This is the end, my only friend, the end.

May 8, 2012 - Adelaide, Australia

The flight to London was pretty scenic, flying over snow capped mountain ranges (the Alps I believe), but the weather on our arrival was typical London - grey, cold and very wet.

Our luggage was fairly heavy by this stage of the trip, so the train journey from the airport and the journey with the bags on the tube was far from enjoyable, in fact it was quite hard yakka. As we were changing to the tube we needed to take us to Russell Square, which is where we need to go, we heard an announcement that Russell Square was closed at the request of the Police. That was no real problem, it just meant another change of line, but the upside would be that we'd get to get off at Goodge Street, which was even closer to our hotel than Russell Square. We boarded the line to Tottenham Court Road Station, with plans to change to the Northern Line to Goodge Street, but while on the train we heard that Goodge Street was now also closed at the request of the Police. To say this put your nerves on edge would be an understatement! We got off the train at Tottenham Court Road and it was only about 1 kilometre walk to the hotel, not too bad, although the bags were heavy and mine had no handle so was quite difficult, and of course the London rain was falling, making things that little bit trickier.

As soon as we got to ground level at Tottenham Court Road we noticed that the streets had been shut down, the Police had cordoned a huge area off. Turns out some looney (whose name is Michael Green, we know this because we cursed his name a great deal over the next hour) had taken 4 people hostage, arming himself with gas canisters and a gun and threatening to blow the canisters up. He was on the 4th floor of a building that issues drivers licences and was forcing the hostages to throw stuff out the window onto the pavement below, and we're talking computer monitors and hard drives. So, the Police locked down the area and positioned snipers on roofs - the whole thing was a bit over the top in reality, but the Police in the UK have all just finished the training for the Olympics, so this was a perfect chance for them to have a trial run.

Our hotel looked like it could still be reached by taking side streets, but sadly we chose the wrong side of Tottenham Court Road to go up, finding out 10 minutes in that our hotel was on the other side of the cordoned off area. We walked parallel to the locked down areas for ages, in the rain, cursing the armed lunatic more and more, and ended up covering 3 kilometres in just over an hour, getting very wet and grumpy in the process.

Still, we'd made it, and the staff at the Ridgemount Hotel in Bloomsbury could not have been more friendly and helpful. Even better was that our rooms was spacious, clean and had an ensuite and a top notch internet connection, which pleased us greatly.

A quick change into some wet weather clothes and it was off to find lunch as it was now 3pm and we hadn't really had breakfast. Goodge Street has a whole raft of places to eat, but we settled on a Mexican place called Benito's Hat. We each ordered a burrito and a plate of nachos to share and sat down to one of the best burritos I've ever tasted. We have some decent burrito places in Adelaide, but this was outstanding, the flavours so fresh and vibrant and the meat inside cooked to perfect. It certainly filled a hole and it's always good to find decent food in London, it's not always easy!

From there we walked around and showed Alana some of the main sights - Oxford Circus, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Pall Mall, Buckingham Palace and took the obligatory photo of Alana in front of one of the Palace Guards, before heading into Green Park and looking at the tame squirrels running up to tourists and asking for food! The rain wouldn't let up, but the temperature wasn't as cold as expected, so we at least didn't need thermals.

The sightseeing chewed up quite a few hours and so it was time for some dinner. I suggested we head to Brick Lane for dinner, which is a street in the Indian/Bangladeshi part of London that is famous for its curry restaurants - it is literally one after the other on the street. The best (or worst) part of Brick Lane is each restaurant has a tout out the front, who spruiks the Awards the restaurants have won (a lot of them have a giant "best curry in Brick Lane" quote from The Guardian newspaper on their window - none of them claim it was their restaurant, they just like the quote - and by not claiming it's their restaurant they don't break any laws!). We walked up and down, but choosing is not easy, so in the end we decided that whatever we chose had to be full of people, as that is usually a pretty good sign, and be cheap. I'd walked past one Restaurant called Poppadoms that claimed to have won the Best Curry award in 2008, 2009 and 2010 if you believed the window or 2007, 2008 and 2010 if you believed their sign, but it was full and we agreed to investigate the menu. While reading the menu, the tout told us that their awards were genuine, they didn't enter in the Curry contest in 2011 and 2012 hadn't taken place yet, but he promised the food was good and offered us each 2 free pints or wines and 25% off our meal, which was a pretty sweet offer. As we were contemplating, a couple came out and the guy asked if they enjoyed their meal, and the guy turned and said it was outstanding, before turning to us and saying we really should try it as he was very impressed. That was good enough for us, so we agreed to the tout's offer and were shown to a table of 4.

