Austria & Istanbul 2016 Day 17 & 18 – Flight to Istanbul then Home Sweet Home

We would be taking our flights back on this day. Baby k woke up at 4am asking for milk but I asked him to go back to sleep and wait for morning instead. He woke up at 8am obediently enough. Then it was rushing time, starting with packing everything into the luggage. Mommy also cooked baby K’s lunch. I brought the luggage down and loaded them into the boot before going to the top floor where breakfast was served, only to find out that we didn’t have breakfast in our booking and misunderstood when the receptionist said that we could have breakfast at the restaurant, but for a cost of 16euros per pax. We didn’t have the money nor more importantly, the time to have buffet breakfast.

View from the top floor of the hotel

915am and we drove towards the airport. Luckily with the data plan we bought the day before, I utilized for the last time with Google map to bring us to the airport. Before arriving at the airport, I topped up the petrol to the required level. A short drive later, we arrived within the airport compound and followed the road signs indicating the directions to rental car return. We entered a shelter car park and parked at the Avis dedicated slot. There weren’t any other instructions so I tried taking the lift up and found the rental car counters there. Returned to the car to retrieve the luggage and with my family, we returned the keys and the vehicle documents at the counter and that was it.

The check in was just a street away which we quickly crossed over to check in as it was already 10am and 1.5hrs away from departure. We quickly went through security and found ourselves at close to the gate already. Went to visit one of the shop there and baby K entertained himself, helping himself with the color pencils on the little desk. We spent the final minutes at the sitting area until the call for boarding. Interestingly, the immigrations was directly before gate and we had our passports stamped just before passing through the gate to board the bus which brought us to our plane.

Salzburg Airport, crossing from the car rental companies
Inside the small Salzburg airport
Gates at Salzburg airport

The place to Istanbul was not full luckily and so we got 3 seats for ourselves. The short 2hrs flight to Istanbul had some turbulence but not too bad. Meals were served, adults first and baby K was hungry while waiting for his and wanted to eat ours. He took some of our rice and then his own porridge that mommy had cooked earlier on. The baby food that was served later came but was the purée that he disliked and ended up not taking any.

Just before we were about to touch down in Istanbul, baby K fell asleep. Then it was about carrying him around the airport while we searched for transfer desk, which caused him to wake up. As our next connecting flight was another 10hrs which qualified us a complimentary stay. However, the room offered was outside the airport and we had to go through immigrations. There would be a hotels desk that would provide the information to to the complimentary hotel. As Istanbul airport had suffered a terrorist attack just months earlier, we weren’t prepared to risk going out into Istanbul. In the end we chose to stay at the TAV airport hotel which required us to go through security scans eventually. During the check, the alert but a little heartless security staff found a pair of scissors in our food container that we used to cut baby K’s food and had it removed and thrown away.  After that, we then proceeded to the TAV airport hotel and checked in. We booked a 9hrs time slot for 194euros, very expensive short stay.

Airport hotel room

We stayed in the room for much of the time after the check in. There was nothing much to do but to watch tv. We also made use of the shower to wash up. I didn’t choose to explore Istanbul as the return trip would take minimum 4hrs by train and it was already 4pm, which was neither here nor there.

Did some shopping of water and beer at the nearby food court and that, went out again for early dinner at the same food court. We got ourselves some Turkish food pide with tomato and cheese and chicken cutlet. I found it difficult to order since there wasn’t a queue that I was used to, and it seemed kinda random picking by the staff on who to serve. Food was ok but costed 22euros in total, for food and 2 canned drinks.

As usual, baby K was having his porridge. One of the clearing staff gave baby K some toys, which was so kind of him. After the meals, we went shopping at duty free.

After dinner, I bathed baby K, drank my beer then went out to buy the toys that mommy saw in the duty free. Had to come and go for 3 times as I made so much blunders. First I had no boarding pass with me, second I brought the wrong boarding pass, one that was for the flight from Singapore to Istanbul. I finally paid the 40euros for Duplo and Hape toys, which was supposedly cheaper.

The time left to departure was spent on sleep till about 10pm. Then I tried to watch online show but the in room Wifi wasn’t supporting and was disruptive. We checked out after baby K woke up before going out to Starbucks for some coffee until it was time for boarding. Unlike the previous Salzburg-Istanbul flight, this was quite a full flight. And being late in boarding, I had space issues with placing my bags in the overhead compartment and had to separate them at different locations.

