06 April, 2011

Sydney to London - via Bangkok and Dubai

Ok, it goes without saying that YES, I am an Emirates fan... It doesn't seem THAT obvious... Does it?

Thursday was an early start, as BF was leaving for Auckland, I took them out to the airport. So it was 3.30am when I woke up... I arrived at L&R's place and we soon headed over to the airport. Getting TO the airport was no hassle, and we parked our cars and headed for the check-in counters. They were checked-in, in no time at all and given the time, were through security and on their way. L&R and I, on the other hand, had a coffee and then we went our separate ways... I went to the Dentist!

The Dentist was an uneventful visit, all was good, so it was then off to have a morning tea with A, and Miss 4 E. Although we normally have lunch at work as Miss 4 is enrolled in a program at work, we met mid-way between my dentist and her place, Forsyth's Coffee & Tea.

After lunch, it was home to pack, via Woolies, where M came over to collect me and take me to the airport. It was a quieter than normal drive to the airport, I think someone was going to miss me going, but it is only for a short time! We arrived, I said my good-byes (not wanting to line Macquarie Banks pockets anymore as parking is expensive here, and I went and checked in; all the way to London.

After sitting in the Emirates Lounge for a while, I soon heard my boarding call and headed up to the aircraft, a Boeing 777-300ER. I normally take the A380 flight direct, but this flight has a stop in Bangkok! This flight, being a night flight of 8hrs and 26mins was uneventful once we got airborne! There was a little bit of taxi traffic, and whilst sitting on the taxiway, I did see my mate J sitting on one of the tugs, flashing his lights! See ya J!

Transiting through Bangkok was also uneventful, this time at least the immigration people were lighter in nature than last time I was here! I headed for the Lounge to relax for the 90 min we were here before heading back to re-board. Again, this flight (being a night flight) was all good and the crew again, were fantastic!

However, due to our late departure from Sydney and Bangkok, sitting in a holding pattern near Muscat and then over Dubai itself for around 40mins, it became a tight transit in Dubai. So much so, I was in a long line for the transit security, and a 'Granny Buggy' was calling for flights for an emergency access through security. I eventually got into the holding bay area for my flight just as they were about to close the flight, and when scanning my boarding pass (issued in Sydney), an alarm went off. I was re-ticketed and I boarded the aircraft. Only to find though, a Kiwi lad sitting in what should have been my seat! We exchanged "Can I have my seat please" statements before I spoke to a Hostess... She took both boarding passes to the Purser, and then then Purser came to me and invited my upstairs... UPGRADE!!!

Now, in the end, I sat, got comfy and set up a total of 3 Business Class seats! Long story, but the last one was a curl one! I was asked b the hostess that would I mind moving as an Arabic lady has made a request to sit alone (Arabic custom not to sit next to a man) and could I swap... I was like sure, expecting to see a lady in a Burqu/Burka or something, but NO, here she was in a singlet top and tight jeans so if she was an extremist in Arabic Cultures, where is the coverings? Anyways, I moved and got set up and we were soon underway...

Here are some pics from the flight...

Drink Service commencing
Somewhere, over the desert...
Lunch Appetiser - TUNA TARTARE

I got some sleep on the flight, now I am not sure if it was a result of the lie-flat bed or the Jack Daniels I had drunk, but we eventually landed in London. Clearing Immigration was a breeze thanks to being a British Citizen, and I was soon at my hotel opposite the airport. A quick shower and I was on my way into London's Oxford St, as I know of a phone shop where I got a new SIM for my phone so as I can still have data access. I then got a call from H&P, B's sister, and headed up to Mayfair for a beer, or three, and dinner. I was beginning to get a bit sleepy,so I said my good-byes and headed for the Tube and homeward bound...

Hoo roo for now...


05 April, 2011

A weekend in Auckland PART III of III

Auckland - Sydney Emirates EK413 A6-EDM

Ok, I know it has been MORE than a little while since posting parts I and II, but here is the third enstallment of a weekend away in Auckland.

