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Homeward Bound….

15th December 2011

Early Starts

Nadine only got home around 6am, she was exhausted. The job in Cologne/Koln took a lot longer than they had planned, she works in construction, but it had been decided that it wasn’t worth leaving it half done.

I got up at 7am and, very quietly, started getting everything ready. We had to leave the house by 8am at the latest as we had to drive to Cologne/Koln for me to catch the train to Frankfurt. It would take at least an hour to get there but we gave ourselves almost a full hour extra just in case. Yvonne was driving and 10min before we were ready to leave we bundled Nadine into the car. She was so tired and just slept the whole way but was determined to come with.

Murphy’s Law

Why is it that when you have a long trip ahead of you and you make sure to have extra time, Good ‘Ol Murphy steps in and cause major traffic issues. We couldn’t believe the amount of traffic, add to that getting lost when “Murphy” tampered with the GPS.

In the middle of all this stress about trying to get to the train station I suddenly got a call from Buddha, it was really short but he wanted to tell me that he had got his dates for the ship and he would be embarking on January 14th. It felt so good to hear from him and that he wanted me to know what was going on. Of course now I realise it was just him making sure I stayed on the hook.

We got to the train station in time to see the train pull away… at least we think it was the train. The signage was a little confusing and we weren’t sure where we were.

It didn’t help that I DESPERATELY needed to pee, am sure Murph’ had something to do with that as well. Yvonne left Nadine and I standing in the middle of the walk way and ran off to find out our options. I went in search of a bathroom quick but the only one involved paying and I didn’t have time to think about that.

Train 2

Luckily there was a train leaving in about 5mins that I was able to get on and so we ran back up the stairs to the platform and spent about 3 of the 5mins trying to figure out which train I was supposed to go on. The biggest bummer was that this train was meant to take an hour longer which meant I would have barely an hour to get checked in for my flight.

Finally we found an attendant who confirmed this was the right train and I said farewell and got on. I was really sad to leave Nadine and my new friend, Yvonne. Their family had been so good to me and so welcoming, I would miss them terribly.

I found a seat and settled my bags and then rushed to the loo. Oh such relief… to be on a train and heading to the airport. As I sat down and breathed a sigh of relaxation, the attendant was kind enough to inform me that I was in 1st class but only had a 2nd class ticket… oops, I wondered why this train seemed really comfortable. I made my way to the next car and managed to find a seat on the aisle next to a very nice German lady. Confirming that we were indeed heading to the Frankfurt train station/airport I promptly nodded off feeling completely exhausted from the morning events.

Dash To Check In

When you are nodding off travel always seems faster and it felt like just a few minutes before my wonderful seat mate woke me up to tell me we were here. I dashed out tripping over my bags in the process and feeling completely rumpled and half asleep.

I hate it when that panic of missing your flight kicks in and no matter what you do you can’t shake it off. Going up the escalator from the tracks I found myself in the main station, however all the information boards spoke of trains and there were no signs for the airport. With panic rising that perhaps I HAD got on the wrong train I headed to what appeared to be a walkway to airlines. I was flying with Iceland Air and anyone I asked just looked at me blankly.

Panic was building up to outright fear that I would miss my flight as there was maybe 45min left. I ran down the walk way and finally found a board that showed Iceland Air and what terminal I needed. Now for anyone who has ever been to Frankfurt Airport, you know how huge it is. Its almost like a reasonably sized town with its own public transportation in place. I hopped on the bus going to my terminal and was soon chatting away to the others who had commented on my flag patches covering my backpack. It was good to take my mind off the drama of catching my flight. I leapt off the bus and ran into the terminal finding the check in desks for Iceland Air. There was no one around which obviously meant check in was over.. right? Huffing and puffing I handed over my passport and asked “am I still in time, can I still get on the flight??” The check in clerk smiled and said “of course its only 11am, the flight doesn’t leave till 1.15pm”.

Oh, wait the train was meant to take 3hrs and it only took 2??? Oh thank Murphy for giving me a break.

Security and Water

Feeling way more relaxed I called Nadine to let her know I had made it safely and ahead of time. Then headed for security. I completely forgot I still had water in my water bottle and only realised when the security guard picked it up and looked at me. Already through the scanner I quickly downed all the water. Then came the security shuffle. It goes something like this:
Guard 1: indicates I have to exit and go through again.
Heading that way
Guard 2: stops me and says its fine
Guard 1: says I have to go through
Step to the gate
Step away
Step to the gate
Step away
Guard 3: makes final decision and lets me through
Guard 1 and 2 scowl at each other.

All rather amusing. I found the gate and then decided to try and call the boyfriend and actually got through. It was great talking to him and he told me he wanted me to join him on the ship for a trip and he would pay, that he missed me and was thinking of me. (Super sweet, gave me warm fuzzies blah blah blah…of course he was also asking 2 other girls at the same time to visit him on the ship and he would pay! Oh well focus on the warm fuzzies of the moment).

Just a Little Hot Water…

Since I had more time than I had thought I decided to grab a little something to eat and drink. You think airport food is expensive in the states, in Europe it’s downright exorbitant. I opted for a muffin and just a glass of hot water as I had some tea I could use. When I went to pay they had charged me 1.50euros for the HOT WATER!! Good heavens how ridiculous!

We all know Frankfurt Airport is enormous, but when you see the employees getting from A to B on bicycles it gives enormous a whole new meaning.

Then I went and relaxed and checked the internet, at least wifi was free in the airport, for the first hour. After my hour was up I spent time calling friends and saying farewell… farewells are the hardest part.

