Sunday, 1 May 2016

Index Page

I blogged a lot of entries during this trip, here are is a useful index

Chronological list of entires by day

Before we left Australia. Blog decision, one week to go, Flight plan, Countdown.
Day 0. On the plane, Emirates Pic, 8 hours in Bangkok, Finland, Facebook, Business Class, Lazy, Great Views, Afghanistan, FastHomeless in Rome !
Day 1. Summay, Parking, History, Mcdonalds, Subway, Twisties, Pedestrians.
Day 2. Summary, Security, Electricity, Mobile Phones.
Day 3. Summary, SPQR, Rainbow.
Day 4. Pompeii, Pickpockets.
Day 5. Coffee Report, Free day in Rome. Dinner.
Day 6. Coffee Report, Easter Bunny, Hadrian's Villa, Dinner.
Day 7. Coffee Report, Relocation to Florence.
Day 8. Coffee Report, Uffizi and Ponte Vecchio.
Day 9. Coffee Report, Looking around Florence.
Day 10. Coffee Report, Special Coffee Report, Siena, San Gim & Pisa.
Day 11. Coffee Report, Bike Tour & Cooking Tour.
Day 12. Coffee Report, Relocation to Venice.
Day 13. Coffee Report, Murano & Burano.
Day 14. Coffee Report, Mid Day Coffee Report, Scott leaves Venice.
Day 15. Coffee Report, Scott's trip to Paris.
Day 16. Coffee Report, Paris and the cat.
Day 17. Coffee Report, Eiffel Tower and Montparnasse tower.
Day 18. Coffee Report, The Louvre.
Day 19. Coffee Report, Versailles.
Day 20. Coffee Report and Bike Tour of Paris.
Day 21. Coffee Report, Boat Tour, Bookshop.
Day 22. Coffee Report, Relocating to London.
Day 23. Coffee Report, Tower of London, London Eye, Curry.
Day 24. Coffee Report, Hop on Hop off bus.
Day 25. Coffee Report, Greenwich.
Day 26. Coffee Report, Harry Potter Studio Tour.
Day 27. Coffee Report, British Museum.
Day 28. Coffee Report, Stonehenge & Bath.
Day 29. Coffee Report, Churchill war rooms & Cat Cafe.
Day 30. Coffee Report, Flight from London to Rome.
Day 31. Coffee Report, Flight to Finland.
Day 32. Coffee Report, Flight to Thailand.
Day 33. Coffee Report, Markets and Shopping.
Day 34. Coffee Report, Flight Home.
Day 35. Update on the apartment situation from day 0.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Update on our first night in Rome when we were homeless

Our original apartment in Rome was the Basilica S.Maria Maggiore View, also seen around the web as Alice's House Santa Maria Maggiore.

I'm writing this as both an update on what happened to us and a warning to anyone else who stumbles on this post from a search engine. This is a great looking apartment and gets good reviews on, but the exact apartment can't be found on trip advisor. Looking around in trip advisor however, it is in the same apartment block as "Alice's House" which gets shocking reviews in Trip Advisor, and after searching around, the following appears start appear on various pages, so it would appear the two apartments are somewhat related, possibly managed by the same group.

So in summary, this is what happened to us :-

  1. Booked this apartment through in September 2015 for a stay in March 2016
  2. Got confirmation emails that guaranteed the booking.
  3. I was asked by Marco (the apartment manager) via email if I wanted a transfer from the Airport, which I accepted for a cost of €70 
  4. I last contacted Marco in Feb 2015 regarding a later checkin as we would be arriving close to 8pm, which Marco accepted as OK.
  5. We flew to Rome from Australia.
  6. The transfer car picked us up, dropped us at the apartment and said someone would be there in 5 minutes to check us in.
  7. No one showed up so after 30min waiting, so I called Marco, No one answered the phone or any other contact number they had given me.
  8. I called and after an eternity on hold, I spoke to someone. They couldn't get onto the owner either and started looking for an alternative apartment for me
  9. It was now past 9pm Rome time, and I had a very tired family. I found a close hotel that had one room that could fit in 3 people. I booked in Sue, Sharon & Emma whilst Paul and I sorted this accomodation debacle. It turned out to be an awesome hotel. I'd use it again anytime.
  10. found something, so we scooted to the other side of Rome to look at it. It was great, so we took it.
  11. Moved everyone into the new apartment the next day
  12. Started the claim process for the cost of the additional hotel against and a few terse emails to Marco to try to find out what the hell happened to our booking.
  13. It would seem that the apartment was closed by the police for some reason, but I never found out exactly why. Given the reviews of the other apartments in the same block with trip advisor, I'm not really surprised.
  14. We enjoyed the rest of our holiday in a awesome apartment that found for 
  15. refunded the cost of the hotel we had to book on the first night, plus a few extra euro for the inconvenience which covered the extra cab fare in Rome.
The manager claims he told about the closure a few days earlier, but deny this. Personally I tend to believe in this instance, as the airport pickup Marco booked for us still showed up and took us to the original apartment. Marco showed an absolute zero duty of care to us in this instance. Even if he did tell, he should have told me via email or phone since he had all my details and I'd already communicated with him on multiple occasions.


