Thursday, January 31, 2019

Away for the holidays - Toronto - 3

The touristy things

On the way to the Hall of Fame, we found an ice skating rink

The Hockey hall of fame

The hockey hall of fame is a very large exhibition which would take a whole day to see everything.  We sat through a very informative history of the game and the origins of the NHL, which for people who do not have hockey as a sport in their country, is saying something.

We follow the Maple Leafs, coincidentally Toronto's franchise in the NHL, and we have been here before for a game, which they lost.  It didn't matter, I was staggered by the energy and enthusiasm both the players and the fans put into making it a memorable experience.

I'm hoping for a repeat experience.

St Lawrence Market

We walked 1.8 km to the market and it was closed which is about right for us as we have a knack for turning up and the place is closed, for instance, the Canadian club distillery in Windsor, Canada.

Perhaps tomorrow, before or after the game.

Red Lobster

Ok, we've been here before and it was beyond any expectations anyone could have for a restaurant chain.

This was no different from the last.

What more could you want, scallops, shrimp, and a fired lobster tail all drowned in a superb garlic butter sauce.

Add a side of mash potatoes, and a 20oz glass of beer, and there is the definition of heaven on a plate.

St Lawrence Market, again

Snowing, but not heavily

St Lawrence market, everything is very expensive, crab legs 120 per kg, lobster, 50 to 80 per kg.  Oddly everything is quoted per pound, and it's a good thing that we can convert lbs to kg.

It is, to say the least, a disappointment.

Ice Hockey at the Scotiabank Arena

There was a definite buzz in the air, and heading towards the stadium was both us, and many other Toronto supporters.  Blue Maple Leaf jerseys were in abundance.

We've been before, and the last time the Leafs lost.

What else is new?

They have had a very good season so far, and are second on the ladder overall, so it was not without expectation that they might win this one.


Never have an expectation.

They lost.


It was an incredible game that was none stop action.  It seems to me that you require a lot by of skill and skating talent to play this game.  I certainly couldn't, and freely admit that I'd probably last about five minutes. 

The score didn't reflect the play, but in the end, the Leafs lost 4 - 3, at the end of the three periods.

Souvenir hunting and other stuff

Woke tired and exhausted, not looking forward to walking around Toronto.

Got up early to do the walking.

Oh, did I tell you, this hotel has a laundry and it is the bugbear of staying in major hotels, not being able to wash clothes?

Breakfast is included, but it is the main meal of the day so we feast.  The selection is incredible.

We had to go back to the maple leafs franchise shop to exchange a Maple Leafs Jersey, which was no trouble.

So near to the CN tower, we go in to shop for souvenirs, of which there were plenty.  I like the mooses and beavers.

We've been up the tower so it's back to the Union Station and a short stay at upstairs, a little bar overlooking the Toronto Pearson train line.

Time for tasting some Canadian ales, the first a Mill St tank house ale, the second a Mill St hopped and confused.  Seriously, that's what they were called.

The drinking mood music was old hits like Queen, and a little bit of country and western.

A good view of the trains, too.

Union Station

Like all main stations very large very tall ceilings and openings that lead to the tracks of which there are about 24, and an underground system

Much the same as all large railway terminals and probably far busier in times gone by.

Dining, but not necessarily dinner

Not far from the station, opposite clock tower belonging to the old city hall was a restaurant called Bannock.

There I had a Moosehead cracked canoe lager, a light ale, and a house special since 1929, a chicken pot pie, and it was very good.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Away for the holidays - Toronto - 2

As promised, the hotel

So, we're staying in a Doubletree by Hilton, a downmarket hotel chain that we have stayed in before, in Melbourne, Australia.  That was a pleasant and surprisingly good experience, leading to giving the chain another go in Toronto, Canada.

Its a case of chalk and cheese.  Maybe it's the late hour, maybe it's my expectations, but the experience was flat, and for a chain that Hilton has put its name to, maybe it's time they started policing the hotel's standards.

Not that the over the counter experience was bad, I just didn't feel like I was welcome in the usual Hilton manner.

It's a long time since I was a Diamond HHonors guest, and I was not expecting a lot, but being a member, at whatever level you are on, should count for something.

Today, it didn't.

But it didn't end there...