The day started early, VERY early. A wake up call wasn't needed, but a coffee certainly was! We packed our things, checked out and loaded the car (Toyota Hilux 4WD) and were on our way to Rotorua. It was an uneventful drive down, memory directed mostly where we needed to go, but the occassional look (for reassurance) at the GPS on the phone, always helped!

We arrived somewhat early, so we had a quick look around the city. Once we got to the visitor center where I had to collect some tickets, we then headed back to Skyliner for the morning adventures!

Rotorua Oval
Rotorua Overview (Gondola) from Chairlift
Half way

We had booked the 'Skyswing and Luge package; what fun! Now, you can ONLY ride IF you're over the sign!

Skyswing Height Board

After this, we then jumped back into the car, and headed back to Auckland Airport for our flight home. Check in was painless, being Gold on a dedicated line (thankfully) and there as also pre-immigration screening at the counter as well! Cleared immigration and got through security easily and then headed for the Emirates Lounge to relax...

Boarding was also great, but this time, we were heading upstairs on the A380 into Business Class; a suitable reward for my flights and for my birthday! Again, I was greeted personally by the Cabin Manager by name, no-one else up there, and was asked if I needed anything, to contact her. I like being a Gold Status holder! Pre-departure drinks was served as with menus, and we soon taxied out for our departure to the north...

Entrees were soon served, where I had the Smoked Salmon, a main of Prawns in a Lemongrass Sauce with rice and veges and a dessert of White Chocolate Mousse. We also had a visit to the bar in the rear of the upper deck!

AKL Spoters Park
AKL Overview
Smoked Salmon Entree
Prawns Lemongrass Sauce with Rice Veges
White Chocolate Mousse
EK A380 Business Bar

All to soon we arrived back into Sydney, where after coming through rain and crosswinds, we made a very hard landing... Clearing of immigration was of course painless, and we were collected on the outside...

Coming up next, is a trip to Belgium, and for a couple of days before and after, in London!

Hoo roo for now...


01 April, 2011

Blue for Autism Awareness Day

Tonight, the Opera house turned blue (Light It Up Blue) as part of the World Autism Awareness Day. I went in to get a couple of shots, and to practice my night photography skills as well...


I started, whilst waiting for M to arrive from Uni, to get a shot of OLIVETO Restaurant.

We then head into Harry's Cafe De Wheels, for a quick bite to eat before heading over to Dawes Point which is under the Harbour Bridge, opposite the Opera House as well, so makes a great vantage point!

Blue Opera House

I finished up getting a couple of extra shots, of course the Harbour Bridge but also opposite at Nth Sydney, is Luna Park

Harbour Bridge
Luna Park

There was even some ghastly ghoulies about the Rocks area as well!!

Ghostly Ghouls

Hoo roo for now...


27 March, 2011

A weekend in Auckland PART II of III

Auckland Day 2
Spotting, Scenery and Sunsets

The day started with an early morning, as we had heard that the NZ A320 ZK-OAB was to be depart Auckland for Wellington at 7am. OAB is a special livery aircraft for the All Blacks Rugby, and it is a fantastic scheme. HERE is a short video about the painting of the aircraft (check out how they get it OUT of the Hanger!). It was dark, and we were on the road to the airport. We were told that the multi-story carpark would be a possibility, so that's where we headed.

I tried a couple of 'test shots', in an attempt to get settings right, but even still, it was difficult lighting/conditions (lots of light poles) for it... But here are the 'test shots' and OAB on its departure.


So after its departure, we got some breakfast (the hotel breakfast wasn't much) and then headed over to the dedicated spotting area for the day. It was a great day, blue skies, clear and a really nice temperature (although, a degree or two more could have been nicer!)... Here are some pics...

