Video from my trip to Europe in 1998

15 years ago I got back from my first trip to Europe. Here, finally, are the video highlights.

Daniel’s 1998 Europe trip highlights from Daniel Bowen on Vimeo.

Includes England (south-east, London, and York), Scotland (Edinburgh, Inverness, Plockton), Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam.

Worth noting…

  • The blog posts written at the time are available here: Europe 1998.
  • This was pre-Oyster. Most of the travel around London was old mag stripe travelcards.
  • I can’t help noticing how red my face got when walking in the wilderness of Scotland.
  • Sorry about the picture quality. This was filmed on Video 8, and has come via VHS. This edit excludes most of the footage from visiting my family in England.

I’m baaaaaack!

I’m baaaack! Actually I’m back a bit early. Just in time to put up with the dying gasps of the last few days of the election on Saturday (my local member really expects me to vote him back in with THAT beard and no moustache?!?), and no hot water or gas cooking because of a statewide gas shutdown. Okay Sydney, I’ll stop joking about your water now. No more jokes about Auckland’s electricity either.

As far as the election goes, I’ve heard so much for and against tax reform and the GST that I’m just about at the point where I don’t really care any more. But what I do remember which most people seem to have forgotten is the government’s position on greenhouse gases. Check out this diary entry if you need to refresh your mind.

And as for the gas, there’s a silver lining. Melbourne was subject to a minor (3.8) earthquake this morning. At least there was no possibility of fires due to ruptured gas pipes.

The fact that Australia absolutely blitzed the opposition in the Commonwealth Games makes up for the doom and gloom at home. This was something the British press managed to mostly gloss over while I was away. You could watch an hour of Games coverage on BBC1, and they’d manage to show every single Briton with even the remotest chance of winning bronze, but not once show you a medal count.

Home! Woo hoo!

From Singapore the plane continued south, symbolically inching its way across the map on the TV screens towards home, as well as actually inching its way across the planet towards home. When the map wasn’t on we got to see various movies and TV shows, but what caught my eye was news from home. I didn’t take much notice of what the news was, but it was nice to recognise a newsreader for the first time in weeks. (Cool, it’s Sharyn Ghidella!)

My long trek was coming to an end, but for the English blokes seated nearby, was just beginning. They’d fluked and would be landing in time for the biggest weekend in Australian football – both the AFL and ARL Grand Finals. I told them they’d have no chance in getting AFL Grand Final tickets, but they reckoned they’d try and scalp some, or if they had no luck, just head to a pub in St Kilda and watch the game there. I wished them good luck.

Mr Belt And Braces and his family appeared to be making a little bit of a nuisance of themselves to the thankfully unflappable cabin crew, but most of us, including the bloke sitting next to me, who was flying home from Portugal via London, were looking ever happier with every kilometre.

[It might have been horrendously early in the morning, but the family still gave me a warm welcome home.]I had a feeling of elation at getting home to my family when we finally touched down at Melbourne. I don’t know if I hopped and skipped through immigration and customs, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Not that I hadn’t enjoyed being away, you understand, but it was fantastic to be home.

I realised I’d forgotten one thing. When you come out of International Arrivals at Melbourne Airport, you can go left or right to get out. Either way you can be seen by everyone waiting behind the railings, but if they know which way you’re going to go, it’ll be easier for them to get to you. I had originally planned to let L and the kids know which way I would go, but I’d forgotten. I went left, and they found me anyway. To their credit, despite the early hour, they looked remarkably happy to be there to greet me. Jeremy seemed much bigger, and Isaac’s vocabulary had improved out of sight.

With my luggage perched on a baggage trolley, we walked back to the car, as the first rays of sunlight began to appear to slowly light up the glorious Australian sky.

That cool map thing

[Surely this alone makes it worth flying Qantas?]Finally flying home. The Qantas crew seemed just a bit more cheerful than any of the British Airways ones I’d had. Maybe it was just that kind of friendly barbecue atmosphere that can pop up anywhere when a bunch of Australians get together and there’s a good supply of alcohol.

After the late-night supper they offered some kids nearby a chance to see the cockpit, which left me wondering if I could successfully pretend to be 10 so I could tag along too.

The bloke in front of me kept fidgeting, trying to get to sleep, but he wasn’t as bad as the girl in front of a neighbour, who did that old trick of moving the seat back suddenly, causing a drink spillage. To the right of me was a bloke wearing a belt and braces, and behind him, some English blokes looking forward to their first Australian holiday.

We flew east, over Moscow, then south east over India and Malaysia towards Singapore. What I really liked was the position indicator. When there wasn’t a movie on, this would appear on the screen, showing where the plane was above the planet, the course it was following, and the vital statistics – speed, altitude, temperature outside, distance to landing, that sort of thing. No fancy 3D graphics, it looked more like a CGA display circa 1989, but it did the job.

At one stage to avoid turbulence we were at 11280 metres, doing a lazy 1000 kilometres per hour, and by golly, it was pretty cold outside at that height – about 48 degrees below zero. Seeing the map really made you think about all the places whizzing by underneath that you might never even visit. Well, okay, it made me think that – everyone else just seemed to be on the lookout for the steward with brunch.

Eventually we flew into Singapore, and everyone got out to stretch our legs, which after 12 hours in an aircraft seat, were in quite severe need of stretching.

[Hot and sticky in Singapore]Walking around the shiny new heavily air conditioned transit lounge, you couldn’t really tell what it was like outside, but watching the weather reports on TV it sounded pretty hot and sticky, which I’m told is pretty typical for Singapore. I picked up a free airport magazine (what an odd idea) and strolled around looking in the shops, seeing what various goodies the Singaporeans would use to try to convince me to part with what little cash I had left.

