite to eat, and even some Champagne, while waiting for our Eurostar connection to Paris.

In Paris, we had to change stations in just over an hour, and with the traffic it was a tight connection, but we made it from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon, and onto the Thello overnight sleeper to Milan, which now we’ve experienced a 4-berth, would be happy to avoid doing again! Cramped and awkward would sum it up.

Cramped 4-berth
Cramped 4-berth

Luckily the train from Milan to Florence was much nicer, higher speed (we reached 292 km/h) and we didn’t have to sit next to strangers. It did mean we arrived well before our checkin time though (to the apartment), but that’s another story.

A Train Crawl to Canberra

Over the weekend I was part of an amazing AFF event, invited along to two private train carriages on a cross country adventure between Sydney and Canberra.  I had to wake up exceptionally early and catch a Jetstar flight to Sydney, stayed overnight in Canberra with Mark and Drew in the Hyatt, and took a leisurely flight back to the Gold Coast via Sydney on the Sunday.

Where to begin though?  Well a member by the handle of BAM1748 on AFF offered the journey to anyone who was interested, and weeks ago I booked my flight and committed myself, along with 34 others as it turns out.  This lead to the organiser having to source another (private) carriage, but it was a wonderful one at that.

Each contained their own bar and couches, tables and chairs, as well as the original sleepers.  I did actually end up sleeping for a part of the journey, as recorded in a candid photo along the way.

The “crawl” was to take us via a few stops where we’d sample local pubs, drinking along the way too of course, before arriving into Canberra in the evening.  Due to a few issues, what was meant to be a 10-hour trip actually became 14-hours… but everyone had a good time, so you can’t complain about that.

The group along the way