The room on first viewing was a disappointment, but on reflection, I think my expectations were geared to what we have had in Australia where real estate is less expensive and therefore the rooms are larger.

This also means most rooms have double queen or double king beds, not twin double beds.  I have not slept in a double bed for about 40 years, anywhere.

Of course, I should have read the fine print.

My bad.


I go down to the front desk and ask if there are larger rooms.  Of course, there are, if you want twin double beds, or a king bed and a fold away bed, which we do not.

I understand their dilemma, the rooms are just too small to fit larger beds.

Lesson learned for the next time if there is a next time.

On the upside...

Breakfast is included, and it's really good, and the service is above expectations.

Tomorrow, the touristy things...

Away for the holidays - Toronto - 1

Yes, we've arrived, in Toronto...

And how!

Our limousine service is a little Indian man in a small car and initially, I'm not sure where all the bags are going to fit

He gets them in using the front passenger seat that folds away.


The best is yet to come...

Usually, the transfer from the airport to the hotel is one of those serene moments after a long, or short, plane trip.


Our first from Vancouver airport to the hotel was in something akin to a party bus, a stretch limousine that was very uncomfortable after 24 hours cooped up in an economy seat.  Surely they had a large enough SUV.

Apparently not.

This time around we got what the driver said was a town car, and our looks of amazement that it could take the three of us and 4 large suitcases and 3 cabin bags, was met with a shrug and a statement that the limo company had got rid of their larger cars a year ago.

This driver was determined.  He fitted the cases in, and we crammed in the back, all squishy.

But that was the best part of the journey.

We had the original kamikaze.  It was 140km or nothing, and being tossed about in the back of the car was just what we needed.

Score: 1 out of 10.

The driver just stopped long enough to toss the bags on the sidewalk and drive off, leaving us to fend for ourselves.

Of course, the hotel didn't have a 24-hour concierge and I guess it was part of a learning curve for staying in downmarket hotels.

More on the hotel tomorrow...

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Away for the holidays - Calgary to Toronto

All the worries we thought we might have in getting from Lake Louise to Calgary, in the end, it was just like driving to work, only a little longer.

When we left the Fairmont, the car had two frozen bottles of water and a frozen donut, left in the car for the two days we were there, so hiding in the garage might not be a good idea.

At the garage where we refueled, it was so cold I could barely clean the windows and glad to get back into the warmth inside the car.

Thankfully as we got closer to Calgary, it got warmer.

We bypass the city going to the airport, but, as it turns out, we would not have had much time to look around anyway.
It's nice to go to an airport and actually find the car rental returns first go with adequate signing to get there.

Returning the car took a few extra minutes because we were at the end of a dozen or so others who turned up at the same time.  All good, they remembered giving us a half full petrol tank.

At the check-in, it is very smooth sailing, the kiosk working and once the booking reference was entered, it spat out the desired number of boarding passes and baggage tags.

Then to baggage drop, through customs where I managed to lose my jacket, which is amazing that you would be allowed to leave anything behind.


We have an hour and a half to kill, so a long soda and two long island teas settle the pre-flight nerves if we had any to start with.

Time to consider the vagaries of the flight.

Today we're on an Airbus a320, and we are seated in the very last row, row 33.  It's always a bad thing to look up planes on, because it has painted them as the worst on the plane.

What's the downside, sometimes the seat pitch is less than further up the plane, the seats don't recline and you get the seat in front in your face, and you get the constant flushing of the toilets.  And my major bugbear there's no overhead luggage space.

What's the reality?

To begin with, the seats recline, but not very much.  We'll wait till the plane is cruising before judging how far the seats recline in front of us.

The seat pitch is good and it doesn't feel like were cramped into a small space, but again this is relative to what happens with the seat in front.

Overhead baggage space, none whatsoever, so if you don't get on first you are basically screwed.  We were almost first to the rear of the plane so I suspect others also know about the lack of overhead bin space.

Being at the read most part of the plane affords you a view of how the baggage handlers treat your baggage, and it's interesting, to say the least.  They smile a lot, so I suspect that a few bags might get the 'treatment'.

Enough already.

We're now backing out of the bay ready to leave.

We're getting endless announcements in foreign languages so when next I fly with Air Canada I should at least learn French.

Or not...