Inside, the restaurant was packed, and people seemed pretty happy, so our hopes were high. We ordered a tandoori chicken, a butter chicken, a chicken korma and chicken madras and some rice and naan, and were promptly given our first round of free drinks. The wait took forever, which was to be expected, but was excruciating as it smelt fantastic, but finally out food was delivered. British curries are nothing like Australian curries (or even Indian curries for that matter), often being far sweeter and creamier than what we're used to, and these were no exception, but they were absolutely outstanding. We were blown away with the flavours, and the bread was soft and fluffy and soaked up all the delicious curry sauces. We'd been given both our rounds of drinks during the night, but we were sure that the 25% off the meal wouldn't happen, and that they'd claim that it was free drinks or 25% off, but when the bill arrived we'd actually been given 30% off! The bill for 2 rounds of drinks, 3 curries, 1 tandoori chicken, 2 plates of rice and 4 naan bread was 40 quid - 60 Australian bucks! To say we were happy would be an understatement, what a find!

The weather was still miserable, and it was getting late, so after dinner we went past the Offy (or Off-Licence as it's officially called, basically a deli that sells alcoholic drinks and is loved by all Londoners) and grabbed a heap of Ciders to try. One of the Ciders (or Cidre to be precise) was made by Stella Artois and it was amazing. Hopefully it makes it way to our shores!

The next morning we were up bright and early for breakfast in the hotel (breakfast finishes at 9am - crazy), a rather tasty full English breakfast, and then we piled up all our dirty washing (10 kilos between the 4 of us) and dropped it off for the Hotel laundry service. I don't usually use the laundry service, but for 10 kilos it was 10 pounds and if we dropped it off before 10am it would be ready at noon - brilliant!

We then got back into the wet weather gear and readied our self for another day of the wonderful spring weather in London. We made our way to Petticoat Lane Markets, which were really just a throng of people and umbrellas and an awful lot of rain, but they did have Churros, so Lex was happy. We bought a couple of little things, but the rain was really pouring, so we agreed it was lunch time. Arsenal were playing at 3pm and the match (most matches in fact) are not shown live in England, even on pay TV, but the pubs around Arsenal's home stadium - the Emirates Stadium - get the game from overseas satellites and broadcast them on a big screen, and the most renowned of these is the Twelve Pins, so that is where we headed. Time was disappearing rapidly, and we got to the Twelve Pins at 2:30pm and still hadn't had the lunch, so we popped into the kebab store next door and ordered a kebab each, expecting a yiros. What we got was a plate full of yiros meat, pita bread, rice and salad and it was really good, quite a shock to us as it only cost 3 pound each! We ate quickly and headed to the Twelve Pins for the match.

The Twelve Pins charges you 8 pounds to watch the match, but you do get 2 free pints which would cost you 7 pounds anyway, so we happily parted with 8 quid each and rushed inside for the match. The atmosphere was nothing like you'd see in Australia, it was full, everyone was standing, singing and wearing their Arsenal colour with pride and it certainly was an experience! We ended up standing on what would normally be the stage area, got stuck into our pints of cider and watched the match. Arsenal were playing Stoke, and it was men against boys early as Arsenal launched attack after attack and Stoke did everything they could just to hold on. After 9 minutes, the inevitable happened - Stoke scored against the run of play and the fans weren't happy. 10 shots on goal for us and we hadn't scored, the first time they went forward they scored a soft goal.

Luckily for Arsenal, that Robin van Persie can play a bit, and 6 minutes after Stoke scored van Persie smashed home the equaliser and the pub rang out with chants of "he scores when he wants, Robin van Persie, he scores when wants". 75 minutes later (and about 6 pints of cider each for Jules and I) the ref blew the final whistle and it was still 1-1, even though Arsenal had created wave after wave of attacking forays. Still, with Newcastle being smashed by Wigan (Arsenal's nearest rival for 3rd position on the table), the mood was reasonably happy, as were we after so much cider!

