8 more sleeps

25th July 2006

Howdy

Only 8 more sleeps until we fly out of Adelaide, for the UK.   I was awake at 5am this morning, so in my excitement I rang my cousin Linda.   That only made me more excited!!! :)

We are busy organising the final things before we leave, and looking forward to sharing our holiday with you via our web site.  We also hope you will keep us up to date with all of your news by leaving us a message.

We will miss you all, but look forward to catching up when we return, over a nice meal and bottle of wine :)

Bring it on :)

Love and hugs from us

Our Itinerary

1st August 2006

DEB & GREG'S EURO VACATION WED 2ND AUG TO FRI 15TH SEP 2006

Wed 2nd August 2006 Depart Adelaide domestic Airport,  arrive Heathrow 0555 Thursday 3rd August 2006

Val & Vics Thursday 3rd August 2006 - Thursday 10th August 2006 South Redditch

Thursday 10th August 2006 fly Birmingham to Edinburgh till Saturday 12th August 2006

Drive to Haddington 2 nights Auntie Jessie

Saturday 12th August 2006 visit Roslyn Church (11 km south Edinburgh), Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood House.

Stay  Edinburgh, 1 night  --> 12th Aug  Dinner Matt & Greg

9pm see Adam Hills, Characterful Assembly Rooms George St

Sun 13th & Mon 14th August 2006, drive to York 2 nights

on the way visit Hadrians Wall.

In York visit York Minster, Tudor Shambles, Jorvik Viking Centre, Jodburgh Abbey and do the 45 min double decker Bus tour .

Tuesday 15th August 2006, stay at Shrewsbury, 1 night with Monica & Len

Wednesday 16th of August 2006, go to Oxford deliver car

Staying with Linda & Keiron in Oxfordshire 13 nights

Monday 21st August longboat on the Oxford Canal with Linda & Keiron & Dee & Chris

Leave from London Gatwick (South Terminal) to Rome Ciampino depart Tuesday 29th of August 17.00 arrive 20.25

Rome: Hotel Ateneo Garden Palace Via Dei Salentini,

Begin Insight Tour, Italian Escapade, Wednesday 30th of August

Tour ends in Rome at Hotel Ateneo Garden Palace after breakfast on Mon 11th Sept

Leave Rome Leonardo Da Vinci airport 1840 Monday September 11th 2006 arrive Heathrow 2025

Depart Heathrow Terminal 1 2205 Monday September 11th 2006

Arrive Singapore 1755 Tuesday 12th of September 2006

12 - 14 September: 2 nights at Raffles The Plaza Singapore  Premier Executive Club Room

Leave Singapore Changi Intl Airport Terminal 1 22.15 Thursday 14th of September 2006

Arrive Adelaide 0905 Friday 15th of September 2006 International Terminal

(England is 8 1/2 hours behind South Australian Time, Italy 7 ½ hours behind)

Saturday 16th September 2006 Dante's 5th Birthday :)

No more sleeps

2nd August 2006

2/8/06 5.20am Fullarton

Have been awake since 4am, you were right dad!! But it is exciting :)  Cant believe a year has passed since we organised the holiday and here we are about to embark on our adventure.   This is a dream come true for me, meeting my family and going to Italy all in the one holiday, how lucky! razz     6 more hours and we will be on the plane.   Everything is organised and what isnt, isnt going to be.   I have driven my family mad, putting my life in order!!!   You will all be pleased to know (and Greg most of all) that I am chilled!    Looking forward to our adventures and sharing 6 and a half weeks with my soul mate.    Will be great to share our holiday with you and to hear all of your news.  Be seeing you.   Love and hugs deb xo

Singapore to Redditch

3rd August 2006

Wed 3rd August Touchdown in England. Well after a long flight with a few delays due to plane mechanical problems (2 ½ hr delay in Melbourne) and straggling passengers (1 hr sitting in the plane in Singapore) we arrived at Heathrow Airport at about 7am. There we joined an immigration line that was about 500m for us ‘Others' ( and I was so looking forward to going through the gate marked ‘Aliens' L ). After about another hr we finally made it into England and we were met by the smiling faces of Val and Vic. Its always so good to see a familiar friendly face. After a 1 ½ hr drive through some very interesting and picturesque countryside we made it to Redditch, our home for the next week. After a couple of cups of coffee and tea, a nice shower and change of clothes we were treated to a yummy lunch.( Thanks Val J ) After lunch we set off to see Stratford-on-Avon, the home of Shakespeare. It's a very pretty and interesting town. Full of tourists, but very welcoming all the same. A couple of hours being tourists was about our limit for day one. Before I forget I have to mention the weather!!! England did not disappoint us on our arrival. Bleak grey skies and light rain showers greeted us. But by the time we got to Redditch , the sun was breaking through and we have had a very warm afternoon with blue skies. I think we will both benefit from a good nights sleep. We are both looking forward to exploring more.

Photos

4th August 2006

Hi everyone, We will add photos when we can, We have both settled in very well, amazing what a good nights sleep does for you. Deb will add another entry a bit later today

6.30am Saturday

5th August 2006

We both had a great sleep Thursday night, got up around 7am. The jet lag has not been as bad as I thought. Thursday night I spoke to my rellies, was great to hear their voices and to be able to say that we were in england :), i keep pinching myself. we had a nice day yesterday, spoke to cliff again in the morning, then we went off to the local supermarket, the prices were not as expensive as we thought they would be. val & i had fun at the checkout both of us insisting we would pay, you should have heard the commotion, it was hilarious, it is no wonder val has so many great stories to tell about her adventures, we amused everyone, i will leave it to you to work out who paid!!!! :) afterwards we had a nice drive to the chateau impney, it was built in 1875 by john corbett, the salt king, as a present to his wife, a french governess, the chateau is in french style architecture, was very lovely, beautiful stained windows and very grand. we had a lovely lunch there, then we went outside where there was a lovely fountain, cliff told val that he used to throw a coin in the fountain and hope he would get lucky that night, so i did that for him, (hope it worked), i also threw another coin in the fountain, for vals brother, dave, she found out that morning he has a mass on his lung that is quite large, he will be having a biopsy soon to ascertain what form of cancer it is, it would be nice if you could all send him positive thoughts, he lives in perth, wa. he will get the results in another week, hopefully it will not be a virilent form of cancer. val & vic did a beautiful dinner last night, and their friends, tony & sue and phil and linda came over. i had dropped my glasses by the fountain at the chateau and left them there, yes when i was making wishes for other people, havent worked that out!!! :) tony & sue picked them up for me on their way to dinner so all ended well :) cliff also came over for dinner so i got to meet my uncle for the first time in 43 years, i think he was surprised i was not a little girl anymore!!! it was so lovely to see him, he is gorgeous, we are going to spend the weekend with him and tuesday, will be good to get to know him. val & vics friends were very lovely we had a great evening, vic had got some prawns which he threw on the barbie, delicious and by all accounts very large prawns for england. then we had a delicious steak and salad, and a beautiful pavlova that val had made, she is a great cook. we drank great wine, ate good food in wonderful company, for me it doesnt get much better than that, life is good :) i crashed into bed at 11pm, was exhausted, greg was in his element by this time drinking port and i think some drambuie tooo! this morning we are hoping to meet val & vics daughter jane, then cliff is taking us to dereks and roberts, then in the afternoon we are off to stevens, cant wait. it is great to hear from you, makes us smile when we hear from you all, please let us know how you are doing too, we would like news from home. we are having the time of our lives, enjoying all the moments, hope you are too. lots of love and hugs to you all, deb xo

Catching Up

5th August 2006

Today we met Vic and Val's daughter Jane. We thought she was absolutely delightful and are looking forward to catching up with her at dinner on Wed night The rest of the day we spent catching up with "Fentons" Cliff drove us around to Derek and Eileen's place and we met Dawn and Katie, and all of their children. (and most of Dereks Bassets ) They were a fun lot and we had many laughs with them all. We are spending tomorrow at Derek and Eileen's catching up with everyone. Later in the afternoon Cliff took us to Steve and Catrina's. They are a great family, we were entertained all afternoon by their delightful daughters Eleanor and Amity. Dee was there as well and it was good to catch up with her. We had a fun time with lots of laughs and stories. Steve introduced me to Badger Ale, flavoured with peach blossom - interesting concept :-) All day Deb spent every minute she could trying to talk various Fentons to come visit us in Australia. It may be working, but I know she doesnt give up easily!!! so lets see what happens. :-)

Fentons

7th August 2006

Monday 7th of August 2006 What a great weekend we had seeing all of the Fentons, Cliff was wonderful taking us around to everyones, and the family were very welcoming to us both, I was soooo excited to be in England and seeing my family, and what a great family they are, was great to feel a connection to all of these people that I had heard about over the years, I felt lucky :) Saturday Cliff took us to Derek & Eileen's and we caught up with Kate & Dawn and their kids for an hour or so, was wonderful to see them all and it was great to know we would see them all again the next day. Then we went around to Steve & Catrina, Eleanor & Amity's. Dee was also there. They are a beautiful family, and were very welcoming and made us feel at home. We stayed for dinner and I had lots of fun playing with Eleanor & Amity, it was sad to leave, but we look forward to spending more time with them next time we visit. Sunday Cliff picked us up with his grand daughter Isabelle, she is gorgeous. We went around to Derek & Eileen's, all of the family were there, there were 20 of us J was wonderful. There was Dawn, Philip, Dominic, Tilleisha & Damari. Nick, Alecia, Alana & Lucy. Kate, Romaya & Tyree. Robert & Kathy and of course Derek & Eileen. We had a group photo, the whole afternoon was fun. We will definitely come back when we have retired and spend more time with our family, they are all great people, very welcoming. Was a great weekend. Greg summed the weekend up really well in our journal, “Reflecting on the day, my thoughts turned to how much our day was like our family gatherings in Adelaide. So much fun, laughter and joy between everyone. Seems like the Fenton spirit is alive & well :)”

A Day with Cliff

8th August 2006

Tuesday 8th Aug Another beautiful day, cloudy with many sunny breaks, 25 – 30C This morning we went into Birmingham proper. Its an old city that has built up in a patchy way similar to Sydney. The mix of old and new was very interesting. A modern abstract building next to St Martin's at the Ring was about as different as you could get. Cliff took us, and Val & Vic to a National Trust site of Back to Back houses and we did the tour. It showed very graphically how life had changed through the years from 1840 thru 1870, 1930 and to 1970. It is amazing how we have progressed in such a short time. Like many of the notes left by children there, we all felt very grateful that we were born in these days. After that we walked through the Bull Ring produce markets, so many different foods. Cliff then took us for lunch at The Peacock, a true old English pub, built in 1828 on an old roman road. Deb had her first real fish and chip and I had Gammon for the first time, and of course I had to have a pint of bitter with lunch, its just what you do J . After lunch we went to Kings Norton and saw a very old school that was about to be restored (we managed to con our way in and had a good look around, so much history, one room was named the “Queens Room” after a queen stayed there in about 1600 or so. Deb and I walked through a graveyard next to an old church. (We do that sort of thing). There were graves there dating back before Cook discovered Australia, so interesting, and some people back then were living well into their 80's. We then went to a lookout at the top of the Lickey Hills. I t gave us views over all of Birmingham and all the districts around it. Beautiful countryside and architecture. When we had finished there we went to the information centre in the Hills and had a drink and an ice-cream. Deb got to hug her first tree in England and was very happy. Cliff then took us to his favourite Indian Restaurant for a “Balti” The food was good and the company so much better. After tea we drove back to Cliff's to pick up Vic's car. Here we had to say good bye to Cliff, it was so sad. He is such a kind and gentle person, a real gentleman. Hopefully he will come down to Linda's place in Oxford a bit later and we can spend more time with him.

Last day with Val & Vic

10th August 2006

5.30am Thursday 10th of August 2006 Thankyou to Dante, Tessa, Ella, Destiny, Ben & Sarah, Carly & Kieran, Mum, Mandy, Dee, Leonie, Em, Ann for your messages, we love to hear all of your news, Carly you will be waking up in your new home in another 10 days, how exciting, hope you are taking care of yourself. Keep the news rolling in. :) We have been here a week now, we leave at 8.30am this morning for Edinburgh, to see Auntie Jessie, I rang her yesterday and she didn't get my last letter, so she didn't think we are coming, so it was good I rang. She said she is not well, so I told her we would look after her. We had a lovely day yesterday we went for a walk around the neighbourhood on the black paths, I loved it so many trees and I still cant get over how beautiful the flowers are here and all of the hanging baskets, I have never seen anything like it, very beautiful. After another delicious lunch, (we are eating like kings) Vic took us to the forge nearby, where they used to make needles, it was fascinating, a most enjoyable couple of hours. As we were leaving, we saw Derek with 5 of his dogs (the oldest one is Baffle), he was off to take them for a walk. We were both excited to see him, and went for a walk with him, was great to bump into him like that. In the evening, Val & Vics kids, David & Kim and Jane came over for dinner, and their friends Phil & Marg, they are all lovely and we had a great night and another dinner fit for a king, Val is a wonderful cook. Linda & Kate both rang was good to speak to them both. Off to Scotland in a few hours and the adventures keep rolling on. Val & Vic have been the most wonderful hosts, we feel very spoilt, has been a wonderful place to start our holiday, they are the nicest people you could ever wish to meet and have made us very welcome. It has been great to meet all of the Fentons, we have a lovely family, they have all been very kind to us. We feel lucky to be here. :) I need to learn how to do smiley faces, better ask Greg mmmm!

stranded at birmingham airport

10th August 2006

9.40 am Thursday 10th august Howdy when we woke this morning vic told us there had been a security scare with the planes. we arrived to a very congested birmingham airport at 7.30am, we were not allowed to take any hand luggage or mobile phones or drinks on the plane, so we had to book everything through. our flight was due to depart at 8.30am, but security is tight, we had to take off our shoes, watches, jackets to go through security, then we were searched, the queues were very very long. our flight is supposedly going to leave at 10.30am, you have probably already heard that no more flights are allowed to land at heathrow, people with milk for babies are having to drink some to prove it is ok. mmmmm nothing like an adventure, i imagine this plane will be the safest we have ever flown on. we will let you know when we land, hopefully we can fly today, otherwise it will be a long day. but we are together, and it makes a good story!!!! love and hugs to you all from us

still stranded in birmingham

10th August 2006

11am, the flight has just been further delayed until 12.20pm, we will keep you updated if we dont leave then.

Birmingham to Haddington via Edinburgh

10th August 2006

Thurs 10th Aug Well we finally made it up here. We eventually had a 5 hr wait in Birmingham airport, and arrived in Edinburgh at about 2:10pm. Our bags took another 1 1/4 hours to come out to the luggage collection area. When they came out we found that we had had my mobile phone stolen. (So much for high security during a terrorist threat!!!!) PLEASE NOTE: For now we DO NOT HAVE A MOBILE PHONE As soon as we get one we will let everyone know via this web site. PLEASE LOOK FOR UPDATES :-) Enough of that. We picked up our car at the airport, a brand new VW Golf with 9 miles on it. The drive from the airport was easy and very scenic. We passed the turn off to the Roslyn Chapel (Da Vinci Code readers will know what I mean) on the way to Haddington. Haddington is an amazing little village, it looks frozen in time, somewhere around the 17 century. We are staying at a retirement village with Deb's Aunty Jessie. (mmmm No we are not getting practice!!) We are in the guest quarters at the home. Basic but great for what we need. We took Jessie out for tea and then stayed up chatting with her till 10pm.

Haddington

11th August 2006

Fri 11 Aug

We had a good nights sleep and after breakfast we had a stroll around town.
The main church intown is St Mary's and is reputed to be the oldest church in the UK, it dates back to around the year 1100.
Last night we went to tea at the Riverside buffet. It over looks the Tyne River and an old bridge where the british and scotts used to hang prisoners during there many battles over the centuries in the area.
The age of this town is staggering, anything that has happened in the last 200 yrs is recent history!!
Cobble stone roads, all the older buildings in town are made of stone, and are all really well preserved, and the whole charater of the town is intact.
We have met 2 of Jessies daughters to day, Joyce and Irene. Both are fanatstic and very interested in the family back in Australia (They say hi to everyone).
Tonight we are taking Jessie out for tea again then its off to Edinburgh tommorrow to see Matt and Greg and take in a show (Adam Hills) at the Fringe.
bye for now
(Ooooops I guess I should mention Deb is doing her best to develop a broad Scottish accent while we are here. Needs a bit of work, but maybe another day may do it!! :-) )

Saturday 12th of August

12th August 2006

wow, what a few days we have had, was great we got to edinburgh the day we were supposed to, even if it was 5 hours late, we could have driven in that time!! really enjoyed seeing auntie jessie, had lots of fun with her. was sad to leave. we have been in edinburgh today, bought a new phone our no is 44 (0) 7940194417 we will have that no while we are in uk, when we go to italy we will get another sim card. so if you ring us from aust you will be paying for the call. edinburgh is wonderful, we went to holyrood palace this morning and to edinburgh castle this afternoon, amazing, scotland is a wonderful place, i never realised how beautiful it was, we will definately come back. tonight we had dinner at the dusit (thai) restaurant with matt and greg, it was delicious food, and lovely to see them both. we are off to see adam hills in 30 mins at the edinburgh fringe, edinburgh is really buzzing, a great time to be here. thanks for all of your messages, sorry we worried you the other day, thought i would write to the home secretary and tell him, how unsecure their airports are on a day when security was supposed to be at its highest!!! sure he has more pressing matters to concern himself with, but the mind boggles!!! well that is all for now, we are really enjoying this holiday business, what a life, you should see the flat we are staying in, very nice, and very fitting after our jaunts today, but not quite the same standard as the palace, but very nice all the same. we are off to york tomorrow, mmmm hard life, glad it is us that is doing it. love your messages keep them rolling in, glad to hear you are all doing well. love you lots hugs from us

Footy tips

12th August 2006

we did send in our footy tips on wed, the 9th of aug, so you should have got them that day or the day after, look your spam, we dont want the ones you have given us we have written them down if you dont have them, but we definately sent them from either gregs or my email address!!!!!

Edinburgh - York

13th August 2006

Howdy, has been a long day, had a great night last night, adam hills was really good, gave him 8/10.  we left at 9am this morning and went to roslyn chappel, it was built in 1446, they are currently restoring it to the cost of £10,000,000.00 a lovely man let us in for 5 mins as it was closed it was awe inspiring inside, when we come back we will make sure we have time to attend a service, we heard the choir practicing, heavenly.

then it was off to hadrians wall, we didnt stop when we went over the border it was raining and very foggy.   got a bit lost on the way to hadrians wall, we learnt alot that we didnt know.   greg went and saw a roman settlement that dated back 2000 years.   yes i slept in the car!!

we had lunch at an english pub 2 hours from york, we both had the sunday roast.

we arrived in york at 4.30, have a nice room up 2 flights of stairs, long way to lug the case, good job greg is strong :)

and here we are writing to you, mmm greg has just shown me where the smiley faces are razz

when we have finished here we are going for a walk, and out for dinner, if you are lucky greg is going to see if he can put some photos on here.

only 2 more sleeps carly and kieran until you are houseowners.smile how exciting, thanks for killing the smell of the chook poo confused   getting the hang of these faces.

glad to hear aiko is ok, not so good about the footy results, we wont be doing very well in the footy tipping that is if ben can find our email

love and hugs to you all

deb and greg

Confusion reigns, Our new mobile no

14th August 2006

howdy

we have had to change our mobile no, (dont ask) here is the new one +44 (0) 7726 427 084

we had a great sleep, tis a drizzly day, we are off to discover york this morning, we went on a great ghost walk last night, we are going on a walk of york this morning and then to the york minster after and hopefully a service there tonight.

hope you are feeling brighter now carly, tis a very stressful time moving isnt it.   really pleased you have found some lovely supportive people to help you.   please look after your back.    thanks for all of you who are helping carly, we really appreciate it.

better get off

love and hugs to you all

from us

york - shrewsbury

15th August 2006

howdy,

we had a lovely day yesterday in york, went on a tour of the town for a couple of hours first, was wonderful, then went to the york minster after some lunch, was a wonderful church, the archbishop of york was there he is fasting, for a week to bring attention to the fighting in israel & lebanon, i got to shake his hand laugh out, he is sleeping in a tent in the church.   we enjoyed a couple of hours wandering around, and took lots of photos and videos.    we are having trouble finding computers to put photos on our website, so you will have to be patient roll eyes

we are here in shrewsbury with my godmother monica and her husband len.   they have been very lovely to us, this afternoon we wandered around shrewsbury, there is so much history in this country we are in our element, the last few days we have seen things that are a 1,000 years old and a bit of roman ruins that date back to 70AD, we are in our element.   when we get back home, i am going to get some history books and do some more reading, we both find it fascinating.   some of the towns have buildings in that go back to the 16th Century very quaint villages, we love it.

we are still getting over how much country side there is, and the flowers around the houses are beautiful.

everyone has been very kind to us, our holiday is 2 weeks old tomorrow, we have done so much, we both want to come back and spend alot more time here wandering around at a leisurely pace.  

my energy levels are much better, the holiday is doing us both good.

congratulations carly kieran and ella, you will own your own house tomorrow, how exciting, hope you enjoy waking up in your new home on saturday morning.

thanks tom for helping carly out on tuesday, she was in a much better frame of mind when i spoke to her, you are a good man wink  and thanks justin and kerry for helping them move some stuff tomorrow, we appreciate you all.

happy 15th birthday brian for the 17th, hope you have a great day and are spoilt rotten.   and cook happy birthday to you too on the same day, hope you both have fun on your birthday.

dante, have you received any postcards yet?   sarah hope your final days teaching go well, thinking of you, we hear the kids are not well, hope they dont get tooo sick.

ben we sent you a text message today with our footy tips, but you did not respond, we have sent you an email, let us know if you get it.   we also sent a text message to tom, on vons phone and heard nothing, so we were wondering if maybe you didnt get them?  we have a new phone card so maybe there is a problem??

better go, we are having partridge for dinner that len, shot, we have 1 each, look great will let you know what they taste like, we will take pics.

lots of love and hugs to you all from us xoxo

whats a good title for a blog??

16th August 2006

howdy, mmm the partridge was wonderful, we had a lovely dinner last night with monica and len, it was very delicious, we like trying new things, i can recommend partridge, lovely flavour.

i woke a bit early this morning, chatted to ann, dad, mum and ben, on msn, was really lovely, great way to keep in touch.    congratulations to carly, kieran and ella on your new home, you must all be very excited, we are looking forward to seeing you all in your home, hope you enjoy your pizza on the floor tonight.

we are off to see some roman ruins this morning with monica and len, will be good to spend a bit more time with them, then we are off to redditch to have a cuppa and a hug with val & vic and meet their grandchildren, sophie and james, will be good to see them.

then we are off to oxford to see linda and keiron, i cant wait, will be fun.

hope you are all well, love you

deb, oh yes ben has said we dont need to come back for another month, or was that dad lol mmm what a wonderful idea

Shrewsbury to Redditch to Kidlington(Oxford)

16th August 2006

Its been a busy day. We were out and about early with Monica and Len looking at old roman ruins in Shropshire and then onto the very first castiron bridge every made. Was a fun morning, and yes the history just keeps coming on!! We were back at Monica and Len's place by noon, packed the car and said good bye to a couple of new friends. We loved our time in Shrewsbury and Deb finally got to meet her Godmother. We called into see Val and Vic on the way to Oxford, so we could meet their grandchildren (and see them of course smile ). Val had made lunch and we sat and chatted with them for a while. It was so good to here that Vals brother is not as critical as first thought. Sad to say bye again to two very good friends. We arrived in Kidlington at 4:15pm, dropped our bags at Linda and Keiran's , dropped the car off and then came back to our new home for the next 13 nights. Keiran had cooked a wonderful tea and we spent the night catching up and planning our stay, so much to do so little time. Its tuff having to decide , but we seem to manage. I have posted a few more pics in the UK folder, so go and have a look.

Photos

17th August 2006

Sorry about that folks confused I seem to have forgot to post the pictures I promised. There are now a few more photos in the UK folder. I couldn't resist putting in the pic of Laura's Tower, as Len put it, "she's got a fine set of locks on that tower". Love ya heaps Laura

Oxford 17 Aug

17th August 2006

Today Linda and Keiran took us into Oxford. We started the day at the Oxford farmers market, on the produce side of things it offers a good variety of local meats cheeses breads and veges. Similar in many respects to Willunga farmers markets, except a bit bigger and the produce is a bit different. The Farmers markets are held on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of every month.The pork rolls you get here are cut straight from the spit with crackling to die for razz. There is also a general market attached to it with all sorts of clothes and jewellery, etc available. While we were there we got caught in our first British downpour, it was fun hiding under the stall holders shelter while the heaviest of the rain did its stuff. We then went up to the permanent undercover market, it was a bit like a scaled down version of the Adelaide Central Markets but nowhere near as good. Afet that we went off to the Museum for lunch and then looked at the exhibits. They had displays on the Roman occupation, Egypt, and a themed exhibit on Leonardo da Vinci.. As usual it was very interesting. Then we walked around town looking at many of the various Colleges of Oxford University. There is SO much history here. The old scholers roll reads like a whos who. A very interesting day. Needless to say we took many pictures. I know we have just scraped the surface here, but it is great to be immersed in it and Keiran and Linda were magnificent guides. We finished the day with an icecream and coffee. Our fantastic holiday just keeps getting better, everywhere is so different to where we have already been. A lot of our enjoyment so far has to be the company we have been keeping, everyone is so generous with there time and knowledge. We just could never thank everyone we have met enough.

off to london

19th August 2006

good morning, the sun is shining brightly and we are off to london today, cant wait.    but more of that later.   we had a lovely day yesterday, we went for a drive to the cottswalds  stopped in a couple of towns for a walk around,  broadway and snowshill, we drove through, stow on the wold, chipping norton and a few other small villages, was really beautiful, every town was gorgeous, and the country side was lovely too.  went and looked around snowshill manor that had lots of old stuff in it, it used to be owned by henry the viii, who then gave to to catherine parr, henry died soon after, she remarried but died in childbirth one year later, then her husband was beheaded.   henry viii has had alot to do with the area.  i find it all very fascinating big grin    we cooked last night for linda and keiron, was a nice night, and we planned what we are doing today, look forward to the next installment!!! 

i have just heard port and the crows lost, i am not doing very well in the footy tipping sad

glad to hear brian enjoyed  his  birthday.

happy birthday tom for sunday, hope you have a great day, whats this we hear you are giving aiko beer confused she wont want to come home cry

carly and kieran and ella, hope you are enjoying your new home, bet is was great waking up there this morning.  enjoy

well  it is off to london, (to see the queen!) tis a hard life, better go and get organised.

love and hugs from both of us 

London

19th August 2006

Left home at 8:40 for the train station and arrived at the Baker Street Tube Station at about 10am. We connected to another tube and went to Westminster Station to begin exploring.

Wow, what a way to start, we walked out of the station and across the road was the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben (no, not you Ben laugh out ) right in front of us. We walked up and went into Westminster Abbey. mmmmm How do you put into words a feeling of walking into history. There are so many kings , queens, nobility , scholars, literary greats, military commanders, politicians, etc buried or remembered in there.Its not the biggest church we have been in over here by any stretch, but it is so grand. It dates back to 1066 and has relics from every period of English history from then to now in it.

From there we went across the River Thames to look at the Houses of Parliament from the side that you see in most British crime shows. It is to Deb the same as sitting across from the Opera House in Sydney, maybe not as spiritual for her but uplifting all the same. We had a few photos taken with the Houses as a back drop, it really is an awesome view.

Then we hopped on a ferry, and cruised down to the Tower Bridge, so much to see on the way . Cleopatra's Needle, The Artichoke, St Pauls Cathedral, a replica of the Golden Hind (Drakes boat), the Millenium Bridge, other old bridges (and the present London bridge, its the fourth, one burnt down, one was taken down and the third was sold to a texan!!)

At the end of our cruise we got off at the Tower of London, we didnt have enough time to go in and have a proper look so we decided to walk around the outside and get a feel for it. I guess to me it is what a real castle should look like. A good deep moat around it, defensive walls and an inner keep. With the keep being the tallest part of the castle and the place where so many "political" prisoners have been kept. I think the likes of Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth were kept prisoner there at various times. We got the cruise back up to Westminster, this time one of the crew gave an informative commentary of all the main sites as we went along. The commentary was accompanied by a very liberal dash of Londoner humour throughout, very witty and cutting at times, a good social commentary .

After that we walk up to Trafalger Square, along the way we saw the start of Downing Street, its like a small fortress, although you can see glimpses of No. 10 from the road. Along the street a bit further we saw a changing of the guard ceromony at a parade ground. The soldiers looked so young, some around 16 or 17!!!!!

We got to Trafalger Square, Nelson's Column is awesome. At the base it is guarded by 4 huge lion sculptures, unfortunately children and some adults were climbing all over them, which sort of spoilt the grandure a bit. The column is in the forecourt of the British museum. While we were the there was a chinese Lion dance being carried out as part of a cultural display. That was interesting, with a mechanical Lion and accomapaning drummers.

From there we walked up to Soho, so Keiron could get some coffee from his favourite south american coffee shop. Soho has a very cosmapolitan feel to it. So many interesting looking people and places. Would be a fun place to people watch.

Soho is part of, or attached to, or is right next to (I am not sure which is the best description) the West End theatre district. So many big shows on all in the one area. Next time we are here we must go to one or two. We both decided that if we had a choice of going to only one, it would have to be "The Mouse Trap", just because of the history to it.

From there we walked up through Chinatown to Picadilly circus and neally lost Deb, but we found her OK razz.

And that was our day in London, we jumped on a tube to Baker St to connect with our train out of town. Its hard to believe we did sooooo much, but it all just flowed so well and Deb, Linda, Keiron and I all had a fanatstic day, but were all just a tad tired by the time we got home, Lucky tomorrow was Sunday and a late start.

Family day

21st August 2006

howdy, we had a wonderful day yesterday (yes just like all the others laugh out).   in the morning i chatted to brian, then ben, then karlien and finally em on the computer. was wonderful.  i have just been chatting to mum, ben and ann, i love keeping in touch with you all, now the blog.

we had a lazy morning, linda and keiron went to the gym, then the market for todays dinner.  we read the paper and generally enjoyed having a slow morning.   the weather was very cloudy, but not cold, for most of the day, it brightened up in the early evening.

dee and chris came over around 2pm and cliff shortly afterwards, was lovely to see them all. we wandered around to linda and keirons local pub, the kings arms  was very nice, the english pubs are very different to ours, much more intimate, lots of small rooms or alcoves, very nice.  we had a few drinks, then went back to linda and keirons, they had prepared a lovely dinner.  prawns for starters and a spanish champagne (we have drunk lots of european wine while we have been here and one  from uraguay, they have all been very nice), linda did a wonderful pork roast dinner, the pork was magnificent, so much flavour, have not tasted pork like it in australia (the bacon also seems to have more flavour) and lots more wine smile

when we were all sitting around the table eating and drinking and talking, it felt really good, like it can only feel with family or really good friends, brought tears to my eyes.   was a wonderful moment razz

cliff left after the roast, he had to get back home.   was sad when he left, there were lots of hugs, will post a photo for you soon.    i asked him if we could see him next weekend, so fingers crossed.   if not will have to wait till he comes to visit us in australia, hopefully we will not have to wait tooo long.

later we had desert and talked about our plans for today, we are going on a long boat on the oxford canals, we are all really looking forward to it.   dee and chris are lovely company as are linda and keiron, should be a fun day.

we saw english stars later in the night for the first time, it seemed a fitting day for it. 

every day is a new adventure here, life is good

love and hugs to you all from us 

Narrow Boating on the Oxford Canals

21st August 2006

It was an early start for all of us here, everyone had to be ready by 8:30am. All was well and we left at 8:40 to pick-up our boat at 9am from Oxfordshire Narrowboats. Our boat was called Dreamweaver, and it was shortish, as narrow boats go, about 36 ft long(compared to the longest at 69ft). We Travelled from Heyford Wharf upstream to Aynho Wharf, where we just had to stop in for a cleansing ale at the Great Western Arms Pub. Now, there is this thing about narrowboating, you steer the boat with a tiller and the max speed is 4 mph. So your day is spent cruising through the green pastures of the english countryside at a very leisurely pace. As for the steering of these vessels, it is a fine art and not for the faint hearted, as both Deb and myself found out. I opted for ramming speed in a zig zagging pattern when we were approached by a seemingly hostile boat (well thats what I apparently thought of their intentions by the way I drove) whilst Deb tried the old lets see if we can stick this boat diagonally across the canal and block it for all and sundry approach. LOL Needless to say we were relieved of our duties fairly quickly by our crew mates Linda Keiron , Chris and Dee. They did let us both loose again, but under closer watch smile Narrowboating is relaxation (apart from the driving above) personified. More or less drifting along and just watching the world go by. The canals are all basically flat. But every now and then there is a lock, which is a means of moving the boat to a slightly higher or lower canal. The deepest lock we past through was at Somerton, and it was about a 10ft difference in the water level either side of the lock. We have a fair bit of this experience on video so we can show everyone when we get back. We had lunch on board after our visit to the pub, pork and chicken with various salads, and baguettes washed down with some sparkling wine, its a tough life laugh out.

The weather was kind to us again, after a very overcast and threatening starting the day cleared to bright sunshine.

This holiday just gets better and better, we both cant believe what we have been able to do, and to be able to share all our adventures with family is sensational, so many laughs and good times.

Deb told me this afternoon that Wed marks the end of our third week of holidays. I cant believe that three weeks have gone already, but on reflection I almost wonder how we could have fitted in everything we have done in the short time we have been here.

I have put a pic of us and the boat in a lock in the photos for everyone to see.

Keep your messages coming on our site, its nice to find out what your thinking of our trip so far, love to all 

lazy day at home

23rd August 2006

had a lovely relaxing day yesterday, we walked up the street, about 10 min walk, did a bit of shopping, nice shopping area.  after lunch we had a walk to thrupp, through fields and along the canals, and through the old part of kiddlington where we are staying, tis a very lovely part of the world.   had a drink at the pub, all of the pubs are very nice here.

linda and keiran, did a lovely dinner, barbecue, we all sat outside, was our last day with dee and chris, they go home tomorrow, back to birmingham, we will miss their company, i have been trying to convince them to come and visit, i sound like a worn record!!

have been able to catch up with a few of you on msn, recently, have really enjoyed it, and love your messages, some people are having trouble leaving a message, i think that maybe they are not adding the code to the box after they have done the message, if you have a look under your message there is a code next to a box, just put that number in the box, and you should be right.

it is 9.15am, time for a shower.

oh yes, we saw lots of lovely stars last night, that is twice now, we even saw the plough smile

lots of love and hugs to you all from us 

From the Manor to the Big Barn

23rd August 2006

Weather Cloudy morning and " Balmy afternoon" --> You'd have to be balmy to go out in that rain!!!

We started our morning by saying farewell to Dee and Chris. It was so nice to meet them and share the last few days with them and getting to know them. We have made more good friends smile.

Our adventures today first took us to St Matthews Church in Langford, Oxon. The church is the oldest in the area, built in 1080. Its a very sinple church with so much history built into it and a facinating graveyard surrounding it. After there went went on to Kelmscott Manor, a tudor farm house built on the Thames near Oxford in 1570. William Morris, a man of many artistic talents made it his home in the late 1800's along with the pre-raphalaelite painter Rossetti. It is now a showcase of his wrok and that of his wife daughters and friends. All of whom seemed to excell at all forms of art , from poety to tapestry. The manor also had some beautiful gardens which Deb really enjoyed. We had lunch in the grounds and went driving around through the south west corner of the Cotswolds. So many well preserved small villages. We drove through one town where we both smiled when we saw " Ems Veterinary Clinic". A little later afer going down one of the narrowest roads we have been on we came apon the " Great Coxwell Barn". I can hear you all saying, what the!!!!. Yes this was a huge barn LOL  It was built around 1300 and is a very impressive old building that is still enormous by today standards. Its about 45m long with a cieling height of about 10m.

After there we had a drive around a few more towns, before stopping into a community showroom that we expected to have the wares of local  potters and the like, only to find a Quilt display, mmm we didn't stay long. It was then back home.

Another fun and very interesting day

Stone Henge, the white horse and other prehistoric sites tomorrow, I cant wait !!!  cool

Old and Ancient Wonders

24th August 2006

Wow talk about being spoilt!! smile

Today we had another epic day of discovery with L and K. We left Kidlington at 8:45am and went to Salisbury, where we walked around a bit then went to the Cathederal. We did a tour with a volunteer guide who was just great. She added real life to the history of the Cathederal. Towards the end of the tour we were taken to a room where they had one of the four remaining copies of the Magna Carta It was facinating to see it. Written in latin on a single piece of goats hide. It became the basis for the fundamental legal rights we enjoy. From there we went to "Old Serum", Serum is the old name of Salisbury(I think). Anyway its a ruined castle and settlement overlooking the present city of Salisbury. They had a celebration of the Battle of the Somme display and recreation in the grounds, which was interesting.

From Old Serum we went to Stonehenge. When we drove over the hill approaching it and it appeared on our left hand side I couldnt believe my eyes. It looked so large and real. I have dream't of going to see Stonehemnge since I was about 10, but never really thought I would get there. This was a dream coming true. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck. I was like a kid at christmas. When we got in to it, it was amazing. Everyone there , and the place was crowed, seemed to be in awe of it and were all remarkably quiet. The "henge" has a feel to it. It is over 5000 years old and you get the feeling that all of its history is still there. It has a resonance, a presence, mmmm so hard to explain, it really does have to be experienced. I had been told that it was smaller than you might expect and that you couldnt get close to it. It was much bigger than I expected and while you cant get up and personal with it, you can get close enough to feel and imagine the events that have happened there. mmmm I'm babbling laugh out but it really is an awesome experience, even spiritual.

They all eventually dragged me out and we set off to a little village called Avesbury. This village has its own stone cirlces dating back 5000yrs or so.  While not as imposing as Stonehenge they also gave off an aura of past times and mystical things. We walked the main circle, maybe 300m dia surrounded by a high mound and a deep ditch.

Close by is the largest manmade mound in europe, Silbury Hill, it is something like 135 ft tall and 150 ft dia. It also dates back to Stonehenge times. And the hills are dotted with ancient burial mounds and other strange earthworks. Its a magical area.  Next time we are here we will go back to Stonehenge and aslo go and look at a few of the "White Horses" that are drawn onto several of the hillsides down that way.

After that we left for home, as we came into Oxford there was a hot air balloon floating through the sky, good way to finish our day. We got home around 7pm. After tea we sat around with L and K talking about the upcoming Italian leg of our trip and getting their insight into Rome and Italy.

Days just don't come much better than this one. 

Cooking up a storm

26th August 2006

good morning

we had a relaxing day yesterday, just what we all needed.    did some shopping in the morning, bought what we needed for dinner. we cooked fillet mignon for dinner last night and berries for desert for linda and keiron, i had my hair done in the afternoon, the grey is gone big grin greg cooked beef rendang for dinner tonight, he really enjoyed being back in the kitchen. linda and keiron went out for a 2 hour bike ride was a lovely afternoon to be outside.

we are enjoying your messages and emails, thankyou for all of your news, it is great to keep in touch.

off to london today, cant wait..........

more later.

hope you are all enjoying your weekend. 

London again :-)

26th August 2006

Up early and off to London again this morning.

Our train arrived at Baker St a bit after 10am and we walked down to the other end before catching our first london taxi (Black Cab). Deb was very excited it was one of her must do things for London. We got the taxi to one end of Portobello Road. Portobello Rd is a street market on Sat mornings, it must stretch out for about a mile or so. The stall holders sell everything from Antiques to the ususal tourist things. At the end we started all the shops are antique shops . It was really enjoyable walking down the road in all the bussle. We bought a brass candle holder (we have been looking for one like it for ages) and Deb bought a small blue ceramic jewel box. As we walked we got ourselves a piece of Quiche, was really yummy and a blue berry muffin. We then hopped on a tube and got off near Buckingham Palace. We walked down a few streets and came to the palace, its huge.Entry is by timed tickets and we didnt have time to waste waiting so we went out front and took a few pics and had a coffee. From there we set off down the road towards marble arch and caught another cab to Covent Garden. There were market stalls and buskers there. Really lively place. Kieron and I stood and watch people playing chess for a while. We saw a couple of guys play a match, It must have taken all of 3 mins start to finish. They used a timer and it was a lot of fun, basically it was the first to make a mistake lost. We then sat down and had lunch, and just lisitened to all the sounds around us. Deb enjoys London for the people watching as much as anything else. There are soooooo many different cultures represented here. After lunch we walked up to one of Linda's favourite picture galleries and looked around it for  a while. Very interesting, the gallery had everything from original cartoon strips to old worldy sketches. We then walked around for a bit more, we wnet into one of Kieron's favourite cheese shops. We both had never seen so many or so much cheese in such a small area. And all the cheese was made in Britain. We finished up buying some Stilton and some Stinky Bishop, ( what a great name for a cheese !! laugh out) then we went past the theatre where "The Mouse Trap" plays. When we come back we have decided that it is one of the things we must do. A bit more walking and we came to the end of Oxford Street, and time to achieve another of Deb's must do's. So we all hopped on a Red London Double Decker Bus. (Seems it was the first time for Linda and Kieron for a long time too) Its the only way to do the length of Oxford Street. There are so many people that continously fill the footpaths the whole legth of it. The street is limited to only buses and cabs, so, for the front up top we had this view of Big Red Buses folowing up this street crowded with people of all shapes sizes and colours. We got off near Baker St and walked back up to the train station. I got a photo of the Bronze Sherlock Holmes statue the is out in front of the station. On the walk up to the station Deb caught a lot of the various peoples of London on video, will be interesting to see when we get home,mmmm what am I saying eek, I might set up a loop tape for her. laugh out We hopped on a train and started our journey back home. Once home we heated the Rendang we made the day before and had a nice tea. Another great and different day in the UK.

A quiet day in Oxford

27th August 2006

After a nice sleepin we managed to get out of bed to the tune of the local church bells.

I did a little house keeping in backing up our photo's (There over 1000 now!! smile ) and Deb tidied up our growing stash of Tourist booklets and mementos.

Linda cooked a very nice brunch which we ate in the back garden, bathed in beautiful sunshine.

Later in the day, Kieron, Deb and I went for a walk along "the cut" (the local canals) and then through a woodland, before finishing up at the Five Bells, where we met Linda for a pint. :-) the rewards of walking yeah !!! laugh out . I am getting to like bitter, but I think its a bit warm at home for it.

After that we walked home and Linda has almost got tea ready, not sure what we are having but it will be delicious, L + K are superb cooks.

Later we are going to show L & K all our pics, that should fill in a couple of hours.

All in all, a good relaxing day to rechrge our batteries and get ready for our next leg.

It was great to talk with everyone back home, we are so glad everyone is good, and Carly has her complete smile back big grin, bye for now

Last day in the UK-what a great family we have

28th August 2006

we had a lovely day yesterday, very relaxing, went to a garden centre, decided we would get a few fish when we get home, we were hoping dante and tessa would come with us to choose them. cliff came over in the afternoon, really enjoyed seeing him again. said he will come and visit us in april next year, mum and i have told him we will come and get him if he doesnt come, so either way will be good. linda cooked a lovely dinner last night, we have been fed like kings the food has been amazing. linda and keiron have been wonderful company, great hosts, we look forward to spending alot more time with them as we do everyone we have met, we have felt very welcomed by you all, thankyou. we certainly have a wonderful family, so thankyou for your warmth, friendship and love.

Thankyou to Vic and Val you are most certainly our family, we love you dearly, thanks for your generosity, we will definately catch up with you when you come to australia, even if it means going to perth. You have a lovely family, we enjoyed meeting Jane, Dave, Kim and Sophie and James, and hope to see them all again next time we visit.

Cliff, we knew we would like you after all of the texting we did before we got to the UK, we have both really enjoyed your company and cant wait to see you in the new year, will be fun, thanks for everything, we love you. Was great to meet Isabelle, we look forward to seeing more of her.

Derek and Eileen what a wonderful family you have you all made us so welcome, thankyou. It was great to bump into you when you were out for a walk with the dogs. Thanks for ringing last night, we will definately keep in touch. How wonderful it was to meet all of my cousins, thankyou for making the effort to see us, we really appreciated and enjoyed your company, Dawn you have so much vitality, it was a joy to spend time with you, we enjoyed meeting Philip, you have wonderful kids, Dominic thanks for letting us take your pic :), Tilliesha and Damari we really enjoyed your company.

Nick and Alecia, you came so far to see us, that meant alot, thankyou, we look forward to catching up with you next time and Alana and Lucy, you are a great family.

Kate, what a smile you have, such a competant woman, you had a lovely peacefulness about you, Romaya and Tyree are beautiful children, we look forward to catching up with you all again and we will definately keep in touch with you all.

If any of you ever make your way to Australia, you are very welcome to come and stay with us for as long as you would like, we would love to show you around.

Rob & Kathy, i was so happy to meet you, it was 31 years ago we started writing to each other, it put a big smile on my face meeting you, you give great hugs smile, you have a great family was really good, to go to your house and have a cuppa and meet Michael and Sue, we will definately stay in touch, will send you some photos when we get home.

Steve, Catrina, Eleanor and Amity, we had a lovely afternoon and evening with you, we felt very much at home you are a great family, it was a joy to be with you. We hope you will make your way to Australia one day, we would love to spend more time with you and you are welcome to stay as long as you would like. Would be great to show you our part of the world.

Ann & John was great to see you both again, we look forward to spending more time with you next time. And John I have not forgotten about our date, Paris will never be the same!!

Auntie Jessie, how wonderful to see you again, I love you dearly, was great to meet Joyce, and thankyou to Irene and Terry for showing us around, we had a great afternoon with you.

We had a great dinner with you Matt and Greg, good food and wine, and wonderful company, really enjoyed catching up with you. And thanks Matt for helping us out with our phone problems.

I finally met my godmother, Monica, and her husband Len, you both made us feel very welcome, we had a really enjoyable time with you both, we look forward to keeping in touch with you both, and seeing you next time we are over.

Linda & Keiron, has been great to spend more time with you both, we have had lots of fun with you and some great days exploring your part of the world, we have had some moments with you that will stay with us forever, narrow boating stonehenge and london were memorable, thankyou. we also really enjoyed the wonderful meals we shared and chatting over the many bottles of wine that were consumed! We know we will spend many more moments with you and we look forward to that.

Dee and Chris, it was good to finally meet you both, we really enjoyed the few days you spent with us, you are really good company, we hope you will visit us one day, so we can spend more time with you both.

You have all made us feel really welcome and been very generous with us, thankyou so much. We look forward to doing it all again in another 5 years.

Italy here we come.

lots of love and hugs to you all, best of luck with the quiz night ben, hope you get us something nice in the auction carly, happy fathers day on sunday to our dads, we look forward to taking you both out to lunch when we get back. well done brian with your footy, bet you are still smiling. thanks for the emails dante and tessa, 18 sleeps till we see you, or is it 17? ella cant wait to see your new bedroom, you will have to show us around, thankyou for your messages, destiny, what great messages you send us, cant wait to see you and give you a hug. aiko we miss you, we have both enjoyed chatting to you all on messenger, not sure how much we will be able to do that in italy. but we will see you all soon.

KIdlington - Gatwick - Rome

29th August 2006

Today, all roads lead to Rome  smile

We woke early and Deb and I went to the local shops. I got a hair cut and then we went shopping for brunch. Linda did a wonderful tasty brunch, again and then we finished packing. We were about to leave when Linda noticed Vashty (Sorry if I have mis spelt his name Linda) was missing. We looked high and low but couldnt find him. So we never got to say bye :-(. He is one cat that Deb actually liked !!

We left and got caught in a traffic jam in Oxford, 45mins later we were still in Oxford, 2+ hrs later we were at Gatwick, Linda did a great job getting us there.

At check in I noticed I had left our phone in the car, so L and K went back and got it for us (me)- thanks so much . At checkin we found we were 10kg over weight and they wanted 50 pound for the excess, Deb wasnt having that so we became some of those people who repack their bags at the counter, it worked and we got the bags checked in.

It was then time to say bye to Linda and Kieron. You two have been so good to us. We feasted like royalty and were shown so many interesting parts of the country. It was lots of fun exploring with you. We will miss you both very much. Hope you enjoy your holiday in South Wales (and it doesn't rain - mmm not sure if that is possible in sth Wales ?? roll eyes )

Our next thing was getting through security. What a pain, one bag each and of a certain size, again a bit of repacking saw us through ---- eventually!!!!

Our plan got away about 45mins late, it was an 1 1/2 hr flight. We saw the "White Cliffs" as we flew over the cast of Britain and then  had a glimpse of the French coast before the cloud got tooo thick.

Arrived in Rome at about 9pm, found our driver and were at our hotel by 9:45pm. What a day

But WE ARE IN ROMA !!!!!  laugh out

Rome

30th August 2006

We are in Rome !!!! was the way we greeted each other as we woke this morning. What fun this is!!

We got ready , went and had breakfast and then headed out  to explore.

Our first task was to find a bus, following the instructions given by the desk clerk, and following a couple from our hotel (at a descrete distance) we headed out into the great unknown lol

After a while we realised that the couple we were follwing didnt have any idea about where they were off to , so we part ways and eventually decided to get a day ticket on a hop on hop off tourist bus. We had a great time We saw rome from the bus, and got up close to a few of the sites we might not be able to see on our tour. We walked through the Campo de Flora, but the flower stall weren't there, fun anyway, then we walked up to Piazza Navona, a beautiful square with magnificent fountains and cafes all down one side. (We went back there fr lunch -- Pizza in Roma !! and a short black expresso for me laugh out ). We walked t the Piaazzo Chigi and then to the Pantheon. So much history in this town, Even the streets pavers you walk on !!!!! Talk about walking in the footsteps of history. From there we got back on the bus and went to the Fontana de Trevi. So many people, I didnt realise just how big this fountain was. We walked around the area a bit then got back on the bus. Oh yes, Deb has been being Deb, she tried to get into a Government building, because it looked interesting, the guards didnt put her off, the later she was told off by a guard for filming him in a building, !! Thats my woman smile

We then got the bus back to where we started and walked back to the hotel, to get ready for the tour welcome drink and walking tour.

History is everywhere here, walls near our hotel were built in 20 AD. We are just so lucky. mmm all that and we haven't started the tour yet.

NEWS FLASH!!!!!!!   Ella just said "Mummy". I had a message from a very happy mum, thanks so much for sharing Calry, enjoy.

Start of our Tour

31st August 2006

At about 5pm we had our welcome drink and tour intro then went out for a meal with the group. A bit of a cliche really, we went to a restuarant opposite the Colloseum called the "Gladiator". smile  We started with an ante pasta plate followed by pasta in tomato sauce then a mixed pizza and finished off with tiramso. (Excuse my spelling.) and wine, ooops champain starter, then the House "Gladiator"red :-). We were seranaded by a piano accordian and a male and a female singers. They were good, but no one rushed to buy their CD.

The Tour started this morning with a 5:45am wake up call. Breakfast at 6:30am and the bus was meant t pick us up at 7 , but someone tried to break into it the night before , so it was a tad late, but all was OK.

The early start was so we could line up for the Sistine Chapel. I guess we queued for 1 hr before we got in. The Vatican is an amazing place , so big. We walked through a few exhibits on the way to the chapel. The Sistine Chapel is an amazing feat. Michealangelo had never painted before he did the ceiling, he was a scupture. So he learnt as he went. It is really a remakable work.

From there we went to St Peters Vascillica. The largets church in the world. The colloseum would fit inside it. The history of the church is very interesting. On the way we went through the vault with the tombs of the most recent Popes. That was really interesting. In St Peters there is a Pope who has been , well basically preserved in a glass case. A bit wierd, but then this is the Vatican.laugh out All the way through St Peters there is great mention of Pope Gregory the something roll eyes He sounded like a pretty cool guy for a Pope. He was responsible for our present calender amoungst many other things. How could he go wrong with a name like that cool. OK when in rome..... We rubbed the feet of a statue of St Peter (for luck) , drank from a fresh water fountain (because we were thirsty and we could) and Deb found the holy water and dabbed me and her with it (because she could )

After there we had lunch in the Vatican city the got on the bus and went to the Coloseum. The coloseum was used from about 34BC to 240 (or 340??AD) it is huge. And it had a very complexe under floor arrangement for gladiators and animals and other performers to use. The entry was free, sponsored by the rich of the time for the ammusement of the emporer. The seating was scaled with the rich and famour near the action, polititians next, then the citizens, then the freemen, then slaves and then if there was any room left, women. The seating was marble for the emporer to wooden for the slaves.

After there we went over to the Forum, it is the worlds first department store, you could buy almost anything there. Parts of it are currently under reconstruction. A facinating day.

Datne , Tessa and Ella, we have posted postcards for you from the Vatican, you should get them soon.

Ha

Rome to Tuscany

1st September 2006

We left Rome early on Friday morning, drove to Sienna, great town, we wandered around for a few hours, old town, we had a wonderful cheese platter in the piazza and a glass of wine, was magnificent.    Then it was off to Florence, we are staying in the Sheridan, which is very nice, but this computer is very expensive to use!!! Last night we had dinner in a monestry, served by monks that were not really monks, but alot of the food was prepared by the monks, it was a really fun evening.    On the way to dinner we had to go another way, because there had been an accident, we went via a hill with a magnificent view over Florence, saw the ponte vechio.   Cant believe we are here, feel really lucky.   (yes I know you are all confused, I am using capitals!!!)

Today we had another early start we went to San Gioamo (sorry spelling not right), it is the most beautiful town, I wanted to stay, and I could easily live here, the views are stunning, the town magnificent, 700 years old.     What a wonderful town, this is where I want to come back to and spend more time, see if I can convince Greg.    It is just as I imagined Tuscany to be, it was very easy to see us living here.    It is my favourite place that we have been so far.    London and Rome I thought were both a 10/10, I couldnt see how I could like any place more.    But I would give San G.... 20/10, so very beautiful, we will be back.

This afternoon we wandered around florence, we were both a bit disappointed, thought it would have more style, maybe we didnt see the right bits, we enjoyed wandering along the river to the ponte vechio which we both enjoyed, walking along the bridge was amazing, I have never seen so many jewellery shops, they were all jewellery shops.

Afterwards we did a guided tour of the city, went to a church where Galileo and Michael Angelio are buried, along with many other famous people of their time.   Every church is stunning, they are all so different, with many frescos on the walls.   I have lit many candles in all of the churches, so all of our family and friends should be living very healthy, happy lives.  

We also saw David, really enjoyed that, he is quite magnificent.   Have lots of photos.

Tonight we ate in the hotel, we are up tomorrow at 6am, to leave at 7.30am for Pisa, Milan and we are staying at Lake Como for a few nights, hopefully their computer will not be as expensive, cant believe this blog has cost 7 Euro.     

Happy fathers day to our dads, we will be thinking of you both and will have a drink to you too.   Hey Kieran it is your first fathers day, how wonderful, enjoy.

Has Ash won the footy tipping??? We presume so.     We are really enjoying all of your messages, we are hoping to put some pics on here, so fingers crossed.

Lots of love and hugs to you all from us

Ferenze to Lake Majorie to Venice

3rd September 2006

Its been a while since our last entry and a very busy time on the tour for us.

We left Florence last , mmm what day was that, OK on the 3rd and drove to the lakes district of northern Italy.OK Lets see how my memory is. On the first day there we arrived fairly late. The drive from Florence to Lake Majorie was broken by two stops. The first in Pisa. We did the pilgramage to see the Leaning Tower. Wow it really is a sight you have to see. It is of such large proportion.  No time to climb it but we had a good look around.

Next it was back on the bus and off to Milano. Now this is a city that oooooozes class. We both thought it got all of Florences share of class as well as its own. We saw a statue of Leonardo , the Opera house, a huge Cathederal (Yes we still enjoy them)  and went through an appartment store. and generally walked around . Oh yes, we got some nice bath bubbles for Deb.

Then onto Lake Majorie. It reminded us both of Queenstown in NZ.

The first night we had tea, and then went for a walk along the lake forshore and finished up out on a stone jetty, Very nice. The next day we went up a gondolla to the top of a near by mountain and saw the Alps in France and Switzerland. Next we returned to lake level and got a boat out to one of the islands in the lake. The Island had a Palace on it belonging to the family who owned the lake!!!! It was impressive for its history as much as its architecture. The likes of Napoleon and Musilinni have satyed there

Next day we went into Switzerland , to say that we had LOL Bought some chocolate and looked around the lake. We saw a statue of William Tell (It was his town) and then back on the bus for Verona,

Times up , sorry have to go .

We are off to a Vervaldi concert in St Marks Square in Venice tonight. Its so tough here :)

More maybe to morrow and hopefully some pics

Verona to Venice to Assissi

5th September 2006

Ok sorry about the pause. But more of that later. :)

We got to Verona and Walk down past some old roman ruins that have been exposed and preserved. The street has been left open around them so you can see new and old Verona. Its so good how they do that sort of thing, incorporating the new and old together. (and we are so glad they do.)

OK , we wnet down this little alley way, through a short tunnel covered in what I initially thought was really bad graffetti, but on closer inspection was literally thousands of messages of love. Anyway we saw the balcony from which Julia made her speech " Romeo Romeo, etc....". And then we were introduced to a bizzare Verona tradition. In the square below the balcony is a bronze statue of Juliet, with her right breast exposed. The way the story goes is that you rub her breast for lasting love, so as they say " When in Rome ....." and we were close enough :-). By the way her right breast, the statues I mean, is bright and shiny from many hands, lol.

Then we went off to the main square for lunch, and while we were sitting down we were amused by a guy, whio definitely was a few sandwiches short of a picnic, climbing over an advertings sugn and calling out something that sounded very bizzare. Never a dull moment here.

Back on the bus and off to Venice. WOW

Whata city,We were introduced to Venice by a Gondolla ride from the dropoff point , down the Grand Canal to our Hotel, right on the canal. We had time to drop our bags off then have dinner and then we headed out for a drink and music in St Marks Square in the middle of Venice. The square is huge, and surrounded by very ornate old builds on three sides and a large Cathederal at the other.

Next morning we started the day with a water taxi ride to the Doge's Palace (he was the elected ruler of Venice) for a tour through both the palace and the Cathederal. The Cathederal's floor is sinking, apparently its the qworst case of sinking in Venice, because the area is way to heavy for the supports under it. After that we went off for a demonstration of glass blowing (nothing there we liked to buy) and then we had some free time. We went up the Bell tower in the square and got great views all arounf Vencie, but could only see a couple of Canals, it was designed that way so if an enermy got control of the tower they couldnt use it to see all the canals in the city. Then we had a stroll around a few of the streets (alley ways) and the got some lunch before going off and having a look through the Museum. Wow, what a facinating place and historyVenice has. After there we went off and had a drink at a very exclusive hotel"The Hotel Danieli" its the place they use for period movies inVenice, very elegant. Next we were picked up by a boat and taken out to the island where they make all the Venetian lace. It has its own leaning tower!!!!  We had an early dinner there abnd then went around and looked at the lace, We are now the proud owners of a Venitian lace table cloth, next dinner party will be posh :-). We got back to our hotel and about 6 and booked tickets for a Vivaldi Concert ( as per the earlier blog). Wow, what a stunning thing to do. We walked to St Marks Square and then into a small church. The orchestra, was 4 strings and keyboard, with 2 opera singers as well.  they sang a range of songs for a bit over an hour, it was just awesome.   us in venice in an old church listening to vivaldi and some opera.

to finish the night we went into st marks square for a drink and to listen to some live jazz, what a life.

have to go now dinner awaits us on the balcony, at our hotel in assisi, overlooking umbria.

having a wonderful time

6th September 2006

howdy

just short and sweet to thankyou all for your messages, we look forward to the treats you bought at the quiz night carly, great to hear you are growing destiny, hope brian and tara do well with their finals.   Dante, hope you enjoyed school today, not long and you will be going every day.    Tessa, Nan tells me you and dad have not been well, hope you are both feeling better soon.   Thanks for your emails mum, love getting them.

leonie, no bottom pinching yet!

we are off to see vivaldi, tonight, i cant believe it, vivaldi in venice, it is in a church just off st marks square, so hopefully we will be able to sit and enjoy some jazz in the square afterwards too.

we have spent alot of time on the canals, has been great, especially the gondala ride.

off to Asissi tomorrow, every place has been better than the last in Italy.

We feel so lucky.

love to you all, from us, bring on vivaldi.

be seeing you soon.

Venice to Assisi

7th September 2006

howdy,

just a quick blog, we have a computer in this hotel.    sorry we cant leave you any photos though, maybe in the next few days, but definately when we get to rome, we have some beauties

left venice yesterday morning at 7.30am, after getting to bed at midnight, but there is no time to sleep, so much to see and it is all wonderful

on the way we visited another old church, at ravina, just beautiful, as they all are.

then off to assisi, what a beautiful old town it is, on a hill, we saw the bassilica of st francis, it is just magnificent, then greg and I walked up to la rocco, a castle at the top of the hill, i was proud it was very steep, we had 360 degree views, it was maginificent, i keep using the same words all the time for italy, and i know it is boring, but this place it magnificent, sorry but it is.

Assisi to Sorrento & Amalfi Coast

8th September 2006

After a dinner out on the terrace overlooking umbria, the previous night, where we saw a wonderful sunset, which we have lots of photos of, we set off for Sorrento.    On the way we saw the church of St Valentine, where they keep his head as a relic and travelled south through the valleys of the Appenines.       We saw the abbey at Cassino which is the headquaters for the benedictine monks, later we passed mt vesuvius on our way and finally got to Sorrento.    We had a most magnifent view from our room, overlooking the mediteranean, we felt very lucky, the hotel was perched on the top of a cliff. 

Later that afternoon we drove to the Amalfi coast, that is quite an experience, the road is very narrow, but great views over the edge.    Good job our bus driver Pino, is such a good driver.

We transferred to mini buses for the drive down the very narrow and winding roads down to Positano, which was a lovely little town, of white washed mediteranean villas on the coast.     I put my feet in the mediteranean and Greg splashed with his hands.   The beach is pebbly, so my feet got a good massage, and we now have a pebble from the mediteranean.

Then we drove back to Sorrento and saw some wood work of inlaid wood, great craftmanship.   Then onto dinner at a seaside fishing village, and you guessed it it was very lovely, we had an authentic neopolitan meal, overlooking the water.   Saw the moonrise over the village and yes got many photos.   We have an obscene no of photos, so dont say you werent warned, might be best if you dont visit us for a year or two!!!! it would take that long to view them all and all of the video we have!!!!

Isle of Capri

9th September 2006

Caught the ferry over to the Isle of Capri, very picturesque, coming into the harbour seeing all of the boats, cliff tops and houses perched on the side of the hill.     Once we got off the ferry we got on a smaller boat for an hour cruise to the other side of the island and saw the blue, green and white grottos, coral and the coastal sights of Capri.

Then we went up a funicular railway (funicular funiculi - you know the song!) to the top of Capri and walked across the island to the Krupp gardens for views of the coast where our group sang the song about the Isle of Capri, led by our guide willy, we have it on video!!!

From there we had some free time and walked away from the tourists as we have a tendancy to do and saw lots of lovely little hotels and gardens and views to the water.

At 3.30 we caught the ferry back to the mainland the bus dropped us off in sorrento.   Where we proceeded to get lost and had some good conversations with locals.   eventually we founds some nice little shopping streets that were narrow and colourful and walked back to our hotel with john and georgiana.

That night we had an intimate dinner for tea (noone wanted to eat with us- no actually we were last into dinner) at a table for 10.   It was my favourite meal time, has been 5 and a half weeks since we had spent so much time together was nice.   Shame about everyone else sitting around us!   We took our tea and coffee out to the balcony, yes overlooking the mediteranean and had more time to ourselves.   Was a really lovely evening.

One couple call us the love bugs, someone else suggested we were newly weds, and another person said we looked like brother and sister!! I told her we werent!

Sorrento via Pompeii to Rome

10th September 2006

Another early beginning, we are usually given a wake up call at 6am, so they are long days but we get alot done.

Was sad to leave our lovely view, we were on the road at 7.30am, at Pompeii by 8.15am, we were surprised at how big it was 150 acres, they have uncovered 2/3rds of it.   We were awestruck.   The Romans had a very civilised society, everything from take away food shops, to shops with houses ontop, shopping centres, brothels.    3,600 shops in all.     I felt like we should have been dressed in Roman clothes,   Greg has always wanted to come and visit, and while it did not affect him like stonehenge it was still an amazing experience.

Then back on the bus to the Commonwealth War Cemetary at Cassino a moving experience there at 8 aussies buried there, because most had left before the onslaught.    There were 1,000's of graves, many of unknown soldiers, so futile.

Back on the bus and within an hour we were in Rome.

Had our last dinner after a trip to Trevie Fountain, we learnt you have to throw a coin with your back facing the fountain using your right had throw the coin over your left shoulder into the water, and you are not to look where it lands.   If you do this it ensures your return to Rome.   If you throw 2 coins, you will fall in love, 3 coins, get married and 4 coins divorced!   We only threw one coin each.   We have no intention of getting divorced again!!!!

Dinner was good, got a group photo and said our last goodbyes, there were 6 people on the tour that we particularly liked and hopefully we will catch up with them again sometime soon.

