Excited to go to an Australian wedding before returning to Italy…
A mad scramble out the door before racing off in my little Fuchsia pink hired car to the airport – flying from Brisbane to Newcastle this morning.
Taking the wrong turn, hit morning traffic, and every red light on the very busy Brisbane’s Stafford Road – not a great start.
Topping up the car’s fuel, a quick drop-off to Thrifty car hire, then racing to the Qantas check-in, with only an hour before my flight’s departure – tight. Lucky this is only a domestic flight.
Brisbane has been a busy couple of weeks organising tradesmen to fix a roof, renewing my passport, an interview for the Italian Residency Visa, and also catching up with great friends over wine.
Arriving at the check-in I find I can’t check-in. No counters at Domestic any longer.
Seeing my slightly panicked expression after trying three machines, a Qantas staff member tries to help with my check-in but advises that the 09:25 am flight is cancelled. I’m bumped off to a 01:50pm flight!
Again? Incredulous that this would happen with Qantas, whilst the staff member advises: “we never cancel flights”.
Unfortunately, I received the Qantas cancellation notification on my phone after I tried to check-in. Otherwise, I would have driven back out the airport in my Fuchsia pink hire car, as I didn’t need to return this until later today.
I cannot believe my luck on this trip. My plane was grounded in Dubai flying over here and now this delayed flight.
I think this flight is cancelled due to not enough bodies at this time of morning. Finally, “mechanical issues” for the cancellation is provided.
Provided with a AUD$20 food voucher, I’m told I’d have to wait for another 5 hours to go on my 1-hour flight!
Once again, I sit here waiting for airlines to get their sh*t together and hopefully the next flight will leave on time.
I haven’t flown Qantas in a very long time and figured by going with this airline and not a low-cost carrier, I would be “safe” from cancellations.
Oh well, time to catch up on my blogs but first, need coffee and food as my stomach is ‘hangry’. A food coma to cope with the wait would be great…
Qantas food voucher
If you’re ever in possession of a Qantas food voucher that resembles a boarding pass, you learn very quickly that you cannot use this at all food outlets in Brisbane Airport’s Departures.
After what seemed like marathon relay of Departures, food counters telling me I needed a pink voucher, Gate lounge advising to see the Qantas Service Desk; Qantas Service Desk advising I needed to go downstairs to Qantaslink (they’re different companies)…I finally have the little pink voucher – all this for $20?
But wait, there’s another catch…
I try to use my pink voucher at the Sushi counter. As this counter does not sell coffee with Sushi, the friendly lady advises I can only use this voucher at the one counter during the one time. Why is this so difficult?
I flopped into Bar Roma for their coffee ($4.50) and Chicken Nachos ($15.95). Not the best of food nor the cheapest of places but at a total of $20.35, I was happy with hot food on my plate, a warm coffee in hand, and a comfy seat.
Sitting in the Bar Roma for a well-earned rest with still over 2 hours to wait – taking my time over my free meal.
Listening to a poor old grey-haired biddy shouting at her very quiet husband, obviously hard of hearing – poor dear. Next to me, long strong American drawls emanate from an American couple. I still love airports for people-watching – it’s a blast.
Finally, it’s time to be ushered onto a bus and driven to the Dash 8 (400) Twin-engine plane.
The service on the plane from the two friendly flight attendants is good. You can indulge in tea, coffee, water, juice, and a small cake, if you so wish.
Whilst waiting at Brisbane airport, an email arrived from the Italian Consulate in Brisbane advising that my Residency Visa is granted. My passport is in an Express envelope on the way to Newcastle.
At last, something positive for the day – I’m in my happy place now.
Landing in Newcastle
Arriving a little late only to find that I just miss the bus from the airport into Newcastle, with the next another hour away, it’s not a great travel day.
This airport services a major city but there aren’t frequent public buses to the city. There is however, a shuttle bus, which costs between AUD$50-90 or a taxi, which will set you back AUD$70+.
The ridiculous thing is that this airport does have one free shuttle bus that shunts passengers from the front of the airport, to the airport’s carpark, and runs every 5 minutes.
