When I retired, we decided to travel overseas each second year, so now we have been to the UK & Europe in 2010, 2013 and 2015 - this will be our 4th big holiday. We have made many friends and been able to visit relatives that live so far away.
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  • Day53

    Singapore for a day

    September 14, 2017 in Singapore ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    It sounded like a good idea - a free day in Singapore. What I didn't consider was that we have already been travelling for over 50 days and so were very tired, it would be extremely hot and humid in Singapore and importantly, when you are travelling home, thats pretty much all you want to do - travel home.

    We got off the plane in the dark Mary left her Oakley sun glasses behind. The Singapore Airlines staff said that they would look for them and have them ready when Mary boards the plane later that night - they didn't find them.

    There were two things we wanted to do - see the butterfly enclosure and take a free tour of the city. We found the butterflies okay and decided to go there later, we also found a huge pond full of enormous Koi! Changi airport must be one of the cleanest and most friendly and interesting airports in the world - lots to do and see.

    The first free tour was fully booked so we signed up for the midday tour ... ahhh. We had to get a day visa - but no problems. Getting on the bus was like herding cats - how some people travel around the world when they are so unorganised and vague astounds me - people showed up without their passports, others asked the whole group to wait because their partner was still shopping!!! Get out of here.

    The tour of Singapore covered all the usual things, the old part of town, the gardens by the sea, the modern city, rows and rows of hi rise appartments, the Buddhist and Muslim Areas - it brought back memories of our last trip, and the heat!

    Back to the airport and Mary meet the most official offical. A short man in uniform - highly strung and totally unreasonable. Well Mary's sweaty finger print wasn't working and I could see that she was about to blow her top, luckily a customs lady heard Mary's mumblings and call her over, putting her through the gate after a manual check of her passport - fair to say that Mary wasn't best pleased with the experience.

    The rest of the day we spent in the butterfly enclosure, visiting all the exotic gardens in the airport, shopping, drinking beer, sleeping and watching the world go by. Buts that's not all, the Changi airport has a hotel and a "day" hotel in the building. In the "day" hotel you can enjoy meals, comfy chairs and hotel quality individual bathroom/showers. For $17 each, Mary and I had time to freshen up - I think this was the best part of the day for Mary, she said that she would have gladly paid $50 for that shower!

    Eventually we were on our way to Melbourne. A midnight meal on the plane - again not much sleep and in no time (well about 7 hours I think) we were in Melbourne. We had a chance to buy some duty free and went through the "Something to Declare" line, the Border Control officer asked us whet we had - biscuits and tea leaves - and let us through without checking which was a pity as they were filming Australia's Border Control - so unfortunately we didn't get to be famous.

    The flight to Hobart was easy, although we had tons of luggage, heaps of hand luggage and duty free - but we made it. So good to be picked up at the Hobart airport and to see Sara and Jeremy again.

    That was the end of our long and adventurous journey - plenty of people to thank and the question is, where do we go next time?

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  • Day53

    Travelling to Singapore via Moscow

    September 14, 2017 in Russia ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    The Terminus Hotel in Stockholm was all I expected it to be for $184 a night. I went to sleep reasonably soon, having become accustomed to the freight train noises through the night and was up a 6:00am. This was going to be my last shower for a few days - so I had a good soak. Mary was going to wash her hair etc etc and so I headed down to breakfast. Being one of the first there, I had plenty to choose from - although the Swedes are not the best at hot dishes for breakfast.

    We left the hotel around 7:15, giving us plenty of time to get to the airport and catch our 10:30 flight. The Arlanda Express train only runs between the airport and central station and it travels at over 180kph through the suburbs. You can see that paying high taxes results in good infrastructure.

    At the airport we were caught in the Monday morning rush - it took ages to get through security - I took off my watch and belt and still was patted down. Anyway, we were called to the departure lounge rather early I thought - but were told that there were toilets inside. Now I don't mind unisex toilets, but they can be a hazard - Mary followed some chap who left a revolting smell behind, almost too much for poor Mary, not a good start to our long flight!