Iceland Air

The first flight was Frankfurt to Reykjavik, Iceland. It turned out the entertainment system didn’t work and the seat arm didn’t go up. Luckily it was a short flight and they did provide us a croissant with ham and cheese. The cute part of Iceland air were the headrest covers and such that quoted little poems and sayings in Icelandic and with only a few days till Christmas all kids got gifts and chocolates.

Icelandic Poem


Soft and Cuddly

Final Leg

Arriving in Reykjavik we all had to go through immigration. So I get to have an Iceland stamp for visiting the airport. As I was waiting to go through there was a US guy who was being reamed by the immigration officer, didn’t want to be him for sure. I managed to find something to eat, a rather unappetizing sandwich I must say but something, and with an international leg coming up of 12hrs + I was sure to get a couple of meals on the flight…

Looking out of the windows waiting for my, now 1hr delayed, flight, Iceland lived up to its name. Snow as far as the eye could see. Having a delay is always dangerous as you end up circling the stores and I soon discovered I had an armful of candy.

The flight was pretty full but luckily the middle seat was free and there were good movies on the, working, entertainment system. I was starving and looking forward to some grub… until I received the menu and realised you had to pay for food. I have never been on an international flight where I had to pay for food, and the cheapest was $15 for a chicken breast that was very much airline food. Air Asia is the only airline that I have flown on where they charge for food. But that is a super budget airline and they tell you as part of your booking process and allow you to pre order. What ya going to do though, food is food and I was starving.

US Arrival

Finally we arrived in good old Seattle. My friend, Colleen, was meeting me and going to catch up with some friends at a local Pizza place. I got a little worried when she wasn’t at the baggage claim, and managed to borrow someones iPhone (they had to show me how to use it) to try and call her. After about an hour she finally arrived, turns out she had been held up at the border to Canada by a rather stupid remark to immigration by someone she was traveling with. I never understand why people don’t just shut it and smile sweetly when passing through a border.

But soon we were at the restaurant and a couple of my friends managed to show up. The food at Raizzi’s Pizza was delicious and I inhaled as much as I could. Then it was home to sleep, glorious sleep.

Good Friends and Good Food

Well the journey was almost at an end. A journey of epic proportions, lessons and life long memories.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2012 in Germany, RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Auckland, New Zealand – Days 166 to 169

19th July to 22nd July 2011

NZ Immigration

Now, as I mentioned in the previous post, this trip had gone relatively smoothly except for the running around to print things and the possible delay for a day of my flight. If you don’t count these issues then it was a very smooth trip. But as you know all things come in threes and the third one was waiting for me at immigration.

The flight had been super easy, a whole row, great food, excellent entertainment system, I think I will be flying LAN air again. I was feeling fantastic as I got off the plane and rather relieved to finally be in NZ. Making my way to immigration I had a short wait and then it was my turn. The officer was very friendly and we joked a bit as he looked through my passport.

JUST A NOTE: they NEVER asked me for a printed proving an exit ticket from NZ.

With a smile he asked me to come round to the back of his cubicle and then pointed to a chair and asked me to wait there. Then he walked off and handed my passport to another officer. I was nervous, but assumed it was because I had marked “handled animals other than cat and dog”. As I sat there for 5, 10, 15minutes I started becoming a bit more concerned and imagining being deported to some other location. Just then, a lady walked up and introduced herself as “Jane from Immigration”. She explained that I had “similar information to a person of interest that they would like to talk with“.

Is it wrong that I thought this was kind of cool, however very relieved that it was not! She also told me to expect the same thing when I returned from Tonga at the end of August.

Now I must make it clear that in all the years going through US immigration and the hard times I have been given before I became a citizen, their customer service came no where near NZ’s. As everyone told me in Australia, Kiwi’s are just nice! And I agree, even their immigration officers are just plain NICE!

After collecting my bag and joking with the guy checking my declaration form that, as a vet nurse, I was carrying anything that had been down or up an animal, I exited the airport to be met by an my fabulous mate, Kirsten.

On Thursday we went for a walk through the native forest that sits behind their house. The ecosystem is truly amazing with numerous evergreens and giant ferns that make it look and feel like any minute a brontosaurus is going to stick its head out to greet you. The preserve also links to the botanical gardens so we just continued our walk all the way to the cafe for coffee.

Harvey

Harvey, Kirsten’s 10wk old son, was very patient with us the whole time and pushing his pram around you build up muscles as it acts as a wind break. He also has impeccable timing as he started to fuss right as we finished our coffee. On our way out we stopped at the African section of the botanical gardens and marveled at the array of protea flowers.

Protea

Animals First

Friday was a nice relaxing day. Kirsten and family were heading down to Christchurch that evening and I had a talk to go to in Auckland. I was meeting Karen from SPAW was meeting at the talk hosted by SAFE, an organisation fighting for animal rights. It was a very interesting talk and very enlightening to the plight of food animals. For the most part I felt like a wolf in sheep’s clothing as I am a carnivore amongst the vegans. But luckily it appeared as if they were not going to shove veggies down my throat. I enjoyed the talk by the guy who spent a month in a cage in protest to battery hens, the talk by the dutch guy who converted the celebrity spokesman of the pork industry into a SAFE spokesman… but then we got to the lady who feels we should evolve to being veggie eaters. Oh well it was good well it lasted and I did learn a lot, even the vegan cupcakes were quite yummy.

Karen and me with the Sad pig


Housesitting

With the family away I was official housesitter and loving having the place to myself. Slept in late, worked on my blog, went for a walk in the forest, took a nap, worked on my blog! A great day and tomorrow I would be leaving for Rotorua and chance for a geothermal mud bath.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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