Monday, June 28, 2010

Snow To Sea

We set off from Paris on the west loop of the trip which is the one I have been looking forward to the most as it is mainly spent through Spain which is one of the places I have been dying to visit since I saw a friends photos about five years ago.

The first stop on the loop was Lauterbrunnen a small town at the bottle of the Swiss Alps. I had been there with Topdeck and had an absolute ball so I was looking forward to chilling out there for a couple of days. Turns out that we actually only booked one night (so we could fit everything in before Pampolona) and we didn`t get there until 7pm so I didn`t get much of a chance to hang out there. Once we dumped our bags in our cosy little cabins (cosy = cramped and tiny) and went for a quick walk around the area. One of my favourite things about Lauterbrunnen is that they have taps in the area that pour pure swiss alpine water out so you can fill up your waterbottles and the water is freezing cold and completely pure. We stocked up like crazy as the rest of Europes water can be a little bit funky. It was also a good time to be walking around as we found a little bench to sit and watch the sun set on the swiss alps. It made the snow turn a reddy orange colour which was really pretty but unfortuneately photos dont do it justice. That night we went to the `bunker`which was the bar that they had on site. The only thing was it was literally a basement and we felt a bit weird being in one of the most beautiful places in the world but underground. So we didn`t spend much time there and had a fairly early night.


The next day we set off from Lauterbrunnen and headed to Nice via Lake Como. The bus trip was another long one and having three big 8 or 9 hour bus days in four days was starting to take its toll. When we jumped off at Lake Como we got the chance to have a quick walk around the area and take a few piccies. It seemed like a beautiful place to stay but definately one I want to visit when I have the money to have a stunning villa on the the lake. We were walking along and saw this cute little cafe with a pond beside it before realising it had baby ducks, a turtle, massive gold fish and a high heel shoe floating in it. Definately the most random pond i`ve ever seen!

After another five or so hours on the bus we arrived in Nice. I had been really excited about this place because it was on the French Riviera which meant days at the beaches. Turns out Nice is actually pretty scummy. There is a really high theft rate so the tour guide had to guard the doors of the coach to make sure no one went on there to steal stuff while we were getting out bags off. He walked us down to a little hotel that was two stars and I would have to say it wasn`t even that. This was the first hostel that I had stayed at in the entire three months i`ve been away that I haven`t felt clean or safe. Considering it was only for three nights we figured we could manage but when your in an area that is famous for being glamourous its hard not to be disappointed.

We survived the first night fairly well because the hostels saving grace was that it had free internet facilities, kitchen facilities and a courtyard where we could sit and chill out away from the streets. The worst part was that it had no laundry facilities and me and Caroline couldn´t make our clothes last any longer. We had to wander through the streets of Nice to find a little hole in the wall launderette which was the most confusing thing I have ever used. We ended up having to get help from some french guys who didn´t speak English which was kind of awkward as we were putting our undies into the machine while they helped us work out the soap/money/setting situation all while miming and speaking french to us. Definately an interesting experience but our clothes got clean and we escaped the dodgy hostel for a few hours.

Our first day in Nice we decided to take the train over to Monaco. It was about a 20 min train ride that only cost €6 so it was well worth a visit. It is the second smallest country in the world and it takes the average person 56 minutes to walk from one side of the other. Once we arrived there we walked along the water front checking out all the beautiful old buildings, the luxury yachts and the flashy cars. Caroline was in car heaven randomly yelling ¨omg there is a ferrari" and "look a lambourgini" while I was just like "woooo a shiny black car". We passed the famous casino (that you have to pay €10 just to get in the door - we definately passed on that one) and saw all these people dressed up to the nines, chucking the keys to the ferrari at the valet and walking through the door. We thought the crowd must be for a wedding or something. Turns out it was a graduation ceremony. What a place to have a graduation! It makes where I had mine look like a crack den. It was fun doing a bit of people watching around this area but we soon got pretty hot and hungry so we headed down to the beach to check out somewhere to eat.


Their beaches are like pebbly beaches so many people hire beach chairs and umbrellas in private beaches to sit on all day. There are public beaches but they are packed full and dont have the added bonus of wait staff. Along the waterfront there are heaps of cafes that are actually out on the beach with the tables and chairs in the sand. We found a fairly cheap (well cheap for Monaco anyways) place to eat and sat down in the cool shade under an umbrella, took our shoes off and put our feet in the sand and basically relaxed. It was the perfect sunny day and there was a lot of stuff going on around out so it was the ideal place to veg out. It seemed appropriate to order a bottle of wine with lunch so we leisurely drank the chilled wine while we feasted on watermellon and just sat on the beach for three hours watching all the people around us.