    The flight to Moscow was very short, around 2 hours. To see Moscow from the air is like nothing else - it is huge and full, absolutely full of high rise apartments. I understand that the population is about 13.2 million. We went through the same rigmarole - off the plane, handed a Transfer Ticket, down the stairs to the left, along the corridor about 500m, up stairs, manual check of passport, manual check for tally strokes based on passport, metal detectors, manual check of passport again, back along concourse to where we started. Soon we were away again heading to Singapore. We left at around 3pm and with an 11 hour flight and time difference, we would land in Singapore at about 6am - this was to be the start of our sleep deprivation.

    Tomorrow a day in Singapore.

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  • Day53

    Last day on Gotland

    September 14, 2017 in Sweden ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    It was a great party last night. Traditional Swedish celebrations and drinking songs & games, fantastic food, the best of company and the only challenge was the two flights of spiral stairs to go to bed.

    Apparently Mary spent 2 hours washing up and cleaning the commercial kitchen!

    Today is our last day on Gotland and with our ferry trip not until 7:30pm, we had to whole day for more sightseeing. Oh, did I say it was a great party last night - maybe that's why I didn't get up until nearly midday. My defence is that for people in their mid sixties, 50 days of travel, doing things, meeting people, walking, walking and carrying suitcases does take its toll, perhaps I made this holiday a little too long - but no regrets.

    I said to Mary that today would be our final day to pack our large suitcases as we only had a few hours in Stockholm [arrive at the hotel at 12:30 and leave at 7:30], and our suitcases would then be checked through to Hobart [almost] - so it was our last chance to pack to the limits. That's what I did anyway.

    Around midday we decided to go for a coffee and cake on our way to Sunday church. You know what its like when you are in an unfamiliar place but have you heart set on something [Mary wanted a final piece of Swedish fine cake] and you can't find it. We had an unpleasant coffee in a place where the waiter/cook was eating as he served us - yuk!

    The church was built in 1190 but has been added to and improved over the years - in fact it is one of the most pristine cathedrals I have ever been inside - it was like brand new. It belongs to the Church of Sweden which is a an Evangelical Lutheran demonination.

    After a few prayers, lighting candles and taking photos we set off for the harbour - a part of the old city we hadn't explored as yet. There were parks and gardens, everything is in a perfect condition - large hotels said to me that this area would be teaming with people in the peak summer season.

    Now we were hungry, but late Sunday afternoon was when a lot of the cafes were closing - back to the burger bar was the answer - another treat from Brooklyn Burgers, the best we had ever had1

    We used a taxi to help get our baggage to the ferry - a short distance but I promised myself I would not be a hero with the suitcase for the sake of upsetting a cab driver with a short trip - it only cost $16 - but was worth it.

    On the ferry we had second row seats and a terrific view of the sunset at the start of our 3 hour trip. Grace and Mary cuddled up and watched "House of Cards" on Grace's phone [sharing earphones] while I played crib on the easy level, winning most games of course!

    No fuss catching the bus to Stockholm arriving at 12:15am. The Terminus Hotel is directly opposite the Central Train Station - I have often wanted to stay here because it is so convenient - and it was. I was in bed by 1am, Mary was re-packing until about 3am she says.

    Tomorrow we head to Singapore for the day.

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  • Day49

    Swedish crayfish party today

    September 10, 2017 in Sweden ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Tonight we will be having a traditional Swedish crayfish party - with decorations and drinking songs - should be fun.

    First we have to go to the museum. Gotland has a history of violence, poverty, prosperity and political fighting.

    Gotland is a 3,140 km2 island in the Baltic sea, about 90 km from the Swedish coast and 130 km from the Estonian coast. It currently has about 58,003 inhabitants (20,000 in the main city, Visby). Gotland is a beautiful island and it receives about 500,000 visitors each year. Farming is also prevalent on the island. There are many small businesses; in fact, 99% of the businesses on Gotland employ fewer than 20 people.