Ah, the smell of kerosene floods our end of the plane.  So much for air quality, which so it happens is being covered in the safety video at the exact same time.

But as it turned out, the flight was uneventful.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Away for the holidays - Lake Louise, Canada - It's like polar exploring

A sleigh ride wasn't the first activity that came to mind, but that first day we saw the sleighs lining up and thought it might be a bit of a lark.

It was New Year's Eve and we booked a 2pm sleigh ride.  I figured any later we'd probably freeze to death.  The ride was for about 45 minutes, out around the edge of the lake and back.

Rides were on the hour and sometimes run at night.

We arrived at the departure point about 15 minutes before the ride and watched those who had been on the ride before come back looking somewhat frozen.  The only covering you had provided was a red blanket.

Wisely we put on many layers of clothing, hats, and gloves.

We managed to get a seat for ourselves where the maximum per seat was three.  The blanket wasn't the thickest.

It was cold, and according to my phone, about minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit.  You could feel it, and it was lucky we were not moving fast.

 At the halfway point, we went out onto the lake to turn around.  It gave us a chance to take a photo of the sleigh, and the horses pulling it.  I felt sorry for the horses out in the cold.

As we turned around, we got to see a frozen waterfall.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Away for the holidays - Lake Louise, Canada - A winter wonderland

I was not sure what I was expecting to see when we first arrived at the Fairmont Hotel at Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada.

I'd seen endless photographs both in Winter and in Summer, and the problem with photos is that they never quite prepare you for reality.

That's not to say that our first impression was of incredible scenery, it was of the front door if it could be called that, where we pulled up in the car, and then, if the sub-zero temperatures, a mad rush to get the baggage out, and get into the warmth of the foyer,which was almost the size of several football fields, and then some.

Check in was quick and easy, and then to our room on the first floor.  I had hoped to be higher up but, being a corner room, when we got there, the views could not be more majestic.

The lake had frozen over, and a closer look showed there was a skating rink an ice castle, and a hockey rink as well.  People were skating, and walking over the frozen surface of the lake.

No skating, or walking, on thin ice here.

Venturing outside into the cold, you have to be rugged up, and definitely, have both a hat and gloves.  It was minus six degrees.

Tomorrow we will venture further out onto the lake.

Tonight, it's dinner in the main restaurant.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Away for the holidays - Lake Louise, Canada, ice, snow, and cold

The Fairmont at Lake Louise, in Canada, is noted for its ice castle in winter.  This has been created by the ice sculptor, Lee Ross since 2007, using about 150 blocks of ice, each weighing roughly 300 pounds.

When I first saw it, from a distance, looked like it was made out of plastic  It’s not.  Venturing out into the very, very cold, a close inspection showed it was made of ice.

And, it’s not likely to melt in a hurry given the temperature when I went down to look at it was hovering around minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

And that was the warmest part of the day.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Leaving on a jet plane. or learn to walk on water

There are, as I've said, plane flights and then there are plane flights.  Traveling as a foreigner on a national airline, you get treated as though you are never going to fly with them again, and they give you the seats SeatGuru says are the worst on the plane.

After all, someone has to sit on them.

But it's not just one airline, it's all of them.  So far we have used China Southern, and Air Canada.  You'd expect better from Air Canada but no, they are just as heartless and condescending as the rest.

However, I suspect all airlines the world over are the same, that the best seats go to their most important frequent fliers, then it goes downhill after that as they work through the frequent flyer list, then those who pay the most money, down to those who actively seek bargains but don't realise the consequences of their actions until they board.

Then the true nightmare begins.

Last to get food, last to get drinks, often no choice of meal as food cart gets to their end of the plane, if, of course, they didn't make a mistake in the number of meals they take on board.

Oh yes, then there's the overbookings and legitimate passengers dragged screaming from the plane, it does happen and all you will get is a polite apology, and that's the limit of their responsibility.

And if you're on a foreign airline, they just plead they don't speak or understand English, which is a blatant lie, but the bottom line us you can't do anything about it.

So, the reality of international travel on a budget is, you get what you pay for, so if it's a rock bottom price, prepare to sit in the worst seats on the plane, usually in the toilet rather than near it, and the possibility of not getting a meal choice or anything at all.