The way people dressed there was incredible. There were designer clothes, bags, sandles and sunnies everywhere. Even the men were impeccibly dressed (and Ive got to admit quite fun to look at). The girls were dripping in jewellery and wealth and it was just incredible how many people just lay there, ordering bottles upon bottles of wine, beer and several courses of food while they sunbaked and swam. It is definatley something that I would love to spend my days doing. While we werent exactly dressed in our bummiest clothes we werent exactly fitting in. Caroline when to the bathroom and while she was in there ran into a girl in a bikini, flip flops and carrying a Hermes handbag. So basically while the girl was wearing less then Caroline, it was Caroline who was underdressed.

After a lazy day at the cafe we had another mosey along the waterfront before heading back to Nice. It was pretty much one of the most perfect days I have had while I have been on this trip. It doesnt take much more then a nice meal, a cold drink, beautiful view and good company to make me happy and for some reason the stars aligned and I had one of those incredibly perfect days. Ive had a couple of those this trip and sometimes I wonder how long it will be until the next perfect day. The best part is that every few days or so there is a new city to discover and a new experience to be had so hopefully these days arent too far in between.

The next day we headed down to the beach at Nice to check it out. It wasnt as nice as the one at Monaco because instead of pebbles this one was completely rocky. It was €14 to hire a beach chair and umbrella so we decided to pass considering we were not going to be down there all day. Caroline had a pretty uncomfy sit on the beach while I had a quick dip in the water. First swim in the meditteranian sea was a pretty cold one. It was a very nice contrast to the heat of the day though and since the water was flat it was good to just bob around for a bit. After awhile though I thought Id be nice to Caroline and stop her sitting on those uncomfy rocks so I got out and we went for a wander around old town.

The old town in Nice is similar to that of many old towns around Europe. The streets are tiny little alleyways with cute buildings with verandas and windows sprouting flowers while washing is hung from the wires over head. There are lots of little shops along the side of the street selling anything from summery clothes to tacky souveniers. Many of the shops had some decent clothes and shoes in them and it was hard to resist all the cute things to buy especially all the kaftans and beach wear as 10 out of the next 20 days I plan on being at the beach. After all the window shopping we worked up an appetite and headed to a pub for lunch.

Later that afternoon after a rest back at the hostel we headed up to the top of Castle Hill. Which is pretty much as the name says the hill on the edge of the city that has the castle on it. You can walk up about 500 stairs or you can pay €1.20 for a ride up in an elevator. Unless you have a deathwish and want to die of heat exhaustion the elevator is the way to go. Its slightly scary as it has two sets of doors, goes really slowly and is at the end of a pretty shifty tunnel. For someone who is intensly claustrophic like me it wasnt the best experience but when you toss up walking up stairs to about a minute in the elevator its not so bad.

We had taken up a bagette, bottle of wine and a block of cheese as our tour guide had told us it was a really cool place to get a good view of the city while having a picnic. Unluckily for us there seemed to be a festival or something going on that meant the place was crazy crowded full of people and there were no good possies to have a picnic. It wouldnt have been so bad if it was a music or food festival but it seemed to be some sort of activist gathering. All the stalls were either protesting something or asking you to sign a petition. After a quick walk around we decided we would be better off having our picnic on the beach.

Once we got down to the beach we found a spot along the board walk and just chilled there for a little while. By this time the sun had gone behind the clouds and there was a nice breeze so we didnt die of heat. The weirdest part of the whole arvo was when we noticed that the lady in front of us had a basket next to her towel. Caroline pointed to it and told me there was something moving so we were trying to work out what it was for a little bit. The lady then opened up a can of tuna and put it at the edge of it and the next second a big white fluffy cat walked out. Who brings a cat to the beach!!!!! Needless to say we were slightly freaked out and started laughing and staring. Then I swear the cat heard us and gave us an evil look. It just stared at us for ages without blinking. We got a little unnerved by this. Luckily for us the crazy cat lady (as she will forever be called) packed up and headed off with her cat back in its little carry basket.

That night at they had a free champagne party in the neighboring hotel so we went there for a quick drink. The champagne wasnt the best but it was free so we thought we would give it at go. After one however we decided it would be better to have an early night because the next day was a bus day. Unfortuneatley for us our roomies didnt want an early night and we ended up being woken up at about 2am by them coming home drunk and bringing randoms into the room with them. We then got treated to 3 or 4 hours of them talking, having showers, getting up to be sick and snoring. It was the worst night in a hostel I have had since I´ve been away. You hear some horror stories about hostels and I knew we had been lucky but I was hoping to get away without having to deal with inconsiderate and rude people. After having only a couple of hours sleep we got up cranky and tired and made as much noise as we could to wake up the rest of them. I know it was petty but I was sooooooo not in the mood. The worst part was that two of them were on our bus the next day so we had another 10 hours in their presence which did nothing to improve our moods.

Its weird how one bad experience can change your whole perception of a place. Im sure that Nice is actually a decent place (I mean the french riveria is famous for being amazing) but I definately wont be rushing back there. Next stop is Barcelona which I have been looking forward to for ages! Hopefully the next post is more about fun things, good hostels and better experiences.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Is It Love Or Just Paris?

Yes! Thats right back in Paris again!

