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A Year In The Skies

All of the routes operated since joining the airline at the beginning of 2017 (click for full size).

I must admit, my blog has been neglected for a little while. Nine months, in fact. It has been a while since the last update from me so here is another. I can’t use “being busy” as an excuse because I’m really not. I am still travelling the world, visiting lots of new and exciting destinations, but with plenty of downtime after every trip.

I continue to enjoy work, which, honestly, still doesn’t feel like work. For a start, I look forward to going to work. I enjoy the daily interactions with our customers, meeting new crew and I look forward to getting to some enjoy time in various cities around the country, the continent and the world!

I work on a fleet that operates both long and short haul flights and with the Airbus A320 family, the enormous A380, the Boeing 777 and the Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliner’ under my belt, I really can find myself travelling anywhere in the world. It can be a 35-minute ‘up and down’ flight to Manchester or a trip to Sydney (via Singapore), which fills nine days on the roster.

In this post, I will talk about just some of the cities around the world that I have visited and loved. Over time, I will continue to add to the post.

Toronto, Canada

The Toronto skyline – including the CN Tower – seen from the Toronto Islands.

Of the three Canadian cities visited so far (the others being Calgary and Vancouver), Toronto is my favourite. It’s a hugely diverse city, there’s plenty to see and do, and I think that money here goes further than it does in the neighbouring United States. In no time at all, you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city and be on a beach or in the woods, feeling like you are a million miles from anywhere.

The most famous attraction of Toronto has to be it’s CN Tower. It’s pretty tall – at 553 metres – but it’s a must-see for anybody visiting the city for the first time. On a clear day, the views stretch for miles, over the city and the nearby Toronto Islands. For the braver visitors, there’s a glass floor, which allows views all the way to the ground. For the even braver visitors, there’s the EdgeWalk.

A visit to the CN Tower is a must. The views from the top, on a clear day, are impressive, but it’s just as impressive from the ground.

I have visited the CN Tower twice now. After a 10% airline discount offered by the attraction, admission is around £21.00. In my opinion, the admission price is a little steep, especially considering that you won’t need to spend any more than an hour at the tower. At the moment, because of ongoing construction work, not all areas of the tower are accessible, including the side of the observation deck that looks towards the setting sun. If planning a visit, I would recommend keeping an eye on the improvement works and plan to visit once they are complete.

Toronto is also ideally situated for Niagara Falls. I have visited the Falls once and the experience is up there as one of the most amazing sights of the past 12-13 months. It took around two hours to reach the Falls from Toronto using the Megabus (around £25.00 return at the last minute) and then a 5-minute taxi ride from the bus station. Many of the optional excursions here e.g. boat tours, are seasonal, so bear that in mind if you want to do more than just look at a waterfall.

Niagara Falls, whilst not on the doorstep of Toronto, is easily accessible using public transport.

For eating and shopping, Toronto has it all. The Eaton Centre offers lots of big name shops – including plenty of the very familiar American stores. For eating out, I am pretty hooked on the chain pizza takeaway – Pizza Pizza – which offers an enormous pizza for around £6.50. Similarly, Tim Horton’s is a must for a snack and a coffee on the go. I paid around £2.20 for an Americano and a maple glazed doughnut, which was absolutely out of this world. Tim Horton’s are absolutely everywhere and they offer some fantastic cooked-to-order sandwiches too.

Top tip: Visit the Toronto Islands. They are a 10-minute boat ride away with tickets costing a little under $8 CAD return. There are lots of blue flag beaches here, a theme park, bikes for hire and plenty of places to explore. Out of season, the islands are eerily quiet, with very few people around, but still worth a visit. You can get a great view of the Toronto skyline from the boat and once you reach land.

Bangkok, Thailand

I have a soft spot for Thailand. Even before joining the airline, I visited the country no less than 15 times! The food, the culture, the people and the fantastic value for money mean that Thailand will always be a firm favourite for me.

Wat Pho – the Reclining Buddha – is just across the water from Wat Arun. Entry is 100 baht.

So far, I have visited Bangkok six times with the airline – and three of those visits were in December 2017. On the first visit of that month, I was joined by a friend, so I offered a tour of all must see attractions in the city. The same happened when a crew member friend visited the city with me over the new year period.

At Christmas time, we were able to request specific trips, flights with friends, days off etc. With my mum and sister in Thailand for the big day, I naturally requested Bangkok, and I was thrilled to get it. I operated a flight out to Bangkok on 23 December and returned on Boxing Day evening.