Rome-London-Singapore

11th September 2006

Happy Birthday Vonnie, for tomorrow, we will have a drink for you, we dont get into Singapore to around 5pm, so it is going to be a long night and day, but when we are at Newton Circus tomorrow night we will toast you.  Hope you get spoilt.

Ben and Sarah, we hope you have a very happy 4th Anniversary on the 14th, we will be thinking of you too, we will have a toast to you both.  Hope you enjoy you day, and spend some nice moments together.

Before I tell you about this morning, I must tell you all, Greg got a distinction in his last assignment, so he got a distinction for the last subject, great way to finish, he is very happy!

This morning, we slept in until 7.30am, it was bliss.     After breakfast we walked around Rome for the last time and bought a few things.

We had to be out of our room at 12, so we have spent time updating our web page and we had a lovely lunch over the road at a lovely restaurant.

We get picked up at 3pm, in about 20 mins to go to the airport, our flight leaves Rome at 6.40pm, we Leave london around 10.30pm tonight, so it will be a long day.   We are looking forward to Singapore, will be fun to be on our own.

Roma to Heathrow

11th September 2006

Well we have made it to Heathrow. Our original flight from Rome to the UK was delayed about 45mins which would have made our connection to Singapore very tight, we managed to get the last two seats on the flight before so all was well. That flight eventually took off about 1:15 late, but we still got here with 2 hrs to spare. Flight was OK as flights go. The security arrangements are a joke, in Italy they were letting people on with the biggest carry-on luggage I have ever seen, but at Heathrow, those same people complained they had to check it all in, mmm I think the Italians are pretty lay back :-P

Anyway all is well and we are in the British Airways lounge and waiting for our flight.

Things to follow.

Deb and I have both decided to give our overall views on Italy and the whole trip eventually as individual blogs. My Italy will follow this entry.

Next update from Singapore

Greg's Italian Escapade.

11th September 2006

Wow, how do you some up Italy in words.

I guess we have had a pretty reasonable overview of Italy, from the hussle and bussle, the homeless and litter, to all the beautiful and amazing old buildings, and all the history of Rome to the simple life that Italians live in the country side.

I guess I can summarise my feelings for Italy as Experiencing the sensation of walking the same paths as some of histories most famous and notoriuos figures. From saints to sinners, Italy certainly has it all, and a lot of the time the difference between the two is marginal at best. mmmmmmm did you know that different regions of Italy stole bits of Saints from each other, even whole bodies and heads etc. The things the popes have got up to through the years, what the Mafia has been able to help Italy, or regions of it, achieve.

The regional food is so very different from what we get at home. Their food is simple and tasty. Never over loaded, or over spiced. They dint have road rage here, everyone is too lay back. You would have to be to drive here, otherwise you would go absolutely M.A.D. Almost every  car we have seen has dents all over there bumper bars, as the name suggests, they use them as bumpers, to assist in parking , thier way through traffic, or to nudge a pedestrian, lol.

The people we have met on opur tour were very mixed in all respects, and we made good friends with only a few, and we hope to keep those friendships. Alison, our tour director was amazing. She is a woman of so many talents and made our tour the success it was.

I would love to come back here any time, except there is so much else of the world to see.

My Italy is one of great history, passion for food and life, beautiful scenery and contridictions at every turn of the leaf.

I love it, and to quote Dante, " I think we were better off when we were worse off", I will leave you to think about that.

greg tells me i am to give my thoughts on our holiday in italy, he has summed it up very well, every place we went to was wonderful, we have thrown a coin in the trevi fountain so hopefully we will return, we love it in italy, i could easily live there, especially if all of you would come too. but there is so much of the world to see, so we have decided we will not return until we have seen alot more of the world, so much to see, so little time...............better get on with it...............now ben about that money............wink

hot and sweaty in singapore

13th September 2006

we had an uneventful flight to singapore, we have a great room at our hotel, but you should see the security for us to get in, we had to put all of our bags through xray and us through metal detectors, they have the IMF and World bank meeting at our hotel for the next week, so roads are closed off around our hotel, so we feel very safe, never seen anything like it.

you should see our room, very nice we are on the 24th floor, got in around 7.30pm and went and had drinks and nibbles on the executive club floor which are included in our room price, around 9pm we caught a taxi to newton circus and had a delicious meal of chilli squid, grilled garlic prawn and the most delicious crispy duck i have ever tasted, magnificent, mmm there is that word again.

This morning we woke at 4am,   mmm bit early read all of the pamphlets we had on singapore and got a lovely early morning call from carly and kieran, was lovely to talk to them both.   after a lovely breakfast yes on the executive floor, we headed out on a walk of singapore, we found our way to little india, very colourful and lots of smells, some of which i find quite difficult, like the wet market.

when we have finished little india we are going to bugis street, then back to orchard road, before getting dressed up to go to Raffles hotel for high tea, then to the longbar for a gin sling, will think of you all!

it is very humid here, the sweat is running down my back as i type this, a very modern city, very clean and organised unlike Rome, where the traffic is anything but organised it is really mad, so this is a very different pace to italy.

we are off to a mosque now, will say a prayer for you all, i have said so many prayers for everyone, life should be happy and healthy.

Ann hope the footy goes well on the weekend and david and katies move, look forward to hearing all about it on monday.

Ben can do without any work on friday, i will need to be eased in gently, but we will be coming home!!

see if we can download a few more photos for you, take care, see you soon

Homeward Bound

14th September 2006

Hi all

This is possibly our last blog entry from overseas, we are in the Qantas lounge in Singapore and our flight leaves in about 2 1/2 hrs.

We have managed to relieve ourselves of most of our foreign cureency at the duty free shops roll eyes

OK, since our last entry, when we forgot to let everyone know we had uploaded a whole lot of new pics, we have taken things fairly easy. We spent the morning walking back down Orchard Rd to our hotel. Broused a few shops , but didnt buy anything. Got back to the hotel all hot and sweaty , had a shower and then had lunch in the food hall under Raffles Plaza, packed our bags and then took things easy until we got picked up to come out to the airport.

We are both ready to come home laugh out

As we said in a recent blog, the World Bank and IMF are meeting in town from today and the next week, all 2300 delegates + hanger'onners. Outside our hotel they have erected hydaulic crash barriers, and as well as the large number of police, today they added army personnel with machine guns and shot guns, and as we drove out there was a truck with a heavy duty crash bar on the front of it that could probably barge its way through almost anything. We even saw an armed police officer on a bus in the area. It is causing a lot of traffic problems around our end of town. We got a taxi this morning and they checked its boot (for explosives I guess). Never a dull moment.

Well thats about all there is to say, mainstream Singapore is still its sterile self (its not so bad once you get away and into the chaos of  the Little India and Bugis Street area, and the like).

Thanks to everyone for sharing in our trip and all your messages.

We hope you have enjoyed following our adventures, naturally this means that from now on, whenever anyone goes away for an extended time, we will be expecting you to use this site (or similar) so we can enjoy your travels with you.

See you all very soon

More photos

21st September 2006

howdy, arrived home friday morning and it has been very busy, was lovely to see everyone, we were greeted at the airport by Ben, Carly, Dante, Tessa, Carly and Ella, a lovely home coming.    After lunch we went down to von and toms to pick up aiko, we had missed her was lovely to have her back home.  it was obvious she had had fun at aldinga with bella.   thanks for taking such good care of her.  then it was off to carlys to see her new house, they have done very well, it is very comfortable and they have more room, it is nice to see them all so happy.

Dante was 5 on saturday we spent a lovely couple of hours with him in the afternoon, was great to be home to share his day with him, he was certainly having a good time. 

we had a lovely afternoon at carly and kierans on sunday, they had invited all the family over for lunch, enjoyed seeing everyone and catching up.

then it was back to work on monday was really good to see everyone, they all looked great and the office was in really good nick, so i have been able to settle in slowly.

we really relaxed on our holiday, so much so it was a bit difficult to get back into routine, had to remember how to organise things, had to clean and tidy, start cooking, there was no alison to organise us, we thought of her often in those first few days wondering where she was.

it has been lovely looking back over our photos, in the next week we will put some more on our site, so you can see a few more of our holiday.

i hope you all get the chance to go out and see the world for yourself, one thing i realised while we were away is that it doesnt really matter how much you read about it or watch it on teli, you really have no idea until you go and experience the world for yourself, i dont think it matters where you go, everywhere is different and there is much to learn and experience, go and have an adventure!

we are looking forward to seeing karlien and bid on sunday, we are off to kangaroo island the weekend after with them, will be fun.    life is good.

We have added some photos

5th October 2006

Here are a selection of photos from the UK, on the 12th of this month we can add another 40 photos, we will add a few more from the UK and some from Italy

Life has been so hectic since we got back, we still havent had a chance to look at our video, I am looking forward to doing that

We had a great weekend went to Kangaroo Island with Gregs mum and dad, was fun and we saw lots of great scenery.

We also bought our first painting together, bought it from the artist himself, it was such a buzz!! I can see us doing that more often.

Anyway, that is all for now, catch you again in another week

The Coonawarra

10th November 2006

Its great the holidays , or more correctly as Alison would have insisted , "Our Cultural Pilgrimage" keeps happening.

We had a great short break down the coast at Robe, stayed at the "Calli"

We kicked the weekend off with fresh crayfish (Lobster) and Moet  for dinner over looking the beach at Robe.

Its a hard life :-)

Did a bit of site seeing , down around Beachport and tasted a few wines in the Coonawarra.

Most of all it was very relaxing and lots of fun.

Our "Cultural Pilgrimage" Continues

27th November 2006

Hi all,

Seems since we got back from the UK and Italy we just can't get enough travel.

Greg just got backj from Sydney. He went to a 30 year High school reunion,

mmmm we are really getting on in years LOL  :-)

Our next pilgrimage is to Lake Conjola, on the south coast of NSW and then Christmas in Gosford with Greg's family.

Keep it coming :-)

In the meantime, we have managed to get tickets to Day 1 of the Adelaide Ashes Test.

Let it keep rolling on

Lake Conjola

7th December 2006

A week today we leave for a weeks camping at Lake Conjola then Christmas in Gosford and New Years Eve in Sydney.

The pilgrimage continues :-)

Camping at Lake Conjola

15th December 2006

We left Adelaide at about 1pm on Friday and drove to Naranderra. (mmm we are bad naughty peolpe for driving through the dusk period, we were lucky and only saw one group of kangaroos, and they were too busy eating to jump in front of our car). Left early the next morning and arrived at Lake Conjola at around noon. 14 hour drive done very comfortably.

I will update the events of the weeks camping and Christmas in Gosford and New Years Eve in Sydney when we get home.

We both hope everyone has a very safe and happy christmas and new year

Lake Conjola - Gosford

27th December 2006

Howdy

We have had a very relaxing week and a half, first week in Lake Conjola Camping I read 3 books during that time. Greg has read the Divine Comedy by Dante, I am most impressed would have been heavy going, he really enjoyed it.

We will post some photos when we get home, it is a beautiful part of the world.

We had a great Christmas with Karlien & Bid around at Craig and Cooks, Cooks family were their too, it was nice to meet them all.   Craig cooked up a storm, there was so much food we went around yesterday and had some more, yum.    Pat and Laura came up yesterday was great to see them.   We have some good photos will add some later.

Today we are off to the Hawkesbury River for lunch, I really enjoy it there.    When we housesit our way around Australia, The Hawkesbury is definately on my list of places to stay.

Tomorrow we are off to Sydney, to see Mandy and Ian.   We are going to see Priscilla on Friday night.  And on New Years Eve we are off to the Opera House for some Opera and then the fire works.   I am really looking forward to it.    They are forecasting rain for the next 3-4 days so that should be interesting.

Hope all is well with you all, has been great to chat to you over this time.

See you soon.

Hugs from us.

Planning

6th February 2007

Stay tuned, Deb has started planning our next overseas holiday  laugh out

Pilgrimage Planning - Full steam ahead :-)

23rd February 2007

We have moved along a bit and hope to reveal a bit about our planned Pilgrimages soon.

Greg has been putting together a plan for our Central Australian camping Pilgrimage , Uluru, Alice Springs, the Oodnadatta Track and the Flinders Ranges

Deb has been busy booking our Antartica and South American Pilgrimage.

Much happiness

Antarctica and Sth America

21st March 2007

Trips all booked

Antarctica 02 Jan 08 to 12 Jan with Peregrin

and

an Intrepid Tour of Sth Amereica

More Later

Planning for Central Australia is going well, so much to see

We have a new Grandson

4th May 2007

Great news, we have a new grand-son. Ethan Robert was born on Fri 4th May To quote the Paediatrician "he's perfect" :-) Carly and Kieran are both well, despite the lack of sleep. Ella is doing great too :-) She loves her new baby brother

Soon to Victor Harbor

1st June 2007

We have a week in Victor Harbor starting the June long weekend. Lots of fun at the start sharing with Ben and Carly and their families. All the grandkids (minus Ethan, he's a touch young still :-) ) will be sleeping in one huge room and we will be palying Risk and having a port or three :-) at night Lots of fun and so relaxing Then a few days of peace with just Deb and I :-)

Outback 2007

18th July 2007

Much sadness, due to work we have to cut our trip into the outback short. But at least we will get to go away for a while to recharge.

And there is all the time ahead to make the trip.

Revised Outback 2007

5th August 2007

We sat down yesterday and worked out what is possible.

We have moved the trip forward about a week and cut out the Flinders Ranges component

(We can do that separately another time - easy from Adelaide)

So all looks good for trip from 1st Sept to about 20th / 21st Sept  :-)

Outback trip

27th August 2007

All being well we leave for our trip on Friday afternoon.

We will get to Yulara (Ayres Rock (Uluru), and the Olgas (Kata Tjuta) on Sunday and probably stay for 3 nights before moving on to Kings Canyon , Glen Helen and Alice Springs.

Hopefully we will be able to update here reasonably often during our trip, if not I will do a big update when we get back, photos and everything

Uluru

4th September 2007

Howdy

We have travelled 1800 km and are at Yalara, we have had a wonderful time, the landscape is very beautiful green and red and blue sky.  On Fathers day, hope both our dads had a good day, we had dinner under the stars at the sounds of silence, met some nice people.   Yesterday we were at Uluru by 6.30am to watch the rock change colours at sunrise, then walked around the base over 9 km we did it in 21/4 hrs.   Last night we went back to the rock with a cheese platter and wine and watched sunset, have great photos, what a life.

Today we went to Kata Tjuta (Olgas) and walked to the middle of them, it has been our favourite thing so far, was over 8km walk up hill and down dale took 21/4 hrs was a wonderful walk, hope our photos do it justice.    Tonight in an hour we are going to be flying over uluru and kata tjuta at sunset in a small plane.

Tomorrow we are off to Kings Canyon, will spend two nights there and hope to walk around the rim and through the canyon.

The weather has been great, first day was a bit hot but the rest of the time has been high 20's and down to cold in the evening.

We cant upload pics here, hopefully when we get to Alice springs in 5 days time.

Hope you are all well, much love to you all from us.

Kings Canyon - Alice Springs

4th September 2007

Howdy

We are having a wonderful time exploring the outback.    The flight over Uluru and Kata Tjuta was great, gave us a different perspective.   We left for Kings Canyon on Wed morning, got a great sight overlooking the George Gill range, we sat in the evening and had a cheese platter and glass of wine watching the range change colour as the sunset, was magical.    The next morning we did the walk around the rim, was hard going for me at the beginning very steep lots of steps but once we were up on the rim, was an easy couple of hours walk, great views, in the afternoon we read and enjoyed the view.

On Thursday morning we were away early along the Mereenie Loop 250 km of corrugated dirt road, it was hard going, we saw a dingo, 3 camels and some guys working on the road, one of them was holding up a stop sign, made us laugh, not much traffic in the middle of nowhere.

Arrived Glen Helen early afternoon and set up again had another nice view.    Spent the next day going to Ormiston Gorge, The Ochre pits, Serpentine Gorge and Ellery Creek big hole, had a cheese platter at Ellery Creek for lunch very nice.   In the afternoon we read again, then before dinner we went for a walk to Glen Helen Gorge, the one we liked the most.    We had dinner in the restaurant then after beating Greg at cards :) we went and sat at a bonfire our neighbours had going, another great evening.

This morning, Sunday, we were away at 8am, to Alice Springs, didnt take very long, went to the Todd Mall markets, saw Christine Anu singing for 3/4 of an hour, was great.   We did a bit of shopping, have eaten everything we had, we have enjoyed being isolated for the last 4 days, no phone or news.   We both noticed when we were driving into Alice and heard the news on the radio that it had been a while since we had heard any.

Tomorrow we are going to Hermansberg and maybe a few more gorges.

We will try to put some photos on here for you now.

Dante & Tessa hope you have enjoyed the show, we cant wait to hear all about it.

Lots of love to you all from us

Alice

9th September 2007

We couldnt upload photos, will need to do when we can

Alice Springs

10th September 2007

Howdy

we  had a great day, went out to Hermansberg, a German Lutheran mission settlement where Albert Namanjiro is from.  Was very interesting began around 1860's.   Then we went to Standley Chasm, that was beautiful, we managed to be there at midday when it is at its best, with the sun beaming down into the chasm, you should see the photos, hopefully you will sooon :)

This evening we are going to Simpson Gap for a barbecue dinner, evidently the wallabies come out then, we are looking forward to it.

It is a milder day today, much more to my liking, mid 20's very pleasant, the skies have been clear while we have been here, we have been lucky with the weather, I think tomorrow will be cooler too.    The rest of the time it has been in the low 30's.   Down to around 8 degrees at night.

Greg beat me at cards last night, we are 3 all now, think we are going for a best out of 15! will let you know how we go.   Tomorrow we are going to look at the art galleries in and around Alice and generally have an easy day.   The day after we head for Marla, then onto the Oodnadatta track, Staying at William Creek for one night, then Parachilna, then off to Wilpena pound for about 4 nights I think.

Greg has the photos now, so I will let him download them.   Cant wait to see them on the screen.

Hope you are having a better week in the office and that you are on the mend carly.

Happy birthday for the 12th Vonnie, we will have a drink to you.    And Happy Anniversary Ben & Sarah for the 14th.    Not sure Dante if we will be on a computer before the 16th, hey only 6 more sleeps, we will be thinking of you on your birthday.

Lots of love and hugs to you all from us 

Last day in Alice

10th September 2007

Howdy

we had a relaxing morning, left around 10am and went to look at the old Telegraph station was very interesting, we spent much longer there than we normally do. Lots of very interesting history. Then we went to Anzac hill got a good view of Alice which is surrounded by hills.

Had lunch in the mall, then we are typing away here. We are going to look at the galleries this afternoon there are a couple of dozen of them.

We have changed our plans for our trip home, we are staying at William Creek tomorrow night, then Parachilna the night after, then two nights in Arkaroola, then 4 nights in Wilpena, getting home on Thursday 20th of Sept. I presume some of those places will not have phone coverage, so if you need us we will be staying at the pub in the first two places and the caravan park of the last two.

We are off to look at the galleries now, love to you all from us

Special Grandchildrens Update from Alice Springs

11th September 2007

Hi Dante Tessa Ella and Ethan,    :-)

We just thought you all should know that the postcards we have sent today were posted from the Old Telegraph Station in Alice Springs and have a special stamp (Franking mark) on them that you get when you post something from the Telegraph Station.

Also, today we both walked across the Todd River. Clever aren't we!!  :-)

The Todd River is very dry at this time of the year and it is only sand and small rocks.

But even so, each year in late August they hold a boat race on the dry river, where people build special boats with no bottoms in them and then they all jump inside them hold the edges and run down the river racing each other. The people up here get a little crazy!!!!

Anyway, tomorrow we start our trip down the Oodnadatta Track, its a 600km long dirt road, thats like driving from nanny's office to her home 20 times!!!!

Nanny is hoping they have been looking after it really well so its a smooth ride. We will let you know. I will try not to shake her up too much :-P

lots and love and hugs to you all.

PS

We both cant wait to see you all and tell you all about our adventures and to here all about the fun times you have been having while we have been away.

Central Australia Sept 20

Pics from our central Australia travels
Us on the Mereenie Loop "Road"!!!!Glen Helen GorgeDinner under the StarsOchre pits - Different coloured Ochres

Wilpena Pound

14th September 2007

HowdyWe have had some adventures since our last entry, but I only have a few mins left on here to tell you about them and I dont have my glasses with me!!

we had a big day travelling on wed, hope you had a good birthday von.    we ended in William creek, that was a great pub we stayed the night, 15 mins before we got in at 6.30pm, we smashed the back windscreen in and got a flat, you should see the stars in the mddle of nowhere, they are magnificent.    the next mornign we had a flight over the painted hills, stped at prominent hill mine and then anna creek station was an amazing few hours.

that day we drove to parachilna and stayed at the prairie hotel.  was another great pub.   had a lovely sunset there and a feral mixed grill for tea.   as we were leaving we were told we had another puncture.    didnt take long to fix this one.    got it repared yesterday at hawker.

we decided not to do arkaroola, with the windscreen, dont think it would stand up to it.    so here we are at wilpena for a few nights, it is beautiful here.   we are going to go exploring this morning and then relax this afternoon.    sounds good for the next few days

Ella thankyou for your lovely message we were smiling all the way through it.    Thanks to both our mums for your emails too, it is lovely to hear your news.

Hey Dante we will be thinking of you tomorrow, there is a public phone here, so we will try to ring you tomrrow morning. we will be thinking of you we are sure you will be having a lovely birthday.

Well the sun is shining, so we are off to explore.    

we will be seeing you soon.

lots of love and hugs to you all from us. 

Off to Normanville

15th November 2007

Life has been hectic since our outback adventures.   We took some time out last weekend and went up to the Clare Valley, stayed at Thorn Park for two nights and we bought lots of wine smile    The food and hospitality at Thorn Park is divine.   Michael and David have sold Thorn Park and leave next October, so get yourselves up there before then.   We have added a few photos of Thorn Park and one of the Valley

This afternoon we are off to Normanville camping with Von and Tom, it will be extra nice this year because all of the grandchildren are coming and their mums and dads, will be Ella's first time camping, Ethan will be sleeping with his mum and dad this year.     Will be fun all being together, it is going to be hot, so we will no doubt spend lots of time at the beach, or in Ben & Sarah & Carly & Kieran's cabins!! Where there is airconditioning!

Dante had an open day at school earlier this month, there is a photo in his classroom, it is fun being a nanny razz

Only 43 days until we leave for Antartica and South America and counting.....................

Enjoy your weekend, we will be...................

Thorn Park Clare Valley

Thorn Park, Clare Valley a beautiful part of the world
Clare ValleyOpen Day at Dantes SchoolThorn ParkThorn Park

Normanville Nov 2007 -Camping

Weekeend away
Vonnie and TomHappy Ben in his new hatBath time, camping styleSarah, Carly and Kieran

Normanville - Camping

16th November 2007

We had a fantastic long weekend.

We took Ella with us for the whole weekend, it was her first trip away camping with us. We had such a good time introducing her to the simple life camping. She had lots of fun running wild all weekend with us, and everyone else. (Carly has since told us she is having lots of fun trying to get Ella back into her "normal" routine, we are such a good influence on our grandchildren....  LOL  )

Von and Tom spent the whole weekend down at Normanville with us (Friday to Mon)

Ben , Sarah , Dante and Tessa spent Friday and Saturday with us, and Carly Kieran, Ella and Ethan spent Saturday and Sunday nights.

The weather was a real mix, warm to hot Friday, Hot Saturday, then coolish Sunday and Saturday.

Tom and Vonnie caught a few fish from the beach on Friday, and the must have scared the rest off , because we hardly had a bite for the rest of the weekend. Vonnie caught a medium size flathead on Sunday.

Its so much fun going away camping with everyone.

We have put up a few photo's of the weekend for all to see.

Antarctic + South America Trip Notes + Flights

28th November 2007

I have emailed scanned copies of all our travel docs to gregb1000@gmail.com and

djfenton3@hotmail.com

This is the nearest link I can find for the Antarctic Trip

http://www.peregrineadventures.com/Antarctica/Trip/Itinerary.html?trip=Antarctic-Explorer&tripid=152 

This is a link to our South American trip

https://www.intrepidtravel.com/tripnotes/GKR/2008-01-01

Our current flight details are:

Travel Itinerary For:

MS DEBORAH FENTON MR GREGORY BIDDOLPH

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

SATURDAY QANTAS AIRWAYS FLIGHT QF 730 CONFIRMED

29 DEC 07 - DEPART - ADELAIDE/ADELAIDE ARPT 0600 NON-STOP

Terminal: TERMINAL 1

29 DEC 07 - ARRIVE - SYDNEY/SYDNEY KINGSFORD 0825 01HRS 55MINS

Terminal: TERMINAL 3

- AIRCRAFT - BOEING 737 PASSENGER JET

- CLASS - ECONOMY

SATURDAY QANTAS AIRWAYS FLIGHT QF 321 CONFIRMED

* Flight operated by LAN AIRLINES S.A.

29 DEC 07 - DEPART - SYDNEY/SYDNEY KINGSFORD 1045 ONE STOP

Terminal: TERMINAL 1

29 DEC 07 - ARRIVE - SANTIAGO/ARTURO MERINO 1245 16HRS 00MINS

Terminal: TERMINAL INTERNATIONAL

- AIRCRAFT - AIRBUS INDUSTRIE A340-300

- CLASS - ECONOMY

SUNDAY LAN CHILE S.A. FLIGHT LA 621 CONFIRMED

30 DEC 07 - DEPART - SANTIAGO/ARTURO MERINO 0940 NON-STOP

Terminal: TERMINAL INTERNATIONAL

30 DEC 07 - ARRIVE - BUENOS AIRES/MINISTRO P 1135 01HRS 55MINS

- AIRCRAFT - AIRBUS INDUSTRIE A320-100/200

- CLASS - ECONOMY

TRAVEL VIA OWN ARRANGEMENTS

SATURDAY LAN CHILE S.A. FLIGHT LA 751 CONFIRMED

* Flight operated by LANEXPRESS

26 JAN 08 - DEPART - RIO DE JANEIRO/RIO INTE 1435 ONE STOP

Terminal: TERMINAL 1

26 JAN 08 - ARRIVE - SANTIAGO/ARTURO MERINO 1946 06HRS 11MINS

Terminal: TERMINAL INTERNATIONAL

- AIRCRAFT - BOEING 767-300/300ER

- CLASS - ECONOMY

SATURDAY QANTAS AIRWAYS FLIGHT QF 322 CONFIRMED

* Flight operated by LAN AIRLINES S.A.

26 JAN 08 - DEPART - SANTIAGO/ARTURO MERINO 2305 ONE STOP

Terminal: TERMINAL INTERNATIONAL

28 JAN 08 - ARRIVE - SYDNEY/SYDNEY KINGSFORD 0720 18HRS 15MINS

Terminal: TERMINAL 1

- AIRCRAFT - AIRBUS INDUSTRIE A340-300

- CLASS - ECONOMY

MONDAY QANTAS AIRWAYS FLIGHT QF 747 CONFIRMED

28 JAN 08 - DEPART - SYDNEY/SYDNEY KINGSFORD 1025 NON-STOP

Terminal: TERMINAL 3

28 JAN 08 - ARRIVE - ADELAIDE/ADELAIDE ARPT, 1205 02HRS 10MINS

Terminal: TERMINAL 1

- AIRCRAFT - BOEING 737 PASSENGER JET

- CLASS - ECONOMY

I agree that the above dates and times are correct. My name appears as per my passport.

Signature:................................. Date:...........................

Reference: WBCBHS / 3X2JJF

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Travel Itinerary For:

MS DEBORAH FENTON MR GREGORY BIDDOLPH

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

WEDNESDAY AEROLINEAS ARGENTINAS FLIGHT AR2850 CONFIRMED

* Flight operated by AUSTRAL LINEAS AEREA

02 JAN 08 - DEPART - BUENOS AIRES/JORGE NEWB 0530 NON-STOP

02 JAN 08 - ARRIVE - USHUAIA/USHUAIA ARPT,,A 0910 03HRS 40MINS

- AIRCRAFT - MCDONNELL DOUGLAS MD-83

- CLASS - ECONOMY

SATURDAY AEROLINEAS ARGENTINAS FLIGHT AR1892 CONFIRMED

12 JAN 08 - DEPART - USHUAIA/USHUAIA ARPT 1333 NON-STOP

12 JAN 08 - ARRIVE - BUENOS AIRES/MINISTRO P 1658 03HRS 25MINS

- AIRCRAFT - BOEING 737-500

- CLASS - ECONOMY

SATURDAY LAN CHILE S.A. FLIGHT LA 602 CONFIRMED

12 JAN 08 - DEPART - BUENOS AIRES/MINISTRO P 2045 NON-STOP

12 JAN 08 - ARRIVE - SANTIAGO/ARTURO MERINO 2300 02HRS 15MINS

Terminal: TERMINAL INTERNATIONAL

- AIRCRAFT - AIRBUS INDUSTRIE A320-100/200

- CLASS - ECONOMY

Antarctica and South America - 1 more sleep :-)

27th December 2007

We woke this morning and turned on the computer to see the countdown timer down to, not days anymore, but only HOURS  :-) , about 20 of them before we set off.

Aiko , our dog, hurt her leg on christmas morning, we took her to the vet yesterday and she has damaged the ligaments in her knee. She has a course of injections to have while we are away , and may need an operation on it when we get back, we hope not  . Carly and family are looking after her while we are away , so we know she will be in good hands and get lots of love and attention. But still its sad to leave her (Aiko that is  :-)  ) with an injury.

All we have left to do is pack, and that is basically all ready to go into our backpacks already.

We will try to update this page with all our travel news as we can.

Adelaide to Santiago Chile

29th December 2007

We woke at a bit before 4am this morning to the sound of 2 alarms, yes thats right TWO ALARMS, we weren´t going to miss the flight

Our taxi arrived a bout 4:30 and we left without any dramas.

At the chec´-in we discovered a little note left for us from Ella and Ethan. It was on red paper all decorated with drawings by both of them. Deb read it aloud to me as we checked-in. It had her and the girl checking us in in tears. It was just so touching.

Our flights all basically left on time and our trip went a bit like this

Adelaide  to Sydney, 1 1/2hr flight 2 1/2 hrs wait

Sydney to Auckland NZ , time zones got the better of me, but we arrived on time and had a 2 hr or so lay over.

Auckland Santiago, Chjile. Smooth easy flight , arrived in Chile at 12 noon Chile time

That made our days travel at about 22hrs, I guess we both got asround 4 hours sleep on the plane.

We then went to our hotel, near the airport, showered and freshned up, then got a taxi into town to explore.

We got dropped off at the Hotel Plaza San Francisco and the spent the next few hours walking around central Santiago. We went to the church next to the Hotel Plaza SF, reputably the oldest inSantiago. It was magnificent. We didnt expect to be visiting churches here, they are so different to the ones we saw in Italy, but this one and the Cathederal Santiago were both magnificent and very grand in an old world way. We walked around the Plaza de Armes and looked at the artists and the people. Then we walked up to Mercado Central and had a late lunch / early dinner at a seafood restaurant. I had a paella ( sorry about the spelling ) and Deb has a squid dish, both were delicous. I had amy first Chilean beer, it was very good.

After we finished we had planned to go up to Cerro San Cristobal, but the jet lag got the better of us and we headed back to our hotel.

Tomorrow we fly to Buenos Aires, flight leaves at 9:30 am

Santiago to Buenos Aires

30th December 2007

I just want to type out a section of my diary entry from our flight yesterday

"Wow, I am in raptures.   We have just flown over the Andes and I just had to write how I feel.   Took about 6 mins to fly over the Andes, they are without doubt the most amazing land form I have ever flown over.   What a joy and a privelege, these mountains still have snow on the top, you can see where the glaciers have scoured the earth, mind blowing, one of the best things I have ever done............"   Greg said my response was how he felt at Stonehenge.    I am now very excited about the bus trip we will take in our South Amercia tour across the Andes, makes me want to spend more time exploring the mountains.   What a great world we live in.

We spent yesterday afternoon in the Recoleta area, had tea under the most amazing morton bay fig, was planted in 1800 the branches are sooo long many of them are supported by wooden beams, was great spot for people watching, we had a cheese platter laugh out saw a couple dancing the tango, and went to a few markets.   The one in San Telmo reminded us of the one in Portobella Rd in London which bought back memories of our day there with Linda and Keiron.  smile

I fell asleep in the bath last night............ we had an early night, so we can dance tonight away, Greg is telling me we are going to tango the night away, that will be funny roll eyes

In an hour we are off on a tour of the city, tomorrow afternoo we are doing a tour of the Tigre delta, the fourth largest delta in the world,   If you had not already guessed I am loving the geography of this wonderful country.  laugh out

We have just written our postcards to our beautiful grandchildren and lovely parents, will see if we can get them posted today.   This is a great city, lots to see you could easily fill in a couple of weeks here.   might have to come back wink   but first there is the rest of the world to see!!!! razz

Greg is going to put a few pics on here for you, love to you all and Happy New Year, hope it is a good one for you all.

hugs from us xo 

 

Happy New Year from Buenos Aires

31st December 2007

Hi Everyone,

We both wish everyone a safe and happy new year, and that the year ahead is everything you wish it to be and more.

We are celebrating tonight at a Tango Club for a dinner and show , followed by a night of dancing..

We will update our daily blog soon, and hopefully add a few more pictures

Enjoy your nights

Comments

tom and vonnie
1st January 2008
tango

You go girl, we want photos of the TANGO :-)

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New Years Eve Buenos Aires

31st December 2007

Happy New Year hope it is a good one for you all.

Thankyou to Ben and Vonnie for your lovely messages, it is lovely to open our website up and see them big grin, glad you are enjoying our site, we are enjoying doing it.    We are having such a good time, we have lots of lovely photos, it is hard to choose which ones to put on the site, as we can only put 40 a month on.    I was pleased to hear Dante and Tessa had looked at the maps of where we are, but you knew that Ben didnt you wink   It is really different here Dante, especially seeing 95% of people if not more speak Spanish, but everyone is very friendly and kind and hand gestures and smiles go a long way in helping us communicate with everyone.

We had a great day yesteday.    In the morning we went on a city tour with Mabel our tour guide, she was young, reminded us of Camille.   There were only 4 of us out of 12  who spoke English, so she was talking non stop, half the time in English the other in Spanish explaining about everything we were driving past.    This was obviously a very rich city once in the early 20th Century the architecture is magnificent.     In the poorer regions there is alot of poverty, buildings that are in ruins, house alot of people, you think they are derelict and empty then you notice washing hanging or see someone, it is always a surprise.     There is quite a bit of begging in the streets, there are also people who collect cardboard for a living, they get on trains, put on by the government (that have no windows or light) from the outer suburbs at 2am to come into the city and collect whatever cardboard they can for scrap, the train goes back at 6am.  they earn about $30 a week doing this, the mind boggles!!!!

We had lunch in Caminito, where Greg had his photo taken with a tango girl, he was humouring me, I was impressed he put the picture on the blog!   It was a really bright town, painted in really vivid colours, remeinded us of an Island in Venice we went to.  Afterwards we went to Maradonas home stadium, it really was like something out of the Roman Ages, very basic, it was easy to compare it to the Coluseum, would be good watching a game here.   A big tourist industry has built up around the stadium which is in a poor part of town.

Dante, near this area is the Riachuelo River, it is a very dirty river, the most polluted in the world and Mabel told us that if you drink the water you will die in 2 hours, we took a photo and will show you when we get back, not nice huh!!  sad

In the afternoon we went to the Recoleta Cemetry it was amazing all of these Mausoleums it is like a city for dead people, we went to see Eva Peron´s Grave she is in with her husband, people still go and leave flowers there for her.    We are not aware if there is anything like it in Australia.

We were picked up around 8pm to go to the Tango show, there was a 2 hour show first which was very entertaining, then we had dinner, it was 3 courses in about 30 mins, we have never been dished up dinner so quickly eek   then there was champagne for midnight to celebrate new year.   We sat by some nice people from the Canary Islands (near west coast of north Africa) who could fortunately for us speak a little English, they told us about a Spanish tradition at midnight where they have to put one muscatel grape per dong of the clock for midnight in their mouth, if they dont get one in on tiime it is bad luck for that corresponding month, sounds like it gets very messy.    On the other side of us were some Irish women, who were to be going on the ship to Antartica that sank, they were lucky enough to get on another ship and are going down a few days after us.

After midnight we went outside to catch the bus home, we waited for well over an hour, while we were waiting there were loud bangs going off all over the city, we went to investigate, people were throwing fire crackers off buildings down to the road, causing loud explosions, on another street, they were making them go off on the road, not pretty crackers, just ones that made really loud banging noises, this went on for over an hour.  There were some pretty fire works in the sky but we couldnt see most of them,    We had an interesting ride home on the bus we seemed to go through every back street of Buenos Aires, certainly different to back home, lots of young kids on the streets and the remains of their crackers all over the road.    We sat next to a couple of girls in their late 20´s from Strathalbyn, (near home) who are also going to Antartica on the same boat as us, small world!

Got home about 2am and managed to sleep till around 10am, this afternoon we are off on the boat trip to the Tigre Delta.    Then hopefully an early night before our 3.30am start tomorrow,   Of to Ushaia tomorrow, the southern most city in the world, get on the boat around 4.30pm tomorrow, pray for a smooth crossing for us please red face

Drakes passage is the roughest passage of ocean in the world. 

We are off to pack now.     Not sure when we will be next able to update our blog, we will as soon as we are able.

Lots of love and hugs to you all, let the fun continue and big adventures begin .................

Ushuaia

2nd January 2008

Hi, we just had a magnificent lunch at the end of the world,  of king crab in roquefort sauce, never had so much crab before, yum and a bottle of savignon blanc, now I need to keel over and go to sleep, we have another hour and a half before we meet the boat, shouldnt have had that wine, but it was all so delicious..........

We were up at 3.30am neither of us slept very well, we did not want to miss our plane.   We had a good flight down here, hired a taxi for an hour and took in the view of Ushuaia from on high, then over looking the bay, my favourite view.   It is alot like Queenstown in New Zealand here, but the buildings and houses are really colourful and there are quite a few ships and boats here.    We have already taken about 300 photos, we bought some discs this morning and Greg is just trying to download them, hopefully he can put a pic on our site of Ushuaia, it is very beautiful, surrounded by mountains that still have a bit of snow on them.

It is not too cold here, around 12 degrees I would have thought, but the wind is cold when it picks up.   We came into town with a young couple who are also on our ship, they were booked to leave on the one that sank.   We are looking forward to meeting the people on the ship and are interested to know what countries they come from.

Our Tigre Delta tour yesterday was interesting, we were the only English speaking people out of about 50, our guide Maria Laura was good reminded us of Donna, so many people here speak quite a few languages. 

That is about all I am up for, it is warm in here and I can sit down................... It was such a delicious lunch, shame about the consequences, I wonder if anyone will notice if I fall asleep on the keyboard, it is only $4,000 pesos per hour about $1.25, shame I am not sitting in a corner, but wouldnt want to miss the boat.

Three and a half hours we set sail, we have no idea what to expect, that is half the fun.

Catch you later

Comments

Ann
11th January 2008
Happy New Year!!!

Dear Deb & Greg

Happy New Year to you both. Wow!!! what a journey you are both having. I love the photos and blogs you have posted on your site. I feel like I am on holiday with you. I know you will be landing back at South America today and I have been praying that Deb didn't get sea sick on the boat. Can't wait to see the photos. Ralph & I went sailing on our Xmas break. Up the Coorong!!!! Not quite the same as your sailing but we had a wonderful day. Thank you all for the experience. We also spent a few days in the Clare Valley which was very relaxing. Visited Martindale Hall at Mintaro. Never knew it existed and couldn't believe such a magnificent place was out in the middle of nowhere! Amazing!! Of course we drank and ate too much but that is all part of it. Now back at work and planning a holiday in Broome. Yes Deb don't fall over!! Have made the dates and put them in the diary. That should make you happy.  I have a dentist appointment this morning. I haven't been for about 13 years. Terror is the best word to describe how I am feeling right now. eek I hate the dentist.  Hmm!! what a baby. Everyone is my family is well and I'm enjoying helping Andrew and Belinda with their wedding plans. Looks like 31st January 2009 will be the date. Enjoy the rest of your holiday and I look forward to your hugs when I see you next. I love you both. xoxo

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Photos

12th January 2008

Deb is currently doing a Blog update for Antarctica, unfortunately this internet cafe doesnt have DVD capability so I cant upload any pics here.

We are going to another cafe after here and see if we can upload some there, so come back soon.

Its been such a great trip so far, one adventure after another.

I just read the Australian Government traveller advisory site for Chile, they say a volcano errupted down south on the 1st of Jan, we head down that way in a few days, it will be interesting to see whats going on.

We will let you know in our blog update from down there.

Let the adventures keep rolling on  :-)

Antarctica - Debs view

12th January 2008

hey hey

it is nice to be able to communicate with you all again, we were just in another internet cafe, i had just finished my blog to you and i pressed the wrong key and lost everything i had typed, so here goes again, without any capitals!!!!

Happy happy birthday to Karlien for the 5th and Ella for the 6th we were thinking of you both as we always do.

Tessa you are 4 tomorrow we will be thinking of you from Santiago, we love you this much ............. you know how much

steve happy 50th

keiran wishing you all the best for the 17th hope your new job is everything you hope for.smile

thankyou so much to you all for your messages, they make us smile and it is good to know everyone is ok

ella, thankyou for giving aiko treats, bet her tail was wagging, can you give her a cuddle for us, we miss her, we miss you too, we found ourselves saying shooes yesterday, made us smile and think of you.

dante we saw some seal poo on an iceberg, it was big and pink, took a pic for you, thought it would make you smile, we think of you lots, you would love it here.

this is what i wrote in our diary yesterday about our time in Antarctica

it has been a dream of mine for at least 20 years to visit antarctica.   i feel lucky to have been able to realise it.   it is without doubt the most amzing place i have visited.   it is a very diverse place.   i think that has struck me the most.   every place we visited was wonderful and different, it is constantly evolving down here.   it is not possible for us to do it justice in words or photos or video.   it is mind blowing, always interesting and spell binding.

We have seen 4 types of penguins, seals and whales,   my favourite is definately watching the penguins swimming and jumping in the water.   I have loved watching the birds flying in the sky and there have been lots of fluffy chicks to  watch nestled into their parents.  

The icebergs are huge and colourful everyone different, the landscpae beautiful, the sky which we were lucky enough to see alot of the most beautiful blue.   The weather has been kind to us, the best the staff have known it, in one voyage.

the staff were all young, enthusiastic and dedicated and so full of life, a pleasure to be with.   hayley our expedition leader would be in her early 30s was very knowledgable a great leader we have been lucky.   Ray (coach) is 73, he has spent alot of time down here over 50 years, it was great to see antarctica through his eyes.     it was fun being in the zodiacs with him, he kept up with the other staff who were 45 years younger.    he always managed to get you closer to the action.

The one thing i wanted to do was camp on the ice, we did that on our last full night in antarctica.  it exceeded my expectations, there was the most wonderful sunset that lasted more than 3 hours covered at least one third of the sky the most magnificent oranges, the colour reflecting on the water and the icebergs, i was mesmerised, couldnt sleep had to take it all in, it was the most exquisite experience.  i got to sleep around 5.30am after watching the sunrise just to the left of where it has set an hour before (it was always light in antarctica)   we were woken at 6am.

it has been the adventure of a lifetime.

live your dreams........................

in a few hours we are off to the airport on our way to santiago to start our next adventure, we are having trouble finding a computer to download our photos, if we cant do it here we will do it in buenos aires in about 7 hours time, we have a while there before continuing on to santiago

ok, off to buy ourselves a tee shirt,

lots of love and hugs to you all, we are having the best time, so much fun.

from us

Getting to Santiago the hard way

12th January 2008

Our day started really well as you can all see from Debs first entry.

We met the bus at our pickup point at 12 noon as arranged and went out to the airport only to find that all flights were delayed.

After numerous attempts at finding out what was going on, now that in itself is fun when you don´t speak spanish, we were eventually told our flight would be 2 to 3 hrs late. That was possibly going to cause up problems with our connection to Buenos Aires. So I rang the Flight Centre Overseas help line, after an obscene amount of time on hold I eventually got through and they didnt know anything about the flight problems, but managed to book us on a later flight as well, i case we missed the earlier one. We eventually left Ushuaia at 6pm, 4 1/2 hrs late. Just as we were going to land at the Beunos Aires International Airport we were told it was closed to all flights and we would have to land at the domestic terminal, about 80km from where we were meant to be!!

After trying to resolve things on the ground we gave up and got in a taxi to the International terminal. I tried the Flight Centre Help line again but couldnt get anyone to answer!!

We got to the airport at 10:25pm to find massive queues of people everywhere.

By getting pushy and queue jumping we got on a flight that was possibly leaving around 12:30am.

We then jumped the exit tax queue to pay and then got near the front of a 1000+ people queue at immigration, and stood in line going nowhere for about 1/2 hr and then we finally got into the terminal.

To cut all the babbling our flight eventually left BA at about 4am, we got into Santiago all OK and were at our hotel by 5am. There was actually someone waiting for us at the airport, we were stunned!! BUT SOOOO HAPPY!!!!

We have had a good day today (13th) and will put in a log update fo it soonish.

I have been trying to upload more pics but it just isnt happening!!

I will keep trying so please dont give up.

Tessa, we hope you had a great birthday, From where we are it went on for about a day and a half, How good is that  :-)

Bye to all, update soon we hope

Tillies question

12th January 2008

It wasnt as cold as it could have been down in Antarctica, we had an amazingly mild trip, with clear sky almost everyday and very little if any wind, our Expedition team couldnt believe the great weather we had. I guess it got down to about -5 C and generally hung around zero most of the time.

Santiago to Puerto Varas

13th January 2008

After a short, mmmm  very short, 3hrs sleep we were up and getting ready for breakfast and the start of our Intrepid Tour. Tour Leader is Laura (Argentinian) fellow tourists are Paul (England), John (Sydney), Liz (Scottland) Whats the first thing to do when you visit a new country and you come from Adelaide????? Go wine tasting of course  !!! So off we wnet to Conchay Toro Winery, we were told they are the 4th largest wine company in the world. The winery is set in the middle of an extensive estate with beautiful garden, and very well manicured vines. We did a quick tour of the old manor house and had a look at a few vines, then it was up to taste a few local brews. We were given the largest tasting glass we have ever seen and they filled them half full and you were welcome to have seconds if you wanted. The wines ranged from and acidic Sav. blanc to a very respectable Cab Sav. They have a very old wine cellar that legend has that is haunted. After that we drove around in the foothills of the Andes for a while taking in the country side beofre it was time for lunch. For lunch we had a ¨typical: Chilean BBQ menu. Boy these people love their meat. And its very delicious On the way back to our hotel we drove to the top of Cerro San Christobel ( a statue of the virgin mary is at the top of this small mount on the fringe of the city. It gave us spectacular views over Santiago and surrounds. For tea, we went to a Peruvian Restaurant, the food was great, best we have had yet. The meals here are HUGE!!!! We got home around 11 and crashed into bed. (A couple of very tired chooks) 14 Jan 2008 We left our hotel for the airport at 8:30. for our flight to Puerto Montt, and then onto Puerto Varas. Well as things go for flying in Sth America, we only had a delay of 4 hrs, so not toooo bad, but very frustrating. Arrived in Puerto Montt at 2;30pm. We went straight to the bus station so our tour guide could get us bus tickets over the Andes to for Wed. After trying 3 bus companies she eventually got tickets!! When then went to Puerto Varas and checked into our hotel. After that we were taken out for a walk, apparently to see the sights of towwn, but if felt more like a wander around killing time before dinner. During the walk we stopped off and had coffee and cake at a german stlye cafe. (This part of Chile was settle by predominately Germans about 150 yrs ago.) The town is predominately a fishing and hunting town , skiing is also available in winter in the near by mountains. Most of the local homes and buildings are a bit ramshackle, but most are very brightly painted which lifts the appearance. Dinner was nice (We shared seafood and steak, way too much food agin!!!!! Well thats it for now, we will try to do more updates as we can. Keep those messages coming, we love the feedback and news. Love and hugs to all

Antarctica Pics

15th January 2008

howdy

it has been hard trying to find a computer to download some pics for you, we dont have much time here so we have chosen some of the top 100 taken on the voyage by other people, hope you like them,  when we get home we will download 40 of our own for you to check out, in the mean time hope you like these.

we are in puerto varas at the moment saw a volcano where they ski in the winter and a waterfall and rapids was a good day, we are off to dinner soon.

tomorrow we catch a bus for an 8 hour ride over the andes, we are very much looking forward to that, then we have two nights in bariloche, before heading to buenos aires for 2 nights then 2 nights in iguazu falls.

thanks for your messages, hope you are all well.

love and hugs from us razz

Antarctica

Our Antarctic Adventure
UshuaiaSunset night of campingGentoo penguins with chicksIcebergs

Peurto Varas

15th January 2008

We had a good day out, we were driven to Peuro Montt, a fishing village, we enjoyed walking around the fish market, great fresh produce, Greg took some good photos (cant upload any here sorry!) Then it was off to Volcan Osorno, a volcano with a ski resort at the top of it, (not much snow though at this time off year, only at the top), view were great overlooking mountains and a lake. Then it was off to Saltos Rio Petrohue a section of river with rapids and waterfalls, very pretty. Later we had apple struedel in a lovely cafe, the food is delicious here and half to one third cheaper than at home. For dinner we met up with another tour group who were doing our tour in reverse, so it was good to swap notes. Wed 16th Jan We caught a bus from Peurto Varas to Bariloche, travelling over the Andes, was a wonderful trip, we were a tad disappointed though cos we were thinking we would go on a really old bus with no windows, bench seats lots of locals and chickens, instead we had a very comfortable coach, which was no doubt a good thing seeing it was a 7 or so hour journey, it took us an hour at the Chilean border in emigration and 40 mins at the Argentinian border. Around that point the scenery was spectacular all the way into Bariloche. It is a place where the South Americans come for their summer holidays, it is on a lake and very picturesque. It is warm but not humid. We are still having blue skies. For dinner we ate at an Italian restaurant and the food was magnificent, it was $55.00 and would have been around $120.00 at home. Today 17th of Jan We were pleased to hear Kieran enjoyed his first day at work and that Ethan is crawling after Aiko now. This morning we had a gondala ride to view the area, the views were nice. After that we came back to town to buy some stamps for the grandchildrens postcards, they have a nice Antarctica theme. Then we noticed a guy cooking and selling sausages and steak sandwiches in a park, so we had a steak sandwich each, it was beautiful. Had a look through a few craft stalls, and saw a nice looking cathedral, unfortunately it was not open. Then Greg indulged me and we took a taxi, 25km away to Llau Llau resort and spa hotel for high tea. We got their at 2pm, to be told it started at 4pm, but before that at the gate we had to tell a guard what room we were in, I did not think he was going to let us in, after we had travelled half an hour, but all was well. We found where the high tea was and sat in a nearby bar/lounge and had a drink each which we sat on for 2 hours. The high tea was worth the wait, I was thinking of you Carly, where we sat overlooked the lake and mountains and reminded me of places in Europe. I could not think of a nicer place to be sitting it was magnificent, it is up their with one of my favourite things this holiday, but it does come under Antarctica. The hotel called us a taxi, again they wanted to know our room number, I thought we might be stranded....... but a private car came, to our surprise the fair was a little cheaper than the taxi. We are both full so we are going to skip dinner and have an early night. Tomorrow we fly to Buenos Aires, we are hoping the flight delays are over.

Wow it has been a week since we did a blog

24th January 2008

We are now in Rio de Janeiro I cant believe it has been so long since we wrote in here, we had fun in Buenos Aires visited a couple of areas we had not seen before.

Then it was off to Iguaza Falls, they are amazing, we saw them from the Argentinian side and the Brazilian side and also did a moon walk to the throat of the devil, Diablo falls, it was a full moon, and yes we howled.   Hope the grandchildren heard us.

Sorry about the last lot of photos we uploaded, not sure what happened, we will fix them up when we get home and get another entitlement of photos.

Yesterday we went from Iguazu to Paraty via plane to Sao Paulo, then a 5 hour mini bus ride to Paraty, a lovely little colonial village, with a harbour.   

We have not been enjoying our tour leader, so today we revolted and left the tour and found our own way to Rio by bus, so we are here a day early.   We are much happier.   We have booked a tour for tomorrow, which we are looking forward to.

We are both well, have seen some great sites, it is a good place to visit.

We are going to check our flight times now, looking forward to seeing you all soon.

Love you lots from us

Santiago to Bariloche

Our Intrepid Tour begins
A baby Llama for the grandchildrenOur lunch being cooked - Yummy Steak SandwichLunch with our Tour group - Authentic Chilean BBQ Fish Market in Peurto Montt

Rio de Janeiro

25th January 2008

we had a great day, took a tour and went up to see Christ the Redeemer statue, it was an oh wow moment, most impressive and the views over Rio were good too.   then it was off to Sugarloaf, that was ok, good views and could see cococabana from there too.   afterwards we drove past the beaches cococabana and ipanema, nice sandy beaches with lots of people enjoying them, looked like the gold coast on steriods.    afterwards we went to a steak house, it is definately death by steak in south america, would be hard being a vegetarian here!!   food was very good.     we had a lazy few hours in our room, which is very nice, Sheraton in Barra which is just along from ipanema beach.   before dinner we went down to the beach and dipped our toes in the ocean, well greg did, i dipped my fingers in!! that is the south atlantic done now!   we have just finished our last supper 17 hours and we fly out on our long journey home, leave 2.30pm Saturday 26th arrive around 12ish, on Monday 28th, but we gain 12 or so hours on our travels so it is not quite as bad as it sounds.

we will hopefully send another blog on our travels.   hope you are all enjoying your long weekend.   see you soon.

love and hugs from us

Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro

Pics from our last half of our South American trip Includes some pics of the AMAZING IGUAZU FALLS - a MUST see
The Iguazu Falls - Brazilian SideUs at The Iguazu Falls - Argentine SideThe Iguazu Falls - Brazilian SideThe Iguazu Falls - Brazilian Side

Greg's Antarctica

25th January 2008

We have made it to the airport at Rio, in a lounge, very nice, flight leaves in 2 hours.   Yesterday Greg wrote this in the Diary about Antarctica, never knew a scientist could be so poetic smile

It's nearly 2 weeks since we arrived in Ushuaia after our cruise.   Reflecting on our time in Antarctica brings a sense of peace and awe to me.   Yes the two extremes can co-exist.   My lasting impression I get when I think of Antarctica is that of calm serenity set in an architecture of awesome beauty and magnitude.   It is wilderness in the extreme.   So untouched by man that the animals have no fear of us, man mad items are an oddity in the landscape and take on a new dimension when viewed set in this pristine environment.   They look so out of place, yet at the same time, as in the old water boats, represent a "frozen" moment in time being very slowly swallowed by nature.   The colours are so vivid and often stark opposites occuring together.   My Antarctica is coloured white, black, red, pink, green and BLUE, blues you could never describe.

It is a continent that has something for all your senses.   The smell of your first penguin colony  :)  or first whale "blow", sights of nature all around you, ever changing.   The sounds, of penguins, birds, seals, whales, the ice craking and crashing, the sparkle of bubbles of air who knows how  old effervessing in the water out of the ice and the sound of Antarctic silence :)    The feel of the air, richly crisp and fresh, the feel of the snow, of drifting ice and the rocks, mmmm and then there is the taste of Antarctica.   The taste of a piece of iceberg, sheet ice, or snow and who know what age, fresh and sparkling, the taste of the wind of the first penguin colony, rich and somewhat fishy agricultural tangs :)

In my minds eye Antarctica will remain a mix of the mirror reflection of steep snow and ice covered black mountains reflecting on a smooth unruffled waterway, scattered with only icebergs and sheet ice breaking, the continuity between real and reflection.   With an horizon being etched with every hue of orange and red glowing in the layers of clouds hanging beneath a sky of distant blue.

Antarctica, is beyond words, pictures and feelings.   It truely is an experience, sensual and spiritual. 

Rio de Janeiro to Adelaide and Home

26th January 2008

From the time we left our hotel it was 34 hours before we landed in Adelaide.

This was actually 2 hrs quicker than we had scheduled, but a kind man at Sydney airport asked us if we wanted an earlier flight and we took it!!! laugh out

The overall trip home went by without any significant hold-ups or incidents, which was wonderful.

The highlight of the trip home was when we arrived at Adelaide Airport. We walked in off the air-bridge to a big welcome home sign being held by our wonderful grand children, (in order of age big grin ) Dante, Tessa, Ella and Ethan,.

they were accompanied by Ben, Sarah, Kieran and Carly. I was so good to see all everyone, it made us both feel very special and very much loved.

We then got driven home, Deb went with Dante & Tessa (Ben and Sarah) and I went with Ella and Ethan (Carly and Kieran).

Carly had organised lunch, pizza and cake, for us all and she had also stock our fridge with some fresh goodies to get us through the day and breakfast the next morning.(That was so thoughtful and very much appreciated)

When we got home we got the best welcome anyone could wish for from Aiko (our puppy). She was beside herself and so happy to see us, that did us both good, we were afraid she might give us up in favour of Carly and her family. (Thank you so much for looking after her Carly and Kieran, and kids)

We enjoyed spending the afternoon with everyone, sharing some of our experiences, and giving the little ones a few little gifts we picked up for them during our travels.

Thanks to everyone who has kept us up-to-date with the goings on around the place while we have been away, and the comments left on our (this) site.

We enjoy sharing our adventures with you all, and its good to know you appreciate it to.

Our next task is to try and work out where to go next, thats going to be so much fun.

Keep checking back here for more photos ( I have already added more today - in the Santiago to Bariloche, and Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro albums), we can put on about another 10 this month and then another 40 on the 29th Feb

Planning

22nd March 2008

I guess Antarctica and South America have given us the travel bug big time.

We are starting to plan more holidays

One around July/Aug this year and another for around May next year.

It is so much fun

Traveleor have made changes to this site so I am going to try and make the most of the new features for you to make it is easier to use

Keep smiling out there :smile , we are  laugh out

Vietnam and beyond

23rd April 2008

Planning is well underway for our next "Cultural Pilgrimage", Vietnam in July / Aug this year.

Can you all please remind me NOT to talk holidays with Deb after a few red wines,  roll eyes  laugh out

Next years Pilgimage is looking bigger than Ben Hur!!!!! and Deb's getting excited!!!

Vietnam Itinerary

29th April 2008

We have booked everything and are all set to go

Our Itinerary follows for all those interested

 

laugh out

 

Mon 21 July 

Fly Adelaide – Sydney – Hanoi

 Tues 22 July
A tour of the highlights of the Capital city, taking in the Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake in the centre, and the Temple
of Literature. Take lunch at a nearby restaurant which trains disadvantaged youths about hospitality and catering, and helps
them to find employment and better their lives. Afternoon, visit the Museum of Ethnology, highlighting Vietnams 54
different ethnic groups.

 Wed 23 July

Mai Chau Tribal Village Tour

Depart Hanoi by road in a Southwesterly direction for Hoa Binh province, where after passing Hoa Binh city, ascend winding
roads that hug the mountainside, and finally descend into a valley where Mai Chau market and the local village Lak are
home to local Thai minority folk.

 Thurs 24 July

1Night Halong Jasmine Cruise

Discover the splendours of Halong Bay aboard the Halong Jasmine, a wooden junk that combines classic beauty with
modern comfort. While all those who visit Halong Bay are charmed by the
archipelagos beauty, few visitors are aware that the three thousand islands that dot this bay are home to
many rare plants, including species found nowhere else in the world. We chose boats name Halong Jasmine because,
like the plant it was named after, junk is perfectly suited to this environment. With its golden sails,
polished woodwork and refined, Asian decor, the Halong Jasmine offers an unforgettable ambiance of relaxed
elegance. See Halong Bay in style. Pass through the magical bay,
where thousands of sculpted limestone islands rise from the waves like dragons teeth.
After lunch, take a short trek to a nearby summit for a panoramic view of the bay dotted with Halong Jasmine
golden sails, go swimming on a quite beach or sunbathing on the sundeck. Later afternoon, visit an interesting
fishing village with opportunity to interact with fish men who have been living in the bay for almost three
generations.
At sunset time, kayak or simply take a bamboo row boat to discover a water tunnel with many coral reefs in a
scenic lagoon. Back on board Halong Jasmine, enjoy cocktails while watching sunset and later unwind at
Ginger restaurant.
Fri 25 July
Greet the day with a morning Tai Chi exercise with an opportunity to view the sunrise over the bay. After
breakfast, visit beautiful limestone grotto then back to the boat for a final glimpse of the Halong Bay while
cruising back to the dock. We disembark the boat and transfer back to Hanoi hotel. Arrive Hanoi around 5pm.

Sat 26 July

 Fly to Hue

Take a dragon boat cruise on the Perfume River to visit Thien Mu Pagoda, Hue's oldest and most beautiful pagoda built on a hill
overlooking the river. Each of the seven storeys is dedicated to a Buddha who appeared in human form.
Continue on to the impressive Imperial Citadel, the home of the Nguyen Dynasty Emperors. This amazing city was built along the
same lines as the Forbidden Palace in Beijing and was the country's administrative centre. Despite more than fifty years
of decay and attrition, the Citadel is still imposing and recent renovation work has restored several of its
buildings to their previous glory. In front of the Hien Cam Lac, an elegant three-storey pavilion, are nine large bronze
urns, each dedicated to one of the Nguyen Emperors, the largest being that of Gia Long, builder of the citadel and
founder of the empire.

Sun 27 July

Today's half day tour takes you to Hue's Royal Tombs. They are monuments to nine of the thirteen rulers of the Nguyen Dynasty
mostly built during the Emperor's lifetime. Although designed individually, sometimes by the intended occupant himself, they
share certain design conventions. The most majestic is that of Emperor Minh Mang, a staunch
follower of Confucianism with many wives, concubines and a small army of children. The tomb of Tu Duc, the poet Emperor
is set in an elegant garden with a magnificent lake and pavilion complex. In complete contrast to Emperor Tu Duc's
stylish creation, the tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh appears at first to be just a concrete construction.
It's interest lies within in an uneasy combination of Vietnamese and European features and the use of fragments of
ceramics and glass for decoration. Finish the tour with a visit to Hue's Dong Da market.

Mon 28 July

Hoi An, a former international trading port during the 17th & 18th centuries, is a charming small town with an eclectic mix
of Western and Eastern influenced architecture. Enjoy a walking tour of Hoi An on its narrow streets, visiting a former
merchants house, Phuc Kien Pagoda, the 400 year old Japanese Covered Bridge, the animated market. We will learn about the
well preserved tradition, which has stayed unchanged for centuries.

Tues 29 July

Fly to Nha Trang and enjoy a relaxing day at Evanson Hideaway at Ana Mandara

Wed 30 July

An all day cruise on the turquoise waters and offshore islands of Nha Trang bay takes you to Tam island and Con Se Tre island.
There are opportunities to swim and snorkel, sunbathe or just relax in the shade. At lunch time, the decks are cleared, seats
fold down to become a table and the crew produces a sumptuous seafood lunch.

Thurs 31

July Fly to Ho Chi Minh City

You will be collected from your hotel for a half day City tour. You will visit History Museum followed by the Reunification
Palace, most famous for the enduring images of the tank crashingthrough the fence here, as the Vietnam War was ending in April
1975. It was then the seat of power for the South Vietnamese government. Walk to the Central Post Office, Notre Dame
Cathedral and City Hall.

Fri 1 Aug

SAIGON to MY THO to CAN THO

Depart Saigon after breakfast for the 2 hour road journey to Tien Giang. Upon arrival, board your private sampan for a
river cruise on the upper part of the Mekong River. Visit the fish market, then on to the Thoi Son Island. Here you will
have the opportunity to taste diverse types of fruit, also tea mixed with bee honey, followed by a sampan ride through the
winding and tiny canals offering a close up view of daily river life. After lunch at a local restaurant, we drive to Can
Tho for the night. Overnight Can Tho.

Sat 2 Aug
CAN THO to CHAU DOC
Board the Vo Lai boat for a cruise to visit the Cai Rang floating market with a stop at a noodle making factory. You
can even try passing one of the many fragile monkey bridges along the canals. Disembark the boat then drive to Chau Doc.
On arrival Chau Doc, take a city tour of including the Tay An Pagoda, and the Lady Chua Xu Pagoda. Drive further to Sam
Mountain for a panoramic view of the border area between Vietnam and Cambodia. Enjoy the beautiful sunset before
returning to the hotel for the night.
Overnight in Chau Doc.
Sun 3 Aug

 CHAU DOC to PHNOM PENH
After early breakfast, around 7am take boat ride from Chau Docover the border to Cambodias capital, Phnom Penh. Boat
arrives between 12pm to 2pm.(Note: Arrival/departure time is subjected to change due tothe water level)

Mon 4 Aug

Morning in Phnom Penh

Fly Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
Tues 5 Aug
An early start to catch the sunrise (optional). Return to the hotel for breakfast. A morning tour of the temples includes the
South Gate of Angkor Thom, the famous Bayon, Baphoun, the Terrace of Elephants and Terrace of the Leper King. In the
afternoon continue to Srah Srang, Banteay Kdei, Chau Say Tevoda, Thommanon, and the fabulous Ta Prohm Temple, embraced by the
roots of enormous fig trees and gigantic creepers. The day ends with a sunset at Phnom Bakheng.

