I know this is a newsletter about running a better accounting firm but some people have said they’d like to hear a little about the second trip Kate and I did in Europe this year, so I’ve added this as a bonus article. This trip kicked off on 8 September and would see us in Europe later in the year than we’ve ever been.
Around the world ticket and lots of different airlines
When we booked this trip airfares were very high and we could not find anything on points. Unusually for Kate and me we used a travel agent and they specialise in around the world and business airfares. It turned out that an around the world ticket was much less expensive than the traditional to and from. (Still not cheap though!)
What I found a bit unusual about the around the world tickets we got was their mixing of airlines in different international alliances. That also gave us a great opportunity to compare four different airlines. It was a Swiss Air ticket. Our flights this were:
- Brisbane to Singapore on Qantas.
- Singapore to Zurich on Singapore Airlines
- Zurich to Corfu on Edelweiss (the low cost arm of Swiss Air)
- Nice to Munich on Lufthansa
- Munich to San Franciso on Lufthansa
- San Francisco to Brisbane on United
Outside of this ticket we flew:
- Zakinthos to Athens on Olympic Air for Aegean Air
- Athens to Milan on EasyJet
- Milan to Cagliari (Sardinia) on EasyJet
- Bastia (Corsica) to Nice on Air Corsica
Our ratings of the mainstream airlines would be:
- Singapore Airlines – Top notch service and a good plane, albeit not the most modern we went on
- Qantas – Good all round but not quite a match for the Singapore Airlines service
- Lufthansa – A very old style layout in business with low privacy but exemplary service
- United – A modern plane with a great layout but poor service, and not helped by us having to camp in San Francisco airport between 2am and 7am thanks to a broken plane
EasyJet is a low cost carrier we have flown on many times. Usually pretty reliable and you get what you pay for and can choose seats. We got a big delay out of Milan but the cabin crews were having a huge strike and ours was one of the few flights actually going, so we got lucky with that!
Athens and the Greek Islands of Corfu and Zakinthos
Corfu was our first stop for nearly 2 weeks to do some walking. We absolutely loved it! Easy to get around for the most part, laid back and very beautiful. We did some solid walking and enjoyed some amazing views and beach swimming spots. In one spot Corfu is so close to Albania (just across the water) that our phones picked up the Albanian mobile phone towers ahead of the Corfu ones! We were visiting in September as the walks we wanted to do are not offered in the earlier months as it is too hot! It was still quite hot but manageable.
We had been attracted to Corfu by watching the ABC TV program called “The Durrells” which was based on the experience of an English family on Corfu prior to WW2. Lawrence Durrell and Gerald Durrell went on to be famous writers and we dined at a marvellous restaurant in the town of Kalami, where Lawrence Durrell had lived for a time. Our first port of call in Corfu was Corfu town which has a really interesting old town. Corfu has attracted quite a lot of wealthy people keen to build their dream home on a hillside above a beautiful beach or pristine blue water.
Zakinthos was not an island we had heard of until we started exploring options for this trip. Like Corfu, it is located to the North West of the Greek mainland. We had one of about nine villas in the hills overlooking water and each with its own small pool. Very nice and highly recommended. We hired a boat and went to visit perhaps one of the most famous beaches on any Greek Island. Spectacular. We also rented a car and meandered around enjoying it all.
We stayed in Athens for three nights with a splendid view of the Parthenon from our room. The history is almost overwhelming and we thoroughly enjoyed lapping it up. An unusual activity was to get a private tour of the modern Greek Olympic stadium after we had visited the original 1896 stadium. Kate and I have visited a number of Olympic stadiums in our travels we loved getting a close look at the Athens ones.
One broad observation across everywhere we visited was the acceptance of credit cards and a fastidiousness in issuing receipts. I had recalled some years ago when Greece was on the verge being bankrupt, there was a lot of publicity about an apparent reluctance of Greeks to pay tax and a strong cash economy. It would appear that this has been addressed. On top of that we really liked the Greek people we met who were friendly and laid back for the most part.
Sardinia and Corsica
The Italian island of Sardinia is in the Tyrrhenian Sea, directly south of the French island of Corsica, vaguely south of Nice in mainland France and directly south of Genoa in Italy. In some ways Sardinia reminded us of Sicily which is not surprising given it relative closeness to Sicily. In Sardinia we visited the towns of Cagliari, Alghero and the small island of La Maddalena, where for some years the USA had a military base. That is long gone and there are some empty buildings but not much else to show for it.
It’s a short ferry trip between Sardinia and Corsica and coming into the port town of Bonifacio on the south of Corsica was very memorable. I struggle to describe it but it is well worth a visit. We also visited Ajaccio and Bastia with the train trip between the two being quite spectacular. A bit of a hidden gem, dare I say. Overall we enjoyed Corsica more than Sardinia and could have spent a bit more time on both islands to really do them justice.
We’d never been to San Fran but I’d read a bit about how Silicon Valley nearby and the tech companies had basically pushed the prices of everything to very high levels. The evidence of this was clear when we had a basic breakfast for two and were charged about $120 Australian (and it wasn’t a champagne breakfast). Ouch! Great to see the Golden Gate bridge and see it disappear from being shrouded in cloud and to visit the famous prison Alcatraz.
If we had been there longer I would love to have visited Silicon Valley as there are quite a few tours getting you into to some of the famous tech companies.
One thing that caught our eye was autonomous cars being used as taxis. Yep, no drivers! We tried to get into one but there was an elongated process with perhaps weeks of waiting time before you could even begin to book one. Another highlight was riding the cable cars then going to the museum / control centre to understand how they work. Fascinating.
As much as Kate and I love to travel we always say when we come home how lucky we are to live in Australia. That hasn’t stopped us booking three trips next year however!
If you want to know more about anything please ask and I’ll be happy to answer.