If you had told me a while ago that I would be in Paris four times in one year I would have told you that you were crazy! But luckily for me that is exactly what happened! This time was only the third time as and we were back again because our west loop (through Spain and France) started from Paris. We were lucky enough to grab a quick day in Paris before we were off again!

The downside of this whole thing is the time wasted between cities. We had a fourteen (14!) hour bus ride between Munich and Paris which was definitely a bit of a struggle. Luckily for us we had an amazing tour guide who just let us sleep and popped on movies when we were about to go crazy from boredom. The best part about Busabout is that they play movies that are related to either the city you have been in or cities you are visiting. This time we got to see the Moulin Rouge and the Da Vinci Code so seeing all the sights in those movies sort of got me excited about being back in Paris. On our way into the city we had a bit of a guided tour on the bus where we got to see all the sights, the beautiful old buildings, the pretty parks and all the big sights so after being in the city for less than an hour I was already in love with it again.

I have to admit I wasn't expecting much from this visit - i honestly thought I'd use the day to look for jobs and organise the next leg of our trip. Turns out I was completely wrong! After a quick bite to eat we passed out in our beds after an exhausting ( I dont know why cuz all we do is sit down) day on the bus. The next day we decided to head into the Notre Dame as this was the one thing that I wanted to do but hadn't yet had the chance to visit inside - due to public holidays and other pressing tourist attractions. So far we hadn't had much luck with the weather but on our one day in Paris the sun was shining and the skys were clear and I couldn't have asked for a better day to see the view from the top of the Notre Dame. Caroline decided to give it a miss so she went and did the other Parisian thing to do and have a coffee and croissant while I climbed the 400 steps up to the top. It was a beautiful view over the city and I actually preferred it to that of the Eiffel Tower. At the top of the tower everything is so birds eye its just specks on the ground but at the top of the cathederal it is high enough to see beyond the main buildings but you are at a better level to see the sights - plus the Eiffel Tower is in your line of vision which makes for some good photos. While I was up there I saw the bell 'emmanuel' and saw all the gargoyles. Im desperate to read the Hunchback of Notre Dame now that I have been there - well either that or watch the Disney movie - because it was referenced so often throughout the whole place. Inside the cathedral was beautiful but not one of the best I had seen. I much preferred the one in Prague (aren't I spoilt now?) but it was still a nice place to visit.


While standing in the line for the Notre Dame I experienced one of those small world moments - I ran into a guy that i went to highschool with. Who would have thought we would run into each other in Paris of all places. That's the second time its happened now (the first one was in London) and I kinda have the feeling it probably wont be the last. It was shame because we only had a few moments to chat before he had to run off but it was still a cool experience all the same.
After the Notre Dame we had a quick walk around the Latin Quarter and saw all the cool shops and funky cafes.

We then headed to the Arc Di Triomph as Caroline hadn't seen it up close. It was fun to stand there and watch for a few minutes while we spectated all the crazy Parisian drivers. We didn't witness a collision though which was a bit of a disappointment due to the average of it happening every 6 minutes but we did see a few near misses. The tour bus just drove on there like Kamakazies and people on bikes and scooters weaving everywhere. It was intense and if i had a picnic and somewhere to sit in the shade I could have stayed there all day.


We headed along the Champs Elysees and had a bit of a browse along the shops before we headed to Louis Vuitton which was one of the high end stores that Caroline wanted to visit. We had to line up for 10 minutes before we were allowed into the shop. Once we were in there we had a bit of a browse. It was intense - there was a separate level called 'females universe' which held all the shoes, bags, wallets, keyrings etc. They even had their own library with books about Louis and all the history. They even had their own luxury bathroom. It was an experience to even be in there - even though I was wearing my pluggers, t-shirt and shorts. Not the classiest attire to visit one of the most famous fashion labels!

After Louis we spent the rest of the arvo wandering the famous shopping street but I was a good girl and resisted buying. We headed back to the hostel where we ran into a few people from our bus and decided to have a picnic by the water. After stocking up on cheese, dips, crackers and drinks we headed down to a canal nearby our hostel and sat on the edge and feasted away. It was nice just sitting in the sun, chatting and relaxing and basically just taking in the summer in the city. There were people out playing soccer, walking their dogs, picnicing and basically just lazing around. I could have easily spent the rest of the evening there but me and Caroline had to go back and get ready because we were heading to the Moulin Rouge!

We had been umming and ahhhing for a million years about whether we should go while we were in Paris. It was a bit of an expense and were we really that keen? After getting tickets through Busabout for 88 Euro (which included a bottle of champagne) we thought we couldn't pass up a bargain like that! It was lucky we decided to go when we did because it was booked out all week except for that night! The only downside was that it was the 11pm show so we had to stay up nice and late just to get in. We got all dressed up (well as dressed up as one can get when she has no clean clothes in her backpack) and headed to the Moulin Rouge where we had a bit of a wait before getting seated. I was so extremely under dressed (its cocktail attire - boys can't wear jeans) in a black summer dress and flat shoes while all the girls around me were wearing cocktail dresses and heels. It didn't really matter in the end though because I was more excited about the show.