I've learned my lesson.  Pay more and hope like hell you get more.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Away for the holidays - Vancouver to Kamloops

This morning started with a visit to the car rental place in Vancouver.  It reinforced the notion that you can be given the address and still not find the place.  It happened in Washington where it was hiding in the back of the main railway station, and it happened again in Vancouver when it was hidden inside a hotel.

We simply walked straight past it.  Pity there wasn't a sign to let people know.


We went in expecting a Grand Jeep Cherokee and walked out with a Ford Flex, suitable for three people and four large suitcases.  It actually seats 7, but forget the baggage, you'd be lucky to get two large suitcases in that configuration.

It is more than adequate for our requirements.

Things to note, it was delivered with just over a quarter of a tank of gas, and it had only done about 11,000 km, so it's relatively new.  It's reasonably spacious, and when the extra seats are folded down, there is plenty of baggage space.

So far, so good.

We finally leave the hotel about half-past ten, and it is raining.  It is a simple task to get on Highway 1, the TransCanada Highway, initially, and then onto Highway 5, the Coquihalla highway for the trip to Kamloops.

It rains all the way to the top of the mountain, progress hampered from time to time by water sprays from both vehicles and trucks.  The rain is relentless.  At the top of the mountain, the rain turns into snow and the road surface to slush.  It's 0 degrees, but being the afternoon, I was not expecting it to turn to ice very quickly.

On the other side of the mountain, closer to Kamloops, there was sleet, then rain, then nothing, the last 100kms or so, in reasonably dry conditions.

Outside Kamloops, and in the town itself, there was evidence of snow recently cleared, and slushy roads.  Cars in various places were covered in snow, indicating the most recent falls had been the night before.

We're staying at the Park Hotel, a heritage building, apparently built in the later 1920s.  In the style of the time, it is a little like a rabbit warren with passages turning off in a number of directions, and showing it is spread across a number of different buildings.

It has the original Otis elevator that can take a maximum of four passengers, and a sign on the wall that says "no horseplay inside the elevator" which is a rather interesting expression that only someone of my vintage would understand.  And, for those without a sense of humor, you definitely couldn't fit a horse in it to play with.

The thing is, how do you find a balance between keeping the old world charm with modern day expectations.  You can't.  Some hotels try valiantly to get that balance.  Here, it is simply old world charm, which I guess we should be grateful for because sooner rather than later it's going to disappear forever.

In my writer's mind, given the importance of the railways, this was probably a thriving place for travelers and once upon a time, there were a lot more hotels like this one.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Away for the holidays - Vancouver - 3

It's always a given that whatever city you stay in unless it's overnight, you go on a tour and see the sights.

Even when you're staying a short distance from the city, you ma look e the effort to catch a train or bus, then get on the hop on hop off tour.  There's always one in just about every city you visit.

Vancouver was no exception.


We arrived in the rain, went to sleep while the rain came down, woke up to the rain, and a heavy dose of jet lag or perhaps it was more than we had spent 24 and a half hours traveling from Brisbane to Vancouver vis Shanghai.

We had an excellent view out the window of our room looking towards the shopping mall, and the steady fall of rain.

 I felt sorry watching the construction workers on the building site that was the main vista we had to look at.

It could have been worst.  Endless mountains with snow on them.

What to do.  Venture out in the rain and go on the tour, on pop over to the shopping mall and pick up a few boxing day bargains, no, sorry, boxing week bargains.

We have had some experience going on ha op on hop off tours in open-top buses in the rain.  And the last time was not a pleasant experience, even though we learned a valuable lesson, not to stand in front of c as mons and yell 'fire'.  Apparently, that's how Admiral Nelson lost his arm.


The shopping mall won.

We'd wait and see if the weather improved.  Hang on, isn't Vancouver near Seattle and doesn't it rain the 300 days of the year?

Not holding my breath.

I feel sorry for the construction workers again.  Still raining, still cold, and still no reason to get out of bed.

Day 2 in Vancouver turned out to be the same as day 1.

Hang on, there's a development.

We're on the 16th floor and up at those lofty heights, we can see not only the rain but intermingled with it a few flakes of snow.

Whilst we procrastinate about what we're going to do, the snowflakes increase into small flurries.

Yep, we're off to the mall again and go for a walk in the snow.

