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(3 July – 9 July)
We left Adelaide on Sunday 3 July for 5 days in Singapore before flying on to London.
Whilst in Singapore we did the usual tourist attractions as we did when we previously holidayed in Singapore.
On July 7 we did a same day excursion to Kuala Lumpur and visited the Petronias Towers.
Our flight to London was eventful as our booked flight had been overbooked and we were scheduled to depart on a later flight. This would then have resulted in missing our connecting flight to Dublin. As we had arrived early at Changi Airport we were able to get an earlier flight – it just meant we weren’t able to all sit together.
(9 July – 12 July)
Having arrived in London’s Heathrow Airport we had a short wait until we could board our flight to Dublin.
We purchased bus transport tickets to Dublin city from the airport and then walked the couple of hundred metres to our accommodation at the Dublin Central Inn. Unfortunately the accommodation was not to our liking. The en-suite was way to cramped and the room was quite musty. As we would only be in Dublin for a few days, we decidedto remain rather than move to other accommodation.
On July 10 we took a bus excursion to Belfast. Our driver explained how 20 years ago such a bus trip wasn’t possible due to the conflict in Northern Ireland. For us it was an enjoyable bus trip visiting numerous sites before arriving in Belfast.
In Belfast we visited the Titanic Exhibition and had some free time in the centre of Dublin. We watched the Wimbledon Tennis Final on the big screen. However the local entertainment was very impressive playing their version of tennis.
On July 11 we took another bus excursion to Blarney Castle and visited a number of sites along the way with some free time in Cork.
(12 July – 16 July)
We flew from Dublin to Manchester and picked up our hire car which we would have for the next 7 days.
Leaving Manchester, we drove to Liverpool and booked into the Holiday Inn Express at Albert Dock. We had previously stayed here in 2014.
We had tickets for the “Magical Mystery Tour” Beatles highlights which I would recommend to anyone visiting Liverpool.
We also revisited Wales and had brunch at the longest place name in Wales.
(16 July – 19 July)
We drove from Liverpool to London on the motorway and once off the motorway were pleasantly surprised to find that our Holiday Inn Express at Golders Green was only a kilometre or two away.
This again was a place we stayed previously in 2014.
We had a London Pass and took in again all the tourist attractions in London.
19 July – 30 July
We left London on 19 July and drove to Southampton were we returned the hire car after dropping everyone off at the Cruise Ship terminal. I then took a taxi back to the Cruise Ship terminal.
Having checked in we embarked on a 14 day Baltic Cruise.
Copenhagen – We took a bus trip from Denmark to Sweeden and visited Malmo travelling via the Öresund Bridge. This bridge is the longest combined road and rail bridge in Europe and connects two major metropolitan areas: Copenhagen, the Danish capital city, and the Swedish city of Malmö.
Stockholm – In Stockholm we visited the ABBA museum.
Tallin – This stop was the surprise of the cruise. A beautiful city within a city was the walled city. Tallin was also the venue for the Olympic sailing competition when Moscow held the Olympics in 1980. Evidence of the Soviet regime can still be seen, but more recent developments have modernised the city.
St Petersberg – This was the highlight of the cruise. When we arrived a number of Russian warships were arriving for a military parade on the Neva River. We attended a Russian Folkloric dance show and visited the Church of the Bled (the one which has the colourful Onion Domes). The bus trip also went past a number of Russian churches, some of which had pure gold spires. The Hermitage Museum is also in St Petersberg but unfortunately we did not have more time to visit. We could have stayed a week, instead we only had two days.
Helsinki – In Helsinki the bus took us past the “Pissing Boy”. Rather than an extended bus trip, this time we took a boat tour cruising around the islands scattered around the city.
Zeebrugge – Rather than continue overnight back to Southampton we decided to disembark in Zeebrugge.
30 July – 1 August
We arranged a taxi to take us to our accommodation in Brugge (Ibis budget Brugge Centrum Station). From our accommodation we took a bus into the old city centre. At one of the shops we purchased our Cuckoo clock and had that shipped back to Australia.
1 August – 4 August
We picked up a hire car and drove to Antwerp and stayed three days in Antwerp.
4 August – 12 August
Leaving Antwerp we drove on to Amsterdam.