Once we got seated we were lucky enough to grab a place right next to the stage so we got right up and close in the action. We got given our bottle of champagne (yay! real french champagne!) and settled in to see the show. It was so incredible. I don't really know how to describe it. There was so much going on - the costumes, the dancing, the singing, the boobs everywhere! This is going to sound pretty dumb and feel free to laugh but it didn't really occur to me that all the singing would be in French. I don't know why this was a surprise to me but needless to say I had no idea what was going on in the storyline. I know it was a love story but apart from that I couldn't tell you a thing. Another thing I didn't really realise was that there were guy dancers in the show. I've always just assumed it was all about the girls in their skimpy costumes and stuff. The boys were definitely a nice view in their skimpy costumes thats for sure!

It wasn't all dancing and singing though, the show included other cabaret acts. They had a juggler, acrobats (the kind that do all those weird lifts and balancing on each other king of thing) and a ventriloquist. The ventriloquist even had a real dog on stage that moved its mouth when he wanted it to. It was some sort of mask but it freaked me out a little bit because I had no idea how it was happening. The worst (yet sort of the best) part was when the stage was pulled back and a huge water tank came raising out of the ground. The water tank had four HUGE snakes in it trying to tread water. One of the girls then jumped in and did this dance/twirl thing with them for a few minutes. It was so freaky! I was so close that I got splashed so you can imagine how it felt to see those huge snakes up so near to where I was sitting. Im not usually scared of snakes but it made me feel a little queasy!

Overall the show is definitely worth seeing because they rock out the traditional Can-Can like no ones business. Even the boys jump around and do the splits like crazy and I have no idea how they can bend that way. It was definitely one of the highlights of Paris but lets be honest there aren't really any low lights in this incredible city. Unfortunately the next time I will be in Paris it will be for less than 24 hours but I'm sure that there will still be something fun to discover while I'm there.

The next stage of our trip is definitely one of the things I am most looking forward to as I haven't been to any of these places before and I have been wanting to visit Spain for years. The best part is that I am now more or less up to date with my blog and i am hoping to keep it that way. Unfortunately for some reason this computer decided to not read my camera so I can't do any photos. One day I will edit these posts with photos so that they make a bit more sense. I will also one day hopefully sort out all the punctuation and spelling mistakes made - I can only blame the crazy European keyboards! So please forgive the massive massive amounts of text and my extreme blabberings but seriously no words or photos can do justice to this experience. The only way for you guys to understand what I'm on about is to come here yourself! Until then I hope you can live vicariously through my adventures!

Why does it always rain on me? (In Munich)

After Vienna we headed to Munich via Salzberg. I am still kicking myself for not staying at least one night in this place as it is the home of the Sound of Music (one of my all time favourite movies) which means you can do a tour of all the places. It also looked like a beautiful city so it is definately on my 'To Visit List' - which keeps growing day by day. Anyways after a pretty short drive day we arrived in Munich just in time to catch the Aussies in the world cup.

I'm not sure if you all remember (or if I mentioned it) that last time I was in Munich it was raining and freezing cold and I spent most of my time doing a walking tour then sitting in the Hopfbrau House drinking and eating. Well my second time around nothing much else changed. I was promised that Munich really is beautiful in the summer and it doesn't usually rain this time of year. Turns out it only rains when I am there (so hopefully this pattern changes during Oktoberfest - otherwise Im really sorry to everyone else).

Our first night in Munich was a Saturday so we decided to hit the town for a bit of a night out and check out the nightlife. After a couple of drinks at the hostel bar while watching the world cup and basically trying to psych ourselves up for walking in the rain we headed into the city centre to the Hopfbrau House where we were going to meet the Californian girls and their German friend that they were staying with. We couldnt find them in the crowd so we decided to snag a table as soon as we found one and get ourselves some traditional german food and drink. Caroline ordered a Pork Knuckle while I decided to get a pretzel. Not nearly as exciting but definitely the cheaper option (more money for beer!). Caroline even tried a beer - I'll admit it was a shandy but still thats a big deal for my lovely Caroline as beer isn't her drink of choice. After about 10 minutes four men in Leiderhosen come up and ask us if they can sit with us because they are in the band and on their break so they need to eat. So while we were drinking our German beer and eating our German food we were sitting next to four German men who were wearing traditional costumes so we snagged a few photos!


After awhile the girls somehow found us and we headed over to their table to have a drink with their mates. It was fun being around German people except it was a bit hard to hear and to talk because of all the noise. After the Hopfbrau started winding down (its illegal for them to be open after 12am) we headed to a tiny little bar around the corner. It was a cute place and definitely somewhere the trendy people hang out because when we walked in I swear nearly everyone in there could have been models. Needless to say we felt extremely under dressed but its ok because you can get away with it when your a tourist! After a drink there me and Caroline decided to call it a night so we headed home and left the girls to it. Luckily we left when we did because apparently they were out til 5am at a nightclub and I don't think I could have handled that!