It was Jules's birthday, so Lex, Alana and I bought him (and ourselves) tickets to see We Will Rock You, a musical that uses the music of Queen as it's backdrop (Jules is a massive Queen fan), so from a dingy, crowded pub full of footballers, it was a quick change into some nice clothes and off to the theatre - a bit of a contrast really.

The show was pretty good, though the main lead role was quite terrible (turns out he was the understudy), but the best part was Jules - who proclaim that he didn't really like Musicals) sang, tapped, clapped and laughed his way through the show! A good birthday present indeed.

We hadn't had dinner, and when we got out the theatre it was absolutely pouring and the only open we could see was Burger King, so we reluctantly did it. It was terrible, Burger King is only fair at the best of times, but this was cold, and dry and bland, rather disappointing indeed! After our late dinner, it was back to the hotel for a cleansing cider, and then off to bed.

We were up for another early morning breakfast in the hotel the next morning, before getting back into our wet weather gear and heading to the Camden Market. The Camden Market was good, but parts of it were literally flooding - and remember England think they are in a drought. Lex left us early to go and meet her friend Kate Fuss who now lives in London, as they were going to do a dance class together, while Jules bought more souvenirs (still claiming he doesn't buy souvenirs!) and Alana and I did a bit of clothes shopping.

The three of us then caught the tube to meet up with Lex, Kate and her partner Nathan for a good ol' traditional Sunday roast lunch at a pub near Covent Garden. The roast was really good, though Jules and I made the mistake of ordering the roast chicken, which wasn't a mistake because it wasn't good (to be fair it was brilliant), but it was a mistake because it was literally half a massive roast chicken each!

After lunch we bid farewell to Kate and Nathan and looked around the Covent Garden markets, despite Kate telling us they were rubbish. To be fair, Kate was bang on, they were rubbish - we should have trusted the locals! We continued to waste time doing some window shopping in the Covent Garden area and before long it was time to head to Edgeware Road, where we would meet up with Jules's friend Rachael and her partner Andy for dinner at a Moroccan restaurant.

We were still relatively full from lunch, so when Andy suggested getting just a few dishes and sharing, we were only too happy to agree. We ordered two tagines, a grilled haloumi and a couple of chicken skewers, which was more than enough food, but was always exceptional, the first time I'd eaten Moroccan and after that meal it certainly won't be the last. The restaurant even brought out a gigantic fruit platter after our meal to say thanks, though we didn't manage to eat much of it.

Andy and Rachael then walked us around Hyde Park, before saying farewell and we made our way back to the hotel for an early night as the rain as back again with a vengence. We bought a trifle from Sainsburys to share later in the night, and when it was time to eat it we realised we had no cutlery! I fashioned some forks out of cardboard with my pocket knife, we tucked into the trifle and then it was bed time.

The next morning we were greeted by something very strange, there was a giant golden coloured orb in the sky, and the clouds in the sky all appeared to be blue instead of white - that's right, we were there on that one day a year when the sun is shining and there is barely a cloud to be seen, and to be fair it was quite warm!

We ate our breakfast in the hotel quickly, before rushing out to soak up the glorious London sunshine. London, as with any city really, is so much more beautiful in the sunshine. After 3 days of solid rain, we reveled in just walking around in t-shirts and taking in the sights of ol' London town. We went to the London Eye (but as the sun was out, the lines were horrendous, so we just admired it from ground level), Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, 10 Downing Street, the Thames and many other sights. Then it was time for some serious shopping! We'd had 20 kilo weight limits all the way, and we had one flight left with a 23 kilogram limit but that allowed a whopping 23 kilos of carry on luggage and then all our flights home were 30 kilos, so we hit the London shops eager to make a decent dent in our luggage allowance - and we certainly managed to do that!

It was great, and before we knew it, it was lunch time. We decided we'd have one last proper pub meal, found a pub near the shops and dumped our heavy bags and set about ordering. We had bangers and mash, ribs and burgers, not overly British (the last 2 at least), but still it was good, but what was even better were the drinks. Jules and I decided to try 2 new Magnum flavours (new to us at least) - Spiced Apple and Rhubarb and Spiced Apple and Honey. They were incredible, yet another drink I hope finds its way to our shores soon! As it was our last pub meal in England, we even treated ourselves to an Eton Mess for dessert, which was good though we all agreed I make a better Eton Mess than the pub.