Wed 6 Aug

 Full Day Angkor Temples

An early start to catch the sunrise (optional).  After breakfast visit the fabulous Ta Prohm Temple, embraced by the
roots of enormous fig trees and gigantic creepers and Preah Khan.  In the afternoon visit the amazing temples of Banteay
Sam Rei. Later in the evening return to hotel.  A big yellow Tethered Helium Balloon ride 200 metres straight
up for an amazing view of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap town and a huge man made lake west of Angkor Park called Western Baray.

Thurs 7 Aug

Day at leasure in Siem Reap

Depart for home via Ho Chi Minh City and Sydney

Fri 8 Aug

Arrive home around 1pm

Visas - Tricky Little Suckers

24th May 2008

 We have got our Visas for Vietnam and I am just revisiting our Cambodian visas.

A long story (not really too long  ) cut short,  --->  Dont apply for visas toooooo early.

We looked at our Cambodian Visas and found that they expired the day before we entered the country.!!

I rang the Cambodian Consulate here, they were so friendly and helpful, (they have offered to extend our Visas for a month - Yeah, much happiness laugh out)

 

 

Camping at Deep Creek

30th May 2008

 We decided to go camping on the 28th.

Dante's weekend school trip was cancelled and he was pretty upset. We though camping was a great alternative but we waited to see how the weather was before we told him.

A quick shop, arranged to have Ella for the weekend (she is 2 now and so its time for her to go camping smile ) and packed a few clothes, hitched up the camper trailler, and left ,via the office , straight after settlements on Friday.

We had a great weekend. Tom and Vonnie came down for breakfast on saturday and stayed for the day. Ben, Dante and Tessa arrived in time for lunch on Sat.

We had a fun night, 6 in the tent and 3 kids that are all noisy sleepers  LOL!!

It was a fun few days to share the thrills of camping, campfire marshmellow toasting and all the fun of the bush with our grandchildren

Camping Deep Creek

Fun in the bush
Ella and Tom sharing a snackElla helping Greg with the fireUsVonnie, Tessa, Ella and Deb riding the log

Victor Harbor June Long Weekend

6th June 2008

 We had a fantastic weekend down at Victor Harbor.

It's Deb's Mid Year get away and recharge break.

We hired a house and had Ben, Sarah, Dante, Tessa, Carly Kieran, Ella and Ethan come and stay the weekend with us.

It's a fun time for all of us to spend relaxed time together.

Its so much fun watching all the children play together.

Ben and Carly, and their families left on Monday, and we had a couple of quiet days to ourselves.

What a hard life we lead!!!!!!   laugh out but I guess someone has to to it

Fun@Victor June Long Weekend

Fun with the grandchildren
ethanDante Ethan Ella and TessaEllaDante, playing "dead" on the stairs

Almost Ready for Take off :-)

7th July 2008

 Two weeks today at this time we will be in the air on our way to start our Vietnam holiday.

Just the normal things to put in place (mail redirections, food for Aiko, etc)

Ohh yes, we also have to survive the weekend party before we leave laugh out

Lots of fun to look forward to.

We will have our laptop with us on this holiday, so hopefully we can make more updates and include more photo's as we go

As long as we can find wioreless internet points we should be able to keep in contact with everyone.

Aint't technology amazing eek

Adelaide to Hanoi

21st July 2008

 

The day started very early, up at 4am, breakfast, final packing, lock-up the house, turn the power off and the in our taxi by 4:40am. We got to the airport at 5am, and checked in. Due to Debs ticket being reissued because of a spelling mistake our tickets were longer linked, so we were seated in different areas of the plane. The check-in girl got it all sorted and we finished up in exit seats for the flight to Sydney, which was a bonus, all that extra leg room.

Our flight left 10 mins late due to congestion in Sydney airport, but we arrived at the terminal only 5 mins late. We got the bus transfer from the domestic terminal to International. On the way to check in with Vietnamese Airlines I realised our luggage tickets had fallen out of my pocket on the bus, we needed them for our check in, so I had to run back and get them before the bus took off. I got there just in time and all was well. We checked in and got all our flights sorted out and our tickets linked. The Airline staff were just so helpful.

One thing I forgot to mention, World Youth Day!!!! For the past week or so Sydney has hosted a big Catholic festival called World Youth day. It is apparently a celebration of all thing Catholic, and is headlined by the Pope, Benedict the 15th or something. Well all these young religious pilgrims are leaving Sydney today and tomorrow, according to our check-in girl!! And we are in the middle of it all!  There are people from all over the world, our flight has very many Vietnamese and French pilgrims on it. At least they are all full of the joys of life, the check-in girl said a lot of them were singing first thing ( from 5am) at the airport!!! Lucky her  J Any way besides them there are a couple of priests on board so I guess our flight is pretty safe  LOL !!

The food is pretty tasty and they seem to be giving us plenty of drinks, so all is well.

Thank you to Carly for sorting out our paper delivery at home, we were surprised to find our paper in the driveway this morning after we cancelled deliveries while we were away.

Our adventure / cultural pilgrimage to Vietnam and Cambodia has begun J isn’t life great!!

About 15 mins out of HCMC the pilgrims went feral!!! It’s the first time I have ever been caught in the middle of a raging pillow fight as an international airliner was making its final approach to an airport. But thanks to what seemed like divine intervention, but was in reality the flight attendants, everything settled down and we landed all in one piece. J

Arrived Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) at 4:15pm local time and had a relatively smooth transit , going through immigration, customs and getting a transit bus. We are at the back of the plane this leg, we have gone from row 25 to row 52 L. Its 32 deg C here and reasonably humid.

It was great flying in seeing the Mekong delta, and all the rice fields and fish farms and boats out on the waterways.

HCMC is spread over a really large area and it appears from the air to have a lot of poor housing, it reminded both of us of the housing around Sao Paulo and Rio in Sth America.

We were met at the airport by our Hanoi guide and driver. ( Mr Dung and Mr Tuan). In the hour it took to drive to our hotel we both thought we got more information from him than we did from our tour leader in South America. He was fantastic. He gave us a lot of back ground info on Hanoi ( It celebrates 1000 years in 2010) and made plans with us for what we wanted to do tomorrow.

Check-in was easy at the hotel, they did all the paperwork for us and just had us sign, J. Our room is very nice and very comfortable. It has been a very long day, we are both glad the religious pilgrims are now somewhere else and it allows us “Cultural Pilgrims” to assume the correct state of mind J and begin to absorb everything around us, the sights sounds smells and noise of Vietnam.

9:30pm here (that’s midnight at home) time for bed.

 

Vietnam July / Aug 2008

Hanoi, Halong Bay , Hue, Hoi An , Nha Trang , Ho Chi Minh City, My Tho , Can Tho and Chau Doc
King Khai Dinh Mauseleum - HueFloating Market on the Mekong Delta - Can ThoHalong BayHanoi Morning Exercises

Hanoi

22nd July 2008

 

I guess we are both still on Adelaide time, we woke around 4:30am. But not to be ones to sit around doing nothing, we decided to go for a walk around the local lake. We got to see our very first Hanoi sunrise J. We had been told that lots and lots of locals get up early before the heat of the day and go down there to exercise, Tai Chi, aerobics and badminton. It seemed to be mainly the older people, 40+, not very many younger ones out and about.

Deb Here - We woke at 4.30am (7am at home) after only 6 hours sleep, I am hoping I get more than that soon!   We decided to get up and go to the lake which is only a few mins walk from our hotel.    Because it is so hot in Ha Noi in the summer (going to be 37 today and very humid) the locals get up at 4am and go for a walk and some exercise – aerobics, badminton, tai chi,  I am not sure how hot it was low 30’s I would have thought and quite humid.   It only took us around 40 mins to walk around the lake, there were thousands of Vietnamese out walking and exercising, it was wonderful, I really enjoyed it.   And you will never guess but it was my idea to go!!!   When we got back we had a look around the hotel, the bit we are in is new (Sofitel  Metropole)  we went and looked at the old bit, it is where we have breakfast, really lovely, very much like the Raffles in Singapore, very colonial.   Our guide is collecting us at 8.30am to do a tour of Ha Noi, that’s the correct local spelling rather than Hanoi we westerners use.  

We changed some money this morning and became instant millionaires J. Now come on everyone, how often can you say you have a lazy 1.66 million in your pocket!!!!  J  (17000 dong to one US$)

We were collected  at 8:15 and we went straight to the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum. When we got there the queue was only about 40m long (Yes I do mean only, see a comment in a little while). After giving our guide our camera and mobile phones (no cameras allowed inside) we joined the queue and pretty quickly found ourselves inside the Mausoleum. There were guards everywhere, our guide told us they were all retired army people, who are employed to guard HCM. The mood inside the building was very reverent, the guards keeping everyone in line, quiet and moving. After rounding a few corners we came into the viewing room. HCM is lying in a glass case in a typical viewing pose, he looks very much like he is just sleeping. The case has 4 guards around it, and a walk way around it (sort of a U-turn walk way)  with a barrier preventing you getting too close. On the wall at the head of the case are 2 symbols, the hammer and sickle of the Russian communist party and the Red Star of Vietnam (HCM was  close to both Stalin and Marx). After we left the building we met back up with our guide and did a tour of the grounds, including the Palace HCM used (originally built by the French around 1900) the houses he lived in and the single column pagoda. We also went to the area in which Vietnam proclaimed its independence in 1945.As we left the queue to get into the Mausoleum was at least 400m long.

From there we went to the Museum of Ethnology. This gives a history of all the various ethnic groups that make up Vietnam. There are 54 different ethnic groups in Vietnam and this museum gives a very good understanding of how they all fit together.

After there we went to Nha Hang Ha Hoi restaurant for lunch. It is a training restaurant for street kids to give them skills in hospitality. The food was very nice and the service great, they all smiled lots and seemed to enjoy what they were doing. During lunch we arranged to have dinner with Brett Hyland and his fiancé, Breeze(Greg works with/for Brett on the NATA audits he does).  Breeze works in Hanoi and we are looking forward to meeting her and sharing a meal with them. Rob Oke and his wife are also joining us, Rob used to work for NATA as well. We are going to a traditional Vietnamese restaurant and are looking forward to it very much

From there we went to the Temple of Literature. This was dedicated to Confucius in 1070, and later established as a university for educating mandarins (The ruling class) It provides a great history in the way that teachers are respected and idolised within Vietnam. 

After there we went to the old quarter of Hanoi, and walked around several different market areas, it was fascinating, everything from shoes to live eels and fresh tea.  We even saw about 3 pigs delivered on the back of a motor cycle!!

The afternoon has been very hot and humid. We got dropped off at our hotel at about 3:15, so we took time to cool down and relax a bit

 

 

Vietnam July / Aug 2008

Hanoi, Halong Bay , Hue, Hoi An , Nha Trang , Ho Chi Minh City, My Tho , Can Tho and Chau Doc
Storeholder Dong Ba Market - Huethe worries of the world on his face, so youngMai Chau VillagerMai Chau

Mai Chau

23rd July 2008

Last night we had a great dinner with a friend of Greg’s, Brett and his fiancé Breeze who is Vietnamese.   (they are getting married in a few more days)  She took us to a Vietnamese restaurant and ordered lots of dishes for us, we had a feast, all for $15.00 not bad hey, was a great experience, felt really lucky!

 

We woke at 6.30am to the alarm, was so nice not to wake up early got 8 hours sleep yeah!! J

We were picked up at 8am by our guide and driver, drove 4 hours to Mai Chau, 150 km away, yes that is about 40km an hour!!! We did have a few stops along the way.

Hanoi drivers are the craziest I have ever seen, there are very few traffic lights, so people are constantly crossing at intersections from every direction possible and all at the same time!! You have to see it to believe it.   Anyway the drive although long was very interesting, was great to get out into the country, it was the Vietnam I was expecting, green and lush, people working in paddy fields, buffalo, cows, goats ducks walking on the road along with all of the motor bikes (not many cars).   Really beautiful scenery.

We enjoyed the village of Mai Chau, it is in the mountains, about 4oo people live there they are an ethnic Thai minority.    We had fun with the children, a travel agent told us to take balloons for the children, they were a definite hit, we enjoyed engaging with them.

We had a good lunch in a communal house sitting on the floor, then wandered around the village (see the photos we have posted) before leaving for our 3 1/2 hour journey back to Hanoi.

We arrived back at 6.30pm to our hotel, had a few nibbles in our room and packed our bags.   We are leaving at 8.30am tomorrow to go to Halong Bay, staying on a Junk for the night.

Thanks for your messages Ben & Kieran, and was great to talk to you today Carly we had a smile on our face all day.  Thanks for your emails Mum, we are enjoying reading about your adventures.  Hope you are all well and happy.    We are having a great time, feels like we have been here for ages, must have something to do with how much we are cramming into each day, hey Kieran!!!

Love you all

us xo   PS Dante Tessa Ella & Ethan, we posted you a card yesterday, showing you how crazy the traffic is here in Ha Noi

 

Vietnam July / Aug 2008

Hanoi, Halong Bay , Hue, Hoi An , Nha Trang , Ho Chi Minh City, My Tho , Can Tho and Chau Doc
Mai Chau waifPushing it up hill in HueMai Chau child who charmed us and enjoying balloonPagoda of the heavenly lady

Hanoi 1am

23rd July 2008

 mmmm was an interesting nights sleep, or lack thereof

at 1am there was a call on Greg's phone, from mastercard wanting to know if we had bought something from Bond St London for $4,500.00 (he told mastercard we were going to Vietnam for 18 days before we left)   seems someone has made a copy of our card and is using it.    so now the card has been cancelled, cba in australia told greg they would have a card to us the next day, but after being on the phone to mastercard international for what must have been 25 mins at 1am this morning, greg was told it would take 5 or so days to get to us, so greg told them not to bother unless they could give us a day as we were not in one spot for very long!   will be interesting to see how we go at the other hotels when they ask for our credit card!!   good job we bought some cash.

then at 5.50am this morning someone rang my phone which was packed away so missed the call (not anyone in my phone cos the number didnt come up) and now we are up earlier than we had planned.   

we were going to leave one of our cases at this hotel because we are back here on friday for one night, but we have decided to take all our luggage with us to halong bay, seems to us someone at this hotel has used our card number for their benefit!!   guess they needed it more than us!

anyway time for a shower and breakfast, we checkout of here in 2 hours

hope you all enjoy your day

love and hugs from us xo

Vietnam July / Aug 2008

Hanoi, Halong Bay , Hue, Hoi An , Nha Trang , Ho Chi Minh City, My Tho , Can Tho and Chau Doc
Hanoi Traffic ChaosOld Hoi AnGrowing old in Mai ChauMai Chau - Off to work in the rice paddies

Hanoi to Halong Bay

24th July 2008

 

We checked out of our hotel this morning and were picked up by our driver at around 8:30am. He approached us very tentatively and said Deb-or-ah ??? We smiled and said yes and we loaded up our stuff and headed east for our 3 ½ to 4 hr drive to Halong Bay. The drive was fairly repetitive with us alternating between farmland and newly developing factory areas. You can really see how “progress” is taking shape here. Our driver stopped for a break after about 2 hrs, and dropped us at an “arts” factory, where we wandered around for the stipulated 30min break. Most if not all the workers had some form of disability. It seems to be common for touristy factories to employ disabled people. Anyway everything seemed very touristy and over priced and not to our taste so we didn’t get anything.  We went along a bit more and then the driver stopped again to have a smoke, and gave us an opportunity to take some pics of workers in a near by paddy field and some people shovelling coal onto a conveyer loading a truck. Its amazing what these people do. Just before this stop we saw 2 road accidents, one where a bus clipped a car and looked as though it spun it 180, and another where it looked like  motor cycle and a push bike came to grief. No one seemed hurt in either, which was good. But I guess when the traffic seems to get to a max of about 40 kph any bump is going to be small.

We arrived in Halong Bay at about 12:15 pm and boarded our junk , The Halong Jasmin, after being taken out to it by a small launch, at about 12:30pm and were served cocktails on arrival. We have a nice room with a spa and our own private balcony.  After we had got under way and were away from “civilisation” they served lunch. Crab soup, King prawns, mussels, fish, spring rolls, rice and fruit, all very nice.

At about 2pm we arrived at a small island that had a swimming beach and a very steep climb to a lookout at the top of the island, about 150m high. We were given the option to do either, or both if you were quick, in view of the heat and humidity we decided to take the swim. The water was wonderfully refreshing, albeit a bit warm.

We then sailed on a bit more and then got into the launches and went and cruised around a fishing village, where everyone lives in floating houses. Several young children raced to our launches in small woven cane boats, that they paddled at a furious rate, and tied up to them and then tried selling us shells and small things like that. It was almost a case of begging, but at least they were trying to sell things. We didn’t know this was going to happen and so had left all our cash on board the junk. The village was very interesting and colourful in terms of the lifestyle the fishermen lived and the houses they lived in.

Halong Bay is a UNESCO listed world heritage site, well about 1/3 of it is listed. It is a huge bay dotted with many islands and massive limestone monoliths. The islands and monoliths are very steep and generally uninhabited. They form an amazing landscape and cast an amazing and complex image against the skyline.

The sea is constantly eroding all the limestone, and every island and monolith is severely  undercut by the wave action, and as we saw, in some cases tunnels have formed that pass right through from one side to the other. We cruised around and saw an example of this in the national park section of the Bay.

After that the Junk sailed off and we settled back and had a 15 min foot massage each, very relaxing.  We eventually stopped at a calm anchorage point and settled in for the night, along with about 4 other boats (Junks). For dinner we had a seafood BBQ (The Rowes would have been proud of it) We had BBQ’d king prawns , fish, squid, shellfish(small clams) and pork ribs, along with lots of different salads. And then some fruit and cakes for desert.

We retired to our room for a spa and some us time, I think they were going to have a French movie filmed in Halong Bay on for entertainment, the spa was a much better option.

 

Vietnam July / Aug 2008

Hanoi, Halong Bay , Hue, Hoi An , Nha Trang , Ho Chi Minh City, My Tho , Can Tho and Chau Doc
Hanoi wiring, eat your heart out Peurto Monte ChilMai ChauDong Ba Market - HueWater buffalo, walking down the main road

Halong Bay - Hanoi

25th July 2008

 

This morning we woke at around 6:45am and went up to the top deck for a Tai Chi class, a very relaxing way to start the day. After that we changed and went by launch to visit some limestone caves on one of the islands. The caves were pretty large, but not generally still growing. The ceilings in them were wave eroded into a sort of running scallop pattern, which was very interesting. It rained last night and the humidity today seems to have doubled!!!!

When we got back we had a refreshing shower and packed up ready to leave , then went up for brunch at 9:30am. After brunch we headed to the massage chairs and turned on the fan, I think we had found the most comfortable place to sit for our cruise back on the entire Junk. 

Our driver picked us up as we got off the tender from the Junk at 11:30am. We headed off and after an hour he stopped at a Tourist factory and told us “30”, so we knew it was a ½ hr break and we would have to suffer another tour of a “Tourist Factory/Outlet shop being pestered by those horrid sales people. By the time the ½ hr was up we were standing by the car  waiting for our driver, he simply smiled as he walked over and opened the car.

The drive back was pretty uneventful except for the last 40km or so. I think the monsoons hit, I haven’t seen rain like it since my time in Balikpapan. There were torrents falling from the sky and it really sorted out the motor bike riders, most could be found hiding under bridges waiting for the rain to stop. The roads became free of those pesky bikes and our driver took full advantage of it, he almost drove at 82 kph on a freeway, his normal speed was more like 50 kph.

Got back to our hotel, the Sofitel Metropolitan Hanoi, at about 3pm. When we went to check in we were told we had been upgraded to a Club Room, and check-in was on the top floor. Its pretty swish, to check-in all I did was sign for me and Deb. Our room is like a small suite, very palatial, J. After we settled in, and Deb had had a bath in a very deep “Olde Worlde” type bath with rose petals in it, we went up to the Club floor for drinks and canapés.

They had a wonderful selection of indulgent snacks and a very extensive drinks list, basically whatever you wanted to drink, from Champagne to Cocktails, it was there. And because we are in a  Club room, its all gratis. J we stayed and had a couple of drinks and some food, and came back to our room about 6:45. We are just making the most of the indulgence J.  Mmmmmmm, sounds just like us.

Hue tomorrow, bring it on

Thanks Carly for sorting out our mail, hope all is ok.   Robert probably has our mail, the kids would have emptied the letter box I hope.   And thank you for your message and yours Ben smile  We did not check our footy tips from when we put them in last weekend, so hopefully we do well J   Oh yes, there was an obscene amount of toiletries in this room, so I have gathered them altogether, weighs a tonne but our baggage is not heavy, thought we could give them to the Hutt St Centre for the homeless when we return, better idea than presents, what do you think Carly??  wink   (Greg has just come over to see what I have written cos I was laughing!!! Love you)

Hope you all enjoy your weekend, lots of love to you all from us razz

 

Vietnam July / Aug 2008

Hanoi, Halong Bay , Hue, Hoi An , Nha Trang , Ho Chi Minh City, My Tho , Can Tho and Chau Doc
Our Villa-Six Senses Hideaway, Nihn Van BayFishing village family - Halong BayOur Villa's bathroom and bedroom - Nihn Van BayPagoda of the heavenly lady

Hanoi to Hue

26th July 2008

 

First of all

Happy Birthday Pat, 22. Enjoy your day of football (Rubgy for all those in SA, J )

Breakfast was a bit different this morning, what a difference being in Club Metropole makes. Deb had cereal to start and I just went to the buffet. While I was at the buffet the waiter came round and gave Deb the breakfast menu. All gratis when you stay at the Club. She chose to have the Eggs Benedict with a Champagne sauce, was very nice. Fresh juice and plunger coffee, and good tea. Anyway, we dragged ourselves away and checked out. Our guide and driver picked us up about 10 mins late, they were waiting for us at the other entrance to the Hotel, it has 2, the Old Colonial entrance and the Opera Wing entrance, we were at the later.

Anyway, we got to the airport at about 9am, flight due to leave at 10:10, so plenty of time, although we have been told not to get there any later than that, I guess they may give your seat away???

We saw a few of the people from our Halong Bay cruise at the airport and a couple were on our flight.

We got to Hue on time at around 11:30 and were taken to our hotel, and we checked-in. Our room overlooks the Perfume River and across the river to the local market and the citadel.

We got our guide (our guides name is Dat, or Eric if you prefer, but we like Dat, and our driver is Loc) to take us to a local Vietnamese restaurant for lunch, which he did. We had Hue Pancakes and Vietnamese Spring Rolls for starters , then Crispy Fried Squid and “Chua Thit Nac Bam” (missing all the appropriate accent notes over some of the letters) and steamed rice. “Chua Thit Nac Bam” is Pork with bamboo, tomato, pineapple, onions, lemon and chilli in a fish stock. The whole meal was delicious and cost 250,000 dong ( about $15 including drinks)

After lunch we went off and had a look at a couple of mausoleums of former local emperors. The first was that of king Tu Duc (pronounced Too Dook).  He had over 100 wives, and numerous concubines, but never had any children. He was liked by his people and his mausoleum was built in 2 years and before he died. It covers a huge area and is very majestic.

The other we went to was that of  King Minh Mang. It was built in the early 1900’s and was built at enormous cost, to pay for his mausoleum the King raised land taxes by 30%, which caused huge poverty and many deaths. This King was also believed by his people to be gay, due to his preference for perfumes and jewellery, and the way he dressed. He too had no children , which added to the speculation about his sexuality.  His mausoleum is very ornate and cost many lives to build.

From here we went to have a walk around a local market. It was a pretty standard type asian market, a place where you could pretty well buy anything you wanted and lots of things you probably wouldn’t want. But very interesting all the same.

Then back to the hotel for a bit of a rest and cool down.

 

Vietnam July / Aug 2008

Hanoi, Halong Bay , Hue, Hoi An , Nha Trang , Ho Chi Minh City, My Tho , Can Tho and Chau Doc
Stairway to King Tu Duc Mauseleum - HueThe Halong Jasmin - our JunkMai Chau child who charmed us and enjoying balloonwoman paddling on Perfume River

Hue - Hoi An

27th July 2008

 

26 July 2008

This evening we went to a “famous” local restaurant, it is listed in The Lonely Planet books, the Y Thao Garden, for dinner.

The restaurant had a set 7 course meal for $10US a head. The food was very nice. Towards the end of our meal our waitress came over and quietly gave me a note, which she immediately took off me when I had finished reading it. It basically said, that the cashier takes all tips left when you pay your bill and she wouldn’t get any of it. So we gave her a tip on the sly (I think it may have been her way of getting a bonus  mmm ?) Anyway it was fun and we can spare a bit and don’t mind sharing a little where it can make a difference to someone. We got them to call us a taxi and we went back to our hotel and bed.

 

27 July 2008

Packed up and checked out by 9am after an average type breakfast, it did the job but not much else.

We walked across the road from our hotel and down along the river for 5 minutes to our river cruise boat. The owners live on board. The cruise went up the Perfume River for about 30 mins. The river gets its name from the smell it develops from the many fragrant forests and plants upstream that impart their scent to the water. It was really interesting to watch the ebb and flow of people and boats on the water and observe the daily life goings on of people on and around the river.  We saw everything from work boats loaded up to within an inch of the river pouring in over their sides, people living on the boats, washing, fishing, harvesting water ferns for food, etc, so much activity. About 20 mins into our trip our boat pulled up alongside another in the middle of the river, it was a ”Toll Booth”, every boat going up the river must stop and pay a toll of 50,000 dong ($3.00) to the government.  We disembarked at the riverbank just down from the Thien Mu Pagoda (The Pagoda of the heavenly Lady). It is Hue’s oldest and most beautiful pagoda, built on a hill overlooking the Perfume River. It is a Buddest monastery and a place where children of poor families can (if there is room) leave their children so they can get an education. They are brought up as Buddest Monks, the age ranges of children there was from about 4 to 16.

From there we drove alongside the river to the Citadel. It was the seat of power of the Nguyen dynasty in Vietnam. It is a huge complex formed as three sections, one within the other. The inner most area was the Hue Hidden City, modelled on the one of the same name in Beijing, it is currently being restored, the next area , surrounding the hidden City, was the area for the reigning King and his wives, concubines, his eunuchs and other family members and  his close advisors. The most outer section was for other royal workers and the military. Each section had its own surrounding wall and moat, a very formidable structure. It really is a must see in Hue.

Dat,(our guide for those who have forgotten) explained that the Tet Offensive battles of the Vietnam War (Interestingly, the Vietnamese call the whole “Vietnam War” two different names, firstly up to 1972 the American War and then from 1972 to 1975 The Vietnam War, it depends on  who was on the offensive I think)  were commenced in and around Hue and much fighting occurred around the Citadel. The flag pole at the Citadel is meant to be the tallest in Vietnam.

We left Hue at  about 11:15 for our 3 hr drive to Hoi An. On the way went through 2 mountain passes, The Lucky Elephant and The Rich Family, and we also went through a 6km long tunnel under the mountains, it cuts and hour journey down to 15 mins .  On the way through the many mountain valleys we saw many military grave sites, there were hundreds and hundreds of graves, a legacy of the war that we never see or think about. We also drove through Danang, where the US forces originally landed and then  used for R & R, and the likes of Bob Hope entertained them. We also drove along side China Beach.

We arrived in Hoi An at about 2pm and went straight into the old town so I could get measured up for a coat and trousers. We eventually got to our Hotel at about 3:15. We are in a river view room at the Hoi An Riverside Resort and Spa. The view is lovely, overlooking paddy fields, the river and a few homes.   We are having a relaxing afternoon before heading out later to a restaurant recommended by Dat.

 

Vietnam July / Aug 2008

Hanoi, Halong Bay , Hue, Hoi An , Nha Trang , Ho Chi Minh City, My Tho , Can Tho and Chau Doc
Hanoi Morning ExercisesEmbroidery by child copying photoFloating Market on the Mekong Delta - Can ThoHanoi Traffic Chaos

Hoi An

28th July 2008

 

We started our day with a latish breakfast, 8am, and then were picked up by Dat and Loc for our city tour. We visited the Chuc Thanh Pagoda, the oldest pagoda in Hoi An. It consists of 3 parts, a meeting hall at the entrance, an alter to pray for a purpose and an alter to pray for your ancestors. I lit 3 incense  sticks  (an odd number is lucky) one for both of us and one for everyone else J ) and placed them on the middle alter. So I wish all the very best for everyone, particularly those reading this, LOL. We then went and had a look at a silk factory, they showed us the various stages of development of the silk worms and how they spin the silk off the cocoons. Depending on the fineness of the thread required they either spun from 7 cocoons or 18. You get between 500m and 1000m of silk off  1 cocoon.

We then went to the Japanese Covered Bridge. It was finished in 1593 and took 2 years to build. Because of this, it has a Dog statue guarding one entrance and a Monkey statue guarding the other, representing the 2 years in which it was built. The bridge also had a temple in the very centre of it.

From there went took a tour through the house of an old merchant family. The family have been merchants in Hoi An for about 7 generations and have operated out of the same house all that time. The house is full of a very eclectic collection of ceramics and artefacts. It also has some very interesting architectural aspects to it that revolve around the way the Vietnamese people see the world, and the way the various elements interact.

Next we went back to my tailor, YALY Couture of Hoi An. I had a fitting for my coat and trousers, the coat was fine but the trousers weren’t quite right. We also decided to get a kimono made for each of us for summer. Deb’s in a floral cotton and mine in silk J. (It must be my birthday J)

That finished our tour of the old town and we were dropped off back at our hotel around 11:30am

We had a complimentary foot massage around 1pm very good J

We went back into the old town at about 2pm and had lunch and a small local restaurant. We both had a bowl of Cau Lau, (Noodles with Pork slices, fresh green vegetables noodle croutons in a broth made with local river water) specialty dish of Hoi An, it was magnificent.  Cost us $2.00

After lunch we went back to the tailor to have a fitting of our kimonos and me for another for my trousers. The kimonos fitted well, but my trousers were still not right. They tried several times to get them right before finally getting the tailor to come down and fix them. While he had a go, we went for a walk around the local market. I love these places, so  much colour, the smells, the sounds, the hum, and all the wonderful sides of humanity that gather there. We got some great photos.

Back to the tailor and the trousers still didn’t fit right, so they took more measurements and arranged to come to our hotel for the final fitting. So we came back to the hotel to cool down a tad.

We went and had dinner at a nearby restaurant that sits over the water, we can see it from our room. We had another version of Vietnamese spring rolls, they are so different everywhere you have them, even in the same town!!! And for a main we had a couple of fresh local crabs in black pepper sauce. The crabs were brought to our table alive so we could see how big they were.They were delicious, and the whole meals with drinks was $20 which included a $5.00 tip.

The girl from the tailor arrived at about 7:30pm. I tried the trousers on again and only 1 pair fitted properly so they took the others away. They had apparently made 2 new pair for me as they couldn’t fix the first ones. I was disappointed not to get the 2nd pair, but still happy with what we got.

It was then 8pm and time to relax in our room before bed. Nha Trang tomorrow, J we are being collected at 7.30am.

 

Vietnam July / Aug 2008

Hanoi, Halong Bay , Hue, Hoi An , Nha Trang , Ho Chi Minh City, My Tho , Can Tho and Chau Doc
Embroidery by child copying photoThe Halong Jasmin - our JunkHouse Mai Chauworkers in paddy fields

Six Senses Hideaway, Nihn Van Bay, Nha Trang

29th July 2008

 

We were up at 6:10am to finish packing and have breakfast. We checked out at 7:15am and headed to the airport.

We left Dat and Loc at the airport and checked-in. We managed to get exit seats with a window, very happy, J.  Flight left 10 mins early for a 50 min flight to Nha Trang, we landed on time, after circling the bustling hub (not) that is Nha Trang airport. Our bags were among the last to come off the plane and then we met our guide, Nguyen, and driver, Dong, for the 1 hour journey to the wharf where we hopped on our speed boat for the trip over to our resort, Six Senses Hideaway, Nihn Van Bay. We have a Rock Villa that comprises 2 separate buildings, one is our day room with a large day bed and bar area, and the other has our bedroom and bathroom in it. We also have our own private swimming pool. It’s a hard life,J, and it is my birthday after all J it just goes on and on.

The resort is on its own time, 1 hour ahead of the mainland, so you always have time and nothing is rushed. Oh yes, our butlers name is An, J. (pronounced Arn)

We ordered room service lunch, I had a ham, cheese and chicken sandwich, with wedges, and Deb had a Vietnamese style baguette, with wedges.  Very tasty and lots of it. This afternoon we have had a very relaxing time, taking the odd dip in the, oops, our pool (lol, living the life of the rich and famous )and other wise lying around reading. I walked off to the next (empty) villa and took a few pics of our villa and the resort. There are 54 steps down to our villa from the main track! Dinner at 7:30pm and we have asked An to pick us up,J, in his golf buggy at 7:20pm.

We had the buffet for dinner, Carbonara Pasta and Seafood Paella for starters then skewered prawns, chicken and pork, and salad for main, followed by a small selection of desert, very tasty.

We then went back to our villa for a swim and relaxation.

I have put a few more pics of our villa in my facebook, if you want to see them and aren't already a "friend" of mine just request to add me as a friend through facebook,  

Vietnam July / Aug 2008

Hanoi, Halong Bay , Hue, Hoi An , Nha Trang , Ho Chi Minh City, My Tho , Can Tho and Chau Doc
Old Hoi AnHanoi Morning Exercisesworkers in paddy fieldsHanoi Markets

Six Senses Hideaway

30th July 2008

 

A lazy start to the day, we got up at around 8:30am, had a cup of coffee/tea then called for our butler to pick us up to take us to breakfast at 9:30am.

We had a very leisurely breakfast, and sat in the library contemplating the view for some time and then got a ride back to our villa to settle in for a very restful day relaxing, reading swimming and generally not doing very much at all. J Room service lunch sounds good again.

Lunch was a seafood pizza and the Vietnamese baguettes. Very yummy, we had a bottle of champagne with lunch, (gift from resort) very indulgent, J. This is fun LOL.

A quiet afternoon punctuated by dips in the pool, ohhhhh it’s such a hard life!!!!!

Dinner tonight in the wine cave J.

Dinner was wonderful, a very romantic setting. The table was decorated with stars and a heart, with bottles of wine lining the walls and tea-light candles lit all through the cave, it really did look stunning when we entered.  We started our meal with a glass of Moet, this definitely was a “Moet Moment” J and then had dinner. The menu for the night had been personalised just for us, making us feel very special.

After dinner An was waiting to take us back to our villa. We made the most of our last night at Six Senses, and went for a swim. There were so many stars out, a fitting end to our stay.

 

Vietnam July / Aug 2008

Hanoi, Halong Bay , Hue, Hoi An , Nha Trang , Ho Chi Minh City, My Tho , Can Tho and Chau Doc
Road Worker - Hoi AnThe Halong Jasmin - our Junkthe worries of the world on his face, so youngFloating Fishing Village Halong Bay

Nha trang to HCMC (Saigon)

31st July 2008

 

We got up at 6:15am, got ready and finished packing and left our villa by 6:45am, An was waiting to take us for breakfast. We had a slow breakfast, partially because we were early and they were still in the process of setting up when we arrived, and also because we weren’t in any particular hurry to leave.

We were taken to check-out at about 7:25am and after we had settled up the resort manager came in and said good bye to us. He and An both escorted us to the wharf for our launch departure at 7:45am. Its nice to be fair welled by the head  the resort, it continues that feeling of being special right to the end. J

We got back to the mainland in about 15mins, a much smoother trip than our ride over. Our guide picked us up and took us to the airport. We had checked in and gone to flight lounge with about 1 ¼ hrs to spare. Its not quite the same without a Qantas lounge to go to. Next stop HCMC.

We arrived in HCMC at about 10am and after getting our luggage we found our guide, Reno and driver Li. We asked to be taken to a local restaurant for lunch, we wanted to try a local dish. He took us to a small “chain type” eatery and ordered for us, we had the local specialty, Pho Tai, rice noodles in a broth with veges and beef, all for 80,000 dong (about $4.50). We then got dropped off at our hotel and checked in. We got picked up again at 1:30pm and were taken to the Unification Palace, the place in Saigon (thats what the locals still call HCMC) where the tank crashed through the main gate when the North Vietnamese marched victorious into the city.The history in the Palace was very interesting. Its seems the north has a different slant on the “American/Vietnam” war than the south has, and that they both differ wildly from that we are given in the west. The truth must be in there somewhere. From there we went to a museum specifically on the war. It was horrendous in part. It had much hardware memorabilia , tanks , artillery, etc in the grounds, and many rooms full of a pictorial history. Many of these were very gruesome in there graphic depiction  of the war. We cannot fathom why or how man can be so brutal to other men. From there we went to the Cathedral. It was originally build by the French from totally imported materials!!!! Every stone, glass window, and tile!!!!! Deb lit a candle for us all and in a way to pray for the wrongs of war on all people.

We then went to the old post office, and magnificent building and then started to walk back to our hotel. 100m into our walk the heavens opened up and we eventually stopped at a busy corner and watched the world go bye until the rain eased enough for us to continue . It had  been an interesting and very memorable afternoon tour. It is very interesting to see a war from through the eyes of the foe of the time. Very sobering!!!

 

Vietnam July / Aug 2008

Hanoi, Halong Bay , Hue, Hoi An , Nha Trang , Ho Chi Minh City, My Tho , Can Tho and Chau Doc
Mai ChauThey start work young in Halong Bay selling shellsEmbroidery by child copying photoLife on a boat on the Mekong Delta - Can Tho

HCMC (Saigon) to Can Tho

1st August 2008

 

We went for breakfast at the “club lounge”, was very nice and civilised.

We then checked out and were picked up by our guide at 8am for the 2 hr drive to My Tho.

We only stopped once on the way for a driver break and it wasn’t a tacky place, which was nice for a change, we spent the time, well Deb did anyway, taking photos of flowers in the grounds of the stop over place.

We arrived at My Tho around 10:00am and got on board a small river boat, and headed off for a cruise around 4 islands in the middle of the Tien River. They were called after the four magical animals. The Unicorn, the Phoenix, the Tortoise and the Dragon.

We had three(ooops sorry, Deb reminds me it was four) stops planned.

At the first place we tried tea with bees honey, its was nice. Then we(well only me really, Deb passed on this) had a t ry of what the locals call rice wine, it is really a distilate, and tases a bit like rocket fuel!!! eek Then there was the banana flavoured version, laugh out, it just keeps getting better LOL!!!! We walked around a little here and I found that they were selling snake wine, with real snakes in it, venom and all, and just for good health they also put the biggest scorpions I have ever seen in it too!!! Sorry to say but I left them there without trying it. confused

The second was at a place where we could try the fruit of the area. We were served a platter of Jack Fruit, Pineapple, Papaya, Dragon Fruit and another that escapes me. They were all very nice, the pineapple is always served with a salt and chilli mix. You are meant to dip the pineapple in it to give you a sweet and sour sensation, with a kick J.

Our next stop was at a coconut candy making “factory”. It was an open shop where they really did make and pack the stuff. We were show the whole process and then given some samples. Very chewy and tasty. We bought a little to have on our travels.

Finally, we were taken to another place for lunch. We had Elephant Ear fish spring rolls(these were made at our table, similar to the ones we had in Hanoi), prawn spring rolls, pork spring rolls, beef and veg, pork strips and a soup of some kind. It was all very delicious.

We then got aboard a sampan, and were paddled through the small canals that run through the island, a very pleasant time, seeing everyday life on the island, and eventually came back to our boat to go back to shore. The boat owner and his wife and young son lived on the boat, the wife (mother) and her child(son) were so wonderful to watch and interact with. We gave the boy a couple of balloons and his mum blew them up for him, his smile was worth bottling , as was hers. We gave her a little US$ as we left, we felt that they could use a little, J, and they gave us so much joy for a short time.

When we got back to the mainland , we got back in the car and drove to Can Tho for the night at our hotel, the Victoria. The drive back was pretty standard for over here, about 1 ½ hrs, all except the last 15 mins. We finished our drive with a car ferry trip across the river. There are 10 ferries that service this one crossing and its very busy. The whole crossing went like clock work, drive on, 10 min sail, drive off. They raise the on and off ramps by hand and then only just high enough to clear the wharf.

Another fascinating day in this fascinating and always enjoyable country was over.

 No pictures today, we want to save as many as we can now for Sien Reap

Comments

kevin
2nd August 2008
snake wine ?

Is it what you speak about, snake wine ?
http://www.asiansnakewine.com/

  Top

Vietnam July / Aug 2008

Hanoi, Halong Bay , Hue, Hoi An , Nha Trang , Ho Chi Minh City, My Tho , Can Tho and Chau Doc
Stairway to King Tu Duc Mauseleum - HueKing Khai Dinh Mauseleum - HueDong Ba Market - HueHanoi Morning Exercises

Debs Vietnam

2nd August 2008

Tomorrow morning at 8am we leave our hotel on our way up the river to Phnom Penh, by 9am we will cross the border into Cambodia.

I was asked on a questionnaire to describe Vietnam in one word, I said, “colourful”.    It is green and lush with paddy fields everywhere, the people are colourful, gentle with beautiful smiles which light up when you smile at them, the rivers bustle with activity, the traffic is chaotic, the food delicious and cheap.  You can have a main meal in a local restaurant for US$1.00

There are 84 million people in Vietnam, they don’t appear to have any environmental policies, fires are lit all over the country to clear the land, causing much smog,  in the cities there is one motor bike for every 2 people, the streets are very polluted with the emissions, some towns are kept really clean and tidy others not so much.    The people do not appear to take any care of themselves at work.   I was surprised to find out the life expectancy was 70 (I thought it would have been less), occupational health and safety does not exist in this country.

Vietnam seems to run on time, all of our flights were very orderly and on time.   Because labour is so cheap here there are lots of people to do one job, so things appear quite relaxed.

There is so much traffic on the roads it takes a long time to get anywhere.   Today we travelled 114 km in 4 hours, average 40-50km/hr, it would have only taken an hour and a half 2 hours at the most at home, but there is much to see along the way.

We have taken so many photos, it is obvious from the ones I have taken that it is the young and the very old who interest me most, but there are other people who live here too J

We bought balloons to give to the children, we have had hours of fun, with the children with them, wonderful to see the joy on their faces some of which we captured on the camera, it bought me even more joy, such a little thing, so much happiness!

Some of my favourite memories;

On our first morning in Hanoi at 4.30am walking around Lake Hoan Kiem with all the locals, thousands of them, Chau Mai Village, talking to the children, Halong Bay, on a Junk, swimming in the bay, great views, barbecued prawns, the history in Hue, walking around the market in Hoi An, our guide Dat – beautiful smile and great sense of humour, 6 senses in Nha Trang – everything about it, I felt like a child at Christmas –swimming in our private pool at every opportunity – a romantic dinner in the wine cave, walking in the rain and singing thinking of our grandchildren in HCMC and jumping on the bed J, being on the Mekong Delta and interacting with the locals and spending the last half hour sitting on a seat next to the road outside our hotel in Chau Doc taking photos of the locals, smiling and waving to them and giving balloons to the children.

We went to a photo exhibition in HCMC with pictures of the war, I only got to one of the first pictures and I was gone, I couldn’t look at any more, I must have cried for half an hour, they were so barbaric.   The picture that affected me won  a Pulitzer prize.  I had only just glanced at it when the tears started, it was a picture of a Vietnamese woman waist deep, crossing a river to get away from the American bombs she was holding her baby and had her other 4 children with her, I think that vision will stay with me forever, I am not surprised the photo won a prize, it affected me deeply.

I found it interesting that the North Vietnamese refer to the war as the American war, I had not heard that before, the Southern Vietnamese refer to it as the civil war.

There is a lot of poverty in Vietnam, it will be interesting to see what happens as more people leave the country for the cities.    The poor who work earn US$100.00 per month, those who work in hospitality  US$200.00 per month.  We are certainly lucky in Australia.

It has been fun sharing Greg’s birthday in Vietnam, isn’t it great when it goes on and on razz

 

 

Vietnam July / Aug 2008

Hanoi, Halong Bay , Hue, Hoi An , Nha Trang , Ho Chi Minh City, My Tho , Can Tho and Chau Doc
Hanoi Traffic ChaosHo Chi Minh Mausoleum HanoiStairway to King Tu Duc Mauseleum - HueFloating Fishing Village Halong Bay

Can Tho to Chau Doc

2nd August 2008

 

We were up at 6am this morning, a quick shower and breakfast and then into a boat at 7am to go up stream to the floating fruit and vegetable market on the Tien River at Can Tho and then to a “cottage “ rice noodle factory.

This morning was everything we love about travelling!!! It was all about watching REAL local people go about there daily lives and us being like a couple of flies on the wall taking it all in. It is a real privilege to be able to get a glimpse into the life and ways of other cultures and people. On the ride to the markets we got to see the ordinary people in their river side homesgetting on with the start to their days, the people already out on the riverworking and trading, and all the colours and characters of life on the river. So much to see and enjoy. The market was a hive of activity with the people selling and buying the produce. It was also a great social place with the locals meeting and sharing stories and meals, and playing together.

The noodle factory was interesting and a look into how they actually produce the staples of life. The people there also raised pigs to supplement the income from the noodles. They seemed pretty well off compared to most on the river.

We got back to the hotel at 9am, and we stopped into the dining room for a top up of breakfast, coffe for me, and cheese and bread for Deb. We then went up to our room to freshen up, look at our mornings photos and finish packing.

We were checked out and in the car heading for Chau Doc by 10:05am.

On the way to Chau Doc we called into a freshwater crocodile farm. They had thousands of crocodiles from youngsters to large adults up to 4m long. The breed them for their meat and skins, most of wihich is exported.

We stopped for lunch, and as we like, had a Vietnamese meal, this one not as tasty as other, but still good.

We then drove to Chau Doc, and went to see a couple of temples. First to the Lady Chau Xu Pagoda. The locals found a statue up in the mountains in the 1800’s and brought it down to town after one of them had a vision. The statue has many legends told about it and lots of the locals come by to make offerings and pray to it.

Next was a Buddist temple called the Tay An Pagoda. For some odd reason I found this Pagoda very peaceful, it just felt good inside.

We then went up to the top of Sam Mountain to view the surrounding country side and to get our first, albeit hazy, view of Cambodia. It was a great view from the many vantage points and we were also able to see the Forbidden mountains. The rice fields and township below looked spectacular.

After that we were taken to our Hotel, the Victoria. We have a room with views over the river and it is very interesting just to sit back and watch the world go by on the river. After a while we went out to a park next to our hotel and Deb took heaps of photos of the people of the town as they went by. They were all VERY friendly and many many gave us big smiles and waves.

Cambodia tomorrow, and a new adventure.

 

Vietnam July / Aug 2008

Hanoi, Halong Bay , Hue, Hoi An , Nha Trang , Ho Chi Minh City, My Tho , Can Tho and Chau Doc
Mai Chau childrenMai ChauGrowing old in Mai ChauPushing it up hill in Hue

Chau Doc to Phnom Penh

3rd August 2008

 

We got up at around 6am. Deb had a good sleep, mine wasn’t!! The bed was way too soft!! Anyway, if that’s the worst of it I have done pretty well.

We had breakfast, very ordinary and then checked out and met our guide, Reno, at 7:30am out the back of the hotel, where we were going to catch our speed boat up the river.

The speed boat picked us up at 8:05am and we took off across the river and picked up a whole lot more people. The boat sat 18 inside (18 Vietnamese that is, lol, that’s short hand for the seats being small and the general room in the boat being a bit cramped) and another 4 seats out on the back. All up 20 tourists were on the boat and we were the only ones not from Europe.

Any way we drove straight up the river as we looked from our balcony at our hotel, and after an hour we got to the border. It all became a bit of a farce, first we stopped at the Vietnamese Border control point, we all had to get off, baggage and all, and get our passports stamped and all of our luggage scanned. Then everyone had to get back on board and we went another 100m and then we all had to get off again, thankfully we didn’t have to take our luggage off again as well. It was a bit bazaar. We all sat around for a while until a few people got their visas, and then we had to go through immigration. The guy at the counter did everything he could to make it look as though he kept finding problems with our visas, paperwork and passports. As he went about the process of stamping our passports, visa and other paperwork with 5 individual stamps on each, he seemed to be saying out loud what he was doing, it was a bit strange, but very amusing. By the time all this had been done it was now 10:40am.

We then set off up the river with our next stop being Phnom Penh. The river was amazing, for all of the trip it never got less than about 500m wide , and at times it looked over 2km wide. The life along the river never changed too much, everyone just seemed to being doing the same as they had for a very long time, fishing, dredging, and general trade. The left bank seemed to be suffering badly from erosion for most of the way.

It turned out to be about a 23 Pagoda trip from the border to Phnom Penh, mmm, that’s about 3 hrs for the rest of you who weren’t driven to that form of amusement to pass the time. I guess we can now say we have done that trip, and we never have to do it again. Don’t get me wrong, it was really worth doing ONCE!!!!!!

When we arrived we were a bit confused about our paperwork and whether we were meant to be picked up or not. Anyway, after the trip the last thing I needed was a whole lot of “Tuk Tuk” drivers hassling me while we were trying to work out what was going on. Anyway, I did get a little short with a few of them,  . We eventually worked it out that we had to find our own way to the hotel, and so , I ate a little humble pie and we got a Tuk Tuk to our hotel, “Raffles Hotel de Royal”.

Our “room”, has a kitchen, lounge room, bedroom, bathroom and walk-in wardrobe!!!!  It also has a sign saying don’t open the balcony doors unless you want to be invaded by mosquitoes.

We then contacted our travel company here to organise what time we were going to be picked up in the morning and to get our plane tickets. They are dropping everything off to us tonight.

Once we were all sorted, we changed $20 US into 15  $1’s and we got $5 of local money, that is 20,000 Riel, originally I asked for $40 in local, and they almost laughed, indicating I would need a wheel barrow to carry it all. We also got directions to the “Russian” Market, the Royal Museum and The Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC). The museum gave a taste of what we have to come in Siem Reap, the Russian market was one of those great Asian markets where you could get anything (and we didn’t buy a thing, but loved walking around it) and the FCC, suggested to us by Trevor, (who we met on our Antarctic trip) as a great place to sit and people watch and watch the Mekong flow by.  He was right, we had a few drinks and bite to eat, and enjoyed watching the world pass-by from the 2nd floor windows. We left and got our Tuk Tuk driver to take us back to our hotel.

It was lots of fun getting out and about in the back of the Tuk Tuk, you can really get the feel of the city.

Later in the evening we went and had cocktails in the “Elephant Bar”. It was a very Raffles sort of thing to do, as you can only do in Raffles.

 

Cambodia August 2008

Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and the Angkor Temples
Kampong Khlang Village - Big House on the riverAngkor Thom6am Angkor WatTa Prohm - where's Lara :)

Greg's Vietnam

3rd August 2008

 

Every time we travel to a new country I get to experience something new that challenges the way I think and the things that I hold as true. It’s why I love travelling I guess.

Vietnam has opened my eyes to try and think of things from a perspective of a very different mindset.  We go through our lives with a set of things we hold as truths, and to have these challenged is both confronting and empowering.

We have experienced Vietnam from many different perspectives. Watching people in the street and on the roads and rivers go about their daily lives is really eye opening into the real people of a country.

The best way to describe the Vietnamese people is probably to describe the way the roads operate.

Imagine a country with 84 million people and 1 motor bike for every two people, and then imagine having all those bikes on the road at the same time, going through the same intersection at once from every direction possible, with no regard to lanes or the correct side to be driving on and NOT having one accident or even a hint of road rage.

Everything happens at a gentle pace, around town if you get over about 30kph you feel like a racing driver and so unsafe.

You cannot visit this country without reflecting on what we call in our history the Vietnam War; over here they talk of the American War, the Civil War and the Vietnamese War. They are all periods of the same War, and they all reflect a change in what was happening through the eyes of the people that live in this country. After seeing a war through their eyes and the views of the other side, it changes the way you must think of it. Seeing the war museum and its very graphic, and horrific, tales and photographs, the hundreds of War cemeteries throughout the countryside and the way they honour their fallen and the bravery of the civilians and heroes is an amazing testament to these people. And now some 30 odd years on, the way they openly greet foreigners to their country, the warmth of their smiles and their generosity is amazing. 

Vietnam the land is just as amazing as its people. We travelled from north to south and from the coast to the western border. It changes every time you move through the country. From cities of up to 8 million people to very small subsistent farming villages, from offices to rice paddies and fishing villages, all, so so different. Much of the coastal plains are being farmed for rice, fish, prawns, corn, wood and livestock. Most of the hills and mountainous areas are still forested, but you can see the encroachment of man. Many of the cities are expanding to accommodate the influx of people from the rural areas looking for work and the prospect of a better life. Urban sprawl and the start of high rise developments are changing the face of Vietnam’s cities.

In 5 years time this will be a very different place. The number of very large 5+star resorts  and associated golf courses  that are either under construction or obviously on the drawing board is scary and they are just destroying the real regional Vietnam, it will become another version of the “Gold Coast” in Australia.

Vietnam is a country that shouldn’t be rushed, it should be savoured slowly, but do it sooner rather than later, while it still retains its differences.

 

Vietnam July / Aug 2008

Hanoi, Halong Bay , Hue, Hoi An , Nha Trang , Ho Chi Minh City, My Tho , Can Tho and Chau Doc
Growing old in Mai ChauPagoda of the heavenly ladyMai Chau child who charmed us and enjoying balloonKing Khai Dinh Mauseleum - Hue

Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

4th August 2008

 

Happy Birthday Danni from both of us, we hope you had a wonderful day!!

We woke this morning at 6am , finished packing , had breakfast and checked out. We were picked up at 7:30am and taken to the airport for our 9:30am flight to Siem Reap. Apparently it can take between 25 mins and over an hour to get to the airport, depending on traffic.

We did the former, we had checked in, paid our airport tax and were in the gate lounge by 8:10am.

The time went quickly as we read up a bit more about what lay ahead for us.

The flight left on time and we arrived in Siem reap at 10:05am. We got picked up by our guide, Kim, and driver, Tola. Kim is full of beans and has lots of information, so we should get lots out of our time here.

After we checked in at our Hotel, Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor”, we went for a walk around the block to go to the Angkor National Museum, to brush up on our Angkor history before we go out to the temples. We eventually gave up on the walk and got a Tuk-Tuk (we hired him for 5 hours for $10, to take us all over town and wait for us at each drop off pointsmile).  The museum was very interesting, it seems to be a new museum and they have done a great job at presenting the history, culture and beliefs of the Khmer people clearly and in a very entertaining way.

Once we had finished at the museum, we got Mr Phanna, our Tuk-Tuk driver (he even gave us his card, so if your ever in Siem Reap and need a good Tuk-Tuk let us know and we will give you his numberlaugh out) to take us to The Khmer Kitchen for lunch. We had Khmer Dumplings for starters, then Amok and a Khmer pork curry, everything was fantastic, so much flavour. Amok, is the local dish we were told we must try, it was great, just like all the other must try meals we have had.

From there we got back into our Tuk-Tuk and went to “Artisans D’Angkor”. It is a place where they “train” unemployed youths in the crafts of stone carving, wood carving and traditional painting. They make reproductions of the Khmer engravings and craftwork you see at the temples. It was interesting to see how the carvings were actually done, and the skill required to do it.

From there we went to the “Old Market”. I know we go to these everywhere we go, but we love them. They are all pretty much the same, but they are so full of life and colour.

Just to be different we went to the Phsar Kandal, (the Center (or New) Market). It was a clean version of the old, but with many less stall holders, no fresh food and missing the character we love of the old markets.

We jumped back into our Tuk-Tuk and started back to our hotel, when we saw some fruit stalls on the side of the road. We got Mr Phanna to stop and we got a bunch of lady finger bananas and a couple of dragon fruit for our room for $2.00

We then came back to our hotel to put our feet up, well Deb’s anyway, and just relax for the later part of the afternoon. I think we may go down for cocktails in the Elephant Bar again tonight. smile

I forgot to mention, the view from our balcony is straight across the road to the Royal Independence Gardens and the Royal Residence (from what we can gather it is a holiday or seasonal residence for the King), it all makes for a very picturesque outlook.

Thanks for your message on our site Ben, it is great to get them and good to hear what is happening at home

Hey Linda & Keiron how wonderful to get a message from you both, hope you are both well we will check out your link

love from us both to you all xo  razz

Cambodia August 2008

Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and the Angkor Temples
Beng Melea Temple - The jungle winsTa Prohm - where's Lara :)Angkor Thom - BayonAngkor Thom intricate wall carvings

Siem Reap & Angkor Wat

5th August 2008

 

Today we had an early start. Our alarm went off at 4:25am, and we crawled out of bed at 4:30 and into the shower to wake up. A quick cup of tea and coffee and then down to get picked up by Mr Kim, our guide at 4:55am.

It is our day to have a look at several of the Angkor Temples. The temples were all constructed between the 6th century and 12th centuries, and were built of sandstone or brick, or a combination of both. All of the temples fell into ruin after the decline of the Khmer civilisation sometime after the 12th century. All the temples are in various states of repair, with Angkor Wat being the most advance in its reconstruction.

We went straight out to Angkor Wat, well straight if you count the stop to get our photo ID day pass that is, for sunrise at the Temple. Angkor Wat is unusual as it is the only Temple to face west, the others face north/south. There are many reasons put forward for this ranging from it was the only place they could put the entrance due to the location of a river/ water courses to religious reasons of wanting to face the direction of a particular “God”. Either way it works well for viewing at sunrise. Twice a year, at the time of the equinox, the sun rises directly over the main spire of the temple, as it is late summer now (northern Hemisphere seasons) it was well north of the temple. It was still very spectacular to see the silhouette of the temple against the rising sun.

Once sunrise was over we went into the temple for a good look around and Mr Kim gave us a really good history and explanation of the wall engravings and the structure. It would not be as good if you didn’t have a very knowledgeable guide with you to explain everything you see. It is really hard to explain Angkor Wat in words that would do it justice. It continually reminded us of old roman ruins, with a bit of Egyptian and Aztec thrown in for good measure. It all feels so old, it is hard to believe that it “only” dates back a millennium or so. It is absolutely the best thing we have seen yet.

We came back to our hotel for breakfast at around 9am, and were back in the car by 9:45am and then went out to have a balloon ride near Angkor Wat. The balloon is helium filled and about 10m in diameter, and goes straight up in the air on a wire tether. They used to allow about 20 people to go up in it at any one time, but they have introduced stricter safety measures now and only 10 or less go up at a time. It can go up as high as 200m depending on the wind conditions. It was a light breeze this morning, so I guess we went up between 150 and 200m, but not right to the limit. The view was very good, even though it was a bit hazy. We were up top for about 12 minutes and got a great view of Angkor Wat and the nearby hilltop ruins of the Bakheng Temple.

From there we went to Angkor Thom and its central building, the Bayon Temple.. This was not in as good condition as Angkor Wat, but was a very much more intricate design. Angkor Tom was the former capital of the Khmer civilisation and housed a million people. The most striking feature of Angkor Thom is the presence of HUGE smiling faces on all the four sides of the 54 towers of the Bayon Temple in the centre of Angkor Thom. This whole structure, Angkor Thom, including the Bayon Temple complex is a work in progress, with the restoration being a mammoth jigsaw puzzle. It was truly amazing. There are just so many amazing engravings and masonry carvings that have all been done with an extraordinary degree of skill and craftsmanship.  The engravings are very detailed and everyone tells a story.

Once we left there we went and had lunch in a Khmer restaurant and then came back to our hotel for a rest before we headed out for more exploring in the afternoon.

We started our afternoon at the temple made famous by “Lara Croft”. Ta Prohm is the site where you find the temple that is in part being swallowed up by the huge Banyan tree roots. It was amazing to see nature at work, and mans struggle against it. Our guide was very resourceful and managed to get us access to a few restricted areas for photo opportunities money couldn’t buy.

Next we went to Banteay Srei, or “Citadel of Woman”, a temple dedicated to Shiva. It is a very small temple compared to the others, but has some of the most intricate and best preserved stone carvings in the area. It was fascinating, and our guide managed to get us into normally “out of bounds” areas for some great photos.

On the way back from there we called into the Cambodia Landmine Museum. It was chilling in many respects. There are believed to be between 3 and 6 million landmines still to be found in Cambodia!! Currently approximately 2 people per day die due to landmines. (There are still 42 countries who have not signed the declaration against landmines. No prizes for guessing the countries with the biggest stockpiles of mines!!)

We eventually got back to our hotel around 6pm, and sat in the foyer with our guide to plan out tomorrow. It sounds like it’s going to be a very interesting and different kind of day. We are departing drastically from our planned itinerary. More adventures smile

Thankyou Carly for your message, sorry to hear you are not well, how did you go at the docs?   You made us smile by adding Aiko to your sign off, only 3 more sleeps and we will be home, and you will be better.   wink

Have the babies received their postcards, we have posted 5, we sent the last ones tonight!   Should get them a week or so after we get home.

Lots of love to you all from us razz

 

Cambodia August 2008

Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and the Angkor Temples
Angkor Thom10am Balloon over Angkor WatBeng Melea Temple - The jungle winsAngkor Thom intricate wall carvings

Siem Reap and beyond

6th August 2008

 

This morning we got picked up at 8am, a nice change from the early starts we have had lately.

We were taken out into the countryside south east of the Siem Reap (40km east, then17km south) to a small fishing village called Kampong Khlang Village. About 10,000 people live in the village and it sits on the levy banks around the Kampong Khlang River that feeds into Tonle Sap Lake. (The biggest freshwater lake in Cambodia.) On the drive there we eventually got onto a single lane dirt road. It was really interesting watching the activity as we passed. Not far from our destination we came across a large overloaded truck that had collapsed the road on a small bridge, our only way through. So the locals organised a couple of planks and our driver took the car over the waterway with two wheels on undulating ground next to the truck and two wheels on a couple of not so sturdy looking planks. He did a great job of it, and smoothly got the car over, we loaded back in and drove for about 5 or 10 mins to the village, where we got out. It was about 9:10am when we got there. We started walking up the road, and it was VERY evident that they don’t see too many white people up around these parts. We were very much the odd people out, but all the children and most of the locals soon warmed to us as we chatted with the ones who wanted to try out their English, and smiled at the others. We saw a little of their lives, from the fishmonger woman on the street with their baskets of fish, still flapping, to the young Buddest monks stacking wood, and we got great smiles from all of them.

We came to a point where we were loaded on board a “cruise” boat and were taken down the river to a floating fish market. The trip was excellent, so much colour and activity, a real window into the lives of the people. The market was small and was pretty well finished for the day by the time we got there, but it was worth the trip regardless. We got back to the village at about 11am, and drove back to the main road for lunch, on the way we had to cross that same waterway where the truck had come to grief again, by the same method as we used on the way in, the truck was only half unloaded and still very much stuck.

We drove on and had lunch at a local restaurant, and tried a few different dishes with a bit of help from our guide, Mr Kim. The food was good, chicken ginger and Beef with Oyster sauce, and we got to try a few fish meals, a soup and a sort of omelette as well, Deb liked them, I didn’t, too fishy for my liking.

After lunch we set out for Beng Mealea, a temple that is in ruins in the jungle some 70km northeast of Siem Reap. It was built by King Suryavarman II, who also went on to build Angkor Wat. It is similar in style to Angkor Wat, but much smaller, and of course in ruins (caused by the jungle, as it was left abandoned for over 300 years and only rediscovered in the last 20 years). We had a great time there, it had a feel like we were in a real life setting for Tomb Raiders, and Deb was Angelina (mmm he dreams!). We walked around and on the ruins and through tunnels, OK well original covered walkways, and it all felt fantastic.

After a fascinating day we got back to our hotel around 4pm, and reconfirmed our flights for tomorrow. Seems like this holiday/adventure is coming to an end, we have had a great time, and we still  have tomorrow morning. Oh, and we still have cocktails in the Elephant Bar again tonight, seems like we are developing a habit there!!!

Glad to hear the postcards are arriving just as we are about to return confused and I forgot to mention we are looking forward to seeing Tessa's video when we return.    Good to know you are on the mend Carly, and looks like Aiko has become part of the family smile.   Karlien we have had trouble with the cheese platter in Cambodia, we managed it in Vietnam but we have a plan for tomorrow morning! razz  We just dont have our rock from Cambodia, have to sort that out soon! 

We have just been told we can have a late check out tomorrow until 3pm but we have to move rooms, will be nice to have a private place to relax before heading home, our flight leaves at 6.20pm tomorrow, to HCMC, leaving there at 9.05pm.  We are looking forward to seeing and talking to you all razz

Much love from us xo

Cambodia August 2008

Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and the Angkor Temples
Beng Melea Temple - The jungle wins10am Balloon over Angkor WatAngkor Thom6am Angkor Wat

Leaving Cambodia

7th August 2008

 

 

It’s a nice easy day today. We eased our way out of bed and once we were all awake we started to get our things together and do a final pack.

We went down and had breakfast, which included a cheese platter (well plate) and then went back to our room and got all our hand luggage. We have managed to get a late checkout, but it meant we had to move rooms, we went down market a bit, lol.  The porters brought our large bags to our new room and then we set out for our final morning. We grabbed a Tuk-Tuk and went to a couple of markets, finishing up at the old market down town. I got a couple of books that I had seen around on Cambodia and the Angkor Temples, and we got a couple of final other things. We found our Tuk-Tuk guy and got him to take us to the FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club, for those who have already forgotten the abbreviation from Phnom Penh.) where we had lunch. Fittingly, we chose a Khmer Platter with all our favourites on it. A great last meal in this fascinating country.