We flew out again at 8pm, and had another supper, having skipped lunch due to the time difference. As the plane sped on through the night, I tried to get some more sleep, wondering if home would be quite the same after three weeks away…

Eventually homeward bound

It was my last day in London, and time to start seriously thinking about getting something by way of souvenirs for all of my family waiting for me back home.

There’s a very easy and cheap personalised souvenir you can get for yourself in London. All you need is a passport-sized photo. Just go to almost any tube station and ask them for a Photocard. Fill in a form and hand over the photo and they’ll give you back what to them is a transport ID card, but to you is genuine proof that you’ve been to London!

But what about everyone else? Rather than dash around different touristy shops looking for things, I went back to Convent Garden, to the London Transport Museum shop, where I knew they had all kinds of cool Londonish things, and in fact was where my sister did her souvenir shopping a few months before when she’d been in town. I ummed and ahhhed and eventually settled on a few novelty London Underground signs for relatives to put up in appropriate places in their homes: “Toilet”, “No smoking” and “Telephone”. Probably not the most imaginative thing available in the city, but I realised I was running out of time.

I was due to drop past my grandparents’ place to pick up a few things before I left England. I say “drop past”, I really mean “take a four hour detour past”, since I was in London and my plane was leaving from London – but they were in Sussex.

So I caught the tube to Green Park, where I’d emerged from the Underground three weeks before to be greeted by the chaos and splendour of London for the first time. I once again walked across Green Park towards Buckingham Palace, this time coming across the Changing Of The Guard in the Mall, rather than peak hour traffic. The whole area around the Palace was packed with crowds, all trying to get even a glimpse of a guard in a silly hat.

[Who is that suspicious character hanging around outside Buck House? Oh, it's only Daniel - he's harmless.

[Not The Bill]I carried on towards Victoria Station, this time taking the long way around the Palace, for the first few hundred metres walking behind a couple of London cops, which reminded me so much of The Bill. There’s not actually much to see of the Palace, except a very high and presumably well guarded wall. I got all the way around, to Buckingham Gate Road, and found the Net Cafe there, which appeared to have finally finished its renovations. Time for one last quick check of the e-mail, then I headed over to the station.

It was a little while until the next hourly train to Bognor, so I looked around for some lunch and found myself a rather splendid Ham and Mozzarella baguette. Then I phoned Grandad to tell him when I’d be there, and he said lunch would be waiting for me. D’oh!

As the train sped through the southern English countryside, I looked out of the window and realised that although I’d been having a terrific time in Europe, I would be very glad to get home. You know you’re homesick when humming a few bars of a national song (eg Advance Australia Fair or From St Kilda To King’s Cross) brings tears to the eyes.

[Rolling down to Bognor, songs of Australia bouncing around my mind]   Chatting with the grandparents

My Grandparents treated me to a hot lunch, roast chicken, the same meal they’d served when I’d first arrived. Maybe like a concert act, Gran saves her best meals for the first and last.

They gave me a huge bag of presents for the kids, and then took me back to the station. I doubt my grandparents will make it out to Australia again, so I wished them all the best and promised to get back to see them soon.

The train arrived back in London and I bolted for the tube back to the hostel. The plane was scheduled for 10:30, with check-in advised two hours beforehand. It was already about 8pm and getting dark as I walked along Euston Road (the north side, the side with less beggars on it) back to the hostel to pick up my pack. Wayne was there, recovering in the lounge from another day of substitute-teacher-hell with his little Hackney terrorists. He was so shagged out he couldn’t even muster the energy to walk to the station.

I got down to the Piccadilly Line platform and just missed a tube to Heathrow. The next one wasn’t going to Heathrow, but wasn’t crowded so I got on it as far as Earl’s Court then got off again to wait for another, wondering if I should’ve gone to Paddington and caught the super-fast and quite a bit more expensive Heathrow Express instead.

The next tube was to the wrong branch – Rayners Lane – but it got me as far as Acton Town, where the branches split. I kept waiting, bemoaning the fact that for weeks I’d been able to catch exactly the right tube train without having to wait for more than a minute or two, and tonight in my very last few hours in London, when I was running late (9:10 and counting) I had to keep waiting for the right train. It was actually only about 10 minutes, but as is always the case in these situations, seemed like much longer.

On the tube   Through the terminal window, a sight for homesick eyes...

Eventually it arrived, and whisked me to Heathrow, where fortuitously the check-in queues were non-existent, apparently because I was about the last person to check-in. I went through the security gate thingy encountering a very terse security person who wanted to be absolutely thorough in making sure that my miniature torch worked, without even pretending to be cheerful about it. She’ll never make it onto Airport.

There were still a few shops open, and I spent some of my last few pounds stocking up on some obscure Cadbury flavours that we don’t have in Australia, and a newspaper that I could tuck under my arm to look exotic and well-travelled when I got home. I made my way to the gate, and there it was in all its glory, my Qantas plane, resplendent with its kangaroo tail, sitting outside the window, waiting to take me home.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more welcome sight. And it brings to mind this advice: When going overseas, travel with an airline from your own country. If you’re at all homesick, you’ll feel so much better when you get to the airport and see that you’re going home with your countrymen.

They weren’t boarding yet though, so I drained my phonecards by calling everyone in London I could think of to say some final goodbyes to. Then I queued to board, showed my ticket, and walked down the gangway with a huge grin on my face. I was going home.