Thursday, 21 May 2015

Necessary trip

We have been happily planning a wonderful holiday since last September. Unfortunately the travel agent we chose, the Darwin franchise of helloworld, has made a huge mistake. BUYER BEWARE!!!!!

We have paid an absolute fortune, but it seems that our travel agent failed to check that we actually are eligible for visas to these countries. Just a minor customer service issue. Huh! We paid in good faith. Now we have lost our money. How much? Think the price of a car. Unbelievable!

I have done a bit of checking but there is absolutely no hope. I contacted Consumer Affairs and the Association of Australian Travel Agents. My husband is able to do the complete six week trip alone. I can do two weeks and have to pay still more to come home at that point. Our travel insurance does not cover this because at the time we paid we did not have cover. We paid in February and the trip begins in June.

It seems that here in the Northern Territory travel agents do not have to be licensed. If we have a copy of the brochure then the responsibility lies completely with the customer. It is totally Buyer Beware.

What is the point of going to a travel agent? If we wanted all the risk we would have done the booking online ourselves.

The travel agent refuses to apologise even though her agency has requested that she do so. I contacted the central office of helloworld and they were really nice to me and have done as much as they can to untangle the mess. The problem lies with the agent herself. She has no sense of customer service or of responsibility. I am completely sick of her lies.

What a mess!

So last week I flew to Melbourne to try to untangle my visa issues. This was unsuccessful.

Melbourne was cold, dark and wet. I found it very difficult to get around. Paying for tram travel was weird. The shops in the CBD are a bit strange.

A sideways view of the book shelf  at l'uccello.
It is an excellent range of books.
My hotel, the Great Southern, was not the best although it appeared stylish. It was not expensive. The lift did not go to my floor and I had to drag my suitcase up a flight of stairs and through several rain puddles in an unroofed area. Plenty of storage and a good dressing table. The sheets were tucked in only where it showed which made the first night very uncomfortable. I fixed that. The airconditioning was cold and I needed my overcoat so I could sleep. Did that. Glass walls surrounding the bathroom do not give a feeling of security and the fingerprints from a previous customer or cleaner showed. The carpet was dirty. I now have a bad infection, which may or may not have been caught in the hotel.

The range of trims is wonderful.
Not the usual Spotlight style.
While in Melbourne I visited a haberdashery called l'uccello. Other bloggers who sew have written about this shop and my expectations were high.

The shop is in Cathedral Arcade in the Nicholas Building on Swanston Street. It is an older building near a cathedral on Flinders Lane in the main city shopping area. Think charming and quaint! This was an hour's walk from my hotel, but not too far from Federation Square.

This photo is from their website.
Yes, it is absolutely crammed with goodies.
No, it somehow did not look like this to me.
The shop is upstairs and is crammed full of bits and pieces. The displays are attractive. It was not quite what I was expecting so I did not buy much. I decided to Facebook 'like' the shop l'uccello and to be honest I could not see any of the things that they post on Facebook. They carry fabrics, threads, trims, and books. I saw some Sajou stock. It is probably specialty goods really and my sewing these days is not that refined.

I took a couple of photos and I have copied one from their website that is much better than mine. My photos really should be upright, but for some unknown reason they are sideways here.

I am not being paid for mentioning this shop, l'uccello. Would I recommend it anyway? If you are keen then give it a try. For me it was a bit of a disappointment because I saw very little I really expected to see. Here is the link so you can explore for yourself.


  1. Sorry Melbourne was such a disappointment to you.
    Your visa situation sounds dreadful. Surely you should get a refund?
    Have you tried contacting "The Checkout" on ABC?
    In the past your blog has not allowed me to comment because I don't have a Google+ account. Let's see if it works this time...

    1. I am sorry I can not work out how to make the comments easier. I have the connection to Google plus for one of my relatives. It certainly complicates things here though.

    2. It looks like it works now, anyway. That's great!

  2. Golly I thought there were no visa issues at all these days. Unbelievable that you still couldnt get a visa even though you went down to Melbourne. My daughters say I put too much trust in travel agents and that I should book online, and it looks as though you found that to be the case. I do hope that something changes and that you can do your fabulous trip after all.

    1. Thank you for your kind thoughts and words. If I had discovered the mess earlier (maybe two months earlier) it could have been resolved. There is a black mark in my past, and it looks bad to an outsider, but the reality was different. It does not affect travel to most countries. It does not affect my daily life. I certainly did not get arrested or go to prison.
      On the day of my visa interview I was terribly nervous. The consular staff are trained to refuse visas for any customers who appear nervous. This is apparently the give-away sign of a drug smuggler or money launderer.
      I can reapply but I need to gather more documents to prove I am who I say I am. There is not enough time now. I will try again sometime.
      I still feel that the travel agent should have checked that we had visas before taking our money. As a professional she should have been watchful.
      So often I read in the paper or see on the TV stories of people losing large amounts of money, and now I understand a lot better how it can happen.


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