On the way back we drop into the Boston Pizza, which has a sports bar and there you can sit, drink, eat, and watch the ice hockey, or whatever sort is going at the time.

Today it's a junior ice hockey tournament, but Canada was not playing.  Just the same, a long cold beer and ice hockey?

I can now cross that off the bucket list.

Day 3, we're going on a great rail journey, well, we are going to get the train to the city and collect the rental car, on the booking form, supposedly a Jeep Grand Cherokee or similar.

Of course, 'or similar' are the words to be feared here because in truth the rental company can throw anything at you, so long as it matches the brief, three people and three large suitcases.

And, you guessed it...

The 'or similar' got us a Fort Flex

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Away for the holidays - Vancouver - 2

This morning we wake up to rain.  Or so we thought.  Taking a closer look out the window of our room on the 16th floor, we notice the rain is speckled with snowflakes.  As the morning progressed the snow got harder until there were flurries.

 Later we discover this is called wet snow by the local Vancouverians, and whilst they winge a lot over the endless rain, to them rain is infinitely better than snow.

To us, by the afternoon, it was almost blizzard conditions, with lots of snow.  Then the only thing is that it does not accumulate on most of the ground so there are no drifts to play in.

Because the weather is so dismal we decided not to go into Vancouver to do some sightseeing because the clouds were down to the ground and then the snow set in.

Another interesting fact is that construction workers do not go off the job if it's raining, or worse when it is snowing.  Our room overlooks a new apartment complex under construction and the workers battled on through what seemed like appalling conditions.

At four in the afternoon, the Maple Leafs are playing the Ohio Blue Jackets, in Ohio.  It is a game we expect they will win.  Sparks is the goalkeeper, not Anderson, they're playing back to back games and Anderson's starting tomorrow.

They win, four goals to two.  

Just before darkness falls, about four thirty, the snow stops and there is a little rain, which melts the snow.

Time to go up to the executive lounge to get some snacks and coffee, then sleep because the next day we're taking on the Trans Canada highway from Vancouver to Kamloops.

The forecast is for snow, more snow, and just for a change, more snow.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Away for the holidays - Vancouver - 1

It's raining.  There should be no surprise there.  And cold.  It's late December and well into winter.

Perhaps not as cold as it could be, somewhere between three and four degrees.

We are staying at the Hilton Metrotown, at Burnaby.  Metrotown is also the largest shopping mall in British Columbia.  I agree that it is large and found it a great way to get some exercise after being in and off planes for the previous 24 hours.

The first discovery for the day was a trolley bus, something that I thought didn't exist anymore. 

The second was to discover so many global brands, but how different the products are to what we can get back in Australia.  This is particularly so for cars where we discover that GM-based vehicles and Mazdas are so much better than what is available for us.

The third was to discover it seems we are almost in the heart of Chinatown, where going out an exit on the second floor takes you to a Chinese food court, with all manner of food types, and, it seems, tea bars.  It also explained why, in one supermarket we went in, signs were in both Chinese and English.

Being still tired from the travel, we don't venture further than the mall where we have lunch, for me, the Canadian version of KFC, which seems to defeat the purpose of trying local food.  It seems most of the food that I can see in the food shops does not seem that appetizing.

Later we go out and find a Boston Pizza with a sports bar where we indulge in a 21 ounce Molton on tap, and a lime mojito, while watching the ice hockey on the big and surrounding small screens.  The ice hockey is some world junior championship (but mostly north hemisphere hockey playing nations) and seems as ferocious as the NHL.

But it does raise a question, why isn't there a female NHL?  I guess this wasn't the time to canvass opinions in the bar.

Something else we discover is that alcohol is relatively cheap, and get a case of Molten Canadian ale, Bacardi Black label, and maple flavored whiskey, for about a third of what it would cost at home.  Of course, it must be cheaper than firewood in keeping Canadians warm in the dead of winter.

We didn't try the pizza, which kind of defeated the purpose of going there.

Meanwhile back at the room, we find the local ice hockey channel, and then to make sure we get to see the Maple Leafs, plug in the computer so that we can test it.  Good to go.  

That's tomorrow, tonight we watching the Vancouver Canucks.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Away for the holidays - Brisbane to Vancouver - 3


Our flight to Vancouver's departure gate is 213.  It is down on the ground floor which means we will be taking a bus to the plane.  With all the gates they have at this airport, I'm surprised they could find one for China's own airline.

