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Flying to Singapore on Singapore Airlines’ A380

December 9, 2010

I’m sitting on a step at the back of an A380. It’s my first time on this beast of an aircraft. Scrap that. Just been kicked off my perch; apparently that’s not allowed. Anyhow, the spiral staircase makes me think of the Titanic. I do realise the absolute lack of similarity between the spiral staircase of the legendary cruise ship and this gargantuan plane, but there you go. Couple that sentiment with the recent string of A380 engine mishaps and you’re not left with a great feeling. The colour scheme on the other hand is based on shades of muted pastel which makes you feel a bit like you’re in the world’s largest nursery. So now I feel like an anxious overgrown baby.

I had been really excited to fly on an A380 when they first came out, but it’s now been so long and so many others have gone before me that the excitement, if I’m to be honest, sort of fizzled out sometime in 2008/2009. Ooh, they’re handing out snacks. Be right back!

Alrighty then… so were was I? Oh, right. Anyways, here I am finally. Overall I like it. My only real complaint is that the seating areas are incredibly ‘short’ and cramped. I mean, I’m only 5″3 and my knees are resting flat against the back of the chair in front of me. Push the recline button and your seat is pushed even further forward. In this moment, I’m glad to not be any taller! I like some of the little design elements they’ve introduced, such as the cup holder, the usb slot and the reading lights located under the screen.

I do wish I could have a look at the business class area and the first class suites. On the other hand, it might make returning to my seat in ‘cattle class’ a bit too depressing. Speaking of bad feelings, I turned a woman down when she asked if we could swap seats. I’ve never done that before; I’m terrible at saying no to people. She wanted to sit with her friends. Fair enough and I would have happily swapped seats with her except that her seat was a middle seat and I can’t stand sitting in the middle! If this had been a short flight, I would have done it for her despite this, but we’re stuck on board for just over 12 hours. I was slightly annoyed by the guilt I felt turning her down. I had done my research and picked out this specific seat online for crying out loud! For future reference, I’ve provided links at the bottom of this post to a few websites that can help you pick out the best seats on whichever aircraft you’re flying on.

The guilt has now passed for the most part as her friends are annoying me. They have spent most of the flight talking really loudly while other people sleep, hogging the arm rests and literally clambering over me. Wish they’d go to sleep. I’ve had more than my share of inconsideration this week. Absolutely fed up with it. I need to work on saying what I want and not feeling guilty about doing so and saying ‘no’.

Think I’m going to try and wrangle a couple more hours of sleep in. I turn away from the annoying French ladies and wrap the blanket snugly around myself. The grumpy-looking old man sitting across the aisle from me is still staring at me as he has been doing at regular intervals throughout this flight. Even when I catch him out and look at him, he maintains his scowl and refuses to look away. It’s creeping me out. What is his problem?!? Aaargh! Peoples….

On a more positive note, I’m proud to say that the service is as wonderful and attentive as always. I know that my headrest will not fall off mid-flight, the stewards/stewardesses will not be indifferent and unfriendly and the food will not be disappointing… unlike with some other “world-class” airlines (not naming names here, mate). Plus, I feel safe flying Singapore Airlines and that means a lot. All-in-all, I liked the A380… I’m just going to pick a better seat next time.

I can’t wait to see my good friend, Y, and eat up a storm in Singapore! When we get together, we eat. Whilst we eat, we talk about food. It’s awesome. Excited! Mmmmmakan, makan, makan!

 

N

 

UPDATE 05/01/2010: I flew back to Zürich from Singapore on the A380 last night and this time I had chosen a seat on the upper deck. Here’s a tip: book your seat online as early as possible! Hell, book it right after you book your flight if you can. I ended up choosing an aisle seat in the middle (4-seater) section of the upper deck. Somehow it seems the space was much more generous than it had been downstairs and I slept comfortably. I did some research online and apparently some of the side seats (the trio of seats) in the rear section of the lower deck are actually more cramped than the rest of the economy seats. Aha! So it wasn’t just my imagination! I also discovered that right next to the earphone jack in the armrest is a 110V power plug! Sadly, I only realised this as I was getting off the plane, but it’s definitely good to know for next time.

