Wednesday, April 09, 2008

We're in Melbourne

We had quite a quiet day on Monday. Nice late start. Pleasantly lazy.

Then we went to the local mall to have a look at laptops and mobile phone covers. Nothing particularly appealed. We went for lunch. I dragged Austin into a place he hasn’t eaten in before because I wanted NOODLES. I like noodles! Then we looked at lots of shoe shops and food shops and gift shops. We bought Austin a lion. Every home needs a kitty! It was interesting in the supermarket. It’s a long time since I’ve been in a food shop where I had absolutely no idea what most of it was, or what you would do with it. At the ¥105 shop we bought some stuff to take home, and a bowl for Austin’s kitchen. And another couple of dinner plates.

It fascinates me that, after you have bought something, the shop keepers go into a spiel which is clearly along the lines of “Thank you for coming into my shop and buying this object and giving me your money”. Then they stop, smile and bow. At which point I say “Arigatou” – and they beam at me and burst into a further torrent of chatter. But why? Where’s the point? They can surely tell that I don’t speak Japanese. I have NO idea what they’re saying.

In the course of the day, I had asked Austin what he fancied for dinner, if I cooked. He had mulled over this question and decided that what he would really have liked, except that alas it was not possible, would be steak, chips and vegetables. I can’t see why it’s not possible. Why isn’t it possible? They have potatoes, don’t they? And steak. Not to mention vegetables. Ah – but not ready made chips. No worries. I shall make chips. Austin seemed to be absolutely appalled. I think he was worried that I would burn down the entire apartment block. I didn’t. I did make the chips though. And very nice they were too. We bought a tin of demi-glace something or another other that looked a bit like gravy on the tin. I was a bit worried when I opened it. It looked remarkably like ox tail soup. It smelled like ox tail soup. I tasted it – it tasted like ox tail soup. Oh well, Better than nothing. Actually, when it had cooked up, it thickened and tasted quite nicely with our chips, Japanese style steak strips and vegetables. But next time I shall buy two packets of steak.

I tried to check in for tomorrow’s flight this evening. It won’t let me. I tried, and tried, and tried and tried. It wouldn’t let me. Austin eventually grabbed the mac back from me. He wanted to play on the Jetstar website, dreaming of cheap fares to Melbourne. Eventually, I gave up and went to bed. If I can’t check in tomorrow, we will just have to check in the old fashion way, when we get to Narita.

And it wouldn’t let me check in online on Tuesday morning. Austin took us to the Post Office and then to the station. Then he went off to school to prepare lesson plans for the coming term which starts tomorrow, and we handed ourselves over to the public transport system.

It worked all right at Austin’s local station, where we bought tickets to Nagoya successfully, and even managed to get on the right train. We managed to get off at the right station. It all went downhill after that …

We found the ticket machines for the shinkansen. I bought two tickets to Tokyo. At least, that’s what I thought I was doing. But it only cost half what it had cost to get from Tokyo to Nagoya. I was puzzled. I took the tickets over to the staffed counter. The man spoke to me. Lots :-( Hew took my tickets from Austin’s station and my tickets to Tokyo and my credit card and did lots of things (while speaking quickly in Japanese at the same time)then he handed me two credit card receipts, two more tickets plus the tickets to Tokyo that I already had. On reflection, I think that I might have just bought the seat reservations and not actual train tickets.

On our way to Tokyo, we saw Mount Fuji. It was covered in snow and was wearing a cloud bonnet which was draped dramatically around its summit. It was an amazing sight. Even the Japanese were taking photos on their camera phones.

So. We’ve got to Tokyo. We have found the platform for the train to the airport. What I can’t find anywhere is ticket machines. I leave The Builder guarding the bags and go a-hunting. I see signs to ticket machines, but no actual machines themselves. I do, however, find a ticket counter. But I need both our tickets from Nagoya to Tokyo (I presume since we are still on the other side of the barrier they want to check that we had bought some sort of tickets in the first place). Alas, although I have mine with me, The Builder has his with him. Two levels below. Down I trot. Back I trot. Tickets are acquired. We are off to the airport. In the meantime, I bought The Builder a sandwich to keep him going. Bravely, I bought me another of those seaweed covered rice triangles that Austin and I had in Nagoya on Saturday. I was being brave because I had NO idea what would be inside it. I still don’t, beyond the fact that it was chicken in some sort of sauce. It was very nice.

So we were at the airport in plenty of time for checking in. And airside with plenty of time to browse laptops in the duty free shops. Except there are almost no duty free shops and only three laptops, none of which are suitable. You can buy rice cookers aplenty, although why you would want to just as you are about to fly overseas is a mystery to me. There wasn’t even much in the way of food choices. We went into one place and had something to eat and a couple of glasses of wine, then into the internet cafĂ© (free!) and then it was time, suddenly to go to the boarding gate. And here we are, off to Melbourne.

I don’t reckon that QANTAS food is as good as BA’s. But they have lots of things to watch on the telly.

The worry was that we had to go through both Immigration and Customs in Sydney. That meant that we had to collect our luggage in Sydney. Not really a problem, except that we have a short turn around time for the next flight. We were amongst the first of the plane and rapidly through Immigration (Enlivened by me, when filling in The Builder’s immigration form, attesting that he had TB and a string of criminal convictions!). Our blue bag appeared in very good time. We waited. We waited. We waited and waited and waited. Oddly enough, everyone else appeared still to be waiting. It was very strange. Bags were circling merrily and no more were appearing – and no people were leaving . Then an announcement: Passengers from Flight QF Wotsit from Los Angeles. Your bags will be sent to carousel 8. Oh joy. TWO lots of bags on one carousel. We’re never going to get that flight. Then another announcement. Sorry folks who came in on QF22 from Tokyo. That was us – bugger; they’ve lost all the rest of the bags. Oh no. Phew. It’s all right. The rest of our bags have gone to carousel 11. The Builder legged it up to there and pulled the red bag off. It seems most of the luggage from our plane had been cheerfully circling for some time and nobody, oddly enough, had been collecting them. It seems the baggage handlers in the cellar had got confused.

Anyway. RUSHHHHHHHHHH. Puff puff. Hurry, hurry. And we got to the gate with 8 minutes to spare. And then the plane’s departure was delayed. Several people who had been in the queue behind us had been moved back to the next flight – I think they probably left at about the same time we did.

So eventually we did make it to Melbourne and more or less on time. Lindsey met us and took us back to their city flat. Has stunning view over the city. Then we went and inspected Simon’s flat in the next block. Nobody told me about the three heated, under cover swimming pools. I’d have brought m’togs if they had! Everyone (Lindsey, Ian, Simon, The Builder and I) headed off in the sunshine for lunch and then we hit the David Jones food hall, inspected the Macs in the computer section, bought chocolate, hit several other shops, and checked out the mac shop. I am now the proud possessor of a new Mac Book – it’s the cheapest model available so it doesn’t have a humungous memory capacity. But it should do for me for the time being. I’m not using it at the moment, though. Lindsey and Ian don’t have wireless in the flat, so I’m using Lindsey’s laptop which seems to have its own internet connection. The poorly laptop is still in Nagoya. I think I will try and get it a new screen when we get home, then The Builder can have a machine all of his own.

Lindsey is proposing to take The Builder to the footie on Friday evening :-S

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