We were back in our room at around 12:30pm and decided just to have a relaxing, and cool afternoon, before we check-out at 3:30pm, and begin our trip home.w

Anyone considering coming to Asia, Cambodia is well worth a visit, the people are gentle and joyous and Angkor Wat is spectacular.

Enjoy your journey smile

 

Cambodia August 2008

Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and the Angkor Temples
Angkor Thom intricate wall carvingsBanteay Srei - 'Citadel of Women' 10am Balloon over Angkor WatPhnom Penh - the boys are back in town! :)

Siem reap to Home via HCMC and Sydney

7th August 2008

 Hi everyone,

We have made it as far as HCMC after getting away fro Siem reap on an earlier flight than which we were booked on. It seem to cause havoc with the Vietnam Airlines system when we changed flights, but the staff were all very good humoured about it and we made the flight with exit row window seats. laugh out

We are now in HCMC International airport waiting for our flight home. We dont board for another 1 1/2 hrs.

We have done all our duty free shopping and are sitting back relaxing. We think we may have a window and exit row seats again, roll eyes

The weather this afternoon was made for travelling, by the look of it you wouldn't want to be doing anything else in it, very hazy and rainny looking.

I am rambling filling in time, cool, so I had better get off.

See everyone VERY soon

Cambodia August 2008

Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and the Angkor Temples
Our Speed boat at Vietnam/Cambodia borderKampong Khlang Village - Main StreetSiem Reap - Old MarketBeng Melea Temple - The jungle wins

Vietnam July / Aug 2008

Hanoi, Halong Bay , Hue, Hoi An , Nha Trang , Ho Chi Minh City, My Tho , Can Tho and Chau Doc
Fishing village family - Halong BayThe Halong Jasmin - our JunkInside the house of a fishermanFloating Market on the Mekong Delta - Can Tho

Great Ocean Road with Friends

23rd October 2008

 Tomorrow we set out Melbourne to pick up John and Georgiana, friends we met on our Italian holiday in 2006, and then we are driving back home via the Great Ocean Road.

We are both looking forward to getting together with John and Georgiana  again, as well as the trip home. The Great Ocean Road has to be one of the worlds great drives.

First stop on our way there is Ballarat friday night.

Ballarat is famous for the gold rush and the Eureka Stockade uprising and of course, as the birthplace of at least one great Australian , roll eyes I am far to modest to say who, (or is that whom??)

Then on to Melbourne on Saturday.

More to come as we travel around.

John and Georgiana have signed up to traveleor, so if you want to enjoy their travels as well, and see how they are experiencing Australia, here is a link to their page.

http://gcsauer.traveleor.com/

 

Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road
12 Apostles12 Apostles from the airGreat Ocean RoadLondon Bridge is falling down

Ballarat to Mornington Peninsula to Lorne

25th October 2008

 Had an easy trip to Ballarat, only took 6 1/2 hours arrived at 8.30pm.   Woke early this morning we left around 8am took us a few hours to Myra's house, we met her husband Serge and had a cuppa, was great to see Myra again.    We were on the road around 11am, drove to Sorrento, I have wanted to go there for forever, bit strange we made it to Sorrento, Italy first!!  We didnt have much time to explore, but we will be back!!   After buying fish and chips we caught the ferry to Queenscliff  was a good trip, very calm, took 40 mins.  Was good to sit and chat to John & Georgiana eat lunch and enjoy the view.  We explored the main street of Queenscliff and found an old church, well Greg did, that is now a restaurant, it has beautiful stained glass windows, we sat and had a drink.     Then it was off to the Great Ocean Road, first stop Bells Beach, we walked down to the numerous viewing platforms and enjoyed the scenery, sorry Carly the surfers were tooo far away!!!   We were then marauded by flies, there were thousands of them, I have never seen so many!    Next stop a photo under the Great Ocean Road arch, maybe we might get one posted here!!!   Then it was off to Lorne, we are staying in an old pub, nice room, great view.   We had dinner at a cafe by the jetty, it was very 60's decor, the food was magnificent, we all had seafood of one sort or another and it was delicious! yum.   oh yes and a lovely bottle of savignon blanc!   I know hard life!!

Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road
Bells Beach12 ApostlesGreat Ocean RoadOtway Skywalk, John taming the dinasour

Great Ocean Road

26th October 2008

 

Sunday 26th October

We had lots of fun today, started at 7.30am with breakfast on the balcony overlooking Lorne bay, doesn’t get much better than that! There was no one at reception when we went to check out, it said to try the bistro, it looked dark but I went in anyway, I saw some shells on the counter so went to get John because he wants to get shells for his grandson, then all of a sudden the alarm went off, we quickly left, well I did, John just sauntered out, the alarm went on and on, must have woken everyone in the neighbourhood, what an exit!! We were in hysterics!

We drove to Apollo Bay, went to the lookout, lovely 5 min walk on private property to the top, great view over the coast, we sat for a while and soaked it in. Then we drove around to the Marina and had a view back over the town. Next the Otway treetop rainforest walk, for about an hour and a half we walked in the rainforest, took photos of dinosaurs, they are great will post them soon. And walked up high looking down on the rainforest, was really good, Carolyn was right, well worth doing, we thought of you razz

It was lunchtime, so we sat outside and had a bite to eat before heading off to the 12 Apostles, (there are only 8 now, there were only ever 9!) they used to be called the Sow and the piglets, but were renamed ages ago. We all decided to take a helicopter ride to see them from above. They were offering for $20 more to only go to 500 metres, instead of 1500 metres, so we took that option. It was exhilarating! Absolutely made my day, the scenery was stunning, I highly recommend it if you get the chance. It is amazing the difference seeing things from the air, always puts another perspective on things. I was on a high after the ride, guess the adrenalin was pumping!!

Then we went over the road and saw the apostles from the boardwalks, they have really improved things there are great viewing platforms. There were more tourists here than anywhere else we have been on the Great Ocean road, it is not surprising, stunning scenery. Afterwards we saw Loch Ard Gorge, the Arch, London bridge and the Bay of Martyrs, by then we were all pretty over limestone cliffs and monoliths we had seen some great scenery, what a great day!

But it wasn’t finished, we arrived at Port Fairy at 5.30 and checked into our accommodation for the evening, a B & B Gobels millhouse, an 1860 millhouse that has been renovated more than 10 years ago into a B & B, it is right on the river, more great views. We walked down the street after a cuppa and relax, and decided on dinner at Saltra brasserie, the food was wow, every dish exquisite, Georgiana chose the restaurant, she did well, couldn’t have been nicer, great food, wine and wonderful company we had lots of laughs. It has been a fun day, one I will long remember smile

Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road
London Bridge is falling downSorento - Queenscliff ferry, having funOtway Skywalk, John taming the dinasourScarey

Adelaide and Kangaroo Island

28th October 2008

 

28th October 2008

Had a slower start to the day today, left home around 10am, drove into Adelaide and had a walk down the mall, we tried to go into Parliament house, but there was security at the door, so we just had a look in the foyer, very posh.    Then off to Festival theatre and down to the Torrens, John & Georgiana are used to the white swans, so the black ones on the Torrens were a novelty.   It was a beautiful day, nice to be out for a walk.    We had a walk through the Art Gallery, it amazes me that it doesn’t matter how many times you go in there, there are always paintings to see that you didn’t notice before.   We had lunch at the Art Gallery, then it was off to the Central Market, being Tuesday it was not very busy, easy to move around, we bought some goodies and drove home, was a pleasant few hours.   Oh yes on the way home  we stopped off at Haighs, and stocked up!!!

Later in the afternoon we went to Carly’s to drop Aiko off was lovely  to see them all.    Ella and Ethan are at such a lovely age, really delightful.

29th October 2008

We were up early and out the door just after 7.30am to go to Kangaroo Island, we caught the ferry from Cape Jervis  at 10am, I was surprised how dry  the ground is at the bottom of the peninsula, shame!   It was a rough crossing, but fortunately we took some pills beforehand, (Greg didn’t and he was fine!)   We drove around to Kingscote, and checked in, we were fortunate to have been upgraded, to the Penthouse no less!! That put  a smile on all of our faces, you should see it, magnificent, it is all very new too, everything in it is very nice and even nicer that we paid about 60% of the going rate, and the price is even better when you pay in US dollars!!!  

We settled in and had lunch, oh yes nice view from the balcony and lounge room!    Then we went off for a drive, a very long drive!! Well it was only an hour but we were heading  for Stokes Bay and were very near Seal Bay before we got on a road heading north, a very bumpy dirt road, the car is now red!! We had a good laugh about it in the evening, the tears were rolling down Georgiana’s and my faces!   We have had lots of laughs, it has been fun.    We had a good time at Stokes bay, walking along the beach, it is good walking through the rocks and coming out to find this amazing beach.   We found a few shells for Johns Grandson.   

Then it was off to Emu bay we drove on the beach which they had not done before, was a great beach.  Stopped off at the Honey shop, saw the bee hive, tasted the honey, John bought some Honey chocolates which were nice, then it was back into  Kingscote to * reserve and up to the lookout.   We arrived at the wharf in time for the Pelican feeding, it was fun, I enjoy watching them come into land, we got lots of photos.   

We had a lovely dinner crayfish (which we bought freshly cooked 2 days ago in Kingston) and prawns and a bottle of Tattinger champagne, yummy!  I know it is a hard life, but we are enjoying it!   At 8pm we strolled over to the wharf and looked at the aquarium before going on a penguin walk, which was very interesting, there were not many penguins, but we saw some and we learnt a lot.  

We are off to the South coast today, looks like a nice day, hope you are all enjoying yours!  Our love to you all xo

 

Adelaide

4th November 2008

 We have had so much fun with John & Georgiana while we have been together lots of laughs.    After we left KI we drove to mum and dads for a great lunch, then down to Aldinga Beach fossicking for shells for Nolan with Tom & Von.   Carly invited us for a lovely dinner with them.   Saturday we had a lazy morning before driving up to Mount Lofty for a view over Adelaide.   Then a look around a local monastry.   We arrived home to find Von & Tom on the doorstep already enjoying a drink wink   Later all the family arrived for a barbecue, John had his first Fosters!   We sang happy birthday to Emily's voicemail in America, was fun.

Sunday we went up to Carrick Hill for a wander and lunch, then it was off to Glenelg for more wandering, in evening the boys beat us at cards!

Monday we drove up to Hahndorf and enjoyed the town and a German sausage before heading to Hahndorf Hill winery for John & Georgiana's first wine tasting at a cellar door, and a very nice one it was.  We were going to go to Jerusalems for dinner but it was shut confused  so we went to the local pub, another first! smile   We played cards late into the night, we were so tired, well the girls were, the boys seemed to be on a roll the longer the night went on, that I have no idea who won!

Today we went up to Cleland National park and enjoyed walking around the park and got lots of great photos with Koalas, Kangaroos, Dingoes, Emus and birds.    We came back and watched the Melbourne cup, none of us had any luck with the sweep, (Ben won first and third!!!)   Then it was off for a walk to Brownhill creek, where we spotted a few koalas in the trees.    Tonight we have just got back from the Red Ochre, where we had a great table overlooking the river and enjoyed a tasting plate first up with Kangaroo, emu and crocodile, the meal was wonderful and the company even better razz

We are going to miss John & Georgiana, we have had so much fun together and lots of laughs, we have decided to try and meet somewhere in the world every couple of years, ain't life grand wink

Around the World in 9 Weeks - Getting Organised

26th December 2008

 Its now 106 sleeps until we leave on our next big holiday / "Cultural Pilgrimage"

We have started our last bit of planning and bookings to get everything in place.

So far we have everything (Flights and accomodation) booked from Adelaide to San Francisco to New York to London to Paris.

We are still looking at accomodation in Budapest, Amsterdam and Bangkok

I am waiting on confirmation of a dinner reservation in Paris for Deb's birthday, Altitude 95 smile

We hope that by the start of next year, 5 days away, we will have everything booked and waiting for us.

Its only 101 sleeps from new years day until we leave  LOL 

but who is counting!!!!!  roll eyes

Around the World in 80 Days

21st January 2009

 

We have been waiting a while to use that really corny line smile 

But it’s true.

In 80 days we board our first flight on our biggest pilgrimage yet, 65 days.

 

(For those who don’t know, we are Cultural Pilgrims, not tourists.

Alison, our tour guide in Italy insisted we all call ourselves that, and we liked the idea, so it has stuck)

 

11 April 2009

First stop (after transitting in Sydney) is the USA (San Francisco - see John and Roberta and New York - see John and Georgiana), (Different John's roll eyes)

We get to spend our wedding anniversary in NY

Then onto the UK (England and Wales) and spend time with family and friends

Then over to Paris

What better city for Deb to wake up in for her birthday.

Before heading off to Budapest

Then hop onto a boat for a cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam

A few days in Amsterdam

Hop on plane bound for Casablanca and a tour around Morocco.

Back to England and a few days looking around London

Then onto Bangkok for a couple of days

Before heading back home.

13 June 2009

 

40 days to go

2nd March 2009

 With 40 days left before we go we have most things sorted. Just have to arrange the last few tours etc and we are ready.

Victor Harbor

6th March 2009

 We have just got back from a wonderful long weekend away with Ben, Sarah, Dante, Tessa Carly, Kieran, Ella and Ethan , (oops and Aiko and Lilly, our dogs).

We took the opportunity to make it the start of Debs Birthday for this year. Since we will be away for her birthday, Ben, Carly and I, decided it was a good time to spoil her and just make the weekend even more special than normal.

The special events for her birthday started on Saturday morning, Carly took Deb out for a morning walk in the rain, and the rest of us got everything ready for her to cook desert for dinner that night with all the grandchildren. When they got back, both were absolutely drenched, but the smile on Deb's face was priceless when she was told what we had planned for her. Using her very own recipe, she made up a delicious Chocolate Mousse. She had so much fun and there was chocolate everywhere, particularly the grandchildren and her, by the time it was all in the fridge.

In the afternoon we all went down to the beach and flew Dante's kite and let the dogs run around and the kids play. It was lots of fun.

Dinner was magnificent. Ben prepared a special menu of the dinner so Deb could see what was coming up. (I'll attach a copy later). Carly set the table, it was amazing when you consider what she had to work with.

The meal was "Stunning", to use a "Debism".  J

A gourmet seafood platter prepared by Ben for starters with Moet Champagne,

followed by a beautiful  marinated Coorong Beef roast and roast vegies with a Bottle of Charles Melton 2002 Nine Popes Shiraz and a Barossa Estate 2000 E&E Basket Press Shiraz.

Finished off with the delicious Mousse Deb and the kids prepared earlier.

We then sat back for a while and sipped a sweet mouth watering Barossa Botrytis Riesling.

In the tradition we have, the evening was finished with a game of "Risk" accompanied by lashing of Port.

Sunday started with pancakes, prepared with the help of all the grand children, even a separate batch of gluten free pancakes for Carly!! Followed by another relaxing day and finished with another game of "Risk" and Port.

On Monday, we went down to Goolwa and had a look at the wooden boat festival. Due to the number of people around we eventually decided we would look at everything from the Hindmarsh Island Bridge. There were wooden boat sailing races going on and steam driven paddle boats, lots of colour and activity in the old port.

After that we went to Aquacaf for lunch, a great little cafe on the water at Goolwa. We had a great lunch with many smiles and laughs. And the celebrations just continue on and on for Deb.

Late on Monday, Ben and Sarah, along with Dante and Tessa went back home. Something about work on Tuesday, guess someone has to do it!!  Work that is!!!

On Tuesday, Carly and Deb went off to a luxurious Day Spa for an indulgent morning/early afternoon.  Kieran and I took Ella and Ethan off into Victor Harbor and shared lots fun with them in a playground and had a "picnic" pizza lunch under a tree in a park.

Deb and Carly returned full of the joys of life and VERY relaxed. Both of them commented that they could very easily make a habit of visiting the Spa!!!

As ever, all good things come to and end and we all left Victor on Wed morning

Deb and I are off to see a State Theatre production of Maestro,

Its hard doing our bit to help keep the economy and everything going, but I guess its the sacrifices we make.

 

Victor Harbor

Family Long Weekend Away
Some needed a leg up :-)Chefs at the readyReady for our feastEthan, worn out!!

Around the World - Brief Intinerary

21st March 2009

 This is a brief version of our itinerary.

We cant wait to flesh it out as we travel.  3 weeks today until we leave

 

11 April 09                                   Adelaide to Sydney      then     Sydney   to  San Francisco

11 April 09 to 16 April 09               San Francisco

16 April 09                                   San Francisco to New York                          

16 April 09 to 22 April 09               New York

22 April 09                                   New York to London

22 April 09 to 26 April 09               Redditch / Birmingham

27 April 09 to 29 April 09               Shrewsbury / Wales

29 April 09 to 3 May 09                 Redditch / Birmingham/Norwich

3 May 09                                     Birmingham to Paris

3 May 09 to 8 May 09                   Paris

8 May 09                                     Paris to Budapest

8 May 09 to 10 May 09                 Budapest

10 May 09 to 24 May 09               Cruise Budapest to Amsterdam ( Budapest,  Bratislava, Vienna, Durnstein, Melk, Passau, Regensburg, Nuremburg, Wurzburg, Miltenberg, Rudesheim, Cologne & Amsterdam)

24 May 9 to 28 May 09                 Amsterdam

28 May 09                                   Amsterdam to Morocco

28 May 09 to 6 June 09                Moroccan Tour (Casablanca, Rabat, Meknes, Fes, High Atlas Mountains, Erfoud, Ouarzazate & Marakech )

6 June 09                                    Casablanca to London

6 June 09 to 10 June 09                London

9 June 09 to 10 June 09                London to Bangkok

10 June 09 to 12 June 09              Bangkok

12 June 09 to 13 June 09              Bangkok to Sydney

13 June 09                                   Sydney to Adelaide

 

Comments

Ben
26th March 2009
BREIF?!?!

razz

I love the heading "Breif Itinerary"!!!

Then it goes for a page and a half!!!!  :-P

Can't wait to have all the details filled in when your away!!! Will be great to share with you both.

Luv ya,

Ben 

  Top
McDonalds
10th April 2009
The Big Day

Hello to you both,

I have just got the message as you Leave Sydney! After 120 days of counting down the day is finally here!!!!

 

Hope you both have a wonderful trip.  We look forward to sharing all of your updates.

Luv ya,

Ben, Sarah, Dante & Tessasmile

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Adelaide to San Francisco

11th April 2009

 

Happy Happy Birthday Carolyn, we have been celebrating with you for at least 36 hours, maybe longer!!!  Has been a wonderful first day of our holiday, hope you have had a lovely day too, we have been thinking of you and having a cheers to you all over the globe!!

We were both up early, around 5:30am. It was always going to be a short last sleep before we started this great adventure.

We finished off the last few jobs at home and were ready and waiting for our taxi (booked for 8am) at 7:30am. As usual when your ready early, it was a little late.

We arrived at the airport at 8:20am and were in the Qantas Club / Business lounge by 8:30am.

We boarded our flight to Sydney and it left Adelaide and arrived in Sydney right on schedule! Way to go Qantas!!! We got the transfer bus from the domestic terminal to the international.

After clearing customs and immigration, and security, we made it to the Qantas Business lounge by 12:15pm.

We had a celebratory glass of bubbles (a Grant Burge Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay ) and sat back for about an hour before our boarding call.

We are on the top deck of our flight and very comfy in our skybed seats.

The dinner and lunch menus look good and the drinks list is extensive, particularly the wine list. And they have a nice port too,  a Penfolds Blue Stone tawny I tried at the Magill Estate with Laura and Ben last time they were down. But finished up having a liqueur Muscat instead, yummm!!

Deb has had a look at the entertainment program and looks like not getting much sleep, so many movies she wants to watch, last count was either 3 or 4.  (I actually only watched one!! Managed to get some sleep, Greg on the other hand got in 4!!  3 ½ really)

The flight is 12 ½ hrs, with us due to arrive around 10am on Sat 11th. Yep that’s about 4 hrs before we took off!

I am having my first Bourbon and coke, and Debs on iced water.  Debs sorting out the entertainment system and all is good. The meals were good and everything was fine during the flight , except for a few bumps in the middle of the night. Turbulence, not the Muscat!!

Deb here, the flight was good, arrived in SF at 10am right on schedule, caught a taxi to the hotel.   We couldn’t check in, bit early, the staff were very helpful, gave us a great place for lunch, we wandered off to Union Street and had lunch at Rose’s Cafe.   Then we caught a trolley bus to the top of the hill, you would have been proud of us dad, we were thinking of you!    Then got a cable car to Union Square, didn’t hang off the side, but we will, it was amazing. The drivers and conductors are a strange breed, serious then just so funny! Even though you know the hills are steep, you don’t really believe how steep until you see them.   

After numerous messages, we caught up with Pat and Luke in Union Square. They had driven down from Canada over a few days and arrived at 12pm today. Who would have thought,  half a world away that we would arrive at the same time!   Was great to see them both and hear about their adventures. They spent the rest of the afternoon with us. We had a great time learning about their trip down, visa adventures for Luke, and everything!

We caught another cable car with them to Fisherman’s Wharf, then a trolley bus to the Ferry Plaza Building and Market, after wandering a bit we found somewhere to have a drink. We sat around chatting and relaxing, was great to just catch up on what they had been up to.  Then it was off on a trolley bus up Market Street, we said good-bye to Pat and Luke at the Van Ness stop (they had to get back to their hotel to check in), and hope to see them for dinner tomorrow night.   

We continued up to Castro street, the end of the line, got off and waited 30 mins for a trolley bus up to our hotel, well almost, had a bit of a climb at the end, but not too bad!!   You should see the hills here – very steep!

We checked into the hotel, have a lovely room on the fourth floor with an amazing view over SF, the view is right before me as I type this,   mmmm good life!  After freshening up we went downstairs and had free wine and cheese, that is our dinner tonight, we are hopeful we will have more sleep tonight.

We have a busy day ahead of us tomorrow, we have tickets on the hop on off again bus, later we are going to Fisherman’s Wharf and having dinner before going to Alcatraz for an evening tour.    Our first impressions are of a lovely city which we are looking forward to exploring more.

Thanks for all of your text messages, and your messages on here Ben, we appreciate them, it is nice to be in touch with you all.    Hope you are all enjoying your easter holidays, we are smile

Lots of love from both of us xo

San Francisco

The start of our 2009 Pilgrimage
San Francisco from AlcatrazUs near the PresidioFamous last wordsGolden Gate Bridge at night

San Francisco

12th April 2009

 

We both had a great nights sleep and felt ready for the day. We had breakfast in the dining room, and both commented on the look of the room and the people in it. To me it seemed like a scene out of the dining room in Faulty Towers, we were just missing Basil and Manuel.

We set out for our day at about 9am, and walked down the hill to Union St and walked along through to Van Ness St. They have their annual Easter parade on Union St on Easter Sunday, and we saw all the stalls and people starting to get there.

We got a bus from Van Ness to the Wharf area and got on a Hop On / Hop Off bus for a tour around all the touristy bit of San Francisco, including over the Golden Gate Bridge. The ride took 1 1/2hrs for the full circuit, and we decided that we could do everything else much more easily by public transport.

We had an early lunch back at the Fishermans Wharf area after the tour, we shared a Clam Chowder in a Sour Dough Roll and a tray of Calamari, prawns, fish and chips. Delicious!!

After lunch we walked for a bit. We went through Pier 39 and saw the sealions basking in the sun and the crowds of people watching them. Then we walked around to the seafront and saw a thriil seeker jet boat that looked like the one in Adelaide, but on steroids!! I thought of Ash when I saw it!! We then walked through the shop part of the Pier and found a shop that made Deb stop in her tracks. The photo of her in front of it explains everything much better than I ever could(See the photos of SF for the full picture). We then found a guy busking, singing and playing guitar, he sounded pretty good so we bought an ice-cream and sat and listened to him for some time. Good and relaxing for a while.

We then went to get a cable car back into town but found a very long queue at the terminal at Hyde St , so we walked around to Taylor St and pickup a cable car from there, virtually no line which was good.

We are enjoying the cable cars, they are such great places to see the people of the city in all their shapes sizes, and colour. The Cable car drivers and conductors are a show unto themselves. They always seem to find a way of getting a laugh out of the most ordinary events and situations.

At the end of the line, just past union square we got off and went to board a cable car for the return journey, but the line was over 150m long. We noticed the cars were leaving not quite full, so we walked up the hill to the first stop and managed to get to ride on the running boards from there back to Fishermans Wharf. It was the best fun.

We are really enjoying using the public transport in the city.   

We then walked around for a while and then went to Scoma’s Seafood restaurant at the end of Pier 47. Yummy food served VERY quickly.  We couldn’t believe how many people were coming and going from the restaurant, was good to experience  the restaurant you enjoy mum.

From there we got a Street Car down to Pier 33 to get the boat to Alcatraz for our night tour. The boat left at 6:10pm and we were on the Island by 6:30. The tour was fascinating and the time went very quickly. This prison was a mix of civilised and barbaric conditions. It seems the prisoners were fed very well and had , as a consequence of censorship, a wealth of classical literature to read, while enduring very Spartan living conditions and draconian penalties for not following the rules. As part of the night tour they had special talks on many aspects of the prison, we sat in on talks on one of the “Escapes” from Alcatraz, and another on Al “Scarface” Capone. They were both very interesting.

We got the 8:40 boat off the island and then a Street Car and eventually a taxi back to our hotel. A longish day, but so very enjoyable. We are glad Lily is fine after all that chocolate and are trying to send warmer weather north to “Mom and Sis” in Canada. Glad to hear Aiko is doing well, and it is a long time Ella to wait for us to share your chocolates, how about we buy some Haighs freckles when we get back and share those!! Thanks for your messages and emails everyone.

 

Comments

John and Georgiana
13th April 2009
San Francisco Revisited

 We are enjoying your first couple of days in SF.  The things you are doing remind us of our trip to SF about 5 years ago.  Your short story about eating an ice cream cone while listening to a guitar player brought back memories of Georgie and I eating an ice cream cone listiening to a sax player on Circular Quay in Sydney.  We loved the cable cars too.  We boarded our cable car after we walked UP the Hill; What were we thinking?

We are looking forward to seeing you in several days in New York.  Can't believe the time is here for our reunion.  Enjoy your last days in SF.  Say hi to John and Roberta for us.  See you soon!! 

Georgiana and John

 

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San Francisco

The start of our 2009 Pilgrimage
PatGreg and JuhnAlcatrazFamous last words

San Francisco Mon 13 April

13th April 2009

 Today we started our day at 10am with a tour of the area we are staying in with Phoebe, our Golden Gate Greeter. GG Greeters are volunteers who show visitors around their city. They aren’t trained guides, just people enthusiastic about their city. We had a great 3 hrs with her. She took us around our neighbourhood and told us a bit of its history and the houses in it. She finished the tour by taking us along some “bush” paths into the Presidio (The Presidio is an old part of San Francisco, the site of some of the first settlements, with a long history of occupation by American Indians, Mexicans, the Spanish and finally the US) We finished up in a place called “Inspiration Point”, with wide open views down over the Presidio to the Bay and onto Alcatraz and beyond. We can’t thank Phoebe enough for her time, the information she passed on to us and being such a friendly beautiful person.

From there we hopped on a bus through the Presidio to Crissy Field area and had lunch, sort of on the run, between buses. We then got back on the bus and went to the Golden Gate Bridge Toll Plaza area. From here we walked over the bridge. It is an awesome structure, and it provides wonderful views back to the city and across the Bay. It was pretty windy and a bit cool on the bridge, but we were warned that it is always windy and cool on it. After about 50mins we had crossed the bridge and eventually found where to get a bus down to Sausalito, a beautiful small seaside village. We walked around the shops for a bit, got a Christmas decoration from the “Holiday Shop”, and then got an ice cream and sat in a park and watched the world go by for an hour or so. It was so peaceful and relaxing.

Eventually we got up and made our way to the ferry for a ride back to the Ferry Terminal. We arrived back in town at about 5:15pm and got a Street Car to meet up with Pat and Luke for dinner. They took us to an Asian restaurant, Nirvana  on Castro St that Pat had been told about by a girl he worked with in Sydney. Was good food and fun to catch up with them before they head off to their concert in Palm Springs.

We eventually said our good byes, Pat said he was shaving tonight so his face has a bit of time to tan a bit before the concert!  LOL!! It was great to catch up with him on this side of the world, it really does show you just how small the world is becoming. Good job huh!!! 

We then got a taxi back to our hotel and put our feet up after another jam packed day. It’s so much fun doing the Cultural Pilgrimage thing!!!!!

We are looking forward to seeing John & Roberta tomorrow

 

San Francisco

The start of our 2009 Pilgrimage
Golden Gate Bridge at nightCable CarRobertaUs near the Presidio

San Francisco Tues 14 April - in full

14th April 2009

We have had a very busy day out with John and Roberta (friends we met on tour in Italy)

We will fill in all the details (by ammending this entry) tomorrow.

We have added a few pics from today :-) 

Hey we had a good sleep, the sun is just rising above the SF harbour not a cloud in the sky and the half moon is just sitting outside our window, it is calm and beautiful.    I am trying hard to get a photo to do it justice, I will just have to try and remember it!!!

Sorry about the lack of news here after our busy day, we were tired.     But hey Carly that is how we feel when there are no messages here, we enjoy your messages just as much razz

 It was lovely to wake up to yours and Sarah's message laugh out you both made us smile.    Here is yesterday....................

Was a really great day................

We met John & Roberta on our Italy trip over 2 years ago.    They are in their early 70's now, they are great company and it was so very lovely to catch up with them both.    They picked us up from our hotel at 9am.    Roberta gave us a list of about 10 things and asked us what we had already done.    We only managed to cross out 2 and another one we were going to do today sad   I thought there was so much we had done, but obviously there was much left to do.    Anyway they promptly set about getting the other things crossed off the list!  smile

First we set off to the top of Russian Hill to Lombard St and drove down the windy bit, the bends are really tight and go over one block distance.   There is a good photo of it that we took from Coit tower in our pics.    We took some photos from the bottom that didnt really do it justice.   Sarah when you are there in July all of the hydrangeas will be in flower, it will be very beautiful.

Back in the car and off to Coit tower.    Mrs Coit had it built in the 1930's and it represents a firemans hose!   Great views over SF and historical murals inside from the 30's.

From there we went to China town and walked around a bit.   Roberta took us to a fortune cookie making show that was in a little alley way.    We saw 3 old woman hand making the biscuits and got to taste the ones that cooled before they could fold them into the fortune cookie.   Was very colourful as you would expect.   It is the largest China town in America, although evidently New Yorkers differ!!

Then we went to Ghirardelli's Chocolate shop, you can see their sign right out on the bay it is huge!!   We were forced to try some of their chocolate and finally relented and we also bought some!!!   mmmm yum.

We drove through and old neighbourhood where John & Roberta used to live in the late 50's and where Roberta used to work, then off to the Palace of Fine Arts, it is the last remenant of the World expositition held in 1910 after the 1906 earthquake.   It was not built to last but still looks magnificent nearly 100 years later, looks like a piece of Roman architecture, set in a beautiful park, would be a great spot for a picnic.   It doesn't have any art inside as I thought and as the name suggests, but worth looking at all the same it is a beautiful spot.

Then it was off over the GG bridge to J & R's for lunch.   Was lovely to see where they live and there neighbourhood.    Roberta had lots and lots of easter decorations throughout the house was very colourful.   

From their they drove us to Muir Wood and walked through the giant redwood park, the trees are awesome, so tall, quite magnificent.    I did manage to hug one! much happiness smile

Then it was off to Mt Tamalpais the highest mountain in the SF area.   It offers great views over the bay and the city.  

On the way back to J & R's there was a tree across the road (it was a very windy day)  so Greg & I jumped out of the car, and Greg moved it off the road, and I helped with the twigs!!!!   Then we went to a lovely community area - 12 acres that some woman in the early 1900's bought to stop developers putting houses there.   It is full of beautiful gardens and areas for meetings and they sell antiques there on consignment, to pay for the running of the park, it was a beautiful spot, felt really spirtual.

We had a short break at J & R's before going to dinner at 6pm at Spinnaker's restaurant at Sausilito.    The restaurant was at the waters edge and had magnificent views over SF.   We all had seafood for dinner and the food was delicious.    R had made an angel cake for desert, we went back to their place for coffee and desert.    Around 9pm we left and they drove us to Marin Headlands for the view over the GG bridge and SF.   Was really beautiful to see it all lit up at night.

It was a really full day, we managed to tick so many things off the list of things to do here.   Felt really lucky to have such good friends to show us around  J & R were so very kind and it was lovely to see them again.   What a great day.

The sun has risen now, the city is starting to come to life it is 7.10am on Wed 15th of April.    We are off to Golden Gate park today, better get this day under way!

Hope you are all well, love you lots. 

xo

 

 

 

Comments

CAKEE
15th April 2009
Mysterious

 

What kind of a message was that???? I waited ALL day and checked so many times, and thats all I get?? surprised

Glad to hear that you had fun. now, tell us more!!!!!!!!!!!

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CAKEE
15th April 2009
Thats better :)

 

Now thats what I call an update!!! I feel much better now :P

Sounds lik eyou had such an awsome day, how many more of the things did you get ticked off the list? We are reading with much enthusiasm and talking about what we can do when we go in Jan.

How did the chocolate stack up to haighs?

Love you both

CAKEE

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San Francisco

The start of our 2009 Pilgrimage
Greg and JuhnAlcatraz by nightPatSan Francisco from Alcatraz

San Francisco Wed 15 April 2009

15th April 2009

 

Hey Margaret, happy birthday, hope you are having a wonderful day, we certainly enjoyed your birthday laugh out

Today we set off at 8.30am on a mission. It is free entry day to the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. It opens at 9:30 and we got there, after 2 bus rides, at about 9:15 to find a queue at least 500m long, Deb thought longer, waiting to get in.

We looked at each other and decided our time was too valuable to spend in a queue, so went to the “de Young  Museum”. They had an Andy Warhol exhibition on. It was very large covering about 6 large rooms. It traced his work from his early beginnings until his death. It was very interesting and we both came out with a new respect for his works. The piece we both liked the best was one where he had drawn faces into the ends of lines of music. Hard to explain, but so interesting.  (thought of you dad you would have loved it, especially the bits with Mick Jagger in razz)

We had a quick look around a couple of other areas in the museum (it is all art works of various forms) and then went to the observation level at the top of the back of the building for a great panoramic view over the city. (you can do this for free (in the lift) so if you are in the area it is worth it)

Then we walked around to the Japanese Gardens next to the de Young, and spent some time wondering around the peaceful settings. Deb was in her element with all the flowers there to have pics taken of them!! (thought of you Carly razz)

After that we hopped back on a bus, along Fulton St to UN Square. We walked through the SF Farmers Market, which was full of colour and loads of fresh produce.  – there was some really good people watching here – but then all of SF is good for that!  Yo dog!!!!!!  Well it makes us smile!! confused

Continuing through the market we walked up to the Town hall building and had a look around, a very impressive building with a dome that is apparently the 5th biggest in the world. (By the end of these holidays we will have seen the top 5 domes of the world!!!!) The UN Charter was supposedly signed in the UN Plaza somewhere but we couldn’t find any display or even a plaque commemorating it. Oh well....

We then got a Street Car along to Powell and Market to get a Cable Car up to California St where we were going to meet up with a tour of Nob Hill at 2pm. We got up there at about 1pm, so we decided to go to”The Top of the Mark” in the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental Hotel.  Views all over the lower part of town from the Ferry Terminal, up past the Fishermans Wharf and beyond, even a glimpse of the GG Bridge for a change!!   We had a lovely lunch in here while enjoying the views.

We joined the Nob Hill tour and spent the next 2+ hours walking around one of the most exclusive (and expensive) neighbourhoods in SF. We got a great lashing of the socio-political history of the area, and that explained why so much of the area is how it is.  We thought of you Karlien while we were up here and wondered where you stayed! razz  Oh yes we finished the tour in the old, historic  Fairmont hotel – if you go to the Mark Hopkins for lunch pop in while you are there and have a look at the foyer and the public roof garden.

To finish our day we hopped on the California Street Cable Car and rode it down to Van Ness where we got a No.1 bus to Divisidero St and connected with a No 24 bus up to Jackson, leaving us a short walk home. Another busy day out and about and so much fun. I made sure I rode on the running boards for the last part of our last cable car ride for some time.

Tomorrow we set out for New York and catch up with John and Georgiana.  (only 2 more sleeps I cant wait!! big grin Hope you have a good flight tomorrow, see you Friday morning before 10am)

We can’t wait to continue on our World Pilgrimage

keep those messages coming!!! roll eyes

love to you all xo

 

 

Comments

Georgiana and John
15th April 2009
Getting Ready

 Hi Deb and Greg,

Wow! I love your blogs.  They are so detailed, I feel like I am walking along with you.  Spent the day packing and getting ready for an early flight in the morning.  We leave at about 9:00 and arrive a little before 1 p.m.  Can't wait to see you!  laugh out

Georgiana

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San Francisco

The start of our 2009 Pilgrimage
Golden Gate BridgeGreg and JuhnView from our room at nightUs near the Presidio

Our Favourite Things in San Francisco

16th April 2009

11 April to 16 April 2009 

Ben and Sarah, and Carly and Kieran are all coming over here within the next 12months.

Here are are thoughts on what we have experienced and enjoyed about this fabulous city to try and help you make the most of your time here.

Our favourite things in San Francisco – we actually enjoyed everything we did

Cable Cars – lots of fun especially riding on the outside and hanging on – try to go on all of the routes – there are 3

Take a street car up Market Street, don’t get off, part of it is a bit seedy, but worth the ride, also take the street car along the Embarcadero

Public Transport system in general  à get a Muni Pass!!! They pay for themselves in a day

Alcatraz  à If you do it at night say 6.10pm cruise you get to see the city at night from the bay and special lecture presentations on the island, need to book this before you leave home, you don’t get to see as much of the island as you would on a day cruise

Lombard St  à  Drive down it even in a taxi

Golden Gate Bridge à Walk across it

People watching, just be careful who you watch too closely!!!! It is good to take the time to sit and take the people in

UN Plaza markets  à SF farmers markets, not sure what days

Nob Hill - Lunch in the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental à  The Top of the Mark Restaurant great views, then walk over the road to the Fairmont hotel and have a look, then over to the Grace Cathedral.

Japanese Gardens, and top floor of the De Young museum for good views

Coit Tower for good views – great view of Lombard St from here

Ferry to or from Sausilito and wander around for an hour or so – Christmas shop here

Clam chowder in a sour dough roll, dungeness crab – all of the seafood we had was lovely

The sea lions at Pier 39

Union St has good shops between Steiner & Octavia Sts

Casto street, good restaurants, very colourful

China town is colourful

Palace of fine arts – no art, buildings erected for the 1910 world expo - like old roman buildings

Americans are lovely, friendly, very considerate, conservative people, they don’t always understand us

San Francisco is a lovely city, lots of hills, good views, very clean, lovely gardens and open spaces, haze, it appears a very rich city, there is a lot of wealth here.   It hasn’t been expensive to do the things we wanted.   Food is a similar price to home.   

Know how much to tip and when to tip, you must budget for it.

The earthquake of 1906 lasted 90 seconds, it wasn’t the earthquake that caused all of the damage but the fires afterwards (just a bit of info I found interesting – must be the geography teacher in me!)

Muir woods was wonderful, red wood forest, but you would need more than a few days here to visit

Things we didn’t do that we will do next time, we forgot to go to the flower conservatory yesterday in Golden Gate park

Haight Ashbury

Mission Delores

Only drove past Alamo Square and the park

Twin Peaks for the views

I am sure there is lots more you could do here, next time we will also go up to the Napa Valley

My very favourite things were riding the cable cars and people watching, I just asked Greg and he agreed, this is one great city you are going to have so much fun!!

 

San Francisco

The start of our 2009 Pilgrimage
Alcatraz by nightView from our room at nightUs near the PresidioAlcatraz

New York Friday 17 April 2009

17th April 2009

 

This morning John and Georgiana came around at about 9:45am, it was great to catch up with them. It was like they never left Australia, mmm  does that make any sense?????

At 10am Harris, our Big Apple Greeter arrived and after a short chat we headed out  down our street to New Yorks newest airport, otherwise known as the Hudson River. It’s a wider river than I expected and the distance between the bridges is more than you might think. Gee, I reckon even I could land a plane there without hitting anything!!!  LOL

After a shortish walk along the river taking in the views of New Jersey (of Soprano’s fame) we headed back east back into the island and walked up past the Museum of Natural History and into Central Park. The park is alive with people, they jog, roller blade, ride bikes, ride horses and ride in horse drawn carriages through the park, just stroll around, play or just lay back and relax.

The park is dotted with statues, the significance of many of them seems to be fairly intangible, but they all add to the park. There are squirrels everywhere.

We walked up past the Great Lawn, the scene of many legendary concerts, around Turtle Pond & Belvedere Castle, down past the model boat lake, past Loeb Boathouse and into Bethesda Terrace, the fountain was empty of water (we were told it would be filled soon ). From there we walked past the Naumberg Bandshell and down along the Mall to the Literary Terrace (with all its statues of literary greats, at the end we went right and walked to the south west corner where we descended for the first time into the subway.

We purchased weekly tickets and set off for further adventures. We emerged in the “Meat packing” district, close to Greenwich Village. We had so much fun exploring lots of nooks and crannies of Greenwich Village with Harris. We ended up in John’s Pizza cafe for lunch, very delicious. John had a photo taken out the front.

From here we walked through SOHO, with all its trendy shops and galleries and eventually down to “Ground Zero”. It’s a huge site and it’s amazing that not more damage was done way back on 9/11 2001. (Yep, that long ago!!). From there we walked up to The Trinity Chapel, the small church next to the ground zero site that served as respite for all those involved in the rescue and recovery attempts. It is a truly moving experience to read the 9/11 timeline out in front of the Chapel and see all the tributes and legacies left there by the workers.  (I lit a candle in the church)

After there we started off towards the South Ferry Terminal (or at least we thought we were!! Gee the northern hemisphere plays hell with my sense of direction!!) After a few blocks, we must have looked like stranded sheep on a corner, a very helpful woman came up and helped us on our way, back in the other direction, on a bus!!! She was so full of the joys of life and really went out of her way to help us. We eventually got off the bus at the end of the line, The South Ferry Building. We walked over and jumped on board the Staten Island Ferry, with about 3000 others, for the free ride over to Staten Island, past the Statue of Liberty. You get fantastic views back to Manhattan Island, and all the skyscrapers of the financial district. Once over at Staten Island, we disembarked and went round and got straight back on board for the return trip. Was lots of fun.

Back at the ferry building we went to the subway and got a No. 1 train back to W72nd St and came back to our apartment to plan our days ahead. We had lots of laughs and eventually worked out a plan for the rest of our time here with John and Georgiana.

Eventually, we went back up town to their hotel, they have a balcony overlooking the city which we enjoyed and then went down for dinner at a restaurant called the West Branch on Broadway and W78th. We had a great meal and eventually said goodnight to our friends and came back home around 9.30pm

PS I am having problems with getting our pics off the camera, wiil put up more pics when I get it sorted

 

New York City

Our time in NYC
The Brooklyn Bridge with Manhatten Bridge behind"Imagine" Strawberry Fields, Central ParkUptown Manhatten from Central ParkCentral Park from The Top of the Rock

New York Saturday 18 April 2009

18th April 2009

 

Today was a marathon!!!

We started out at 8:15 and met John and Georgiana at the 72nd St Subway station for a ride to midtown and onto The Top of the Rock. (The viewing floors at the top of the Rockefeller Centre). We got in on close to first in the morning and there were NO queues or crowds. So we had a great time wandering around taking in the views and a few pics, the views were wonderful, particularly over central park.

As we came out of the building we found an outdoor ice-skating rink at the base of the building. We stopped for a bit and took in the skaters and all the people starting their days.

Then we walked down to Grand Central Station, and after a look around, the clock inside is valued by Sotheby’s at between 10 and 20 million the architecture of the station as with so many buildings here is grand.   Next we got a train across the East River to Brooklyn. We had heard of a nice little ice creamery under the bridge at the waters edge, so we decided to walk down and have a taste. We found it, but unfortunately it wasn’t going to open for another half hour or so, so, after taking in the views back across to Manhattan Island and NYC,  we decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge into downtown Manhattan for lunch  instead. The crossing was really interesting, the bridge itself is an amazing construction of stone and masses of wires; there were hundreds of people walking, jogging and cycling(many very quickly- the cyclists that is, the joggers not so much!!!) across in both directions. This at times was a little interesting to say the least.

After walking around for some time trying to find somewhere reasonable for lunch, we decided to head back to Grand Central Station and the Food Court there. Lunch was good, and it was a bit of a relief to sit for a while.

After lunch we walked up to the Grand Central Station Markets (sort of a mini Adelaide Central Market). They were selling everything from fresh seafood and fruit to cheeses, bread and salamis.  Looked like a great place to arm yourself for a picnic.

After we left there we walked across the road and down a bit to the New York Public Library. It’s in a grand old building. The main catalogue reading room is very historic and classic in appearance with dark wooden tables and table lamps. (The computer screens everywhere sort of spoilt the look a bit, but that’s progress I guess)

Then we walked up 5th Avenue, past all the up market shops you could name, and then a few that you have never heard of and probably never afford either!! For a city with all these classic and classy shops in it, there seems to be a shortage of people in the streets wearing the fashion that is on display, we guess this is probably an effect of the economic times we are in. We went into Trump Tower, just because we could. It was interesting, but not WOW or anything.

At W57th St we turned left and walked up to 7th Ave to have a look in Carnegie Hall, but everything is off limits, except for the foyer (unless you are on a tour). It’s a very “Old Worlde” type theatre. (we are hoping to go on a tour on Monday)

We then went outside and got a Yellow Cab to the Pier 83 at W42nd Street to join a Circle Line 2 hr cruise around the bottom of Manhattan Island to the Williamsburg Bridge and back again. It was great to see the city, well the downtown area anyway from the water. The commentary on the cruise was great. Very informative and very witty.

After the cruise we walked up to the subway and got a train to Greenwich Village, where we found a small eatery for dinner. It was good to get away from the mad crowds and noise of the city for a bit and recharge for the night.

Back on the subway to midtown and a night viewing from the top of the Empire State Building.

We got to the Empire State Building (ESB) at about 7:50pm and found enormous queues. So we decided to do the NYC Skyride first, as we were told it helped you jump the queues. It was a virtual “roller coaster” ride over and through NYC. We then joined back on the queue and waited for our turn to get in the lift. The First lift took us to another queue at the 80th floor, after more waiting we got another lift to the main viewing floor the 86th floor. It was, needless to say, pretty crowded, but the views from outside were unbelievable.  After spending sometime there and taking it all in, we went up to the 102nd floor, the top viewing floor of the building. There were very few people up there, but it was bit disappointing to find that all the viewing at that level was from behind glass. The guide up there was very informative and had a great sense of humour. At about 10pm we decided to leave and go home. It took us about 40minutes to get down, including more queuing on the 80th floor. When we got to the bottom, we heard that they had 4 lifts broken down and that was causing all the delays. (So what should have taken about 90 mins took us 160mins!)

We walked back to the subway and went home, we got back to our place around 11:30pm, and collapsed after a very long day out and about in NYC

 

New York City

Our time in NYC
Greg Deb Georgiana and John at  Mintons Night ClubUptown Manhatten from Central ParkHarlemThe Brooklyn Bridge with Manhatten Bridge behind

New York 19 April 2009 - Our Anniversary

19th April 2009

 We had such a long day yesterday started at 8.25 and we got home at 11.30pm, we fit lots in.   The weather is evidently going to get nasty! their word not mine! Sounds a bit ominous!  So we fit more into yesterday than we intended.  Anyway we are off again in another 30 mins to Harlem smile

Just wanted to thank everyone for their happy Anniversary wishes and our mums for our cards smile  that was very thoughtful

Our day is just beginning, and I had better get organised.    Hopefully we will have time to do a blog later and some more photos.

lots of love to you all from us xo

 

New York City

Our time in NYC
The Brooklyn Bridge with Manhatten Bridge behindManhatten Skyline at night from Empire State BldgHarlemCentral Park from The Top of the Rock

New York 19 April 2009

19th April 2009

 

We met up with John and Georgiana at the 72nd St station at 8:45am and got a train uptown to Harlem on the 3 line.

Our tour was due to start at 9:45am, we arrived about 45 mins early. So we walked around abit and took in the atmosphere. Our first impressions were that it was very clean, no graffiti and pretty well maintained, ie the opposite to what you may expect from the TV version.

We met our guide , Neal Shoemaker, and along with about 24 others were taken on an eye opening tour of his home borough. Neal is everything you could hope a guide would be. He had a real passion for his neighbourhood, the people in it, its history and its future. He first took us to a Baptist Gospel Church, (The Canaan Baptist Church of Christ). There were huge queues of tourists out the front waiting to get in, (all the tour bus crowds), but Neal took us straight to the front and we got special treatment from the church and got in ahead of the crowds (because he is a member of the church). The service was great, and included all the gospel singing you always hear about, and some dancing as well.

After the service Neal explained the role of the church in the community and all the racial, social and religious history of the black American , particularly those who reside in Harlem. He gave  us a rundown of how Harlem became a predominately black district and of its rich past which included establishment by the Dutch, English, Jews and the rich. He walked us around back streets and told us the history of the area through the building and his own life. He took us to iconic clubs (The Apollo Theatre and Minton’s Nightclub) as well as areas used by Hollywood for movies. We couldn’t recommend him any higher to anyone coming to NYC. His web address is, www.harlemheritage.com  it’s worth a look around even if you’re not planning a trip.

At the end of the tour, outside the Apollo Theatre, we walked back to close to where we started and had lunch at “Amy Ruth’s”. A soul food restaurant. We arrived at 2pm and had to wait until 3pm to get a table, its a very popular eatery with both locals and tourists. We had a nice lunch, that included delights such as , Collard Greens, Corn Bread, Ribs, fried Pork Chops, Sweet Yams, honey fried chicken, prawns and finished off with “Neal Shoemakers”  Peach Cobbler. It was all very sweet, but very tasty.

After lunch we got back on the subway and took it to W72nd St, and then walked up to Central Park. We walked up past the Dakota Apartment building (Where John Lennon used to live and was assassinated) and into the park at Strawberry Fields right where Yoko Ono’s tribute to John -“Imagine” is located. There were guys busking there , playing Beatles music. It was fun to listen to them for a while. We then walked around the lake and back to strawberry Fields. The trees are in full blossom through-out the park, and it is very beautiful everywhere you look. Back at the Imagine mosaic, a guy callng himself the King of Strawberry Fields gave the crowd a short history of the Mosaic and Lennon’s apartment across the road, which we found very interesting. At around 5:30pm we left the park and came home.

Once home, we all almost collapse into our seats. We did a little planning for tomorrow, which included a bit of a late start, J  , and then J & G left to go back to their hotel.

Thanks to everyone who has sent us Anniversary wishes, we have had a great, fun day.

One last thing -  hey Georgie, this is copyright to Greg lol  wink

 

 

New York City

Our time in NYC
HarlemThe Brooklyn Bridge with Manhatten Bridge behindUptown Manhatten from Central ParkCentral Park from The Top of the Rock

New York Monday 20 April 2009

20th April 2009

 

We had a lie in this morning, very indulgent. razz

The weather forecast for today was 8C max rain and wind, (the weather forecasters here called in a “Nasty Day” ahead).

John and Georgiana picked us up in a Cab at 9:30am and we headed off across town to 5th Ave and  the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. When we got there we found a queue about 25m long out the door, but it moved fairly quickly and we were inside in no time. Using the New York pass helped us by-pass the big queue for tickets and we were in nice and smoothly.

Unfortunately they are preparing for a new exhibition, and the spiral walk was out of action, as were all the floors except 2 and 3 (here in the US ground floor in floor 1). So it was a pretty truncated visit, but we did see the Thannhauser Collection and the Kandinsky and Expressionist Painting before World War I. Between them this included works by artists such as Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, the Fauves and Pablo Picasso. To see the works of these masters made up for the limited viewing we could have had. But it also posed the question of how good it would have been if the entire museum was open.

We then walked along 5th Ave, the most expensive residential street in NYC, with apartments on one side and Central Park on the other.  It is such a pretty street, so many flowers everywhere.

Next on our list was the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Frick Collection. Unfortunately for us, and a bit of poor planning on our part, both of these places are closed on Mondays!!

Not to miss an opportunity we continued along 5th Ave into Mid Town, again past all the glitzy shops, and decided to have an early lunch in Trump Tower.

We then went to the Museum of Modern Art, MoMA. Here is a hint for all those would be travellers who wish to have an easy entrance into museums and the like in towns such as NYC. DO NOT take a back pack, even if it is a NASTY day and you need somewhere to put umbrellas and rain jackets. As we found out here at MoMA, you must check such items in, the check-in line was about 30mins long!!!!! Rather than doing that Deb went in first, with John and Georgiana, and then when she returned I went in. This was disappointing as we both had limited time to see what we would have liked to have shared together. But at least we did manage to get a glimpse of some works through the thronging crowds. We have NEVER seen so many people in an Art Gallery before. Between us we saw works by Picasso, Monet, Pollock, and others who we should know but can’t remember, (must be the mad cow kicking in again!!)

Out of there, and a short walk up 7th Ave to Carnegie Hall, where we took the tour. It was a fascinating tour of the front of house areas of the Concert Hall. We were given a great history of the Hall and some of the characters that played vital roles in its history. It is a very grand place, with all the fine style of years gone by. The Hall has awesome acoustics and the viewing of the stage area from anywhere in the hall was very good.  It was a wow moment.

It has played host to so many of the world’s great artists, generally anyone you can name of stature in the music industry has played there. The Beatles played their first USA gig there and they recently had Paul McCartney and Ringo Star play there.

From there we jumped in a cab, raining and windy outside so walking was out, down to The Rockefeller Centre. We had a light bite to eat and then did a tour of the Centre. This was very interesting, full of history, the various tenants that have called the Centre home, and some who have been ejected (generally those evicted were done so for political reasons – ie the US was at war with them). Above all it was shown to be the home of American radio and TV broadcasting, with all the major networks resident in one or other of the towers, as well as most of the major publishing houses of the world. It ‘s a vast collection of buildings and well worth visiting.

We then did a tour of the MSNBC Studios in the Rockefeller Centre. We had a look at the Saturday Night Live Studio and were shown around a few other areas and had a look at the broadcast centre. It was an interesting tour.

By this time it was around 6:30pm, so we grabbed another Cab, and headed off to the Julliard School to see if we could get into a recital, or performance. We were told by Harris, our Big Apple Greeter, that if you turned up on the night of any performance you could generally get tickets to go in. When we got there the guards let us in and directed us to a performance room where we interrupted a couple of students practicing. They started to leave when we entered and we asked them to continue, and they did. One on the piano, and the other on violin. It was magical to sit and hear these (what we later learned were Masters students) play and so visibly enjoy their music. But they could only play one piece for us as the room had to be set-up for a recital. The recital was about an hour away, and we reluctantly decided that it was too long to wait, and we left and went home.  This was another wonderful experience the acoustics’ in the room were really good as was the playing.   The school is in an amazing building, very modern and looks very new.

We had a great day getting a taste of the arts side of NYC and having a deeper look into some of its landmark buildings.

Thanks to all those messages, we love to hear from home.   Carolyn I can’t believe it takes more than 2 weeks for mail to get to you, we will have to be more organised!

xo  smile

 

 

Comments

J & G
20th April 2009
Brunch

 Hi guys,

We made reservations for a private transport to the airport.  Thanks for the info.  Will see you tomorrow at 8:30.  smile

G & J

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New York City

Our time in NYC
Empire State Building & Manhatten downtownSkyline HarlemUptown Manhatten from Central ParkCentral Park from The Top of the Rock

New York Tuesday 21 April 2009

21st April 2009

 

Today we started off having a farewell breakfast at the Pier 72 Dinner on W72 St at 8:30am. It was a fun time and a chance to relive some of the moments here in NYC with John and Georgiana, and talk about a few things for next year. After a farewell photo we walked up to the subway station and said our good-byes. Unfortunately John has to work tomorrow. It’s always sad to say bye to good friends.  cry

Next we got the No. 1 train down town to the end of the line at the Ferry Terminal, and then walked up to Broadway and the famous “Charging Bull”. We had passed it earlier in our time here and there were people climbing all over it, luckily this time, there was only a smallish group of Japanese in front of it taking photos (as they do) of themselves with it. After they had finished I jumped in and got a couple taken of me with it. First up I, as tradition has it (for a gesture of good luck) rubbed the bulls balls, then I gave them a very good squeeze to hurry the Bull economy back into favour. After that I got a couple of pics at the front end of the bull. wink

We then walked a little further up Broadway to Wall St. We turned right into Wall St and the New York Stock Exchange Building was on the right, on the corner of Wall St and Broad St. It’s not too impressive from the Wall St side, but when you get to see the Broad St Entrance it lives up to what you would expect of the premier stock exchange. It’s VERY patriotically American and very grand in presentation. Since 9/11 they don’t allow visitors/tourists inside. We then went into the Federal Hall building across the road from the exchange building. It was where George Washington was sworn in as the 1st President of the USA and where the country was run from for some time.  The building is packed full of historical records that summarise the development of the USA as a country and all of the adversary they went through to get to where they are today. It goes a long way to explaining why Americans are like they are, so patriotic and proud of their country, it’s all to do with the struggle the nation went through in determining exactly what is was and what it stood for.

We then got a J Train to Canal St and walked around and through China Town and Little Italy. Both are very colourful districts and each is undeniably what they purport to be. Little pieces of the old home, food, language, signage and atmosphere. They are wonderful places to stroll through and take in all the vibe they give out.

When we got to Houston St (Pronounced “Howston” after a local), we walked down to the lower east side and visited Katz Deli, made famous by the Movie “When Harry Met Sally” and the scene when Meg Ryan had a little fun. The Deli was very full and so we decided to go up to Greenwich Village for lunch.

We got the R train from canal to 8th St, then walked though Washington Square and along a side street to Lupa restaurant for an Italian lunch. We had a duck meal and Spaghetti Carbonara. Both meals were delicious.

After lunch we walked around trying to buy some stamps. We finished up at a Post Office in Greenwich, and stood in line for about 25 mins to buy 4 stamps!! One of the service people was a little slow, and had the line in hysterics with his antics and strange ways of official work practices. EVERYTHING was done by the book, including a running commentary of everything he was doing!! And I do mean everything!!!

We then got an F Train up to 34th St (Herald square) and walked over to Madison Square Gardens. It was an impressive looking building that could have done with a bit of a spruce up, it just looked a little tired. We then walked over to Macy’s and got a rain jacket for me to replace the one we (Deb) lost, and some DVDs to back-up our pics.

We then got a Cab to the Waldorf Astoria for drinks (we have been trying all week to get here, I think it was 3rd time lucky - it was worth the wait). We walked through and looked round before settling into Sir Harry's bar for a drink. We both had a drink “on the rocks”, never with ice!!! It was good to sit and relax after a day investigating this city. (possibly the most expensive drinks we have had, but they did look like doubles!!) (before we left I checked out the toilets, amazing, each one was like a little ensuite! Very impressive Carly)

We then got an E train to W57 and 7th Ave, and walked down to Byant park, to sit and watch the world go by. We watched a group of men playing Boules for a while. It was fascinating to watch this relaxing , yet competitive, game amidst the hustle and bustle of New York City at Rush Hour. We then walked over to Times square and caught the No. 1 train back to W72 St Station found Deb a copy of the New Yorker at a news stand and then came home for the night.

There is one point I have neglected in all my ramblings about our adventures in New York. We have been amazed at how friendly and helpful the native New Yorkers are. It seems they pick-up when  you’re a bit confused about where you’re going, or how to get some place. It seems there is always someone who comes over and is only too willing to help, including going out of their way to make sure you are on the right path. We have met many a native New Yorker this way, and they are all wonderful people.razz

This is our last night in NY, we have been enjoying a great platter of food, wine and some wonderful music, it is tough!   We fly to London tomorrow at 7pm.    We are hoping to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art tomorrow morning then sit and relax in Central Park before checking out at 3pm, the adventure continues .....................

love to you all xo

 

Comments

Georgiana
21st April 2009
Back in Minnesota

Just wanted to let you know we made it home safely. Weather was warmer than when we left and the grass is greener. Sounds like you accomplished a lot today. We are looking forward to following along with you as you explore the world.smile     

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New York City

Our time in NYC
Empire State Building & Manhatten downtownSkyline HarlemGreg Deb Georgiana and John at  Mintons Night ClubThe Brooklyn Bridge with Manhatten Bridge behind

New York Wed 22 April 2009

22nd April 2009

 

We decided to make today a leisurely last day in New York City. By the time we had had breakfast and got everything together (we began packing ready to leave) it was about 10:15.

We walked from home across Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Arts. We were delighted to find NO queues to get in. It was such a pleasant change from the MoMA.

The art works in this museum are beyond belief. We strolled around marvelling at the works of El Greco, van Eyck, Raphael, Rembrandt, Rubens, Renoir,  van Gogh, Degas, Monet,  many Rodin sculptures (the first we have ever seen of his in marble), and so many more. It was a dream to enjoy these works in peace and quiet without huge crowds. Time seemed to fly by while were in the museum.

Once we had had our fill we left and walked back into Central Park and had lunch at the Leob Boathouse. We got a window table and just beat the hoards of “Suits” that came in for “business lunches”. I was so nice to sit and contemplate the lake and the park, with the New York skyline in the distance.  Lunch was fabulous! We are so lucky to be able to experience such treats.

We then went back to our apartment and got ready to leave. We got a call from the car service at 3, I must have given them the wrong address when I booked and they were waiting for us on W72nd St instead of 71st. They arrived 15 mins later and we set off for the airport. It took a bit over an hour to get there. There seemed to be traffic hold-ups/ jams in every direction.

We loved New York, it is an exciting city, we are pleased we have seen so much, we enjoyed everything!   We will return!!

Our flight leaves at 7:05pm, and for now we are making ourselves comfy in the BA lounge and looking forward to next stage of our adventure, and to seeing Val and Vic, and all the Fentons.razz

 

Comments

McDonalds
22nd April 2009
USA

 Good Morning to you both,

We have thoroughly enjoyed sharing your wonderful experiences travelling around America.

Can't wait until you land in the UK and we can start to share that time.

Hope you flights are great and look forward to another update soon.

Cheers,

Ben

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New York City

Our time in NYC
Greg Deb Georgiana and John at  Mintons Night ClubCentral Park from The Top of the RockManhatten Skyline at night from Empire State Bldg"Imagine" Strawberry Fields, Central Park

New York to London 22-23 April 2009

22nd April 2009

 

You know how when you’re on a plane and there is always these last few passengers that haven’t boarded and the plane is ready to close doors.

Well picture this!

We are sitting in the airport lounge , looking at our boarding passes. Our flight is scheduled for 7:05pm, the monitor in the lounge says “On time” for our flight, our boarding pass says boarding time 6:55pm, which we thought was a bit strange, but who were we to argue.

Anyway,  at 6:45pm we decided that it was probably a good idea if we went down to the gate and see what was happening, as we got to the front desk of the lounge they called “Would passengers Fenton and Biddolph please proceed to Gate 4, your flight is ready for take off”. We let them know that was us and hurried off to the gate. At the gate they gave another call. WOW, how’s that, we were those late people that really annoy all the others on the plane and we were being called over the loud speakers at New York’s JFK Airport!!!!

So we got on board, they closed the doors and we started moving, after a short while the Captain comes over the speakers and says we are ready for take off, but there is a bit of a queue in front of us. We looked out the window and there must have been at least 16 planes lined up across the runway from us . That looks really bizarre, a congo line of planes waiting to take off. So it ended up taking about 40 mins for us to take off. What was the rush all about J

Flight was good and uneventful. I got 2-3 hrs sleep and watched the movie “The Reader”, while Deb got about 4 hrs and watched about ½ of Marley and Me.

We arrived at Heathrow on time at 7:05 am.

 

 

 

Comments

Georgiana
23rd April 2009
Hello

laugh out That is hilarious.  Glad you made it safely. 

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New York City

Our time in NYC
The Brooklyn Bridge with Manhatten Bridge behindEmpire State Building & Manhatten downtownSkyline Manhatten Skyline at night from Empire State Bldg"Imagine" Strawberry Fields, Central Park

Redditch UK 23 April 2009

23rd April 2009

 

We cleared Immigration and customs, and were met by a smiling Val and Vic. So nice to see friendly faces and get such a warm welcome.

Vic drove us to their home, about  1 ½  hrs from the airport. When we got there we had a very much appreciated cup of tea, unpacked and had lunch on the back deck.

After lunch we went for a walk around a nearby  lake , and just enjoy catching up with them and the sunshine. After the walk,  we returned home and settled in for a relaxing afternoon.

Cliff has rung and said he would come over this afternoon. It will so good to see him.

We had a very nice dinner with Val and Vic, Quiche, peas and chips, accompanied by their last bottle of Hugo’s shiraz. J yum it was superb

Cliff came around at about  7. He was so full of joy and happiness. It was so good to see him again.  We gave him the special delivery “rocks”, which gave us all a laugh. He was delighted with them, his little bit of Australia.

I was feeling the effects of jet lag and eventually relented and went to bed at about 8pm.

Cliff left at about 8pm, after organising to pick us up at 10 on Friday to take us to Warwick Castle. It will be his first time there , as well as ours. So we are all looking forward to it. Vic was saying that they have recently restored the dungeons back to how they were. I am very much looking forward to seeing that. A little time on the rack is just the thing for me I think!!! (Is that middle ages pilates???)

