A few days in Singas

I’m just back yesterday from four days in Singapore to celebrate my birthday. It was a great trip, though dealing with the humidity was certainly difficult.

On arriving on Tuesday I hit the ground running, taking off to the Asian Civilisations Museum. I was fortunate enough to arrive just-in-time for a tour of the museum which was fantastic, the guide provided great insight into a shipwreck around 960AD carrying significant stoneware goods to the Middle East. She told us that Europeans wouldn’t learn how to create stoneware for another 700-800 years. Unfortunately I had become a tad dehydrated and needed to head off for something to drink and eat, so I never did finish my visit here, I guess when you’re not from a humid country you need to ensure you’re suitably hydrated when heading out, and carrying water on your person. Having been up since 3am I ended up having an early night.

Wednesday I headed out to the Singapore National Museum, the entrance cost for all galleries was SG$26 and well worth the cost. I started with the history gallery which was brilliant, taking you from Singapore’s early history through various colonisations by Europeans, occupation by the Japanese during World War II and effects on the population, transition to nationhood in 1965 and building of the modern Singapore. Other exhibits focussed on childhood toys and periods in Singapore’s history, including further depth of Japanese WWII occupation. I very much enjoyed my visit here, it is so  worth paying to see all exhibits, they’ve done such a good job of making an interesting story. Sadly I didn’t have time for the basement exhibits as I had to return to the hotel for my River Safari tour.

In 2016 I visited the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari, both were great experiences, especially the Night Safari which I would happily again. I didn’t do the River Safari, my sister and husband done this on their honeymoon and enjoyed, so I wanted to check it out upon my return to Singapore. I took a tour to visit the River Safari, thus I had 2 hours once there to experience it, including the Amazon boat ride. Of the three zoo experiences I would have to say it was my least favourite, though it was still enjoyable. I did enjoy the pandas exhibit, but the boat ride was a tad quick and so speedy that you really didn’t get much chance to see the animals and photograph them (or the sunlight blocked your ability to do so).

This evening I headed off to Little India to partake in Diwali festivities, it appeared so too did everyone else, there was so many people here that evening. I had dropped by the Mustafa Centre on the recommendation of a friend, lordy that was a mistake, I could barely breathe whilst trying for find ‘Nutmeg Balm’ for my step-mother, and I never did find any. I headed across the road for an Indian meal, ordering Chicken Biriyani, Garlic Naan and Onion Prate (not sure of spelling). The meal was so delicious, it could only have been improved by seconds.

Thursday I had planned to head off to the Botanic Gardens again, all plans got thrown out and instead I headed off to the Chinese and Japanese Gardens near Jurong East. The heat and humidity on this day was so oppressive I only lasted there about 1.5 hours, I might have done better if there’d been an airconditioned restaurant / facility to cool down in for a bit, but sadly no. The gardens I did manage to visit were fantastic, they’ve done a wonderful job, I can’t believe there’s no charge to visit. I loved the bonsai trees.

That evening I headed off to Chinatown for dinner and perhaps a bit of shopping. I did manage to find my step-mother’s Nutmeg Balm here before heading into a Sichuan restaurant for dinner. Dinner was lovely, a spicy ribs-based meal, dumplings and greens, I was so full I could have burst.

Friday arrived all too quick, another year older, though somehow I am still 21. I had decided again to change plans and headed off to Starbucks for breakfast and a venti Frappuccino. Afterwards I headed off for some shopping at Suntec City, took forever to walk there and it was an utter waste of time, I arrived for 10am, the advertised opening time, yet it seemed all the stores had forgotten and almost nothing was open. I discovered another Starbucks and had another Frap, a few more stores had open after I’d finished yet still most were closed. I gave up and left. I never did end up buying myself a present whilst in Singapore, I think that will shock everyone.

For lunch I headed off to Lau Pa Sat, originally was going for dinner but I discovered they were open for lunch. I hunted for the famed Satay, seems that’s only a 7pm onwards treat, utterly gutted. I ended up ordering lemon chicken, I swear I came so close to chipping a tooth it was so hard and horrid, has turned me off ever returning to this venue.

I concluded my day by returning to Gardens by the Bay. I do love this attraction, at SG$1 Billion it was a bloody good investment, the domes are just fantastic, especially the Cloud Forrest Dome. After visiting both domes I headed off to the Supertree Grove to go up the walkway before heading back to the hotel. The queues were long, but eventually I got up there, and just 1 minute later the 15 minute light show commenced, it made the 30 minute wait (and sweating the Nile river) so worth it.

Back at my hotel this evening I ordered the chicken satay I’d missed out on at Lau Pa Sat, spring rolls and cheesecake, all was amazing.

Had a great time in Singapore, sweat a million buckets, but enjoyable experiences.