To put this into perspective, the carpark is just metres across the road from Arrivals. This is a small airport and by no means like Heathrow, Rome, or even Melbourne or Sydney.
Commenting to the shuttle bus driver about the lack of public transport to the city, but there’s a continual shuttle bus every 5 mins to the airport carpark, he agrees it’s ludicrous.
So too is me taking my frustration out when speaking with an elderly chap waiting for a different public bus. Snapping at me: “these public buses are here to serve locals, not for passengers getting off airplanes!”
But how does he know I’m not a local? I’m sure locals that travel also carry backpacks…this is becoming hilarious in its absurdity.
Finally, the public bus arrives and the driver is very sweet. Having missed the next connecting bus to my sister’s place, call on my niece for a lift to my new home for a few weeks.
And the photo below is what I endure everyday whilst living here…this 8-year-old gorgeous Labradoodle is my shadow. Life is tough.
My visa arrives
Today, my express post envelope arrives containing my passport complete with a multiple-entry Italian Residency Visa.
At last…things are looking up and I can’t wait to return to Italy!
If I had known the visa would arrive this quickly, I would have booked my return flight to Rome straight after the 1st (my niece’s wedding) and not wait until the 11th.
The reason for extending my time in Australia is to attend my niece’s wedding.
Apart from the slightly stressful week preceding the wedding, the day is lovely. Delicious food, a gorgeous reception venue with 180-degree ocean views, and the bridal party looks beautiful!
Everyone enjoys the event, which includes a Photo booth for dress-ups, games, a dance show by the bridal party, and much dancing and fun.
Siri the Ring Bearer steals the show. With his satin white bow tie, curly good looks, sparkling eyes, and impeccable behaviour in the soaring heat…he only barked twice during the hour-ceremony.
Food in Newcastle
Scratchleys on the Wharf
I’m told this busy seafood restaurant is one of Newcastle’s best.
Sadly tonight, the prawns are tasteless, my salmon is too dry, but the Oyster Kilpatrick dish is deliciously superb (Entrees $15+; Mains $20+; a stingy glass of wine $8.50; Juice $3.80+). Prices are on the high side so I expect better quality.
The service is excellent though and I’m also told that the food is usually better. Great ambience overlooking the river and watching the ferries plough through the river, whilst the sun sets.
The Locale Café
This super busy and noisy cafe at New Lambton sees many staff running around like they’re in a marathon.
Service is good although my Breakfast Burger ($16.50) is quite greasy. Coffee at $4+ is OK. My sister’s Bircher Muesli ($14) is good. With funky décor, this makes for a cool place to hang out.
The morning after the wedding sees us having a lovely breakfast back at the surf house where the reception was, but downstairs.
Gorgeous morning and view across the Pacific Ocean with everyone in their summer gear strolling past, roller blading, or frivolously skateboarding. And why not…it is the beach’s boardwalk.
This is another very busy venue but manage a table outside under cover. The eggs Benedict with smoked salmon ($18.50) are very good and the coffee ($4+) is palatable but quite weak. Think I’m used to Italian espresso. You can have a double shot coffee with syrup for $5.50 – pricy for a cup of coffee. Australia is expensive.
A stroll in Warner’s Bay
A short 15-kilometre drive from Newcastle finds you in the very pleasant lakeside suburb of Warner’s Bay in the City of Lake Macquarie. I haven’t visited this area for some time and it is always great to return.
A very lovely and long stroll along the foreshore of Speer’s Point with the hound saw many people out enjoying the Spring sunshine. Very picturesque and peaceful.
After a few weeks’ resting up in Newcastle, catching up on administration, banks, tax return, other wondrous activities, and with yummy restaurant visits in-between, it is finally time to say goodbye to my sister and Siri.
Siri my shadow follows me around the house all morning with a sorrowful look in his eyes, knowingly of my departure.
Dogs have a sixth-sense about these things and so he sits in my room watching me intently, whilst I pack. I’ve been his little playmate and walker for the past weeks, and he hasn’t left my side.
I really miss having a dog around. Although, with my travelling lifestyle, it is impossible and also unfair. Let’s face it, I can’t drag a dog around the world in a backpack…or can I?