 

 

 

England

Our time in UK
Group photoCrab Sandwiches with Basil, Mary, Vic, Val and DebGreg, Hugo & VicGeocaching with Catrina, Steve, Eleanor & Amity

Redditch UK 24 April 2009

24th April 2009

razz 

Cliff and his lady, Nirella, came around and picked us up at about 10:30am and after a short while we set off to Warwick Castle.

The castle was built around 1061, and is the oldest and best preserved castle open to the public.

They have done an amazing job of restoring it, Most of the rooms in the castle have life-like dummies dressed in period costume and all the rooms have either the original furniture , or very good reproductions in them. As you walk into the various rooms in the castle it really does look and feel like it may have done all the way back when it was a working castle in the middle ages.

We had lunch at 12:30 and then headed off for our dungeon tour at 1pm. The tour was great, very informative, and hilarious in the way the info was presented.

As it would happen, Deb became the star in one of the trial rooms of the dungeon. And guess what, she was put on trial for being a witch. As the charges were being read out, all I could think of was that they must have been spying on her wink and it brought great smiles to both our faces. With her sitting in the dock, the judge asked her how she pleaded, “Guilty, Not guilty or Insane?” She quickly called out GUILTY!!!!. And there was a cheer from the group!  We then had to sentence her. Hung by the neck?? Burned at the stake?? OR  Sent to Wales. Lucky for me she was sentenced to Wales. We leave on Monday!!!  smile

After that tour we went to see a couple of demonstrations.  The first was that of a siege machine, used to throw rocks at castles, it was called a ........., and it managed to throw a 15kg rock about 100m or more. Very impressive. We the went to see a Falconry demonstration. They showed 3 birds, an American Bald Eagle and a couple of British birds of prey. The show was great. The second bird decided to take things into its own hand (Talons) and went hunting for real. It caught something high in a tree and that was the end of its session!!!

While we were walking / climbing the turrets the castle fire alarm went off and they had to evacuate the castle. It was all a bit amusing. They had us gather at the front of the castle and we watched a beheading while they sorted the problem out. We eventually went for a walk around the grounds and found out later it was smoke from the dungeon that caused all the drama.  That sounds like a tour that got carried away with itself!! 

We left and came back to Val and Vic’s and had a delicious dinner. Val is an excellent cook.

After that we sat up talking til late, it was a fun day.

(I slept much better last night, didn’t wake up until 8.30am this morning, much better than the 3.45am yesterday!! – feel much more refreshed today and looking forward to seeing the family and seeing the St George celebrations and going to the concert hall tonight.    We are going to buy a sim card today for another  phone Greg brought with us when we get the number we will let you know)   It must be after 9.30am I am off to have some breakfast – hope you are all enjoying your weekend.   Hey dad we are going to the Lickey hills tomorrow, for a picnic, I will be thinking of you.   Sarah we are very pleased to know we have had some decent rain, our garden will be thankful!   Linda we are looking forward to seeing you both soon.

Love from us xo  razz

 

England

Our time in UK
Val, St George & DebKate, Deb & Dawn - my cousinsLucy, Nick & AlanaGroup photo

UK + Europe Mobile Phone Number 25 April 2009

25th April 2009

 

We have a new mobile phone number for us over here.

If anyone needs to contact us the best number to use is

+447805639856

We are off to celebrate St Georges Day with Vic, Val, Cliff and the Fentons

 

England

Our time in UK
Monica, Len and Deb - Shrewsbury Railway StationOur familyWonderful dinner Val is a great cookGroup photo

Redditch UK 25 April 2009

25th April 2009

 

This morning Vic took me down to the local shopping centre and we got u a SIM card for the UK and Europe. The number is on the previous blog.

Later  in the day we went off to Cliff’s place and met up with Nick and his girls. It was really good to see them, Nick hasn’t changed a bit and the girls are getting bigger. (Cliff gave us an English T-Shirt each to wear, I wore mine proudly, it was however a struggle for Greg, the poms did beat us in the rugby after all, but he joined in the fun of it confused) From there we went off into Birmingham by bus to meet up with Dawn and Kate and their families and to take part in the St George day celebrations, it was wonderful to see them all, we had lots of fun. razz

We saw Morris Dancers (now that really is something everyone needs to see once in their lives, grown men with flower hats, white uniforms with bells everywhere, skipping and prancing to music while their leader shouts orders to them “sergeant major” style!! Before them they had a jester performing juggling tricks and amusing the smaller members of the crowd. Two guys were dressed up in full medieval armour on horse-back, they posed for photos, then just rode off, we weren’t quiet sure if that was all they did, but it just seemed a little unusual. We then went and watched a Beatles cover band play. They were pretty good, doing all the favourites and they had the crowd singing along with them in no time at all.

At the end of their set, Kate and Dawn said bye, we meet them again tomorrow for a picnic, and the rest of us went to a Chinese restaurant for tea.  Nick’s girls both had a go at the chop sticks, to varying degrees of success. (They both took their chopsticks with them, to practice a bit more  ;-)  )

After dinner we went to the highlight event of the day, The St Georges Day Concert at the Birmingham Symphony Hall, it is a magnificent theatre. It was a truly amazing event.  It started with what I am sure would have been a stirring rendition of “The National Anthem” (1st  verse only, as per the programme) which we missed, which was then followed by local favourites such as There’ll Always Be an England, I Vow to thee my Country and culminating in a Grande finale of Rule Britannia, Jerusalem and (what would such a concert be without) Pomp and Circumstance March No.1. The last three songs all got at least one encore performance of their last verses. It was a sea of English flag waving patriotism that we have never seen before in our lives, and it goes a long way to explain the English!!  Having said all that, and after removing my tongue from my cheek, it was an enjoyable night and very spectacular.

The concert finished a little after 9pm (it started at 6pm) and we walked around to get the bus back to Cliff’s. While waiting for the bus, I went to put some rubbish in a bin, when this dishevelled black guy came over right to me, I just smiled and he looked me straight in the eye and said something like, “how’s things brother” and put his fist out, to do that cool dood shake thing, so I made a fist and “shook” with him, at which he beamed a smile at me and took off. Strange but true. J

We got home around 11pm. Cliff has organised a family picnic with all the Birmingham  Fentons tomorrow. It should be a great time.

 

England

Our time in UK
Our familyLunch at Steve & CatrinasVal, St George & DebGroup photo

Sunday 26th April 2009 Lickey Hills

26th April 2009

 Hey Emily happy birthday for tomorrow, happy 20th birthday, it is your birthday already in Australia!   But it is 4am, wonder if you are awake and celebrating already!!  We are off to Wales tomorrow and will be thinking of you and wishing you a wonderful day.

We had a nice day today, managed a bit of a sleep in and had a slow start, Cliff & Mirella picked us up around 12pm, we went to Tesco (supermarket) and bought a picnic lunch, while we were there we bumped into Kate with her 3 children in tow doing her weekly shop.

Then it was off to the Lickey Hills for a picnic.   When I was growing up dad talked a lot about the Lickey Hills so I was thinking about you while we were there.

We had our picnic lunch on the blanket Val supplied when we arrived, it was delicious.   Not long after Nick, Aleisha, Alana, Lucy & Rebecca arrived. Nick had driven another 100 miles to see us (he was only home 11hours before heading back down today!!).   Aleisha brought this amazing picnic, we tried her chocolate muffins, yum.   We played in the park with Alana & Lucy, Greg got some great pictures of them on all of the equipment in the park.   Later Dawn & Kate arrived for an hour or so with their children and Eileen.   Was lovely to see Eileen, she looked very well.    After they had eaten we had a group photo, then Damari had fun taking photos with the camera, he took some good shots.  Was lovely to see them all.

It got a bit cold then, it seemed to bother everyone else more than us!!  Well you know Greg, middle of winter in a t-shirt and thongs!! (he did have shoes on today – in fact I don’t think he has even brought any thongs on holiday with us!! – I think that is a first – he even had them in Antarctica!)

We got home some time after 5pm, Val & Vic went off to the golf club, Vic played today and there is a presentation tonight, we stayed at home so that we could pack for tomorrow.   We are off at 7am in the morning to the train station in Redditch, we change at Birmingham station for Shrewsbury where Monica and Len will pick us up, then it is off into Wales for another adventure!  We are very much looking forward to seeing them both.

We come back Wednesday morning then off to Norwich for a few days, we are not going to take the lap top with us, so might not be any more blogs for a few days!

Hope you all enjoyed your weekend and are enjoying your own adventures as we continue with ours.

Much love to you all from us xo

Hey Ethan when mummy reads this it will only be 7 more sleeps until your birthday, yeah you will be 2

 

England

Our time in UK
Dee, Mandy and Linda at Steve and CatrinasWonderful dinner Val is a great cookall of usGroup photo

Redditch to Shrewsbury to Llandudno, Wales 27 Apri

27th April 2009

Glad to hear you enjoyed your birthday Em, we enjoyed it too.

Up at 6am Vic drove us to Redditch station for the 7.30am train to Shrewsbury via Birmingham.   We had a 30 minute delay about 25mins out of Birmingham, due to points failure.   Arrived Shrewsbury at 10am.

Monica & Len were there to meet us, they hadn’t changed was lovely to see them both.    We  walked through Shrewsbury back to the car, it bought back lovely memories of our time there before.     It is a great town and well worth a visit.

We set off for Wales it is 23 miles from Shrewsbury.   First stop was a look at the Pontcysyllte aqueduct.    Possibly the highest water transport viaduct in the world opened in  1805 having taken 10 years to build, made of stone & iron.   It was constructed to make a canal crossing over a deep river valley at the cost of 47,000 pounds (200 years ago!!)   It was built by Thomas Telford (as was the bridge at Comwy Castle)

Next we stopped at Llangollen and wandered around the town, another beautiful town.   We stopped for a cuppa and had Welsh cakes and scones.

Then it was back in the car, after a while we stopped by a reservoir for a lovely picnic lunch that Monica and Len had packed, they had brought everything you could think of, was delicious.  There were lots of lovely little birds that swarmed around us, they were obviously used to being fed.   Was a very pretty location, hills as a backdrop to the lake, fish farms on the lake, reminded us off Thomas.

Next stop was Betws-y-Coed we wandered around the village, lots of outdoor shops, great church, over 150 years old, we lit another candle.   We found some postcards here and a post office, so hopefully in a week they will be in the grandchildren’s letterboxes!

It was then on to Llandudno.   It was amazing, about a kilometre of old world hotels all along the foreshore, looked like the Welsh Riviera, have never seen anything like it was very pretty.   Before dinner we went for a walk along the promenade, collected an orange rock for our collection and put our fingers in the water!  Our hotel is approx 100 years old, like all of the others (mmm and Greg said like all of the other guests!!   Well not quite, but almost, reminded us of Victor Harbor, god’s waiting room!!)   Monica booked our rooms with a lovely view over the beach.    A seagull (theirs are 3 times the size of ours) landed on our window sill just after we arrived.  – it was back at 5am pecking on the window!!)

The town was purpose built as a tourist town about 150 years ago,  impressive waterfront streetscape and a 3000 foot pier.    After dinner we went for a walk along the pier with M & L, when we got back to the hotel there was a music quiz in the bar area, we sat and had a couple of drinks and followed the quiz before going to bed.

Was a great first day in Wales, most lush green, hilly countryside, the scenery is gorgeous.

 

England

Our time in UK
Wonderful dinner Val is a great cookGeocaching with Catrina, Steve, Eleanor & AmityOur familyGroup photo

Wales – Shrewsbury Tuesday 28th April 2009

28th April 2009

 

After a lovely breakfast of bacon & eggs we set out at 9.30am to Conwy Castle in Conwy.   Didn’t take long to get there.   It is a very well preserved castle that has had very limited restoration work done to it.   Just enough to make it safe for tourists and for a few displays to be set up in a few turrets.

Conwy is a medieval walled town, built by Edward I between 1283 and 1287.   It was fascinating going in and out of the various turrets, towers, levels and rooms within the castle walls.  We enjoyed taking lots of photos here.

From here we went to Plas Mawr, an Elizabethan house built by Robert Wynn between 1576 and 1585, it was in excellent condition, fascinating to wonder around and think how life was back then.

Around 1pm we stopped for a picnic lunch near a bird sanctuary on the fringe of Conwy.  We then drove along the coast past Anglesey to Caernarton before heading inland through the mountains of Wales.  It was green and steep in places and rolling hills in others, very pretty.

We stopped at a small village and walked to the legendary grave of a dog (we have forgotten the name, but the town is named after the dog), was a lovely town, they are all so old and quaint, this one had a stream running through it, as many of them do.

We arrived back in Shrewsbury around 6pm.  M & L cooked lamb chops and salad for dinner, was nice, was a great day, we were asleep by 10pm.

 

England

Our time in UK
us with Eileen, she was frozenWarwick Castleall of usWonderful dinner Val is a great cook

Shrewsbury – Norwich Wed 29th April 2009

29th April 2009

 

Shrewsbury – Norwich Wed 29th April 2009

Claire, M & L’s daughter arrived home late last night after we were in bed.   It was good to meet her this morning and put a face to a name, we chatted for a while before leaving for the train station at 8.45am.  We said our goodbyes on the platform, we enjoyed seeing Monica and Len again and know we will see them next time we are in the UK.

We boarded our train to Birmingham at 9.37am and V & V picked us up to take us to Norwich, we will have gone from the West coast to the east coast in 2 days.

We arrived at Norwich at 1.30pm and drove straight to Basil & Mary’s place. (they are the parents of V & V son, David’s wife)   We were greeted very warmly and all sat down to a delicious lunch.   After lunch we drove into Norwich and walked around the town.   There are many areas where the buildings and roads have been preserved in their original state.   The town is around 1500 years old, we had a look around Norwich Cathedral (very big and beautiful) and lit a few more candles – we each lit one for Patrick, thinking of him in Mexico!

We walked up to the castle but it was closed.   Basil then took us for a drive into the nearby countryside along the river and past old pubs and manor houses.  It was great to be able to see the surrounds of the town.   This side of the country is much flatter than the west coast.

In the evening Mary & Basil cooked up a feast and we shares many laughs and a few wines.

Another great day.    We were asleep again by 10pm.

 

England

Our time in UK
Wonderful dinner Val is a great cookLucy, Nick & AlanaGreg, Hugo & Vicus with Eileen, she was frozen

Norwich Thursday 30 April 2009

30th April 2009

 

We are in a village named “Stoke Holy Cross”  Basil and Mary’s house used to be 2 terrace houses on an old estate, I think Basil said one was the gardeners cottage and the other another worker. Anyway, they have converted two into one, and it’s a beautiful country house.

We left the house around 10am for a day driving around the coastal areas of the Norwich district. We started the day off at Wells, about a 40 min drive away. Its at the top of the eastern bump of the on the bottom half of mainland Britain. If you were silly enough to jump into the North Sea here and start swimming due north, you would go straight over the north pole!! That’s global warming for you, a few years back you would have hit ice somewhere up there!!!

Wells is a very old town and we strolled around it for a while taking in the history and all the old building and scenery.  All the coast around Norwich is the area at which the various nations that have, at varying times over the centuries, first landed. So the area is strewn with the history of many visitors to this land.

We then drove east along the coast to the village of Sheringham. Again, this town is very old and has a charming character to it. It is a port village, being at the mouth/ estuary of a river. The town is renown for is local seafood, particularly its crab and lobsters. Well, the lobsters were a bit like big prawns (We would have to throw them back if we caught them at home!!), but the crabs. mmmmmm YUMMMMM  For lunch we followed a family tradition and ordered crab sandwiches from ““Joyful” West’s Seafood Bar” and then walked back down to the shore and ate them sitting on a concrete wall overlooking the sea.

We then drove to Cromer, another small seaside village, and walked around taking in the atmosphere. Vic bought some chips and shared them around. Do you remember when you could buy chips that were peeled and cut and cooked (twice) in the shop you got them from, I do, and these were the best chips I had had since my days at Collaroy beach (and “Tom’s” dad’s burger shop!!!)

We left from there to pick-up some friends of Basil and Mary’s (Vic and Edna)who were on their way home from Majorca.

We went for dinner at a local restaurant, The Mill, down the road from the shop in Stoke Holy Cross. We had garlic mushrooms, duck, and pheasant, very nice. To accompany our dinner we had a bottle of Malbec from the Conchay Toro Winery we had gone to in Chile in January last year. Small world huh , LOL!!!!!

After dinner we went back to Basil and Mary’s for coffee and night caps. Deb had a spirit that V+V & B+M drink when they are in Majorca, it is called Yerbuss, but pronounced nothing like it is spelt!! It is a bit like pernot, but a bit lighter, Deb says “ Not too bad at 10:30pm”  J

 

 

England

Our time in UK
Crab Sandwiches with Basil, Mary, Vic, Val and Debus with Eileen, she was frozenMonica, Len and Deb - Shrewsbury Railway Stationall of us

Stoke Holy Cross, Norwich to Redditch 1 May 2009

1st May 2009

 

 We said our good-byes to Basil and Mary at around 9:50am. It has been a fantastic time over on the east coast. The weather has been good and the company even better. Basil and Mary have treated us like old friends and we hope that is what they become.

 

We arrived in Redditch around 12:30 and Val whipped up a tasty lunch from thin air. She is amazing at what she can do with little. J

Deb had her hair cut in the afternoon and otherwise we had a very quiet day.

Cliff called around in the afternoon, and we spent some time just sitting around chatting. It was great to see him again and we hope to see him tomorrow evening a well. Cliff told us Mirella had been quite sick (including a hospital visit). He is very concerned about her and we asked him to pass on our wishes and thoughts to her.

Went out for dinner at the Old Bull pub with Vic, Val and the friends, Trevor and Denise . Trevor and Denise are coming out to Australia soon and we talked to them about what there is to do and gave them an idea of the times and distances they might incur in their travels and assured Denise that Australia is not full of spiders and snakes and creepy crawlies, it is surprising how many times we have been asked about that!

Dinner was delicious. We had Moroccan Lamb and a Game Curry, all served with chips of course!!  J

After dinner we went back to Trevor and Denise’s place for coffee and tea. It was a very pleasant night. Back home, (yes Val and Vic’s place feels very much home for us) and we got to bed around 11:30pm.

Paris in 2 days and Deb’s birthday in 3  J

WE are spending tomorrow with the other half of the Fenton family, which should be fun.

 

England

Our time in UK
Val, St George & DebOur familyWonderful dinner Val is a great cookWarwick Castle

Redditch to Wythall Saturday 2nd May 2009

2nd May 2009

We had a lovely day today, it started by seeing Dante’s footy pics of his first match, we wished we could see him play, the photos were good to see though, we look forward to coming to a match when we get home.  So glad you enjoyed it Dante we look forward to hearing all about it.  smile

My cousin, Steve picked us up at 10.30am and took us to his place, was really lovely to see Catrina, Eleanor and Amity, they all made us feel very welcome, Eleanor and Amity have grown, it is over 2 ½ years since we last saw them, they are now 8 and 6 and gorgeous.   After a cuppa we set out for a nearby lake and did a treasure hunt using GPS, it was so much fun.   We had never heard of it before, later Steve checked online (they are all over the world)  and there are hundreds of them near Fullarton so when we get home we will definitely be doing lots of treasure hunts with our grandchildren.   This has been going for over 5 years, you are given clues via the internet how to find the treasure, for the second one, Steve gallantly walked across a tree that had fallen into the lake to find the treasure, found it bought it back for the girls, when they had put their names on it then he had to make his way back down the tree to put the treasure back.  razz   We thoroughly enjoyed it and the scenery was very lovely.   There were lots of men fishing at the lake, one was in camouflage, Greg couldn’t believe it, the guy  was hiding from the fish, of course Greg took a photo!!  wink

Then it was off to the pub for a drink, Linda and Keiron were there when we got there.   Was wonderful to see them both, they both looked very well was lovely to catch up on their news.   After our drink we went back to Steve and Catrina’s for lunch.    Shortly after Dee arrived with Mandy and Mike, we have not met Mandy and Mike before so it was very lovely to meet them both.   Dee looked great was really good to see her.  smile

Lunch was wonderful, Catrina had cooked all of this lovely food which we all shared around the table, I really enjoyed just listening to them all talking.   I have enjoyed the days we have spent with my family on this holiday and have some lovely memories, it is a shame we live so far apart.

Steve took us home around 6pm.   Val had cooked another lovely meal.   When we had finished Cliff and Mirella arrived to say good-bye was lovely to see them both, we chatted and enjoyed the cheese platter Val had done.     Later we said good-bye to Cliff & Mirella, Cliff said if we didn’t come back he would have to come out to Australia, what a good thought, hope you do!  wink

Went to bed around 11pm, we woke 3rd May at 5am, we thought it was 6am!   So I got out the literature we had on Paris and we went through it.   We decided to have a picnic tonight at the Eiffel Tower!!!  Yeah bring it on!!

At around 6.45am we rang Carly’s cos everyone was over to celebrate Ethan’s 2nd birthday tomorrow.    Was lovely to talk to him, we timed it well, we got to sing happy birthday to him.   Was great to chat to Carly and Ben and Mum and hear their voices and now they were all doing well.  razz

Thanks for your wishes Von, Tom how are your picks going this week?  Hope we are doing a bit better this week hasn’t been too good lately!!

Well Paris awaits, better get organised, the sun is shining and it is one more sleep!   Hope you have a wonderful birthday tomorrow Ethan, and Len happy birthday for tomorrow!  razz

Lots of love to you all from us xo

 

 

England

Our time in UK
Lucy, Nick & AlanaCrab Sandwiches with Basil, Mary, Vic, Val and DebWonderful dinner Val is a great cookGroup photo

Redditch to Paris, France 3 May 2009

3rd May 2009

 

(9.45pm) Before Greg tells you about our day, I just have to tell you that I am very excited to be in Paris, I feel like a little girl at Christmas, it is the most wonderful feeling, I have loved what we have seen, keep pinching myself! ( and I keep pinching her as well, LOL, just so she knows it really is happening) (thanks for your lovely birthday wishes Carly)

For some reason we got a bit confused this morning and thought 5am was 6am, by the time we worked it out we were both wide awake. We eventually got up at 6:30am and after a quick shower I got a coffee and by 7am Deb had the phone in her hand and was ringing Ethan for his birthday. Carly and Kieran were having a birthday party for him to celebrate being 2 on Monday (yes same day as Deb’s). We spoke to Carly, Eileen, Ben and Ethan, and then were on the line to sing Happy Birthday to him. It was wonderful to share his party from so far away.

Val cooked up a feast of an “English Breakfast” . We get so spoilt with Val and Vic, the best hosts you could ever wish for, and great friends as well.

After breakfast Deb rang Carly and again, and we got to chat a bit more with her Kieran and Ella. It’s so good to hear the joy in their voices.

We finished packing and headed off to the airport at about 10:50am. Got to the airport about 11:20 and dropped off by V & V. It is always hard saying good bye to such great friends.

We walked to the terminal and were met at the door by Cliff and Mirella. It was a great surprise. After we checked our luggage in, we went up stairs to a viewing lounge, and sat and chatted for about an hour. Time came to say good bye and as we have found out before, Cliff is a hard person to say bye to. We promised we’d be back and gave Cliff and Mirella final hugs and good-byes.

We got through immigration, bought some lunch for the flight (cheap airlines here make you buy food and drinks on board) and settled in to wait for our flight. It was about ½ hr late leaving. The plane was a twin prop Dash 8, with a seating capacity around 80, and was only 2/3 full at best.

We touched down in Paris at about 4:10pm (France time, it’s about a 1+ hr flight), and were out through immigration and customs (well no customs checks at all, for anyone) and into France proper by 5pm.

Our driver picked us up and just under an hour later we were checking in. Jays is a very nice Hotel, only 6 rooms.

Once we settled in and unpacked we went for a walk. 10m down our street, turn left onto Kleber Ave and a 10 min walk to the Arc de triumph. Wow, was how we reacted when we saw it fully. It’s huge and much more than we both expected. Right in the middle of the worlds craziest round-a-bout.  Our first photo in France was a self portrait with it in the back ground. After taking it in for a while we walked back down, Kleber, past our street to the Trocodaro where the Eiffel Tower came into full view. It was a wow moment, it’s so impressive!!!!  Along the way we bought some Quiche Lorraine, a “pizza” quiche and a slice of lemon tart for dinner, to be eaten looking at the Tower. We found a quiet bench and sat and took in the view and the action around the Tower. Food was great and the view.... We walked down through the plaza and across the Seine River and under the Tower. It is huge. After a while taking it all in, and finding the entrance for the Jules Verne restaurant (We eat there tomorrow night for Deb’s birthday)

Around 8pm we walked back to the hotel and have started to plan our first full day in Paris.  I am sure it will hold all sorts of surprises for the birthday girl.

 

Paris , France

Our first visit to Paris
The LouvreThe Eiffel TowerThe ThinkerView from the Place de la Concorde.

Paris Monday 4th May 2009

4th May 2009

Paris   Monday 4th May 2009 

Happy Birthday Deb. Your dream has come true, waking up in Paris on your birthday.

Just want to start by thanking everyone for their lovely wishes by phone, text and computer for my birthday, it helped to make it a very special day, thank you.  razz

And thank you especially for the lovely cards, I have quite a collection in our room!   My wonderful husband has spoilt me all day long ................... it has been a memorable day, one that I will never forget.   He keeps pinching me, saying we are in Paris!!  I feel really lucky.    Greg gave me a pearl necklace to start the day, I have never had anything so beautiful, I will be wearing them tonight!   The kids all gave me some pearl earrings which are also very beautiful.     And Carly put together a beautiful photo album of my family, I cried, by the end of the album I had tears streaming down my face and was thinking Carly will be pleased!!  When I told her she said mission accomplished!!  So as you can see you are all here with me in my heart!  smile

We had a late start, didn’t leave until about 9.30am we caught the metro into mmm I might let Greg do this bit, when it is done I will finish off!!  We are off to dinner in about 30 mins so I had better finish getting ready, my pearls await!!

It was a clear sunny day that greeted us as we left our hotel and ventured down to the nearest Metro Station. We caught two trains from Kleber to Bir-Hakaim to St Michel in the Latin Quarter. It’s as easy to use the Metro as it was the Subway in New York. The main thing is to know the station at the end of the line you want to catch, they use that to identify the lines.(Line numbers are used but you can’t tell which direction the train is going)

We were meeting our Paris Walking tour at 11am in front of the St Michel fountain. We got there about 10am , so we headed off to explore the area. First we walked across the Ile de la Cite up to the Pompidou Centre. We had seen it on TV but until you see it in person it’s hard to believe. It looks like an unfinished industrial/chemical/power/water building on steroids. It’s a mass of large pipes and steel framework of many and seemingly unmatched colours. As time was short, and the queues growing, we decided just to look at it for now, we may try to find time to have a look around inside later in the trip. It is a centre for modern arts in all its forms. (you can queue up to catch the escalator to the top – Catrina told us the views are good from there)  We then  walked around the neighbourhood and took in all the old buildings, streets and the people, eventually making our way back to St Michel. We checked in for the tour and went off and had a look through some touristy shops before buying a snack each. Deb had a chocolate Croissant ( just like home, but they don’t call it a  Croissant, I think it was just called a pastry...  mmmmm French doesn’t really go that far LOL) and I had a Raisin Scroll Pastry, both were delicious. The Sandeman Tour started at around 11:10am. There were about 70 English speakers there for the tour, so they split us into two groups. We got a guy named Alex.(Which was good, he came across as someone with a sharp wit and a loud voice). We then started the tour with a short description of the history of Notre dame Cathedral and then crossed over to the right bank and started to walk along the Seine. The walk was punctuated with many stops to point out various historical, and sometimes whimsical, points of interest. Alex’s knowledge and the way he presented the info was truly first class. The tour continued up through into the main square area of the Louvre. The Louvre it a majestic building and the square reminded us both of St Marks Square in Venice, just a lot smaller and squarer. We then walked through to the area in which the pyramids are located. He gave us a great talk about the competition that led to the construction of the pyramids and how they were meant to be invisible ( a promise that didn’t quite turn out to be true!! From there we walked into the back streets a bit and to an area with a few cafes for lunch. We both got ourselves a baguette, and settled in for some people watching at the window while we ate.

Def: People Watching – The national sport of Parisians. We hadn’t noticed it at first, but if you look at every sidewalk cafe all the seats on the footpath point into the street and everyone sits there looking out into the passing throng of people. Alex, our guide said “They sit there and pass judgement on your clothes, or anything else about you!!!” confused

After lunch we walked through the “Jardin des Tuileries” a very formally structured garden full of people, people watching, and then  into the “Place de la Concorde”. This was the “square” where so many people met their deaths during the French Revolution under the blade of the guillotine. It’s a huge area. The location of the guillotine is marked by an Egyptian obelisk (which was either a gift from Egypt, or stolen by Napoleon).

We then started to walk up the Av des Champs-Elysées. After a short while we walked over and sat on the steps of the Petit Palais, looking over to the Grande Palais (both built for the same exposition as the Eiffel Tower) and we were given a history lesson on how Paris was saved from total destruction by the Nazi’s in WW2. This city has sooooo much history. This is where the tour finished.

During the tour, we covered so much that I have lost track of the order we did things in, but we walked over the Pont Nuef, saw the Opera garnier, The Musee d’Orsay, Napoleons tomb, The National assemble, The Eiffel tower, Les Invalides, etc, so much in 4 hours.

We continued walking up the Champs-Elysées taking in all the shops and the views. Deb saw a pastry shop she had read about on the net, “Laduree Paris, Maison fondee en 1862”, apparently one of Paris’ finest. So we went in and got some cakes and macaroons for afternoon tea.

We then walked up past the Arc de Triomphe and down Av Kleber to our Hotel.

Inside our room was a bottle of Champagne and Strawberries I had organised before we left Australia. So we cracked the bottle and had many cheers to Deb, Us and everyone. The Hotel had also left a small gift on our bed for Deb. razz

After a while we got ready and left for dinner at the Jules Verne Restaurant in the Eiffel Tower. It was amazing. A private elevator takes you to the restaurant, 1 level above the second viewing level in the tower, 123m up.

We were seated at a window over looking the area of Paris we had spent the day exploring. We could see from the suburbs west of the Arc de Triomphe down along the Seine to well past the Ile de la Cite, and out to the hills and the Montmartre area. A truly magical view.razz

 We started with drinks, Deb had a Kir Royale, and I had a local beer.  We were then given a chef’s starter of a layered pea flavoured creation, very delicious. We then shared Frogs Legs for entre(When it was brought out it was on two separate plates and they were both works of art in presentation (Vic and Val – we thought the same thing was going to happen as occurred at the Mill, but luckily it was just the one entre split over two plates).smile

For mains, which of course we shared (swapping plates halfway through J ) Pigeon and a fish & lobster dish. Both were delicious. For desert we shared a chocolate mousse thing, and they brought out complementary biscuits and shot glass sweets.

During dinner we watched the sun go down (the sunset sort of fizzled, I guess because of the twilight) and we got to view Paris from the tower in both day light and at night. It was wonderful to see the lights of Paris take hold of the city. It gave it a whole new dimension.  At 10pm the lights on the Eiffel Tower began to sparkle. It was like an explosion of mini strobe lights going off all over the tower. It was fantastic to see from inside, it made it all appear surreal.

After dinner, we walked down a flight of stairs and out onto the 2nd level viewing area to take it all in before we left. A fantastic magical night and no better place to celebrate Deb’s birthday with her.

As we walked to the Metro station to go home, the lights in the tower sparkled again, it was 11pm (so we figure it must occur on the hour from 10pm). What a way to finish our day out!!!!

What a day, it was magical from beginning to end, thank you to my Greg and everyone else for making it special.razz

I guess the next half century begins now, better get a wiggle on, we have art galleries to see, a greeter tour and the Moulin rouge tonight!!wink

Lots of love to you all from us xo

 

 

 

Paris , France

Our first visit to Paris
View from the Place de la Concorde.The LouvreA couple of happy vegemites in ParisThe Thinker

Paris Tuesday 5 May 2009

5th May 2009

 

Today we had a late start after our late night last night at the Eiffel Tower.

We left the hotel around 9:30am, jumped on the Metro and went to see the Hotel des Invalides which houses the Museum of French Liberation and  Napoleon’s Tomb . It has one of the worlds top 5 domes(by size). The dome ceiling was decorated immaculately, just as you would expect in any great European, let alone French, building. Napoleon’s Tomb is the centre piece of the area. It is a huge Rose Marble sarcophagus sitting on a Green marble pedestal. Inside the Rose Marble sarcophagus there are for coffins, one inside the other, made of timber 2x lead and one of  tin. There was no way he was going to escape from there!!!! There is also the tomb of Napoleon’s son (I think) in the building, as well as tributes to French war heroes.

 

We then walked around the corner to Musee Rodin. The first sculpture was the Thinker!!  There it was out in the garden in all it’s majesty. It is a large statue on top of a pedestal, with its back facing the Eiffel Tower. It is placed at the centre of a very formal garden. We were both mesmerised by it and before we left the garden we stopped and just sat looking at it in a quiet place. The more you look at it the more you see in it. We both thought there was so much more than just thinking going on. The gardens were fairly large and contained many other sculptures such as Adam, Eve, The Descent to Hell (One of my personal favourites, LOL), Degas and so many more. Inside the experience continued, (the Kiss)  it was awesome if you like Rodin’s work, as we both do.

 

 

We then took the opportunity to find a cheese shop we discovered on the net, and rated as one of the finest in Paris. After a bit of misdirection, we found the shop. (We figured out we were going in the wrong direction at street number 131, the shop was at 51 (and we started walking up the street at around 70, but didn’t look at what address it was!!!) The shop was simply called “Barthelemy”, and was quite small. But the aromas that hit you as you open the door were astounding. We found ourselves in a cheese shop from heaven, but none of the staff spoke English, which poses some serious issues if you are after advice from them about the cheeses and what we like. But one way or another we succeeded and came away with a nice “Roquefort’ style blue, a strong Brie and a wonderful crumbly sharp cheddar. And to eat it on, we found some delicious looking dark bread in the window.

With our cheese in hand, we set off to the Musee d’Orsay, and the works of some old masters.

The Museum/Gallery is set in an old railway station, and so, has a huge space  to work in. It has a large sculpture court and the mezzanine galleries around it. We saw works by, Boudin, Cezanne, Courbet , Degas, Daumier, Gauguin, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh and Whistler, just to name a few. I loved seeing Whistler’s Mother, van Gogh’s Self Portrait, and Degas’s Repition d’un Ballet sur la scene (which Carly has had hanging on various walls forever.)

After looking at the works we decided the court yard was a fitting place to have our first cheese platter(or should that be “plateau de fromage”) in France, and Paris at that! The cheeses were delicious. Deb thought the Brie was more like Blue in taste (maybe we will get a milder one next time). But all in all it was a great place, wonderful company and location to have our first Parisienne “Plateau de Fromage” .

We then got a Metro from Musee d’Orsay to Invalides, changed there for line 8 to Fillies du Calvaire, to meet our Paris Greeter, Alain, for a walking tour around the Mairie Arrondissement (that’s French for Marsh district)at 2pm. We walked around the area basically bounded by the Seine on the south, the Bastelle on the east , the Pompidou Centre to the west and the Picasso Musee to the north. We were introduced to the Parisienne historical concept of Hotels. They were, back in centuries gone by, the name they used for houses. We saw some very large grand homes dating back to the 16th century, we walked into some of their court yards, many hardly changed from when they were built. We saw the largest remaining portion of the wall that used to encircle to city of Paris (I didn’t know  Paris was once a walled city either) We walked through local fresh produce markets, small (and some large) parks and really got to see how the people of Paris lived (both now and in the past). It was a great tour.

At the end of the walk, 4:30pm, we got another Metro to Charles de Gaulle Etoile (the location of the Arc de Triomphe) and walked back to our hotel. There was, as seems to be usual, a military band playing under the arc. We got to hear the La Marseillaise played, the first time we have heard it played live in France.

After a short break, we were all dressed up and back on the Metro, this time from the Victor Hugo Station (at the end of our street) and went as far as Blanche along the Porte Dauphine-Nation Line. We emerged from the underground Metro Station at our destination, the Moulin Rouge, and a nights entertainment  lay ahead of us.

There was a queue about 30m long in front of the Moulin rouge, so we hopped on the end and were inside by about 7pm, we had great seats towards the back but centre stage and unobstructed views. Dinner was served from about 7:30. We had scallops entre, beef mains (Deb’s was very tough so I gave her mine and had them replace it) and for dessert Deb had a Strawberry thing and I had Goats Cheese. To accompany all this we had a bottle of Champagne.

There was a band and singers playing before the show, while we had dinner. It looked and sounded like they had been plucked off “The Love Boat”.

The show started at 9pm. It was very flashy and the performers all had amazing costumes. But somehow it left both of us feeling a bit underwhelmed. The dancing wasn’t of a very high standard and it all just seemed a bit underdone. That being said, there was a couple of fill in acts that we both very much enjoy. The best being a duet, they brought together a mix of contortionism, dance, comedy and acrobatics, they were brilliant.

I guess we were glad we went, but probably wont be rushing out to recommend it to anyone, it’s just another thing you tick off on the things you should see in Paris, but very expensive for what you get!

We left at the end of the show and grabbed the Metro back the way we came and were home around 11:15pm

 

 

Paris , France

Our first visit to Paris
The Eiffel TowerThe ThinkerView from the Place de la Concorde.A couple of happy vegemites in Paris

Paris Wednesday 6 May 2009

6th May 2009

 

After another late night we had a late start. We got away from the hotel around 9:45am walked up to the Charles de Gaulle Etoile Station and headed to the Louvre.

After a tip from our guide on the city tour, we entered through the Porte de Lions entrance. It is a usually quiet entrance point, well away from the Pyramid main entrance and in the same wing of the Louvre as the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory and the Venus de Milo. As with all Musee in Paris, nothing is ever easy to find. But with the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, the best action is to follow the crowds!!!!!! Everyone eventually goes to see both.

Mona Lisa surprised me at its’ size, I thought it was smaller than it really is, and while you can’t actually get too close to it (and it is behind glass) it just what you expect, a plain girl with an “unusual” smile. LOL I am pretty sure she didn’t pull such big crowds when she was alive! Venus de Milo, is a special statue. She has a whole room and corridor to herself, and she needs it. Almost as many people were trying to see her in a relatively small area as were trying to see Mona. As with Mona she is everything you expect. She has a finely sculpted body (as most sculptures do) but is missing both arms, and no one knows what happened to them. (mmm guess we have all had nights like that!) But I digress. Honestly, both are truly works of art, (I guess that’s stating the obvious!) and worth putting up with the crowds to see. But remember we went on a quiet day, no large queues outside waiting to get in. At the Mona Lisa the crowd was only about 5 deep and it only took a few minutes to get to the front, and a similar experience with Venus de Milo!!

We went onto to see many works by numerous famous artists, including Delacroix’s “Le 28 Juillet. La Liberte Guidant le People”(a favourite of Brian’s), many works by Leonardo, Raffaello (aka Raphael), Rizzoli, to name a few. We also watched an old guy copying a painting by Correge. It was amazing how close a likeness he had done and the detail he was going to, to get it right. Other “copiers” we had seen in the Musee were nowhere near him for talent. To finish the Louvre, we went to see the Sphinx in the Egyptian area. It is the largest Sphinx outside Egypt.    (I didn’t like the crowds of people in the Louvre, we were there 90 mins, I had to leave – was very pleased with the art we managed to see in that time)

Once we left the Louvre, we walked down to the Musee de l’Orangerie, to see the water lilies by Monet. It is a purpose built building for the 8 large works.   (I liked it here much more, it is how you should look at art in peace in a cultured environment, not being pushed around!) The paints are shown in two oval shaped rooms with curved seating in the centre. A great place.

We then hopped on the Metro again, and went up to outside the Moulin rouge to get a walking tour of the Montmartre area. Unfortunately, not enough people showed up and they couldn’t run the tour. Luckily, I had prepared a “Tour” of our own from the Moulin Rouge, and we got it out and simply followed my guide. We walked up the rue Lepic, past the Cafe used in the film Amelie, past the last remaining windmill  (Moulins) in Paris and around past a bust Monument to an old Parisienne pop star “Dalida” and down to the last remaining working vineyard in Paris. We then went up to the top of the Mont to the Sacre Coeur. It is a beautiful church, around 100 years old (which surprised us, we thought it was a lot older). We then went around to the Place du Tetre. Its a square/park that  is home to many, many artists who ply their trade on the street. It was a fun place to walk and watch the world go by. Maybe the best people watching place in Paris. We got a gelati, and walked back down the hill. This is a fascinating part of Paris, and so very different to the rest.

We hopped on another Metro and went to the Arc de Triomphe. By this time Deb was very foot wiery, and the thought of 300+ steps to the top was a bit much, so i went to the top myself. It’s an amazing view over the whole city from the top. With the Arch being the central hub of all the great avenues of Paris, it affords sweeping views straight down the Avenues to all parts of the city. You get a real appreciation for the traffic chaos below from up there.

Back to our hotel to pick up our jackets and then we set off, again by Metro, to do a Seine river cruise. The cruise went for an hour and went up the river well past the Isle de la Cite before doing a u-turn and heading back to the left bank at the Eiffel Tower where we started. It was great to see the city from the river, it gives a whole new perspective to the buildings you see walking around, and you get to see the people of Paris being themselves, relaxed along the river banks.

We were back by 7:45pm, and had a relaxing night.

 

 

Paris , France

Our first visit to Paris
The LouvreThe ThinkerA couple of happy vegemites in ParisView from the Place de la Concorde.

Paris Thursday 7 May 2009

7th May 2009

 

Our last full day in Paris, and so much left to see, and we have planned to give it our best shot!!!!!

Our day started at 8:45am, we hopped on a couple of trains and got down to St Michele Station, and walked over to the Isle de la Cite, and onto Sainte Chapelle.

It’s a beautiful old church hidden behind the facade of other buildings. It has what is said to be the most beautiful Rose window in Paris, and it is hard not to agree.    The stained glass goes right around the church, we have never seen so much stained glass it was very beautiful.   We arrived early, so there were no queues and with our Paris pass we got straight in, it was lovely to just sit and enjoy the beautiful church.

Next we went next door to La Conciergerie.   It was a gaol in the French Revolution, a holding cell for prisoners on the way to the guillotine.   Marie Antoinette was held there.     The wealthy could pay to have cells with a bed.

Next we finally made it to Notre-Dame Cathedral, it was full of tourists, who were noisy and taking lots of photos,  sad not at all how a church should be, but in any case the Cathedral was worth visiting, it is a magnificent church, wonderful rose windows, a very intricate church.    We walked around to the back of the church to a park behind it and sat on a bench and enjoyed the view, it is the better view.   There were students sitting there sketching the church, very peaceful, much better than inside. razz

We then caught our first bus from St Michele to the the Jardin de Luxembourg gardens.   I think there are about 55 acres of garden, we sat near a fountain that had a bit of a lake around it.   The Parisians sit in chairs around the lake and enjoy the sunshine, a book or lunch, never seen anything like it before, it is very common in Paris.   We enjoyed it.   Greg went and brought us a baguette and a lovely custard thing, the French do the best breads and cakes, we have eaten far too much bread here, glad we don’t have it as lovely at home!!   We enjoyed lunch and the garden and the people watching.

We walked to the Pantheon, to get there we had to walk through a protest we think by students  of the University of Paris, it was a peaceful protest, everyone was walking in a large circle, we had no idea what they were protesting about.   Greg really enjoyed the Pantheon, especially the Foucault Pendulum, the largest of its type in the world, it measures the rotation of the earth and gives a visual representation of it.   Important people are interred here, like Voltaire, the Curies, Braille, Fleurieu  and many other great French dignitaries, one guy had his heart in a urn!!

Then we caught the Metro to St Michele, connecting to Strasbourg-St Denis connecting to St Augustin.    As we were walking to Musee Jaquemont-Andre we noticed a large church and walked out, it was St Augustines (Pat went to St Augustine’s school)   we went inside, great church, very quiet and peaceful as it should be, but it needed a bit of love and a lot of money spent on it. We enjoyed it in there and lit another candle (we must have the safest family!!)

At Musee Jaquemont-Andre – a 19th Century mansion that has a private collection of art, we took the audio tour which was very interesting, it is a very elaborate mansion that has been reasonably well kept.   We had a lovely afternoon tea after our tour, in what was the dining room, very nice!

We walked to Chapelle Expiatoire where Marie Antoinette is buried but it was closed for restoration, around it was a lovely park (there are many of these in Paris) it was full of what appeared to be Nannys with their charges, it was like something out of a movie!! It really does happen, seemed a bit surreal to me!!   Had to pick up my chin from the floor and shut my mouth!!

Next we found a Polish church with a bust of the Pope outside, we went and sat inside, it was a much smaller, almost circular church, very lovely but again in need of some love and attention.  There was a restaurant in the crypt underneath the church.

Place de la Madeleien was next a Neoclassical church called Eglise de St Marie Madaleine – a Greek style church, very large, we sat a while and lit another candle.   Outside there were great views from the steps down to the obelisk in the Place de la Concorde and onto the golden dome of Invalides.

Greg indulged me (yes again!!) wink and we walked to the Ritz, took a bit of finding but we eventually found it in Place Verdone. Was worth it.    Great square with lots of expensive brand name shops everywhere.    There was an intimidating guy stood outside the Ritz telling some school children they could not go in.   That put me off, but when they had gone, Greg walked straight in and had a look!! roll eyes He was in there for a while, he had to come out and convince me to go in with him, hard to believe I know!!! Anyhow I did, and wow, incredibly opulent, the building was over a couple of hundred years old and the furnishings were from another world.   We saw everyone having afternoon tea in the garden.    Maybe next time!! confused

We caught the metro home, after a great day.   We were very happy with how much we managed to see.    We packed our bags before going out to dinner at a local French restaurant, Restaurant Victor, a few minutes from our hotel.   The food was wonderful, more wonderful French baguette, hot tomato salad, avocado and lobster and for mains, duck and scallops, we shared an apple flan and a bottle of French chardonnay, was a lovely way to finish our last day in Paris.

We hope Carly is enjoying her 18th birthday today 8th of May, we are thinking of you. smile And we wish Ann a wonderful birthday tomorrow, we will have a cheers to you in Budapest! razz

I am sure you are sick of looking at our self portrait at the eiffel tower!! confused we are getting to adding some more, next 24 hours, promise!! we can only download 40 photos for the month, so we are a bit limited this month!!

love to you all from us xo   Budapest awaits razz

 

Paris , France

Our first visit to Paris
The LouvreView from the Place de la Concorde.A couple of happy vegemites in ParisThe Thinker

Paris to Budapest via London Heathrow Friday 8 May

8th May 2009

Yep we took the long way, but saved a lot!!

It was a slow start to the day, we got up around 7 and potted around. Deb chatted with Ben and Carly on messenger and we posted a blog.

We checked out at 9:15am and got our airport transfer. As we approached Charles de Gaulle Airport all the traffic was going nowhere, so our driver talked to a cabbie and he said there was an accident or something on the road to the airport. So we went looking for an alternative route. We arrived at the airport at around 9:45am. On the detour we took, I saw what looked like a car on fire with the police and fire-brigade in attendance.

We checked in and then queued up for emigration and security. After about an hour we got through all the border control procedures. What a pain!!

We boarded our flight on time and then sat at the gantry. It took around an hour to get all the luggage on board, problems with the luggage system, apparently.

The flight to London was uneventful and then we got put in a holding pattern for 15 minutes before we could land. We eventually landed and were in the terminal at around 1:30pm. Our flight to Budapest had final boarding at 1:45pm. We then found we had to go back through security to get to our flight. Part of our carry on got pulled aside, but no one knew why, so they put it back through the x-ray again, and they decide to check our carry-on liquids for explosives!!!! (they didn’t find any in my cream!!)

We eventually got to our gate to find that the flight had been delayed an hour.  That was a relief, we would make our flight.

Once on board the 2nd Officer apologised for the delay, and said it was because the plane had been late getting in from Paris. It was our original plane!!!!!!

The flight eventually took off at 3pm and we arrived in Budapest at 6pm local time.

Our driver was late, and eventually found us just as we were about to get a cab.

We arrived at the Hotel and found we had an amazing view down over the river and onto Pest.

After grabbing a bite to eat in the lounge, we went for a walk around the Castle area (around our hotel). We looked out from the edge and found a full moon greeting us. It was amazing to look down over the river to Pest at dusk with a beautiful, red, full moon rising.

After taking in the view, we walked around the top of the Castle district a bit, taking in all the old buildings and streetscape at night. Simply magical!!!!

It was a hard, long day’s travel, but we both agreed it was worth it.

 

Budapest Saturday 9th May 2009

9th May 2009

 

We just want to wish all mums reading this and especially our mums and our mum in Canada a wonderful Mothers day, we are thinking of you and hoping you are having a great day.   Love you lots xo

If this blog feels a little disjointed or strange, its OK, it probably is. We have both had a go at different parts of it.

In Hungary they pronounce s’s as sh, so Budapest is actually pronounced Budapesht (well it interested me!!)

We had a lovely day today exploring Budapest, we started with a 3 hour tour from the hotel at 10am, it was very informative giving us an insight into Hungarian history, it has been a very difficult one.   We drove past a lot of old historic buildings and historic sites. We started, after a dirve around the western Buda side of the city, up to the Citadel. It is an old fortress at the top of the Gellert hill, and has served many masters. The last being the Russians, before the dismantling of the old USSR. There are still relics of their occupation, in the form of old (cold war)cannons up there. Th e Citadel provides expansive views of the city and way up the eastern reaches of the Danube. From here we went into the  Grand Market Hall, a purpose built building and the largest undercover market in Europe.   Much bigger than our central market, and very lovely with all their paprika and salami, fresh fruit and meat, fish (alive in tanks) and a lot of atmosphere, but for me our market had more charm! We then made our way to Hero’s Square to see and hear about how Hungary and Budapest became what they are today. The history was fascinating. While we were there, the Budapest chapter of the Harley Davidson Owners Club had a rally meeting in the square, so many Harleys making their very distinct rumble, and their decidedly middle aged riders living out their youth again!!!

We finished our tour around 1pm, we made our way to Vaci Street and found somewhere for lunch Greg had Hungarian Goulash, it was delicious and I had chicken paprika, not as nice as Gregs.

We wondered up the street, lots of upmarket shops, and also lots of folk art shops.  Afterwards we found our way to Cafe Gerbeaud where they make great cakes, we bought a vanilla slice type cake, the custard was much lighter, delicious and a slice of an Hungarian torte that reminded me of the cakes we always had for Uncle Joe’s birthday, it also tasted just like it, yum!!

We were wandering towards the Chain Bridge to eat our cakes when we came across St Stephen’s Basilica (150 years old), we read it was closed, but were delighted to find it open.   What an amazing church, we have never been inside such an ornate church, full of gold and marble.   I can’t get over how different all of these churches are – and we have been in quite a few now and lit many a candle as we did here!   Oh yes we also saw the right hand of St Stephen it was in this glass case in a chapel at the back of the church, his hand is over 1000 years old!!!   Well there was no skin or flesh, just bones as you would expect after all of that time! 

Afterwards we made our way to the Danube, and walked along on the Pest side to the Parliament, it is a huge building very intricate from the outside.   It had closed 5 mins before we got there, so we might go back tomorrow, then we walked along the Danube, managed to put our fingers in the water! Along to the Chain bridge, we walked along, great bridge.     We caught the funicular up to the top of the Buda hill, had a quick look at the outside of the Palace and wandered back to our hotel.

At 7pm we went to dinner at Alabardos restaurant, the concierge recommended it, it was very romantic, I felt like a princess, was quite magical.   We sat in this outside courtyard, that had lots of plants, beautiful table clothes, plates and a gorgeous candle, it was very peaceful and even though it was booked out you felt like you were the only one there.   There was a musician playing classical guitar.    Our food was delicious as was the wine.    Mmm it was a memorable evening.

Hope you have all enjoyed your weekend, we join our River cruise tomorrow afternoon, so we will have a few more hours in the morning to explore on our own.    We have not had much access to the internet while we have been here.    We are hoping we can post these two blogs now, and also those photos I promised from Paris.

Keep smiling love from us xo

 

Budapest

Budapest
Hungarian Parliament House from the Danube View of Budapest from the Citadel

Budapest - On board Sunday 10 May 2009 Happy

10th May 2009

 

We started the day slowly, our last day on land, so to speak. We board the ship for our river cruise to Amsterdam this afternoon.

We rang our mum’s for Mother’s Day and wished them a fantastic day. Was really lovely to talk to them smile  We both hope my dad (Bid) is back home soon (Monday is the plan) and he stays well.

After breakfast, we went to church. Yes, that’s right, pick yourselves up off the ground, we went to church and there wasn’t a significant religious day in sight!!!! The Catholic Church next to our hotel has a choral mass every Sunday. It was amazing. The Matthias Church is about 700 years old, and is very ornately finished. It’s a beautiful church and the sounds of the choir and violins and organ were incredible. We got here 15 minutes early and got a good pew for the service and stayed for the whole service. The service started with singing at 10am and finished around 11:30. For the service, there was a head priest, 3 other priests, and about 8 or so alter “boys”. It was complete with a very smoky incense ball, lashings of holy water and solemn ceremony. They had booklets on the service at all the pews that were written in Hungarian on one side and Latin on the other. We presumed the service was in Hungarian, but it was “all Greek to us”.  confused

We then retired to the lounge at the hotel for lunch, before packing and checking out at 1pm. We got a taxi down to the Intercontinental Hotel by the Danube to join up with our cruise at 2pm. We got the bus to the boat, or is that ship??, at about 3:30pm. The name of our vessel is the Avalon Imagery, it seems comfortable and modern. Most of the people on board are either Australian or New Landers, that’s a bit disappointing, we like to have a good mix of nationalities. Our cabin is on the top cabin deck and towards the rear of the boat (and the Sundeck doesn’t extend as far as our cabin, which might be a good thing!!). We unpacked all our bags and will not have to repack for another 2 weeks, which in itself will be great.

At 6:30pm we had an introduction and on-board safety meeting, then dinner at 7:15pm. (All the ladies were given a beautiful long stem red rose as we went into dinner – for mothers day – I thought that was lovely!   It is now in a glass by the bed! razz )  The meal was very tasty, and the company interesting!!!   (but it was 5 courses!!!!   Mmm I tried to leave half of every dish, didn’t work with desert though!!)

Tomorrow we have decided not to do the tours from the ship, but to explore more of Budapest by ourselves.

We hope all the mothers in our family (and reading this)   had a great day and were suitably spoilt.   We were thinking of you razz

We leave Budapest tomorrow night (Monday  -  but mum I am not sure we leave when it is dark, might be at dusk - will let you know tomorrow night before we go to bed

Hope you all enjoy your week, hey Carly today (Monday) is going to be a great day laugh out keep smiling our little moo xo

Love to you all from us xo

 

Budapest

Budapest
Hungarian Parliament House from the Danube View of Budapest from the Citadel

Avalon Imagery in Budapest Monday 11 May 2009

11th May 2009

 

This morning the ships tour was of the city of Budapest, which we had done on Saturday, so rather than go back over the same ground we set-out on foot from the ship at around 9:30am.

The ship is birthed near the Szabadsag Bridge, so we walked along the shore to Vamhez Korut, and ran straight into the Big Market Hall, as we said before, the largest under cover market in Europe. It was very quiet by comparison to the other day we were here, so it was easier walking around. The produce looked first class and all reasonably priced by local standards.

From there we continued along Vamhez Korut to Kossuth Lajos  and then onto Karoly Krt and the Synagogue and Jewish museum. The Synagogue is the largest in Europe and the 2nd largest in the world (behind the one in New York City) and seats over 3000 people. To our astonishment, this was the first Synagogue we had ever been in. We took the tour and it was very informative, both of the building itself and to a small degree the fate of the Jews in Budapest/Hungry in WWII. The museum was full of Jewish historical items from the local area, and we would have got more from it if we had taken a tour of it, rather than walk through ourselves (or even if all the exhibits had English translations, some did, but the majority didn’t).   (on the tour of the Synagogue, we were told that there were 800,000 Jews in Hungary before WWII and only 200,000 after red face, pretty sobering, there are now 1,000,000 Jews in Hungary!)

We then walked  into and through the old WWII Jewish grotto district and up to what we thought was the Franz Liszt Museum. The building turned out to be, we think, a part of a university. It seemed to be a performance space and study area for uni students. We tried to find a way into the performance hall, where there were students practicing, but we failed!!! Despite our best endeavours.

We then walked along through Liszt Fereoc Ter, a garden plaza area full of classy looking restaurants and bars. We turned onto Andrassy Ut and walked down to the Opera House. Unfortunately it was closed for tourists until later in the afternoon, so all we got to see was the foyer which was elaborate and the gift shop. Pictures of the auditorium looked very spectacular.

We then got a taxi back to the ship for lunch, and we got charged tourist rates by the cabbie!!!

After lunch, we set off at about 1:30pm to the Parliament House for the 2pm tour. When we got there , there was a sign up saying that due to an official function or something , it was closed to tours today. However, that didn’t stop at least two group tours going through as we sat in a park nearby!!!!   You just can’t take a trick some days!!

So we decided to walk back to the ship, exploring the streets and buildings as we went.  We stopped in a park for a break and to cool down a bit (the temp is in the low 30’s) and straight in front of us was the Pest Concert Hall “Vigado”. We went to go and have a look around only to find it was shut for renovations!

We found a casino, so we went inside, they wanted ID from us to go in, so we gave them some and we were issued with a card so we could enter.   It was not very big, about 8 times the size of our lounge and dining area.   There were only about a dozen people, playing roulette and blackjack.   We only stayed a few minutes before going on our way.

We then walked past a building called the Millennium Building, so we had to have a look inside, and found a small shopping mall. We changed our last 10,000 Forint to Euro, and continued onto another old, interesting looking church. It turned out to be a Serbian church, going by the flags hanging inside. There were people inside moving statues around, and generally working on different aspects of the church. It was a simple and interesting church. A change from some of the very elaborately decorated churches we have been in. On the outside of the church I saw a plaque dedicated to Anonymous.??? I am not sure what it was all about, but I am sure someone out there has a pretty interesting tale to tell about it.

We got back to the ship, and went to our Cabin, to find it full of diesel fumes from the boat moored up against ours. The “Cruise Director “ said there was nothing they could do about it, and that it was an ongoing problem for all the boats using the riverways. So we went for afternoon tea in the lounge and played a couple of games of dominoes (Deb won both) and then played Yahtzee (I won 2:1).

Our ship sails for Bratislava the capital of Slovakia at about 6pm.

We were upstairs on the skydeck when we set off, was lovely watching Budapest as we sailed by.    We did not get the lovely spectacle that you did mum when you left as it was still very much day light.   We did get to see it though from our hotel room!

We had another lovely dinner tonight and met another 4 people, every meal there is someone else to talk to, I enjoyed the company tonight much more than last night!

We arrive in Bratislava around midday tomorrow and will go exploring in the afternoon, another adventure awaits.

It is 5.30am in the morning on Tues now for you and 10pm here, so we will say goodnight, see you tomorrow!!  razz

Lots of love from us xo

 

 

Budapest

Budapest
View of Budapest from the CitadelHungarian Parliament House from the Danube

Avalon Imagery Bratislava Slovakia Tuesday 12 May

12th May 2009

  

We sailed overnight up the Danube, apparently it poured rain around midnight, but we didn’t hear it, but we did notice the windows were wet when we woke. We approached our first lock, the Gabcikova lock, ( we have 68 locks to go through on the journey!!) at about 9am.

It was a big lock! It took our ship and three others around the same size. On my guess it was about 10 to 15m deep. After we had been sitting in it for about 45 mins we were told there was a “slight” problem causing a delay in the operation of the lock. After about an hour, it began to fill. Someone on board estimated it was filling at about 300mm every 20 seconds. I think the lock was about 400m long x 30m wide. That would give a fill rate of nearly 11000 cubic meters of water a minute. That’s a lot of water!!!

It was really strange sitting on board and watching our boat and the ones around us rise against the height of the walls of the lock, and to see the level of the river above the upstream gates.

Once the gates were opened it seemed to be a race between the four (4) boats that were in the lock to see who could get upstream the fastest, we came last, but it was a gentle ride.

We arrived in Bratislava Slovakia around 2pm, and rather than the planned 1 hour delay in disembarking, we got off straight away and did a city tour, firstly by bus, looking at the views of the city and river from various high points around the city, including the castle(every town here has a castle!) and the Russian cemetery, then on foot through the city centre. The tour was very informative and we both enjoyed it lots. Deb was particularly interested in the plaque in the street marking the location of where a witch had been burnt to death. Apparently one piece of the evidence that convicted her was her dazzling red hair (Ok, you know who you are out there, you little red haired witches in the family!!!). In the cathedral they had at some point dug a hole in the floor to do some work, and they found a medieval grave site, so they cleaned it up, added some lighting and put a thick glass plate over it, so now you can peer down into the hole (in the cathedral floor) and see the bones of at least 3 people. We saw cannon balls in houses from the times of Napoleon Bonaparte, a terrace house that was 1.3m wide and about 4 storeys tall, a few very funny bronze statues around town, including Andy Warhol, an Italian paparazzi and a guy crawling out from under a manhole cover.

We returned to the boat at around 5pm and we sail for Vienna at around 10:45pm tonight

 

River Cruise - Budapest to Ams

We cruise with Avalon Waterways from Budapest to Amsterdam
Enjoying a Bavarian Beer in RegensburgBamberg Prince Bishop's CastleChurch & Castle on the Rhine GorgeLibrary at the Abbey

Vienna Austria Wednesday 13 may 2009

13th May 2009

 

It was an early start today, starting with a sight-seeing tour of Vienna leaving the boat at 8:15am.

We drove around the city for about 1 ½ hrs and were shown the many sights of the town and given a brief history that generally explained how Vienna and Austria are as they are today. It’s a city that caters for all. It has a huge park on the fringe of the city with walking/jogging tracking, an amusement park with the biggest Ferris wheel in Europe in it (that dates back about 100 yrs, and was restored after WWII ), many international organisations call it home (OPEC, a few UN Depts, etc), many big label shops, an enormous depth of political history(from Genghis Khan to the Romans and Napoleons, as well as centuries of home grown royalty and empires,  and of course so much musical history and culture spots.

After the bus ride we were given a walking tour around the centre part of the city and into the main Cathedral, St Stephens. After the tour , we had free time to roam around as we pleased. We  (led by Deb!) headed straight to a highly rated cake shop for morning tea, and to try out a couple of local pastries. I had a Vanilla Slice (possibly the most expensive I will ever have!!!), Deb had a Cake (chocolate) that was recommended to her by the staff as being traditional Austrian fare. I had a coffee (you have to have a coffee in Vienna) and Deb had a tea. The coffee was nice, but I have had better at home.

From there we roamed around a bit more, we called into another church, St Peters  which was small and round(It was 300 years old, but the site has been a site for prayer for 1600 years). Not long after we entered, a ceremony of some sort started with 3 “priests” chanting together and in turn.

We then got the bus back and had lunch.

After lunch we boarded the bus again and headed off to Schonbrunn Palace (Andre Rau Palace that he toured with was a replica of this one). The Palace survived WWII intact despite being hit by a bomb in the main meeting area. (The bomb never exploded, which was lucky). The house basically was a history of the reigning family of Austria and the former Austrian empire, the Habsburg’s. The house was also the home of Napoleon, after he had conquered Austria, and he celebrated his 40th birthday there. Napoleon also married into the family, and his only legitimate child, Napoleon II was born to his wife from the Habsburg family.

After the house tour we walked around the huge gardens out the back of the Palace. They go on forever, and are beautifully sculptured and maintained (it takes over 300 gardeners to look after them). Later we went for a strudel making demonstration and of course a tasting with coffee. They even gave us all a recipe for it.

After returning to the boat and freshening up a bit and having dinner, we went out again for a concert in Vienna. It was held in a small “hall” specifically for river cruise tourist groups. It was a group of 9 musicians, strings, flute/piccolo,  bass, oboe, clarinet, keyboard and drums, who were accompanied at times by a couple of “opera” singers and a couple of dancers. While not brilliant musicians / performers the recital was entertaining and it was good to hear the music of Strauss, Mozart and Beethoven played in the country , and sometimes the city, of origin.

The night was completed with an Austrian tradition. We were all given a bowl of Goulash soup on arrival back at the boat. Apparently its tradition, because to attend a performance in Austria, most people have to rush home and leave without eating, so they have a bowl of this soup when they get back home.

 

River Cruise - Budapest to Ams

We cruise with Avalon Waterways from Budapest to Amsterdam
Library at the AbbeyBasilika MondseeA 1600's Wind Mill - Still working!!Downtown mondsee

Duernstein to Melk Austria Thursday 14 May 2009

14th May 2009

 

Another early start after our late night last night, we are however always one of the last down to breakfast!!  By the time we get there most people are tucking into their 3 course breakfast.    There are a few people on the cruise younger than us, then a few a bit older but the majority would be 20 or more years older, so they are putting us to shame.    But a lot of them do have a rest in the afternoon,(sometimes right where they are sitting!) something we have not done yet!  wink

Not sure if Greg has mentioned it but there are about 130 odd people on the boat, they can cater for another 30 or so, so the boat is not quite full.    This is the boats 3rd year, it is in great nick, and kept incredibly clean, the staff are all very lovely, mainly Slovacs.   Our tour director is from Holland and very efficient.    There is wine tasting tonight before dinner of the wines of the Wachau area – where we are now, we are looking forward to it.

