Tag Archives: travel

FLYING EMIRATES FIRST CLASS BROUGHT TEARS TO MY EYES

Emirates EK144 ADL-DXB

Seat: 1K

Cabin: First Class

Configuration: 1-2-1 (2 rows of private “rooms”)

Everything about this was first class. Check in was easy, the welcome on board was friendly, but not too over the top.  Of course the private cabins are a little oasis in the sky. Slide the doors close and you are in your own little world. There are nice little touches, such as the fresh orchards in a wall sconce, the little bowl of snacks to munch on during the flight, and there is a “mini-bar”. The mini bar is probably not needed as it is only filled with non-chilled water and soft drink, but it does have a wow factor.

Menu – didn’t have any trouble choosing from the selection on the menu. As it was now 10pm, I didn’t want much to eat before sleeping, so I chose the Caviar and washed it down with a few glasses of Dom Perignon 2006. Both were very nice. I also manage to compliment dinner with a few glasses of Chivas Regal…so I had a good buzz on!!

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The seat is comfortable and fully reclines into a flat bed. While you are changing into your stylish pyjamas (the new moisturising ones),the cabin crew make up the bed for you with a mattress and duvet. I managed to get a good 6 hours of sleep, but it was a very bumpy flight, so a deep sleep wasn’t forthcoming.

Another cute touch is that when the main cabin lights are dimmed, all of a sudden you are transported to another place as the cabin lights up like a night sky with twinkling stars.DSCN3763

ICE – the entertainment system (Information, Communication & EDSCN3758ntertainment) had a lot of choice. On previous Emirates flights I have struggled to find much to watch, but this time there a lot of selections that I wanted to see. This possibly says more about the current movies, rather than the system itself.  I chose to watch LION, and after a skinful of scotch and champagne, I was grateful for the sliding doors so that I could cry in private!!!

Overall: Great flight, great service, great product….and everyone should try to sit up the very pointy end of the plane at least once in their lives.

Footnote: The big surprise was the plane didn’t dock at the airport but a few miles away 20170408_052915(felt like it anyway) and Emirates had a luxury First Class bus pick us up (all 2 of us). It was very special and I felt like a rock star! It was a really nice finish to the flight. I am pretty sure by now there was tears of joy.

As I was staying with friends, and it was still 5.30am and way too early to go to their place, to kill a bit of time, I didn’t take advantage of the “Express Pass” for Immigration or Customs. The efficiency of the airport meant that I still got through quickly, and being First Class my luggage was the first to appear on the belt….the complimentary limo was ready

Chauffeur Drive

Chauffeur Drive

and waiting so I was whisked off by 6.30 to Dubai Islands to catch up with friends. Now, that is another story (and more tears) for another time!

IF GREECE IS THE WORD…..

If Greece is the word, then Athens is the capital letter.

Greece conjures up images of white washed cube-shaped buildings, blue domed topped churches, clear azure waters, sunny days and stunning sunsets. Most people are in a hurry to get to the islands.

But stop for a minute, no wait, stop for a few days.

Athens is often overlooked in the rush to get to the islands. Behind the often first impression of dirt and grime, the uninspiring architecture of the six storey blocks of apartments is an exciting city with an intoxicated blend of the ancient and the new.

My tips on why you should spend time in Athens.

  • GET EXPLORING

The capital is full of ruins. Some are ancient and some even date back to the 60’s when the building codes weren’t so stringent! The Parthenon is the crown that sits proudly atop the Acropolis, and well worth a few hours wandering around this monument and surrounds. The city feels like an open air museum as there are ancient temples, sporting arenas, archaeological digs everywhere. Many of the Metro stations are also museums housing artefacts uncovered while digging the underground train system. The new Acropolis Museum now floats above a working archaeological site because they kept finding new things as building progressed. In fact whenever they turn earth to build something, it feels that they uncover a new ancient site.