We shopped some more after lunch, and then decided to do something very English - head to the pub and watch some football. It was a Monday night, and Manchester United and Manchester City were playing at 8pm in a game that would go a long way to deciding the title. We dropped our bags back at our hotel and made our way to a nearby pub that was showing the game. It was packed, full to the brim, but we managed to squeeze in and watch the game. Manchester City won 1-0 and the victory put them back on top of the table with 2 games left, but the majority of the punters in the pub were obviously United fan as the mood was a bit down after the game.

We didn't have time to wallow with them, as we'd decided we'd go back to Poppadoms for curry and it was getting late. By the time we made it to Poppadoms, it was 10:45pm and a lot of curry places were closed, so our bargaining power with the touts would be almost none! There wasn't even a tout outside Poppadoms, so we stood and stared at the menu for a while, pretending to be deciding still, when one of the waiters came out and offered us 25% off. I said to him that last time we'd got that discount plus 2 drinks, but didn't think he'd agree to it - but he did, so we rushed in before he changed his mind!

The restaurant was empty this time, but the food was every bit as good as last time, maybe even better! We got a butter chicken, a chicken jalfrezi and a lamb rogan josh, rice and naan and everything was lip-smackingly fantastic. I don't know if all the restaurants in Brick Lane are this good, but Poppadoms truly is a fantastic place to dine, and incredibly cheap!

After dinner we made our way back to our hotel via the Offy again, this time for a Brothers Toffee Apple Cider and a Treacle Tart (Jules loves them). The Cider was incredible, it actually tasted like toffee - I'm not sure how many you could drink before it became too sweet, but one was fantastic! We each had a few bites of the tart, which was very good but we were full of Indian, so we binned the rest and then set about the task of trying to fit all of the days shopping in our suitcases for our flight the following day.

The next morning was to be our last and we knew we'd be up very late packing, so we agreed to forego breakfast and have a little bit of a lie in. We were still out on the London streets by 10am, with our first stop being at a Whisky Shop we'd discovered the day before called Royal Mile Whiskies. This Whisky shop has the biggest range of whisky I've ever seen, and if you're from overseas they'll don't charge you the VAT (Value Added Tax applicable to British residents) and they'll ship overseas for a reasonable fee. Jules and I chose 3 whiskies each with the help of the very knowledgeable chap in the store, and the shipping charge is pretty much the amount you save when the 20% VAT is removed, so you pay retail price (way cheaper than Australian prices) for whisky - many of which you can't even buy in Australia - and you get it shipped home (which also means it doesn't count in your duty free allowance!) - what a deal!

The 3 I chose cost me just 110 pounds (165 dollars), and these are 3 very classy and expensive bottles of whiskies! The best news of all is that they have a website and they're happy to do online orders, so if you ever want some real fancy whisky, let me know!

After purchasing our whisky, we headed to the Arsenal store for some last minute Arsenal shopping! Upon arriving at the Finsbury Park tube station, we found it was flooded - ah England and you're fictitious droughts! We finally found an exit that wasn't underwater and dodged the giant puddles and flooded ride to step inside the Arsenal store. We were inside the store no more than a minute before the power cut off due to the water. They asked us to leave, but we tried to persuade them to sell us stuff for cash, though they were reluctant as they couldn't provide a receipt - like that mattered to us as we were leaving the country in a few hours. Eventually they agreed, and as they said yes, the power came on, so we did a little more shopping that expected!

Our time to London was pretty much up, but we needed lunch before collecting our bags from the hotel. We all agreed that burritos from Benito's Hat would be a fine last meal, so we made our way there, only to find that it was closed for renovations! We purchased some burritos from a little wrap place nearby, and upon seeing my Arsenal shopping bags I was given a healthy 20% discount from the owner, a mad Arsenal fan!

We grabbed our heaving bags from the hotel and very slowly made our way to the tube stop, Russell Square, which was slightly further away than the Goodge Street station, but we chose because it meant not changing lines, which meant a lot less stairs with our ridiculously heavy suitcases. As luck would have it, Russell Square is one of the few tube stations that requires no stair climbing - and it was only at Victoria Station, where we would catch the airport train that we had to climb stairs, and then it was just 25 stairs in total, so we were very happy!

We caught the airport train to Gatwick airport, checked into our British Airways flight to Amsterdam, scoring an upgrade to the extra leg room seats and settled in for what was a very comfortable flight to Amsterdam. The Brits bag British Airways, but it's far better than any airline I've ever travelled on in Australia, that's for sure.