Anyhow I digress!

It was a lovely day today.   smile The weather was not so good, but it did not detract from the day, was raining in the morning and very low cloud the rest of the day.

We started with a walking tour of Duernstein with a very knowledgeable guide, a lovely old town with only 900 people.   Cars are not allowed into the town without a permit as the streets are so narrow.

Richard the Lion Heart was imprisoned here in the castle (only a few ruins now) by Leopold V of Austria in 1192.  400 million (in todays money)  was paid by the people of England for his release!!

After our tour we went by ourselves to the Augustine Convent’s Church, it is in Baroque style, (a lot of gold).   There was a lovely balcony out from the church that overlooked the river.   

Was a lovely town to take photos in.    Yes we have no doubt taken several thousand photos already!   But we are enjoying it and they are a lovely memory for us.

Next was our lunch, it is always buffet,  as is breakfast so you can have as much as you desire!

After lunch I enjoyed chatting to Carly for a bit on facebook.  razz Messenger is not working, like the footy tipping!!  We can’t access that either, hope Ben puts our tips in for us this week, not that we are a threat to him!!   You just wait until we get back!  wink

We docked in Melk around 2pm and went by bus up to the Melk abbey, a Benedictine Monastery.    We had a tour first of the rooms of the Babenbergers, had museum pieces in, then we walked by ourselves in the abbey.    Another Baroque style church.    Had so much gold in it and alot of lovely frescos on the ceiling.

Afterwards we walked back to the boat via the town, a beautiful old town.

Now it is off to the wine tasting, will let you know how we went after dinner!! Hic!!  confused

It is now 9.35pm, we are in a lock at the moment, the second one tonight, have just put sound of music on, to get in the mood for tomorrow, it has evidently been playing all day!!   Greg has never seen it, I just want to listen to one song!!

Wine tasting was very nice Domane Wachau, we enjoyed their Riesling Smaragd Terrassen 2008 the most, was very nice.

Dinner was lovely we had some lovely company, we have an early start tomorrow, so it is off to bed  now.    Mmm a song has come on don’t remember the name, the children are singing to the baroness for the first time .............. oh yes, the sound ofmusic!! Lol

We will be singing it tomorrow, don’t think we will be hanging upside down in trees though!!  roll eyes

Sorry to hear you can’t leave messages on here Carly, hope they fix it soon cos we like your messages.

Lots of love to you all xo

Night

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

McDonalds
15th May 2009
More Updates

 We all love the updates!!  Keep them coming!!!

 

Very busy weekend for us... Dante has Footy (Auskick) at 4pm and the School Footy at South Adelaide Footy Club at 7:30pm!!

Tessa then has Ballet tomorrow Morning... then we drop them off at Ash & Kathryns for the night and we are off to see Phantom and stay at the Hyatt!!!  :-D  Jamie & Jarrad are also going with us, should be a great time.

Then we were meant to be going to the footy Sunday but we have cancelled that!! Will be time to relax!!

Looking for ward to more updates.

Luv to you both,

Ben

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River Cruise - Budapest to Ams

We cruise with Avalon Waterways from Budapest to Amsterdam
Nuremburg Cathedral "cockoo clock"Old Salzburg from the CitadelBasilika MondseeBamberg Cathedral up on the hill with moon

Linz Mondsee Salzburg Passau Friday 15 May 2009

15th May 2009

 Today was another “early “start. After breakfast we picked up a take-out lunch and were on the bus by 8:15am on our way to Salzburg. (Did I hear someone out there yodel???) Imagine yourself skipping and singing through fields of dandelions!! (mmm we never did get around to doing that).Yes, we are heading into “The Sound of Music” country!!!

After an hour on the road, passing through the Austrian alpine plains and lakes area, and seeing the odd snow capped peak poke its head through the fog, we had a short stop at Mondsee, so we could all go in and have a look at the church that was the scene of the wedding in the movie. How excited did you think we were!!!  (well  I enjoyed it!!) Actually, the town was a nice quiet little village on the shores of a lake, and all the movie stuff has helped pay for the restoration and maintenance of the church. The church (consecrated in 1487)was again in the baroque style inside with a gothic exterior. More candles were lit, and our thoughts went out there for you all.

Back in the bus and we were off to Salzburg, with The Sound of Music playing on the bus!!! On the way we passsed the headquarters of Red Bull (I didn’t know it was an Austrian company).  Salzburg is the birthplace of Mozart, and where he lived until his early teens. There is also a Citadel high up on the cliffs, and many churches. Our tour guide took us through the old part of town and gave us a pretty complete history and highlight tour. We walked through the cemetery that was recreated in hollywood  for “the movie”, it was a very well kept and flowery cemetery with many very old graves.

Once the tour was over and we were on our free time. We walked down the narrow main shopping street to the Christmas shop and bought a couple of decorations for our Christmas tree. Our collection of international decorations is growing nicely!!  Then looked in a couple of churches the Dom Cathedral built early 17th Century, where Mozart was an organist and the St Peter before heading up to the Citadel, riding the funicular to the top and took in the expansive views over Salzburg and the surrounding country-side. We could see the mountains in the distance, hanging in the air above the clouds. The fields and woods around the town were lush dark green and it was generally the sort of picture postcard scene you would expect in the alpine foothills. After we had a look around the citadel, we headed down into the town and searched out a “sausage” stand in a local market we had seen earlier in the day. We both had a spicy paprika sausage on a roll (mine was as spicy as they had and Deb had a medium). They were delicious!!! As we made our way back to our meeting point we went into the Mozart Museum, and saw the house he was born in, many family portraits, a collection of musical instruments he “may have” played and other Mozart memorabilia. We met our guide at 3pm and went back to the boat.

On the way back we drove through, no passed, the village that Adolf Hitler was born in and grew up in. Apparently he wasn’t born a Hitler (his actual birth surname is something quite different and a name that may not have been as easy to roll off the tongue as Hitler). He was adopted by his Uncle and took his name.

We arrived back to the ship in Passau at 5:15. Passau is in Bavaria, Germany. Bavaria is about 90% the size of Austria. We were sailing by 6pm for Regensburg. Its 6:15 and we are in another lock.

We have forgotten to mention something vitally important, and I know some of you have been loosing sleep over it!!! You can all relax, we have been keeping up our tradition of a “Cheese Platter” in every country we visit. Just some have been better than others. In Hungary we had it in the hotel lounge over a drink, and in Austria, it was several at the end of lunch. Time has been against us to organise anything too much more elaborate than that. But at least we are still ticking the boxes and having yummy cheeses from around the world.

 

River Cruise - Budapest to Ams

We cruise with Avalon Waterways from Budapest to Amsterdam
Old Salzburg from the CitadelChurch & Castle on the Rhine GorgeBamberg Prince Bishop's CastleGardens at Schonnbrum Palace

Weltenburg Danube Gorge & Regensburg Germany 16May

16th May 2009

 

Weltenburg Abbey Danube Gorge and Regensburg Germany Saturday 16 May 2009

We left the boat at 8.45am this morning to go and have a look at a local farmers market before hopping on a bus to go to Weltenburg Abbey and then for a cruise down the Danube Gorge. The abbey is perched on a hillside on a point on the Danube opposite some high limestone hills. The abbey is one of the oldest in Bavaria and was found by Benedictine Monks back in the year 620. The present abbey dates from the 18th century, when it was extensively rebuilt in the Baroque style.  So the inside of the church is decorated with lots of gold and many very ornate statues and sculptures , as well as highly detailed frescos and paintings. The abbey is also, and maybe most notably, the oldest abbey brewery in the world. The monks have been brewing beer there since 1050. We had a beer and pretzel, just for quality control purposes, and the product was just fine!!!! After the beer, in true Bavarian style, we went to the church for a history talk about it.

After the talk we got on a smaller boat (much smaller than the River Boat we cruise on) and sailed down the Danube for 25 mins. This section of the Danube is about the last navigable portion of the river, about 2450km upstream from the Black Sea. This was a very relaxing way to travel. After that, it was back on the bus and back to the boat for lunch.

Lunch was a Bavarian Buffet, featuring foods from the area, notably various sausages and sauerkraut. It was delicious.

In the afternoon we did a walking tour through the old part of Regensburg. Regensburg has a long history, from Celtic to roman to Austrian-Hungarian to various Germanic empires. We  saw old Roman ruins and walls, various styles of buildings and many historical sites during the  tour.

After the tour finished we set off by ourselves and had a look into a couple of churches. The first, a small chapel next to the Cathedral, drew us inside by the sound of an organist practicing. The church was simple in design and not overdone like many we have seen and been in.

From there we went next door to St Peters Cathedral. It is one the finest Gothic buildings in Bavaria and was built between the years 1250 and 1275 (the Gothic bit explains another site we saw a bit later, but I will come to that!). It was comparatively dark inside, but the stained glass windows and decoration inside were beautiful.

After that we went down and cashed in a voucher we had been given for an afternoon “snack” of Brotzeit, at a local sausage place by the river. Bavarian sausage, Sauerkraut, mustard and bread rolls all washed down with a local beer by the Danube River in the heart of Bavaria, how much more German can you get. It was all very tasty, even the sauerkraut, which surprised me.

To walk the effects of the “snack” off we went for a stroll across the oldest stone bridge in Germany, and possibly Europe. It was built in between the years 1135 to 1146. Its main purpose was to assist in the transport and trade of salt. Salt seems to have played a huge in this part of the world. From Austria to Bavaria, it has been the means of making great wealth and many wars. It took us about 15 mins to walk over and back. (Now getting back to the tease I gave earlier, just to make sure you kept reading!!) On the way over the bridge we noticed there was a largish gathering of about 100 or so young people (late teens, early 20’s....  mmm that’s young in our eyes now!!!). As we got closer and our eyes worked a bit better it seems it was a gathering of the local “Goth” community. I was going to say a very colourful gathering, but when everyone is in Black, that’s a bit of a stretch, well their hair was a myriad of colours and shapes anyway.

We got back to the boat about 4:30pm. And we were sailing away by 5:30, in reverse. We had gone up as far as this boat could go, and had to reverse back a ways, to what is called the “Centuries” Canal ( a local bit of humour there!! Apparently the canal had been planned in the 1700’s, revisited in the 1800’s, commenced building in the early 1900’s and finally finished in 1992. So the cruise we are doing has only been able to be done for less than 20 years. The canal joins the Danube with Main River and eventually the Rhine River. It is the mechanism that takes us over the continental divide and the commencement of the downstream run of our cruise. We still have over 50 locks to negotiate.

For those interested here are a few statistics about our boat. It is in its third season on the rivers and it measures 135m long x 11.4m wide and has a capacity to take 170 passengers plus crew.

By the time you read this mum it will be Sunday and your birthday, so Happy Birthday to you, we will definitely be thinking of you and having a cheers or two to you, as you know there is plenty of alcohol in every day to be able to do that on a river cruise!!  Love you lots and hope you have a wonderful day, enjoy your dinner at Vons.  razz

Can’t wait to hear how Phantom went Ben! smile

Lots of love to you all from us xo    It is off to dinner now, we are doing lots of eating, but at least we are walking a lot too!  wink

 

River Cruise - Budapest to Ams

We cruise with Avalon Waterways from Budapest to Amsterdam
Wurzburg view from our cabin at 6.30amMiltenberg view from our cabin St Stephans Cathedral BratislavaOur riverboat

Nuremburg Germany Sunday 17 May 2009

17th May 2009

 

Happy Birthday Eileen/Mum. We both hope you have been spoilt just enough, room has to be left for next year big grin. Lots of love and hugs from the other side of the world to you.  razz

We are glad to see (via Facebook) that Pat is fine and out of “Swine Flu” detention in Singapore and will be home on Thursday, and that dad/Bid is doing better.  razz

The day started with us crossing the continental divide at 8:25am. So what you say!!! Well, (he says with that knowing tone in his voice!!), this is the point at which we change from going upstream, to going downstream, and as such is the highest point of our cruise. We reached a peak height of 400m above the Black Sea Level. From here on in it is all down hill to Amsterdam. In the next 120km we will descend approximately 200m in 12 locks. At 11am  we went through the Hipoltstein Lock, it had a height drop of 24.7m, followed by the Eckersmuehlen Lock of the same change.

Going through the deep locks is an awesome experience (apart from the wait to get into the first of them, a few of us actually thought we saw the grass grow and some paint dry!!). The sounds that are given off from the combination of the boat and the lock reminded me of “Whale Song”, a real primeval sound that you have to experience to fully understand.  wink

After breakfast we found out that there had been a few delays over night at a couple of locks, and we were now 3 hours behind schedule. To get around this and get us back on timetable, we were picked up by the buses for our afternoon tour at the Leerstetten lock.

We opted out of the optional tour of the Nuremburg Trail sites, Nazi Documentation Centre and rally grounds. It just seemed like too much of a downer.  sad

The bus tour took us all around the new and old parts of Nuremburg, before stopping near the Nuremburg Castle. We had a look around the moat, (which was always too high to have water in it!!), and the outer areas of the castle, before getting back on the bus and going down to the old Market square in the middle of the old part of town. Here we were given a brief historical tour and then let off the leash and had some free time.  We walked around and had a look at the old Butchers area, marked by a “lazy” bull statue (Apparently , legend goes that if the bull ever got off its backside when the bells in the Church ring, it will be a sign of a new age for the City! To me it looks pretty comfortable where it is!), called in and sampled the local ice-cream, watched a gypsy busker, and visited 2 medieval churches, Kathousche Frauenkirche and St Sebalb’s, Nuemburg. Both were so very different from the churches we had been visiting to date. There was a distinct lack of gold ornamentation, with raw stonework sculptures predominating with murals and dark paintings to add to the medieval flavour. (beautiful)

We then got the bus back to the boat.

At 6pm we had a beer tasting session on board. I know, hard to take, but I did my bit (well Deb’s beer as well as mine!!). We (I) tasted 4 beers, a Lager, Pilsner, dark and wheat beer. They were all from small boutique breweries in Bavaria and all interesting in their own rights, but I favoured the Dark Ale (Deb disliked the Lager the least!!).  confused

And so ended another tough day cruising the rivers of Europe.

Hope you all enjoy your week, this is our last week on the river, we arrive in Amsterdam on Saturday and leave the boat on Sunday morning, it is very relaxing on the boat, just watching the beautiful green countryside go by. xo

 

River Cruise - Budapest to Ams

We cruise with Avalon Waterways from Budapest to Amsterdam
Amsterdam canal Five Bridges in a rowOur riverboatWurzburg old stone bridge over river MainDowntown mondsee

Bamberg Germany Monday 18 May 2009

18th May 2009

 This morning we left the boat around 8:30am and went for a bus tour around and through the three main parts of Bamberg. That’s the Market garden Area, the Island and the old Town.  After a running commentary on the history, past and present of the town.

The town is the only medieval town in Germany to escape the devastation of WWII, with only about 4% of the town being damaged during the war. A local theory as to why this was is very entertaining and, some may say very close to the mark. It goes that there are over 25 breweries in town, and the British and American pilots just couldn’t bring themselves to bombing such a town!!!

The more likely, but less entertaining, reason is that it was the nearby Artillery Factory that prevented planes from getting near to Bamberg.

The old town has buildings ranging from 1300 years old to around 300-400 years old. The Cathedral on top of the hill overlooking the town was built in around the year 1200, and was constructed on the site and foundations of the Babenberg Castle that had previously stood there. The Cathedral is famous, apparently (must be a German thing!) for its tombs and statues. The most “intriguing” is the full size one of a man on horseback, speculation is rife that is in fact a Statue of St Stephen!!!! (yes, the famous and geographically expansive, this guy really got around, King Stephen of Hungary). But no one can prove it one way or the other, so it may have been the sculptor’s next-door neighbour, we will never know.  But it’s all a good story, and we all know what facts do to good stories!!

Bamberg is also famous for Rauchbier Beer, mmmmmm that is smoked beer for us Australians!!! The most famous of these is the Schlenkerla Smoke Beer. (Try saying that after 3 pints!!) Yes I hear you, what is smoked beer and why?? The beer is made with malt that has been exposed to the smoke of burning beech-wood logs. The smoke is intense and aromatic, and imparts a distinctive flavour to the beer.  We didn’t try it, but our guide assures us that after 3 pints it tastes pretty good!

After the tour we walked around the old part of town, through the main plaza where there were lots of street stalls selling fruit and vegetables, flowers and assorted goods. It was a great area for people watching. While we were we had a bratwurst roll and relaxed.

At 1pm we were told that we had just left the Danube – Main canal, and that we were now on the Main River (that’s pronounced Mine River).

At 2pm there was lecture on the history of the European Union, which was enlightening, but I had heard most of it before.

At 3:20pm, went for a chefs tour of the galley, it’s a good size kitchen that works about 18 hrs a day.

The rest of the afternoon has been very relaxing looking out at the world go by as we cruise down the Main River towards our next destination, Wurzburg

 

Comments

McDonalds
18th May 2009
You didnt try the Smoke Beer!?!?!?!?!

 Hello to you both,

 

Can't believe you didn't try the smoke beer!!!!! razz You are representing us Aussies and you let an opportunity to have beer pass!!!  :-P

Glad to hear you got a bit of a relaxing day!

Lots of Luv,

Ben, Sarah, Dante & Tessa

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River Cruise - Budapest to Ams

We cruise with Avalon Waterways from Budapest to Amsterdam
Wurzburg view from our cabin at 6.30amAmsterdam canal Five Bridges in a rowA 1600's Wind Mill - Still working!!Miltenberg view from our cabin

Wurzburg & Rothenburg Germany Tuesday 19 may 2009

19th May 2009

 

We woke at 6am this morning and opened the curtain to find ourselves looking out onto one of those picturesque quintessential European river views. You know the one with the church spires and a castle in it, framed by a mirrored surfaced river in the foreground and deep blue skies in the back.

After enjoying the view from bed for some time,  we headed off to breakfast where the chatter around the tables was of the view that we, on the port side, (funny how we got to be on the Port side smile )saw when we woke.

After breakfast we boarded the buses for a short run into Wurzburg and the UNESCO list Prince Cardinals Residence Palace, a South German Baroque building of huge proportions built between 1720 and 1744. The main entrance hall has the largest single fresco ever painted on its’ ceiling. It is over 60 sq meters and has representations of the four known continents of the time. The palace is a wonder of the art and style of the time. With large amounts of stucco “sculpture” on its’ ceiling and walls, huge tapestries in most rooms and many fine pieces of art. We then went into the palace’s Chapel,  that is still used as an active church today, and is a favourite choice of the locals for weddings. It was very ornate in the Baroque style, with lots of gold and every square cm decorated.

Our guide quipped, that it is called Baroque style, because thats what the owners were once all the building was complete, Broke!!!

We then stepped out into the gardens. They were a reflection of the stature of the Prince Cardinal’s power, the garden was sculpted so that every plant and design in it was manipulated to the Prince Bishops wish. Showing he had complete control over everything, even the shape into which trees and plants grew!! This guy had a little ego problem I think!

We then walked down into the older part of town and into the Dom (otherwise known as the Wurzburg Cathedral, all Cathedrals in Germany are called a Dom). It was comparatively very simple inside, with a modern stained glass window behind the alter.

We then walked around town taking in the feel and sense of it. We walked through a market place, not much going on there, peeked into the town hall building, where they had a historic display about the devastation of WWII on the town. We saw the local “Rat Haus” and “Rat Keller”, which made me smile.

We then walked over an old stone bridge across the river, just because we could. The bridge had sculptures of saints and local old world celebrities on it. There was one  of a Pat Franconia, the local region is known as Franconia, so I had to take a pic of it.

We then walked back along the river to our ship/boat? Along the way we watched as workers tendered the vines on a steep slope below the old Castle and took in all the magical views of the town. We mused together at the sights and experiences we were having, and how lucky we were.

After lunch we were back on the bus and heading to Rothenburg, which the information notes we are given describes it as being “known all over the world as The Imperial City.” (I must have wagged that class!) We did a guided walking tour around the town, all the main sights were pointed out and some interesting historical information was given.

It is one of the most visited towns in Germany. It is a medieval wall town dating back to 13th century and the middle ages. You instantly get the “Olde Worlde”  charm of this town when you walk through one of its’ many gates and onto the cobblestoned narrow streets, past the many old building , with styles ranging from Gothic to Tudor and Renaissance. After our guided walking tour led by our “Mary Poppins” wanna-be guide (completely dressed in Orange with an umbrella to suit), After the tour we set out by ourselves and found ourselves going out through one of the northern gates and we stumbled upon a post office. So we took the opportunity and bought some postcards for the young ones in the family and posted them off. From there we went back into town, and just for something different we went to a couple of churches. They were very plain by the Baroque standards we had become used to, but simple is good. We went into the St Jacobs and the Franiscan Lutheran Church. In St Jacobs was a carved wooded alter by Tilman Riemenenschneider. It took a bit of finding, as it was hidden away at the back of the church up a flight of stairs behind the organ. It was a very impressive intricately carved piece.

We continued strolling around, eventually stopping at the “famous” and definitely HUGE Christmas shop. Deb said she felt like a 3 year old, it was a magical shop with all the lights and fantasy of Christmas. We bought a few things and then roamed a while before settling in the main square for an afternoon snack while we waited for our group to meet up again. We got back to the bus at about 4:50pm and to the boat about 5:50pm.

For the night we were entertained by the ships crew. It was a very funny show that they put on, with a range of things from “Magic” to stand-up. It was very funny and enjoyable.

I had better tidy up the matter of the smoked beer raised by Ben.  Now lets look at it this way. It’s 10am, you have just been told about this magic elixir, albeit a strange brew of dubious flavour, and you have also been told it tastes good(maybe) after THREE pints, and there is a day of exploring strange new lands in front of you. Yep, sorry folks I must have had a moment of insanity to miss the opportunity to have enough (or any)of this brew to truly enjoy it.  confused I will put it on our list of MUST do things when we come back.

 

River Cruise - Budapest to Ams

We cruise with Avalon Waterways from Budapest to Amsterdam
Wurzburg old stone bridge over river MainGardens at Schonnbrum PalaceOur riverboatWurzburg view from our cabin at 6.30am

Miltenberg Germany Wednesday 20 May 2009

20th May 2009

 

Today started very slowly, we haven’t got any thing ashore planned until this afternoon, so we got up a little late, 7:30, and had a lazy breakfast.

For the morning amusement of the passengers, Jeannette, our cruise director, has organised 10 socks to be hung out in the foyer of the boat with mystery items in them. The idea is for you to guess what they are, you can do basically anything , except open the socks up, to try and determine what items from onboard the boat are in the socks. We think we have done fairly well, maybe 8+ out of 10. But we will see to tonight and let you know at the end of this blog.

We arrived in Miltenberg at 11:30am, around an hour ahead of schedule due to us getting green lights at almost every lock we came up to since yesterday afternoon.

We decided that rather than head out straight away, we would have lunch at 12 and then not wait for the guided walking tour at 1:30pm. Instead we headed out with our orientation sheet and map in hand to discover this small village by ourselves.

Miltenberg is a pretty little medieval town with most houses being half stone and half timber construction. The town is very well preserved with cobblestone roads although-out and narrow streets. It also has the oldest inn in Germany, the Gashaus zum Riesen.

Our walk started  at the downsteam end of town and we took the first road right to get onto Hauptstrasse, the main street of town. Not to be confused with Mainstrasse, which is not the Main Strasse (I mean street) but instead the street by the Main, river that is, which is pronounced “Mine”, as per our earlier blog!!!!

We walked the full length of the main Strasse just taking in the feel of the village. Only calling into the Franziskanerkloster (Franciscan Monastery) on the way. It was again a fairly plain church, very much in keeping with the middle ages feel of the village. One thing we noted was that the people of this village must be bad!! There are less than 10,000 people in the village and this church had 16 confessionals. Now that’s a whole lot of sinning going on!!!

When we got to the end we found an old gate and tower from the original wall of the city (The Wuerzburger Gate(1379) and the Zuckmantel tower(1351)). Its great to keep running into these sorts of things, it really brings home the age and history of the towns/villages and the struggles they have all been through.

We then retraced our steps back into town and had a closer look at a few of the older historical buildings like the town Hall, the Alte Domkellerie,back past the Gashaus zum Riesen (that took some doing not calling in there!!) past the Scaffelbrunnen(which you all undoubtedly know more commonly as the Towns renaissance fountain), past the Altes Rathaus(the old town hall, I like how the town halls are called Rat Haus!!), and finally up the hill to the St Johanneskirche Church on the hill. Again this was a very plain church (read medieval) which was nice and peaceful, away from all the tourists. We then walked across the hill past an old Jewish cemetery, up to the Middenburg Castle, which dates back to 1230. It was a fortress for the church representatives of the Mainz area.  (This was a beautiful walk, there was a park on one side and views of the old town on the other – I really enjoyed this walk there was no-one around it was peaceful and beautiful)

We then walked down from the castle, past the shops (nearly!!) and up to the Gashaus zum Riesen. Yes Ben, I wasn’t going to let the team down here!!! We found ourselves a table in the shade outside and I ordered a large beer (80cl) and Deb had an OJ. The beer looked all nice and cloudy like a fine Coopers pale, but it was there that the resemblance stopped.  The yeast sediment seemed to accumulate in the glass and the further you got into the beer the more chewy it got. But at least I got through it all OK, and can now say I have a had a local beer at the oldest Inn in Germany, and I don’t have to do it again!!!

We then walked back to the boat, past the Rokokohaus on Markplazt (just looked like an old house to us)and past a few other old things and back to the boat.

Late in the afternoon on the boat they had a cookie cooking demonstration from a local woman. It was more fluff than substance, but a little fun I guess.

We set sail at around 6pm for Rudesheim.

The sock contest thing from this morning, we came joint second with 9/10, we missed called a nutmeg, called it a bean or a nut instead, silly us!!!!

We just added a few more photos razz enjoy, I am really getting into this river boat thing!!  Our tour director said tonight that people were talking to her about when they disembark on Sunday, seems all to close for my liking!!  It is such a gentle life.

Lots of love to you all from us xo

 

 

Comments

McDonalds
20th May 2009
Thats Better

 Good Morning to you both!!

 

Glad to see you have restored our Aussie Image on the otherside of the world Greg!!  smile

I think I can understand your point on the Smoked Beer, after 3 pints and it only just starting to taste "good"  it could have been a pretty tough day!!

Love the updates.

Ben

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River Cruise - Budapest to Ams

We cruise with Avalon Waterways from Budapest to Amsterdam
Amsterdam canal Five Bridges in a rowOur riverboatBasilika MondseeDowntown mondsee

Ruedesheim, Rhine Gorge, Coblenz Thurs 21 May

21st May 2009

 

We had a quiet morning cruising down the Main into the Rhine.

We arrived at Ruedesheim around 11:30am and had an early lunch before heading into town.

Ruedesheim claims to have the smallest street in German, barely 3m wide in some places and about 100m long (this is disputed by other towns, as they do! , it has a Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments, a Wine Museum, the Abbey of St Hildegard(way up on a hill) and the Niederwald Monument (a 32 tonne statue commemorating the unification of Germany back in 1871) and a cable car up to it.

The Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments was really interesting. They had everything in there from pianolas to machines you’d expect a monkey to accompany, circus machines, fully animated dolls playing instruments, and even some that played banjos, and one that played piano and had an accompaniment of 6 violins. They were truly amazing.

At the end of this (well during really) I started getting really woozy, like seasick, and decided it was best that I went back to the ship. Our cruise director organised a taxi for us and we got back ok and I spent the best part of the afternoon in bed.   (As soon as we got out the taxi, Greg was vomiting, it was not nice!!!!)  cry

Deb filled in her afternoon (in between checking on me J ) by reading my book in the lounge.

We sailed around 4.45pm, before we left the cruise director made me recheck with Greg that he did not need a doctor, but he said he didn’t.    I wasn’t going to let him get off the boat anyway, seeing we were just about to sail!!!  confused

At around 5pm we entered the Rhine Gorge and I managed to get myself up onto the Sundeck (not much sun, but a great view). It was amazing as we sailed along through this gorge and had castles on the left and right every ½ km or so. Most of them have been restored and converted into Hotels. This stretch of the river is worth doing the whole cruise for.  Just simply magical, razz needless to say we got LOTS of photos (with Deb behind the lens.) We saw the Lorelei, a steep rocky outcrop on the right as you sail downstream. You can’t actually see the real Lorelei statue, but a replica has been put on a point just a little downstream from the outcrop.

After the gorge I went back to our room and we sailed onto Coblenz. We stayed in this port until 3:30am when we left for Cologne.

 Deb went for dinner and then had a walk into Coblenz.  I took some photos of the confluence of the Moselle & Rhine rivers, the only way I could think to do it so I would remember what it was was to take a self portrait!!   Not a very good photo, but it did the job!    I enjoyed what I saw, and the sun was setting and the sky was a pretty colour, I enjoyed taking photos.  I also put my hand in the Moselle River, so have to do the Rhine now.   It was fun getting back to the boat, I had to go through 3 other ships that we were parked next to, the first boat would not let us use their lobby, so I had to go up and down to get back to our boat, I was impressed I made it without getting lost!!

When she got back she all these photos to show me of what was out there so we could at least share a little of what she had seen. What a woman J !!!!!

No need to worry Greg is feeling much better today, we are going out to explore Cologne in a minute, more on that later.    Hope you all enjoy your weekend, love from us xo   smile

 

 

Comments

CAKEE
22nd May 2009
Hope your feeling better

 Havent caught the Rhine flu have you??....sorry bad joke.

Hope very much that you are feeling better Greg. Not much fun being sick on holidays.

It is getting very interesting reading your blog posts! I have to read it a couple of times to pick out who is talking. Thankfully two of you are writing it and its not just one very warped mind!

The weather here is lovely we had a very glorious day today. Raining really heavily in QLD though.

Aiko says a very happy hello, although she said to tell you that Kieran won the couch wars.

Love

C

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River Cruise - Budapest to Ams

We cruise with Avalon Waterways from Budapest to Amsterdam
Our riverboatBamberg Prince Bishop's CastleLeaning buildings of AmsterdamSt Stephans Cathedral Bratislava

Cologne Friday 22 May 2009

22nd May 2009

 Carly, thankyou for your kind message.  Rather than “Rhine Flu”, I think it was a case of”ConFLUence”, but I quickly got better the further we got away from those disturbed waters.

We woke this morning to find ourselves still on our way to Cologne. (it was lovely lying in bed with the curtains open watching the world sail by!)   We arrived at around 9am, just after we had finished breakfast. Our walking tour started at 9:45, so we walked down to the meeting point on the Rhine, just under the bridge into cologne, a 15 min walk.

We got together with our group and set off. The guide took us up to the Cologne Cathedral, the 2nd largest (by her account) in the world. A quick google of the subject raises a few issues with her claim, but I guess every town and village we have been to on the cruise has had some claim to fame of being the biggest or next to biggest, or first or oldest  something in Germany, Europe or the world!!!

As with many, or most other parts of Europe, every time someone puts a spade into the ground they dig up something old (and worth preserving or putting in a museum) so much so that these days no one ever claims to find anything, because it invariably costs them much money.

Back to the Dom (Cathedral), it claims to have “The Golden Shrine of the Magi” (Magi = Wisemen), the Gero Cross and it does have many remarkable medieval stained glass windows. The Dom was one of the few buildings in Cologne to survive WWII relatively intact. It is a massive Gothic building with some really good gargoyles hanging off it. We went into it at midday, but there was a service going on, so we couldn’t get a good look around, but it was a very nice church.

We walked on with the tour , down to the old Town Hall. When we got there, there appeared to be 3 weddings just finished. Two were “normal” and the third, it appeared to be a cross between a service for Viking Warriors, Celtic Farmers and Scottish Highlanders. You will have to wait for the pics, they are amazing.  Next to the old town hall were a couple of archaeological digs. They had unearthed an old Jewish Synagogue and a Roman ruin all intertwined together. 

We walked more through the old parts of town getting a bit more history and folklore before the guide started to head back to the Dom to finish, so we left the tour there and headed off to the Chocolate Museum!!!

When we got there Deb ( well both of us really) decided we really didn’t need to go into a chocolate museum, so we took a short cut and went straight to the shop!!!! Yes I know, Deb found another chocolate shop!!! After getting a supply, supposedly to last through to Morocco, we left and headed back to the boat , via the Dom, as I said before.

After lunch we lazed around a bit and at 3:45 went up for afternoon tea (and cake) and waited for a planned afternoon concert.

The concert was by a Group called “la Strada”, two violins and a guitar. They were great, really talented musicians. They played a mix of classical and gypsy music, and played it very well with lots of feeling and flair. We ended up buying two CD’s from them, a memento of our cruise.

Tonight we have “The Captains Dinner”, so we are sprucing ourselves up ready for it. And it was a great night.

 

Happy birthday Georgiana, we'll have a cheers to you in Amsterdam. Have a wonderful day.

Our last day today on the cruise, it is a bit sad, I dont remember being this relaxed, must be good for you!   It will be nice to have to engage my brain again though - hope it works!!

Love to you all xo

 

River Cruise - Budapest to Ams

We cruise with Avalon Waterways from Budapest to Amsterdam
Leaning buildings of AmsterdamDowntown mondseeMiltenberg view from our cabin Wurzburg view from our cabin at 6.30am

Amsterdam Saturday 23 May 2009

23rd May 2009

 

We woke and watched the world go by for the last time on this cruise. Unfortunately, the world from our window this morning was more industrial than we had seen to date on the cruise, and there wasn’t a church or castle to be seen!!

We arrived in Amsterdam around 9:30am as per schedule. After a short docking time we were all off and onto a bus to be taken to a wharf to get a canal boat ride for a tour around Amsterdam by water.

The tour was great. It’s a fantastic way to see this city. I can see why it has got the title of the Venice of the north. The city’s waterways reminded me of both Venice, and the canals around Oxford.  The combination of narrow canals with houses and roads, combined with the numerous small lift bridges (to allow the passage of boats) was very refreshing, and so different to what we have been looking at for the last 2 weeks.

We cruised past the Anne Frank House and the queue to get into it (The queue was a block and a half long at 11am!! We even cruised past the Hotel we are going to stay in from tomorrow!! It looked good and in a great location.

After the cruise we went back to the boat for our last lunch on board and then set out again for our last tour, Volendam, a small “fishing village” north of Amsterdam.

On the way we called into an old, about 400 year old, Windmill. It was amazing. The whole mechanism that drives it is made of wood. The only thing not wood is the main axle the blades hang off, and that was changed from wood back in the late 1800’s. They can pump enormous amounts of water out of the low lying areas

The main attraction in Volendam seems to be its quaint housing and even quainter locals who dress up in traditional clothes to please tourists!! The days of being a thriving fishing village are long gone, with only a very small fleet there now. While we were there we tried a local delicacy, smoked eel. It was Ok, not as good as Tom’s smoked fish, but acceptable. We also made it into another church, St Vincent’s. It was a very plain church, both in design and fit out. But being a just a local village church it was never meant to be anything else. Even so, it had a good feel to it, peaceful away from everything. We lit 2 candles for everyone and then went back to the bus, and back to the boat.

We both hope Georgie has had a fantastic day and been totally spoilt! razz  (How’d you do in that department John??)

Thanks for the messages and emails, we love to hear from you.

Good to see the crows finally won a game, pity I didn’t pick them.  (I think I did though!)

That’s about it for the day, take care, Us xox

 

 

Comments

Georgiana
23rd May 2009
Hello

Thanks for all the birthday greetings.  They made my day.  I love it when birthday celebrations go on for days.  Today I met with Lisa, Rich, Ben, Jacob and Emily for lunch. Monday I am going to Erica's for a barbecue and then on Tuesday will meet with Katie for lunch.  Unfortunately, John, who is guardian for his sister, had to go to St. Cloud because she was hospitalized so we will have to celebrate when he gets back.  He did gather his siblings together to sing Happy Birthday to me much like we did for Emily when in Australia. 

The cherry and applie blossoms just hit their peak here last week.  Reminded me of New York which I can't believe was over a month ago.   

I am loving your blogs.  smile 

Georgiana

 

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River Cruise - Budapest to Ams

We cruise with Avalon Waterways from Budapest to Amsterdam
St Stephans Cathedral BratislavaBamberg Prince Bishop's CastleGardens at Schonnbrum PalaceWurzburg view from our cabin at 6.30am

Amsterdam sans boat Sunday 24 May 2009

24th May 2009

 

A funny sort of morning, the idea was to be up around 6:45 – 7:00 and head off to breakfast then finish packing. Well we picked a good morning to sleep in!!! I woke at 7:15, the latest yet on the whole trip, and woke Deb. We showered and dressed in record time and were done with breakfast by 8:15. It is a beautiful bright sunny day.

We returned to our room finished packing and had our bags out by 8:30, and then retired to the lounge to await our taxi, booked for 10am. While we were waiting we jumped on the net and did a little last minute research on the city. Our plan is to drop our bags at our hotel and head off to do a 3hr walking tour of the city that starts at 11:15 in Dam Square.

Our taxi arrived 30mins late and that put the walking tour in doubt. We got to the hotel at about 10:50, checked in, left our bags at reception and walked down the road and got a tram up to Dam Square. Yes, we were free in a city for less than 30 mins and we were already using public transport, who would ever have guessed!!!!  razz

We met up with the “Sandemans” tour guides and were off on the tour by 11:25. The tour started off with a walk to the Old Church (I will not use the name names here, it’s way too confusing and very hard on the spelling, and the Red Light area. We saw a few of the window “girls” and heard some interesting tales of how the district got started and a bit about the liberal laws here. The oldest “girl” working in town is 73 years old!!!! And apparently you have to make an appointment to see her!!   During the walk we passsed many “Cafes”.   In Amsterdam there are about 700 cafes that sell Hemp relate drugs, in small quantities(5g), to be smoked on the premises. We even saw stores where you could buy seeds and grow your own. It was quite strange to see people rolling joints at tables and in the cafes.   I did note that there were a lot of very relaxed people floating around town, cool  and the nearby food shops were doing a good business.  We then walked down to the old Jewish Quarter, onto the Begijnhof Convent, the  Royal Palace, we crossed the widest bridge in Amsterdam, saw the narrowest house in the city and many other sights. It’s a very interesting city. We finished the tour at a cafe across the canal from the Anne Frank House and museum.  When we got into the cafe we found a table of 6 from our river cruise, and we had passed another couple just metres from the cafe!!!!

We had lunch in the cafe. We both had the must have, apparently, Dutch cuisine called Kroketten (Crumbed, deep fried, meat filled croquettes served on bread slices with mustard). Tick, while tasty, we don’t need to have this again!!!  Lol   Before we left we booked a tour of the Red Light District for tonight.   It should be interesting.

We then walked back to our hotel, 25 mins away. It was nice to be able to get out and walk at our own pace again, and without a big group. Our hotel is a converted old merchant’s house and our room is on the first floor overlooking the Reguliersgracht Canal and a bridge.

In the afternoon we unpacked a bit and settled into our room. We got our bearings and saw about the restaurants in the area and the location of supermarkets, laundrette and things close by.   We have a nice Indonesian (yum!!!), Italian AND Fish restaurants near us. When I enquired about good “Dutch” Restaurants, the front desk guy said he couldn’t recommend any (And I got the impression that statement covered the city!!!).   (I read in the lonely planet guide that Dutch food is more about filling the stomach that titillating the taste buds!)

For dinner we went into town up near the train station to an Indonesian restaurant our guide from this morning suggested. Bunga Mawar, is a very small restaurant hidden away on Zeedijk  Straat. It was delicious, we had a samoda each followed by Satay Chicken (with what Deb rated as the best peanut sauce she has ever had, even better than mine!!!) and a Rendang Daging, with rice and stir fired veg ( and a small bowl of sabal for me J ). (Greg told me the Rendang wouldn’t be hot,   mmm he must have meant by his standards!!   But it was edible and the meat was really tasty and tender as well as hot!!)   The meal was great and after it we walked back up to the visitors information booth to meet up with our tour for the night, The Red Light District Tour with Sandeman’s.

The tour was pretty interesting, covering the history of prostitution in Amsterdam and the changes that are being implemented now. We strolled the streets, looking into the various windows, with girls  of varying ages, race, size and looks, and in the “Blue Light “ lane the “girls” had a few extra bits just to surprise you! It was interesting watching the way the windows worked and all the colour of the streets. The tour finished at about 8:30,and we were taken to a bar for shots of Jager..... (whatever it is). Deb gave me hers. A few of the younger members of the tour showed me how it was done. When I did the shot with no trouble they were impressed that an old guy could do a shot!!! If only they knew!!!  LOL Since it doesn’t get dark here until after 9pm , we decided to walk around a bit and see how this looked when the lights took hold a bit and more windows opened for business. It was all good fun and the streets were lively and full of laughs. The City council is closing down half of the remaining windows on June 1 this year, so it will change the look and feel of the area dramatically.

We eventually got a tram back to the hotel and ended an interesting first day in Amsterdam by ourselves. It reminds us both of Venice and New York. Strange mix but true, Venice for the canals and the buildings in the older parts of New York, especially the area where we stayed.   

(I (mum here Carly!!)  wink  really enjoyed the day, was so nice to be on our own again and eat different food, our room is nice and it overlooks a lovely canal, what a great place Amsterdam is and it was never on our list of places to visit, really glad our river cruise ended here.  I am very much looking forward to the next 3 days exploring this great city – hopefully go to Anne Frank’s house tomorrow)

Really glad to hear you enjoyed your birthday Georgiana. razz  Hope John’s sister is ok and that you continue to enjoy your celebrations when John gets back home. wink

It is late,  I am rather tired, so will post this now.  Hope you all have a great week.

Love from us xo

 

Amsterdam

Amsterdam
View of Amsterdam from the WesterkerkBusy Amsterdam on a Sunday afternoonView from our hotel windowThe Rijksmuseum

Amsterdam Monday 25 May 2009

25th May 2009

 

We are glad to hear that Ben, Sarah, Dante and Tessa are all OK after the very early morning fire in the “house” next door to them last night. A bit scary but it sounds like they are all OK, which was great to hear!!! razz  (We are also pleased to know that there was no-one in the house at the time)

Now for our day, smile .

Breakfast was delivered to our room at 8am and we slowly got our day going. (was very nice Carly all on this lovely china razz)

We walked down to the Rijksmuseum and arrived there about 9:45am. Only about 2 floors of the museum are open due to major renovations being carried out. But even allowing for that it took us the best part of 2 hours to go through the museum. I think it is the longest we have ever spent in a museum. The art works were totally absorbing. We stood and read about almost every piece we looked at and studied many of them very closely.  I think the second floor was the best, it had all the old Dutch masters works, particularly Rembrandt.  It is very hard to go past The Night Watch, but there were so many others that were equally as wondrous, including a special exhibition of works by Vermeer, including The Kitchen maid, Woman Holding a Balance and Woman Reading a Letter.   There was only a small area of garden outside to see, but you could imagine how the gardens in full might look and how peaceful and manicured they would be.

We then strolled down to the Van Gogh Museum. They had a special exhibition called “The Colours of the Night”. It featured the work “Starry Night”, and works representing his whole life. It was interesting to note that he didn’t develop his own distinctive style until about 4 years before his death. His art was amazing and throughout his life he sent letters to his younger brother about the works he was working on, or had planned, and described what his thought process was. It was a real insight into the life and times of a, sometimes very disturbed but, brilliant artist. I guess we spent another 2 hrs or so in there, time flew by, it’s just so interesting.

We had a late lunch there and then walked over to Vondelpark. It is Amsterdams version of Central Park in New York, it nearly gets there but just doesn’t match it. The park was full of locals of all ages enjoying the sunshine on the grass, in the gardens or around one of the many ponds. We took a little time out and just took in all the sights for a while.  Nice and relaxing.

We then set off and walked up to the Jordaan district. It is a well to do area with lots of quirky shops and cafes. Jordaan is a place of real colour and fun to walk around.  As we approached the Westerkerk we realised that we would be exploring that part of town tomorrow, so we decided to head back to our hotel.

Once back, I went back out and found some stamps to post our postcards to D +T and E +E, big grin a supermarket to get some Muesli and the local laundrette to find out the opening hours (yeah, we can wash on Thursday morning before we have to head off to the airport).

At about 5:45pm we set out to find somewhere for dinner.   We first tried a couple of restaurants recommended to us by our hotel, the first, Italian, was closed Mondays, and the second, seafood, didn’t do it for us. But the walk was worth it. We walked up through and around the Rembrandtpleis, a large plaza area, that is very cosmopolitan and so alive with young people. It is full of recycled clothing shops, “smoke” cafes, bars and various eateries. We both thought that all our children would love it.

We finally decided to try the Indonesian recommended to us. It was the best Indonesian I have had since living there! (Deb still rated the satay last night as better). The waiter, probably the owner, was Indonesian and had a great sense of humour.  We had a “Rice Plate”, which consisted of a bowl of white rice and a bowl of yellow rice, and then we got 18 very small bowls of different dishes. There were 6 mild, 6 medium and 6 spicy. (And I ordered a bowl of sambal to go with it all, just to ensure I had my fill of chilli too!!  smile ) . Before all that came out we were given 4 small appetiser dishes to whet our palates. It sounds a lot, and it was, but it was all so good. Deb stopped at the medium dishes  (the medium were a little bit too hot for me, I just couldn’t do the hot ones red face, I am sure that suited Greg though!!),   so I got to have all the spicy ones, which suited me.  So yummy!!!! The waiter was impressed with all the hot stuff being gone when he came back to clear the table.

After dinner we walked back around our neighbourhood a bit and then back to the hotel for the night and a well deserved rest.

That’s all for another busy day, our love to you all, xox

 

(Carly here is my bit here, so you don’t have to reread our blog!! J   We got up too late to go to Anne Frank Museum, so we will have an earlier night and do that tomorrow.   We were pleased at both the Museums we went to today there was very little queuing and not too many people inside, we really enjoyed them both, I think the memory of them will stay with me forever – well at least until I start forgetting everything! confused

Some observations - Dutch people are generally very tall many even taller than Kieran and Ben!!  Women too!  They are evidently the tallest white nation.    They are also generally slender, must be all that bike riding, they go crazy fast on their bikes and you are expected to get out of their way.   They do not wear helmets and it is common to see bikes with an adult and a child/ren.   We have not seen any accidents yet which is surprising with how fast they go.  

There are a lot of smokers here and the smell of marijuana often fills the air. 

Like the rest of Europe they don't have rubbish bins, remember back in the 70's when we used to put out our rubbish in garbage bags, they do that here too, there are mountains of rubbish on the side walk.    It feels like visual polution.    There is often the smell of urine on the streets too, like in Paris, but not quite so bad.   Here they have metal deflectors in the corners of buildings to try to deter people as they cause splashback!! roll eyes  It seems so odd, as Europe is such a cultural place.   

Anyhow, I love it here, really glad we came, an unexpected delight!)

 

Amsterdam

Amsterdam
View of Amsterdam from the WesterkerkBusy Amsterdam on a Sunday afternoonView from our hotel windowThe Rijksmuseum

Amsterdam Tueday 26 May 2009

26th May 2009

 

Our 8am breakfast arrived at 8:20, oh well it’s raining anyway. We left for the Anne Frank Museum at 8:40am. Our intention was to get a tram there, but we were told by a British woman at the tram stop that it was only a 20min walk, so that’s what we did, even after questioning the decision ourselves due to the rain!!

Anyway, we got there soon enough and dry to boot. On the way we ran into 4 people off the cruise and they said the museum was closed due to someone important visiting it, and that it wouldn’t open until around lunch.  We decided to go and find out for ourselves, it was only 5 mins away anyway. When we asked about it, we were told the President of Chile was visiting it and it should all be open by 10am. So we waited and they took the barriers down about 9:45 and we were a few from the front of the queue. The museum opened at 10am and we were in by 10:10am.

The museum is very well laid out and done very well. I was surprised at how big the rooms were, but I guess if there are 8 of you confined to a small space for two years, even big looking rooms get very small, very quickly!!!!   The museum brings home the tragedy of WWII and the plight of the Jews through a very personal story, something that does, whether you like it not, get very distorted when taken on the magnitude in which it all actually happened.  It’s a place everyone who gets the chance should visit, and a story everyone should read and never forget.  (I was pleased we finally made it here, it was the one thing I really wanted to do here)

From the house we went to the Westerkerk, the bells of which painted a picture of the outside world, she couldn’t have, for Anne. When we arrived the church was closed, but the tower was open, so we climbed the tower. It is the tallest tower in Amsterdam, and the views from the walk way are impressive, and would have been even better except for the rain! The church and tower were built 1489, the tower stands at a height of 85m. The church has great significance for the Dutch, it is the scene of the weddings for all the royal family. The tower also has a Carillion, (A set of tuned bells in a tower, played from a keyboard) which is played every Tuesday at noon. Unfortunately that is the plan, but the carillionist doesn’t always turn up, and today was one of those days. We did however see the bells when we climbed the tower.

After we got down from the tower the church was open. It is a very plain church, no frills. But it has a certain reverence to it. High vaulted ceilings and a floor completely made up of tombstones. Rembrandt was buried here for some time. As usual, we lit candles while we were there.  We waited until 12:20, but with the carillion not playing we set off into town to the Oude Kirk.

The Oude Kerk is in the middle of the “Red Light” district, so it’s always an interesting walk there. The Oude Kerk hosts the World Press Photo Journalism Contest prize winners exhibition every year at this time. (For those who are interested and would like a look at the photos, try this link http://www.worldpressphoto.org/ , it will take you to an online version of the exhibition.  The exhibition was amazing, so many great photos, but it was a real reality check for us, so many of the prize winning photos depicted the very worst of man’s inhumanity to man, this was particularly poignant  after visiting the Anne Frank House!  (have a look at the winning photos they go back to 1955)

The Oude Kerk itself, is no longer used as a church, but hosts various exhibitions throughout the year. It still retains all the features of a church. The high frescoed ceilings, tombstone floor, and religious fittings.   It’s an interesting place to visit just for its own merit.

After that we walked down to the Flower Markets on the Singel Canal. The stalls were a mix of brilliant blooms and buckets of bulbs. An interesting and very colourful strip.

We then walked back to the hotel and did some research for tomorrow. We plan to go to The Hague and Delft, but more of that tomorrow.

For dinner we went to a small Italian restaurant just up the street from us. It was a very enjoyable meal. We had a window table looking out over a canal to Rembrandt Square and all the street traffic that goes with the area. Our waiter was absolutely charming in a fun “flirty” Italian way. wink

As I am typing this the clouds have broken up and the sun has come out. It’s 8:30pm and it will not get dark here for another 2 to 3 hours.  Its great to see blue sky and we are both looking forward to our train trip out to The Hague and Delft tomorrow.

Take care everyone, we hope the sun is shining on you all. Keep smiling, lots of love from us.xox

 

 

Amsterdam

Amsterdam
The RijksmuseumView of Amsterdam from the WesterkerkView from our hotel windowBusy Amsterdam on a Sunday afternoon

Amsterdam, The Hague, Delft Wed 27 May 2009

27th May 2009

 

Breakfast arrived at 8am and we were away by 8:25, a quick walk and tram saw us at Central railway Station by 8:50am. We found somewhere to buy our tickets to Delft, got them on special, first class tickets for the price of 2nd class. smile

The train left at 9:11, on time, and we were in The Hague by 10:15am. We walked straight to the Tourist Info centre and got a map and the location of the main things to see. Firstly, we walked off to have a look at the Dutch Parliament House, a very old looking building with lots of style and character, then we walked around the back of it to The Mauritshuis.  This museum houses a collection of the Great Dutch Masters of the Golden Era, such artists as Vermeer, Rembrandt, Holbein, Rubens, Van Dyck and Potter are displayed here.  The main draw card for the museum is Vermeer’s “The Girl with Pearl Earring”, but we took more time that is normal for us in this museum, the Dutch Masters are very special painters.

From there we set out to go and have a look at the Noordeinde Palace and its’ gardens, but somehow we must have taken a wrong turn and finished up in front of the Esher Museum. wink This is an amazing place to experience the works of a great artist and pioneer of many fields of dimensional geometry. His works are fascinating to say the least and the physical displays of the applications of his work were lots of fun. Displays here have fun with the idea of visual perception of geometric perspective and illusion. It’s a must visit for those with an Esher bent, and for all the inquisitive minds out there.

From here we did manage to find the Noordeinde Palace and its’ gardens. The palace was shut to visitors, and the gardens could have done with a bit of TLC.

Next was a walk up past the Royal Stables, (and by the smell of them they still keep horses there!!) to the Panorama Mesdag. Initially this is an ordinary sort of museum/gallery. It had the usual period paintings by a variety of artists, a special display of black and white photography from the late 1950’s was very interesting. The big surprise however was the Panorama. It is housed in a purpose built room that is about 35m diameter and 15m high. Around the walls there is a single continuous painting covering a 360 degree view of life in a small village, Scheveningen, back in 1881. It shows the coast and the various uses of the ocean and beach, from fishing to army patrols and general beach goers, it then goes into the dunes and shows Hotels and other building and keeps going around into the village, at every stage, and progressively, you see everything that was going on in a single day at the village and its’ surrounds. The foreground, between where you stand in a central rotunda and the canvas on the wall is an artificial beach/sand dune (so you can’t see where the bottom of the painting is) and the top of the painting is hidden by the roof of the rotunda.  It makes you perceive the view as really being there. The lighting for all this is provided by a glass roof, so as the time and weather conditions change so does the way the scenes are lit, giving it a further feel of reality. We both enjoyed it very much. A commentary of the scene was given in both Dutch and English, and was accompanied by all the right sound effects, down to the seagulls. razz

By this time it was getting a bit late, so we made our way back to the train station and finished our visit to The Hague, and began our ride to Delft.

Delft is a small medieval village that is most famous for its Blue and White hand painted china ware. It is all very expensive. After a short 10 minute walk from the train station we found ourselves in town. (We followed advice we had found on the web, and just walked towards the 2 towers on the skyline. These towers turned out to be the towers of the Nieuwe Kerk (the New Church, started being built in 1396) and the Oude Kerk (the Old Church, built around 1246). The 75m high tower of the Oude Kerk has a very distinctive lean to it. It has been leaning badly for over 100 years and has survived attempts by the locals to have it pulled down. The town is dotted with old buildings everywhere, some of which you can see how they have had additions made to them over the centuries, using different materials and building styles and techniques. We also visited a museum dedicated to Vermeer, on the site of the house in which he was born (that house no longer exists). Apparently Vermeer never left Delft, and during his lifetime only every completed about 60 works. (Some of the Dutch masters did this many commissioned works in a year). We were lucky with the rain, every time it started we were on our way inside, so we managed to stay dry all day.

At about 4 pm, we got a train from Delft to Amsterdam Central and then a tram back to the hotel, arriving in our room around 5:20pm.

We got all our laundry together, (yes I guess this is our dirty laundry story, LOL) and headed out to the laundrette. Once we had it in the machines (yes 2 machines) we went for a walk around the neighbourhood. As it happens we came across a bridge Deb had written off as us never getting to this trip. The Narrow Bridge, it is said that if you kiss in the centre of the bridge you will be together for life, so we did!!! razz The bridge and its surrounding area was the scene of a great amount of persecution of the Jews during WWII, and signs with short stories about what happened are posted around the area. We eventually got back to the laundrette and put our freshly clean wet cloths into a drier and then went around the corner to an Indonesian Restaurant for dinner while they dried.  45 mins later we were back, a nice dinner eaten and dry cloths ready for folding and taking back to our room.

We leave for Morocco tomorrow, and now we can pack at our leisure in the morning. We have asked the hotel to book us a taxi for 11:15am (check-out is at 11am).

Morocco may mean we can’t up date our blog as often as we have done so far. But we will be writing the blogs everyday, so when we can get a net connection we will upload all we have done and hopefully some pictures as well.

Take care everyone, us  xox   razz

 

 

Amsterdam

Amsterdam
View of Amsterdam from the WesterkerkView from our hotel windowBusy Amsterdam on a Sunday afternoonThe Rijksmuseum

Amsterdam to Casablanca Morocco 28 May 2009

28th May 2009

 Another lazy start to our day, breakfast at 8’ish, and then we finished packing and tidying things up for our travel day to Casablanca.

We were picked up from the hotel around 11:10am and taken to the airport, about a 20 minute cab ride. We checked in Ok and then settled in for the wait for our flight. The flight is due to leave at 2:30pm, but the boarding time was set at 1:20pm, for some unknown reason. Anyway, so we went for a walk, found the gate and the found some comfy chairs, did a little people watching, had lunch and sat. Before no time, it was still an hour before we had to go to the gate for boarding!!!! Eventually we went to the gate and they opened it. When you go through emigration there isn’t any security, all the security is at each airlines gate. Anyway, Deb went through Ok and then I went through and the bells went off. I was taken to one side and was asked to put my arms out and “spread’em”! Well the guy doing the job was very thorough, if he was any more thorough, you might call it a “one night stand”! Eventually he finished with me and just cast me aside!!!    He seemed to enjoy his work!!!

We then waited for a while before boarding, and we eventually took of pretty close to on time. Deb had the window seat, me the middle and there was an old Moroccan woman sitting next to me, she was helped onto the plane, and seemed to struggle with everything from the meal to drinks on the flight. She was a sly thing, firstly she tried to get herself put into business class, but the steward wouldn’t do it, then she struggled with various parts of her meal, seeking help from those around her (including me). But when it came to get off the plane (we were afraid we would have to wait until the last passengers had gotten off to get out) she was up like a shot once the plane parked, and had everyone help her get her bag and duty free stuff down. We later saw her in a wheel chair breezing through immigration!!

Anyway we landed in Morocco around 4pm local time after a 3 ½ hour flight (we are now 9 ½ hours behind Adelaide time – we had to put our clocks back 2 hours) , and were out through immigration and customs by 5:45. Our driver met us immediately outside customs and we were taken to our hotel, The Sheraton. It was nearly an hour drive from the airport and the traffic, once we got close to Casablanca, was absolute mayhem. At one set of lights, (and it was a huge intersection) the cars wanting to turn left into a 2 to 3 lane road, had formed up in the middle of the intersection into at least  11 or 12 rows.   It looked like the start of a crash/smash’em-up derby, but somehow it all worked and they all managed to get into their lanes without so much as a scratch to any of them!! That set the tone for the rest of the trip into town. This is one city I wouldn’t like to attempt to drive in, give me Rome anyday!!!  (mmm I am not so sure about that, Rome was bad.....)

After checking –in, we went for a walk to get some water.   You can’t drink the local stuff, or even clean your teeth in it! The water in the room was about $10 for a 600ml bottle, we found a shop and got 2 litres for $2.

For dinner we went to the Moroccan restaurant in the Hotel. We had Steamed Goat and seasonal vegetables.  When it came out we were both very surprised, it was huge. I think we got about half a leg!!! It was beautiful!! The waiter showed us, in his very best sign language, that we should use the Cumin and Salt that were in a condiments thing on the table, to sprinkle over the meat. So we did, and it was so succulent and tasty. The vegies were good too. Just as we finished the main, the band started to play. Four guys, 1 on keyboards, 1 on violin and 2 on percussion. They played, you guessed it, Moroccan music, you know the old cliché music you get in any old black and white movie set in the desert.  The music was mesmerising, the beat of the drums, the cascading ring of the chime bells and the haunting sound of the violin, it was great just to sit and listen and watch as they played. After a couple of warm-up songs a Belly dancer came in and danced around the room. She was in her mid 20’s (we guessed) and had a real sparkle in her eyes.   She was very good (I think, she is the first Belly dancer I have ever seen) and she joyfully interacted with the band. Deb thought she was flirting with the lead drummer, and she was probably right. Away, it was lots of fun and an enjoyable way to introduce ourselves to this country.

 

On that note, Morocco gives us our Seventh (7th) Continent together in that last 17 months. We feel so lucky to have been able to complete all seven continents of the globe together, but to do it all in 17 months is a real buzz. In January last year we went to South America(Chile, Argentina and Brazil) and  Antarctica, then in July last year we went to Asia (Vietnam and Cambodia), and since April this year we have been to North America (USA),  Europe(England, France, Hungry, Austria, Slovakia, Germany and the Netherlands), now we are in Africa ( Morocco). We have often discussed where we each think is the best place we have ever been, but it really is to hard to pick a favourite, they are all so different and the experiences you have so varied that it really isn’t possible to rank one higher than the other, we can always think of some amazing place or thing we experienced in one country that at least equals the one we were thinking of before!!  (mmm for me Antarctica was really special, I can’t see that being surpassed!!   I have really enjoyed all of the other places we have visited, there hasn’t been one place that in hindsight I would have chosen not to go to.  I was just trying to find the words to say what I have just noticed Greg has just said underneath, so when you read the next paragraph that goes ditto for me!! Lol, that happens so often!)

It’s great to be able to do all this while we can enjoy it, and to do it with someone that loves to share in the joys of the adventure in a similar way to yourself is the stuff dreams are made of.   (ahh that is really lovely thank you!!   Mmm tad soppy!! Lol)

Tomorrow we explore Casablanca by ourselves walking and local taxis seem the go, I’m not sure how the local public transport works, but it looks like it may involve the hailing down of a donkey drawn cart!!! It should be fun anyway, lots of love from us xox

 

 

Amsterdam

Amsterdam
The RijksmuseumBusy Amsterdam on a Sunday afternoonView from our hotel windowView of Amsterdam from the Westerkerk

Morocco

Our travels in Morocco
Sewing in the MedinaIn the Fes MedinaDoing the washing - Moroccan styleOur Moroccan Cheese Platter

Casablanca Friday 29 May 2009

29th May 2009

 We must be starting to wind down a little, we slept in this morning until about 7:45. After breakfast we went to see the concierge about what there was to do in Casablanca. We asked about the new big Mosque, but because it is Friday (the biggest prayer day in the Muslim week) it was closed to non-muslims for the day. She suggested that we visit the beach, and go for a walk along it, the Medina and an old market (similar to the Medina). We also asked about “Ricks cafe”, she didn’t seem to know exactly where it was and sort of waved her fingers over the map in a general area. (This doesn’t inspire confidence!)

We decided we walk down and have a look in the Medina. It was a short 10 min walk away and when we got there they were in the middle of opening up for the day. So there was a mix of activity from , those just arriving to set up shop and those who were up and ready for business. We didn’t get hassled too much, although one guy followed us for a while wanting us to visit his shop.  At one stage an older guy in traditional dress asked us where we were from, when we told him he said “Welcome to Morocco, enjoy the Medina, the casbar!” and beamed a great smile at us. We were delighted at the welcome.  After a while we decided to head back to the hotel, but on the way back we decided to explore a bit more. We had seen some older looking areas on the way to the Medina, so we headed off to have a look around them. It was so fascinating, we wandered around for ages. We found a few food and hardware type markets, at one, in the fresh seafood area, they had live tortoises for sale, big oysters, huge squid, and so many fish I hadn’t ever seen before.  We roamed around some more, found a shopping mall area, saw a group of taxi drivers arguing amongst themselves and earlier in the day we saw a couple of cars come to grief with each other (no one hurt, and no big argument, which surprised me).

For lunch we went back to the hotel and we each had a tagine. The dish I ordered was the same as one I make at home (Mince meat balls with egg) and Deb has a lamb and dried prune dish. Both were delicious. I will definitely be getting out all our Moroccan cook books when we get home J .

In the afternoon it was a little patchy with rain and we got some more water and read a bit, before meeting up with our tour group.

Our tour group is fairly small, 28 all up plus the tour director (Abdel Kadar). We are probably around the youngest, there are others that look around our age, but most would be 60+ (being generous J ). The group are almost all Australians, exceptions being 4 from NZ and 2 from the USA, which is a bit disappointing again.  (looks like the recession is effecting the Amercians!)

The tour starts in earnest tomorrow, apparently we will get a wake-up call at 6:30am and will be leaving on the coach at 8:00am,  first up is a tour of Casablanca, then it’s off to Rabat, Meknes and eventually Fes.  But more on that tomorrow.

We hope everyone is doing well at home, well done Ben, 19 settlements all by yourself!!!!!!!

Lots of love and hugs us xoxox

 

Morocco

Our travels in Morocco
The Fes MedinaThe Camels in the dunesThe Medina TanneryRabat

Casablanca Rabat Meknes Fes Saturday 30 May 2009

30th May 2009

 

Today is the start of our tour, an early rise at 6:30am and down for breakfast around  7am.  It’s amazing how the breakfast changed from being a hotel guest to being a hotel guest with a tour group!  It’s just not quite the same!

We checked out at 8am and were on the bus and moving out at 8:15. We started the day by doing a “panoramic” of the city, a drive by with commentary. We stopped at the great Mosque of Hassan II for about 30 mins. It was long enough for us to have a good look around the outside and the forecourt. It’s a massive building, with a capacity for 25000 worshippers inside and another 15,000 outside. The building was completed in 3 years, with the workers working 24 hours a day 7 days a week. ( It still looks like they are still working on it, but the official line is that it is complete.  Everything about it is huge, giant doors and the tallest minaret in Africa at over 200m, and the list goes on, it is the 3rd largest mosque in the world. It sits on the coast with 2/3 of its structure out over the water. We continued driving around looking at miscellaneous things and we finally got on the highway north, heading for Rabat.

After 2 hours we stopped for drinks and pee stop, Abdel got some paper work done and then we drove onto Rabat.