 

For suggestions on what seats to pick, here are some helpful sites:

* Seat Expert

Seat Guru

airlinequality

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Misadventures in Laundry Land

December 2, 2010

I’m at a laundromat for the first time in my life and I’m here – surprise! – to do some laundry. I’ve done the laundry at home a million times before. It’s an activity so simple, it’s actually calming to perform. Before my sister went off to college, my mother (THE Queen of Clean) entrusted me (a big, big deal) with schooling my sister on the how-to’s and what-not-to-do’s of laundry. Clearly I am well-within the bounds of sanity to feel fully confident in my ability to get clothes clean.

I am so confident as I saunter through the double doors of the self-service laundromat that I’m barely fazed even after I realise there is no detergent and I hadn’t thought to bring any with me. I smile at the couple doing their laundry (surely not as well as I do mine) and stroll back out. As I return from the off-license (convenience store) down the road with a box of laundry powder tucked under my arm, I am sure that this is to be my only slip-up and so I proceed with arrogant abandon. This is, of course, my next mistake.

I examine the machines and decide which one I want; I am no ordinary laundry-washer! I am daughter of THE Queen of Clean. I find the most suitable machine, take note of the number and head over to the pay point. I ignore the instructions (because this is me and I know how to do laundry), I enter the machine number and the insert £5 worth of coins as it requests. Almost instantly my machine springs to life. I stare at it dumbfounded with my giant bag of laundry still wedged between my knees. Oh.

The machine, of course, refuses to stop or give me any sort of second chance. Feeling a tad exasperated and unwilling to glance at the couple who have managed to turn their machine on with their clothes inside it, I find another machine and decide to read the instructions this time.

1. Load machine (well, there you go).
2. Add soap.
3. Set temperature.
4. Remember number.
5. Go to pay point.
6. Follow the instructions (okay, smart-ass… I got it).

I place my clothes in the machine. I add the soap. I almost always wash my clothes at 30°C, but as they don’t have actual temperature indicators I decide to play it safe and go with a cold setting. Step 4, check. Step 5, check. Money in and we’re off.

I settle in on the bench facing my machine and pull out a magazine. Five minutes pass and I glance at my machine. Odd. There’s no foam, no glorious soapy lather. I can now feel the frustration building as I look at this stupid machine as it tosses my clothes around in it’s belly full of un-frothy water. I stare angrily at the machine and read the fine print which I’d obviously ignored (who reads fine print?).

“If using the cold wash option, make sure to place the soap in the pre-wash section of the soap drawer only”

What a joke. I’ve spent £10 and my clothes are still dirty. I fiddle with the dials and hopefully the machine is now going to finish sooner. Hopefully, as the machine gives no indication as to when it will be done mocking me. Twenty minutes pass, the machine has had it’s fun and we try again.

I plop myself back down on the bench. I’m no longer embarrassed or annoyed. Instead I’m feeling slightly pathetic and sad. Not even the suds that are thankfully sloshing about make me feel better. I feel even more sad as I realise that I’m having a little pity-party for one because of laundry and that that really is pathetic. Then I decide to let it go and get over it. It’s kinda funny actually and I find myself laughing to myself. The couple are just leaving with their laundry and probably think I’m a weirdo by now, so who cares. I spot the poster in the corner of the room offering a £100 reward to anyone who has info about the gang who are terrorising patrons of this laundromat and I’m not chuckling anymore. What a brilliant idea this trip wasn’t. Now I’m going to get mugged… although, odds are that by the time I’m done with the laundry, I probably won’t have any cash left on me anyway.

I realise by now that despite my respectable cleaning pedigree, I’m failing at this experience. I’ve been here for about an hour and a quarter already. It’s cold outside and the winter sky is dark and doing a great job at fuelling my imagination.