I guess the fact the owner wanted cash on check-in should have thrown up red flags immediately, but it had such a great rating on I over looked this. The manager says this was all an honest mistake and that he had informed, however they new nothing about it, and I would have thought he would have contacted me since I'd also had a transfer car arranged by him that still picked us up. It was also dodgy that he didn't answer any calls the night we arrived in Rome, yet responded to my email once I'd been settled into accomodation elsewhere.

So if you are looking at this apartment, book it at your own risk. As an alternative I'd suggest booking this apartment group instead. We got a far better apartment in a much nicer and quieter spot in Rome for the same price. (Click the link to see it)

Monday, 25 April 2016

Flight and Home

Yesterday was our flight home, and just like the coffee report I'd planned to complete this on the plane, but lack of internet on the Emirates flight home put pains to that.

We slept in a bit today as our flight isn't until 7.50pm and we have a 1pm checkout, so no worries at all about time. We got up and had the included breakfast at about 9.30am. Seemed everyone in the hotel had the same idea as we had to wait a few minutes for the table. After brekkie we came back up to pack, which was pretty easy as we hadn't really unpacked much since we were only in Thailand for 2 days and we had bought an extra case to cater for any new additions and spread the load a little better on what we had (I was really struggling with the amount of stuff that had overflowed into hand luggage)

Once done we checked out, put our luggage in storage and headed back towards the MBK centre for a look around and a coffee. Sharon and Emma bought a few last minute things and we had a coffee at Starbucks. I'd been trying to avoid the place, but they had spare seats. It didn't seem we were out all that long and it was 2pm and time to head back. When we got to "Asok" station we called the hotel to to send the Tuk Tuk death machine to pick us up. Whilst waiting for that we saw that a taxi had hit a fruit dink vendor and knocked all his stuff onto the road. Thankfully he didn't seem to be hurt but his fruit was not looking good. The western passenger in the taxi was giving him some cash to compensate for his lost earnings for the day. Not sure what the protocol would be in this situation but it was the decent thing to do.

At about 2.45 the transport Emirates had sent to pick us up arrived, a nice large Merc saloon and a van for the luggage. Sue and I travelled in the van (still comfortable with leather seats) to the airport. Being Sunday afternoon, the traffic was low and we were at the airport in about 30 minutes. Emirates had their check in open early, so we got to spend about 4 hrs in the lounge. Very nice with lots of food and drink options, plus we all had showers before getting on the flight. The lounge was pretty much empty when we arrived but was filling quickly by 6pm. 

We still had about 1,000 Baht left over (about $35), so Sharon, Emma and Sue went out on a mission to spend it, a mission they accomplished quite easily ! The flight was called early at 7pm, and by the time we made it to the gate they were starting to make last calls. The plane was nice (its business class, so they are pretty much all nice), heaps of legroom, big screens etc. I was quite disappointed the internet service was down, and also my power socket wasn't working, so web surfing or personal device use was out of the question. There were also issues with the inflight system, it rebooted on me a few times overnight. I really thought Finnair was nicer overall, better service on the flight, better food and inflight entertainment/internet that worked. I didn't even try to sleep on the flight, just watched a couple of movies. 

Got into Sydney, though customs quickly and the Emirates cars were waiting to take us home. They will allocate one car per person, but thats total overkill, so we had the minimum they would allow, which was 3 cars! Once home we started unpacking and soon became obvious why we needed two extra suitcases.

On the flight, cheers !

The MBK centre

Emma finally having Starbucks, she has wanted to try it for ages

Emma with some of her last minute purchases as MBK

Between the 5 of us, 9 bags checked, 162.85kg. (thats a lot of trinkets!)

Emirates lounge at Bangkok airport.

Sampling one of the brews at the lounge

Sharon, Emma and Sue complete the last minute shopping mission with flying colours.

Bangkok airport, looking for the lounge

One the plane

Its a 777-300. I like 777's but this one is showing its age a little.

oh no, how will I survive for 9 hours ?

No issue with leg room......

Coffee for breakfast, somewhere over central Australia

One of the reboots.

OMG, we brought home a lot of stuff

Just the keyring collection...

Was the cat happy to see us ? Meh.

Final coffee report for the Holiday

I was going to publish this one last night once we got on the plane, but the Emirates satellite internet connectivity wasn't working, so I had 9 hours without internet. Oh the horrors.

Breakfast was included in our room rate for the second day, so it was another automated coffee from the machine in the hotel, however the machine I used yesterday was out of service and I used the other one. That explains why yesterday mornings one was horrible. Today's was fine for machine made.