The next day I was lucky enough to get a phone call from home so I spent the morning chatting away and catching up on emails and basically just lazing about because I could. Caroline and I had decided to go on a 'free' walking tour around Munich to get our bearings. When I say 'free' I mean you just have to tip them how much you think it was worth (which works well for a cheap backpacker). It was probably one of the best guided tours I've had. I'm not sure if he was really good because he knew he had to be paid depending on his performance but he certainly earnt his tips. He was really captivating and spoke passionately and was really informative without being over the top. I learnt more about Germany history from him in three and a half hours then I had during my whole visit to Germany. We visited the Glockenspeil (which is the clock tower in the city centre that has a little show on the hour), the beer hall pusch (where Hitler and his soliders marched after he commited treason), the Hopfbrau House hall where he commited treason and the beer gardens (learning much about the beer which is definately a need to know in bavaria). We also learnt the difference between the Bavarian Germans and the rest of the country which was interesting because as I had not visited Berlin the differences were pretty obvious.

After the walking tour me and Caroline tried to find a little cafe or pub to visit but it was hard as everything was closed because it was Sunday. We ended up grabbing a pizza from a nearby cafe, heading back to the hostel and having a lazy arvo watching the Kiwis play in the world cup. As we were pretty tired and it was raining (for a change) we thought we would have a quick nanna nap then see what the girls were doing. Three hours later I wake up, groggy as hell but still tired. We thought we would try and be social by hitting the bar but one coke later we were back in the room reading our books and watching movies on Caro's ipod. Not the most pumping day but pretty much a perfect way to spend a sunday - after all they are supposed to be lazy.

It felt weird not seeing the girls for a whole entire day and we were pretty sad because they were leaving us in Munich and we had gotten used to having them around. The next day we decided to catch up with them and hang out for awhile. We were waiting for them in the hostel foyer when a German guy called Max decided to come up to us and start talking about his business. We were happy to chat and he was a nice guy but after about 45 minutes we were wanting to escape a little as we had no idea what else to talk to him about. We decided to wait outside for the girls because they would be here any minute. After waiting in the rain and the cold for 15 minutes we thought we would just wait back in the foyer. They arrived a few minutes later and just as we were about to go we got hijacked by Max again. He wanted to tag along and while we were wanting quality time with the girls we couldn't really say no. Oh how I wish we had said No! It was such a struggle to carry out a conversation without him interrupting and it was hard to really relax and chat because he would start raving about his business every two seconds. I will probably kick myself one day when he was famous but for a few hours that day we had to manage a conversation with a crazy German guy who could not stop telling us about himself and asking crazy personal questions to us. He was determined to take photos of us and ended up hugging and kissing us goodbye. It was just a little bit full on especially when all we wanted was the girls to ourselves!

The plus side of the day was that we managed to find the nicest pub to have our meal in. I managed to get a beer, soup and salad for less then 10 Euro. It was really nice to have a meal loaded with veggies! Caroline scored a beautiful fillet steak, baked potato and salad for cheaper then it would be at home and we pretty much just feasted while trying to watch the football game whilst trying to ignore crazy Max. Afterwards we managed to ditch him as he was tired and heading back to the hostel so we headed along the main town to check it out with everything open. We had a bit of a wander through a bookshop that sold lots of English books (I was a good girl and only bought a book for three Euro - sometimes there just isn't any good books at a book exchange). We then headed to another cosy little pub and sat outside but under the heaters (we ended up in t-shirts after having three layers on all day) and had a few drinks and heaps of fun chatting while we watched yet another football match. It was the perfect way to spend our last afternoon with the girls. They had become really good friends really fast and I knew we were going to be a little lost without them. Luckily for us they are back in London at the same time as us so we will have another chance to catch up before its goodbye for awhile.

That night we had another lazy night at the hostel. There is something about the rainy weather that just does not put you in the mood to socialise once your back in your room. We were lucky as we had really good roomies at our hostel and the room was nice and big with a table and chairs and which mean space to just hang out and chill. We had a couple of drinks and chatted to the girls before heading to bed early. We really are turning into a couple of nannas but all the travelling is starting to take it out of me.

Im pretty lucky that Im a heavy sleeper and I sleep through most things but I will be lucky if I get to bed before 11 or 12. Most of the time when Im in bed it takes me a bit to go to sleep and you are more or less woken up early by people coming and going in your room. Its either that or you have to get up to see a tour, catch a bus, meet someone or fit in some time online to finally finish your blog! I dont know the last time I had a solid eight hours sleep in a bed that was comfy and clean. The hostels have been for the most part pretty great and I haven't had any really bad experiences but something must not be going right because my back is killing me. Having a new mattress and pillow every three days followed by 10 hours sitting on a bus, carrying backpacks and handbags while walking around has taken its toll. I'm loving my life right now but part of me can't wait until I settle down somewhere and find a place to call home for a little while. A bed that is all my own in a room that I don't have to share with my stuff put in places without worrying about locking it up - it will be a welcome relief!