But, it's back on the bus, and basically, it's a free for all at the gate then once you're off the bus.  Of course, it's still raining and there we are, forced to walk up steps with everyone crowding each other to get out of the rain and the staff aboard trying to make sure everyone has a boarding pass

It doesn't work very well when families get separated at the first person had the boarding passes.


Airlines should never let the passengers see the external state if the plane.  Whilst it might be mechanically sound, and the interior looks like it's been recently refurbished, the outside looked very dirty and unkempt, not giving a very good first impression.  The proof, of course, will be when we land safely.


Taking off was not as smooth or quiet as the last plane, and there were a lot of creaks and groans through the fuselage which I tried very hard to ignore.  I suspect this plane has different engines and technology to the other, particularly when it comes to the wing tips.  This plane is definitely an older model of the A330.

The flight leaves at 23:55 so after dinner, a chicken and noodle concoction that tasted fine, and lashing of watermelon, the impression I got it was time for sleep.

It might because they turned off all the lights.

Sleeping on planes is something few people can do, particularly if you are in economy.  Seats do not recline very far and I don't think the human body was designed to sleep sitting up and relatively contorted position.

Fortunately for me, I seem to have a knack of falling asleep in my chair while writing, which doesn't say much if it's putting me to sleep, and after reclining my seat wriggling about to find a comfortable position, over the next six hours I manage to get some fitful sleep.

This flight hasn't seemed to take as long as one expects of 9 or 10 hours in the air.  It might be because we are about an hour or early due to some astonishing rail winds, up to 350kph, on the fact, the seats are relatively comfortable and the seat pitch is definitely more than the usual 31 inches.  I mean there's a good six inches between my knees and the next seat, where they are usually touching it.

Breakfast has come and gone, it may have been appealing if I'd been more hungry but I was still full from three tubs of watermelon last night, and another three this time.

Vancouver beckons.

Getting off the plane and getting through customs and immigration presented no difficulties, and then there is only one problem, no inbound duty-free, and we are told it is one of the few airports that doesn't have it.

So much for not buying it in either Brisbane or Shanghai, but perhaps the prices will be low enough to obviate that issue.

Not to worry...

Next, we exit the customs area and out into Canada, looking for the limousine to take us to the hotel.  Usually, as you exit the customs area there are a group of drivers waiting.  As our plane landed about an hour earlier than usual sometime there is a problem.  Not this time.  He's there waiting.

We walk out into the cold night air, and it's not very far.  And imagine the surprise when we discover we have a stretch limousine.  With party lights and dark windows, we didn't get to see much of Vancouver between the airport and hotel.

We are staying at the Hilton Metrotown in Burnaby, about 20 minutes from downtown as they call the city center here.  It didn't take all that long, which was probably a good thing, because we were all very tired.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Away for the Holidays - Brisbane to Vancouver - 2

Every flight is different.
Particularly when we arrive in Shanghai, the halfway point of our journey to Vancouver.
Landing, on time, and a little scary because of the rain and wet runway, the plane feels like it is slipping and sliding everywhere until we slowed down to taxi speed.
This is where it all gets a little weird.
We taxied, and taxied and taxied, all the time getting further and further away from the terminal building.  10 minutes and then a further 10, past what looked like a plane graveyard, until we reached the end of the airport.
Then we turned into a bay, the last one, and stopped.
As usual, everyone is out of their seats and emptying the overhead bins.  The same mad scuffle for positions in the aisle, making way for others in their group and making it difficult for anyone else to get their bags out of the bins.
All to no avail.
We are informed over the planes PA system that no one is going anywhere, that we should all sit down again because two passengers are apparently sick and the quarantine people need to check them before the plane is cleared for passengers to deplane.
Yep.  And for the next twenty minutes, we can all speculate whether we are all going to be locked up and miss our onward connections.  Looking for the tents and people in hazmat suits.  It certainly explains why we were sent to the furthest part of the airport.  If it was a contagious disease, it was the best place for it.
So we wait.
And then all of a sudden we're disembarking into the pouring rain and onto buses.  Yes, no gate, no air bridge, but buses.  It takes all of fifteen minutes to get to the drop off point, being thrown around, even at the low speed we were traveling.
It's fine though.  We have hours to spare before we get our next flight.  A cup of coffee, a cake, and a glass of beer, we're ready for the next leg, after a long walk, a gander in a few of the expensive so-called duty free stores, trying to find some cheap confectionary, look in a pharmacy that has no pharmaceuticals, and at last finding the Chinese equivalent to seven eleven where everything is cheaper.
I didn't check the price of similar goods on Australia, but I'm told it is the first duty-free store we've been to that had Bacardi Black Label.  If we cannot get it in Canada when we leave then we'll be calling in on the way home.
Cigarettes too are very cheap, and by the carton, roughly the same price as a packet of 30, around $35 Australia,  but the problem is we can only bring back one pack of 20.  Ideal if you are going somewhere more sympathetic to smokers, no much good for us.
Good thing then I don't smoke.
Something else to note...