After packing and before being picked up to go to the airport, we went down to the MBK Centre to do some last minute trinket shopping. The Centre was packed and the only cafe with room for 5 was Starbucks (Doh!) so had to have my ice coffee there. Thankfully their iced stuff is better tasting than their hot coffee.

We got picked up, checked into the Emirates lounge at the airport (it's a fantastic lounge). They have a coffee machine, so I tried it out. Not bad, better than my morning brew.

Coffee Machine in the Lounge

Lounge Coffee

Cold starbucks

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Coffee and Tuk Tuk Death Machines

There was a automated coffee machine at breakfast (breakfast was included in our room rate) so I thought I'd give this machine ago. Unfortunately the coffee was so weak it was basically just drinking frothed warm milk, so I tipped two straight shots of espresso into it was it was then drinkable.

After breakfast week took another ride in a Tuk Tuk death machine up to the local train station, I managed to snap this pic of us in the Tuk Tuk using a traffic mirror and just after taking this he accelerated off around the corner and I nearly fell out. It would seem there are three levels of taxis here, normal taxis (i.e. a car), tuk tuks, the taxi motorcycles where you just sit on the back of a motorcycle. Won't be trying that out.

After a hot and sticky day checking out the Chatuchak markets we passed a cafe on the way back to the hotel, so stopped in for an ice coffee. Later this evening after a walk back from the station after dinner I finished the night with a cold canned coffee I'd bought yesterday.

Tuk Tuk Selfie.

Weak coffee at Breakfast

Delicious iced coffee in Hipster Jam Jar cup

A$10 for 2 drinks

Cold coffee in a can at night.

Bangkok Markets and Shopping

On our last full day of holidays, we decided to go out to the Chatuchak markets, which were only about 8km from our hotel, which was just a 2
Minute ride in a Tuk Tuk death machine the a few stations on the BTS skytrain. It's a very cheap system, 5 one way tickets is about $4.50

Emma was still really tired from the jet lag so she stayed at the hotel with Paul, had room service for lunch and had a nice quiet day. Sue, Sharon and I headed up to the markets, and they truly are massive, biggest ever that I've seen. Mostly undercover but not air conditioned so it was quite hot and sticky. I needed yet another case but didn't get one here as they were crappy quality and not super cheap anyway. Unfortunately somewhere along the way Sue lost her sunnies. 

We bought a few things, mostly for Emma, had a few cold drinks and headed back to the hotel. After picking up Emma and Paul we went to the MBK shopping center where I found a great suitcase at Tokyu department store, Sharon and Emma bought some clothes and stuff. We then had dinner in the international food hall.

Interesting concept, they give you a smart card, you make selections and swipe the card, go to a table, someone takes the receipt and gets your food for you. When leaving the food court you pay what is on the card. Dinner for the three of us was less than A$40, including alcohol.

Us on a Tuk Tuk 

Our Tuk Tuk death machine

Entrance to the market and park

The markets 

Emma with some of the loot we got her


The food court

Some traffic lights have a count down to indicate when they will go green or red

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Switching Continents - Hello Asia !

We added 2 nights to the journey home to break it up a little and see a tiny bit of Thailand. We booked a three bedroom apartment at the Somerset Lake Point in Bangkok. Our flight arrived on time, we went through customs / immigration super quick and were thinking about how to get to the apartment as we had no transport pre booked. Was very very humid as you would expect Thailand to be, the pool at the hotel is sounding better by the minute.

We noticed a "Luxury" taxi transfer desk, so asked about that. Transfer for the 5 of us plus our luggage worked out at about AUD$40, plus a few dollars in tips for all the people who loaded on our luggage. Took about an hour to get there, no hassles at all. Didn't get hassled by any dodgy people here either like we did in Italy or Paris. Converted the last of our pounds and euro cash monies on hand into Bhat and off we went.

After checking in to the Apartment / Hotel, we had a bit of a rest. The apartment is massive, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, washer/dryer etc. Its a little dated but clean and comfortable with an excellent pool. The room was a great bargain (especially compared to Europe), two nights including breakfast for about A$450

After a rest we took the hotels tuk tuk death machine up to the Asok station, then got off at Siam and checked out the "Paragon" shopping mall, where we grabbed some lunch, then did a bit of looking around. This was a very up market mall, they had shops selling BMW, Bentley, Lamborghini etc.

After a bit of shopping we came back to Asok, did some more shopping in the Station 21 shopping mall then came back and went to the Thai restaurant in the hotel for dinner.  

View from our apartment in the hotel

Emma bought a bag at H&M

My morning breakfast on the plane

In our transfer van on way to the hotel.

Seat belt laws more relaxed here. Just before I took this pick we were doing 120KPH on the motorway.

Apartment has 4 aircon units

The hotel

Shopping. I'll take 3 please.

About the only thing I could probably afford and its still A$3000

Wiring mess everywhere

Earthed sockets, earthed plugs but they don't 100% match. Zero safety

I prefer to dispose of it......

Metro station

Pineapple juice. Delicious

Curries, curries and more curries.

BBQ chicken.