Day 18

Flight took off late from the busy airport even at that time of the day and K stayed awake fora bit  before falling asleep. Sleeping on me was difficult and we weren’t given any bassinet seat unlike the other 2 babies along the same row. He was a little long and had to curl up his legs. Supper was served and were the same options as the earlier Salzburg Istanbul flight of pasta and chicken but prepared differently. I had the chicken wrap which I thought was nice and wife had the pasta that was hard. Had to eat with one hand with baby K sprawled across my legs.

I tried to make it as comfortable as possible for him. That made me sat in an uncomfortable position but I soon fell asleep as well. Next thing I knew we were already 6hrs into the flight. K woke up after I tried shifting (many times within the sleeping period as well). Made him some milk and he took some time to become the happy energetic baby that he was. Then it was about getting him entertained. Earlier in the hotel, mommy managed to download some series of Pororo and that worked. He was fascinated by the touch screen panel from the inflight entertainment and some games and cartoons took his attention. Overall there weren’t much issues with the flight.

Our plane finally landed in Changi airport at 6pm and we decided to feed K some milk in the airport before getting through immigrations and going back home.

I felt this trip to Europe was comparatively much easier than the one last year. A lot had to do with baby K being easier to manage as he had grown more logical to deal with and that we didn’t had to spend as much time in preparations of milk and cleaning of bottles as last year (no longer needed to sterilise bottles with tablets or boiling water or wait for breast milk to warm up or wait for mommy to express milk, etc). Also we have planned the route such that it wasn’t so rushed (such as not moving from town to town daily) and that gave us more time to rest during the trip and more time to explore the places. However we still didn’t do as much touring as I would have preferred such as getting a guide to tell us more about the history of the places instead of aimlessly roaming and walking around the ancient attractions.

Croatia was a much more affordable place to visit compared to the other places of Europe and everything was pretty much the same costs in Singapore. The tolls were pretty hefty though as there were many of them when using the highway and with fuel costing 1.8sgd/l, it didn’t help with costs aspects. Getting to places were quite easy but parking and driving closer to towns were difficult especially if you have a big car and you would require one with a kid. Croatia may not have the same appeal like the other popular European spots but I liked it nonetheless, probably because it was relatively safe and easy to get around.

Slovenia was a little more expensive and more “European” than Croatia. Working hours less but more orderly in matters of business. However, the medieval cities and beautiful natural scenery that it offered was definitely worth the visit.

We didn’t get much time in Salzburg and Istanbul and these cities were worth a revisit, when we come back to Europe and if the security situation in Turkey improved.

Slovenia & Austria 2016 Day 16 – Lake Bled to Salzburg, Mirabell gardens

The last day of this travel itinerary began with the packing for our road trip to Salzburg. The cold didn’t help dry the clothes and we had to leave the wet clothes in the car for the sun to dry them as we go on our road trip. As usual, we left at about 10am with a final goodbye visit to the beautiful lake Bled.

The first stop was to the petrol station in Hrusica as we needed to purchase again a vignette for travels on Austria highways. At the same time, I pumped petrol for the car as again, it might be more expensive to do so in Austria. After a 7.2 euros toll, we ended up driving through 8km tunnel that connected from the borders of Slovenia and Austria. I was unsure why we had to pay toll even with the vignette but I guessed the vignette only covered some highways and the rest that were not included had to pay tolls at the toll booths.

Austrian Vignette
Tolls before the tunnel at the Slovenia side
Checkpoints at Austria side

About an hour of driving and as baby K woke up from his snooze, we stopped a service station to have our lunch, which we ordered ham and eggs with bread and nuggets and fries from Viva cafe inside the station itself. There was another restaurant (Rosenberger) option but we thought it would be too expensive and be out of our budget. After the lunch, we thought we would just walk a bit around the station before the getting onto the highway again, for fear of another puking episode.

Service station
Viva cafe at the service stop
Ham and eggs with bread
Nuggets and fries
Rosenberger restaurant at the service stop

The journey to Salzburg was mostly smooth until we met with some road works and traffic jam, expected of traffic near cities. There was another toll of 11.5euros before we finally arrived at 330pm. I absentmindedly left the  Garmin map SD card in the luggage ( the current ones were of Slovenia and Croatia) and I couldn’t use Google without data plan and then had trouble finding the carpark to our Euro Trend hotel. I drove into the Bahnhof one and then exited and went into a Forum 1 mall carpark instead.