This would be our last stay in Europe for this trip. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Amsterdam – Sloterdijk Station which was a short train ride from Amsterdam Central Station. At the time we wre in Amsterdam the Dutch Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras event was on. Rather than March through the street, the procession was on boats that went up and down the canals of Amsterdam.
13 August – 14 August
We flew from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam to Changi Airport in Singapore arriving early in the morning
We were able to get a room at a Singapore motel as our flight to Adelaide wasn’t leaving until close to midnight.
We finally returned early on Monday morning to Adelaide and then made our way back home.
Departing Dublin’s fair city and it was onwards to the North of Ireland. A wonderful tour lied ahead, with a short 2 hour drive to Belfast on the brand new ‘Peace Highway’. The drive up was broken up by an interesting and lovely little stop at Monasterboice!
After stories en route we were taken off the highway and down the much less beaten path to visit the haunting ruins of Monasterboice. We saw a real 10th century round tower and learn how Irish ancestors took refuge from the Vikings.
We were also able to touch the most beautiful Celtic crosses in Ireland, hand-carved by monks before power-tools in the 9th century.
Arriving in lovely Belfast we have 2 HOURS FREE-TIME.
We took this free time for lunch and some shopping time in Belfast bustling downtown shopping area. Excellent shops, which were much cheaper than Dublin!
The Titanic Experience
We departed the city centre and the bus took us to the docks to visit Belfast’s Number 1 tourist attraction, the Titanic Experience! We were taken on an amazing journey, from her conception in Belfast in the early 1900’s, through her construction and launch, and her infamous maiden voyage and catastrophic demise.
This is one of the world’s most famous visitor attractions.
After crossing the border the bus drove through the rolling countryside of County Louth. A comfort stop en-route was made and then it was a pleasant short drive back to Dublin.
Between 11 April and 21 April we stayed at the Singapore Atrium Holiday Inn and enjoyed 10 days in Singapore.
On arriving in Singapore around 4.00pm on Saturday we went to the Singapore Airlines service desk to obtain our three day Singapore Explorer Pass. Once we had collected our passes we took a shuttle bus to our motel.
Singapore Atrium Holiday Inn
The Singapore Atrium Holiday Inn has been one of the best Holiday Inn’s that we have stayed in. The motel has 26 floors and all rooms are on the outside of the building with a huge atrium inside with 6 or 7 lifts. Each lift looks like a salt’n’pepper shaker and can be viewed going up and down between floors. The lift is enclosed in glass and you can see the ground level as you go up or down between the floors.
Food markets and the Great World Shopping Centre were in close proximity to the motel.
Having done some research prior to leaving Australia, we inquired where we could buy a Tourist SIM card which would provide unlimited phone calls, unlimited SMS’s, 90 minutes internal calls and 7Gb data over 10 days for $30. The only “problem” was that they needed to be bought at a Singtel store, and not at a Singtel re seller store!
First priority on the Sunday after we arrived was to find the nearest Singtel store. With our Boarding Pass we bought a day pass for $8.00 for the SIA Hop On – Hop Off Bus. The bus drove down Orchard Road which was the nearest road to the Singtel store. Having bought our SIM cards, the next task was to buy our Singapore Tourist Plus card.
Singapore Tourist Plus Pass
From the Singtel store it was quite a walk to the top of Orchard Road which was were we could buy a 3 day public transport pass for $30. We used this pass for the first three days of our stay in Singapore.
Day 1 – we used the pass to visit the Changi War Museum.
Day 2 – we used the pass to visit Little India and the Mustafa Centre.
Day 3 – we used the pas to take the FunVeee bus ride and the bumboat ride.
Singapore Explorer Pass
The Singapore Explorer Pass included entry to numerous attractions around Singapore. Far to many to attempt to see every attraction. However, we believe we received good value from the pass which cost us $91 per person.
Day 1 – we used the pass at the Jurong Bird Park and Singapore Zoo and bought tickets to the Night Safari.
Day 2 – we used the pass at the Singapore Flyer, Singapore Flyer Foodmarket and the Gardens by the Bay.
Day 3 – we used the pass at Madame Tussauds’s on Sentosa Island and the Singapore Cable ride.
Roger (our Taxi Driver)
On Saturday whilst at the Singapore Flyer we bumped into a guy who we didn’t know whilst we were eating lunch. Whilst waiting for our hop on/hop off bus to arrive the following day, the same guy drove pass in his taxi. He circled around and asked if we would like him to take us around Singapore for an hour for $12.
