Hello, I forgot to mention that I was taking the fam to New Zealand (Queenstown to be exact) last week, and that I’d be taking the newest addition to my family, my Pentax K-1 as well. I’ll probably post something on the K-1 after I’m done with the New Zealand stuff (as I’ll have had plenty more time to evaluate it (it’s been about a month so far). But anyway, we jumped on to a Jetstar sale and took a week off to try and catch some Autumn colours across the Tasman. Queenstown has to be one of my absolute favourite places to visit, there is just so much to do and see there, that my landscape eye never gets tired, except after driving for a few hours on not much sleep.
Our flight left Melbourne at 6.15am, which meant that we had to get out of the house at about 3am which wasn’t fun, and then to make matters a bit worse, the weather in Queenstown awaiting our arrival was unruly as well. Fierce winds meant that we had to circle the airport twice before the pilot decided it was safer to fly to Christchurch for the time being. After a short stopover it was decided that we’d have another go at flying to Queenstown, third time was a charm and despite some turbulence (it felt like) on the landing we landed okay about three hours late (3pm).
So with half the day gone and the timezone a couple hours faster, we ended up just skipping lunch and going straight to dinner. I took the kids to Winnies which is a pizza place, the highest rated in Queenstown, I went there ten years ago with Alf, and it is still good. We didn’t get garlic bread this time (:(), but a half and half (pescara/seafood and Luigi’s Italian), a kumara salad, and the soup of the day (mushroom and blue cheese).
The pizza was pretty good (both halves), the salad was hearty, and the soup (was for Oscar, but he decided that he was going to make sure he got the most out of his terrible two’s and not eat it) was creamy and rich. It was too much food, but I managed to finish off the pizza and salad at least.
The Monteith’s black that I tried wasn’t half bad either, in fact, it was very good. We decided to call it a day early so that we could rest up for the next day.
We decided to take a cruise on the TSS Earnslaw the next day, and with no plans for lunch we took the gourmet BBQ option, we managed to squeeze on to the 12pm option having only arrived at the booking office at 10am. The cruise is about fifty minutes one way, and about 3 and a half hours in total (including lunch) so you have about an hour for lunch, and then 30-40 minutes to wander around and also watch a sheep dog and sheep shearing demonstration. Lunch is a buffet and is of a very high quality, I tried all the meats, my favourite being the pulled pork, the lamb was second. The salads were good, and then for dessert, being full already I just had a serve of chocolate mousse and a serve of raspberry sorbet. There was also cake and chocolate brownies, etc, but unfortunately I ate too much before dessert. Had the Queenstown Brewers Wry Red which went very well with lunch.
The cruise itself was very smooth, the boat doesn’t rock at all, and you get some great views of the lake surrounds from the upper deck and can even see the crew hard at work in the (coal fired) engine room downstairs (nice and toasty down there).
With nice weather I decided that we should head up to Bob’s Peak to check out the view before dinner. Since it was a bit later than I first planned I decided that it was better just to take the gondola up and down rather than hiking up and gondoling down (especially with a toddler in tow). I wanted to ride the luge but nobody was with me, so I just went up to the viewing deck and staked out a few different angles (still ended up with the same picture I took ten years ago! not quite as wide though). There’s basically one really good spot up there where you won’t be blocked by any obstacles and you get the best angle, but two guys had already staked out that spot so I had to settle for roving around looking for some slightly different shots.
This very famous burger joint was our destination for dinner, and fortunately it was a Monday because the lines outside this place seem to get longer as the week gets goes, by Friday and Saturday, it’s just completely packed at night (even during the day too). There isn’t much seating space so we just got take away and ate back at the hotel. It’s a pretty good deal, we just got the basic burgers (Ferg) which are a decent size (and a kids burger for Oscar), it’s hard to find a similar value meal for the price in town (probably why it’s so popular).
With such clear weather I decided to try my hand at some night photography, specifically trying to catch the milky way. I’ve done long exposures to capture star trails before, but I wasn’t going to be taking enough time to get any interesting star trails, but with my new camera, getting the milky way would be something that I coiuld definitely attempt. My aim was to get the milky way hovering above the Remarkables or some kind of mountain for reference, I managed to capture something, and while it may not be great, I was certainly very pleased for a first try. I’ll be able to learn from this and hopefully produce something even better in future. Next day, Milford Sound, a lot of driving, how will we go?