We arrived at Amsterdam airport at 9pm, caught the train into the city, transferred to the number 9 train and checked in to our hotel, the Rembrandt Square Hotel. The reviews about this hotel were mixed, but it's location, in one of the busiest squares in Amsterdam, is fantastic, but the hotel was clean, new and had an incredibly comfortable bed, almost as good as the one as last time we were in Amsterdam, so we had no problem with it at all. The only downside is that there are lots of coffeeshops (which are the places that sell cannabis, not coffee!) in the square, so it does have a rather strong odour!

We'd seen a fun fair on the way in (we'd missed Queens Day by one day - it's the day the Dutch go crazy and cover the streets in orange, apparently it is one crazy party and judging from the rubbish on the street, it was one hell of a party!), so we made our way there and had a some fantastic wurst for dinner, then took a leisurely ride on the ferris wheel which offered great views over Amsterdam.

After the fair, we made our way back to the rooms, though I did have to purchase something that caught my eye at one of the souvenir shops - a bottle of coconut beer! Beer made with coconut juice sounds a bit odd sure, but I love coconut, and I have to say it was really quite good! That was it for the night, so we collapsed into our soft beds after another busy day.

The next morning we were up for the first breakfast timeslot - 9:30am! In London, breakfast finished at 9, in Amsterdam, it doesn't even start that early! Our breakfast was served in what is a coffeeshop by night, so we were a little worried about how it would smell in there, but all we could smell was industrial strength bleach, which in this case wasn't a bad thing.

After breakfast it was time for yet more shopping, with most of the Amsterdam sights ticked off on our first visit and an extra 7 kilograms of luggage allowance available on our remaining flights!

Lunch was a simple affair of chips and Dutch mayonnaise, as well as some poffertjes and cream balls from a bakery across the road from the chip place. We shopped some more after lunch, and then returned to the hotel to dump our bags, before making our way to the Heineken Brewery for the Heineken Experience, an interactive tour of the brewery! The tour was part interesting, part gimmicky, but you do get 3 free beers and a free boat ride to the Heineken Brandstore, where you could purchase all your Heineken needs and that also happened to be located just 100 metres from our hotel, so we all had a good time, especially Jules and I who had to cover the slack for the girls as they proclaimed their dislike of beer! Jules again showed his hatred of all things souveniry by purchasing just about everything for sale in the Heineken Brandstore!

Given Julian's love of all things Toro, we chose an Argentinean steakhouse for dinner, as its logo was a fierce looking Toro. I got the unlimited ribs, and they really were unlimited, and also particularly tasty! The others meals (chicken steak, rump steak and a hamburger) were all really good too, which was good as sadly this was to be our last proper meal in Europe.

We headed back to the hotel to pack our suitcases, which proved infinitely harder than before given the amount of shopping we'd done. My case weighed 31 kilograms and my hand luggage another 10 kilos - that's a lot of luggage no matter how you look at it! We turned in for the night, slept very well, and we were up and off to the airport before anyone at the hotel had even contemplated serving breakfast!

That was it for our time in Europe, we checked in to our Garuda flight to Dubai at the impressive Schipol Airport (and I have to say that Garuda again have been nothing short of impressive, clean and comfortable planes, good food, great service and an easy check in process). We certainly had managed to fit an awful lot into our time in Europe, and everyone really enjoyed themselves, so it was sad to say goodbye, but all good things come to an end and we at least have 2 days in Dubai to look forward to before returning to home and the reality of having to work for a living.

We arrived in Dubai at the Dubai Airport, which boasts being one of the most modern and finest airports in all of the world. Explain to me then how it can take somewhere between 4 and 5 minutes to deal each person at Immigration. The lines were relatively small, but it took well over an hour for us to make our way through, which was just madness. A useful hint for anyone faced with Immigration in Dubai is to look for the line with the most westerners and join that one, as westerners do not require a visa, nor do they require retina scanning at Immigration, and a westerner will take approximately 1 minute at the Immigration desk, a fact we were unfortunately unaware of earlier.

Once we were finally through Immigration, we grabbed our bags and made our way to the taxi rank. Here is something that you might find interesting about the desert - it's hot. Very hot even. Standing at the taxi rank, you couldn't help but notice that it really was very hot. Luckily we were only there a couple of minutes before being shown to an air conditioned taxi and on our way to the Rose Garden Apartments, where we would call home for our 2 nights in Dubai.