  • GET EATING

Greek’s relationship with food is a bit like the friendship between Kiwi’s and their sheep, its love at first sight. It would be hard to starve in Athens as the opportunity to eat is ever-present…except for breakfast which seems to consist of a thick, strong coffee and an even stronger cigarette. While the Plaka offers many tavernas with great views of the Acropolis, my advice is to head into the back streets to discover better, more authentic tavernas. A rule of thumb is –  if it is small with plenty of locals then it is going to be worth trying. Of course, being empty isn’t a true indication that it should be avoided as you just might be too early. Greeks love to eat late and generally lunch can start anywhere between 2-4pm and dinner rarely begin before 8-9pm.

  • GET PARTYING

I’m not sure if the Greeks invented socialising, but they certainly have perfected it. If a Greek asks to meet for a coffee what they are really saying is “let’s sit for a couple of hours slowly sipping a frappe and talk about the issue of the government, the football, or the good old days”. Athens is full of many great café/bars (a hybrid venue depending on the time of day). If you are feeling adventurous, seek out a Bouzoukia and have a night out watching the locals enjoying an entertainment that is part traditional and part Vegas. It is a night full of sequins, strobe lights, cheesy choreography, and smoke machines and due to OH&S restrictions, plate smashing has been replaced with flower throwing.  You may not understand the words, you may not even like the music, but there is no mistaking the emotional singing and the renditions of melancholic longing for a time long gone – and that’s just the audience.

  • GET SHOPPING

As summer heats up, like the streets, the shops begin to empty as everyone, tourists and locals alike, begin

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Ermou Street

the exodus to the islands. This means that most retailers drastically discount their merchandise to entice the Euros out of the few wallets left in Athens. A great opportunity to bag a bargain. Two main shopping regions in the city centre are Ermou Street which is a pedestrian only street full of international and local brands, and if you prefer more boutique style shopping then head to the nearby suburb of Kolonaki.

 

 

 

  • GET LOST

For a big city, Athens is a relative safe city to walk around and get lost in. My advice is to walk the back street of the city centre and you will discover a little taverna or a laiki (a local street market), or a zacharoplasteion (sweets shop), or a little bar. You might discover neo-classical buildings dating back centuries or maybe some modern street art. You will definitely see Greeks going about their daily lives. The Acropolis may be the heart of Athens, but the streets are the veins teeming with real life.

  • GET OUT

Before you get out of Athens, I recommend that you get right out of Athens because there is so much to see. Catch the tram down the coast to one of the beach clubs for a day of relaxation, or travel a bit further to the upmarket suburb of Glyfada. Highly recommend getting out of Athens and visiting the Peloponnese region, or heading up to Delphi. If you really want a “wow” moment, then I cannot recommend enough, a trip north to see the monasteries of Meteora, impossibly built on top of these sandstone pillars. Just amazing.

To head straight into the islands is like going directly to dessert before having main course. Yes you will be instantly satiated but once the sugar rush has subsided you feel quite empty.

You can’t really understand Greece until you have spent some time in Athens. Give it a chance, you won’t be disappointed.

Of course if you can’t extend your time in Athens, then this video will help you to get the most out of your short time in an amazing city.

The Dont Forget Travel Group is a boutique agency that specialises in custom-made holidays.

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GORILLAS IN THE MIST

The level of doubt increased as the eyes scanned upwards. Up…up…up…up. The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, seemed just that, impenetrable. The rain had stopped, the humidity had taken a strangle-hold on the forest, and now it looked like it was smoking as the mist seeped out of the trees. It really was going to be gorillas in the mist.

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The view from the Lodge at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

The seeds of doubt had been getting stronger each day as we got closer to our destination, Bwindi Uganda. Had I done enough training? Was the training up Mt Lofty steep enough to prepare me? What if we have come all this way and we don’t get to see the gorillas, after all there is only a 98% chance that we will see them? What if we are the 2%? Why is it that everyone else in our small group appears to not have done any training whatsoever? Maybe I shouldn’t have the desert – ok, just a little piece, I’ll walk it off in Bwindi?

The main purpose of this trip was to see the mountain gorillas in Uganda. Everyone’s focus was on “the gorillas”, so there was a feeling that all the travel days and experiences prior, as good as they were, were just filler for the main event. There are only approximately 850 mountain gorillas left and as there arent any in zoos, the only place to see them are in the jungles of the African “corner” where the countries of  Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda meet. This was going to be a rare experience.