I approach the last hurdle: the dryer. I decide to toss everything in for 10 minutes to get started, then remove the more delicate items and give the remaining clothes a good 20 minutes extra. I can’t be bothered sitting here anymore and I don’t normally use the dryer anyway. I’m cold, tired and slightly less grumpy than I’m about to become as I get home only to find that my key won’t work and none of the flatmates are home. This is also a less grumpy version of the me of 15 minutes later who is standing in the apartment holding up a skirt that despite still being wet, the dryer has destroyed.

Bloody brilliant.

 

N

The Local Bikram Weirdo

November 24, 2010

Yesterday was my first ever Bikram class. I woke up this morning feeling sore all over and couldn’t figure out whether the pain was of the ‘this-is-what-happens-when-you’re-insanely-unfit-and-then-finally-exercise’ variety or if I was suffering because I had hurt my bad back and neck when I had pushed through the pain in an attempt to not look like a total weirdo in class yesterday. Seriously though, there’s not much of a point trying to listen to your body when you don’t understand a word of what it’s trying to tell you beyond, “AAaaargh! Pain!”.

I decided to ignore my body altogether and go for another class today. I figure if my body really wants me to understand, it can work on being a little more specific with me. So there I was feeling slightly smug at having made it to my second Bikram class in a row and for having pushed through the pain when I realised that for some idiotic reason I had planted myself smack bang in front of the heater. Not just any heater, but the one and only heater in class which meant that it was going like an oven working on overtime. Feeling rather embarrassed as the incredibly pregnant Bikram instructor pointed this out, I mumbled that no, I was fine where I was. As the minutes passed, I felt my eyeballs begin to dry out and I swore the skin of my face was starting to blister. Soon I was going to burst into a ball of Bikram-induced flames. Perhaps I’d be saved by the buckets of sweat pouring off the rest of my body as the fire from my head made its way south… if I was lucky.

I seemed to have regressed in the flexibility department in the 17.5 hours since my last class. I spent a considerable amount of time trying to not to fall out of Tree Poses and Standing Bow Pulling Poses and Awkward Poses… Awkward Pose? Are you kidding me? They’re all awkward poses! Gaarrrr. Whilst everyone seemed to be squatting elegantly on the point of a single toe whilst balancing the other foot behind their head (or something equally insane), I’m the girl just trying to balance on one leg while my hands struggle to hold my other foot up against my upper thigh.

I’ve just spent the last half an hour complaining about the experience. The thing is that I hate heat, so Bikram and I are already at odds from the get-go. Throw in the obligatory tight-fitting clothing, the copious amounts of sweating in an enclosed room, the tall, skinny pretzel-like women in class and it’s ‘hello and welcome to yoga-hell’. If I can push through the embarrassment and the self-consciousness, though… if I can stick this out, then it should get easier and I should start enjoying the benefits. For now, I’m happy to have finally tried Bikram and I’m looking forward to not playing the part of the local Bikram weirdo.

 

N

All Aboard!

November 8, 2010

The Gravy Train? Forget about it. Seriously. A couple nights ago I had dinner on the FondueTram. Now tell me that isn’t way cooler.

I had found out about this magnificent concept purely by coincidence. I like to call it serendipity. There I was having drinks with L and some friends at this bar in Zurich when I saw this tram full of people eating sushi coast past us. I was bedazzled by the sight. Sushi. On a tram. Oh yes!

Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. I had stumbled across this modern-day miracle a little too late; the SushiTram had run its last laps and that was that. I was rather sad for a moment until further down the tram website page I spotted an advert for the FondueTram. ‘Coming soon!’ it promised. Hoorah!

L and I are both cheese lovers and disgracefully unfamiliar with Zurich, so I sent out an email to these wondrous people and made a reservation for us. I had decided to keep it a surprise for L, but as we approached the FondueTram I’m honestly not too sure who was more excited.


After taking our coats, we were shown to our table and served a welcome drink of Apfelmoscht (apple wine). A short welcome speech was given in both German and English and then we were off.