Spotted a castle atop a hill on the way to Salzburg
Traffic jam
Forum 1 mall

At the mall, we got ourselves a data SIM card for 10gB for 10 days for 15 euros, expensive but I didn’t want the hassle. While at the mall, we also visited the Eurospar supermarket to buy fish.

Just like any European city, it was a nightmare to be lost as we would need to negotiate the confusing roads with the uncompromising traffic. With the mifi, we managed to return close to the Austria Trend Hotel Europa where I had to park temporarily by the road side and go check with the reception on the location of the car park. She advised that it was actually around the building which I went on foot to verify before getting into the car to drive there. The entrance was at a blind spot and it led to an open air carpark, something that I didn’t expect.

Once I parked the car, we checked in and was given a room on the 13th. It was at the end of a long corridor but a pity that there were massive repainting works going about on the external walls and the scaffolding was blocking whatever view the corner could have offered.

Obstructed view due to renovations

Mommy prepared dinner with the fish we just bought and as she left it in the pressure cooker, we left the room to visit the Mirabell gardens, utilizing whatever time we had left for the day. The park was quite a distance away but it was not difficult to walk in the nice cool weather, about a 10mins walk. The garden was quite nice with many colourful flowers in bloom and some fountains and statues for people to snap some photos with. Then I walked back to the room to retrieve baby K’s dinner but found that the meal was not cooked because without the room card, the electricity was all cut. Told mommy about it through whatsapp and waited another 10mins for the food to cook before running back to garden to meet them.

Kiesel mall
Inside the mall
Walking through a park to the Mirabell gardens
Unicorn statue
Statue and fountains
Flowers in bloom
Central fountain

By the time I was back, the sun has already set and thus we gave up going to the old town for a visit, as it was still a distance away. While we were walking on the way back to the hotel, we went into a Brau restaurant for dinner. We got ourselves beef stew and pork which arrived in big portions and were quite tasty. Ended the meal with a traditional Austrian desert, Nockerl, which was again a big portion. Paid 60 euros in all for the meal.

Fountains at night
Illuminated statues
Another pegasus statue
Beef stew
Brau restaurant

En-route, we bought some bread from Spar express supermarket in a Shell station, for baby K should he need to munch on some on the flight. Once back, the night routine of bathing baby K and preparing him for bed took place. I had the additional task of trying to clean up the car again as it still stank. The strategy was to put in lots of detergent this time around. After the wash, I got myself some drinks from the same Spar express, returning to the room only at 1130pm. Bathed quickly and went to sleep.

Escape plan to Croatia/Slovenia September 2016

A brief summary on the itinerary

Escape Plan to Croatia/Slovenia 2016:

Total duration 18D18N
Singapore is 6hrs ahead of Croatia and Slovenia.
Flight time is 11hrs 25mins on Turkish Airlines from Singapore to Istanbul, Turkey followed by a 1hr 50min flight to Dubrovnik, Croatia after about a 4hour transition at Istanbul.
Return is 2hrs 30mins from Salzburg to Istanbul, a 11hrs layover then a 11hrs 5mins flight from Istanbul back to Singapore.

Flight from Singapore to Istanbul at 10pm, arriving at 425am in Istanbul and fly off again at 920am arriving in Dubrovnik at 1010am. Return flight from Salzburg is at 1125am and touching down in Istanbul at 255pm and flying off at 150am and finally touching down at 555pm.

Day 0 Flight to Istanbul
Day 1 Arrival in Dubrovnik, old town visit
Day 2 Day trip to Perast and Kotor
Day 3 Day trip to Mostar and Blagaj Tekke
Day 4 Dubrovnik to Neum to Split
Day 5 Day trip to Hvar and Stari Grad
Day 6 Krka National Park waterfalls and Sibenik
Day 7 Split – Diocletian Palace and old town
Day 8 Split to Trogir to Zadar
Day 9 Plitvice National Park waterfalls and towards Zagreb
Day 10 Zagreb old town towards Opatija, Motovun visit
Day 11 Opatija to Pula to Rovinj
Day 12 Rovinj to Porec, border crossing, visit Postojna Cave and Predama Castle to Ljubljana
Day 13 Ljubljana old town and castle
Day 14 Ljubljana to Skofja Loka to Lake Bled, Bled castle
Day 15 Lake Bohinj and Trenta Valley
Day 16 Lake Bled to Salzburg, Mirabell gardens
Day 17-18 Flight to Istanbul then Home Sweet Home