    It has been inhabited by people for somewhere between 8000 and 6000 years (depending on the source). Farming was the first business to develop and, by the Viking Age, Gotland was a major trade center in Northern Europe. About half of the 20,000 Viking Age silver coins found in Sweden were discovered on Gotland.

    Gotland, initially an independent sovereign entity, fell under German rule in 1398, Danish rule in 1408, Swedish rule in 1645, Danish rule again in 1676, and ended up as part of Sweden in 1679, with a brief 23-day occupation by the Russians in 1808.

    Interestingly, when Gotland fell under Swedish rule, it did so as the result of peace treaties, whereas other countries' means of obtaining it were generally not peaceful.

    For dinner, Grace prepared a traditional Crayfish meal - with Crayfish [of course], pickled herring,salads, breads, cheeses, potato, cheese tart, the list goes on. We were joined by Grace's Australian friend, Sheona Urquhart [ex Neighbours star] and her family - Victorians, but they were okay still, [they were great fun really!].

    Tomorrow we go to church in the morning then pack in the afternoon - ready to fly home on Monday.

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  • Day49

    Gotland, Sweden's largest Island

    September 10, 2017 in Sweden ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Friday - Geelong lost - the end!

    I suppose I should say more about today ... the girls are talking about going shopping, great, I'll stay here and listen to the Geelong v Richmond final - should have gone shopping!

    Gotland is very much a holiday island - lots of tourists and locals who have summer homes here. It is raining today and expect the winter would be very cold - but it has a great holiday vibe.

    The hotel we have is very old and has a mix of medieval, old and modern fittings - its really interesting and welcoming. I think I have mentioned before how comfortable beds are in Sweden - no problems sleeping here.

    The bottle shops are government controlled - no advertising and they close early. I went for a walk and bought a bottle of Gotland Whisky called "Isle of Lime" it's made here in Roma and is a good single malt. I also bought a box of New Zealand white wine and local beer - mainly for our party tomorrow night.

    For dinner we wanted to try a Thai restaurant - but it was fully booked, so we went to a French Restaurant - funny thing to have foods from other countries located here in Gotland. Anyway, the French Restaurant was brilliant - I had Pork Belly with sauerkraut and the girls had lamb shanks. It is nice to have meat and three veggies after travelling and eating so much local food - don't think I need another fish and chips for a long time.

    I hope the rain stops soon - tomorrow we plan to go to the museum and the church - that should give us a good history lesson of Gotland.

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  • Day47

    Touring Gotland

    September 8, 2017 in Sweden ⋅ 🌧 12 °C

    Today we set off on a tour of Gotland - its about 50km from west to east - so we need a hire car for the day. This is my first time driving from the front passengers seat! I was quite proud of myself getting through the day without incident - although I must admit that roundabouts had me bluffed - I just made my way through without hitting anyone!

    The main road to the other side of Gotland goes through Roma - that was our first stop. We drove into a farm where Grace had taken her photos in a field of wheat a couple of weeks ago - today they are harvesting the wheat. We had a traditional Swedish lunch which included Kroppkakao a potato dumpling with pork inside - very tasty!

    We drove to the east coast of Gotland, a long beach walk was in order. The east coast of Gotland is much different from the west coast - its drier and flatter. It looks like holiday homes are very popular in this part of the island - I can imagine summer here would be magical. Further along the beach we visited an area of vertical rock formations known as sea stacks. Got some great photos here - reminded me of Picnic at Hanging rock.

    The roads on Gotland are first class - wide, clean and no pot holes to worry about.

    There are treasures to be found on Gotland - a huge number of coins from the Middle East and Britain have been found here - strange because there is no silver in Gotland so the coins had to be "acquired" from elsewhere. In fact, there have been more silver coins found here than the total found in muslim countries around the world. Many researchers believe these hoards functioned like safe deposit boxes: Viking cash deposits were hidden in the ground for safety until needed.

    Other experts suggest that the caches had a religious significance and were saved up and buried by their owners for use in the afterlife. Anyway - we didn't find any coins during our walks.