The drive to the hotel was amazing, Dubai was a sea of coloured lights and skyscrapers, and our hotel itself, despite being somewhat of a budget hotel in Dubai, was clean, large and had eager staff waiting to help you at every turn. We'd book 2 Studio rooms, but Lex and I were upgraded to a 1 bedroom apartment. The 1 bedroom apartment was massive, comprising of an extraordinarily large lounge, 2 bathrooms, a laundry, a kitchen and a huge bedroom - all this for $60 a night!

It was late at night, so our only task was to find dinner. There were a string of restaurants right near the hotel, but all of them seem to either serve buffets or were so dingy and dirty that no one could possibly contemplate eating there. Finally we found some large, clean looking places, but they all served only vegetarian food - except for one, the Grand Barbeque, which was actually an Indian restaurant with a rather strange name!

A plate of chicken tikka was followed by a butter chicken, a chicken tikka masala, a chicken peppercorn and a lamb rogan josh, rice and naan, and as with all the Indian we've eaten so far on the trip, it was pretty good indeed. They even talked us into trying dessert, with a warm curried rice pudding, some gulab jamun and some lychie ice cream finishing our meal nicely. It was after midnight by the time we were done, so we walked back to the hotel to retire for the evening.

We were up early the next morning, armed with our map of Dubai and determined to see as much as possible in our only full day, so we power walked to the nearest Metro station. Friday is the first day of the weekend in Dubai, and a day of prayer, so we arrived at the station to find that the metro was closed until 1:30pm - not a great start! Luckily, this turned out to be a blessing, as we were forced to take a taxi, and through this we discovered that the taxis provide a much needed relief from the heat and they were extremely cheap!

Our first stop was the Dubai Mall, the largest shopping mall complex in the world and also home to the largest man made structure in the world, the Burj Al Khalifi. We made our way to the food court for some breakfast, then went and checked out some of the cool things inside the shopping centre - a giant fountain, an aquarium, oh and of course the ice skating rink - don't all shopping centres have all of that?

Just walking around the shopping centre to see everything took quite some time, and when we were down we braved the heat outside to take some photos of the Burj. It really is huge (some 924 metres high to be exact), and we noticed that in the middle of the day no one really seems to spend much time, which shouldn't come as any surprise given it was 39 degrees.

There was a little Souk (market) just nearby, so we did a spot of souvenir shopping there (and by we, I of course mean Julian!). We then decided to take a taxi to Um Saqqir beach, the most popular beach in Dubai and one that has fabulous views of the Burj Al Arab, Dubai's 7 star hotel (the one shaped like a sailing ship). It was incredibly hot at the beach, but it was rather packed, however we didn't stay long as we had a 4pm booking to go up the Burj Khalifi and we still hadn't had lunch, so we caught a taxi back to the Dubai Mall for a Fatburger and lined up to go up the Burj.

The whole Burj Khalifi experience was quite impressive, the facilities were new, modern and impeccably clean, and the lift to the 124th floor that the observation deck is located on took just 21 seconds - incredible! The view from up there was amazing, you could see the giant skyscrapers and just lots of nothing, sand, sand and more sand really. The only grass and trees in Dubai is what has been deliberately planted and cared for. We spent an hour at the top of the Burj, and yet it hardly felt like we were up there long at all. And of course, being Dubai, there was a Gold ATM at the top of the Burj, yep, an ATM where you could buy a few grams of gold - crazy!

It was sunset by the time we made it back to ground level, so we took in 2 sessions of the light, water and sound show at the Dubai fountain (it takes place every half hour and is different every time), which provided lots of spectacular photo opportunities with the Burj Al Khalifi as a backdrop to the fountain!