Strange incident on the train
The comfy train from Broadmeadow to Sydney Airport ($23.40 or $19 with an Opal card) arrives on time at 14:26hrs.
Although only after a couple of stops we are now sitting at the platform and not moving. Someone has boarded the train with a dog.
“The train will not depart until the person and dog get off the train. It is illegal to board the train with a dog”.
Let’s hold up the whole train for one passenger and dog. Why not just remove the offenders and let everyone continue with their journey?
Here we still wait another 15-minutes later. Other passengers are also on their way to the airport and it’s still a 2-plus hour journey…what next?
An announcement: “the person (with the dog) has just tried to self-harm on the train. There’s a police station right across the road, so hopefully, it shouldn’t be too much longer”. Seriously?
Finally, half an hour later, the offending passenger and dog are escorted off the train and we’re on our way again.
Arriving at bustling Central station and dragging my heavy backpacks to Platform 23 for the Airport, with a wait of only 5 minutes, and onto yet another busy train – sardined and standing room only during peak hour.
I cannot believe that this International airport is charging AUD$4 non-refundable for a trolley. In most international airports this service is free.
As my flight isn’t until 21:45hrs, which is over 5 hours away, it’s off to Departures in the hope that check-in would be open early.
Luck is on my side this time as the Emirates counter is open very earlier. I swan right up to the counter and check-in immediately – no queue.
With my huge backpack offloaded, I’m free to wander the delights that Sydney airport has to offer…
A breeze through Immigration and straight through to relax and surround myself with Duty Free shops.
Everything is automated when you go through Immigration.
You place your passport on the glassed machine to be scanned, then stand on the little yellow feet on the floor whilst a mug shot is taken, then off you go.
Little did I know that my brand spanking new passport would not be stamped with an exit stamp unless I went to the manual counter, which I didn’t see at the time. Really disappointed when I got to the boarding gate and realised I missed out on my stamp. Does anyone else like to collect country stamps in passports?
Changes at Sydney Airport
Sydney airport is currently under huge renovations and wow, has it changed.
Of course, high-end shops are completed, no longer is there a food court, and not sure if one will be opened in the near future.
A McDonald’s is open – oh joy oh rapture! A couple of expensive restaurants, a few pseudo Duty Free shops and that’s about it. I mention pseudo as for me, Duty Free shopping has changed over the years. The concept has done a back-flip and there no longer seems to be any “duty free” items. Often, you can purchase items cheaper outside an airport. I did buy a lovely thick pair of Merino Army socks.
Luckily, I have my own water and sandwiches to eat, otherwise, it is about AUD$20 for a bowl of ordinary basic fried rice or noodles.
If I was visiting from overseas, my first impression would be one of disappointment at this airport, shopping and food-wise. I did overhear a Canadian passenger comment how ‘disappointing new changes are at the airport’.
So what do you do for 5+ hours at Sydney airport after exploring the expensive shops ten times over and ogling at what you can’t afford?
Hook onto the half-hour free wi-fi, sit in a corner quietly contemplating your navel, or just catch up on writing blogs…there is always Sudoko.
Gone are the days of the excellent food court at Sydney Airport. And hope this will return once renovations are completed.
The Emirates flight
The Emirates flight is about 45 minutes late taking off, although, after the trip over almost 6 weeks’ ago where our plane was grounded in Dubai, this is a breeze.
Finally taking off and in the aisle seat, the seat next to me is vacant, but a gentleman is in the window seat, already fast asleep.
Strange incident during the flight
Our dinner is served by the very efficient and friendly staff, and the attendant tries to wake the sleeping passenger. No luck.
I get out of my seat, food tray in hand, and stand in the isle whilst the attendant tries for about ten minutes to wake the passenger.
His chest is rising and falling so he’s alive. It’s quite scary but finally after some not-so-gentle shaking from the attendant, the man came to from his deep sleep.
I joke and saying: “you had us all scared there for a moment and thought you’d gone”- smiling, I don’t think he saw the funny side. Maybe he took some heavy duty drugs to have fallen into such a deepened sleep so quickly.