Spotting NZ744

We went and got lunch late in the day, and when we got back, there was a local radio station looking for a location to do some promotional work. They almost ALWAYS seem to have a good looking chick at these things, and on this occasion, it was most CERTAINLY the case! Not sure as to why, but they do. So, I went over and asked if they are owned by the same company as our 2DayFM/MMM in Sydney, and oddly enough, they were and the girl had done some dealings with our very own Hamish & Andy! After a couple of minutes, she gave me some samples, Usher aftershave, a magazine and some Chocolate Sauce (and some stickers as well). After a short time, a 'Mr Whippy' van also turned up, and they were giving out ice-creams to everyone as well!

ZM's Mr Whippy
ZK-NBT Arrival
Moo Smile

We then headed back into town (via One Tree Hill) to get some headache pills as my headache was getting unbearable... I have been having these headaches for a couple of weeks now of varying intensities, but today's was just about as much as I could bare. I was beginning to feel nauseous, and even suggested to J that he might have to take over the driving duties! I eventually found a Chemist in the Newmarket area, on the way into Auckland. We went to the top of One Tree Hill, which you can clearly see both Auckland City in one direction and the Airport behind us. It gives a great perspective of the city as a whole...

Auckland City
Sir John Logan Campbell Kt

We then headed into the city, through Parnell and we stopped where L and I had discovered the Cat Lady of Auckland back in 2006. It is a nice location, and gave us a vista over the city with the sun setting behind, giving a silhouette effect.

AKL Sunset

I then had to remember the way through the city and onto the freeway and then over the Harbour Bridge for the North Shore. This would give us a great overview of the city for a nice night shot. We passed a spot that gave a nice outlook, but in an attempt to get both the city AND the rising moon (which was at its largest since 1992) we got a little off the beaten track, and found ourselves somewhere (but not lost) where the city had disappeared. So we headed back to the freeway, managed a different exit to do a U-Turn and back to a foreshore location. It was now very dark and after tending to some nature, set up the tripod and got some shots. I got both the city AND the moon!

AKL Night
19032011 Moon AKL

Then, it was time to head back to the city (headache getting worse again) to get some dinner. I got us back to the fish markets, as I recalled a great fish 'n' chip place there. But, by the time we got in, it had closed, but we did find a really nice Chinese place. There was also 4 Ferrari's parked here, Red, Yellow, Black and a Gun Metal coloured one. It made for some great photography as well! Food was excellent, company as well, and of course, we had both overeaten!

As it was going to be a very early start in the morning to head down to Rotorua, we headed back to the hotel for some shut eye...

Part III of III will be up sometime tomorrow...

Hoo roo for now...


Saturday - Movie and dinner

Yesterday, which seemed to be passing as just another day, ended up being something of a great afternoon! I have had the last week off, mainly due to high blood pressure (and yes, its STILL high this morning), so I've spent a lot of time doing nothing and resting at home. So it was good to be going out for a change! The choice of the afternoon's entertainment, a movie "The Rite".

It was a great movie actually, but I could not help but recollect the many similarities to Anthony Hopkins performance in "Silence of the Lambs"!

"The battle against the Devil, which is the principal task of Saint Michael the Archangel, is still being fought today, because the Devil is still alive and active in the world." -Pope John Paul II "The Rite" is a supernatural thriller that uncovers the Devil's reach to even one of the holiest places on Earth. Inspired by true events, the film follows seminary student Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue), who is sent to study exorcism at the Vatican in spite of his own doubts about the controversial practice and even his own faith. Wearing his deep skepticism like armor, Michael challenges his superiors to look to psychiatry, rather than demons, in treating the possessed. Only when he's sent to apprentice with the unorthodox Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins)--a legendary priest who has performed thousands of exorcisms--does Michael's armor begin to fall. As he is drawn into a troubling case that seems to transcend even Father Lucas's skill, he begins to glimpse a phenomenon science can't explain or control...and an evil so violent and terrifying that it forces him to question everything he believes.

After the movie, we went (again) to La Mono for a 'Leb Dinner'... It is always great to go there, food, company and so on! I also got to meet two of M's friends from uni, N (who I'd met once before) and A who, well... was 'interesting'! But still it was a good night all the same!