Once there we drove up to the Kings Palace. We had a short stop for photos out in front of the Palace. During which we were told that it isn’t allowed to take photos of the police and military. (mmm Maybe a bit late??). We then got back in the bus for a short drive up to the Mausoleum of King Mohammed V. We were allowed to go inside and take photos here, and encouraged to take photos of the guards standing guard outside and inside the Mausoleum. Inside there was one guard leaning on his spear talking on his mobile, I went to take a picture of him, and he looked me straight in the eye and shook his head, I smiled and laughed and put the camera down, he returned the smile. Next to the Mausoleum was the site of what was going to be a mosque, but the King whose project it was died before it was anywhere near complete, so there is just a tower and large minaret there now. In the square they have placed around 355 roman pillars (from Meknes, they fell down there during an earthquake, so they made use of them here). Each pillar represents a day in the Islamic calendar.

We then hit the road for Meknes. Meknes is a small medieval town that is some 1600 years old. It has a large Medina and the Official Palace of the King. We visited a mosque here, one of only two mosques in Morocco open to “infidels”. It was old but very well looked after. Its walls were a mix of tiled mosaics and carved plaster. Highlights were always made with intricate patterns of wood and ceramic. It was a amazing place to visit. We also went and had a look around the towns square. It was very big, but reasonably quiet, got some nice photos of people here.

We then drove from Meknes to Fez. We went straight to our hotel and were told we were having our highlight dinner tonight, complete with “Band” and Belly dancer.

The meal was delicious. It started with a spicy soup, followed by a pastilla of chicken and almonds, followed by a Chicken  and Preserved Lemon Tagine, and finished off with Orange slices with cinnamon, and of course Mint Tea. It was a fun night and we really enjoyed the meal.  One of the guys in the band who played a drum looked alot like Freddie Mercury complete with moustache!   He had a great smile.

A little about Morocco.

Morocco has a population of around 30 million, 4 million live is Casablanca and about 2 million live in Rabat  and about 1.5 million in Fez. It is a Kingdom and a Republic. Rabat is the political capital and Casablanca the economic capital.

Morocco has a history dating back around 3000 years, and in that time they have been conquered by the Romans, the French, the Spanish, the Arabs and others, however, they are the only Muslim state in North Africa not to have been taken over by Turkey!! As a result of this all their mosques have square or rectangular minarets, rather than the more commonly known round minarets of Turkish design or influence.

We have really enjoyed the ever changing landscape in this wondrous country.

We will be able to post another blog for Sunday before we leave Fez, and then our next net access maybe Marrakech!  Love to you all ,us xox

 

Morocco

Our travels in Morocco
The Medina TanneryAn artisan at work in the MedinaUs in the SaharaThe Camels in the dunes

Fes Morocco Sunday 31 May 2009

31st May 2009

 

Our 7am wake up came at 6:30am!!! So we had an extra half hour before we had to leave for our city panorama tour (bus ride around town) and our visit to the Medina.   (and someone rang our room by mistake sometime after 11pm last night!! confused)

We saw lovely blue sky today, not sure if it was because it was Sunday and there were less cars on the road or that most factories were shut, or just the weather, but there was no smog or haze and the sky was a beautiful colour, Moroccan blue!

The bus ride was ok, we drove through the three districts of town, the new or French area, the Old district and the Jewish district (although there is no longer any sizable Jewish population). Our first stop was the Royal palace of Fez. We couldn’t go inside, the Princess was in residence and her husband the King Mohammed  VI. We had the opportunity to admire the scale and  workmanship of the Front Door to the Palace and were given permission to photograph the 3 guards on duty in front of it. They were from three different arms of the police, one was a Royal Guard in a white uniform, a civil policeman in a blue uniform and an armed services policeman in green. There was a side door some distance from us that we were told was the service entrance and not to photograph it.  

We got back on the bus and stopped at a look-out and had a photo opportunity over the medina. It was an amazing sight, I guess it was what I had always considered was quintessentially Morocco. Thousands of off-white building all crowded together within a fortress wall, the stuff movies are made of!! The Medina is over 12oo years old and has retained its current population of about 250,000 for over 20 years. There are no cars or automated transport within the Medina, it is all either by foot or mule/donkey!! (And you have to watch where you step because of that!! wink ).

 We were given a little advice before we entered the Medina. Number one, DO NOT photograph the police in blue uniforms, no explanation, just don’t!! Number two, if you lose our tour group DO NOT attempt to find it, stay put right where you are. The Medina has over 15000 streets and is literally a maze of seemingly identical streets and stalls. It could take days to get out if you got lost, or so the story goes!!!

We entered the Medina and it was not too crowded. At first it looks like any other market in Morocco, but that image is soon dispensed with the first donkey going past loaded to the hilt with goods of various forms and when you pass your first butcher shop. The butchers have all sorts of goodies for sale, from camels feet, steak and other bits, to goat and many other sorts and cuts of meat. There is seafood of almost all description and shops selling fresh chickens (I mean they pluck it for you on the spot fresh). The crafts on sale are pretty well anything you could think of, and most of it seems to be made within the Medina. We visited a tannery, where we were all offered mint to put under our noses to hide/cover the smell. It was fascinating watching the tanners at work, from liming fresh skins to removing the fur/wool, cleaning the skins and the dying and drying them. After that we went to a leather goods shop to see the finished products and be tested by the persistent sales people. We also saw what we have been told is the oldest University in North Africa, it was set-up in the Medina in the 1200’s by a woman and has been running ever since. We were taken to a carpet salesroom, where we were told the many differences and qualities of the various rug/carpets on sale. One rug Deb liked, it was about 3m x 2.5m, and very intricate and colourful was priced at 6800 euro. We also saw a mosque, we couldn’t go in, and our final stop was a weaving factory, where they made cloth and manufactured garments. We finished our visit to the Medina there. On the way out, very near the bus I succumbed and bought a traditional Moroccan garment from a street guy!! razz

In the afternoon we took an optional tour up to a hillside village where some of the inhabitants live in caves (their houses are part cave and part normal), the cave sections were very cool and stayed at an even temp all year round. We were shown around by an old guy named Mohammed, and we were taken to his house , a cave house, as part of the tour. He had a great sense of humour and made us all feel welcome. The women of the village work making buttons for the traditional dress and the men work in various forms of agriculture. The village was a really interesting insight into the daily lives and living conditions in the outlying villages.

From there we went to a ceramic factory where they make tiles for the mosaics and many other forms of pottery from plates to Tagines, all hand painted. When we arrived there were great billowing clouds of black smoke coming out of the factory. Our guide said this wasn’t air pollution, but just smoke from the Olive Husks they burn to fire the kilns.  I think they were mixing a little diesel in with the husks, and it definitely was air pollution!! You should have smelt our clothes when we got back to the hotel. So bad we had to wash them all, and that’s not good when you have to pack everything up for travel the following morning. Anyway, we wouldn’t have missed either visit. We, Deb, bought a small Blue glazed jug from the ceramic place as a memento of Fes, blue is the colour of Fes.

We get to put our clocks forward an hour tonight so we will only be 8 ½ hours behind Adelaide.   Not only do we lose an hours sleep but we are getting a wake up call at 6am, we have to have our bags outside our door by 6.30am and on the bus at 7.30am.   

And that is pretty much the end of our touring day, tomorrow night we are going by Jeep into the Sahara big grin then by camel to watch the sunset, I am really looking forward to being in the Sahara, so think of us on your first day of winter in the desert!   

love to all, us xoxox.

 

Morocco

Our travels in Morocco
The Fes MedinaUs in the SaharaOur Moroccan Cheese PlatterSewing in the Medina

Erford Morocco Monday 1 June 2009

1st June 2009

 We left at 7:30 am bound for Erford and a sunset camel ride in the Sahara.

We travelled through the plains south of Fes and gradually climbed into the Atlas Mountains foot hills. As we travelled along we saw many large orchards of citrus and apples. Where ever water touches the ground it seems to sprout greenness.  The ground must be very fertile.

As we climbed into the lower Atlas Mountains we began to see Oak and Cedar trees. The cedar trees were imported from Lebanon in the 1500’s and have done very well here in the higher, colder regions. There are monkeys living in these forests. The same monkeys were taken to the Island of Gibraltar by the British, and they have thrived there. As we drove closer to Ifrane, our first stop for the morning ( we seem to stop every 2 hrs ) the climate changed and it got a fair bit cooler. There are 2 or 3 Ski Resorts in the mountains in this area, all set up by the French during their occupation/ colonisation of the country. They looked fairly basic in amenities, but the slopes looked pretty challenging. Along the way we saw many nomadic tribes  living in tents in the country side by the road. They roam the plains with their herds of sheep and goats following the grass lands. They live in tents made of a combination of camel hides, canvas and plastic.

Ifrane  is a small town centred around its University. It seemed a peaceful place and had a mild climate. At the entrance to the town was a Lion statue carved from rock, it symbolised/memorialised  the lions that used to inhabit the area, but were hunted to extinction by the French.

Next we moved into the Middle Atlas Mountains, they have an altitude of approximately 1500m and are an area of very flat rocky plains. There are forests on the surrounding hills but the plains have little or no vegetation or agriculture. There is some sparse grazing by some very hardy nomads and their flocks. The nomadic Sheppard’s don’t always have their own stock, but sometime are employed to look after herds for others. They may get paid a flat rate or by a type of profit sharing where they get a lower flat rate  and then a share in the profits for every head of sheep or goat above 50 that they get to market.

We had lunch in a town called Midlet, a fairly insignificant and forgettable town. After lunch we climbed into the High Atlas mountains, they have a maximum height of about 4100m. They are steep rocky mountains and very remarkable appearance. You can see every layer of the strata and every  fold and fault in the mountains. They are also known for their fossil content. We have been told that this is one of the richest areas for fossils in the world, the fossils date back to the times of ancient sea some many 100’s of millions of years ago.

We drove through an Oasis town called Errachidia, the town is home to a university and an army base (Tank division). The surrounds of the town was very green due to the availability of water.

Just out of the town we passed along the lake of a dam. It was a large lake and it appeared to be held by at least 4 of 5 dam walls. The water in the lake was an amazing blue colour and made a dramatic foreground against the grey twisted geology of the mountains surrounding it.

Further along we were driving along a huge fault plain when all of a sudden the land to our right seemed to disappear into a huge river canyon, the canyon was the home to a huge oasis filled full of date palms. It went for many kms and was about 1 to 2 km wide. So lush and fertile. Each palm yields approximately 60kg’s of dates.

We then drove to our hotel in Erford. The rooms are all in small buildings house 4 rooms each, and made of rammed straw and mud/earth. They were reasonably spacious and fairly basic in amenities. We had heard/read that this was the worst of the hotels we stay at, so not too bad at all.

At 6pm we got into a land cruiser and headed off into the desert for our Camel ride to see a Sahara sunset. The drive took about 45mins and was lots of fun (even though it was pretty warm in the car). We went over mild corrugations in the roads/tracks (mild compared to some of the tracks we have done in central Australia) and through the desert sand. We finally stopped on the edge of the desert, next to a resort spa. There we boarded our camel, two to a camel. After throwing our legs over we managed to get on the camel’s back and then came the interesting part, getting comfortable!!! It just doesn’t happen, I quickly came to the conclusion that the saddles aren’t built for the comfort of the riders. Next the camel had to stand, we were asked to lean back and the camel first got onto its front legs , then with a jerking motion stood to full height. After a couple of pictures and waiting for the others to mount their camels, we set off into the dunes. The motion of the camel is undulating, very much like a sea swell, maybe that’s where they get their title of “Ships of the desert”! The motion encourages you to relax and if you can manage that it is a reasonable smooth ride. Just go with the flow. The riding technique seems to be based on trying to keep relaxed and upright, so we were asked to lean back when going downhill, and you automatically try to keep upright going uphill. After about 20 minutes we stopped and dismounted, now this would seem to be an easy process, just do what was done when you got on, but in reverse. Mmmmmm Not quite that easy, it may be all in the reverse order but it all happens at a much faster rate, seems like the camel just wants to get down the quickest way possible. Any way, we achieved the dismount with no problems and took a short walk up to the top of the nearest dune. The view was awesome. Dunes going on for as far as the eye could see and not a human mark on them. As the sun began to set, the shadows of the dunes continuously changed and the colours of the desert with them. The wind picked up a little and the desert grasses swayed and the wind formed “shadows on the sand as it swirled its way through and past the dunes. We sat and just took it all in. The moon was visible above us, a half moon over the desert. As we sat and watched the sunset, our camel guide, a Bedouin , tied Deb’s scarf around her head in a traditional manner. She became ”Deb of the Desert”.  At sunset the wind really started to pickup, and we were ushered down off the dunes and back onto our camel for the ride back to the 4WD. We took a route partly in the shadows of the dunes and out of most of the wind. The windblown sand was much worse at ground level than it was up on top of the camels. When we got back to the cars we dismounted like we’d being riding camels for what seemed like years, mmm no, let’s make that minutes !!  The Bedouin guide then sat us down next to the camel and tried to get us to buy some fossils. We eventually had to leave, but we left a tip for the guide and camel handler.

The drive back in the 4WD wasn’t quite as exciting as the trip out, but the journey at dusk had its own bumps and slides!!

A little more about Morocco. Morocco has a population of about 30 million, as I have meantioned before. Approximately 50% are <15 years old and approximately 15% are >60 years old.  There are 4.5 million children in primary school and about 400thousand in university( they have 15 universities).

We travel to Ouarzazate tomorrow. Lots of love us xox

 

 

Morocco

Our travels in Morocco
An artisan at work in the MedinaRabatOur Moroccan Cheese PlatterDoing the washing - Moroccan style

Ouarzazate Morocco 2 June 2009

2nd June 2009

Today started with a visit to some Bedouins n the desert to show us how they have engineered the water supply to turn desert into a fertile region through the use of irrigation. They literally used a system of vertical shafts to reach the water table , the tunnel between shafts to make a connecting underground tunnel system to divert water to the area they want to farm. The shafts are up to 10m deep and the shafts are about 15m apart, meaning that the tunnels connecting the vertical shafts are 15m long and from 2 to 10m deep. It’s a marvel of engingeering for what were nomadic tribes people. ( I think they may have had a little outside help with it somehow, maybe their goats gave them the good oil on irrigation and hydrology!) All the same , it was an interesting stop.

The region we are travelling through is known for its production of Saffron and it also has silver mines. To produce 1kg of saffron they need to harvest 250,000 flowers. And apparently this has to be done before daylight otherwise insects eat the stamen.

All the villages we pass through appear to be at a natural spring or permanent water locations. The larger the water source the larger the village, and hence the more agriculture.

From there we went to see Morocco’s Grand Canyon, or better known as, The Todra gorge. To get there we passed a fairly large town with a river flowing through it, we saw many women doing their washing in it. The gorge is amazing, it is very narrow (with narrower roads going into it) and has two “resort” hotels in its heart. The walls are very high and are home to thousands of small birds. There is a creek running through it, and the water is pretty cold, we saw some street vendors using it to cool drinks down. After a short stop, we hit the road again and had lunch at a roadside Kasbar. We were served what wethink may have been a Moroccan vegetable soup and then a Tagine of meat balls and egg minus the egg (guess they forgot the egg??).

After lunch we headed for Ouarzazate, the Moroccan Hollywood. Many movies have been made there, Star Wars, The Ten Commandments, Cleopatra, many French films and it goes on.  Along our travels almost every village and town in Morocco has a Souk, these are weekly markets where the locals, and some professional Souk people, trade their goods and it’s a real community event. The houses in the villages are mostly made of rock cemented together and they have either flat cement roofs , or more recently straw and dirt roofs. It’s been interesting seeing the locals doing running repairs to the homes, the weather appears to really knock them around.

The landscape in this part of Morocco is very rocky and generally barren.  The plains are very flat and as usual appear fertile if you add water. During the days travel we have passed over many creek/river crossings. The waterway beds are all very wide and it looks as though there is lots of water flowing down out of the mountains and various times of the year, and then long dry spells. The closer we get to Ouarzazate the greener the landscape is appearing, it’s not lush green, just a tinge from low lying vegetation. We passed through a town, Kelaat M’gouna, that has made its name on Roses. It produces almost everything you can think of that you can do with Roses, Rose water, soap, creams, rubs, oils, etc.

We arrived at Ouarzazate late in the afternoon and found the power in our room didn’t work, well the power points anyway. After four attempts to fix it we got moved to a suite!! 

More on Morocco. We have seen lots of grave yards during the tour , most of them Islamic grave yards. In Islam, cremation is never done and the bodies are always buried facing Mecca. The other grave yards we have seen have been Bedouin, in these grave yards the graves of men are marked with a rock facing sideways and the grave of a woman with a rock facing lengthways. Now I know that is something that has been on everyone’s mind, and I am glad to clear up the difference for you!

 

Morocco

Our travels in Morocco
Us in the SaharaThe Medina TanneryDoing the washing - Moroccan styleSewing in the Medina

Marrakech Wednesday 3 June 2009

3rd June 2009

 After we left the hotel we went to see the local Kasbah, a Kasbah is a Fortress Village, that has a protective wall all around it. We had a walk around the inside for a bit, then our local guide took us to a community oven, where the local ladies were cooking the daily bread. It seems that there are a small group of women responsible for the oven, and everyone shares it. In return they are paid either in bread or other produce for the use of the oven. We sampled some freshly cooked bread, it looked a bit like a pita bread, or thin lebanesse bread. It was pretty tasty. We were then taken to the local guides home to see how the Moroccan Mint Tea was made and to sample some (more). We are offered mint tea almost everywhere we go. The tea is basically a green tea infused with fresh mint, and the Moroccans like it sweet, and I mean sweet. They go through around 1kg of sugar each a week, mainly in tea from what we gather. The tea is very refreshing, as long as you get it without sugar.

We then left Ouarzazate for Marrakech. Our trip took us back up into the fringes of the High Atlas Mountains and then down a very, very narrow winding road with many many switch backs down to the plains on which Marrakech sits. The country side on the west of the mountains was much greener continuously than we had seen for some time. The road that we took over the mountains reached a height of 2230m and is subject to blockages in winter due to very thick snow. The roadway up top is lined with markers, the same you see in ski fields, to show the snow ploughs where the road finishes and the big drop starts!

We arrived in Marrakech around 2pm, had lunch and headed out for a city tour in the afternoon. We first went to see the cities highest structure, the minaret of a Mosque in the centre of the old part of the city. This minaret sets the height limit for the city, which means no building can be more than 5 storeys high.  From the we went to the Medina  our first call was Berber “Pharmacy”, a place of alternative Berber medicine and cooking spices. We were treated to an amusing presentation (amusing for us as we interpreted what the “Pharmacist” was saying in a literal sense from his Moroccan English. We were then taken to the main square of the medina and shown where we had to meet if we wanted to get the bus back to the hotel after our free time in the Medina. We set off by ourselves and started exploring the wonderfully colourful and sensory adventurous medina. We pasted all the snake charmers, men with monkeys, drummers, dancers and food stalls to enter the deeper recesses of the Medina. We had so much fun exploring and looking at the people and the stalls and the general goings on that we both finished up with no idea where we were or how to get back to where we had to meet the bus in about 2 minutes time!!!! I am not sure how, but we got attached to a young boy, probably 13 to 15 y.o. and asked him to help us get back to the main square. He had very little English and we had less French or Arabic. As he led us through a maze of very narrow alleys and quiet streets, but Deb and I though privately to ourselves whether we were being led into a mugging or something. But we shouldn’t have doubt the integrity of our “guide”, he had us back to familiar ground in about 18 mins (I didn’t realise just how lost we really were!!!). I gave him every coin I had in my pocket, probably around 60 Dirham (a bit over $10). He seemed pleased, at no time did he ever ask for any money, I think he just like to help and we had a broken conversation as we walked, it was lots of fun and very rewarding for us as we got back to the bus on time. We have since had lots of laughs about our little adventure.

We have a nice room and comfortable bed, so we both should get a good nights sleep.

Love to all, Us xoxox

 

Morocco

Our travels in Morocco
An artisan at work in the MedinaThe Fes MedinaDoing the washing - Moroccan styleOur Moroccan Cheese Platter

Marrakech Thursday 4 June 2009

4th June 2009

 

After a good night’s sleep we started the day with a traditional horse and carriage ride. First we were taken to the “famous” Bahia Palace, once described as the 19th century Alhambra Palace of North Africa, rich in amazing Arabic designs and construction. We were shown through a lot of the Palace, from guest quarters, to the Harem rooms and entertainment areas, where there were areas for sleeping and other areas for NOT sleeping, ;-), we saw the private Mosque and gardens and many other rooms and courtyards.  (each concubine had their own room – there were 24 rooms!  - it was really nice to be able to go inside and have a look, there are a lot of palaces here but this is the only one we have been able to see inside)

After that we got back into our carriages and went to see the Jacque Majorell Gardens, now owned and supported by a trust set up by Pierre Berge and the late Yves Saint Laurent. They are a very well manicured garden of exotic plants. There is a large collection of succulents, canes and palms throughout the gardens. It also has about 3 or 4 water features , a cafe and a museum of Moroccan Art. Unfortunately for us the museum was shut for renovations. We spent about an hour in the gardens walking and sitting and just taking in the peacefulness of it – (it was very beautiful).  smile

We were then given the option of returning to our hotel, or being taken by our horse and carriage to the Medina (and then find our own way back to the hotel). We chose the Medina. We took the carriage with Harry and Jo ( a couple from Woy Woy), and Linda. We have been told that if you take pictures of anyone, and sometimes anything, you may / will be asked to pay for the privilege, it’s the way these people make their living. We roamed the main areas of the Medina with Harry and Jo, keeping to the main areas , or not very far from them, there was no way we were going to get lost again!!   We had a great time with lots of laughs. First Jo went over to some snake charmers and Harry began videoing it. The charmers then (lost their charm and) demanded money for the video. Harry negotiated a price and then after a while had his turn near the snakes. All this time I was happily taking pics, eventually one of the “not so” charmers asked me for money, I gave him some and we walked away. Jo wanted to get a henna “tattoo” so Harry negotiated a price with a fully veiled woman and she sat down and had it applied. We had great fun taking pictures of the whole process. As Harry paid her, she grabbed Deb’s arm and quickly started applying henna to her upper arm, in the form of a flower. confused  She said for free and then demanded payment after she finished. We paid her a bit for it and the set off again. The Henna had to stay undisturbed for an hour. So we set off to look at a few more shops and get some lunch. After a short time we were looking at a menu, alongside another couple when the other couple said they had just had lunch and (he) had a hair cut and a great place down the road. He was very enthusiastic about the place (but wouldn’t take his hat off to show us his hair cut!!), so we walked down to “The Restaurant Cafe Berbere – Cuisine Traditionnelle Marocaine”,  and had a look at the menu. We decided to get lunch there. Deb and I shared a chicken tagine, while Harry and Jo had a Chicken Cous Cous each. It was a fabulous genuine Moroccan meal, so tasty and full of flavour, just what we had expected from Morocco. razz

After lunch we walked back to a prearranged spot to meet up with Linda again, and then we got a Horse and Carriage back to the hotel. Deb has a little Moroccan belly, (our travel drug bag has come in handy, we have all the right stuff to get her better again real soon!! cry ) so we are having a quiet afternoon in and be ready for the Moroccan fantasia show tonight.   (we just watched the second half of Samantha Stosur’s  semi final in the French open, it  was wonderful to see her make it that far and equally good to be watching the French open in the daytime and not the middle of the night – shame she lost, but great she made it that far  – it is the first tele we have watched, but quite a few on our tour have been watching the tennis in the evening.   It has been a really great day it equals the day we drove to Erford then went on the camels into the Sahara, we are looking forward to tonight, should be fun.   We also posted a postcard to Dante, Tessa, Ella & Ethan, think we might be home before the cards though!! razz)

At 8pm we left to see a “Moroccan Spectacular” show called Fantasia!! On the way we saw the most beautiful sunset of our entire holiday. The sun was a glowing ball of shimmering red setting behind clouds that reflected its rays. As it got closer to the horizon it looked like a steaming glowing big red ball, the sort of sunset Hollywood movies dream of!! cool

When we arrived at the Fantasia, we got off the bus and walked into the “Arena” through a guard of Berber horsemen in traditional clothes, complete with rifles. As we got further into the complex there were musicians, dancers, singers, an Arabian dwarf (I could tell that by the turban he was wearing!!) and many many people in traditional dress from all over Morocco.

The meal was served in a “Berber” tent, (a permanent marquee made to look like a Berber tent!). The meal was quite good, consisting of a Moroccan soup, then Lamb Tagine, then Chicken Cous Cous and finished with a platter of fresh fruit. Throughout dinner we had a constant stream of entertainers (we think representing each of the tribal groups of Morocco) come through our tent. They sang, they danced, they played music, they even tried to get some of us up dancing!!!  Most of the singers and dancers were teenage girls, and them and the most of the musicians looked bored for the most part of it. confused

After dinner we were told to take up seats, on concrete steps/seats to watch the show. The show was a celebration of all that is Morocco and its Berber history. There was a camel giving rides to people in the audience, and then Berber horsemen giving us a dramatic display of their talents doing all sorts of riding tricks on Very fast horses, they finished with a series of “Victory Charges” down the arena, firing their rifles as they charged. It was all very spectacular, but could have done with a little work on the flow and staging. Overall it was a fun night and we wouldn’t have missed it. razz

We got back to the hotel around midnight. We leave for Casablanca at 9am tomorrow. This maybe our last blog post until London. We will put up more pics of Morocco when we get to London.

For all those concerned, Deb is doing much better. The drugs are doing their thing!!!  razz

Hope you all enjoy your long weekend. Go Tom in the Footy tipping. wink

Love ya all, us xox  razz

 

Morocco

Our travels in Morocco
The Fes MedinaUs in the SaharaAn artisan at work in the MedinaThe Medina Tannery

Casablanca Morocco Friday 5 June 2009

5th June 2009

 Our last day of travel on our tour of Morocco.

This morning was an easy start, we left the hotel in Marrakech at 9am, and were taken to the shop of what was meant to be a high quality leather company that exports to Europe.  I guess Europe has Cheap as Chips stores as well!!! We were there for about 30 mins before we hit the road bound for Casablanca.

It was a very uneventful trip to Casablanca, which included a Pit-stop after 2 hours. Rather than go direct to our hotel (check-in times are generally 2pm) we were taken to the “beach” area of Casablanca for a lunch stop. The beach is/looks like grey bush dirt back home. Anyway, the Moroccans and French seem to like it. The beaches all seem to be private areas of the many hotels that line the coast. We had lunch at a cafe overlooking a resort pool and further onto the beaches. We had a walk along the beach and stuck our hands in the water, to touch the waters of the Atlantic on its eastern side!!

After lunch we just walked the shore front for a bit. We saw a sign to China Town, and thought it might be worth a visit, but as we got closer, and had a look down the street the sign was pointing to, all we saw was a Chinese restaurant called “China Town”!!! We walked on past that, a bit disappointed but none the less amused, and saw a cafe called TGI Friday. We thought of all of you enjoying your long weekend!

At 3 pm we drove to the hotel and checked in, we have a room on the 11th floor overlooking the pool. The only problem is that the pool is in the process of being rebuilt (and has been in that state for about 3 years from what we have heard!). This afternoon we will sort out our luggage for the flight to London and generally relax.

 

Morocco

Our travels in Morocco
An artisan at work in the MedinaSewing in the MedinaOur Moroccan Cheese PlatterThe Sahara as we saw it

Casablanca to London Friday 6 June 2009

6th June 2009

 

It was good not to get a wake-up call this morning. (mind you we had a couple of crank calls at 11pm and 12.30am in the morning!)  We finished packing and made our way down for breakfast at about 8am. We had breakfast and a few laughs with some of the people from the tour then went  up and got our stuff ready to leave at 10am. We hung around in the lobby for about 45 mins, seems the end of trips like this are spent waiting to leave.

We eventually got a shuttle to the airport and again, had to wait. We arrived at around 10:45, and our flight was due to leave at 1:40pm. The wait didn’t seem that long, we managed to say our good byes to all the people we got along really well with cry and then our flight left about on time.

We arrived at London Heathrow at about  4:30pm and were through immigration and customs by 5pm. Our transfer was waiting and we had a very interesting ride into London and to our hotel. We went through so many interesting parts of town, Kensington, Earls Court, Sloan St, etc.

Our Hotel is very nice, they asked us as we were checking in whether there was any special occasion that we were celebrating, Deb said yes, her birthday, and we thought nothing more of it. We got welcome drinks, a local beer for me (which seemed to create a stir, I don’t think too many guests here go for local beer!!)  and Deb had a soda.

When we got to our room there was a small white chocolate and raspberry cake sitting on the table with a banner in icing proclaiming ”Happy Birthday”. It was a pleasant surprise, razz so we sat down with our drinks and had birthday cake (we are celebrating Greg’s birthday  now too, seeing it is only a bit over a month away!).

After we sorted ourselves out we went out and had a look around the area, looking for a supermarket and somewhere for dinner.  Our hotel is directly across the road from “The Royal Mews” ( Her Majesty’s horse stables!!) and literally just down the road from Buck palace, we can see the Union Jack flying over the castle, so Liz must be in.

We found a supermarket, after searching around Victoria Station (reception at the hotel said there was a Sainsbury’s down there) we eventually found it and got a few things and then found a nice looking Pub for tea. We dropped the stuff back at our room and went back to the pub , “The Kings Arms” for tea. I had Fish and Chips, and a pint; Deb still feeling the effects of Morocco confused just snacked on my meal. It was nice and an easy way to start our London leg of our holiday. After tea we walked up to the front of Buckingham Palace, (no lights on inside, Liz must have gone out for tea, but not to the pub we went to sad !!) And then we came back to the room, Deb has had a bath, with lots and lots of bubbles big grin, and I have done this blog. (the bath was lovely, there was some great oil to put into it, but what I have enjoyed more it being able to brush my teeth with the local water and not using bottled water!!)

Tomorrow we are going to meet up with Linda and Keiron razz (Deb’s Cousin and hubby) and do a walking tour in Old Hampstead Village, then we thought maybe the Tate Modern Gallery and a bit more exploring.

We are glad to see Ethan is enjoying being a super-hero cool. Carly you are going to have to put in a phone box for him, that dolls house just doesn’t do it for him!!!  wink  (lol, Greg, you and Ethan crack me up!!  I was laughing out loud in Casablanca airport when I saw the photos!!   What a boy!)

(It is exciting to be in London, I am looking forward to our adventures here.)  razz

Hope you are all enjoying your long weekend, thankyou for all of your messages and emails, we love hearing all your news.

Love to you all, us xoxo

 

 

London UK

Our first stay actually in London, I mean actually IN London :-)
St Martins Theatre in the West End, The MousetrapTower BridgeHouses of Parliament from Westminster BridgeThe Royal Albert hall

London Sunday 7 June 2009

7th June 2009

We left the hotel around 8:45 and went to Victoria Tube station and sorted out the best tickets for our stay. So we are now Underground ready!!

This morning we met up with Linda and Keiron in Hampstead to do a London Walks tour of the area, and then explore a bit more of London with them. We were both looking forward to catching up with them. We caught the underground to Warren St Station and changed to the line to Hampstead. The walk was very good. It was run by an American who had lived in London for 30 years. He gave us a quick history of the area from a few ice ages ago to present day. He explained why the area is how it is, both geographically and historically, so he put everything in perspective for us.

The walk took us through some beautiful old areas of Hampstead, and to the highest point in Greater London, at about 427 ft. We walked past a very famous, and now national trust residence, “Fenton House”. Deb just had to have a photo out in front of it. We walked through heath lands and wooded areas. There were water ponds with all sorts of birdlife and many historically significant houses, even if it was only for the people that live in them.  We stopped out in front of one house and the resident of it came out and gave us a bit of a talk about everything and anything. He was a bit eccentric, name dropped a lot, and was a lot of fun.  We finished the walk next to a cemetery in a well preserved Victorian street, and then we went to a local pub, “The Flask” for lunch.

After lunch we got the tube into London Bridge Station, and walked around to the Tate Modern. We passed the Golden Hind, a replica of Sir Francis Drakes boat, passed the replica of Shakespeare Globe Theatre and onto the gallery. The gallery was interesting, but not the best we have been to. Deb found the third statue of The Kiss by Rodin on the top floor of the gallery. That means we have now seen all three statues of The Kiss that Rodin made. One in NY, one in Paris and the third here, J We also saw some Warhol, Pollock, Matisse and Cezanne which we enjoyed, there was also quite a few Picassos.

From the Tate we walked across the Millennium Bridge to St Pauls Cathedral.   We got in for free (maybe because it was Sunday?) and were there in time to see/hear a ½ hour organ recital by a “famous” American organist. We got to sit under the dome of the Cathedral to listen to it. The acoustics were magic, the music debatable!! roll eyes  (It is a very beautiful church, glad we got to see it, we lit some more candles for you all smile)

We then went for coffee before Linda and Keiron had to leave. It was so good to spend some time with them. We always enjoy seeing them and exploring with them. It was sad to see them go.

We then walked to a tube station and got a train to Tower Hill Station, near the Tower of London. We went to a pub for tea and then at 7:30 went on another London Walks walking tour. This one was on “Jack the Ripper”, walking the streets in which he committed his murders and seeing the sites and locations of all things to do with the crimes. The tour was done by a guy named Donald Rumbelow who is a renowned authority on Jack the Ripper , and has written the definitive book on the subject. The tour was very good and he took us back to the times and painted very vivid pictures of the life and times of the period.  (We also got to see a bit of the east end of London which we might not otherwise have done)

After that, at around 9:45pm, we got a tube from Liverpool Station (its’ beginning to sound like a Monopoly Board) back to Victoria Station and had a short walk to the hotel to finish a very interesting and fun day out.

Congratulations Pat on your new job (GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technician for Sensis working on the maps for www.whereis.com)  we will be thinking of you tomorrow)  big grin

We are off for a three hour tour of London this morning, then some sight seeing before heading off to see the Mousetrap tonight.

Love to all, us xox

 

London UK

Our first stay actually in London, I mean actually IN London :-)
St Martins Theatre in the West End, The MousetrapTower BridgeSohoMillennium Bridge and St Pauls Cathedral

London Monday 8 June 2009

8th June 2009

 

We got away at about 9:15 this morning with our sights  set on doing a walking tour of London with the same company we have done them with in Paris and Amsterdam.  But alas, at the designated time and place, there was no-one from the company to be seen anywhere. So we decided to make it up ourselves based on the info from their website. (I just looked up their website, seems that they have changed the time to 3pm since I printed out the info on their tour, mmm next time I will check!! confused)

We managed to change the route a little to suite ourselves, but we both missed the commentary that is provided on the tours, they give you so much more than just a walk around, you find out about the history and significance of the things and areas you walk by and through.

We started by having a look at a few buildings around the start point, Tower Hill Underground Station. We then walked over the Tower Bridge (we discovered that Tower Bridge is best photographed from afar, its’ dimensions make it hard to get a good close up pic), something we have wanted to do for some time. We then walked along the banks of the Thames to London Bridge (not an impressive bridge at all, modern concrete variety) and back over to the London banks of the river. We then walked to the right and up to “The Monument”. It’s Sir Christopher Wren's flame-topped monument to the Great Fire of 1666. It’s very tall, but unfortunately, it’s now surrounded by many much taller buildings and is sort of out of the way.

We then walked west  to find “Mansion House”, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London, but we couldn’t see it anywhere, so we kept on walking up to “The Temple”. Yes, all you conspiracy theorists, this is the site of “The Knights Templar’s Church in London, made famous (or is that Infamous?) by “that” book. You guessed it, it was closed until 12:30, and we had too much to do rather than hang around for it. The church is now in the middle of a major area of “Law Chambers”  (it was the most delightful area, really large, well worth wandering around, I have never seen so many law chambers before there are hundreds of them if not more!)   and the gardens around it are immaculate. Deb had a wonderful time with the camera taking pics of the flowers razz. Once I could drag her away from the gardens we stopped at a local pub for lunch, thinking that because of the neighbourhood, the food should be pretty good. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case, which was a bit disappointing. But we survived!!!

We then walked along The Strand and straight past the Roman Baths without seeing them!!!! But we did find Somerset House! The central court was in the early stages of being set up for Fashion Week, so there were a few workmen around setting up staging. The fountain in the centre court was pretty interesting, with hundreds of individual jets of water. We went into the House and had a look over The Thames from the front balcony, looks like a great place for lunch, and they advertise dusk drinks and snacks, which looks and sounds like a good idea, maybe next time. We also had a look at a photographic exhibition in the house, the photos were great, and Deb delighted in pointing out that one was of the gardens in “Fenton House” razz that we had seen yesterday.  (Somerset house -  another wonderful place we stumbled across it was lovely just wandering around)

From there we walked up to Covent Garden. It’s a very busy place, full of shoppers and tourists. We watched a couple of buskers for a while, one who was singing Italian Opera pieces to people dining at one of the cafes, and another tied up in chains outside. We had a look through the stalls and the market, but it was the same things you get pretty well anywhere.

We then started walking towards the British Museum, via Charing Cross Road.  We walked along many interesting little laneways and alleys before we got to Charing Cross Road, and then turned right to head towards the Museum. Along the way we diverted off to see where the St Martin Theatre was that we are going to tonight to see “Mouse Trap.

We eventually made our way to the museum and spent some time there mainly looking at the Egyptian Exhibits. They have an amazing collection there, everything from bones and Mummies to what looks like complete walls from temples. (So is your ever in Egypt and are looking at a Temple or monument that doesn’t look quite complete, it’s probably a safe bet that the missing bits are in this museum! sad). It is an amazing place that you could spend days looking through.

We then walked up to Tottenham Court Underground Station and hopped back on the trains, and with one change, we were back at the hotel in no time. We decided to spend a little time relaxing in the lounge and helped ourselves to a few drinks and snacks while we read the papers and a few magazines.

Tonight we went to see Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” at the St Martin’s Theatre. We left the hotel and got a train to Embankment and then changed to Leicester  Square. We got there at about 6:50, picked up our tickets and had a quick bite to eat at a sandwich shop. The St Martin’s Theatre is getting pretty old, we had middle front row seats in the dress circle. The only problem was that there  was no leg room at all confused. The theatre was about a third full at best, and it’s the first (and probably last) time I have ever seen people drinking beers while a play was going on in a Theatre. The play was great. We went in knowing it had been around for 58years (and it holds three Guinness  Book world records) and didn’t hold high expectations for it. But we were pleasantly surprised at how entertaining it was. Of course every knows that the murderer was ............  (it was 10 years ago that you were in London Ben watching it, was thinking of you smile)

Back at the hotel by 10:30 and looking forward to more exploring tomorrow morning before we set out for Bangkok tomorrow night.

We hope you had an enjoyable first day Pat and look forward to hearing from you razz.

That’s all for the night, love from us. xox

 

London UK

Our first stay actually in London, I mean actually IN London :-)
The Royal Albert hallThe East End at dusk - Jack the Ripper territorySohoMillennium Bridge and St Pauls Cathedral

London Tuesday 9 June 2009

9th June 2009

 We had planned to sleep in a bit this morning, but a fire alarm malfunction at 5:50am roll eyes saw to it that we were awake much earlier than planned. After taking a while to get going, we succeeded in getting everything packed and were out of the hotel by 8:30 exploring London for the last time this holiday.

There was a very light drizzle this morning. We took the underground to South Kensington, and then followed the underground walkway, for what seemed like miles, to just up near Royal Albert Hall. Due to the early hour, the Hall wasn’t open so we wandered around it and took in all the charm of this (next time we are in London seeing a performance at Albert Hall will definately be on our to do list!) and the other buildings around it. The whole precinct seems devoted to the Arts, especially music. The King and I is currently playing at Albert Hall.

We then walked along through the edge of Kensington Gardens, onto Kensington Road and up to Knightsbridge. A short walk down Brompton road took us to Harrods. It was 9:50am when we arrived at the front doors and found a largish group of people waiting outside, it doesn’t open until 10am, a respectable hour I suppose!! After it opened we walked around inside for a while, sort of glazed over a bit at the opulence of some of the items for sale, and wondering what sort of home/manor/castle you would need to have to make the furnishing look appropriate. We eventually found our way to the food hall. We had always thought that David Jones had a good food hall, they have a lot to learn from Harrods. We bought some “sandwiches” for lunch while we were there. I got a fresh turkey baguette (made with freshly carved turkey, none of this turkey roll thanks!!), and Deb had a Lobster Club sandwich. The lobster was literally falling out of it when you tried to pick it up, yummmmmm.big grin

We then left and got the train back to our hotel, finalised our packing and let them know we had vacated the room and got them to store our bags etc until later.

We then walked up the road to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard. There were lots of people there. Deb asked a policeman where the parades came from and where would be a good place to watch it all. He suggested the island in front of the Palace where the statue of Queen Victoria is, it is elevated and you can move around a bit to see everything that’s going on. So that is what we did. It was interesting watching all the formality and ceremony of it all. At the very end of it, a very posh and regal looking car zoomed into the Palace grounds through the left gates. Deb got a couple of pictures of it. I asked a policeman who it was and he said it was the Queen. Deb was very pleased with herself. razz

We then walked over to Green Park, found a bench and had our lunch, very yummy and a great place to eat it, just over the road from the palace and in a beautiful park.

After lunch we walked over to St James Park, had a look around the lake (hugged a tree wink)  and then walked over to have a look at Clarence House and St James Palace. Both were very hard to see, high walls all around them. We walked around to the Pall Mall side and had a bit more of a look and then walked to Westminster.

On the way we walked through the parade ground for the Royal Horse Guards, down past the Ministry of defence and Downing St to Big Ben. We walked part the way across the Westminster Bridge and Deb got some great pictures of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben and all the other “attractions” of the area.

Finally it was time to go back to the hotel. We got a train from Westminster Station to Victoria station and walked up to the hotel for the last time.

Its’ been lots of fun exploring London, I think we have nearly seen a complete Monopoly Board in  real life now!!!!   (I love it here, feels like home, I am going to find a cheap way to come and live in London, would love to spend a few months here, and soak up all the culture, well at least a small portion of itrazz).

We checked out and waited in the lounge for our airport transfer, due at 4pm.

Our transfer arrived a little after 4pm and we were soon off to the airport. On the way to the airport I checked my phones, yes plural, the old one with the UK SIM and my Aust phone. I had missed a call from Linda. She left a beautiful message, we messaged Val & Vic and Cliff on the way, just to say bye, it is always great to see everyone, and it’s always so hard to say bye to everyone over here.  sad

We eventually got checked-in, instead of flying Qantas we were, apparently, flying BA, and our seat reservations had gone. We are still up top but  not as good seats (I am sure we will cope!!). We are in the BA lounge and I have had a shower to freshen up after the day and before the flight. Our flight leaves at 10pm and we get into Bangkok around 3pm tomorrow, a long flight and worse time zone change. Hopefully we can sleep.

We miiiissssss you tooooo Carly see you soon!!  razz   (if we can find you!! wink)

Bye to all,

Us xox

  

 

London UK

Our first stay actually in London, I mean actually IN London :-)
Greg and the Tower BridgeThe East End at dusk - Jack the Ripper territorySt Martins Theatre in the West End, The MousetrapThe Underground

Bangkok Wednesday 10 June 2009

10th June 2009

Deb got about 7 hours sleep on the plane, (on an 11 hour flight! pretty good!)  I got about 2 good hours and 2 interrupted (thanks to a bumbling woman who kept getting up all night and stepping on me as she got out of and back into her seat!)

We arrived on time at about 3pm Bangkok time. Immigration was a bit of a pain, on the way through they had signs up for people who didn’t have a visa and needed one (after a while we found out this wasn’t us), and everyone had to fill in a health declaration to get through immigration, all due to swine flu apparently (the staff at the airport where nearly all wearing fask masks).   After immigration it was all very easy, we got our bags and found our transfer waiting for us. I guess it took about 40 mins to get to our Hotel, the Mandarin Oriental. At check-in we were surprised with an upgrade to an Executive Suite,razz (I am a very happy girl, wonderful hotel great room)  according to a letter that accompanied the wine fruit and flowers in our room, to help up enjoy our 50th Wedding Anniversary!! confused  (We had told them we were celebrating our wedding anniversary on this trip, a bit of a stretch, but the truth! not sure where they got the 50 from!!). The room is very nice, very spacious and overlooking the river. On the table along with the other goodies we found a small cake under a glass dome, it was an iced fruit cake with “Happy wedding Anniversary” written on it, and with a sugar Elephant sitting on the plate next to it.

Before we went out , we” fessed” up to the duty manager about the mix-up on the anniversary, he apologised profusely. But we said we just didn’t want them thinking we were trying something on. They were embarrassed about it  (that would make us at least 70 or 110!!!  confused ).

After we walked around the Hotel a bit we eventually went out for tea. Our first attempt was a bit unsuccessful. I lost the card to the restaurant and the instructions were a little hard to understand. We went back to the Hotel, asked again and set out with better instruction and finally got to our destination, an eatery we were assured served authentic Thai food.  Well it could have been any up market type Thai place in Australia to look at, but the food was much better than at home. Deb though the Pud Thai was the best she had ever had. razz

After dinner we got a taxi to the Patpong Night Bizaar. We arrived there around 9pm. The stalls were filled with all the same sort of cheap junk and t-shirts you find all over asia, which was a bit disappointing. There were many food stalls as well, and they added a bit of variety and flavour to the markets. I was surprised to find that there were some(mmm, nearly lots I guess) “Girly” bars right next to the stalls. But I guess they will be set up in any area where tourists flock to at night. We got bored with it after a short while and got a taxi back to the hotel.

When we got into our room there was a Red Heart made of Carnations on our bed, again with more anniversary wishes, another plate of fruit and another letter from the Assistant Hotel Manager. Gee are we feeling spoilt!!!!!  Great job “Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Bangkok”, you get our vote!!!  big grin

Deb is settling down into a nice deep bath full of bubbles as we wrap up our first day in Thailand.

Three sleeps (if you count an overnight plane flight as a sleep) and we will be home. Both of us are looking forward to it, once we started heading towards home, the end of our holiday seemed to gather pace. We have had such a great time and had so many unbelievable adventures, done and seen so many wondrous things, but its’ always very nice to come home to all our loved ones and our own bed. razz

Tomorrow we are doing an all day tour, dinner tomorrow night at the Thai restaurant in the Hotel and Deb may go for a massage on Friday morning. So there is still plenty of life left in this holiday yet!!!

Love to you all, us. xoxox

(it is nearly midnight here, not really tired it is 6pm in London, better go to bed though, we have set the alarm for 6am, we are being picked up for our tour at 8am, for another adventure razz )

 

 

Bangkok

Our first trip / stop-over in Thailand
Reclining BuddhaThai Street FoodTong in the Flower marketsThai Restuarant across the River

Bangkok Thursday 11 June 2009

11th June 2009

 

Today we did a “Tour with Tong”, a travel guide Deb found on the net ages ago.

(Tong met us at the hotel, was great to meet her after corresponding for months, she is bright and bubbly and a little crazy wink, I was pleased she turned up, we took a leap of faith booking her tour, it is wonderful when things work out as you hope!)   We  left the hotel at 8am and headed for the Bangkok Flower Markets. It was amazing, all these small flower stalls selling pretty well any flowers you could think of. There were specialty stalls for everything for Home and Hotels to Weddings and Funerals. Many of the stalls were making decorative displays and arrangements.  I am sure we have got many of the arrangements in our room, J. While we were walking around Deb and Tong were chatting away, they both shared a love for flowers, and before long Tong had bought herself a couple of bunches and then bought Deb a bunch of 20 red roses razz. (Deb was very happy, later she was a bit sad at the thought of having to leave her beautiful flowers here after only 1 day!!). At the end of the walk we took a turn down another lane and there were all the stalls for fresh fruit. It was interesting to see that they have a lot of imported fruit here, similar to home, even oranges from the USA!!!

Then, we headed off to Wat Pho, the temples of  a huge golden “Reclining Buddha”   46m long and 15m high, and said to be one of the biggest reclining Buddha’s in the world.

Next was “The Grand Palace”. It used to be the official Palace of the King of Thailand, but that all changed when the previous King (the present King’s brother) was assassinated in the grounds, the present King could not live in the place where his brother was killed, so it’s now a mix of use, from tourist displays in the outer and middle zones, to national administration offices in the central (previously, Royal)zone. It reminded me very much of the Citadel in Hue Vietnam, but in its original state (not blasted apart by war like Hue was). It was an interesting set-up when it was used as a Palace. In the inner Royal zone, the King was the only post adolescent male allowed to live in the zone. I guess it was to protect the “Royal Line”. The buildings were amazing, so well preserved and very highly decorated.  There is so much history retained in the buildings and the displays, it was fascinating to see so much Thai history and Royal memorabilia, and lots of very unique and “special” Buddest relics, including a large Emerald Buddha. We also went into what used to be The King’s private Buddest temple.

Lunch time. smile Tong took us to a local restaurant called “The Coconut Palm”. To save time she pre-ordered our lunch, so as we got in and sat down they started serving us. The restaurant was full of locals, Deb and I were the only westerners in there, and the locals gave us funny looks when we got our meals well before those that were already in the restaurant before we arrived (great organisation by Tong!!). The food was a lot spicier than we get at home (a bit spicier than Deb really likes, but I loved it! razz) and Tong had made a good selection of entrées and mains. We had spring rolls, a spicy prawn soup, pork stir fry and fried chicken wings, with steamed rice. Yummm!! (and it all cost $15.00 and that was paying for Tong’s food too!)

After lunch we had a special time. Before we came here, when Deb was organising the tour,  she arranged for us to go out to an orphanage to see the children (maybe play a bit with them) and give a donation. Tong knew of many orphanages near her home, and was particularly “fond” of one where the children are disabled,(Baan Fuengfan), so she contacted them to organise our visit. They said that due to the “Swine Flu” they couldn’t allow visits with the children, but if we wanted to we could come out and see the complex. They also asked that if we could buy some medicines for them with our donation. So on the way we went via a wholesale pharmacy, armed with a list of medicines they had given to Tong and bought up a pile of stuff for them. The pharmacy was amazing, anyone could walk in off the street, and they did in swarms, and get anything they wanted, all without a prescription!! When we got to the orphanage they were very appreciative of all the meds we brought with us, but due to the “Flu” we couldn’t have a look around, instead they showed  us a DVD of the children and what services they offered them. It was a very touching video. It had both Deb and Tong in tears. When we left there we chatted with Tong about the numbers and problems of the orphans. It’s a sad situation, but at least there are places and mechanisms to help them, even if they are stretched for resources.

We then went to “The Jim Thompson House Museum”. Jim Thompson was an American architect that set up home in Thailand after WWII, and tried to revive the ailing cottage industries and crafts of Thailand that were quickly disappearing. His former home in Bangkok was big by Thai standards. He had bought 5 homes from all around the country, had them disassembled and reconstructed as one home.  He then filled the home with lots of really interesting artefacts from all over Thailand. In the late 60’s he went to the jungles in Malaysia and disappeared. No trace has ever been found of him. The house was left to a trust and is now a museum. It was really interesting to see.  (and the gardens around the house were also very lovely)

Tong then took us to some street markets in China Town, you know the ones with dodgy watches and DVD’s etc, it was fun to walk around in them, there is always lots of life in these markets, and they were working markets too, where the locals could go and buy everything from clothes to hardware.

We then returned to the hotel and said bye to Tong. We had a great day with her, she is a little crazy, a beautiful person and she knows her stuff really well and we would use her services again if we come back. Her web address is www.tourwithtong.com for those interested.

We spent an hour or 2 relaxing and cooling down, before we went to dinner. We walked down to the river and got a hotel boat across the Chao Phraya River (The River of the King) to their Thai restaurant on the other side located right next to the river, wonderful view. We had a mixed entree followed by a seafood platter. It was all delicious (maybe the scallops were a bit dry J )and the company was perfect. What a way to finish our holiday, sitting on the edge of the river, watching the world go by and having a delicious meal together.  razz

We leave tomorrow, and will be home before lunch, it seems that the last week and a bit of our holiday has literally flown by, and it’s a bit sad our holiday is coming to an end, but it’s also nice to be heading home.  razz

We just posted a card to Dante Tessa Ella & Ethan so next week you should get one from London and then another from Bangkok, then I am afraid they will stop, we will just have to go on some more holidays!!!   wink

Can't wait to see you all, love us xoxox

PS Just added more pics for London and some for Thailand. laugh out

 

 

Bangkok

Our first trip / stop-over in Thailand
Thai Street FoodReclining BuddhaLotus Lillies and FlowersThai Restuarant across the River

Bangkok to Home Friday 12 June 2009

12th June 2009

 

We had a late start to the day.

I guess we got down to breakfast about 9am and took our time just watching the world go by up and down the river as we ate breakfast. It’s such a hard life!!

After breakfast we took a boat ride across the river and walked down to the Peninsular Hotel to have a look around (This was the other hotel we looked at to stay in, but the Oriental won!). It was a much larger hotel than the Oriental, but looked like there weren’t too many staying there, similar to the Oriental. I think all the big hotels are doing it tough at the moment. After a brief look around we walked back to the Oriental wharf and got the boat back.

We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon finishing off our packing and relaxing.

We checked out at 1:50pm, and found our transfer was already at the Hotel. Our ride was a largish late model Mercedes, a nice way to finish the holiday.

We got to the airport in good time and checked in with no hassles. The airport is pretty big, and before we went to the Airline Lounge, we had a look through the duty free shops, they all seemed expensive, and when we found a good deal on some alcohol we found out we couldn’t take it on the plane, so that ruined that idea!! The only thing we finished up getting ( Ok, that I got) was a weird looking thing we could use as a Christmas decoration from Thailand, it looks a bit like a little alien!!

Our flight was delayed a little, the flight crew were caught up traffic problems due to  a very heavy rain shower on their way to the airport.

We eventually got away, and the flight was fairly uneventful. I didn’t get much sleep (people walking around the cabin all night and talking to the flight attendants!!), Deb did a bit better than me.

We arrived in Sydney right on 6am and were given “Express” cards for immigration and customs. It was great to get priority service and we were through in a breeze. One thing though, as we came through to the immigration area, the whole plane load of us were made to walk single file past an Infrared Camera. They were looking for people with a fever, and maybe “Swine Flu” candidates. As far as we are aware, everyone on our flight was fine. I was surprised to see many people at the airport wearing face masks, up until now that was something we had only seen in Asia, admittedly most of those wearing the masks were Asian, but there were a few Caucasians as well.

Our flight to Adelaide left on time and we were home about 10am. It was so nice to be met at the airport by friendly faces. Carly, Kieran, Ella and Ethan were all there to meet us and take us home. Ella was holding up a sign and they were all beaming great big smiles to us.  razz

After a lot of BIG hugs and kisses, we got our luggage and were home in no time. Aiko greeted us at the front door. She was so excited to see us and was after as much attention as she could get from us. It was so good to see her and that she was really excited to see us.

Carly had topped up our fridge and pantry with some supplies to get us through today  smile. Her and Kieran then made us all lunch, and Ben, Sarah and Tessa (Dante had a birthday party to go to, we will catch up with him on Saturday when we go to watch him play football J ) arrived around noon razz. It was great to see them all. We spent the afternoon chatting about what we had been up to and sharing a few pictures, and finding out what had been going on back home all the time we had been away.

After a long day and jet lag setting in we got to bed around 9pm, Deb was back up at some ungodly hour (1am maybe!! confused), I slept through to about 7am. smile

It’s going to take a little while to get back into the swing of “normality” and our brains back in gear.

It’s also time to start planning our next adventure!!!!!!!  wink

Its’ been great sharing our pilgrimage with you all, it really has been a wonderful time exploring all the new parts of the world we got to, and learning so much about other counties and cultures, and the people who share this world with us.  razz

 

Comments

John Sauer
18th June 2009
Welcome Back

June18, 2009 

Because of my sister Mary's situation in Minnesota, I was way behind in reading your daily blogs.  I read about 2 weeks at a time and just finished up today.  You two are Travelors Extraordinaire.  I felt like I was right with you as you traveled.  The two of you write so well making everything so interesting, exciting, and witty.  You both should do some traveling books (like Bill Bryson--Sunburned Country and the Appalachian Trail) either full time or as a sideline whcih would pay for your trips.  You do so much research anyway, might as well get your adventures paid for. 

One item caught my eye in the second last paragraph of your last blog.  You said that you can't wait to start planning your next adventure.  I know that at least one of your next trips is to Canada and the USA.  So, when you begin planning, let's talk together, some of it via instant messaging or via interactive video with small cameras atop our computers. 

Thanks for allowing us to enjoy your adventure Around the World. 

John and Georgiana 

  Top

Bangkok

Our first trip / stop-over in Thailand
Tong in the Flower marketsLotus Lillies and FlowersReclining BuddhaThai Street Food

North America 2010

16th September 2009

We have booked our flights to and from the US (Fly into San Francisco 3 July and out of NYC 29 Aug) for our 2010 pilgrimage.

Now to fill in the space in between. smile


An Alaskan Cruise, Rocky Mountainerr Train trip, Glacier NP, Fairbanks, Vancouver, NE of the US, Calgary(it's Stampeed Time!!), Minnesota, Seattle, Jasper, Lake Louise, ............. so much to do.

And not to forget catching up with friends.

Its going to be a great time.

More details as we get it all sorted.

Nth America 2010 Planning Update

2nd October 2009

 Things are starting to take shape. smile

The plan looks a bit like this at the moment.

Fly Adelaide to San Francisco then to ??? somewhere, maybe near Glacier National Park.

Meet up with Georgie and John

Travel on up to Calvary, and catch up / stay with Mom and Sis (Margaret and Caroline) and enjoy the Stampeed with a couple of local gals !! laugh out

Explore the resort and mountain lake areas N - NW of Calgary - Lake Louise, Jasper etc with Georgie and John

Catch the Rocky Mountainerr from Jasper to Vancouver

Explore Vancouver

Fly to Alaska (Fairbanks) and explore Denali NP and surrounds.

Join  our Cruisewest Cruise to explore the Alaskan coastal waters and coastline

Fly to Minneapolis, Minnesota USA to explore Georgie and John's part of the world

Fly? to Boston to start a tour aound NE USA & Canada finishing up in NYC

A day or so at the end of the trip for us to relax and explore more of NYC

Then fly home, all too quickly

 

October 2009 2 Week Break

7th October 2009

Its GFC time, no not "Global Financial Crisis" we like "Great Fun Camping" time.! big grin

Lifes too short not to take a holiday when you can, so we are taking a short break and heading off to the East Gippsland area of Victoria,

and more specifically Mallacoota in the Croajingolong National Park and then onto Wilsons Prom for a night or 3 before coming home via the Grampians.

If we can drag ourselves away from relaxing fishing, bush walking, strolling along a beach or just lazing around, we might do a couple of blogs along the way, and maybe even add a few pics to show you where and how we are suffering!!  cool

 

Victoria October 2009

Mallacoota, Wilsons Promatory and The Grampians
Boroka Lookout, The Grampians WWII RAAF Bunker - MallacootaWilsons PromotoryDeb at the top of The Pinnacle, Halls Gap

Adelaide to Mallacoota Victoria

13th October 2009

 

13 Oct 09

Adelaide to Warragul, Vic

We left home at 7:20am and arrive in Warragul 8 ½ hrs driving (and about 850km) later. We had a very uneventful first days travel. The “highlight” I guess was when we got a bit wayward coming into Melbourne, and had to do a little double back to get back on course.

Going through Melbourne we were on a toll road for about 2 mins, when we got to Warragul I rang the Company, City Link, to pay the toll. For our 2 min use of their road we were charged $12.50!!!!! mmmmmm Now that really is a case of “Highway Robbery”!!

We checked into our hotel in Warragul, The Best Western. It had one of the most comfy beds we have come across in hotels. Highly recommend this one.  On the recommendation of the Hotel, we had dinner at the local Country Club. We both had a chicken schnitzel and we shared a bottle of Riesling. It was actually nice, it seemed to be breast slices crumbed, and accompanied by salad and chips.

14 Oct 09

Warragul to Mallacoota, Vic

We woke at around 8am, had breakfast and were back on the road just in time to catch peak hour in Warragul at 8:45am. Once we negotiated the 2 other cars on the road we headed east for Mallacoota.  Again it was an easy drive, only 425kms to Mallacoota.

We stopped at Bairnsdale. We parked directly outside St Mary’s Church, it looked interesting so we decided to have a look inside, something we do a lot of when we are overseas but never seem to do at home when we travel.  Apparently it is famous for its frescoed ceiling. It was amazing to find a church with such a ceiling in a smallish county town in Vic. It would not have been out of place in Europe. The painting was done by a lone Italian artist from 1930 over a period of about 7 years. He did it in two stages and apparently he did it for very little payment.  Anyway, if you are ever down this way it is well worth a look. After the church we did a little shopping. First we went to Aldi, looking for an electric fan heater (the weather forecast isn’t pleasant, rain , more rain and cold nights until about Sat or Sun). We finished up getting some apples, mushrooms, asparagus, onions, tomatoes and bananas.  We were amazed at how little it all cost, and to our surprise , and delight, all were good quality except for the apples, which after tasting, we threw away.   We found a little fan heater at Harvey Norman.

Back on the road, we stopped twice coming into Lakes Entrance. Once illegally on the way in to check out the view (getting back on the road was a little “hairy”, across the road on a blind bend with our camper trailer in tow!!) and then we went back a bit stopped at the lookout at the top of a hill over looking the Lakes Entrance area. Both spots gave great views. We then drove into Lakes Entrance and got some fish and chips for lunch, which we ate at a park.

We then drove onto Mallacoota, arriving around 3pm. All the way from Warragul to Mallacoota we passed lots and lots of motorbikes heading to Phillip Island for the Moto GP. We also heard that there was a Barry Sheen Memorial ride taking place on Thursday and they were expecting at least 1000 bikes to take part in it and they were warning of HUGE delays on the roads the ride was taking. In Mallacoota we set up our camper trailer on a waterfront powered site and sat back and relaxed for a while, before going for a walk around the caravan park and into the village to see what was about. Mallacoota is a fishing town of about 2000 people, and is pretty quiet at this time of the year. After sausages, onion and mushrooms and a glass of red for tea we had an early night.

15 Oct 2009

Mallacoota.

Weather forecasters got it right. Intermittent showers during the day and showers over night. But that didn’t stop us doing anything. We woke late, around 8am. The bird life around here is crazy. We hadn’t realised how noisy birds are at night, they seemed to be awake all night and filled the night with a steady background noise.

In the morning we had a walk around the village, I got a fishing licence and then we went down and got post , read the paper. After a couple of relaxing hours totally uninterrupted by fish (yes , not one bite!) we had a cheese platter for lunch looking out over the lake and into national park and hills disappearing into the distance. It doesn’t get to much better than that.

We then went up to the visitor info shed, and got some maps of the area and loads of really great ideas for things to do.

We then went for a drive along the foreshore drive. The lake was just magic at every turn.  We eventually stopped at a couple of small jetties and took a few pictures of the scenery and some birds. We then drove to the coast and had a look at a few beaches we climbed over rocks and collected shells, (it reminded me (deb) of when we went crabbing with Dante and Tessa at Lady Bay, just minus the crabs!!   We took lots of photos of the beach, then I wanted to take one of the foam on the waters edge and the sand, just like the one I am going to have in my office – it was too difficult for me – I will be reminded of that every time I look at the photo in my office) 

We saw an old WWII Bunker (that is under restoration – it was used for coast surveillance in WWII, interesting) and some amazing looking rock formations along the coast.

Being 4pm, Deb said it was “Beer O’clock”, so we headed back and I had a beer, did a little more “fishing” ( got to find another word for baiting a line and hook, casting it into the water and never being disturbed by the fish).

Lamb chops, asparagus, onion and mushies for tea, and then into our warm, fan heated tent for the night, tough life huh!! 

 

Victoria October 2009

Mallacoota, Wilsons Promatory and The Grampians
Our footsteps (Only Ours) on a pristine beachThe Grampians near Halls GapThe Grampians near Halls GapGreg Fishing - Active style

Mallacoota 16 Oct 2009

16th October 2009

 

Mallacoota 16 Oct 2009

 Hi this is Deb

 This was our second full day here. Such a pretty spot and so very relaxing. We are camped right by the waters edge, well almost!

We woke around 7am after another good nights sleep, the weather has been much kinder than was forecast. I was imagining nights like we had at Deep Creek last time we were there (extremely windy) mmm the weather kind of wind!!

We went off early to post the cards to the little ones. Post leaves here at 10am! Hopefully the cards will arrive by Tuesday. Then we bought a paper and a cake for morning tea. Mmmmm it is becoming a very nice habit, makes us walk further!!

At 11am we went for a 2 1/2 boat ride around the bottom lake, with a lovely older couple, they were really interesting, we saw a few sea eagles that the couple fed, got a few good photos. Also saw kites, cormorants, pelicans.

Had a relaxing afternoon, then around 4ish we decided to see if we could finish the geo cache we started yesterday. We really missed you Dante and Tessa, took us much longer to find it than it should have, we wished you were with us. It was fun none the less, we went along way out of the way, but had a great walk on the beach and through a track called Pittosporum track that was very lovely. In the end Dante we found the cache right back near the beginning. We were very careful not to alert muggles!! We were very pleased when we finally found the cache.

We have just finished a lovely dinner outside while watching the pelicans glide into shore, then when it rained they all had their mouths open to catch the rain, we have not seen that before. The birds habits are all very interesting. A sign we are getting old!! I have the fan heater going and it is lovely and warm in our tent.

