Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dresden, Germany

It was off to Dresden for a few days with a brief overnight in Hannover. There we saw an atypical, modern church door at the Marktkirche, which was a war memorial. The large iron doors depicted WWII with oppression, concentration camps, tanks and suffering. It was memorable and striking.




Dresden remains a little but off the main tourist trail, but seems to have it's fair share of tourist groups. Located on the banks of the Elbe it is a charming city with an abundance of grand buildings, museums and culture.

I had been to Dresden more than a decade ago. At that time the Frauenkirche was in the process of being restored, and I was interested to see the finished product. The entire city had been heavily bombed in raids in February 1945 when thousands of tonnes of incendiary bombs destroyed the city. Part of East Germany during the post war through to reunification, the city was reconstructed brick by brick.


One of the last major buildings to be restored was the Frauenkirche. The gold orb on top of the church was donated via British fund-raising of £600,000 and included medeival nails from the cathedral of Coventry, which had suffered similar destruction during the war.


On the other end of the scale was the entirely modern glass VW factory. In an architecturally designed factory very near the centre of town. The outer walls are almost entirely made of glass. The production line was not in operation the day we toured, but the parquet floor and non-robotic assembly line produces the top of the line Phaeton sedan in a clean, light and spacious environment. The Bentley is so similar that this factory can supplement Crewe's production in England, if required. There were a number of Bentleys on the production line awaiting completion, the day we were there.


To be honest the Phaeton itself wasn't visually outstanding (a base model was about €70,000 for a V12 4WD), but the factory and the process was a highlight of our time there.


Having explored the old side of town we checked out the Neustadt which had a more bohemian feel with plenty of street art and amongst the interesting buildings we found a rabbit warren of connected artists shops/houses all decorated in unique ways


Dresden is one of those cities with a nice feel and genuinely nice people. Recommended!


Monday, August 25, 2014

Cambridge: children, scones and bags

It was onto the Eurostar and off to London. Having no luggage makes travelling very easy - we are looking on the bright side of all of this.

After a quick coffee with Chloe outside Kings Cross station, onto another train through to Cambridge for 2 nights with Simon, Chazzy and Izzie. It was a very nice time.

This involved a few children's playgrounds, some bike riding, scones and clotted cream at The Orchard in Granchester and a brief trip to the always good Fitzwilliam museum.
We were asked to complete a customs form for releasing an unaccompanied bag from Heathrow and were told one bag had landed at Cambridge airport. On the 6th day after arriving in Europe we were reunited with our luggage- just in time for it to fly back to continental Europe and Dresden with us.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Paris August 2014

Our 1st day in Paris we headed out to do some of our planned activities for our three days in Paris. We naturally assumed that the bags would be at the hotel on the return from our day out. The man the previous evening had thought the bags were at CDG, but at another terminal awaiting a scan.

Our 1st destination were the Bon Marché and Grand Épicerie stores. But when we got there they were both closed. Odd, but it was now nearly lunchtime so we walked down very quiet streets to find our chosen restaurant was closed, but that there was a busy spot nearby which served as a pleasant substitute.

By this stage we also worked out that today was the public holiday of Assumption.

While sitting there we decided it was a good day to ride the velib bikes due to the low volume of traffic. And it was a very good decision. We meandered around, approached the Eiffel Tower from an unusual position, rode up one way streets, legally due to the large number of bike lanes.

Back at the hotel there were no bags.

The next day, Saturday, started with a number of calls to the Air France Mis-handled baggage call centre. No progress, no answers and Qatar call centre in Paris only worked on weekdays. So eventually we started the day as tourists, having done all we could for the moment. The destination was the art of the Petit Palais, but when we saw the length of the line we decided it wasn't for us today. We don't usually travel in peak season, so we never really expected tourist lines. A walk down the river then of course lunch, before some looking in the shops and return to the hotel.

The packed tourist boats certainly didn't make us want to get on (not that ever planned to anyway)

Back at the hotel there were no bags...bit of a theme starting here

Sunday was a repeat of Saturday morning with two hours dedicated to call centres and zero progress. Possibly one of the bags was in London, but they weren't sure. Feeling a bit tired of all this searching, and wearing the same pair of trousers since leaving Wellington, we did have a change of shirts, we went out to la Defense area, to one of the few malls open on Sunday. While we could purchase new clothing and be reimbursed reasonable costs we really had not seen anything much we liked. We both had purchased new walking shoes because the ones we had travelled in weren't up to tourist kilometres. On our shopping expedidition we did buy a shirt each and returned to the hotel. The hotel is not in the centre of town, but it was easy to access and we liked the area, the 13th arrondissement a more suburban locale. And from the 8th floor there was a very good view of the tower in the distance (as well as Sacre Coeur off in another direction)

Of course, back at the hotel there were no bags. And tomorrow we leave for the UK, so we changed the delivery address to Cambridge, just in case the bags ever turn up.

The final morning was a walk around the area of our hotel. The 13th has Chinatown and the charming Butte aux Cailles areas. We had previously spent quite a bit of time walking around the Butte aux Cailles with its varied housing styles and lots of street art.

And in the "famous-in-Paris" asian grocery store Tang Frères, we found our old favourite, Beer Lao, as well as an amazing range of asian groceries.

We had a nice time in Paris, but the whole missing bags issue consumed a lot of energy and dampened our enjoyment. So while there were smiles and red wine

There was definitely more of this.














Friday, August 22, 2014

Off to Europe via Doha

So where to start...was the beginning the work trip to Burma that was cancelled just as we were due to head to the airport at 4:30 am? It was very disruptive, but it did mean my suitcase was packed two weeks before Andrew and I did a second attempt and we actually left Wellington en-route for Paris, via Singapore and Doha (Qatar)

After a long connection in Singapore we flew eight hours to Doha where we had enough stop-over time to do the three hour Qatar Airlines transit tour of the city. It was an interesting, if fleeting, insight into this Arab state made rich by liquid gas reserves. The manufactured city has boomed in the last 10 years supported by immigrant workers who have their passports confiscated to ensure they complete their work contracts.

This a country where gasoline costs 20 cents a gallon and water $1 per litre. It was so hot; 40 degrees, (heading for a high for the day of 47 degrees) that there were no motorbikes and very seldom did we see anyone walking anywhere.


The tour, in a beautifully air conditioned minibus went around the harbour, old town and new town. At the end we stopped at the souk (market) for half an hour to wander around. We are pleased we had a look, but can't see us returning there in the near future

The new airport had only been open a couple months and certainly reflected the estimated 15 billion dollar construction price tag. For some reason on our security screening coming back into the airport as, well as taking his belt off Andrew was rather unusually asked to return and put his handkerchief in the screening trays. The man supervising the trays certainly didn't look overjoyed with the prospect of having to touch or go anywhere near the rather crumpled and certainly not unused handkerchief!

Back on the plane for another seven hours flying, before arriving into Charles de Gaulle, Paris at 8:30pm, only to find that our bags had not made the same journey with us. We filled out the incident reports and Qatar airlines gave us each the euro equivalent USD$50 to cover immediate needs.

On the positive side travelling on the metro without bags was a breeze. And we were lucky we were blissfully unaware what lay ahead of us to get our bags back...