After being greeted in person by my parents at the airport…..
Catching up with the family…..
And more friends….
…..we were completely integrated back into English life.
It is funny how you both look forward to coming home but also don’t. The thought that the freedom of travelling is coming to an end and you are back to your old life is always difficult. The excitement you have at making all the plans for leaving builds up over a long time, there are many hours spent on the internet, booking trains, hotels and more, packing up the house, selling all our worldly goods on eBay and more than few leaving parties which means it is all so exciting. The booking of a flight home and knowing what you are coming back to is different.
We had a lovely week at my parents in Stroud. Our walks down the canal were wonderful, and made us realise how beautiful this country is. The weather was amazing, those sunny spring days filled with sunshine, blue skies, wildflowers and hope, made us both truly happy to be back.
We then had a couple of weeks staying with some friends of ours, and, amazingly, we were still friends a few weeks later. We enjoyed many a (late night) BBQ and more than a few drinks in our stay in Finchfield.
Flat hunting in Birmingham was depressing at times but we soon found an apartment in the centre of town and were excited to be starting a whole new way of living, city centre living, with no garden, or even terrace, for me to look after!
Moving in was a trial but we abused the good nature of our mates and roped them into helping. I doubt they will be as willing when we move out as the logistics of moving into a secure apartment, with key fobbed doors and lifts that didn’t work meant it was a sweaty day. We bought them beers to compensate.
Warning! The following article was written with SEVERE jetlag. All grammar errors, words and opinions are not ours.
Walk, Ferry, Shuttle Bus, Airport bus.
Hour queue for check in.
Enjoy 5 movies, two meals, one snack box and one unidentified vegetarian warm food item on 17 hour flight leaving Auckland at 15.30 to Doha. Arrive into Doha at midnight (on the same day?!?) and hang out at the sixth airport to be awarded five stars.
At 2am Doha time we eat a burger in a food court as we are both starving (Stomach’s revenge for red wine overload?). I think I see a giant teddy bear but my mind is sleep deprived and confused.
I think I meet George Cloony but my mind is sleep deprived and confused.
At 4.30am we check in for our 7 hour flight to sunny Blighty. We consume 3 movies, one meal and a veggie pasty thing.
At 11am we land on the damp rock in the north east Atlantic that is home. I think this means it has taken thirty and a half hours to get from Auckland to London but my brain is tired.
Al wins carousel rucksack roulette taking the final trip score to Al 4-2 Guy. She wins the casting vote in our flat hunt.
Alison’s wonderful parents and our new landlords meet us at the airport.
Bus, Bus, Train, Car and within five hours of being in the country we are in Waitrose perusing the Kiwi wine selection.
We have swollen ankles.
For those of you who have been writing in, demanding to know Al’s fitbit totals for the whole eight months, here are the final scores on the doors:
1,514.81 miles walked (which is equivalent to walking from London to Ivalo, in the north of Finland)
646,995 calories burnt (mostly replaced by dumplings)
1,791 hours slept
Thankfully Fitbit don’t record alcohol units consumed.
So we did it! Posted keys through the door and left with very large backpacks. See below for photographic evidence!
London was subdued because it was hot, sweaty and humid and we were shattered after all the leaving shinanigans so we walked 11.74 miles (according to FitBit) around London stopping off just 2 halves of cider each which is a record!
Early night was welcome relief although watching Location, location, location seemed pointless!
Woke up sprightly although Guy was slightly jaded! Tut, tut! We packed our bags and set off the long walk to St Pancreas station. 2 mins later we were there and looking for coffee to get us going with croissants to prepare us for the continent. As a result of the coffee Guy needed to visit the Gentleman’s Conveniences and came across a cleaner trying desperately to move on a drunk Scottish tramp! Ahhhh, don’t you just love England?
We were on our way to Brussels on the smoothest and cleanest train ever with loads of baggage space and everything you could need! 2 hours later we were in Brussels which had a real Sunday afternoon feel to it, as in it was dead as a dodo and everyone looked either hungover or depressed to be there! To get over the general dour demenour we went to a local bar that sold Belgium beers and partook of a couple watching bad 80s videos, think Phil Collins, Micheal Jackson and Paul McCartney famous duet Say, Say, Say and finishing with Marc Almond! After more beer to kill the pain in our ears we got on our next meet train to Cologne.
This was fairly uneventful apart from the couple behind us playing Who Wants to be a Millionaire and they knew nothing, Guy wasn’t annoyed at all!
We then had 3 hours to avoid me getting molested in Cologne which judging by the amount of police around was going to be pretty easy! About 2 hours later we realised there was a football match on which accounted for the increased police presence, it wasn’t all for me!
We thought we would stick with local food so had schnitzel and fries for tea. I chose randomly and mine arrived covered in mushroom and bacon gravy, Guys was the size of his head and came with gravy and cabbage. This was the last time we saw green stuff on plates for quite a few days!
After killing the obligatory 3 hours we got on our overnight train 2 berth couchette to Vienna! It was small but perfectly compact and Guy, being the gent that he is, insisted that I take top bunk, which had straps to prevent me being flung off, which were very useful. The train seemed to be a usual low speed, bouncy, noisy and very very rocky train which was not conducive to sleep, slightly unfortunate as that is what we were hoping for! Still as part of our welcome pack we had slippers, ear plugs, water, fruit mush in a packet (very similar to what my 11 month nephew eats) and a miniture bottle of fizz! Slippers on and fizz duly drunk we proceeded to bed down in our respective bunks and lie dosing until we were violently woken from a slight slumber by violent bed shaking!
We are off again but just a 2 week spree around Europe for now!
So we are on the early morning train to London, 8.30, and other passengers included some Wolves supporters on their way to lose at West Ham United, they were already on their second can of alcoholic beverage and were loud but very funny, as only that YamYam accent can be!!
We made our way to Borough Market for the usual mooch around it, fascinated by the produce there and the prices! We queued ages for Monmouth coffee which was well worth it and had a ginger pig sausage roll chaser, we fuelled up we started with a bit of culture by visiting Tate Modern for the Pop Art exhibition which was really interesting and very feminist in parts with one room being full of plastic images of ladies with mirrors for lady private parts which was quite distrubing, especially for Guy.
After being told by some french visitors that the bar at the Tate was closed, we clearly couldn’t read the English sign saying it was being refurbished, we managed to take the look of horror and sheer panic off our faces, adjusted ourselves to the fact we were not having gin and tonic any time soon and hit the shops. Al successfully purchased shoes from Fly and we were off to Locando Locatelli for a fabulous Italian meal along that started with a £16.00 glass of prosecco! It was nice but not £16.00 nice!
The food was amazing, and the service relaxed which is just what we liked about it before.
As we had started drinking we thought it prudent to carry on and after checking in at the Euston Travelodge, no expense spared on this trip, we headed off to the Gin Club where I had a tasting menu of 4 gins and Guy had a single! RESULT! I was expecting something a little posh and scrubbed up but it is basically a pub with what seems like a bomb shelter underneath it where you sit in dim lights and drink gin like it is 1945. It did the job and we left refreshed, even if I was starting to sway a little.
We then had to visit Gordons wine bar for the obligatory bottle of wine before a large Currywurst from Herman the German, drunk conversation with some Americans who live in Richmond now, memory slightly hazy as to exactly what we discussed…..