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And we’re back, two weeks travelling around central Japan was fun, but taking a 14-month old baby with us certainly made things more challenging and cost us some opportunities. But it was well worth it even if we didn’t get to do all that we had hoped.
Flying Jetstar and arriving at (and departing from) terminal 3 was already less than ideal, although terminal 3 doesn’t have any of the good shops that terminal 1 and 2 have, so we weren’t able to do any last minute shopping before leaving the country, but at least Jetstar has direct flights. That was a plus considering that the flight was only about ten hours each way (the return flight during the day was much more bearable than dealing with a tired and extremely cranky baby on an overnight flight).
This was the first time that I’ve ever flown Jetstar on a long haul flight (I’ve flown to Tasmania domestic a couple of times) and I’m really not sure that I would do it again, even though they have the direct route to Japan. Once you add in all the extras it’s only slightly less (a couple hundred bucks each) than a full service carrier so in terms of value it’s definitely out the window. The direct flight option is where it has the advantage, Singapore is always the number one option, but Japan Airlines has direct flights from Sydney so that might be a better option next time.
In the end, the main issues we had were that our (sometimes) cranky baby needed to be baby-sat/fed at the most inopportune times, such as dinner time (sunset) and breakfast times (sunrise), the best times to go anywhere because of:
As always though, Japan is so much fun, and so amazing in almost every way, it really is like a giant theme park, the food is delicious usually, and relative to Australian prices for similar food, it’s a bargain. The shopping is endless, and the way that nature, history, and technology come together is something magical (usually). I really hope that next time we can go in Autumn or Spring (cherry blossom) season to avoid the heat, and also see some different colours on the natural side of things. Not sure where we would head next time, maybe Hokkaido, or somewhere else based on further reading. Any way, I’ve got lots of pictures coming so I’ll be breaking those down into several posts over the next couple of weeks.
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Having gone through the process of these two recently I thought I’d mention the likes and dislikes I had for each. Actually it will be pretty much just what I hated about both. I’ll start with Jetstar which has just a couple of things but both are to do with the all mighty dollar which automatically makes them high priority issues. First is to do with the earning of QANTAS frequent flyer points, it is very confusing to work out which flights actually earn these points, and then it says if you pay an extra amount on an airfare you can earn points, but if you read the conditions it says you can earn points on flights with flight numbers starting with JQ (and something else), but then why do you have to pay extra to earn these points, I couldn’t work it out, so I just paid the extra fee to make sure that the points were earned (they were a requirement for the person I was buying the airfares for). Stupid confusing pricing schemes, that’s why I’m giving up on QANTAS frequent flyers, I’ll use up my points when I get enough and then not bother trying to earn them any more. The second and more annoying issue was the booking fee, it’s not stated anywhere that there is a booking fee, and then at checkout time a magical little field pops up with a $30 booking fee (this was for a domestic flight, so it’s more for international), what this fee is for I have no idea, but it’s super annoying and just a plain rip off. I’ll avoid anything Jetstar or QANTAS from now on if I can.
Now the world’s “best” airline (?), my girlfriend swears by them, I haven’t flown with them since 2006 (they were quite good from what I remember) mainly because they’re not a part of the QANTAS alliance, but that’s all going out the window now, I don’t give a shit about QANTAS. I’m excited for this trip we’re going on because I will get to go on an A380 (pictured) for the first time (despite all the issues), and also because if it sucks it’s my girlfriend’s fault :D. Their web site is very flash heavy which already makes it quite bad, so there’s a lot of loading and slow functionality on a normal computer (macbook 2008 core 2 duo 4GB ram), I wasn’t that impressed just selecting the origin, destination, and dates, but moved on. The way the price page is set up is quite good, they’re all a bit like that now, although my favourite is the one with the grid showing the different start and end dates with the prices. The thing I found annoying was that it was quite slow to choose seats and navigate between pages which eventually caused my session to time out, and I had to start over from the start (this was also affected by my indecision :D), but there is a warning about session time out at payment time, but not while you’re selecting the seats. So what happened next? I managed to get through everything in a timely fashion, but the seats that I selected in the timed out session were now occupied so I had to choose different ones. I had a feeling that they were only occupied because of my previous session so I checked it again the next day and as I guessed (at least for one of my selections), the seats I originally wanted were now free. OK, rant over, there was no booking fee, everything was straightforward with Singapore (apart from the bit of slowness) and no confusing wording, I’ll give my two cents worth on any future flight bookings, top deck of A380, I’m looking forward to that!
Picture stolen from the singapore airlines site.
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