Munich pretty much completed the north loop of my Busabout tour which means that I am now onto the west loop. If you have a look at the 'Where I've Been and Where Im Going' list and click on Busabout you will be able to see what is in store for me next.


Throughout my whole entire trip of Europe all I have heard about were a family called the Hapsburgs. Now they were a massive family who ruled Europe for about a million years (ok about 600) and were really influential throughout history. So while I was in Vienna it seemed appropriate to visit their palace.

The Schobrunn Palace was their summer palace which was located about 10 mins away from our hostel. We spent the morning walking around the most amazing gardens you could ever find. It had a big arch walkway full of roses that when you walked down you could smell the strong scent. I actually saw a lady going for a jog then stop to smell the roses they were that beautiful. We then walked up to the top of the hill which provided a really good view of Vienna from the top. The gardens were so stunning they even included a zoo (which is the oldest zoo in Europe) and a maze. We didnt go into either of them as they cost money and the weather was looking slightly iffy. We decided that we would come back and go inside the palace the next day as it was forcasted to rain so to make the most of what time we had we decided to have a walk around Vienna city.


This walk turned out to be the scaffolding tour of Vienna as nearly everything had scaffolding on it. The opera house, the university, the library, the museums, the Hapsburgs other palace. It was a beautiful city but with a the rainy weather and the scaffolding it was starting to get a little bit miserable. We solved that problem by having a yummy viennese coffee ( better then italy!) and cake at a little cafe in the middle of the main street and people watching. The ladies dressed so nicely it was almost old fashioned the way they had their hair done, nice clothes and high heels on. You could definately tell the locals from the tourists.

The afternoon was spent back at our hostel which was really cosy and friendly. It was two little courtyards (one with a giant chess set) and two big lounge rooms that you could laze around on with free wifi and stuff. They also had a piano, bongos and three guitars that were available for guest use so we got treated to a bit of a show by a couple of people walking through. It was really cute but a little intimidating as I felt extremely uncool not being able to play either even though I had both piano lessons and guitar lessons. But this is coming from a girl who spent eight years speaking german and didnt do much of that in Austria either. It was nice to spend a rainy afternoon inside snuggling down for a good reading session. That evening we visted the girls at their hostel and decided to head around the corner to a bar for a couple of drinks.

The bar was an Australian themed bar and I was excited to find that they had Bundy rum, arnotts shapes, meat pies and vegetime and cheese toasties on the menu. I have to admit that I was missing meat pies so I tucked into one straight away and washed it down with a Bundy and coke. It was A-MAZ-ING. The pub was pretty fun and there were a few people down there watching the world cup so it was pretty rowdy. Some american guys befriended us and peer pressured one of the girls into doing a snuff shot. It was crazy - you have to do a shot of alcohol, put your nose on this wooden machine, the bartender pulls a big lever and it shoots a shot of snuff up into your nose, then you have to move your nose over to a little brush that the bartender wiggles to make you sniff the snuff up. It was intense and it looked a little dangerous really with all the leavers and things waving about but Morgan did it and she said it wasnt too bad. I wasnt game enough (especially after the several shots I did in prague I think it will be awhile before i shot anything) but it was definately interesting to watch.


The next day Caroline and I went back to the palace to check out the inside. It was exquisite! I dont know how else to describe it. It just had the most beautiful furnishings and decor. We only went through 40 of the 1000 rooms in the palace (that doesnt even include the kitchen - which was held offsite) and it took an hour and a half just to see those rooms. We got a guided tour so we learnt a bit more about the family history and the era when the palace was built. I was a bit apprehensive at spending 12 euro to do that because we had already seen a few palaces and castles along the way but im definately glad I did it.

After the Palace we met up with the girls and headed into a irish bar that was recommended by everyone to have some lunch and watch the USA world cup game. We had the nicest pub meal and a couple of beers while we watched the match. It seems that Vienna was very much about touring in the morning and relaxing in the arvo. We had planned to try and catch an opera while we were in Vienna as you can line up for an hour beforehand and get standing tickets for 3 Euro. The only problem was by this stage the weather had decided to be against us and it had poured down for ages and ages and ages. It was basically just a rainy miserable day and we were not interested in standing in line outside a venue for an hour. It was a shame really because I would have loved to have seen one but sometimes things just arent meant to be. We decided to take refuge in a cafe and we grabbed another coffee and cake before heading back to the hostel.