Wat Arun – or the Temple of Dawn – is one of Bangkok’s most famous landmarks. Entry is just 50 baht. A visit at dusk is a must, when the temple lights up.

Bangkok is like Marmite. Some love, some hate it. But what isn’t to love? Yes, it’s not the cleanest city in the world, traffic is pretty horrendous at all hours of the day and the often high temperatures and humidity make life in the city pretty uncomfortable, but, on the other hand… fantastic street food is available everywhere you look, public transport is brilliantly cheap, somewhat reliable and connects visitors to all parts of the city and everything is so cheap. During my 48 hour stays in the city, I will rarely spend more than £20.00, inclusive of transport, food and activities.

Bangkok has it all. Shopping (high end department stores to markets selling counterfeit goods), restaurants (formal dining to street food prepared on the side of a motorbike), sights (take a look at Wat Pho, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace) and night life (with many visitors enjoying the nightlife of Khao San Road).

The BTS Skytrain is simple to use, services are frequent and ticket prices are very good too.

Getting around in Bangkok is straightforward. The roads are best avoided so ride the BTS Skytrain instead, which speeds along high above the streets. There are only two lines, plenty of stops, and tickets can be purchased from point to point or an all-day ticket allows unlimited use of the trains. Similarly, the MRT connects the city of Bangkok with the main airport – Suvarnabhumi – and boats operate frequently up and down the Chao Phraya River. They run like buses.

Some tips for visiting Bangkok:

  • Public transport: Many of the sights can be accessed by express river boat. Jump on the Skytrain to Saphan Taksin and board the boats from there. Avoid the blue flag ‘tourist’ boat. Tickets are around 50 baht. The orange and yellow flag boats will stop everywhere the tourist boat does but perhaps not as quickly. Depending on the boat you choose, the one way ticket price will be 15/20 baht, irrespective of destination.
  • Tuk tuks: A ride in a tuk tuk is a must when in Bangkok. Always negotiate the price before you jump in and insist that the driver make no stops along the way. There are no shortage of drivers who will offer an unbelievably cheap fare because it will include unexpected stops at overpriced shops and markets where they earn a commission.
  • A papaya salad. In a middle of the road restaurant, this fruity and spicy dish shouldn’t cost more than 50 baht. If spice isn’t your thing, speak up, otherwise it’ll be laced with chilli and your socks will be blown off.

    Street food: Okay, so street food won’t be for everybody, but you only live once. Give it a go! In my now 21 visits to Thailand, I have only once had a bit of tummy trouble from eating the stuff, and it hasn’t put me off. Just be absolutely sure of what you’re eating though. You will occasionally stumble across a stall selling bits of an animal that most of us wouldn’t dream of eating. If it’s a three course feast you’re after, I would recommend a spicy papaya salad to start, panang chicken curry for main and a dessert of mango and sticky rice.

  • To escape city life: Head to 140+ acre Lumphini Park. Trees, lakes, green spaces and peace and quiet. Have a stroll, go looking for monitor lizards (there are quite a few of these large docile reptiles roaming around), hire a boat. For a little while, you will forget that you are in Bangkok!
  • What to wear: Generally speaking, anything goes at Bangkok’s places of interest – even temples. At Wat Pho, female visitors must cover their shoulders but scarves to do this are loaned for free. But all visitors to the Grand Palace need to cover up. Shorts are prohibited so pack some trousers or buy a pair of those awful Asian elephant trousers at the entrance for around 100-150 baht.

Hamburg, Germany

Hamburg Rathaus.

I do love exploring some of the airline’s destinations closer to home and Hamburg is up there as a favourite city. Whilst our stays in European cities are generally much short than those further away, there’s usually enough time to get out for a bite to eat and to see one or two of the places of interest.

Like every other city in Germany, the food here is just fantastic, and I stumbled across a nice bar and restaurant close to our hotel, serving up quality food at great prices. No visit to Germany would be complete without a currywurst; a sausage chopped up in a curry sauce and alongside a generous helping of chips.

Hamburg is one of those cities that you can just get lost in. There’s no shortage of churches to visit, and, in some cases, climb, there’s a rather lovely city hall to admire too (more commonly referred to as the ‘rathaus’). But it’s not the churches and city halls that make me love Hamburg – it’s the brilliant Miniatur Wunderland – which features in a number of lists of ‘top 10 Germany attractions’. Officially, it’s a model railway exhibition, but there’s more than a model railway to see. There’s a working airport (where aircraft actually take-off and land) and lots of cities of the world have been built in model form. Entry is €13.00.

To be continued.


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