Saturday, July 26, 2014

There's no place like home - a traveller's perspective

Blogging whilst travelling is problematic. iPad blogging apps are awful - if they work at all, you can't format anything the way you'd like, and sometimes uploading photos is quite impossible.

If I'd taken my MacBook, I could have managed it quite easily. But then there's the worry about an expensive item being lost, stolen or damaged, not to mention that carry-on luggage restrictions can be quite awkward to comply with on budget airlines without the extra burden of a laptop bag. And it's too big for a hotel room safe, so you end up lugging the thing with you everywhere. Not fun when you're walking up to 27km a day.

So over the next few weeks, I'll aim to do a series of retrospective travel posts instead. Boy, do I have some things to say about airports, airlines and accommodation options. This trip was a series of "firsts" for us; not just our first trip to Europe, but first experiences with all kinds of transport and accommodation options. The trip was overwhelmingly positive, but there are traps for the unwary and I'm going to share them to hopefully save others some inconvenience.

Travel is fantastic. You get to see things, do things, meet people and try new foods that you wouldn't find at home. There were many times that we exclaimed: "This is GREAT! Why don't we have this at home?" But the biggest thing I took away from our trip was a new appreciation for all of the good things we have here in Australia. Number one being SPACE.

We were also underwhelmed by the food - we did have some fabulous meals, but overall we eat better at home. Our restaurants here in Melbourne offer top quality food, better in many cases than France and especially Spain. Who knew? And surprisingly, England provided some of the best food we had on our trip.

Costs in the UK and Singapore were horrifying. Yes, Paris can be expensive, but not so much if you avoid the major tourist areas. And Spain was relatively cheap overall. But most things in the UK cost 50-100% more than we pay here. £1.35 for a litre of diesel fuel? Holy crap! That's about $2.50. I just filled my car this afternoon and paid $1.48. Restaurant and pub meals: double. Wine: double. Transport: double. Seriously, a glass of (pretty ordinary) wine cost up to the equivalent of $18. The average was around $13 or $14. I can buy two bottles from Liquorland for that amount.

All that aside, the good more than outweighed the bad over the past seven weeks - but we're still happy to be home. We really missed family, home and familiar comforts, especially in the last week or two. We're also relieved to not be flying anywhere in the immediate future, given recent events. More on that later, too.

Of the five countries we visited (France, Spain, Scotland, England, Singapore - I'm not including Malaysia, as we've been there before), our favourite was France - by a very small margin over England and Scotland. Sorry, ancestors...

Here's a small glimpse of the wonders of France. I'll get to the rest in a later post:

The magnificent French Alps, from le Bourg d'Oisans in the valley below.

Paris viewed from the top of the Eiffel Tower, looking SE toward Montparnasse. C'est magnifique!

M. Monet's beautiful water garden at Giverny.

The over-the-top magnificence of Versailles

Now it's back to eating Vegemite, drinking cheap wine and sorting my 2,600 photos into a highlights package that can be shown to friends and relatives without them dying of boredom.... Yes, it's good to be home.



Sara said...

Yay! Looking forward to it! I think what's happened with wine is, it has gotten so much cheaper over here (and sounds like the same in Aus) compared to Europe. When I first went to Italy, I was shocked at how cheap wine was, but now it's cheaper here. Back in 2001 a bottle of NZ wine cost more in NZ than in Europe!

Kek said...

Oh, Kiwi wines are stupidly cheap here! I picked up a decent bottle of Marlborough sav blanc for $7 yesterday. The same wines were selling for $30 in Singapore. And we were horrified to find bottom-end Australian wines, that we wouldn't pay more than $10 for, on British wine lists for £25.

Some supermarket lines were cheaper in the UK than here (bottled water, toiletries, some basic foods), but even so, I wonder how people manage a decent living standard over there. I see why bikes are so popular - few people can afford to run cars!

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