That night we were just sitting there watching the world cup when about six girls from Vienna came in an asked us to help them with a competion. They were actresses and needed us to help them act out a scene. We werent really keen to do it as we had just snagged good positions on the couch but then they all got down on their knees and begged us to help them. Its hard to refuse people who are begging so we decided to help them. We had to act out Romeo and Juliet while they took photos and videoed it. This was done in the foyer of the hostel with quite a few onlookers. I was mercuito so most of my 'acting' was finished early as I got killed and had to lie down on the floor dying while Caroline and Morgan had to pretend to love each other as Romeo and Juliet. It was a pretty random event to happen while we were in Vienna but it was a bit of a laugh so I dont mind. I just hope that the video isnt out there on YouTube somewhere with the caption - dumb tourist losers acting out Romeo and Juliet.

We decided to have an early night after that shennanigans and headed off to bed. While Vienna was fun the weather definately put a dampener on it. Im hoping that one day I can go back and visit and see all the buildings and truly appreciate how pretty they are with the sun shining and scaffolding taken off. I would also love to explore more of the musical side of things as Vienna is the home of classical music and there are some really famous places around the city that would be amazing to see.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cool Things Always Happen When I'm In Prague

Last time it was the annual beer fest. This time it was just crazy drinking shennanigans revolving around the world cup and an epic pub crawl.

The first night we were there happened to be the first night that Australia was playing in the World Cup against Germany. So after hitting the hostel bar for a welcome Pilsner beer we headed into the Old Town Centre to watch the match on a big screen. It was set up so that you could sit or stand in front of it whilst behind you there were beer and food stalls (beer was €1 for 500ml and the food was like 2€ for a chicken kebab stick or bratwurst - yummy!). It was such a cool atmosphere with heaps of Aussie expats there as well as pretty much half our hostel (including two topdeck and two busabout buses). Unfortuneately Australia lost the match 4-0 and we ended up getting harrassed by all the surrounding german expats and the Czechs that were going for them. It was still a really fun night and definately a good way to start our stay in Prague.


On the way home we were walking to the tram station and we saw the Prague Castle up on the top of the hill all lit up. It was like something out of a disney movie so we decided to head there the next day. Our first day in Prague will always be knowns as the "Tram Tour of Prague". We asked the lady at the reception how we should get there and she told us tram 15 but the sign on the wall told us tram 12. We went with tram 12, it ended up terminating at a random part of town which required us to get off and ask directions from a Canadian couple who told us tram 22. Well to get to tram 22 we had to go back to the city centre, so we got on the next tram that way. Turns out that tram didn't go to the city centre and we ended up back at the hostel. So we got on tram 15 which didn't terminate anywhere but took us waaaaaaaaay beyond the castle via a crazy back route. So we got off there and ended up getting the metro up to the castle. Once we arrived we realised that we had spent 2 hours trying to get to somewhere that was half an hour away from the hostel. SO FRUSTRATING!

Anyways, once we got up to the castle we had a look around the grounds and realised that the pretty thing that we saw the night before wasn't the castle at all but the cathederal. It was beautiful inside and out (even with the bit of scaffolding all over it) but the castle itself was pretty lame. It just looked like really old office buildings so we decided to pass on the €12 entry fee and decided to head into town for a look around. As we were walking out of the castle grounds we were treated to the best view of the city. It was a clear day and at the top of the hill there you could see out to the whole city and it was stunning. You could see the clock towers and church spires in the old town hall and all the cute little houses surrounding the area. Many many many photos were taken here.


We gave the trams a miss (can you blame us?) and we got the metro into the main city centre and had a look around the shops. Due to the exchange rate the Kruna (czech crown) means that shopping in Prague is pretty cheap. I was well behaved though and the only thing a splurged on was lunch consisting of a delicious stir fry filled with veggies. After a bit of a cruise around the shops we headed back to the hostel to get ready for the evening.

Prague is famous for its nightclubbing and even though it was a monday we had discovered a pub crawl that was going on. So we picked up a €3 bottle of vodka and had a few cheeky pre drinks before we headed out. All we knew was that the pub crawl met at the clock tower in the city but you could buy tickets a bagel shop nearby. So we decided to give the trams another try and got halfway there before we saw the bagel shop. We jumped off and ran inside only to find out that it wasn't the right one! So we jumped on the next one that came along and it turned out that it decided to terminate at the same random spooky place the one earlier that day did. We then had to jump on the next one that came there and try and get into the city centre. We ended up jumping off two stops early and did a trek along the main road into the town square. Luckily for us our pre drinks had us buzzed and walking wasn't an issue. In fact it was rather fun until a truck drove by and splashed one of the California girls with water. Then it was hilarious.

Once we got into the town square we were powering towards the clock tower when a guy in a pub crawl t-shirt intercepted us and convinced us to go with him to a different pub crawl. Considering we had no idea what was going on we decided to go with him and a couple of the people he was with (the fact that we were desperate for a bathroom and he knew where a free one was also helped his cause). Once we got to the bar we found out that it was only €12 for the night which included a free shot at each place (there were five places) and a power hour at the bar we were currently at (we were there for 45 minutes) so we figured that entry fee paid for itself and we would give it ago. We were just at a cruisy little bar and had a couple of drinks before heading around the corner to another little bar. This bar was heaps of fun as it had heaps of tables that the waiters came around to. I tried to be classy and order a gin martini but got told they had run out (WTF?) but its ok because I could order a gin and tonic (riiiiiight). The place was a little bit dangerous however because the welcome shots were of Abstinthe which would have been fine to try except we ended up with two each because we missed the first one at the first bar. Ohhhh dearrrr. We met a couple of american guys from New York that were heaps of fun to talk to and had a bit of a dance on the d-floor before we headed to another club.