After a fun-filled few days in and around Queen Elizabeth National Park and Ishasha Wilderness Camp seeking out, and spotting game such as elephants, tree-resting lions, the elusive leopards (not to blow my own trumpet, but I spotted 2 in one day…ok, I’m blowing my own trumpet), baboons, the strangely cute warthogs, chimpanzees, hippos, buffalo and lots and lots of kopi we headed towards Bwindi.

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The drive wasn’t too far, but it took a few hours due to the rain and the muddy, pot-holed road conditions, as well as a few toilet stops. Even though this was the rainy season, we hadn’t had a lot of rain, and when we had, it generally cleared by the morning. Today was different as the rain had been persistent for most of the day and it was steadily coming down as we arrived into Bwindi.

Bwindi as a town was unusual in that it was our first encounter with “crass tourism” in Uganda. It was only a small town with a main street full of a few little ramshackle bars and tourist shops selling gorilla trinkets, gorilla carvings, gorilla t-shirts, gorilla statues, gorilla keyrings, but strangely no gorilla fridge magnets. I was later informed by our guide Steffi, that most Ugandan homes do not have a fridge, so the concept of a fridge magnet was foreign to them. The town also had a school and a hospital, the latter being somewhat of a comfort in case something happens on the gorilla trek.

The view of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest from our hotel, Buhoma Lodge, was breathtaking, beautiful and daunting, all at the same time. Breathtaking, because the elevation of dscn3505Bwindi is approx. 1900m above sea level, whereas the average altitude in Adelaide is 50m and flat. You could feel that your lungs were working harder to get enough oxygen. This did not bode well for tomorrow’s trek when the altitude would be even higher. Daunting, because our hotel rooms were located clinging to the side of the hill. My room was located at the top and by the third steep set of stairs my left knee was telling me “enough!”. This did not bode well for tomorrows trek when we would climb even higher through rugged terrain. Beautiful, because the rain and humidity caused the mist to billow from the jungle making it appear mysterious and forbidding. This did not bode well for tomorrows trek as the humidity in Adelaide is almost zero and the body isn’t used to it. At this point I just hope that it doesn’t rain as the trek is going to be difficult enough as it is, I can’t imagine what it would be like all muddy and slippery.  Actually, yes I can….It wouldn’t be good.

The afternoon was spent acclimatising by going for a walk and resting. Before dinner we had a briefing on what to take, wear and the procedures for the trek. Dinner was a fairly sombre affair as everyone was trying to suppress their excitement, or their nerves.

The now customary coffee wakeup call was on time at 6am. Having a hot pot of fresh coffee delivered to your door is the perfect way to start the day. After a 2 cups of coffee, a shower and a nervous wee, I was ready to meet the others for breakfast. Breakfast consisted of some more coffee, toast and another nervous wee. We collected our pre-packed lunch and had another nervous wee before the short walk to the Ranger Station.

There was a hive of activity at the Ranger Station as other groups arrived, porters and guides also turned up. We were escorted into a room that had the feel of a small classroom, and told to sit in chairs that were placed along the wall in a semi-circle facing an old tv. Maybe this room doubled up as the school? A video was played about how the gorillas help the community and how we help the community by paying money to see the gorillas. So flying half way around the world to see the gorillas was less about me, but about being philanthropic and noble. I was doing my bit for conservation and the preservation of these endangered primates.

After the video, we were taken outside and split into 4 groups of six with each group assigned a gorilla family. This is when we met Medi, our head guide, who explained the make up of our gorilla family and answered many of our questions… such as “bush toilets”. It was explained to us that they had sent trackers out in the morning to discover where the families had camped overnight so that we knew where to start the trek. We were told that we might be trekking anywhere from 1 hour up to 6 hours in the jungle.

Reminiscent of a school-yard pick, we got to choose our porters.  I chose one, but he got reassigned to the tallest member of our group and I ended up with the smallest porter whose name was Justice. The hiring of porters was encouraged as the USD$20 helped to feed families, bring dollars into the community, help pay for schooling etc. While the others may have got a porter for altruistic purposes, I know I was going to need one to not only carry my day pack, but to help me get up the mountain.

