You guessed it- I had fully intended to give a blow by blow account, but gave up the travel diary around day 4…
So instead, here is an A-Z account of my adventures overseas. Some days I will cover more than one letter (I mean, just how many things start with Q, Y or Z?), but today there’s a lot beginning with A.
My youngest brother has lived in London since 2004. We spent the week in London with him and my other brother. He’s a real sweetie, loves his niece and nephew to bits and would do anything to help someone in need. I love him dearly and sobbed my heart out when leaving him at the airport. Never mind the fact I’ll be seeing him in 6 months’ or so…
We flew Etihad to London, with a stopover in Abu Dhabi. The in-flight entertainment was good (Jake Gyllenhaal in The Prince of Persia was fun), but the food wasn’t too flash- I think Qantas is better in the food department)
We spent a fair bit of time in airports, all of which were different in their own annoying way!
Abu Dhabi, unlike all the other airports, provided free wifi and internet terminals. You had about a 20 minute window, which was ample to time to read emails and check Facebook- which everyone appeared to be doing. The staff were courteous and offered me a pram for Miss BG who had just woken up and was not in the mood to walk. The cuteness factor of Miss BG was quite high here, who had a least four pats on the head/cheek during our stopovers :). Their security check was the quickest (unload bag of liquids from carry-on, take off belt and coat, walk through metal detector gate), and their duty free was amazingly luxurious, basically handbag heaven!
Belfast City is named after George Best, local boy turned international soccer star. It’s small, but we were in and out quickly as a result. Parking was close to the terminal, check-in easy and staff friendly.
We flew into Luton airport en route to Berlin and had to stay 4 hours in transit. The shopping in their duty-free wasn’t too bad, with Mr BG buying up big on Ben Sherman (his current craze), but the walk to the departure gate would have been better done in a shuttle bus. It was here we witnessed the shakedown tactics of Ryanair staff, who force each passenger wiating to board to place their carry-on luggage into a metal container to check the dimensions. If it didn’t fit, it had to be checked-in and an additional fee charged. One staff member carried the container, while the other collected the money. Their demeanour was more suited to prison guards than airline staff. A tip when visiting Luton- don’t!
When in Berlin we flew into Schoenfeld and flew out via Tegel. Airport staff were efficient- my entry and exit stamps were placed neatly together on the same page, bless. Tegel was strange, with a huge departure board located outside the terminal as you were driving in, which indicated from which gate the plane would be departing. Each departure gate had its own security staff and tiny duty-free shop.
Heathrow was enormous, but no matter how large it is, you always know where to go. They have great signage, great shopping (at Terminal 1, not so great at Terminal 4), but the staff tend to be bored. Having said that, they fast-tracked us through when entering the UK after our flight, thanks to having little children.
Tullamarine is small but familiar, and I love its simplicity of the international and domestic terminals. Their duty-free is very strategically placed immediately after you clear immigration, as you walk through to your gate, as well as when you enter the country, it’s where you have your last chance to pick up some cheap grog. I felt a bit teary going through the departure gate, as the enormity of actually going finally hit me. Or perhaps I was responding to the emotion of people already there, farewelling loved ones as they go away. If emotion can seep into places, it’s at the departure gate at the airport.
Let’s just say the German beer was great…