Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Archive for the ‘Travellers’ tips’ Category

New Zealand Day 8: arrival in Auckland

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 13, 2019

Well, it’s taken nearly all day, but we’re here in Auckland.  Our plans to enjoy a last minute stroll around Napier in the morning were thwarted by rain, but we did manage a short walk along the foreshore.  On the right you can see the Napier equivalent of the Myer Music Bowl, and on the left you can see a colonnade – every column has a memorial plaque…

There is also this rather moving plaque – it’s not credited to anyone, but it’s an important reminder to those of us who visit Napier and are charmed by its architecture and ambience, that we should never forget that the city was rebuilt with courage, by people who had lost everything.

So, off to the Napier airport and the inescapable early check-in and hanging around till take-off, but that was all fine and as we expected.  It was when we landed in Auckland and took the SuperShuttle airport bus that we’d pre-booked and paid for that things went tiresomely wrong.

My advice is that if you are contemplating using this shuttle service, #Travellers’Tip, just don’t.   First there was a lengthy diversion to an industrial area to pick up a passenger who didn’t turn up, the bus then turned around and went all the way back to the airport to pick up another passenger, then we went meandering through the suburbs of Auckland to drop off first one of the passengers, and then another couple somewhere else, and by the time we got to our hotel in the CBD, a 20 minute journey had taken an hour and a quarter.  There was no explanation for any of this from the driver, who didn’t even bother to announce our stop—I suppose we were just supposed to know where we were by some kind of osmosis.  We were really fed up by the whole performance, but I felt really sorry for a young mother sitting behind us, nursing a baby for all that time, and still hadn’t got to her destination when we got off the bus.  Here’s another tip: the word ‘Sorry’ goes a very long way with me.  That’s all it takes for me to shrug my shoulders and put shoddy service behind me.  But we didn’t hear a ‘sorry’ at all.

However, now that we are comfortably ensconced in the Scenic Hotel, we are starting to unwind, helped along by a nice G&T and a very belated lunch of fish and chips in the bar.  There are heaps of cafés and take-away shops nearby and so he’s going to have Japanese and I’m going to have Indian, and we’re going to watch some telly!

Tomorrow we will venture out and be proper tourists again:)

Posted in Auckland, Napier, Travellers' tips | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Pergamon Museum, Berlin

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 4, 2012

The Pergamon Museum in Berlin is splendid – but take my advice and do not waste your money on the Welcome to Berlin Museum Card.  It is a pain to buy, a pain to activate, and it doesn’t save you either money or time in getting into the museum.  (And the people whose job it is to explain it to you or facilitate its use, aren’t interested in doing that).

What’s special about this museum is the displays of the Pergamon Altar, (Ancient Greece) the Market Gate of Miletus (Ancient Rome) and the glorious Ishtar Gate from Ancient Babylon.  (See Wikipedia).

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Posted in Berlin 2012, Museums, Travellers' tips | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Oxygen City-Guides: Paris, Berlin and St Petersburg

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 2, 2012

Anyone who loves books and reading, and also loves to travel will love this City-Lit series from UK-based Oxygen Books. My interest was piqued when I saw a Tweet about the St Petersburg edition on Twitter – and dashed off an email to find out more. It turns out that there’s a whole series of these City Lit books about different cities…

St Petersburg isn’t actually due for release in Australia till 2013 but I broke my own resolution never to review advance copies to get my hands on a copy before my trip. Why? because each book is a collection of literary gems about the city it features, and there is, in my opinion, no better way to enjoy your travels than to learn about your destinations beforehand from the world’s great authors. These are travel guides for people who want more than just a source of advice about hotels, restaurants and attractions, these are guides for travellers who want to find out about the ‘soul’ of the cities they visit…

So, what’s in the St Petersburg City Guide? It’s divided into sections, covering the city in all its contrasting eras, its art works, its privations and the siege. I would have liked some excerpts to be a little longer, but on the other hand there’s enough there to sense the author’s style and to indicate whether it might be worth while following up the actual book. Given the city’s history as the Imperial Capital supplanted by Moscow under the Soviets, it’s particularly interesting to read excerpts that contrast life before, during and after the Revolution.

However, I think the whole book means much more to me now that I’ve been here than it did before we left. Back in Australia the excerpts whetted my appetite, sent me off to Wikipedia to find out more and explained things to me that have enhanced my stay. But now that I’ve been here and can visualise the streetscapes, the canals, the dachas, the monuments and the palaces – and even a retro Soviet era cafe! – these readings mean so much more. Unlike most of our travel guides which end up being chopped up for scrapbooking, this is one to keep to read, and read again.

We’re just off to Berlin today, so I’ll write up my thoughts about the Berlin City-Guide when we’ve been there.

St Petersburg
Pub: December 2012 Price: A$ 19.95 paperback; ISBN: 978 0 9567876

Review copy courtesy of Oxygen Books.

Visit Oxygen Books for more details.

Cross-posted at ANZ LitLovers.

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Travellers’ Tips (the electronic luggage)

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 28, 2010

I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while…

Backpackers who travel light may well be scornful, but for those of us who cart about a bit of electronic luggage on international holidays, the chargers can be a bit of a problem. 

The spouse and I between us have an iPhone, two cameras, two iPods (essential to make long haul flights bearable), an iPad and a Kindle (essential if you are travelling in countries where you can’t buy books in English) and a netbook (which has facilitated the blog you are reading now).  I also brought the lead to transfer photos from my camera to the netbook in case the camera card is temperamental but have mostly not needed it  (I upload my photos to Google photos regularly so that if my stuff gets lost or stolen, at least I have my photos).

All these things need charging and the chargers are mostly not compatible with each other.   And of course, the Australian electricity system is not compatible with either Europe or the UK so we have to have two adaptors as well, and share them.  Which means a power board and extension cord too, just in case the requisite power point is in a silly place (which it so often is, especially in boutique hotels).

Last time we travelled these leads were a pain in the proverbial and if there are any inventors out there who are working on a nice wireless solution sign me up to be a guinea pig please!

Anyway, in the meantime, I would like to share with you the handy little ‘carry-bag’ that I have for my share of the wiring.  I bought this (which is meant to be a handbag) on our Vietnam trip in 2007:  

Spread out like this, the three zipped compartments can be seen.  One takes the Kindle charger and the camera lead, one takes the camera battery charger and the other takes the charger for the netbook (which is currently attached to the netbook on which I am writing this which is why it’s not in the picture).  The little square compartment is just the right size for one adaptor.  I considered sewing another one onto the other side but that would make it bulky so decided not to.

The advantage of this little carry-bag is that it keeps my share of the leads all together so that I don’t lose them, but it’s flexible in shape.  I can spread it flat like this or fold it in half or scrunch it into a corner of the suitcase depending on what’s in my carry-on bag at the time. 

Any fool who can sew could make one of these, and a smart entrepreneur who mass-produced them in strong but lightweight see through material would make a fortune.

Posted in Travellers' tips | Tagged: | 12 Comments »