The hour turned into 4 hours and Roger took us to some interesting places; a Chinese jewelers market, a vendor of imitation watches and bags, and a shoe market. It was a highlight of our holiday.
Gardens By the Bay
We drove from Antwerp to Amsterdam and stayed three nights in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam (3 nights)
Our arrival in Amsterdam was delayed somewhat trying to navigate Rotterdam as our GPS maps weren’t up to date with the roadworks which made following the directions given by the GPS almost impossible.
By now we were just about holidayed out. Our Holiday Inn was close to Schiphol Airport and the weather was inclement so we didn’t venture into the heart of Amsterdam.
Each morning we waited for the weather to clear, which it didn’t, so we caught a taxi to the local shops. The first time walking back to the Holiday Inn it started to rain heavily half way between the shops and the motel and we ended up getting drenched.
The second time, when we wanted to go back to the motel, we looked for a taxi rank and couldn’t find one. When we inquired, we were informed that the nearest taxi rank was at the railway station which was on the other side of our motel. We ended up buying some cheap umbrellas and walking back to the motel in the rain.
Having driven from Paris we stayed two nights in Antwerp.
Antwerp (2 nights)
We were surprised just how big the port of Antwerp was. We decided on a whim to take a “Port of Antwerp” bus tour. The tour included personal use of an iPad which was used to interactive with video of the port whilst we drove around the port areas. This was one of the best tours we took.
From Genoa we enjoyed a majestic drive to Marseille. The highway was relatively flat as we drove through the mountains and over the valleys.
Marseille (3 nights)
The south of France was beautiful. We visited the Château d’If on If Island. Enjoyed walking around the old port area. Took a bus tour around the sights of Marseille.
Toulouse (1 night)
We enjoyed a Chinese buffet at Wok 31 restaurant which was situated near to our Holiday Inn.
Bordeaux (2 nights)
Moving on from Toulouse we stayed two nights in Bordeaux. Whilst at Bordeaux we heard about the terrorism attacks in Paris and had thoughts of bypassing Paris where we planned to stay overnight before going to Antwerp in Belgium.
Paris (1 night)
Fortunately the terrorists were found and killed, so we were happy to have another day in Paris. This time we stayed at a Holiday Inn near the main international airport.
Having arrived in Turin and obtained new tyres, we revised our holiday so as to not having to cross the Alps again. This meant that we would not be visiting Venice, Vienna, Zurich or Luxembourg.
Pisa (1 night)
We visited the leaning tower of Pisa.
Rome (5 nights)
The first two nights we stayed at the Holiday Inn. Then we stayed at the West Rome Mecure.
Genoa (1 night)
From Rome we drove to Genoa.
Following our two weeks in the UK we boarded the ferry to Calais and then drove on to Paris.
Paris (3 nights)
Whilst in Paris we visited the Eiffel Tower and the Champ de Elysee. We stayed at a beautiful Holiday Inn on the banks of the River Seine.
Gaillard (1 night)
From Paris we drove to Gaillard which was close to Geneva, Switzerland. We drove into Switzerland and drove to Lake Geneva and admired the lake and the architecture in Geneva.
Crossing the French/Italian Alps
This would have to have been the most harrowing days driving. We left Gaillard with light snow falling. As we proceeded up the mountains, the snow became heavier and heavier. What was a three lane highway reduced to two lanes and then to one lane as snow plows pushed snow away to keep the road open.
Eventually our speed reduced to 20kph for the best part of two hours as we inched our way to the Mont Blanc tunnel. Along the way there were a number of cars stuck in the snow. Fortunately for us a snow plow pulled out just in front of us and we were able to follow the snow plow without getting stuck.
Once we got to the Mont Blanc tunnel and entered the tunnel, travelling was easier until a few kilometres before our Holiday Inn accommodation in Turin we got a flat tyre which was replaced. We were told the following morning that the tyre needed to be replaced and that we had driven the previous day on “normal” tyres.
If we had know we were driving on normal tyres and not on winter tyres as we believed, there was no way that I would have contemplated driving in the conditions that we had met.
That night as we were watching the news on TV, a report advised that over 13,000 people were trapped in the Alps due to the extremely bad weather.
Thanks for small mercies we got through without any serious incident.