We said our goodbyes (N&A going out to a pub) and headed for home. I was tired, headache and fuzziness so I wasn't going anywhere, so we quickly watched a little of the Election Wrap up ('interesting'?) in between the movie, The Da Vinci Code. But as it was getting late, M headed home and I went straight to bed, and I think I was asleep before I hit the pillow!

Hoo roo for now...


26 March, 2011

A weekend in Auckland PART I of III

Sydney - Auckland EK412 Emirates A380 A6-EDC

Well yes, ok it has been a while, but this weekend was hectic enough... Throw in a major headache, and it made it even worse, but I got through it all... Just!We arrived at the International departures at Sydney Airport early. There was both J and myself going to Auckland, but N was leaving the same day to Vietnam via Singapore. His flight was leaving 30 minutes after ours... Or so we thought! It was not to long later when entering the Emirates Lounge, we were told that our flight would be delayed due to its inbound also being late! Oh well, more time to enjoy the lounge, right!

We entered the lounge, got a couple of seats that outlooked over onto the ramp, and then hit the food. It was an interesting array of hot foods, Western and Middle East, there was also cereals, fresh fruit, juices, coffee/teas, and of course, champagne and drinks! Here is my breakfast.

Breakfast Emirates Lounge
Emirates Lounge Sydney
Emirates Lounge Sydney Entrance

We arranged to meet back up with N prior to his boarding, now that he's leaving before us, and we said our goodbyes. It was at this stage, we walked up to our departure gate (lots of people after all, it was an A380) and we saw the flight crew sitting waiting as well. We politely asked if it was possible to visit the flight deck upon arrival into Auckland, to which we were welcomed without any problems!

Our flight was called, and being a Gold Skywards Member, I could board at anytime, through a dedicated line, even though we were travelling in Economy on the way over! This was not my first EK A380 flight, but for J it was on both counts. I had organised a window seat each, just forward of the wing. It wasn't too long, and we had started our pushback...

16R Holding

There was stormy clouds about Sydney this morning, and our departure took us off 16R and on an almost straight heading across the Tasman Sea. Flight time was a relative short 2.35 hours! We were soon served our breakfast; for me I had the Cheese Omelet while J had the mixed grill. Mine had potatoes, mushrooms and a capsicum sauce. It was very good! There was also a croissant and a fruit bowl.

EK412 Breakfast
Cheese Omelet Mushrooms
A6-EDC Econ Interior
A6-EDC Mid Galley

Our arrival into Auckland took us on a downwind leg in-between Auckland City and the airport, a right hand turn for a final over Manuka and not to long afterwards, touchdown into Auckland, which was very much like we had left Sydney, cloudy! A short taxi to the gate, maybe 10 minutes, and it had started to POUR!

Before we got off the flight, the cabin staff took us up to the First Class Suites, and also showed us the First Class Shower. Again, whilst I had seen/experienced this before, it was still very good to see it again.

EK A380 First Suites (Credit - J Laing)
A6-EDC First Shower

We then headed up to the 'Office', where the Captain was waiting for us, the First Officer who actually flew the leg, had already left the office, but was waiting in the entrance of the aircraft. The Captain was great, we were there for a while, and whilst I sensed our stay was becoming onerous, he still answered questions and allowed us to get a photo in the 'Left Seat'

A380 Left Seat (Credit - J Laing)

Immigration was painless, as with collecting the car. Finding the hotel though, was a little less easy as I took a turn one street to soon, but painless all the same! As we had arranged earlier to meet up with D, we quickly got our bearings and went for a short drive (in the pouring rain) before heading back to meet up. We headed into the Auckland Pier for a couple of beers, before getting geographically challenged to the Angus Steakhouse for dinner. J had a 1.3kg steak, D an Eye Fillet, whilst I opted for the Lamb Rack (what ELSE would you have in NZ?) which was AMAZING! We had a great night chatting about lots of stuff, and then headed back to the hotel (more chatting in the lobby) and to bed...

Angus Steak House AKL
Lamb Rack

So, that's part one, I will get parts two and three up as soon!

Hoo roo for now...