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Lee-Anne’s & Michaels Travel Diary Part One

Dear folks back home,

We departed 8am Tuesday 31st March from the Pell St Beach House, in somewhat of a panic & chaotic state. Pity our poor house sitters, Lauren & Emma, who would have had to come in & clean up the scrappy mess left behind. (At least Kara would be able to help them). AJ & Patricia drove us to Sydney Airport and we flew out around one. We arrived in Hong Kong nine hours later feeling like zombies. By the time we collected our luggage, got through customs, got to the motel and into the room, it was midnight ! --- what a long day !

You could say, we were now on our honeymoon. Yes, we eloped. No mucking around, we'd thought we have a one year honeymoon. (we may have to work at some time during this period).

Most of Hong Kong was smelly and smoggy and shoppy and didn’t stop no matter what hour of the day. But the south side of the island was a different story where the sky scrappers met the jungle. The markets at Stanley St were so different and you didn’t get harassed by the shop keepers and the prices were very good. The city of Aberdeen which was also on the south side, was high rise but no one spoke English. We went to McDonalds because no-one else spoke English and golly gosh no-one spoke English there either, so we just pointed at a card designed for wayward tourists.

Transport is so cheap in HK (especially compared to London). The Star Ferry across the Harbour was HK$2.20 which is about 45 cents, first class. For the Tram along the entire HK harbour foreshore, was only HK$1.80 no matter whether you went one stop or five kilometres.

The tram up to Victoria Peak was a fantastic journey at a steep angle through the high rises into the low jungle before you reach the top. The views are fantastic even on a cloudy or misty day. One big surprise about HK was the bird life. There are eagles and hawks all around the buildings and mountain sides. But washing hanging out of every building, drip dry city.

The shopping was OK if you like to be harassed by 1,000 people at once. Not really our scene. Hong Kong was nice, we’re glad we went there, but we wouldn’t necessarily hurry back.

After four days, we headed off to Hong Kong airport for the 14 hour trip to the UK. This is a bad airport. No wonder they are building a new one. It’s like a big barn, with a few seats (very few) and doors that lead straight out to the aircraft. Not like any Aussie airport where there is a lounge for each door. So of course the lines for one aircraft, ran into the lines for another, and so on.

After finally hopping onto the plane, we had to wait 45 minutes before it was allowed to take off (at about 11:45 pm). To make matters heaps worse, Michael’s head phone jack for the movies, radio, etc, was broken. He complained, hoping to be moved to first class, but it didn’t work – the plane was full. Thankfully we were sitting next to a nice old lady who lent us her phone jack thingo. This was just as well as Lee-Anne got a few hours sleep on the flight to London, but after two Bloody Mary’s, Michael didn’t feel like sleep at all, and proceeded to watch three movies, the news, some fascinating show on golf and a Chinese news update (in Cantonese).

We caught the first glimpse of English soil through a break in the clouds at about 6:30am, UK time. This break in the clouds was quite significant as they are very few and far between. After lining up for 30 minutes we got through the nerve racking immigration officials, who spent about 10-15 minutes grilling us about our stay. The person before us got their passport confiscated, by a fierce immigration official at desk 15. But, alas, all immigration officials were sent to the same no-personality school, and we were relieved to finally get through. The next hurdle, customs.

We decided not to declare anything, like Vegemite and wedding rings, and we were expecting a severe searching. Wheeling our bags around the final corner into customs straight, guess what, no one there. We were free. They mustn’t start work to 8:00 am.

Due to our unexpected swift passage through customs we arrived ‘outside’ before Dave and Janet had arrived to meet us. Finally they turned up, and we squeezed all our luggage into a Fiat Pinto (about the size of a Barina), they had hired a car. We were then taken on a one hour whirlwind tour of the major sites of London, because at 9am on a Sunday morning, it is the only time you can drive around London in that time (and that speed). We saw Big Ben and Tower Bridge, so therefore, we must be here.

Striving to avoid jet lag we had to stay awake all of the Sunday. So after some gorgeous bagels, and a refreshing shower, Dave and Janet took us on a rigorous stroll around their part of town – the East End, on the river, near Tower Bridge. They wouldn’t let us near a pub because they thought we’d fall asleep after an ale or two. After about 300 hours of walking in freezing air, we returned to the warmth of their flat (over-looking THE River). By 5pm on the Sunday afternoon, we were trying to play cards, to keep us awake but it almost wasn’t working. Dave and Janet had a friend coming for tea, and he turned up at 7. This kept us alive for a bit longer. After the first beer, Michael had revved up to about three-quarter pace, but Lee-Anne idled to near zero. Lee-Anne fell asleep at about 9pm, but Michael was still going when the Muscat was opened at midnight. Phew, day one in UK finally over.

Then we were advised that we needed good walking shoes and wet gear for a 6 day walk of the Yorkshire Dales which was commencing in two days time. So these days were spent trying to purchase these required items. Just what we needed, a 6 day walk in brand new boots !

After the catching the train to Leeds at the exorbitant amount of 30 pounds (1 pound = $2.50). We travelled to the small town of Ilkley were we travelled to the start of the Dales Way for an 83 mile walk. (they talk in miles over here). Which was the distance in theory if we actually walked it all instead of catching taxis, buses and hitching hiking. After the first 5 miles on the first day were knew our feet weren’t going to handle it all. So we only walked half a day for a few days and meet the others at the nominated Pub for lunch. If anyone comes to England, make sure you check out the north Yorkshire area, as the scenery is gorgeous, the pubs are brilliant and the traditional old villages have an atmosphere of a bygone era. The food was perfect for walking in rainy, snowy weather, examples tasted include Yorkshire Pudding, Cumberland Sausages and we even tried black pudding. For the first time in our lives we experienced a "White Easter", before we even experienced a White Christmas. We stayed at B & B’s and some good pubs all between 15 & 25 pounds including the full English breakfast, which Michael had to have all of it everyday.

After coming back from the Yorkshire Dales, the last week or so has been spent searching for the Pell St equivalent in London. A very tiring exercise, but we are getting the hang of the London "tube" and buses. Today we have finally put in an offer on a place (you put in offers for renting) and we will keep you posted. We finally had a sunny day today ! Hooray ! We actually wore our sunglasses as sunglasses instead of snowglasses. They told us that it never snows in London, but last week big fat flakes fell for about two hours.

That’s all for now.

Love Michael & Lee-Anne

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