We then jumped in a taxi and asked to be taken to Deira, which is the old town that has the Gold Souk and the Spice Souk, and our taxi driving kept asking if the city centre was fine, and not knowing the area, we said it would be fine. Turns out that he mean the City Centre Mall, which was nowhere near where we wanted to be. We did find a cheap supermarket that sold souvenirs far cheaper than we'd seen elsewhere, but not much else of interest, so we caught another taxi back to the Burjuman Mall, which was right next to our hotel, in the hope of finding dinner. The Dubai Mall had an impressive food court, so we hoped the Burjuman would be the same, but we were delighted to find that it houses some quality looking restaurants with seating that overlooked a water fountain! We chose a restaurant that served Persian food, and we ordered a heap of grilled meat and a Persian lamb stew, some rice and some bread. The grilled meats were fantastic and the Persian bread was very much like naan, and the stew was exceptional. It was lamb, kidney beans, dried lemon and traditional Persian vegetables, so we have no idea what was in it, but it was great. We left feeling very full, but very content, and then made our way back to our apartment for a few Cokes that some Johnnie Walker may have accidentally fallen in (our hotel had a strict no alcohol and no non-married couples policy, as do most in Dubai). We then did one last final pack of our bags, now incorporating a 5th bag shared amongst us to house our 123 kilograms of luggage (we went over with 4 bags and a combined weight of 61 kilograms)!

The next morning we had breakfast at the Burjuman Mall, and then the girls went to get henna tattoos on their hands, while Julian and I relaxed in the cool of the Mall. After the girls were finished, we caught a taxi and went to Deira, actually making it there this time. We looked around the Gold Souk and the Spice Souk, and were constantly hassled by touts asking us if we wanted copy watches, handbags, polo shirts etc. This was a little unexpected, as you didn't get anything like it in the Malls, but luckily we've all travelled Asia before, so it was nothing new!

We then took the pedestrian underpass under the river to Bur Dubai, to see a historic house. The historic house was just a recreation of a timber hut, so we decided it was time to taxi back to our hotel and find some lunch. We went back to the Burjuman Mall and this time tried the Masala House curry restaurant. We ordered a tandoori chicken that was served on a sizzling plate, and we all agreed it was probably the best tandoori chicken we'd ever eaten, and 3 of us have eaten it in India before! We shared 2 curries, a chicken tikka masala and a lamb bhuna and some naan bread, and these curries really were fantastic, spicy but not too hot (though I would have liked it hotter!) but full of intense and delicious flavours.

After lunch, we walked back to the hotel, dipped our feet in the hotel pool for half an hour, then loaded up the hotel taxi with our 5 suitcases and 7 carry on bags and made our way to the airport for the start of the journey home.

We had 2 separate booking references for our flight, so they were happy to let us take 5 bags, but we had to make 2 bags balance to 60 kilos and the other 3 also balance to 60 kilos (give or take a couple of kilos, she kindly informed us), so a quick repack and our 123 kilograms of luggage were checked all the way through to Sydney, or at least that's what we were told.

We cleared Immigration in about 45 seconds, a far cry from the hour something it took on the way in and boarded our plane bound for Jakarta. The plane was packed, we had the middle bank of 4, but even so it wasn't too bad. Sadly, 3 of us were hit by a pre-emptive Bali Belly, or what we've dubbed the Dubai Drizzle. Jules managed to avoid it, but the rest of us were not well at all, and despite the flight being an overnight flight, no sleep was had as the pain and cramps were pretty bad.

We arrived at Jakarta, and as we were walking past the luggage carousel, Alana noticed our bags going around - so much for being checked through to Sydney. The staff at the airport said that was right, they couldn't seem to understand that we were not meant to have to pick up our luggage and re-check in - we weren't impressed. To make matters worse, we had to pay $30 each for a visa to enter Indonesia as the flight from Jakarta to Bali was a domestic flight. We were going to spend a few hours in Bali anyway, so it didn't matter, but Garuda should at the very least tell you that you'll need to pay $30 for a Visa and then $15 to depart Indonesia when you're flight is technically Dubai to Sydney - not good.

We managed to make our Bali flight, though I'm pretty sure others on our plane missed it, and after another uncomfortable flight, we landed in Bali, still feeling very sick. This time we decided we'd check to see if our luggage would come out, despite the guy that checked us in in Jakarta assuring us it wouldn't. Of course it did come out, so rather unhappily we loaded it on a trolley and took it to international departures. The woman at check-in was unwilling to take our luggage as it was still 14 hours until our flight, but there was no way I was taking no for an answer, I'd had no sleep for 36 hours, my stomach was not happy and we'd been stuffed around twice. In the end, she called a manager and he told her to take our luggage and check us in for our flight, which meant we'd at least get decent seats.

