The First Week

It was recently drawn to my attention that we should be providing “REGULAR” blogs to keep our loyal follower(s) appraised of our travel activities.  I must admit that I have been somewhat remiss in this regard. I guess a combination of lack of practice and some apathy on my part have led to this sorry state of affairs.  A case in point is the complete lack of any record of our April/May 2022 visit to Tasmania.  In my defence, this visit was to look at the possibility of living in the state and not a normal travel event.  Having been suitably chastised in CAPITALS, I have vowed to “do better” in future, as my teachers fervently hoped without any appreciable success, in my school years.

We had planned to visit family and friends in Europe at the end of March 2022 and had booked flights accordingly.  A trip around Europe with Streak and Storm was envisaged and I was pouring over maps when an email from Cathay Pacific dropped into my in-box cancelling our flight, courtesy of the Chinese governments approach to limiting the spread of COVID-19 in their country.

This spanner works led to a reappraisal of the timing of our first post COVID-19 trip from Australia and a rescheduled departure via Singapore as the risk of travelling via Hong Kong or China with repeated COVID-19 lockdowns was too high.

Now with a mid July departure, the grand European motorcycle tour was off the table for 2022, but while the primary reason for our visit to Europe is too see family and friends, whom we have not seen in person since 2019, Streak and Storm will, assuming they still want to work with us after this period of abandonment, have a brief outing scheduled in early August.

Our Taxi driver asked “Qantas or Virgin?” assuming we were taking a domestic flight from Brisbane. While domestic air travel numbers have rebounded, there was a two hour gap either side of our flights departure to Singapore.  This is due to international travel from Australia only operating at about 35% which made check-in, security and immigration a breeze.

We are on our way to Europe!

It did seem a little strange to be on such a large plane after more than two and a half years and I did have a little trepidation at what sort of “Gluten Free” meal might be served.  Travelling with Coeliac Disease for the first time, what sort of tasteless mush would I be served?

I was however pleasantly surprised. Most of my gluten free meals have been as good as I remember airline food and as an added bonus we get served first. The soups, noodles and other gluten free goodies we had packed in anticipation were not needed.

Gluten Free meal on Singapore Airlines

Our second leg from Singapore to London took us over some of the places that formed part of our first RTW in 2014.  As we gazed down at the lights of the towns and cities when had visited, memories came flooding back of people, places and experiences that make travelling such a joy for us.  

Life goes on below us, memories, memories.

The approach into London Heathrow in a clear morning gave us a magnificent view of the Thames, north Kent coast and parts of London.  As we touched down on Heathrow’s 27L runway, we were back.

Coming into London.

Neither my 9 year old British passport or Anne’s new British passport worked on the automatic gates at immigration. Many others had the same problem and since the electronic gates have been around for a number of years, they should work better.

Piles of suitcases abounded as we walked through Terminal 2 to the luggage reclaim area reminding us that there are still a few wrinkles in the travel process to be ironed out.  While I waited for our last bag to arrive, a quick look at the location of our newly acquired Apple Airtags showed that the recalcitrant bag was halfway between our arrival gate and the baggage hall. I think the Apple AirTags could prove to be a worthwhile investment at this time given the sometimes chaotic scenes involving bags at airports we all see on television.

Anne’s sister Diane was waiting for us and a joyful reunion took place. We also were able to finally remove our face-masks that had been an almost permanent feature, apart from meat times,  for over 30 hours. I can sympathise with those who have to wear them day in and day out as part of their job.

Back together in the UK after two and a half years.

The first couple of days had us recovering from jet-lag and making sure we had not picked up COVID-19 en-route that we could pass on to family members. We visited the outdoor historic  dockyard at Chatham, formally HMS Chatham, where we could wander outdoors and be exposed to lots of bright sunlight to aid our bodies’ timezone change.

Anne recovering from jet lag. Perhaps it could replace airline seats?

We were able to experience the UK’s hottest day ever, 40.3 degrees Celsius, on July 19th, warm even by our Brisbane standards and spent a pleasant few days in Canterbury catching up with Anne’s mum, enjoying her hospitality.

Anne and her mum in Canterbury.
View from our hotel room in Canterbury.

While staying at our hotel, the Thomas Ingoldsby in Canterbury, we had noticed that the pictures on the walls were done by local school children based on the Ingoldsby Legends – a collection of  myths, legends and ghost stories based in part  Kentish folklore written by Richard Harris Barham in the 1830’s under name of Thomas Ingoldsby. 

Drawing from Ingoldsby Legends “The Smugglers Leap” artist aged 10 commissioned by Wetherspoons.

We then noticed “The art beneath your feet” which explained that the carpets in the hotel were based on the illustrations from the books. I liked the fact that a large pub and hotel chain, Wetherspoons, can weave, pun intended,  local history into something so unnoticed as carpets. 

Even a carpet can be artwork.

Our first week is over, what will week 2 bring?

– Anthony