Briefing finished, another nervous wee finished, and we all piled into the Jeep to drive to the starting point. We were only in the car for about 5 minutes as our trek would begin on the edge of town at the base of the mountain. I got out of the car and came face to face with a wall of a mountain. My eyes scanned up, up, up, up. Oh fuck! It looked even more intimidating being this close. I started muttering under my breath…”Please don’t let this be the 6 hour group”.

With walking poles in both hands, and Justice by my side, we took off in single file along a trail. The first 10 minutes was about trying to get some rhythm to my breathing and walking. Ok, this isn’t too bad. And, then the trail starts to steepen. It’s a this point that Justice takes one of walking poles and grabs my hand and starts to lead me up the mountain. After about 20 minutes I experience the “majestic push” for the first time. Through a particularly difficult section, with Justice pulling me along with a vice-like grip, I feel a hand on each of my butt cheeks pushing me up the mountain.

After we had been walking for about 40 minutes and the rest stops are becoming more frequent, the breathing is becoming more laboured and the terrain is getting steeper again. It was now so steep that if you stood fully upright, you were in danger of overbalance and tumbling down the mountain. We had now been told that our group was going to see the cldscn3521osest gorilla family. I knew that I wasn’t going to have to endure this for another 5 hours, but I was still questioning how long I was going to be able to keep up with everyone.

The next 15 minutes was a blurry cycle of sweat, climbing, huffing, puffing, scrambling, resting…repeat. Then a mood of anticipation takes over the group as we come upon the advance party trekker guides which mean that the gorillas are close. Just we pass through a tea plantation (what! someone makes this climb every day for work??) the porters stayed back, as they are not allowed to be near the gorillas, and we are called forward. There in the bushes is a gorilla. The undergrowth is so thick that I can’t see anything and all I can hear is the clicking of cameras.  Surely I haven’t just trekked for an hour to see the backs of people’s heads and moving green foliage? And then the gorilla was on the move, and so were we. It’s amazing how adrenalin takes away all the pain. We were now scrambling and climbing in pursuit with agility not seen since the first minute of the trek.

Soon we meet up with the same gorilla again, and sitting a little higher up the mountain is the Silverback. He is sitting upright in a clearing, watching the action; the sunlight behind him is making him appear ethereal. We get to watch them for a few minutes before they are on the move again.  Thankfully this time they are traversing around the mountain, but the jungle is getting thicker.  In my mind, like the videos online, we were going to sit in one place for an hour and watch a family of gorillas frolicking happily in front of us in an open clearing. In my mind there was also going to be a beach ball bouncing back and forth, but I can see now that won’t be the case.  Now we are hacking our way through thick forest trying to keep up with them.

I never felt threatened as they appeared to be quite docile, but you could sense their awesome power, except for the time I ended up on the path in front of a gorilla. As it was heading my way, I’m staring at it as I’m struggling to remember what they said at the briefing. Then I remembered they said not to look threatening, avert your eyes downwards coyly and keep a distance of 6 metres from them. Problem was, as it was coming closer I couldn’t take my eyes of her, and I had nowhere to go. She may have ignored me, but I couldn’t ignore her. And then the unthinkable happened….she grazed my leg as she lumbered past me. She touched me.

Let that sink in…I. HAD. BEEN. TOUCHED. BY. A. MOUNTAIN. GORILLA!

Not only do very few people on this planet get to see a Mountain Gorilla, I had been one of the very few, of the very few that has actually touched a mountain gorilla. I assume I am now a member of an exclusive club. I wonder when and where they hold the meetings.

The next hour or so was spent climbing, traversing, sliding, scrambling, crawling, slipping and tumbling through the dense jungle as we followed these imposing beasts. You don’t really notice how difficult the terrain is when you are “on the hunt”. The energy levels are high, the adrenalin is still surging, all the senses are on hyper, and the anticipation is extreme. When the gorillas stopped, we had time to sit quietly and observe (once we stopped taking photos, of course). We watched them play, climb trees, fall off trees, rest, eat, but mainly we watched them crawl on all fours then sit, crawl then sit, crawl then sit (actually that might have been us). Our family seemed to be spread out as we never really saw more than two together at the one time. They didn’t make much noise, except the Silverback let out a huge fart as he readied himself for a nap. Well we assumed it was the Silverback. It could have been any one of us as our diet on the trip had consisted of many 3-course meals of very rich food!