Dinner began with a Bündnerteller (a variety of air-dried meats with a coleslaw-style salad) as appetiser. A quick pitstop was then made in front of a restaurant so that a huge pot of fondue cheese could be brought into the tram’s kitchen. Oh yes! One by one, each table received a glorious, molten-cheese-filled fondue pot and a basket of bread. Sensing its imminent arrival, we geared up in anticipation; both of us with fondue fork in hand, poised and ready for action. As we mmmm-ed and aaaah-ed (silently, of course), a waitress came around offering schnapps (it aids digestion… seriously) and some additional flavourings: ground paprika, grated nutmeg and garlic. Delicious.

With the burner keeping the cheese hot, we worked our way to the bottom of the pot. I had told L as a precautionary measure to arrive for his surprise dinner with an empty stomach. Even with our strategically empty bellies, our greedy eyes and our considerable eating abilities (which are nothing to scoff at, let me tell you), we knew we wouldn’t make it through a second pot.

A dessert plate of pineapple wedges, blueberries, chiffonaded mint and candied nuts arrived next. It was an appropriately light ending to an incredibly heavy meal, but after gorging ourselves on all that wonderful cheese, it was just too much.

In the two hours we spent aboard the FondueTram we had made several rounds of the city, each time in a slightly different direction. Zurich at night is a beautiful sight to behold; the golden lights reflected in the lake, the silhouette of old buildings like the Fraumünster and the Romanesque-style Grossmünster happily coexisting amongst more modern architecture.

Was it the best fondue I’ve ever had? No, and it wasn’t cheap either. We did thoroughly enjoy ourselves though and I think it was certainly worth the experience.

 

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THE FONDUETRAM

Telephonic Numerals 0848 988 988 (6am – 10pm daily)

Email info@vbz.ch or contact them via this form

Location the meeting point is the Bellevue tram stop in Zurich.

Fondue Dates November/February: Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; December: every day except Tuesday. January: Wednesdays to Saturdays.

Important: There won’t be any scheduled service on the following dates: December 24th – 26th, December 31st and January 1st. Also, there will only be the second seating on December 12th (due to Silvesterlauf race activities).

Times there are two 2-hour seatings. On Sundays, they are at 4:30pm and 7:15pm. Otherwise, they are at 5:30pm and 8:15pm.

Cost SFR89 (which covers the tram ride, a welcome drink, appetiser, fondue à discretion, coffee and dessert). Not included: any additional drinks (the schnapps/kirsch wasn’t included; that was an extra SFR6-7 each).

Website in English; in Deutsch

And? they accept all major credit cards. Make sure to arrive with plenty of space in your belly!

 

N

Dragging my feet around Berlin; Swimming in a Barge and Other Stories

August 13, 2010

I decided this morning that I wouldn’t stay curled up in bed feeling sorry for myself. Instead I was going to drag my sad self around Berlin… whilst feeling sorry for myself.

There were a number of places that I had wanted to visit during my last stay in Berlin that, due to a variety of circumstances (winter, renovations, etc), I couldn’t. One of those places was the Badeschiff (literally: swim-boat). Badeschiff is so named as its star attraction is an old barge that has been repurposed as a pool and now sits permanently on the river Spree. I had mentioned to a friend yesterday that I had really wanted to go for a swim and check out the Badeschiff. Seeing as how I’m in a rather desolate mood, he knew I probably wouldn’t go and thus made me promise to email him a photo of myself there as evidence that I had been. Bugger, I thought, there’s no way of getting out of this one without breaking my promise.

And so despite the lousy weather and my solitary standing, off I went.

Badeschiff is much more than just a pool floating on a river (as if that weren’t enough). Walk past the two large, stacked containers that moonlight as toilets and suddenly you are standing on a sandy deck with a giant deck chair and a queen-sized bed to your left and a beach-style bar to your right. To the right of the bar, the theme continues with more beds, a giant cushioned swing chair and more assorted seating on lowered platforms and on a ‘rooftop’ balcony. Ahead lie two tiered wooden decks littered with hammocks, deck chairs and giant deck chairs for you to settle into. It’s at the end of the second platform that one can climb a few steps and find oneself swimming laps in (or merely reclining on the ends of) the Badeschiff. Nice.