Thanks for all your messages Von, we have said many times how much you would both love it here, but we are enjoying it for you too!

Hope all the McDonalds have fun at the Intercontinental, we look forward to hearing all about it.

Carly hope the tan looks real :-P Hope you have fun at the party

Mum and Dad have a safe trip and give Thomas a hug from us.

Karlien have you got my message??? Sent it to you yesterday when we were in Sale, we were thinking of you both. Greg rang you tonight, but you were probably at the club, will try again tomorrow.

Hope you all enjoy your weekend, love from us both to you all xo

Victoria October 2009

Mallacoota, Wilsons Promatory and The Grampians
WWII RAAF Bunker - MallacootaBoroka Lookout, The Grampians The Grampians near Halls GapA Grampians Cheese Platter

Mallacoota 17th Oct 2009

17th October 2009

Another slow morning, did a bit of shopping and finished up back in the bakery. Well, we did have to get some bread and the cakes just happen to fall into our bag!!. Apple pie with fresh cream and a piece of Carrot cake, at least they had fruit in them!! After all that we set out to go for a couple of bush walks, but managed to squeeze in a couple of “Geo Caches” first. The first we did was in the bush a bit and hidden under a burnt out log, a big container filled with all sorts of goodies guarded by a herd of mosquitoes!!! You would have loved all the goodies Dante. The second was a micro cache hidden under a very open area, so we had to be careful of “Muggles”. We then set off for our walks. Firstly we went to a short walk down to the upper lake in an area called “Sou West”. A beautiful point out in the lake with a small jetty. We then went to another spot, the name escapes me, but it was a rainforest walk. We saw a lone Koala up a tree near the carpark, and then made our way through the rain forest on the 1 km walk. The first ½ was on a raised platform track, and it was very slippery, the track then headed up hill and the footing was much better. A beautiful place with so many huge gum trees and many songful birds. We then drove to the coast and did a walk called the 3 Beaches walk at Betka Beach. We counted 4 beaches, all very different and only accessable from one to the next at low tide. We had lunch on a rock at the 4th beach and then headed back. A very relaxing walk. We then headed further along the coast to The Secret Beach walk, but we had a look and it was down a steep hill and we weren’t sure what we would find at the end so we gave it a miss. We continued onto Shipwreck Creek camping ground, deep in the Croajingolong NP. It was at the end of about 12km of dirt road, while not really a 4WD track, the Prado did help a lot in getting there and back safely. (And it was heaps fun driving on the narrow windy potholed track). Deb said the wild flowers were pretty as well . The camping ground was VERY basic. Drop toilets were the only luxury out there! Once we got back I went fishing at the first place we went to this morning, no fish, not even a bit, and Deb stayed back at the tent and had a relaxing afternoon reading. We are looking forward to another relaxing day tomorrow. I think I will give the idea of fishing away, doesn’t seem to be any out there. The others in the camping ground aren’t having much luck either, and you can tell a few of them are real old fisho’s, particularly by the way they smell, LOL!!!

Victoria October 2009

Mallacoota, Wilsons Promatory and The Grampians
Wilsons PromotorySunset at Mallacoota from our tentWilsons PromotoryOur footsteps (Only Ours) on a pristine beach

Mallacoota Sunday 18th of October 2009

18th October 2009

 

We have been sleeping well at night and last night was no exception.      We had a really lazy day today.   I finished my book, Greg did some fishing and we did some washing and are packing up so we get an early start tomorrow.   Was a really beautiful morning, but as the day went on it got colder.    It is very calm at the moment and lovely.

Off to Wilson’s Promontory tomorrow we have to be there by 4pm otherwise the gate is locked!!!  Mmm

Hope you are having fun in Lincoln mum and dad and that Karlien and Bid have a safe trip to Canberrra.

Hope you all enjoy the week ahead.

xo

 

Victoria October 2009

Mallacoota, Wilsons Promatory and The Grampians
A Grampians Cheese PlatterDeb at the top of The Pinnacle, Halls GapDeb at the top of The Pinnacle, Halls GapOne of many Wombats -Wilsons Promotory

Wilsons Prom , Halls Gap, The Grampians, Victoria

19th October 2009

Monday 19th of October Mallacoota – Wilson’s Premonitory

We were awake at 6.30am and on the road by 8am.   Made a couple of stops along the way, called in at Gypsy Point on the way out, it was very lovely but we both thought Mallacoota was better.   We drove to Cape Conran, great spot overlooking the beach, saw some surfers.   Then on to Marlo where we stopped for morning tea, we made up for yesterday!  Was really lovely overlooking the beach.

We drove to Sale and got some groceries, had lunch and filled up with diesel.    We arrived at the Prom at 3.30pm, set up camp, the view is nowhere near as good as Mallacoota.    After dinner we went for a walk to the lookout over squeaky beach to watch the sunset, got some great photos and saw a few wombats on the way. 

 Greg read his book and I did a hard suduko, I have finally worked out how to do them – very pleased with myself, didn’t take very long.

Tuesday 20th of October - The Prom

We woke up early around 5ish, was very windy and the tent was flapping.   Got up around 6.30am, shared breakfast with some beautiful red parrots – we didn’t actually share, but they were good company.  Going to go to the information centre when it opens at 8.30am, then off to do a few walks.

Well we did the information centre, very “informative”. And then went to The Prom Store, had a bit of a look around and got a paper and a couple of post cards for the little ones.

Once back to our site we did the postcards. Stamped and posted before 10am.

We set out for our walks at around 10am, first stop was Five Mile Rd carpark. From there we set off for Vereker Outlook, a 3km (6km return) walk up into the bush and a steep climb through boulders (I didn’t do the steep climb bit!) and Stringybark forest to a rocky granite summit with views to the coast at Cotters Lake and Beach, and the mid SW of The Prom.  A wonderful view, which highlighted how extensive the fires had been down here back in Feb 2009.

From there we tracked downhill (thankfully whenever you go uphill you get to go back down)to join up with the track to Millers landing. The walk was through a Banksia forest with a ground cover of Braken Fern. The bushfires had gone through this area extensively. At the beach was a mix of nice white sand alongside mangroves.

From there we walked back to the car. On the way we passed an area that had been fenced off  to all animal egress. The idea was to study the regrowth of the vegetation after the fires, eliminating the effects of mammals on the flora. It was easy to see that the plants were doing much better within the enclosure, than those outside it that were a meal for the local kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and rabbits.

We then drove to the car park at the end of Cotters Lake Road. We sat in the car and had lunch before setting out across Cotters Lake, more of a marsh really, and onto Cotters Beach. Along the way we came to the attention of a couple of magpies, they must have had a nest near the access road, and proceed to swoop at us to drive us away. A bit annoying, but fun all the same.

Cotters Beach is renowned for its copious quantities of flotsam and jetsam. The beach was strewn with all sorts of things. Mainly drift wood, seaweed, HUGE Cuttlefish “shells” and other bits and pieces. It was fun walking along and taking it all in. The beach itself had a large number of fist size rocks all over it. Deb commented that it was a bit unusual. We have see beaches with pebbles and beaches covered in large rocks, but never any this size.

After there we drove back towards Tidal River and called in at Picnic Point, overlooking Picnic Beach. It was a beautiful little beach sheltered from the northerly winds. From the viewing area you could starkly see how “selective” the bushfires had been in what was burnt and what was left untouched. Large areas of untouched green bush laid in and around significant areas of totally burnt out bush.

We then went back to the camp site, and had a tea and coffee before going for a walk along Tidal River to the ocean. It was a very relaxing walk and the “River” and beach were both worth the walk.

For the remainder of the afternoon we sat at our site and read, and watched the local parrots as they scratched around in the grass and strutted around on our table and even had a look in our kitchen.

 

Wednesday 21st  of October - The Prom

Another slow start, this is starting to be a really good habit we are developing. After breakfast we walked up and got the morning papers, and then sat back and enjoyed the peace and sunshine for an hour or so.

We eventually started our day with a walk inland along the Tidal River. It was so peaceful and the diversity of the vegetation around the area really came out. The area was a mix of low woodlands and marshlands. During the walk we went past four fishing points on the raised boardwalk along the river. The signs at each fishing spot seemed to promise all sorts of fish from Native Perch, to mullet and black bream. ( I made a mental note of them for later.) After the walk we went back to our campsite and had morning tea.

After a coffee and biscuit, I got my fishing gear together, bought some bait(a packet of White Bait) from “The General Store” and headed down to the river.  Once there I realised I had forgotten my fishing reel, so I headed back and got it. Once I got back to the river I got all set up, and settled back to catch myself a bag full. As it turned out the bait I was using was bigger than anything else in the river. But at least on a positive note, I did actually lose my bait a couple of times, that is at least twice more than in Mallacoota. It’s getting a little repetitive, this fishing that is uninterrupted by fish, I am going to have to make an appointment with Tom when I get back! Having achieved a new height in my state of enlightenment through the mystic rituals of meditative fishing I headed back to Deb and our campsite for lunch.

We spent the early part of the afternoon weighing up the pro’s and cons of our new neighbours. A group of about 12 early 20’s, four tents, two VERY large Eskies full of beer and other drinks (Ice Boxes for you north Americans). Our peaceful camp area was becoming interesting! (A late afternoon visit by the local Ranger had a short calming effect, but it was short lived.) We are hoping the contents of the Eskies will have a calming effect causing them all to have an early night! (We can but wish, LOL).

We both settled back to read. I turned off to the world (my hearing aides have a very convenient off switch that comes in handy at times like these) and settled into my book, the new Dan Brown Novel “The Lost Symbol”. It’s very Dan Brown = very readable with plenty of twists! Deb eventually didn’t read but sort of snoozed for a few hours.

Around 4 we went for a walk across the river and to the right to a viewing point we saw up on the hillside during our morning walk. It was a gentle incline and very easy walk. The views were great. The river valley opened up beneath us, the camping grounds were very hard to make out amongst all the trees and the views of the river as it wound its way inland through the marshlands flanked by large granite hills was calming. I walked further around the track to a point where you could see the next valley north from us. The entire south face of the next hill had been burnt out in the Feb bushfires, while everything else seemed relatively untouched. An interpretative sign at this point told of how the bush needed the fires to ensure the diversity of the flora.

Back at camp we decided to begin our packing so we could get away as quickly and smoothly as possible in the morning, on our way to The Grampians.

 

Thursday 22 Oct 2009 Halls Gap, The Grampians.

We left The prom at about 8am and headed off for Halls Gap. On the road out of the Prom NP we saw kangaroos and emus grazing on the roadside. The emu even had a very small chick with it. Was good to see a bit of the wildlife on our way out, and even better that they were off the road.

We negotiated Melbourne uneventfully this time, apart from very slow traffic on the toll roads (apparently they are doing major road works and upgrades,) but at $12.40 for a day pass for a very short use of the road I thought the traffic flow would have been so much better.

We stopped off in Ballarat, (birth place of a great cultural pilgrim, J ) for fuel and lunch and then headed onto Halls Gap.

We got to Halls gap around 2 or 3pm, and found ourselves a nice spot in the camping ground over looking Stony Creek and away from other campers. After settling in we went for a drive up to the NP Info and Cultural Centre and into the Halls Gap Information Centre. We got all the guides and maps we needed for the next few days and then drove out to have a look at Lake Bellfield. Deb was astounded at how low the water level was. I guess years of drought takes its toll, and the recent rains hadn’t done that much to lift the level.

After tea, we built a small campfire and sat around and chatted by the fire for a while. It was fun to be able to have a fire, we both love looking into them and just relaxing.

Friday 23 Oct 2009 Halls Gap, The Grampians.

We had a pretty busy morning exploring a lot of the places Deb had told me about. Deb used to come to Halls Gap often when she was growing up and into her 20’s, its been some  years since Deb was here last. And things have changed as they do. It seems bushwalkers have got softer, there are now steps on the trails, hand rails in steeper spots and even guard rails at the main vantage points  to stop worn out walkers toppling of the edge of the cliffs. We walked up to “The Pinnacle”, through “Silent Street” and up through “The Grand Canyon”. All these places she (and the rest of the family) have spoken about for so long, I had finally experienced with her. The Grampians are truly magnificent. The bush is recovering from bushfires (looks like the fires went through here about 2 years ago), there is new growth sprouting all up and down the trees and the wild flowers are all bursting into full bloom. There were hundreds of birds of all description everywhere and all singing to their hearts content. A very enjoyable morning.

After lunch, we had a walk through town and looked at all the new shops, before settling in back at our camp site and spent a lazy afternoon reading. Another campfire at night, with a sip of Port (mmm did I forget to mention that last night as well, LOL), what a life.

Saturday 24 Oct 2009 Halls Gap The Grampians

After sleeping in, we got underway eventually. We took a couple of short walks from the camping ground. First, we walked up along Stony Creek to the “Venus Baths”, tranquil rock pools at the base of a massive sloping rock face. We then had a look through the local Botanic Gardens(definitely a work in progress) and then onto “Clematis Falls”. There was a bit of a falls, but you could easily see that after rain they would have been much more spectacular. I am sure if they were running well you could go in under the falls and look back out.

After lunch we got in the car and went up to Reed Lookout, with wonderful expansive views over the valleys and the bushland. Then it was onto “MacKenzie Falls”. First we walked to the “Broken Falls” lookout, these falls are on a tributary to the MacKenzie Falls and were small but very good all the same. Then I walked down to the MacKenzie Falls themselves. After a bit of a hike down a very well made path and steps I reached the bottom, only to find that the battery in the camera had run out! The falls weren’t running at full strength, but the water that was coming over was plenty enough to see the falls in all their grandeur. The cliff face that forms the falls is “dark” black, and the contrast it has with the water falling from its top is pretty spectacular. There were lots of people down the bottom admiring the falls and relaxing on the river banks and rocks at the bottom. The climb up was a bit of an effort but very worth the view of the falls. We got back in the car and drove to “Wartook Lake”. The views across the lake were great looking up towards the nearside of the Boroka Lookout area. We then drove back and took a short cut on the “Old Mill Road”, a dirt track that traversed across the countryside eliminating all the bends in the main road. The wild flowers were abundant throughout the drive and their splashes of colour lit up the green and black of the bush. Boroka lookout gave us an amazing view down over Halls Gap to Lake Bellfield and beyond and a general 180 degree view of all the country side north of Halls Gap, to Stawell and on.

We got back to our campsite mid afternoon and relaxed reading the papers. We later went to the Halls Gap Pub for tea. An experience we would both prefer to forget, the food was very underwhelming. The Pub itself was quite good, a veranda around 2 sides gave you the opportunity to sit and relax over a drink and take in the views of The Grampians rising in the near distance.

We head home tomorrow. We are both looking forward to see everyone, especially Aiko.

Sunday 25 Oct 2009 The Grampians to Home

Left Halls Gap at 8:20am(EST) and arrived home at 1:10pm (CST), an uneventful 5hr 20min trip. It's always great to be home. :-)

 

Victoria October 2009

Mallacoota, Wilsons Promatory and The Grampians
A Mallacoota Cheese PlatterSelf Portrait Boroka Lookout, The Grampians Sunset atWilsons PromotoryDeb at the top of The Pinnacle, Halls Gap

The Australian Open Tennis 2010

17th January 2010

We are in the Qantas CLUB  FLIGHT DELAYED 45 MINS . No PROBLEM, ONLY A RELAXING DAY PLANNED FOR TODAY RAIN IN MELBOURNE HAS STOPPED PLAY ON ALL OUTSIDE COURTS. ( SORRY ABOUT THE CAPS, THEY ARE LOCKED ONMYONLY PHONE AND I DONTDON'T KNOW HOW TO TURN THEM OFF. ANY IPHONE GURU'S OUT THERE?)

Melbourne 18 Jan 2010

18th January 2010

 After a very casual morning we eventually left home around 10am to go to the airport.

Got to the airport checked in and then found out our flight was delayed by about 3/4hr, so we had to suffer a little longer in the Qantas Club.

Flight was very uneventful, and we arrived in Melbourne about 2pm eastern time. Took ages for our luggage to come out, then grabbed a cab to the city and our accommodation in the Punt Hill Manhattan Apartments in Flinders Lane.

Check-in was a breeze and went to our room on the 7th Floor. We have an oblique view of the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Rod Laver Arena, the rest of our view is pretty average backs of buildings.

After settling in we went out to get some supplies. On the way back Deb took me to the Sofitel on Collins St and up to the 35th floor to have a look at the view from the toilets, ceiling to floor windows with great views of Melbourne. At this point I should remind EVERYONE to make sure you pay attention to the drawing on the door to the toilets. Yes, there I was taking photos of the view from the window, luckily not interrupted by anyone. When I came out Deb showed me the sign on the door. I didn’t realise men in Melbourne wore dresses!! Takes all kinds I guess.

After we dropped our supplies back in our room, we went out to get the free City Circle Tram for a look around town. It was now that Melbourne decided to show us that it really does have 4 seasons in a day. It poured rain for about 5 mins, got pretty cold, then the wind picked up and it dried out and the sun actually popped out for a while. We eventually found a Tram stop hopped on the next tram to come by and took our seats.

It was then that we noticed that there was some sort of “Shoot” going on in the front of the tram. There was a tall very leggy model in a tight skimpy dress having many many pics taken of her. Some pics were just her in the tram and then some with a bag and then some with an “Elmo” doll. It was all a bit strange. I guess there must have been about 6 to 8 people in the photography crew.

They all got off at Flinders St Train Station, and we got off a couple of stops later. As we walked along we saw another grocery shop and made the most of it and finished getting our supplies for the week. We then took all the supplies back to our apartment before going back out to the Melbourne Press Club for dinner, or we thought we were.

Seems you have to book to eat in Melbourne, so we made a booking for Wednesday and set out to find our alternative restaurant, Dhaka, a highly rated Indian eatery. This was when the rain started again. Now, we didn’t have the address of the restaurant, but all was good, Deb said it was sort of a few streets in and around “this sort of area”. After we had gone a way, and had a bit of a look , asked some people and had been walking in the rain for a while without any success, I eventually got my phone out and “googled” the restaurant. It was in a very different part of town than we had been looking, so we compromised, and went to an Irish Pub for tea. I had a Chicken Parma and Deb had Fish and Chips and mushy peas (yum), all washed down with a Sav Blanc and a Coopers. We enjoy quirky pub eating, atmosphere is always great, food can be “interesting” and the company is always excellent.

After tea, we headed back to the apartment for a bit of tennis on the TV and a glass of Kahlua on ice. Its a hard life.

 

Comments

CAKEE
19th January 2010
Photos in toilets

Glad to see that taking a camera into the womens toilets didnt land you in any trouble :)


Looking forward to hearing about the Press Club.


Aiko is loving me being home all day! she couldnt know what was going on! what is this lady doing lying around?? normally she's in-out-in-out rush rush rush........

  Top

Australian Tennis Open 2010

Melbourne and the Tennis
St Patricks CathedralThe Prince leavingSo drunk they share a tooth brush???View from the "Ladies"

Melbourne 19 Jan 2010

19th January 2010

 

We had a very lazy start to the day. We eventually left to go out and explore at around 10:30am.

Our aim was for Melbourne Zoo ( we joined Adelaide Zoo – for the Pandas and we are baby sitting Ella and Ethan much more this year – so we have free entry). On the way we walked through town to William St to get the 55 tram. It was really interesting. We discovered some of the famous Melbourne Alley/Laneway Graffiti Art ( many of the art works had tags on them, which spoilt them, but they were still very good ) and we were able to see up close many of the old building within Melbourne city. We have learnt on our travels to look up as you walk around the streets of a city, it’s amazing what treasures and unusual sights you see. Melbourne was no different, with many street level shops hiding beneath the  beautiful facades of buildings of many years ago.

The Zoo was an easy tram ride, about 20 mins, and entry was a breeze with our Adelaide Zoo Member Passes, we managed to avoid the queues of peoples wanting to get in. Melbourne Zoo had an Asiatic Elephant born on 16 January. It weighed in at 110kg and the mother was in labour for about 3 days. After giving birth, the mother accidently trod on the baby, so they are watching the baby very closely to make sure all is well with it. They hope the baby will be out on display in a few weeks.

The zoo itself is very green and the enclosures the animals are kept in, in the main, are very good and offer the animals good space and habitat to live in. They have just opened a new seal and penguin display. It was very good, you could see the seal and penguins swimming underwater through glass walls and they also had an area of surging water and swim outs for the seals.

Our first call was to the giraffes, Debs favourite. We got there just in time to hear the end of a talk by one of the zoo keepers. While we were up and around the elephant area, we saw the head elephant keeper interviewed for TV. We stood behind the camera and listened to the interview and found out some amazing things about the birth and condition of the new baby elephant.

We had a bit of lunch there and then got the tram back into town and then back to our apartment to put our feet up and relax a bit before the tennis tonight.

The tennis draw to night for Rod Laver Arena is Lleyton Hewitt  V’s Ricardo Hocevar ( a qualifier ranked 192) and Alica Molik V’s Julie Coin (Fra), so we have some good tennis to see. Our plan is to also have a walk around the outside courts while we are here to see other matches and maybe see some of the highly ranked players practicing.

After a cheese platter for an early tea, we headed off over to Rod Laver Arena at 5:40 and got there about 5 to 6, a nice easy walk.

We spent the next 50 minutes or so walking around the back courts and watching bits and pieces of games on a variety of courts, just to get into the feel of the event.

Today was the biggest day crowd ever to attend the Australian Open Tennis, with more than 45000 people through the gates.

We had great seats , 3 from the front and between the service line and the base line on the northern end of the court on the opposite side to the umpire. About 12 seats around from the players box for both the Hewitt and Molik “teams”.

The Hewitt match was great, although the scores don’t indicate it at 6-1, 6-2, 6-3. Hewitt seems to be on his A game. Alica Molik let her game get away from her, she had a chance to win it in 2 sets , but finished losing in 3 sets to Coin from France.

The crowd was amazing, “The Fanatics” were great to have in the stadium. They got the crowd going and the umpires and players all enjoyed their antics. They managed to get the SLOWEST Mexican Wave in history to make its way twice around the Arena, it was so funny!! Between that and jokes about Tiger Woods and Susan Boyle amongst others, they were great entertainment and a bonus to the Open experience.

Play for the night eventually finished at about 11:45 and we were back in our apartment by mid-night.

Great games tomorrow for us, we have Svetlana Kuznetsova, Kim Clijsters and Rafael Nadal. (try them all on spell checker!!)   

Bring it on.

 

Australian Tennis Open 2010

Melbourne and the Tennis
Dad of the baby elephant born 16th JanRoger federerScotts ChurchGary Lyon

Melbourne 20 Jan 2010

20th January 2010

 

 

A slow start to the day for us this morning after a late night last night. Our expectations for the tennis today are very high after last night and the line-up for today’s play.

We left our apartment at 10:30 and were at the Arena and seated by 10:50.

The first match was between 2 Russian grunters, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova! Svetlana Kuznetsova won both the tennis and grunting easily in 2 sets 6-2 6-2. We were most impressed with her double grunt, one before and one after hitting the ball!

Kim Clijsters was way too good for her Thai opponent,  Tamarine Tanasugarn, winning 6-3 6-3.

Rafael Nadal had an easy match against Lukas Lacko, winning 6-2 6-2 6-2.

Our seats were about 10 seats up from courtside, and right on the Melbourne end service line.

After the first match it started to get really hot, especially when the cloud burnt off. Deb moved to the shaded area just around from us. She sat in the “Press” area. It wasn’t long before she noticed she was the only one applauding, so she quickly made like one of the locals. I moved around to be with her after the Rafa game started, got too hot for me. After a while a security guy asked us for our Press passes, so we reluctantly moved, but as luck had it he did us a favour and we found much better seats closer to the action. We were given the tip to move seats if we got too hot from friends we met in Morocco, and we are so glad we did, thanks Jo.

 The best of the crowd interjections for the day were:

“Hey Rafa, fix ya wedgy!”, and he did    LOL

“Rafa, will you marry me”, to which he gave a thumbs up, and a roar from the crowd

But the best of the day was

“Hey Rafa, will you have my baby” to which he gave a thumbs up and a big smile, and got a big cheer from the crowd.

On the way back to our apartment we both commented on the lack of atmosphere today. We figured it was mainly due to the lack of presence of “The Fanatics”. They add so much to the overall experience. And I guess 3 walk-overs and no Australians involved added to it a bit as well.

We are having a bit of a cool down this afternoon before dinner at the Melbourne Press Club, its head chef, is George from Master Chef. So it should be interesting.

We ate in the bar rather than the restaurant proper. (Probably 1/3 of the cost) It’s very narrow with a bar on one side and tables on the other. Very busy when we were there, and as a consequence pretty loud, but manageable.

We started with Stuffed Zucchini Flower and a Fried Haloumi with Peppered Figs, we both agreed the Zucchini won, so tasty. Then for mains I had an Open Lamb Souvlaki and Deb had Calamari, both were very yummy. Mains were a draw, if a Greek couldn’t cook these two meals to perfection there was going to be something very wrong.

After dinner we retired back to the apartment to watch the tennis, go figure huh!!

We explore more of Melbourne tomorrow day and then Rod Laver Arena tomorrow night. The matches are Roger Federer V’s Victor Hanescu and then Karolina Sprem V’s Casey Dellacqua (Aust).

It  should be another good night.

 

Australian Tennis Open 2010

Melbourne and the Tennis
St Pauls CathedralThe Rod Laver Arena for the Federer matchAlicia MolikA "Fairy" on the court

Melbourne 21 Jan 2010

21st January 2010

We have tennis tonight so this morning we spent a bit of time walking around Melbourne taking in a few sites and doing the sort of thing we do when we are in an overseas city.

First thing was to go and have a look at St Patricks Cathedral. The church is out behind parliament House and is Gothic in design and was built in the mid 1800’s from what we could see. It has some very well kept gardens surrounding and the exterior shows the signs of years of grime build-up from the city air.  Inside it has a vast ceiling and a very open feel and isn’t overly ornate.  It has been said that this is a place of quiet refuge in the city, a place where you can sit and reflect away from the bustle and noise, and that is exactly what we found. A beautiful old church, not overly ornate, but with some really interesting features, like carved angels looking down on you from the ceiling, a series of horns poking out between the organ pipes and a beautiful stained glass window on the northern wing.

From there we walked down past the Windsor Hotel, a grand old world style hotel, past Parliament House and then down Bourke St. There are so many old buildings (maybe just the facades, but at least some of the history is being maintained) within Melbourne. We walked as far as Elizabeth St, calling into a Scots Church, (very Scottish in its own way), and then we sat in the “Mingary”(Gaelic for “quiet Place”) a quiet refuge in the middle of the city set up as a place for reflection. Good thought but we didn’t feel it.  After there we walked a bit more and then through the arcades of “The Block” and its intricately designed mosaic floors, took photos for you Von. We then walked to St Pauls Cathedral.  Its a very different building to St Patricks. The inside is very busy, with a patchwork of black and white stonework, very dark wood and lots of dedication plaques. As we always do, in both St Patricks and St Pauls, we lit candles for all our family and friends, keeping you all in our thoughts and putting good karma out there for you all.

We then went over the road to Flinders St Station, a magnificent looking building from the outside that looses all character once you walk inside, a bit disappointing really! We then crossed the road to Federation Square.  An interesting public space, that is used by many locals to sit chat drink and eat. The buildings surrounding the Square are all more like sculptures than buildings. From there it is a short walk down to the Yarra where we saw many rowing boats out on the water, from single sculls to eights, it was good to see so much activity on the water.

We followed the river for a while and then walked back to our apartment along Batman Ave. We grabbed some lunch from The Press Club and then went back to get a few things ready for our departure tomorrow.

Our evening session today was delayed a bit due to the  Djokovic V’s Chiudielli, Samantha Stosur V’s Kristina Barrois and Lleyton Hewitt’s game against Donald Young finishing late. But it was  good results for Australia as Lleyton and Samantha both won and are through to the 3rd round.

Our first match for the night was Roger Federer V’s Victor Hanescu. Federer was doing it very easy until the 3rd set when there was a surprise guest to Rod Laver arena. Prince William entered the arena to a thunderous applause and cheering. It seemed to lift the Romanian. Although the scores don’t indicate it, 6 – 2 in the 3rd, he made Federer fight for every game, taking many of them to deuce. We had seats up FF row up top and it was pretty warm, so at the first opportunity during the Karolina Sprem V’s Casey Dellacqua (Aust) match, at Deb’s insistence, we moved over to the good seats down below the press area. We finished up in row B seats 260 and 261, just up and across an aisle from Gary Lyon (of the AFL Footy Show fame). In front of us were two of the most hilariously drunk young guys we have seen for a long time. Deb, myself and Gary Lyon were in stitches of laughter with their antics. At one point they both brushed their teeth, tooth paste and all, but they had to share the tooth brush. Even the press photographers on court seemed more interested in the antics of these two than the match, about half of the cameras were focused on these guys at one point. Eventually they were asked to leave by security, they couldn’t understand why they were asked to move, but did so quietly anyway.

A little way into the Dellacqua game the Prince returned and watched the game until half way through the 2nd set, when he and half the VIP section got up and left.

Anyway, Casey Dellaqua eventually won her game 7-6 and 7-6. It was a great game, very tense to the end, Spren seemed to be fighting off cramps for the last 3 games or so of the match.

All up our Australian Open experience has been amazing. The tennis has been exceptional, either in the fight in the matches or in the skill of the players. The top players really are class acts compared to the others.  And TV really doesn’t do the game justice, the speed and agility of the players doesn’t come through as it should. Anyway, I am sure we will be back for more in the future.

 

 

Australian Tennis Open 2010

Melbourne and the Tennis
View from the "Ladies"So drunk they share a tooth brush???The free Melbourne tramKim Clijsters in action

Adelaide to Wagga Wagga

16th March 2010

 We left home this morning on our way to Gosford NSW to help Dad celebrate his 80th birthday on Thursday.

Today was all about getting closer to Sydney, Gosford is just north of Sydney.

After 915km (570 miles) in 9 hrs we checked in to a hotel in Wagga Wagga across the road from the Murrumbidgee River.

After we checked in, we went out and got fish and chips then headed back to our hotel, walked across the road and had dinner on the banks of the river.

It was so peaceful, with many cockatoos in the trees "chirping" away. While we were walking along the river someone started practicing their bell ringing in a near-by church.

Although they were very much a beginner, we enjoyed listening to the ringing, it took us both back to a few of the cities in Europe where we sat back and listened to the bells being played.

We have a "short" drive tomorrow, about 600km, so hopefully we will be up on the central coast by about 2pm.

 

Comments

Vonnie
18th March 2010
dingi 2 d pilgrims

 Hey Pilgrims

Hope you're having a super trip, please pass our best wishes on to Bid for a fabulous 80th birthday.

Love Tom and Vonnie xoxo

  Top

Our 2010/ Sydney Holiday

Adelaide / Gosford / Sydney / Canberra /Balranald
The Dog on the Tucker Box The Senateone big gorillababy elephant few weeks old -

Wagga to Gosford to Sydney

17th March 2010

 

17 March

 

We left Wagga Wagga , you have to love a town with a name so good they named it twice, at about 7:15 am and had a very easy drive up to Gosford and then Umina and the Ocean Beach Caravan Park. The Park isn’t too busy and it is well laid out and the amenities are good and clean.

We then drove to mum and dads, about 30mins from the park.

We spent the afternoon just hanging around at their place, catching up on what they and us had been up to since Christmas, and I sorted out a couple of “technical” type issues they were having with their computer and mobile phone.

Mum put on a nice dinner and we eventually got back to the Caravan park at about 9pm. The night was a bit cold and the bird wildlife around here a little loud, but we both had a reasonable nights sleep.

18 March

We got to mum and dads around 10:30, and went in and wished Dad a happy birthday, gave him all the cards we had brought over from Adelaide and also gave him our present. He appreciated all the wishes from everyone back home.

We went out to Erina Fair, a large shopping centre and got mum a new SIM card for her mobile, and then had lunch there. After that we went back to mum and dads and then at about 2 went over to my brother’s (Craig) place to see him and Cook (his wife). They were both well and was good to see them.

We started getting everything ready for dinner at about 4pm, Craig and Cook had already set the table, so we started getting the food ready. The menu for the night was Prawns for starters and then Roast pork with all the trimmings for main, followed by Bread and Butter Pudding (Dads Fav) and the birthday cake.

As the afternoon went by Caitlin and Carly (Craig and Cooks daughters arrived home), Mum and dad arrived with Dads sister Elaine and her partner Arthur, and then Patrick arrived lastly at about 5:45pm.

Dinner was very good, and everyone had a good time celebrating Dads birthday with him and generally catching up with each other.

The night finished around 9pm and we all went home.

19 March

A nice slow morning. We are meeting an “old” school friend of mine, Bruce Felton, at Ettalong Hotel for lunch. We had a very relaxing morning just sitting around enjoying the surrounds and sunshine. Lunch was lots of fun. We had lots of laughs and a few geeky moments, but mainly just caught up. It’s amazing how we seem to stay the same no matter what the years have thrown at us.  Deb and I had a very enjoyable couple of hours sitting in the beer garden sharing a few stories over lunch and a couple of drinks.

We spent the afternoon lazing under a big old gum tree relaxing and keeping cool.

Had dinner with Mum and Dad, and Craig and Cook(Carly and Caitlin both had to work), at an Italian type restaurant. Meal was Ok and was good to see everyone again before we left.

20 March

We packed everything up and left Umina at around 9:30 on our way to Narrabeen. It was an easy drive down, well, as easy as Sydney traffic can be. Apparently down here if you leave any sort of gap between you and the car in front it is an open invitation for someone to fill it, quickly!

We called in and got the Weekend Australian for Deb and some rolls for lunch before checking in early at the camping ground. We were lucky and they let us in very early, and as a result we were all settled in by midday. I organised with Pat to go to the rugby with him. Warringah were playing a trial game against Gordon at Rat Park. Pat picked me up at about 1:45 and we went to the ground ( a couple of minutes away). It was a very warm day for football, around 30 and high humidity. I guess there were only about 20 Rats supporters there, it was mostly players watching the games.  Just before First grade started , Lou Feltscheer and Lindsay Gordon arrive, Dave (Lou’s eldest son) was playing in first grade. It was a nice surprise to see them. A long story short, the Rats won by a try in a typical trial match.

After the game we said bye to Lou and Lindsay and Pat came back to the Campsite with me. We were going to go out for dinner with him. We got a call from Barry and Sue Freshwater,  we organised to go out for dinner together at a little cafe /restaurant next to the Camping ground. Kate, their daughter came along and we had a great time catching up with them, it’s always good to see them and the meal was very pleasant. We have been invited around to their place on Tuesday night for dinner, Pat is the guest chef, cooking up and Indian feast for us all.

After everyone left Deb and I started to try and catch up with how the State elections were going back home. We were checking Twitter and the net to get a picture of what was gong on. Seems like the Labour Party will be returned to Government with a significantly reduced majority. Twitter was a particularly amusing way to follow the elections as Sarah (Ben’s wife) was very active having her say on how it was all going. It’s another way that people can get really into the political process, putting your thoughts on the way things are going in real time. It made us both smile.

 

21 March

Another beautiful morning. The suns shining and the humidity is up. Pat is playing in a 10 a side corporate rugby  tournament today so we won’t see him today. There is a market on in Narrabeen today, so we thought we might go down and have a look at that then go to Manly , maybe up to North Head and maybe over to Bondi.

The Narrabeen markets were interesting, seem to a have a variation on the stuff all markets have.  Lots of people, but not many buying anything. Got the Sunday papers and then drove to Manly via North Steyne. So many people down at Manly and the surrounds. Got a park reasonably quickly and took a walk up to the beach and then down the Corso, through the Corso market ( similar to Narrabeen, but much smaller) down close to the wharf and then got a couple of chicken wraps for lunch and drove up to North Head for the view and to sit and have lunch.

I doubt if there are too many views of Sydney much better that the one from North Head. But gee it was very hazy over the city and North Sydney. On the way down we had a quick look in at the old Army facility and cruised past the old Manly Hospital and the old Monastery (now a Hospitality College) before driving back to Narrabeen via all the beaches. So many people and cars around the beaches from Manly to Dee Why, then it got a bit easier.

Having a quiet afternoon reading the papers before going off down tho North Narrabeen Beach. Thunder storms forecast for this afternoon tonight, so we don’t want to be too far away when it all hits !!!

The surf definitely wasn’t up today, small 2’ to 3’ waves coming in at North Narrabeen. There aren’t too many brave souls down at the beach, the water is starting to get cold and it’s a bit windy.

 

Our 2010/ Sydney Holiday

Adelaide / Gosford / Sydney / Canberra /Balranald
Sunrise in BalranaldView over Old Parliament House view from Doyles at Watson's bayOn Ferry from Circular Quay to the Zoo

22nd - 24th March Narrabeen Sydney

22nd March 2010

 

Monday 22nd March

Deb here.   Was a very windy night, we put the prado behind the tent as that was where the wind was coming from.   Don’t think it did much, the tent was blowing around and it was very noisy.   We still managed to sleep though, think the wind died down into the early morning.    Today we went for a drive up to Palm Beach, some lovely views and homes up there.   On the way back we drove through Karingai National Park, was a relaxing day.

Tues 23rd March

Today we drove to Taronga Zoo, we could use our passes to the Adelaide Zoo to get in.    Saved us $41 each, we love a bargain!!   We really enjoyed the zoo, it had been ages since Greg had been.    I enjoyed the Giraffes, Elephants – we don’t have any at Adelaide Zoo.   There were 4 adult ones and two babies, one was 8 months old and the other a few weeks old.   The smallest one was adorable, I couldn’t get over how tiny it was it easily fit underneath its mum’s tummy.   Was great to be able to see it.     The Gorillas and chimps were also really good, one Gorilla was enormous and there were a few babies which were also adorable.   We had lunch there overlooking Sydney Harbour, great view.   There is a gondola at the bottom (it is all down hill at the zoo)  we caught it back up to the top and drove home.

Went to Barry and Sues for dinner.   Patrick came to and cooked us a lovely Indian dinner, we had lentils and rendang was delicious, a bit hot, which Greg of course loved.   Was lovely to see them all again.   Especially Patrick.   It is Sue’s birthday tomorrow, hope she has a great day.

Wed 24th March

Today we drove to Taronga  Zoo, we found out yesterday that members of the zoo can park in their carpark for $5 for the day.   So we parked there, caught the gondola down to the ferry   (James Packer’s $30 million yacht was still parked there – hard life for some, will see if Greg will put a pic up of it, it is very specky).    We caught the ferry to Circular Quay.   We were going to get a ferry over to Paramatta, but there was too long a wait, so we caught the ferry to Watsons bay and had lunch at Doyles, had a great view back over to Sydney.   We had flathead and squid, was delicious.    Afterwards we walked up to the Gap for a lovely view back to North Head and also back to Sydney was very picturesque.     We then caught the ferry back to Circular Quay then another one back to the zoo and drove home.     Was a bit cooler today, which was more pleasant.   It has been quite hot high 20’s with high humidity, which I find a bit difficult.   We spent a few minutes when we got back packing some things up.   Doesn’t take long when you are camping as we don’t have much stuff.       Tonight we are having tea with Phil and Lou, will be good to catch up with them.

Tomorrow we are off to Queanbeyan about 3 hours away, we are hoping to go to the art gallery and see the Great masters of Paris.   Then tomorrow evening we are off to have tea with Fiona and Robert (our old neighbours).

A cuppa awaits, have a few hours to relax some more!! Before heading out for the evening.   Tough isn’t it!!

Hope you are all well, looking forward to seeing you all when we get home xoxo  

 

Our 2010/ Sydney Holiday

Adelaide / Gosford / Sydney / Canberra /Balranald
The Dog on the Tucker Box House of Representatives Parliament House Canberraview from Doyles at Watson's bayThe tomb of the unknown soldier

25th - 27th March 2010 Canberra to Balranald

25th March 2010

Thursday 25 March 2010

We were all packed and gone from Narrabeen at 9:05am, all ready to face Sydney’s infamous peak hour traffic. Well, if that what peak hour in Sydney is like those who live there whinge a lot about nothing. We were going through the harbour tunnel in less than 30 mins after we left.

We had an uneventful trip to Queanbeyan, arriving at about 1:30pm. Checked into our caravan park no problem and drove to our site. The first thing we saw was dirt, then we got out and looked at each other, firstly there was a lot of traffic noise, and then the smell of urine!!  We figure many, many past guests must have used the border fence line as a urinal. Not nice. So we tried to wash it all down with water and liberal sprinkling of washing powder. We put extra tarps down on the ground under our camper and in the annex area just to be safe. (The smell did actually get a bit better  with time). Once we had sorted everything out we set off into Canberra and the National Art Gallery. The gallery had a special exhibition of Post Impressionist artists on loan from the Musee d’Orsay in Paris and other galleries in Europe. We had seen a great number of the works last year in Paris and Amsterdam. The star of the exhibition was Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night. While we were queued to get into the exhibition (it was about a 35 minute queue) we took turns in exploring other areas of the gallery. There are many very interesting works on show. But we both agreed, Jackson Pollock’s “Blue Poles” hasn’t improved with age. After we had spent some time in the gallery and the exhibition, we strolled over to the High Court building, right next door to the gallery.

We went and sat in all three of the High Court Rooms. Each room had a resident guide and they all passed on some brief but very interesting facts about the jurisdiction and operations of each of the courtrooms. 

(Next time we come to Canberra we intend to time it so both the High Court and Parliament are sitting, that would make for a very interesting and very different time)

After all that we set off to visit our old next door neighbours from Wattle St, Rob, Fiona, Lach and Bella. It was so good to see them and catch up on what they had been up to and tell them of the various goings on in our neighbourhood. Fiona cooked up a beautiful meal of Lamb Kofta, with Mango slices, Cucumber yoghurt and chutney. It was a very enjoyable time and as usual when you’re having fun, the time went way too quickly. We said our good byes and hope to see them all later in the year when they visit Adelaide.

Back at our campsite, the cold night air helped to make things not so smelly, which was a relief, if only the cold had deterred the amount of traffic that flowed past us all night. Yes even deaf old me could hear it and was woken a few times.

 

Friday 26 March 2010

We left to go exploring by 9am.

Our first call was the new Parliament House. We got there and were parked and in the main entrance by 9.40, and sorted out where to meet up for the guided tour at 10am. We walked around and looked and artworks and  the many photos they have on the walls.

The tour took in the Great Hall (today being used for a University graduation ceremony), the House of Representative Chamber, the Senate Chamber and the Main Committee room. The guide was very informative with a good sense of humour and typical Australian irreverence. After the tour we got the lift up to the roof of the Parliament building and had a walk around under the flag pole and on the grassed areas. The views from up there were superb, expansive vistas over 360 deg of Canberra. From there we went down and had an early lunch in the Queens Terrace Cafe. We both had a salad (a chicken and a calamari), both were very nice.

We then walked down to the Old Parliament House, and walked around having a look at old Prime Ministers suite, the Cabinet room, party rooms, the opposition rooms, the press areas, The Senate and House of Representatives Chambers, and numerous other little nooks in the building. The only rooms we couldn’t get to were the members bar and restaurant areas, seems they still use them for functions etc. It was very clear why that had to have a new building. The Old Parliament was clearly too small for a modern Parliament to work effectively in.

It appears that the grassed area immediately in front of the old parliament house has been given over to the aborigines and the “Embassy”. The embassy was originally set up in front of the Parliament House back in the 70’s (I think) as a means to get public recognition of the plight and struggle of the aborigines. The fact that it still remains today is somewhat of a stark commentary of how far we have (or have not) come since those heady days.

We then walked over to the National Portrait Gallery. We both enjoyed this much more then the Gallery the day before. The works on display were done in a large variety of media, from traditional paintings to more abstract / contemporary works.  A fascinating snapshot of Australian icons and what makes us who we are.

From there we drove to the Australian War Memorial. As we walked into the first display area we just happened to arrive as a guide began a tour. It was very interesting to hear the history and stories behind the dioramas, and have them put into context of the days when they were first put on show to a post WW1 Australia, and the relevance it has for today. We eventually found our way downstairs to see the display on the Malaysian Police Action (that Dad was involved in). Like many other theatres of action seen by our armed forces, the display was very brief, but it was good to see that it and other events had made their way into the Memorial. We finished our time there with a visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a very respectful memorial.

We then drove down to Civic, the commercial hub of Canberra. We somehow found our way into what looked like a VERY large shopping centre spread over a very large area. All the shops looked new and fresh and there were lots of people streaming through. We got a few provisions for the drive tomorrow and then headed back to our camp for a bit of a rest before going out for dinner and preparing everything to go back into the car to start the first leg of our drive home.

 

We had a lovely dinner, found a restaurant that served wood oven pizzas, was delicious J

 

 

Saturday 27th March 2010-03-27

We got up at 6.50am and were on the road by 8.20am, we had a good run to Balranald, arrived at 3pm.    We have a nice room in the Balranald club Motel.   I think the Motels of Australia have all had a makeover.   Well the few we have stayed in over the last few years have.   Really nice.   There is an RSL next door, the guy who checked us in said they had nice Chinese and Australian food, so we will see. 

We hope to leave by 8am tomorrow, so should be home by 1.15pm   Looking forward to seeing Aiko, seeing how the garden has withstood the heat while we have been away and also seeing the house.   The painter told greg last night he had done the bedroom, hall, kitchen and most of the lounge.    Looking forward to seeing you all soon.

Was a good holiday, really enjoyed celebrating Bid’s 80th with him and catching up with everyone.   Will post this and add a few more photos

xo

 

 

Our 2010/ Sydney Holiday

Adelaide / Gosford / Sydney / Canberra /Balranald
Long Reef headland from North Narrabeenone big gorillaHouse of Representatives Parliament House CanberraHouse of Representatives Old Parliament House

Balranald to Adelaide

28th March 2010

 We got away from our hotel at about 7am and had a very easy drive back to Adelaide with 2 stops.

Our first stop was to take in the magnficet sunrise over the mallee just out of Balranald, simply breathtaking. The colours of the sky and landscape were unbelievable, the photos were good but don't really do it justice.

Our second stop was to call in at Pinnaroo, mum's family were pioneers in the area and we just had to stop in for a look. Dad has always called it a one horse town, and I guess the horse had slept in with everyone else. After all, it was 9:30am on a Sunday when we called in. Even the bakery was shut!

We arrived home arounf midday. Went indirectly, (washed the car first) straight over to pick-up Aiko (our dog) and then onto home.

We have had a painter in painting the inside of our home while we were away. He is making good progress and his work look very good. We were both pleased with the colour we chose for the walls (Antique White) and how fresh the place was looking.

We had a great time over the last couple of weeks, but its always nice to get home. smile

.

Our 2010/ Sydney Holiday

Adelaide / Gosford / Sydney / Canberra /Balranald
baby elephant few weeks old -The tomb of the unknown soldier adorableJames Packers $30 mill yacht

Countdown to North America has started

8th June 2010

 It is now 24 days until we leave,

It's is starting to get exciting laugh out

8 Days until we leave for North America

25th June 2010

 Here is our itinerary

3 July             Fly to Glacier Park, Montana USA via San Francisco and Salt Lake City, meet up with John and Georgiana

4 to 8 July      Exploring Glacier Park

8 to 12 July    Calgary and The Stampeed, meet up with Carolyn and Margret  (Call into Vulcan on the way to Calgary J  )

12 to 18 July Explore the Rocky Mountains Banff, Jasper etc

18 to 20 July Rocky Mountaineer from Jasper to Vancouver

21 July           Fly to Fairbanks Alaska to join Cruisewest tour.

                        Fly into the Arctic, and explore

                        Go to Denali National Park, North Face Lodge. Explore the park.

                        Bus and Railway to Anchorage

                        Fly to Juneau to begin Inside Passage cruise

5 to 15 Aug    Fly to St Paul Minnesota, staying with John and Georgiana

                        Explore the area with them and visit the Great Lakes

15 August      Fly to Boston

16 to 28 Aug Tour North East corner of USA and Canada

28 Aug           See The Jersey Boys on Broadway in NYC

29 to 31 Aug Fly home from JFK NY via San Francisco and Melb.

 

Comments

Glenys
27th June 2010
US Trip

What a fantastic itinerary!!! Can't wait to see the pics!!!

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Ben said it well, up up and away!

2nd July 2010

 

Saturday 3 July 2010

Hi this is Deb

Mmm I did the blog and then lost it!!  Here we go again!

I was awake at 4.30am, did well I thought, we were picked up at 6.30am and now we are in the Qantas club lounge Sydney, Greg finally has his drink, we were here 20 mins though before he got it, he is slipping!  wink

Has been a very smooth morning, sssh, don’t tell anyone!!   We board in 30 mins and fly out in 90mins.

We fly to San Francisco, then Salt Lake City before getting a flight to Kalispell Montana, we arrive there at 7pm tonight, 29 hours after leaving home, mmm we have only just worked that out, bit arduous, but I am sure we will manage!!   (was 34 hours from Rio to Adelaide!)

It is great to share our adventures with you, we look forward to hearing your news too!  razz

We will have a cheers or two to you all when we get on the plane and begin our adventure!

Enjoy your weekend

Love from both of us xoxo

PS Dante how was the footy??

 

 

 

 

 

North America July 3rd to 20th

Our 2010 Pilgrimage
Berries in the Granville Island MarketAt the summit of The Whistlers MountainMom(Margaret) Greg and Sis(Carolyn)Rocky Mountaineer Jasper to Vancouver

And the day goes on!!!!

3rd July 2010

 

Saturday 3rd of July – keeps going on it is 6.45am Sunday at home and 3.15pm Saturday here!

Just after we got on the plane in Sydney the guy sitting behind us was asked by the flight attendant to leave the plane, you can imagine the stories floating around our heads!!   But when we got off in SF we saw him leaving first class!!   That was not one of the stories we had invented!!  eek

 Arrived in San Francisco at 9am, and sailed through immigration and customs without any problems.  SF airport was a bit humid, and the A/C didn’t seem to be on, go figure huh!    

Our flight to Salt Lake City was on a small plane , 76 seater. Going over the Rockies in Utah was  amazing, there are HUGE  salt lakes everywhere. Very unimaginative to call a city after them!!

 Arrived SLC at about 2pm ( another time zone change) and promptly sort out the Delta Sky Lounge, (very nice, spacious and quiet) for $90 US you can get a months membership for both of us  (access to all the Delta Sky lounges world wide, free drinks and snacks, net access and a comfy place to wait for your flight away from the masses and hard plastic seats razz )

So here we are cool comfy , a Corona for me and an OJ for Deb , life’s good.   We are getting tired, have been travelling for over 24 hours – we got about 2-3 hrs sleep on the plane, will be good to get into a bed tonight!

John and Georgiana have already made it into Kalispell, and if the plan keeps coming together we will meet up with them when we land at 7pm and begin our adventures with our very good friends.  smile

 

 

Comments

HAECKE
4th July 2010
Aiko says Woof (means hello)

Sounds like you have all arrived well and are enjoying yourselves! It seems surreal that you were here having dinner on Friday and now you are all the way over there!


Hana and Aiko are getting along famously and havve calmed down considerably.


Hope you are having a wonderful time with everyone!

Love you

C

  Top

North America July 3rd to 20th

Our 2010 Pilgrimage
Waterton CanadaGreg on board the USS Enterprise Margaret & Carolyn on the courseAt the summit of The Whistlers Mountain

One last Hurrah!

3rd July 2010

 

3 July 2010 draws to an end, but not without one last hurrah.

The flight from SLC to Kalispell was amazing. The area coming into Kalispell is pretty mountainous and heavily wooded. The trees go to the top of ranges and there were still the odd small patch of snow left on the north facing gullies at the top of a few peaks. Lake McDonald the largest lake in the area was magnificent from the air. It stretched out, beyond the ranges and into the distance, a deep blue colour. We will be thinking of you McDonalds when we explore it tomorrow!

Kalispell looks to be made up of a mix of many small acreage farms (40 acres and more) and wilderness lodges. Along with the pine forests, giving it a distinct alpine feel.

John and Georgie were at the airport to pick us up, our first sight of them was huge beaming smiles, so good to be met so joyfully.razz

Once we got our luggage we went off for a “Montana/American” dinner. We went to a restaurant called The Night Owl and Back Rook Restaraunts. I had ribs and chicken with fried bread, Deb had a Pork Roll and Beef  Vegetable Wild Rice soup. The meal was delicious, the fried bread was more like a big chunky doughnut, very nice. Deb thought she won in the dinner choice, but I disagree, lol.

After we worked out the appropriate tip and paid the bill we set off to our accommodation for the next few nights, The Silverwolf Log Chalet resort. We got there and the managers had gone , it was 9pm, but no one was answering the night emergency number. So we had a bit of a look around , and in no time at all our American friends had me break and entering through an open window in our cabin wink. Its the key you have when you don’t have a key.! LOL Not long after I got the front door open the manager rang and said they would be back in 5 mins. So we quickly got all our stuff out of the room and waited for her to arrive.  5 minutes later we were back in the room legitimately this time, I am on the run from the law!! What a way to end the day, we were all in fits of laughter about our little escapade laugh out. Finally  we settled in to end a very very long Saturday 3 July! 

(mmmm Greg I don’t think you needed encouragement to break and enter!!!  wish I had the camera would have been a great photo!! )

 

 

 

North America July 3rd to 20th

Our 2010 Pilgrimage
Brunch at Priddis Greens Golf & Country ClubBerries in the Granville Island MarketMargaret & Carolyn on the courseMoraine Lake

July the 4th 2010

4th July 2010

 

Sunday 4 July 2010

Our very first Independence Day in the USA. They’ll be fireworks tonight. J (But we will probably be asleep by then, it doesn’t get dark here until after 10pm.)

We both got a good night sleep and woke around 6.30am. We had breakfast with John and Georgie, and planned our day.

We got on the road around 8:30 and went into Glacier Park to go to the information centre and get maps and find out the best things for us to do in the way of walks/hikes. On the way in we had to buy a 7 day park pass, while we did this John asked about the “senior” offer they had, turned out he got a lifetime USA wide National Park entry permit for $10!!  Good score.  Funny thing when we were queueing to get into the park, of the 2 lines of cars our was moving about 1 car for 3 cars of the other queue, we had our answer for the cause when we got to the window. The guy serving our lane was ancient, and nothing in this world was going to get him to speed up, not that he probably could of anyway! We all had a great laugh and smiled lots when we saw him.

We got our maps and brochures, and planned our day.

Our first hike was Rocky Point and then a walk along the side of  Lake McDonald. Just as we set off  we came upon a sign declaring this to be “Grizzly Bear, Black Bear and Mountain Lion” country, and not to feed them!!! The walk was interesting. As we pulled up at the car park we saw our first native wild life, a deer was feeding just into the undergrowth. John stopped the car and Deb managed to get a couple of nice pics of it before it scampered into the forest. (Yes, its forest over here, not bush). Apart from a couple of moderate hills the walk was easy and very picturesque. We got a rock for our collection at the waters edge. A forest fire had swept through this area of the park in 2003 and pretty well burnt out the side of the mountains. The forest is still recovering, I guess the cold climate makes recovery slow.

After the walk, we went to Lake McDonald Lodge for lunch before heading to Avalanche for a walk up to another lake and to see some hanging waterfalls caused by the glacial action. After lunch we were walking towards the car when we saw some (OK well, a) Marmot stick its head up out of the ground and then jump out of it hole to feed. A curious creature that was very nervous and fled almost as soon as we saw it.

 The Avalanche walk was mostly up hill and I am sure it was much longer than the 2 miles they say it is! But it was so worth it. On the way up we saw some pretty good rapids in a small creek and then eventually made it to Avalanche Lake. It was beautiful, surrounded on 3 sides by snow capped peaks and very steep sheer cut sides. At the far end of the lake you could see 3 waterfalls streaming down the face. The setting was magnificent, looking across the lake to the sheer cliff walls and the waterfalls cascading down. While there, we saw a few people fishing, one Fly Fishing and another using a lure. We saw the guy with the lure pull in a small (what looked like a trout) fish and throw it back. As we were watching the fishing I noticed a movement about 10m away on the banks of the lake. It turned out to be a couple of Chipmunks. I went to get a pic of them and they ran away, so I stood still for a moment and they came back, one eventually came to within a meter of me, before running up a tree.

While we walked back down the hill to the car we saw a reindeer nibbling on plants just to the side of the path we were on, it startled very easily. Unfortunately, it was so dark in the forest by then that I couldn’t get a reasonable pic of it.

We got back to our cabins around 5:30pm. At about 7:30pm we left for dinner at the Belton Chalet, an old historical building near the entrance to the Glacier Park. After having drinks at the bar while we sat at our table. Deb ordered Duck, Georgie Salmon and John and I Elk. I treated myself to a “Moose Drool” to wash down the Elk. An aromatic silky beverage!  LOL It’s BEER. All the meals were very tasty and we all enjoyed them (the Elk was not a gamey as I had thought it might be, and was most like a rich steak and the Moose Drool was the perfect drink to go with it razz)

We finished dinner by sharing an Independence Day dessert. A vanilla and raspberry layered Icecream cake with Blue Berries on top (Red White and Blue). While we were eating it the local “Lads” started letting off their fireworks, most were pretty tame, but every now and then they let off some pretty professional looking fireworks.

It has been a great day exploring this part of the world and just generally having a good time with John and Georgie. There are going to be a few sore legs tomorrow.! roll eyes

 

 

North America July 3rd to 20th

Our 2010 Pilgrimage
Black Bear, on roadside on way to Maligne LakeGreg on board the USS Enterprise High up on the Road to the SunWaterton Canada

Going to the Sun Highway

5th July 2010

 

Monday 5th of July 2010

We were a bit slow getting started this morning, didn’t wake until 8.15am, was good to have a good  night sleep.  We have adjusted well to the time difference.   Still taking me a while to get used to driving on the wrong side of the road!!  And these light nights are very nice, tis 10.30pm before it gets dark.    We aren’t having dinner until after 8pm, which is late for us.   But because it is so light is doesn’t seem like 8pm!

Anyhow after our late start we caught the free shuttle bus for the Going to the Sun Highway.   I am not sure if the road is on the great road trips of the world list, if not it should be.   The scenery is stunning.   The road is very narrow and is on the edge of a steep cliff, mountains everywhere -  many snow covered, glaciers, waterfalls and the lushest deepest green vegetation we have ever seen.  Magnificent.

I found this today, might help you picture it – Montana’s Glacier National Park is 1.2 million acres of shining mountain ranges, deep valleys and lakes carved by prehistoric ice rivers.   The park features glistening glaciers, alpine meadows, dense forests, waterfalls, majestic hanging valleys and over 200 sparkling lakes.

The Going to the Sun Highway is 52 miles long and crosses the Continental Divide at Logan Pass, the last time we did that (cross a Continental Divide) was on the Mine Canal which joins the Mine and Danube Rivers last year.  Logan Pass was like a winter wonderland, snow and alpine trees everywhere, beautiful.

We had lunch at Rising Sun Restaurant about 2pm (I told you we had a late start to the day!)  Then it was back on the bus for the 2 and a half hour trip back home, after we got back to our car we stopped and had some huckleberry pie and ice cream (oh yes and for lunch Greg had buffalo) so we are doing well at trying the local food and drink!

Saw a fawn today on the road and Greg saw a mountain Goat up near Logan Pass, we also saw squirrels and marmots and a dead skunk on the road!   We are really enjoying all of the wildlife and the beautiful scenery.  If it wasn’t for John & Georgiana we would never have come to this part of the world, we didn’t even know it existed.   I love visiting unplanned, delightful places like this on holiday that were never on our list of places to visit.   There is so much beauty in the world and it is a joy to be sharing it with such wonderful friends.

Thankyou for your lovely messages, it is pleasing to know Aiko is not running down the street, she could certainly lead Hannah astray on that score!   We were thinking of you Ben down at Hayborough, hope you all have fun, no doubt the children are having a ball.   I heard on twitter that is was very cold down there it was 46F in the mountains today, you do the math!! Is it foggy going through Mt Compass, I can remember not being able to see the end of the bonnet!

We leave here tomorrow and head for East Glacier for two nights, hope it warms up for you at home! 

Our love to you all, tell the little ones we have postcards and are posting them tomorrow, or maybe don't cos I think they might take a while to arrive!   xo

 

 

 

North America July 3rd to 20th

Our 2010 Pilgrimage
Greg on board the USS Enterprise Margaret & Carolyn on the courseCheers Business Class on the way to the USABlack Bear, on roadside on way to Maligne Lake

East Glacier

6th July 2010

 

Tuesday 6th July 2010

The alarm went off at 7am and as is often the case we did not sleep very well as we were waiting for the alarm to go off!!

We were on the road just after 8am, posted the post cards and then we were on the Going to the Sun road – only one direction today.  The road is undergoing some major repairs, and the signs at the beginning of the works read:

Putting America to Work

Project Funded by the

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 

(some things stay the same no matter where you are!)

We stopped and took lots of photos of the mountains – they do not do it justice though, they just don’t capture the whole panorama.  Up near Logan Pass a Nanny Goat and its kid strolled across the road in front of all the traffic, lucky for them the road works had slowed it all down. We did a couple of lovely walks, to St Marys falls then Virginia falls, which were my favourite, it amazed me the way the rock was that the water ran over.   Reminded me of dad’s slate walls, only on a grander scale.   It really looked like someone had built the walls and steps that the water flowed over.   It was peaceful and I could have sat there all day.

Next we went to the Baring falls, was a lovely walk by a lake onto the falls.   I was mesmorised by the rocks and pebbles on the river bed, I have never seen such varied and bright colours.   I chose two small pebbles to bring home, but an hour later when I looked at them they had lost all of their sheen!!  Just not the same out of their environment – Karma!

Before we did the walk Georgie and I spoke to a lovely ranger, she said how amazing the Canadian Rockies were, she whet our appetite.   It amazes me how different the terrain and vegetation is in every country, they are all very beautiful in their own way.  I have never seen so many wild flowers as there are here, so many colours, must be all the rain they have!

We drove onto St Mary and had lunch at 3pm(it is getting later!) it was very nice, then it was onto our accommodation for the evening in East Glacier.   It was about an hour out of the way – the drive was very nice, a lot of Prairie country.   We were rather horrified when we pulled up.   The owner was a character, when we got to our accommodation it looked a bit better than others we saw and inside while very basic it was very clean and the bed was firm, so all is good.   We decided however not to stay here two nights, so tomorrow night we are staying in Waterton at

Waterton Lakes Lodge Resort
101 Clematis Avenue
Waterton Park, Alberta
T0K 2M0
Phone: (403) 859-2150
Fax: (403) 859-2229
Toll-free: 1-888-985-6343

Then on Thursday we are heading to Vulcan – Greg will be in his element(Beam me up Scotty)!!   Then onto Calgary to see Carolyn and Margaret, we should hopefully be there around 1pm Carolyn as we will be a bit closer in Waterton.  (But we will ring you from Vulcan and work out where to meet up.)  We are looking forward to a hug and to catching up.

Dinner tonight is sure to be interesting judging by the look of this town. Not sure what the food is going to be like, will venture out later and check it out!!   Hope it isn’t too dodgy!!

 

Comments

McDonalds
7th July 2010
How was dinner??

 Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening??  :-S  It is so confusing!!!

 

How was your dinner??  Sounds like another new experience for you!!  Bit like being on the amazing race!!!

Ash and I started the day with a 45 min ride into victor at 6:15 this morning.  Was a great way to start the day!  I am staying at home tonight to have a rest.

Is still cold here although warming up a bit!

Luv ya

Ben 

  Top

North America July 3rd to 20th

Our 2010 Pilgrimage
At the summit of The Whistlers MountainGreg on board the USS Enterprise Mt Robson, British ColumbiaMoraine Lake

Waterton, Glacier Park, Canada

7th July 2010

 

Wednesday 7th July 2010

 

Dinner last night was delicious, it was always going to be, our waiter was Ben!!  He was personable and very much in control of the floor!!  He got a good tip!!  wink   We went back this morning for breakfast before heading off around 9am.

It seems everywhere we go there are lots of baby boomers on large touring bikes.  From every model of Harley you can think of to big Honda Golden Wing tourers. Many have trailers and most seem to have head phones and microphones built into their helmets (if they are wearing one!) Every now and then you run into a group of real bikers with worn leathers and big flowing beards, keeping it real. cool

The sun is shining today and it is glorious, the warmest day we have had so far, I would say around 70F (low 20’s)   We drove to Many Glacier was a lovely drive – the Glaciers are really receding there are only about 20-30 in the park now, 50 years ago there were around 300, by 2020 there won’t be any more left!!

On the drive out of Many Glacier we saw two elk in a stream, stopped the car to take photos, there was another guy taking photos with a lens at least 2 foot long!!  Was great seeing the elk in their natural environment and not on a road!

We crossed the Canadian border around 1pm, we were through customs – (stayed in car) in about 4 mins, the guy in front of us just took off really fast down the road – customs was fairly casual, no police, so the guy just got away!

So we were in Canada, I have wanted to come here since I was 12, only took me 39 years – but I am here!   Feeling euphoric ! Happy girl  big grin

We went and checked into our hotel, rooms are nice, bed comfy.  Georgie really wanted to go and have a meal at the Prince of Wales Hotel, which is this magnificent old world style hotel built in 1926 at the peak of the railway boom in Canada. It is on the top of a hill overlooking a lake and the mountains.   It is stunning, the view doesn’t get much better!   So we asked at reception and he said they did High Tea, so we dropped our bags off in the room and I quickl