As the gorilla family had their mid-morning nap we were led away and started our descent. Due to the steepness, I found it less strainful on the knees, and less chance of falling, to slide down the mountain on my butt. And, it was a hell a lot of fun as well. Halfway down, on a particularly steep part of the mountain, we stopped to eat our pre-packed lunch. Overlooking Bwindi and the valley, still buzzing with excitement, we chowed down on sandwiches and fruit as we delighted in our collective experiences. It was a great moment.dscn3566

Surprisingly, it took us a while to make our way off the mountain. Bwindi didn’t look too far away, but even as we (I) slid down the mountain; it never seemed to get any closer. I think it was the mountain’s version of a desert mirage. The view was spectacular, but I think we were all ready to get back to the lodge to clean up.

Once down off the mountain we said our good byes to our porters, paid them their well-earned money (seriously if they had cost US$40 each they would still be worth it) It was at this time that I noticed that one of the female porters was pregnant (not just pregnant, but looked like she was ready to give birth at any moment). I can’t believe that I hadn’t noticed before, but more importantly, I can’t believe that she did this trek a few times a week! I now felt really inadequate and stupid with my huffing and puffing, my walking sticks, my hiking boots, and my appropriate moisture-wicking and breathable trekking clothing.

We were met at the bottom of the mountain by a beaming Steffi, who we couldn’t wait to tell him our experiences. We were like little kids wanting to get the attention, and approval from our parents. There was a lot of chatter in the car as we drove back to the Ranger’s Office. I was very excited to receive my “Gorilla Trekking Certificate”. If I had a Pool Room, it woul20161204_113049d go straight into it and hung with pride.

The afternoon was all about the “come down”. After a champagne celebration back at the lodge, the group did their own things to process the morning’s experience with either therapeutic massages, resting and napping, sorting and sharing photographs, writing social media posts, but nothing could wipe the smiles off our faces and the warm glow of achievement.

It was an experience of a lifetime.

We all had seeing the gorillas as a bucket list item. Sometimes you build these items up to such a level that the reality is a disappointment. This was not one of those times.

www.dontforgettravel.com.au

LOOK, BUT DONT TOUCH

Every now and then The Dont Forget Travel Group is  invited to do a plane inspection if there is enough time between landing and take off. This week we got to check out Singapore Airline’s Flight SQ278  which flies between Adelaide and Singapore.

Landing at Adelaide Airport

Landing at Adelaide Airport

I have been on this plane many times but never really taken a lot of notice (because the service is so good)  and I could bore you with lots of detail about it being an Airbus A330-300 with 255 seats in Economy and 60 seats in Business…but why tell you when we can show you……

Unfortunately the plane was a little bit late so we didn’t have much time to really check out all the features. Maybe next time (if they let me back on!!)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters

Put letters together to make words. Put words together to form sentences. Put sentences together to produce chapters. Put chapters together to tell stories.

There is an order to letters and to keep the letters in order there is the alphabet. To bring each letter to life is a picture that represents that letter, either physically, metaphorically or graphically.

If a picture is worth 1,000 words here is my 26,000 word essay!

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The Don’t Forget Travel Group is taking part in the weekly photo challenge, but with the added twist that every photo has to have a travel element to it. Enjoy! #postaday

Weekly Photo Challenge: On Top

I love getting high!

Never one to suffer from vertigo, I love being high….whether it be on top of a mountain after trekking for a few days, or from the Observation Deck of a skyscraper where the effort was no more strenuous than pushing the elevator button. I have always enjoyed sweeping views, particularly vistas from being “On Top” of things.

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The Don’t Forget Travel Group is taking part in the Weekly Photo Challenge with the added edge of each challenge is to have a “travel twist”.