    For dinner we went to the supermarket and bought salad and Atlantic Salmon - very enjoyable indeed.

    Tomorrow some sightseeing in Visby - visits to museums and old churches - lots of very old stuff to see her - should be good.

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  • Day47

    Going to Gotland

    September 8, 2017 in Sweden ⋅ ☀️ 14 °C

    Today we head to Gotland, Sweden's largest island. Gotland is about twice the size of Flinders Island and has a population of 53,003 approx. Its in the middle of the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Latvia.

    We decided to walk [with about 54kg total in baggage] to the bus station. We had checked it out last night and knew where to go. Grace was waiting for us at the top of the stairs and off we went. It's about a one hour bus trip to the port of Nynäshamn. That was very pleasant - although I think I had a little sleep on the bus - getting good at sleeping on trains & planes.

    No problem getting onto the ferry, although the baggage check-in lady did raise her eye brows when we put through our cases.

    We decided to sit at a table in the dining area rather than the aircraft seats for the three hour ferry trip - better for conversation and having a meal - I had Swedish meatballs again - yummy.

    Visby it the capital of Gotland. It has an old walled city centre with many medieval buildings and ruins. The old part of the city is where we are staying, and because it is mainly cobble stones, we decided to take a taxi - it only cost 100kr [about $16].

    Where we are staying is a private hotel owned by one of Grace's business partners. It is built on medieval foundations from around 1200AD with the main building dating back to around the 16th century.

    We have the hotel to ourselves - Grace, Mary and Me. The owners are away !!

    Walking around the old city we went past many restaurants and eateries - but its not cheap, at one bar I have a local stout and Mary & Grace had Aperoal Spritz which all up cost $54. Grace then took us to a gourmet burger bar - Brooklyn Burgers - and we had what Mary called the best burger ever!!

    I think our little holiday in Gotland is going to be fantastic. Tomorrow we hire a car and explore the island.

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  • Day45

    Shopping in Stockholm

    September 6, 2017 in Sweden ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    Although I am the second oldest person staying at the hostel, I really like it. They have everything here for the traveller and are very friendly. It is only costing $Aus140 a night - you can't get a hotel this close to town for under $Aus250 and as I said, our double room with ensuite is so big. Grace is busy this morning so Mary and I decided to go for a walk, see the city sights and do some shopping.

    I remembered that the mall has Lions in the pavement at each end so when I came to a Lion , off I went - problem is there are Lions in many places and these ones were a right angles to where I wanted to go. Nevertheless we had a good long walk. We resorted to SIRI who took us to the Nobel Prize Hall and the market outside - plenty of restaurants here.

    The photo of Mary standing near a fungi display shows only a tiny part of the stalls that are selling all types of fungi and other produce. We went into a multi story deli - you should see the size of the cuts of meat - I asked Mary to put her hand nearby so you could see their size in the photo - huge!

    Needing to go to the toilet we found a group of unisex toilets. problem was - no place for coins and certainly not for free - you had to use your smart credit card to get in - at a cost of SEK8, which is about 80 cents. I did notice a couple in one booth together - saving money I expect.

    Grace had mentioned that she wished she had a record player. We found suitable ones in the UK and Ireland, the problem was getting it to her. I took the risk that we could buy one in Stockholm - even though all the web sites I looked had only had HiFi systems at super high prices.

    We found what we were looking for in Stockholm, a record player with inbuilt speakers. Before buying we searched other stores but could find nothing. So we bought it for Grace and a second hand record to boot - all worked out well - I'm happy we were able to solve her problem.

    Grace invited us to drinks at the end of a marketing workshop at her workplace - Stockholm Music. Met a marketer who worked on the Optus account in Australia in the 90's - very interesting. After a few drinks we headed back to the hostel with Grace.

    Over dinner Grace booked the ferry to Gotland and connecting buses - we need to be at the Central Station by 9:30am - should that be easy as we are now familiar with packing routines.

    So off the Gotland tomorrow - one of the highlights of our trip.

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