Back to the flight…
The rest of the flight goes smoothly and I catch a couple of excellent films (Papa Hemingway in Cuba, The Imitation Game), pen some Sudoku, listen to music, and try a couple of shut-eye winks. I never really sleep on planes, so sleep is never going to visit me.
The flight takes about 14 hours in an Airbus 380, which carries up to 853 Passengers – amazing really.
Emirates are generous with their flight attendants and seem to have 20+ global staff on the long-haul flights. Typically, 18 or more languages are spoken, which Emirates prides itself on – pretty cool.
I would definitely fly Emirates again and regardless of the grounding at Dubai coming over, the service is excellent, food is pretty good, and value-for money is great.
With 4 hours to kill in Dubai airport and hundreds of shops to explore, I decide on the long trek to most shops just to waste some hours.
The wi-fi is free at this airport.
A hugely impressive and super busy hub, fast surpassing Heathrow and busier airports as the number one hub to other countries.
Dubai has thought of everything a traveller could possibly need, including free reclining comfy chairs. Although these are always occupied, mostly by dead-to-the-world sleeping corpses, splayed out and exhausted, and trying to get a few winks in before their next flight.
I prefer to walk for the whole time I’m on the ground to get the blood pumping. Sitting for 14 or even just 6 hours straight in a plane, is not particularly great for your body.
Continuing to Rome
The next 6-hour leg to Rome sees me in a 4-seater with Me, Myself, and I – great!
It’s wonderful and the first time ever in a very long time. I can lay and stretch out with several cushions, to my heart’s content – spread my stuff all over the seats and make myself at home.
Would have loved this luxury on the previous 14-hour flight.
Arriving in Rome
Finally arrived at Rome’s Fumicino and with military precision, everyone gets off the plane and through Immigration to Customs – very impressive.
Waltzed straight through without any issues.
The Immigration Officer is impressed with my Residency visa and wanting to live in Italy. Still stamping my passport with a Schengen stamp (not sure why), she advises this stamp isn’t necessary. I wonder if this will cause issues in the future?
With a few hours to wait for my partner to arrive from the UK, I settle in for some wonderful real Italian coffee and a snack of fresh Buffalo Mozzarella with slivers of Prosciutto on a freshly-baked panini…how I missed Italian food!
The plan is to stay in Rome for a couple of evenings, before setting off on the train to Cosenza, Calabria. I’m looking forward to exploring Rome again, even if only briefly.
Another mode of transport – Calabria to Rome
If you don’t want to train it to Naples or Rome from Cosenza, then there are direct flights from the small Lamezia Terme International airport, which is Calabria’s main International airport.
Ryan Air flies direct to the UK from this airport, otherwise it is a stop-off at various European cities from Naples or Rome. The only issue is that during the winter months, there are only 2 flights per week (Monday and Friday).
With ample parking, you can park at this airport free for the first 30 minutes, then you pay.
The airport is a tad old and could do with a good revamp but as it’s only one hour’s drive from Cosenza, much better than a train to Naples (3 hours) or Rome (6 hours).
Bus to Lamezia
Bus from the Autostazione in Cosenza to Lamezia is €4.60 one-way. You can’t buy a return ticket from the Autostazione as it is a different bus company returning to Cosenza.
Several bus companies travel to this airport. So, it would be great to organise a decent timetable between companies and run an hourly service. A few buses run until 9am, then the service stops until mid-afternoon. Returning to Cosenza, one wait was 2.5 hours.
The quality of the bus is hit and miss. The buses going to the airport are usually in good condition and comfortable. The buses returning from the airport can sometime resemble something that’s gone through cyclonic weather and belongs in a 3rd-world country; ripped seats, grotty, curtains stuffed in the fan inlet, and graffiti. It’s a cheap ticket but not a good first impression for international visitors.
Food at Lamezia
You don’t have many choices if you find yourself famished.
Good coffee (€1+), pastries are a little more expensive (€1.40) than Il Cantagalli and not as good. Panini are more expensive here than in Rome’s airport. Service is good.
Wonderful pastries (€1+) and coffee is also sold, of course.