This annual family trip we wanted to do a road trip as it would be easier for us to manage with toddler in tow. With a car, we could get from place to place at our own pace. A few other options did surface (such as Eastern Europe – Prague and Budapest) but we were more in favour of this itinerary as we thought in terms of security these countries had less issues as it seemed less popular amongst tourists and therefore lesser target for security issues. Though we had concluded that it was really difficult to travel with a toddler from our Europe trip last year, I guessed wanderlust got the better of us?

Budget – Depends – budget buster for us due to choice over comfort.

The total amount spent was about 12k SGD, mostly coming from the plane tickets and the car with all the tolls and petrol. Accommodation was the other major contributor especially in Turkey airport. Food expenditure was not very high and comparable to Singapore’s standard of eating out at a normal restaurant, unlike in other European countries. Croatia had its own currency and there would be some losses due to double exchange from SGD to Euros to Kunas.

Complexity – High without car. Ours made easy due to car and Google maps on data plan and GPS.

Although there were multiple border crossings, it wasn’t really difficult with our own transport since we have everything with us most of the time. Road signs were clear and easy to navigate. Only roads in old towns were narrow and parking were challenging to find. We had to purchase data SIM (12-15euros?) which eased the navigation bit as Google map was accurate to the dot. The map that was used in my Garmin GPS was neurotic, often choosing the smaller roads which made the journey longer than it should have been thus unreliable.

Escape Plan to Europe, May 2005

A brief summary on the itinerary

Escape Plan to Europe, May 2005:

Total duration 27D26N
London is 7hr behind Singapore while the rest of Europe is 6hrs behind Singapore.
Flight time is 7hrs 25mins on Emirates Airlines from Singapore to Dubai for transfer. Flight time is 7hrs 35mins on Emirate Airlines from Dubai to London Gatwick International Airport.
Flight time is 2hrs 25mins on EasyJet Airlines from London Gatwick to Rome Flumicino.
Return flight is 6hrs 30mins on Emirates Airlines from Paris to Dubai for transfer. Flight time is 7hrs 10mins on Emirates Airlines from Dubai to Singapore.

Early morning flight on 23rd May at 325am and arrival in Dubai in the same morning at 655am. Transfer to another flight in the same morning at 8am and arrive in London at 1235pm on the same day.
Afternoon flight on the 13th Jun at 505pm and arrival in Rome at 830pm.
Return flight from Paris on the 17th Jun at 950pm and arrival in Dubai at 620am the next morning, transfer to another flight in the same morning at 945am and arrive in Singapore 855pm.

Day 1 Arrival into London, exploring London
Day 2 Salisbury and Stonehenge tour
Day 3 Tower Bridge 
Day 4 Brussels 
Day 5 Amsterdam
Day 6 Sankt Goar and Heidelberg
Day 7 Lucern and Lauterbrunnen
Day 8 Jungfrau visit
Day 9 Liechtenstein and Munich 
Day 10 Dachau Concentration Camp and Innsbruck
Day 11 Verona
Day 12 Venice
Day 13 Florence
Day 14 Pisa and Monaco
Day 15 Nice and Cannes
Day 16 Barcelona
Day 17 Barcelona
Day 18 Carcassonne and Bordeaux
Day 19 Paris
Day 20 Paris
Day 21 Paris
Day 22 London
Day 23 Rome
Day 24 Rome and Vatican City
Day 25 Milan
Day 26/27 Home Sweet Home

This escape plan was planned our graduation trip which started off the whole wanderlust. We decided on an almost month long trip with a first visit to Europe. As we were really tight on budget, being recently graduated, we thought it would be great to do a bus tour around Europe with Contiki tour (Day 4 till Day 21), which offered more places to see without breaking the bank! And they say the rest was history.

Budget nature: Not cheap

It was not cheap to go to Europe during times when Euros were almost twice our currency. We managed to get good flight prices through Emirates and we tried to save up on accommodation living in hostels and eating bread for quite some days in order not to spend too much.

Complexity: Easy

Major European cities were very well connected by public transport which we used to get around while exploring. The major part of getting from city to city was taken care by the coach. Domestic flights and interstate trains were easy to arrange as well.