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Dehydrating Singapore

I love Singapore, this from a person who loathes heat and humidity, and Singapore bountifully provides both.

I first visited here in April 2016 and really appreciated how this island nation did things a little different. As I was driven to my tours I noticed the metal barriers we all see in the middle of our roadways were covered in greenery here, what a wonderful idea to hide and yet beautify and eyesore.

Safety is also paramount here; you can leave a suitcase unattended I’m told, no one will touch it, instead police will be called to remove it – where else in the world might that occur?

Today, day one of my return journey here I am reminded the importance of carrying a bottle of water with you. I was just over an hour on the island and at my first venue, the Asian Civilisations Museum, when my Apple Watch kept going off. Strange I thought, why is it insisting I breathe or whatever so much? I relented and looked, it was a heart warning to say despite inactivity my heart rate was high. I was dehydrated, I could tell something was going on as I wasn’t feeling too well.

When I’d arrived at the museum I had been stressed by the heat and humidity and stupidly didn’t get a drink, a mistake in these conditions. Now back at the hotel I’m resting up and gulping the H2O, all helping thankfully. Is making me reconsider walking around over the coming days now.

Kinross Parking Lot

We purchased in Kinross in mid-2008, just one month before the Global Financial Crisis would strike. About six months before we purchased our home Connolly Drive had been extended north from our suburb to link up with Clarkson to help alleviate traffic build-up on Marmion Avenue. Sadly for those of us living in Kinross that decision meant that the ability to exit the suburb became far slower if you didn’t depart before a given time, earning itself the nickname the ‘Kinross Parking Lot’.

One a good day it takes just a few minutes from my door to exit the suburb, however on a bad day where traffic decides to come via Connolly Drive in a big way it can ramp up to 25 minutes at its worst. This is exacerbated by the fact that I live on the easter half of Kinross, our half of the suburb has only Connolly Drive from which to exit whereas the western half has this or Marmion Avenue.

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Our (former) local member Albert Jacob fought to have the Mitchell Freeway extended, and through his persistent efforts the State Government eventually agreed to its extension. The extension has taken two years to complete and this Thursday finally opens, I can hard contain my excitement at the prospect of being able to exit my home at 7:50am in the morning and not worry if it might be a 20 minute escape plan, or just a regular one.

 

A lovely Winter’s day

I booked a night’s stay in Crowne Plaza Hotel in East Perth a few weeks ago as I had a dinner party I was attending just down the road and a late night return to my own home in the northern suburbs late at night was not something I was keen for. A few days beforehand the weather forecast was looking grim, heavy rain and winds due. Come Saturday it hadn’t improved one iota.

Driving to the hotel was stressful enough, I almost never venture into the city, and never to this side, thus I have no experience how to get there. Indeed, the last time I had been here was prior to major changes to the Perth foreshore to develop the new Elizabeth Quay. All I can say is thank god for Google Maps, it told me which lane I needed to be in in order to navigate the maze of roads, but for this app I would have certainly ended up somewhere else.

Arriving safely at my hotel and headed up to my room on the seventh floor keen to check out the view.

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I had a wonderful view of the pool and grass across the road, but the Swan River and South Perth further beyond were nowhere to be seen. The wind was howling, screaming through my sliding door, and the rain was heavy. I was now worried, I was going to have to walk in a few hours to my friend’s place, heaven help me if the weather was like this.

Thankfully the weather settled down come time to head off the Kath’s, it was just lightly drizzling by this time, to my total relief.

The following morning the weather was beautiful and South Perth and the Swan River were restored to the view from level seven.

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Sleep eludes me

I’ve never had much trouble adjusting to travel, this despite the fact that I cannot sleep on a plane to save myself. This was proven back in 2011 when after 40 hours awake I finally arrived in Calgary, Canada, hit the bed within 30 minutes of arriving at my hotel and was up and hitting the ground running at 8am the next morning. 

Having returned from two weeks in France just 9 days ago I have found this time I am definitely not hitting the ground running. I got home and after getting some food went to sleep for some 16 hours, then the next two nights I slept 11 hours a piece. I had thought on my first day back to work I was reset, I awoke nearer to my normal waking time, but the next day I nearly didn’t wake in time to go to work… oops!

I’m wondering if our being in winter has anything to do with my having trouble with adjusting, the mornings dark into 7am at the moment. 

My doctor prescribed me Melatonin this morning. I have never had this before, but she assures me it is wonderful at helping to reset the body clock. I hope so. 

French holiday ends

It’s hard to believe that several weeks can pass so quickly, but I think when you’re holidaying somehow time manages to move at a faster pace than when you’re waiting for that holiday to arrive.