I lay back in a deckchair whilst eyeing the giant deckchair directly ahead of me. It was occupied, unfortunately, but I had decided that the second it was released from the clutches of the two prepubescents who had claimed it as theirs, it was going to be mine. My iphone’s battery had run flat after about an hour of listening to music and deck-chair stalking, so I decided to go for a dip.

Holy mother of all that is good, it was cold, cold, cold! Even the water from mandatory showers was cold. It took a good few laps to defrost sufficiently.

On that note, here’s a tip for you: if you’re from Australia, South East Asia, Africa or anywhere where you can actually claim to know what ‘hot weather’ is, do not believe Europeans when they say how lovely and warm the water is… what the average European calls ‘warm water’ is as warm as an English pint is cold… in other words, it ain’t.

At the ends of the pool are shallow ledges that are about 2.5 metres in length; long enough for even the tallest German to stretch out and relax his/her legs. From the far end of the Badeschiff one can lean back and take in a view of the city with the omnipresent Berlin landmark, the TV tower, peeking out across the skyline.

I’ve read reviews of the Badeschiff with people claiming that swimsuits are prohibited, that the Badeschiff is the dominion of hipsters, but I found neither to be true. There was not a bare bottom in sight nor were there any wayfarer-toting, tight-jean-ensconced bodies. Perhaps there is a more ‘hip’ crowd on the weekends, but during the week the Badeschiff is rather tame and laid back with families, couples and adults of various ages. Nights are more adults-only with djs spinning live sessions several times a week. Friday mornings offer a chance to partake in a yoga class on the decks.

Come winter, the Badeschiff scene is bedecked by a cool, futuristic, tube-like covering… and more importantly, it’s heated. Sigh!

Do check it out. It’s worth at least a visit or two.

 

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IMPORTANT INFORMATION:

Entry cost: €4

Students/Children up to the age of 14: €3 and €1.50 respectively

Bar: beers start at €4. Their drinks aren’t the cheapest, but I love that the bar’s there nonetheless… especially as they don’t allow you to bring in any food or drinks. I was told they serve food as well.

Address: Arena Berlin, Eichenstrasse 4; nearest UBahn station is Schlesisches Tor (U1).

Telephone: 030 533 20 30

Website: click here (btw, it’s in German)

Other: they have towels and lockers available to rent for a couple of Euros. In order to rent one you need to leave behind either ID or a small cash deposit. If you want both a locker and a towel, they’ll be wanting two ID’s or a second deposit.

 

* opening hours and entry fees are differ in summer and in winter, so make sure to check them out on the website (see above). Also, be sure to check out the cool riverside bars right next door.

** this information was correct at time of printing: August 4th, 2010.

 

N

Das Leben Ganz Allein

August 11, 2010

I’m back in Berlin; something I was really looking forward to as I had spent most of my last stay here “alone”. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, I’m “alone” here again. Perhaps I should, at my age, be better at being alone, but the fact is that I suck at it. Places and experiences are best shared in my opinion. I’m trying to be positive; trying to be thankful for the fact that I am in Berlin and for the fact that I get to travel. It’s a terribly conflicting position to be in when you’re telling yourself to stop being an ungrateful cow and yet you can’t help feeling lonely, alone and miserable. Doesn’t make for a great sightseeing/exploring mindset let me tell you. Truth be told, I’d like to be curled up in bed feeling sorry for myself. Instead I’m sitting on a deck chair with sand under my feet, a Corona in hand and the river Spree in front of me. You see my point? How can I not help feeling a little guilty?


N

Wise Words from Uncle Hans

August 8, 2010

“La vie est dur sans confiture”

Life is hard without jam