#Postaday

CATTLE BATTLE

TITLE“Who has the best Economy Class?”

This a question we receive daily. It is also a question that is hard to answer because it is so subjective. Its time to go out on a limb and rank the Cattle Classes of Adelaide’s international airlines. The exception to this is the inclusion of Qantas, despite not flying internationally from Adelaide, because so many travellers are Qantas Frequent Flyers and desire to stay loyal to the airline and begrudgingly will fly interstate to catch an international flight.

The airlines have been ranked from highest to lowest in the following categories: price, frequency, seat width, seat pitch, seat configuration, number of passengers and convenience.

Table

The winner of the Cattle Battle is……..Singapore Airlines, Organic Cow2

earning them the status of “Organic Hand Reared Cattle”.

 

 

Singapore Airlines (50 points)sq logo

Flight: SQ279 Adelaide to Singapore

Plane: Airbus A330-300

Configuration: 2-4-2, Seat Pitch: 32, Seat Width: 19in (48.3cm)

Number of seats: 255

Departs daily at 11.55am and SQ277 departs M, Th, F, Sa, Su at 7.15pm

 

free rangeThe next category is the “Free Range Cattle”

 

 

 

Malaysia Airlines (44 points)mh logo

Flight: MH139 Adelaide to Kuala Lumpur

Plane: Airbus A330-300

Configuration: 2-4-2, Seat Pitch: 34, Seat Width: 17in (43.2cm)

Number of seats: 250

Departs Tu, W, F, Su at 10.00am and M, Th, Sa at 2.30pm

 

Cathay Pacific (42 points)cx logo

Flight: CX105 Adelaide to Hong Kong

Plane: Airbus A330-300

Configuration: 2-4-2, Seat Pitch: 32, Seat Width: 18.45in (46.9cm)

Number of seats: 175

Departs daily at 12.20pm

 

barn raisedThe third category is the “Barn Raised Cattle” status

 

 

 

Air New Zealand (39 points)nz logo

Flight: NZ791 Adelaide to Auckland

Plane: Airbus A320

Configuration: 3-3, Seat Pitch: 30, Seat Width: 17in (43.2cm)

Number of seats: 168

Departs daily at 11.40am

 

Virgin Australia (37 points)va logo

Flight: VA4194 Adelaide to Denpasar

Plane: Boeing B737

Configuration: 3-3, Seat Pitch: 30, Seat Width: 17in (43.2cm)

Number of seats: 144

Departs M, W, F, Su at 9.50am and VA4193 departs Sa 2.50pm

 

Jetstar (34 points)jq logo

Flight: JQ118 Adelaide to Denpasar

Plane: Airbus A320

Configuration: 3-3, Seat Pitch: 29, Seat Width: 17in (43.2cm)

Number of seats: 180

Departs M, W, Sa at 7.30am

Flight: JQ195 Adelaide to Auckland

Plane: Airbus A320

Configuration: 3-3, Seat Pitch: 29, Seat Width: 17in (43.2cm)

Number of seats: 180

Departs M, W, Sa at 4.25pm

 

Caged CowsThe final category is the “Caged Cattle” status and will surprise many which airlines fell into this group.

 

 

Emirates (31 points)ek logo

Flight: EK441 Adelaide to Dubai

Plane: Boeing 777-300ER

Configuration: 3-4-3,  Seat Pitch: 32, Seat Width: 17in (43.2cm)

Number of seats: 304

Departs daily at 10.35pm

 

Air Asia X (22 points)air asia logo

Flight: D7 246 Adelaide to Kuala Lumpur

Plane: Airbus A333

Configuration: 3-3-3, Seat Pitch: 32, Seat Width: 16.5in (41.9cm)

Number of seats: 365

Departs M, T, Th, Sa, Su at 11.00am

 

Qantas (out of Melbourne) (17 points)QF logo

Flight: QF93 Melbourne to LA

Plane: Airbus A380

Configuration: 3-4-3, Seat Pitch: 31, Seat Width: 17.5in (44.5cm)

Number of seats: 371

Departs daily at 11.20am

 

The argument has now been settled…..or has it?