No, a few hours on a French plane didn’t hone my French skills. As everyone knows Babelfish is the friend of anyone who wants to sound smarter than he is.
In fact, after putting this phrase (which was originally “Welcome to Newcastle”) back into Babelfish, I ended up with “Welcome towards Newcastle,” which is perhaps fitting, given that this post is about getting to Newcastle, not Newcastle itself (that will hopefully follow immediately).
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The last you heard of our intrepid explorers, they were safely stowed on an Air France plane from Singapore to Paris.
This was a great flight. It was on board an Air France 777-300, possibly one of the newest planes that are currently flying. I’m a big fan of these planes. They have smaller capacity than a 747 but similar wing-span and seemingly great performance. The flight was comfortable, sleep was good and the food was absolutely wonderful.
We arrived in Paris at about 7am and proceeded to our gate for our connecting flight to Manchester. Unfortunately, we had to go through a security checkpoint, and even at this time, the queue was massive.
Like fellow passengers, we had been hoping to do some shopping (and try out another lounge) during this time. However we spent the time waiting in a queue for our bags to be searched again. I guess I shouldn’t be so negative, better safe than in an international incident.
Our flight to Manchester was only about an hour and a half long, and was on a small Airbus plane. It wasn’t really at all noteworthy.
We arrived in Manchester pretty tired. It was still early on Monday morning (26th February) but back in New Zealand people were finishing off the day and ready to go to sleep.
We couldn’t really complain though, as flying business class had allowed us far more sleep than the average kiwi arrival.
The challenge of the morning however, was to pick up the rental car (a manual), get out of the airport and find our hotel. We managed to do it with surprisingly little drama.
Again we were able to check in early to our hotel and after showering and changing, we headed over to Old Trafford that was (not by accident) next door.
We’re not really Manchester United fans, but it’s hard for anyone in the world these days to not have seen anything or know anything about the club. So I found it very interesting, and I think Megan enjoyed it as well.
Our arrival in the UK was a watershed point in more ways than one. One of the ways was that it is when we stopped spending money like tourists, and started spending money like penny-pinching (kiwi) locals. So, rather than spending NZ$40 on lunch at the Old Trafford cafe, we headed down to the local mini-supermarket (Tesco’s) and bought some sandwiches, salad, milk and cereal. We intended to get some room service fries to have with our sandwiches at dinner, but given Megan was already asleep (she woke briefly to eat) and I was not far away, we had lunch and dinner of sandwiches.
Btw, I spent the afternoon watching sport on tv (just like I would at home) and Megan slept.
After a good night’s sleep (for at least half of us) we jumped in the car and left on our way to Newcastle.
Megan did a great job navigating, and I did a great job driving. The only problem I had was that I had no idea what the motorway speed limit was. There was seriously no signs anywhere except the reduced speed at roadworks. Come on people, do you WANT to give me a ticket? The impression I had on this was that there was a huge disparity in speeds.
In New Zealand you go on any open road or motorway and pretty much everyone will be driving at 110 kph (the limit is 100 but everyone knows that the cops give you a 10 kph grace area). However here there will be a van going 70 kph in the left lane, cars going 120 kph in the middle lane and other cars flying past regularly at ~140-150.
Anyway, eventually we got to Newcastle, were greeted by the Angel of The North.
Our first act of being in Newcastle was to drop the rental car off at the airport and make our way to our serviced apartment. This ended up being a bit difficult, but we got there in the end and were safely entrenched in our very nice comfortable apartment. In fact, while I’m on that note, if you’re looking for a serviced apartment in Newcastle, go no further than Properties Unique.
It was a pretty exciting evening. For the first time, we ventured out on foot to explore a British city. I think we probably had the same feelings that a kiwi has when arriving in London. Everything was old. There were massive, ancient churches every few metres and all the restaurant prices, once converted, were very steep. Oh yeah, and it was cold. Like “Waiouru in winter” was Megan’s comment.
We ended up eating in a smoke-filled bar where we got two meals for the price of one. The smoke was a shock to us after being in smoke-free NZ, however it turns out that from July, the UK is bringing in the same laws, so that’s pretty sweet.
So, now we’re in Newcastle. Since then we’ve settled in and are trying to make our meagre pence stretch as far as we can.
Stand by for the next post on my work, our living situation, and whatever else I can think of.