The four-hour stopover didn't seem like four hours, not like in some airports when it seems like time had stood still.  Perhaps the leisurely wait at the 'Coffee and cates' cafe, the long walk down the length of the terminal building and back, and then the sorting of the onboard bags made the time fly.

Away for the holidays - Brisbane to Vancouver - 1

There's no doubt about it, traveling is stressful.  Usually, we have someone take us to the airport, but the last time we orders a chauffeur service and it was so good, we did the same this time.

One good thing, or bad depending on your attitude to hanging around airports, is that they get you to the airport with plenty of time to get what needs to be done, then get an overly expensive coffee and sandwich while you de-stress before getting on the plane.

Of course, if the departure is delayed then the stress levels start to ramp up again, but for us this time, so far the plane will be leaving on time.

Also, this time, it is a first to be flying China Eastern Airlines, but not the first time in an Airbus A330-200, specifically an A332.  The plane took on passengers very quickly and what seemed to be a much more organized manner.

Then, without much fuss, we're pushing back, and on our way.  Unusual for Brisbane airport where long taxiing to the start of the runway is normal we seemed to be on the runway the moment we left the stand.  Equally unusual, we left on time.

Something I didn't realize about the A330 is it has the same characteristics as the A380 in that there is not a lot of noise when it takes off, that is from inside the plane.  Perhaps that was what was so surprising about the take-off, no exceeding loud howl from the engines ramping up to take off.  Of course, if you are down the back of the plane it is noisier, if not noisier than most small jet takeoffs.

Inside the front, the take off to cruising speed was very smooth, and in flight, equally so, and so far, four hours into the flight, there's been no real turbulence.

As for seating in Economy, we are in a two-four-two arrangement and I'm sitting in an aisle seat down the right side of the plane, facing forward.  I'm not sure what the seat pitch is but it is almost enough to not make you feel like a sardine when the seat in front is reclined, but I can assure you the passenger will feel the full effect if I have to get out of my seat, and I will not be sorry if I wake them.

The seat itself is reasonably comfortable, but I doubt sleeping in it would leave me in any shape at the other end, especially when I have difficulty sitting for any length of time.  With old age comes the usual back problems and airline seats and bad backs are a bad combination.

For entertainment, which I rarely use, there is a large screen, and I have it on the flight tracker and follow the plane.  Of course, you sometimes get fixated on the time to destination, which on long flights can seem like an eternity.

What I hate especially about these timers is that before you go to asleep or nod off depending on how much of a light a sleeper you are, it says 12 hours 45 minutes, and when you wake up bleary-eyed, it says 12 hours and 25 minutes.

And then you can't go back to sleep.

Let's see how this goes.

Ok, so that was a prophetic statement I just made because the PA system just announced that we are experiencing some turbulence.  The plane as I suspected has ridden it well.

Plaudits, so far, to Airbus.

There are numerous areas where we fly through varying degrees of turbulence but for the best part of the flight, it is very smooth.  Somewhere around 3 hours and 20 minutes to go, I drift off for short nap and when I wake up, it was only for about 50 minutes.

Looking at the flight map it seems very odd because we seem to be heading anywhere but Shanghai.  I guess we'll have to wait and see where we finish up.  At the moment we are over the South China Sea, so let's hope President Trump doesn't decide to take on the Chinese navy while we are up here.

We survive, today.