Back from the UK

Well we’ve been back in Australia for almost a week and, except for the jet-lag, have settled back into our daily routine.

I should’ve blogged more frequently while we were back in England, but I just didn’t get a chance because we squeezed so many things into this trip. I’ll upload some pictures as soon as Sara empties her digital camera.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Sara and her mum spent a few days at Ribby Hall, near Blackpool, with Charlotte and Geoffrey whilst I was in Germany. Believe it or not, it took Sara 4 hours to drive the 50-odd miles from Oldham, somehow stopping off at Leeds and Bradford on the way! 😮
  • When I arrived in Manchester I upgraded my pre-booked hire car to a brand new Mercedes E330 Estate, as a little treat to myself. b-)
  • We had a night out around Lees with Rob, Lynda, Max, Diane, Stuart, Phil, Ian and Louise. Nothing has changed there, really.
  • We went to Chester Zoo with Sara’s mum and dad, June, Geoffrey and Louise. Charlotte absolutely loved it and we took plenty of pictures and video footage. 😡
  • I really enjoyed watching United in the Black Horse with Tom Dean, even though Chelsea settled the title within a few minutes of kick off.
  • I had a great all dayer in Manchester with Adrian, Duncan and Paul and, as well as the usual pubs, we landed up in a emo/goth bar in Ancoats. 😕
  • We caught up with Sara’s cousins Collette, Sally and Hayley.
  • We paid a flying visit to the College with Charlotte, but didn’t get a chance to see many people. Caught up with Pete and Talei, went for a pint with RobH, bumped into Dave Mills one evening in the Kings Arms. By chance Chippy Steve and Gary were also in the pub one night.
  • Sara and Charlotte stayed over at Rachel’s house in Crewe, where Charlotte enjoyed playing with the dolls house and stealing Sian’s wine gums. :-@
  • I had another all dayer in Manchester with Rob, Stu, Phil and Max, ending up in the charming Wetherspoons pub on Piccadilly. #-o
  • Sara had a couple of nights out with Cathy and Karen.
  • The weather was great most of the time, we even managed a sunny day trip to Blackpool with Sara’s dad. b-)
  • We satisfied our cravings: Two curries at Vamasaki, two curries at Blue Tiffin, four dodgy kebabs, rag pudding at the Black Ladd, Hollands Cheese and Onion pie, black pudding, hairy pork scratchings, Pizza Hut, chips and gravy/curry, salt-and-pepper ribs…
  • … and over a hundred bags of crisps. :@)

We also had some business to take care of: closing some old bank accounts and carrying out an inspection of our old house on Ripponden Road, which is currently vacant again and desperately needs a lick of paint. :)]

We were stunned by how cheap things are in the UK. We’ve become used to having less choice and paying over the odds for groceries and clothes in Australia; our visit to the new HUGE Tesco on Huddersfield Road made us realise what we’re missing down under. The Aussie supermarkets are very poor in comparison. $-)

It was fantastic seeing everyone again but, as happened on our last visit, we just ran out of time and couldn’t visit everyone. :((

Luckily we managed to avoid the volcanic ash cloud and the British Airways strikes on our way home. I was back in work the next day, which forced me to adapt to the different time zone, but Sara and Charlotte are still struggling. It’s nice sleeping in your own bed though, after three weeks away from home. |-)

I’ll upload some photos to t’gallery when we’ve had a chance to sort through them.

Saturday in Munich

I’ve been wide awake since before 4am this morning, thanks to jet lag. So, after a quick breakfast at the hotel, I jumped on the S-Bahn and headed into the touristy part of Munich.

Unfortunately all the shops are closed until at least 9:30am on Saturday so the city was totally deserted, but it was very pleasant wandering around the old city, admiring the architecture with the church bells ringing out. Took a few photos.

A few coffees later, I grabbed a some essential supplies and took them back to the hotel. The public transport is so good here that it’s easy to just pop back with my toiletries, bottles of water and juice, rather than lugging them about with me all day. ~o)

No sign of Sara on Skype, no SMS from her (we ordered Tesco pre-paid SIMs a couple of weeks ago), no emails. I guess I’m not being missed at the moment. :)]

OK, back outside and it feels like beer-o-clock to me. But its only 11am, what shall I do? I see lots of locals wearing Bayern Munich replica shirts, they must be at home today. United aren’t playing until tomorrow afternoon, so I figure I’ll take a walk and go for some “lunch” somewhere where the Bayern fans might go.

The map tells me that the Augustiner Keller, Munich’s second largest beer garden — it can accommodate 8000 people, apparently — is only a short walk from the hotel, so off I go.

Wow. Fantastic place, great atmosphere, an oompah band, lots of singing Bayern fans, excellent Augustiner beer served in 1 litre measures. What’s not to like?

It reminded me of standing outside Lou Macari’s or in the Bishop’s Blaize at Old Trafford a few years ago, but without the oppressive policing or edgy atmosphere as if something’s always about to kick off.

They’ve got it absolutely right here: superb public transport to the ground from anywhere, cheap tickets (including safe standing areas), relaxed pre-match drinking and good food, without being ripped off or treated like a criminal. Even the weather is good.

I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I might just have another “mas helles”.

Sara — if you read this, give me a call, email or text.

Edit: Bayern Munich beat Bochum 3-1 today, all but securing the Bundelsiga title. The bars and restaurants were packed with happy Bavarians after the game.

The Journey From Hell… Not so bad

I had been dreading the flights back to England since the day we booked our tickets, knowing that Charlotte can’t keep still for 5 minutes let alone 21 hours. 😮

I needn’t have worried, she was brilliant. In the few weeks before travelling we kept telling her how we were going on an aeroplane to see Granny, how it was going to be a very long journey and how important it would be to keep her seatbelt fastened. She took it all in, pointing up at passing planes and mimicking exactly what we’d said. She even played aeroplanes in the house, lining up her little chairs with her Elmos as passengers.

We chose the right time of day to fly and packed plenty of things to keep her occupied. The sedatives (for her, not me) helped too. #:-s

On the plane, once she was in her pyjamas and had drank her milk, she conked out watching Mickey Mouse on the Playhouse Disney channel — just like she does at home. Sara and I snatched a brief hour or two, but Charlotte was out for the count. /:)

She got a bit fidgety during the last couple of hours on the longest leg, but Sara’s bagful of small new toys kept her entertained, although she wanted to slip out of her seat and play on the floor.

Altogether she ended up sleeping for two thirds of the time, including one of the take offs, both the landings, the whole of our transit time in Singapore and the bus between terminals at Heathrow.

We only had a couple of hours to kill before going our separate ways, so we played chase to tire her out for the final leg. I packed them off on their shuttle to Manchester and had only 15 minutes to cross Terminal 5 to catch my flight to Germany.

I’m typing this on my Blackberry on the train to the city centre — I felt wide awake when I landed, despite more than 36 hours on the road — so decided I didn’t need a taxi, as I knew exactly where I was going. I’ll tidy up this post and add some pictures when I get proper internet access at the hotel.