My time in France was met with some particularly hot weather, the French kept assuring us that it was abnormally hot for June with temperatures ranging from 36 to 38 degrees most days and also humid. I’m not one for spending much time in the sun, thus I was the most obvious candidate for sunburn, I kept forgetting to apply the cream to protect myself, or reapply it when I had put it on. Thankfully by the time my Trafalgar tour returned to Paris weather returned to a more normal mid- to high-20s, though still humid.

One of the reasons I wanted to go to France was to finally use that French I’d learned in school all those years ago. For six years I’d learned the language, and achieved high grades, thus I was keen to apply that which I’d learned. It was immediately apparent when listening to the French speak I was never going to be able to keep up with them, or fully understand all that was being spoken, they were too quick and there was no way our classes could span the entirety of the language. I found it interesting between different hotels I’d stayed in that some used “etage” for floor/level whilst most used “niveau”.

One observation I made during my time in France related to French waiters and their confidence with English and taking orders. When in Rennes our waiter spoke very limited English, in fact most waiters in that restaurant indicated this, thus most in my group just pointed to the menu items when ordering. For myself, I chose to speak to the waiter in French hoping it would make the already nervous individual feel more comfortable, funny enough it didn’t. I found here and in other places despite ordering in their language often items never turned up, either they were on the bill (Rennes) and not delivered, or just not included at all (Tuileries).

I had a great time in France, as well as a day trip to visit the stunning Belgian city of Bruges. I very much enjoyed visiting the many old buildings, many of which pre-date European settlement of my own country, their utter beauty, craftsmanship and engineering skill leaving me in awe. Completing my third Trafalgar tour I am again glad I selected them as my tour company, I have again walked away with several new friends as I did from my first tour sixteen years ago.

One thing I think I have learned is that I really should upgrade my flying from now on to at least Premium Economy, the extra legroom is worth the added expense. Following my arrival in France, and after having walked around the Notre Dame area waiting for my hotel to become ready, that night I had the worst cramping in my right leg and did initially fear the worst that I might have a DVT. I had a massive bruise appear mid-way on my left thigh which really did scare me, it didn’t occur to me until two days later that it had been caused by a Paris Metro turnstile having jarred rather nastily against that thigh when I had to force my way through – I was much relieved once I recalled this.

Returning to Perth on the Wednesday flight I made sure to drink plenty of fluids and for the first time I swapped to the aisle seat instead of my usual window seat preference. The ability to jut my legs into the aisle for additional stretch not available within my usual seat was certainly nice, as was the ability to just get up every so often and not annoy someone to do so.

Now back in Perth it is a chilly 16 degrees celsius, though I think we may have been cooler today and had a crap load of rain, what a difference half a world makes.

Travels in France

I flew out of Perth on the 15th June for France on Singapore Airlines, excited as it was to be my first flight on the A380, which I had heard was supposed to provide greater leg room. Well I can sadly lay that rumour to rest, it was not a comfortable flight for me at all, it was warm and leg room was awful.

The net effect of my leg room issues was that the night if my arrival I had terrible leg cramps, primarily in my right leg, but also some uncomfortable ones in the left. 

Two days in I commenced a Trafalgar CostSaver Tour of France, taking in the sights at: Paris, Rouen, Honfleur, Deauville, Mont Saint Michel, Omaha Beach (D-Day), Rennes, Amboise, Tours and the Loire Valley chateaux. We started out with nice, mild weather, but by the time we left Paris for Rouen the weather warmed, and by the time we’d reached Honfleur a few hours later the sun was out in force and so to was the humidity. The heat remained with us for 5 days until our return to Paris, it made for hard going as we were often having to go up and down stairs in unconditioned historic buildings. 

Our Tour Director, Brian Tait, a half-American half-French man, was very good at keeping us on track, entertaining and informing us, and providing support for those who needed a bit of language assistance. On one evening we had an optional dinner out, a 37 degree day and high humidity, we were all a tad worried, and getting to our dinner venue nothing was allayed when upstairs the had only pedestal fans and windows that didn’t open. Despite this, our arranged entertainment was great, he got us involved singing various songs throughout the night, and later Brian joined in with mouth accordion and sang a French song, we loved it. 

As with my first-ever Trafalgar Tour, also a costsaver, where I made lasting friendships with some wonderful women in Mexico, I also made friendships with several women from New Zealand, Canada and the United States. I’ve found the people in the costsaver tours often mingled more, but also generally my experience with Trafalgar has been one of a company that encourages you to early-on get to know others in your tour, something I haven’t experienced with other organised tours sadly, something that always attracts my return. 

My Trafalgar Tour now over I have a few days now where I am doing day tours, the first to Versailles & Giverny, and the following day to Bruges in Belgium. Then, one free day before I fly home, I’m not looking forward to those return flights, I’m currently waiting to hear whether I will be upgraded (at a fee) to Premium Economy.