Yay – Holidays for me!

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So yah – now that I actually have some money again, I’m in the position where going off for a brief holiday is again a fiscal possibility. I’d sort of promised myself that I would get  away for a bit once the house sold and I settled in in the new digs. So I’ve been there for about 6 weeks now (although unpacking has progressed pathetically slowly, but that’s another story).  So looking through the work schedule for the rest of the year, I found that if I didn’t take leave before the end of September, then I wasn’t going to be able to take any before the end of the year. So I needed to move fairly briskly. So with the leave secured I needed to figure out where I wanted to go.

As I’ve been feeling pretty run down, and been sick through a lot of winter, the idea for this holiday was just to go somewhere to kick back and re-charge the batteries. So I was never planning some great overseas bonanza where I would feel obliged to make the most of it and trek around taking in all the sites and doing the general tourist thing. So I was thinking along the lines of somewhere I’d been before and enjoyed. I was thinking of places like Darwin, Cairns, the Gold Coast, the Sapphire Coast, etc. I had a shortlist of about 10 that i was working through to come up with a winner. Spoke to some friends for advice. But when I was quietly pondering, I decided on an area I hadn’t been before but always wanted to go to – The Blue Mountains in NSW. I had wanted to visit here for years, particularly when we lived closer, but never got there for reasons, various. So I’m off up there for a long weekend – Friday to Tuesday.

Now – how to get there. Simplest is fly to Sydney and then hire a car. Would be nice if I can use frequent flyer points and fly for free. But there are no frequent flyer seats into Sydney of a Friday unless you want to arrive in the middle of the night or at sparrows fart. And I was a whisker short of points to fly business class so Booo!

While I pondered that, I thought I’d sort out a hire car. I wanted to hire something interesting, but to my dismay, all the hire companies basically all hire the same cars these days, which are shitbox pacific rim cars, or shitbox Australian cars. It’s really bloody annoying. I mean I understand the Hyundai Getz as a cheap super mini, but the next layer up was all Kia Cowpats and the like. Those types are the only choices unless you go full size, which I didn’t. Full size though was no better, with standard Falcons and Commodores the norm. And that’s what I drive now, so boring! The luxury / prestige option was a Statesman, which is huge and still a shitbox. What’s wrong with offering a 3 series BMW or C class Merc? Only a few years ago you could hire an X class Jag, but no more. So Booo there as well.

I tried Europcar, which is a misleading name as most of their cars were the same list of shitboxes as elsewhere, but at least they had a few different offerings. A bit of unintentional comedy from their website, listed the Audi A3 Diesel class, where a typical vehicle was a Peugeot 307 :)

So I thought an Audi A3 would be just the job. The daily rate was OK – about $77 per day so I worked through a quote. Then the extras started to pile up. $80 surcharge for a ‘prestige location’. This is apparently because I wanted to collect and drop off from Mascot, and this is a transference of the fee Sydney airport charges for the hire company to have an office on site. At $80, it would be cheaper for me to get a taxi to the CBD office and collect it from there, tolls and all. But they probably have a different charge for that! There was another charge for some other bloody thing. And then there was the insurance!. Now I’ve never used Europcar before, and I haven’t hired a car for ages so the memory is a bit hazy, but I seem to remember that insurance was a flat amount on top, and while a rip off, was bearable. These guys quoted about 4 different flavours and were an additional per day charge. So if you wanted cover against flat tyres, and broken windscreens or headlights, as well as reduced excess in case some uninsured fucktard drives into you, then it was an additional $35  per day! Or to put it another way, 50% of the starting hire cost of the car. All this added up to about $650 for 4 and a bit days of hire car, which smacked a bit of a rip off. I’m mean, I’m happy to pay for quality, I’m happy to pay for convenience. I’ll even cop a rip off if it serves to my end. But this felt a bit like copping one up the date without a reach around.

So that leaves me with the option of the road trip, which I really didn’t want to do. I mean, I like driving and I enjoy the road trip, but this is a fair distance to and fro and will cut into my sitting on my arse having a scotch time. I’ll see what else I can manage.

For the second long weekend, I’m catching up with some old mates to stomp some brain cells and howl bare chested at the moon. Had the same story with frequent flyer flights on the Sunday, but this time I did have enough points, so yes please I will fly business class. Thank you.

As I wanted to have a computing capability while I was away, I was looking at laptops. Now I’m firmly of the school of thought that a portable computer should be truly portable first and foremost. If I need a big beefy computer, then I’ll just get a desktop. I have a work laptop, but it’s a massive Tecra A9 and weighs about 3 tonnes so I wasn’t interested in lugging that thing around. I was looking at a tablet, but those things are a bit pricey still. After talking with a few people and isolating exactly what I wanted to use it for, a beefy netbook with increased RAM looked like it would would be just the story. So I picked up an Asus eeepc 7000HE and upped the RAM to 2 GB. It’s light and has a long battery life and will be able to handle all I want to run on it. I can even run Visual Studio on it.

Part of what I want to do while off is to do some XNA stuff, so I’m planning on finishing off the tutorial process over the next couple of weeks and then try my hand at a game with the training wheels off. The first attempt will likely be a recreation of the classic ‘Pong’.

Now I just need to work out what bottle of scotch to take to the Blue Mountains with me. Or do I buy a new one specially? Might be time to pick up a PC7 perhaps…