After we finally got rid our suitcases, we caught a taxi to our hotel, the Sayang Maha Mertha, a $30 a night hotel, but as we only had 12 hours in Bali and it wasn't overnight, it didn't matter, it gave us access to a clean pool and a shower and toilet in our room, that was all we needed. The hotel wasn't that bad, but I wouldn't want to stay there much longer than a night. We did have big plans of all the things we were going to do in Bali, but with 3 of us taken ill, we didn't really go a lot. We had a swim, we went to our favourite Bali restaurants - Warung Max - though we didn't enjoy it nearly as much as usual thanks to the Dubai bug, and we bought some cheap sunglasses. Before we left, we got the courage to get an hour long massage - Alana, Lex and I weren't sure we could be away from the facilities for a full hour, but we made it, then headed straight back to the hotel, where we rested up in the air conditioning until it was time to catch a taxi to the airport.

Our flight left just at 2:05am, and by 2:06am I was happily pushing out the z's, with the others not far behind me. I didn't wake until the pilot said we were arriving in Sydney, so I was pretty happy with that, though we all still felt very ordinary in arrival at Sydney. We collected our luggage, passed through Customs and Immigrations with no hassles, then went to the Qantas transfer desk.

The woman at the Qantas desk was a cow. When I'd rang Qantas about changing our flight when Garuda changed our international flights, the guy said that normally the Qantas transfer people will try to get you on the earliest flight home, but this woman was having none of that, she said we'd have to wait 7 hours for our flight, which left just when all the business people would be flying home after meetings in Sydney. Luckily her Manager told her that our flight was very full and it might be better if she did move us forward, so we ended up only having a 3 hour wait, no thanks to her. Then she wouldn't let us pool the weight of our 5 suitcases, insisting that each bag must only be 23 kilograms, which forced a repack on the spot. She told us to take heaps of stuff out and put it in our hand luggage, then complained we had too much hand luggage and made us fit our 9 litres of duty free alcohol into our hand luggage. It was a slow process, and luckily she went to lunch and her colleague who took over just told us to take our hand luggage and go. My hand luggage weighed a staggering 22 kilograms, and I was really quite annoyed that a lot of it wasn't in the hold, but we'd managed to get all our luggage on, so we couldn't complain really when you consider how much we had.

We all had to sit apart on the flight to Adelaide, and I was squashed against a window by a drunken farmer – the new Qantas planes have no room in them at all – but finally we’d all made it back to Adelaide. Upon arriving at my house, we were greeted by a parcel – the whiskies from England had beaten us home!

13 countries, 20 cities, 18 different beds, 20 flights, 2 train rides and 285 souvenirs (276 if those belong to Julian) in 5 weeks – quite some journey. Lots of early mornings, lots of late nights and lots of food, but that’s what travelling is all about.

So, here are my top 5 highlights, in no particular order.

  • Snow in Munich – for 4 kids from the driest State in the driest Continent, this was so much fun!
  • Venice – no idea what to expect, but the sunshine, the food and the spectacular scenery makes this a must visit in my book.
  • The pyramids of Giza – not what you expect, but still incredible to see and touch,
  • Visiting 4 counties in a day (Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg)
  • Cruising around in our Mercedes E220 – what a car – until the puncture that is!

And my 5 cities you should definitely visit

  • Venice – for the reasons above,
  • Munich – still the greatest city on this planet, try visit at Oktoberfest, but still cool any time of year,
  • Athens – amazing people, you can easily get by with just English, amazing food and a great climate – and the perfect base for the Greek Islands,
  • Amsterdam – everyone speaks English, they’re all a bit loopy, it’s an easy city to get around, it has loads of things to see and do and it has great food,
  • London – ol’ London town is what you make it, but there is always something happening somewhere!

And cities you needn’t bother with:

  • Brussels – to be fair, it’s a bit harsh after 3 hours, but the traffic was mad, the people rather scary and the weather was poor
  • Dubai – don’t get me wrong, great for a holiday if you want warmth, relative cleanliness (though 3 of us got sick) and lots of things to do, but not a sightseeing kind of town.

Well folks, that’s it, our European adventure is done and dusted. Until next time, stay European folks.


1 Comment

Roger and Susan:
May 8, 2012
Congratulations on cramming so much into your available time. it is wonderful to hear that you have arrived safely and that the whiskey was safe.The "older " Blackwells are about to head into Poland,but we heartily recommend Spain as a destination. Buenos noches.
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