Once we were walking to the other club we realised that there were actually about 80ish people on our pub crawl (including a whole American lacrosse team ;) ) which was fun beacuse it meant even though it was a Monday night there would at least be some atmosphere. The next club was heaps of fun with a good dance floor and another free welcome shot! We spent most of the night there just chatting and dancing and having a great time. The worst part about the pub crawl was the next place. It was disgusting! It smelt like smoke, dirt and B.O - probably because it was dirty, smelly and infested with gross people doing all sorts of things on the dancefloor and in the toilets. Luckily for me I was drunk enough not to notice how gross it was! The three other pubcrawls that were on that night all ended up there so we ran into a few more people we knew off our bus. It was heaps of fun but at around 3.30 it was time to call it a night and get a cab home.

We were pretty lucky that Caroline was sober enough to work out how to get a cab, where we were going and how to pay for it because me and the California girls pretty much had no idea what was happening. Turns out that the cab driver took us through the back way through dark alleys and tiny streets and while Caroline was sitting in the front freaking out about how to tell us how to run if we needed to we were all in the back seat just either laughing our heads off or sleeping. Luckily for us Caroline didnt need to tell us an escape plan because the taxi driver dropped us off safely in front of our hostel. I think that maybe all those movies with dodgy taxi drivers have given them a bad name but when you are in eastern Europe I guess you have to be careful!

The next day was a slow starting one as we slept in until about 12ish due to our late night the night before. After a mexican brunch (which was delicious - shame i was too hungover to eat it) the girls headed into the jewish quarter to look at the cemetry there. Since I was incredibly seedy and had already seen the place i decided to stay behind at the hostel and catch up on some jobs like laundry and sorting out the rest of our trip. It was kind of nice to have some alone time and snooze, watch a movie on Caros ipod and read a girly book I stole from the book exchange. If I hadnt been to Prague before I would have been a little disappointed in myself but overall I had a pretty good day considering I had consumed at least five absinthe shots the night before (never again).

That night we just had a yummy pizza (which seems to be part of my staple diet lately cuz they are so cheap and always yummy) and a couple of drinks while we watched another world cup match. I then spent two hours typing out a blog post on the free computers until about two paragraphs from finishing the computer turned itself off and all my work was lost. So that has a lot to do with why Im so far behind but im getting there! Especially as I now have free internet again so I will probably do a bombardment of posts to catch up!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ich Bin Ein Berliner

Not really but I did visit there and saw a cardboard cut out of JFK with a speech bubble saying that.

I was really looking forward to heading to Berlin as last time I visited it was 7 years ago when it was winter and I dont really remember much about the trip other then the pretty christmas markets and cold weather. After a pretty cruisy drive day from Amsterdam we got to our hostel in the late afternoon. After checking into the best hostel so far (we even had our own balcony - fancy) me and Caroline had a bit of a wander around the local shopping galleria called the Alexanderplatz. We found a nice little bar that had beach chairs out on a deck so we just sat there and lazed around and people watched for a little while before finding something to eat and having a nice early night.

The next day we opted to do a walking tour recommended by Busabout. It was a four hour tour of all the main sights in Berlin. We got to see the Brandenbourg Gate, what was left of the Berlin Wall, Hitlers bunker (where he committed suicide), the museum and university where they burnt 25,000 books, the jewish memorial and lots of other bits and peices around the city. The tour guide was really passionate which was really good as it kept you interested and excited about what you were seeing but after 3 hours I was a bit like - ok man calm down. The only downside was that we were walking around in the sun and 30 degree heat. It was the first proper summer day Ive had whilst away. So sunburt and partched we headed straight somewhere to eat and drink.


On our way to the place with the deckchairs (we figured this would be a good place to relax again) we stopped into a Currywurst shop. We had been told that currywurst was a local specialty and had to be tried. Its basically just a bratwurst smothered in tomato sauce with curry powder on top. It was pretty good I must say but definately increased our thirst so we powered on to the little place and found a beer garden tucked behind the deck chairs that had a big screen.

We had pretty good timing as we sat down,ordered a drink and got to see the first game of the Football World Cup. Im not usually into soccer as a sport but I have to say sitting under the shade of a tree in a beer garden with a stein of the local brew in hand I had heaps of fun. The California girls play soccer at home so at least they were really into it. Caroline ate the most delicious schnitzel ever and I just drank and people watched and actually got into the game.

That night it was a another friend of ours from the bus birthday so we decided to head out with her and check out Berlins famous nightlife. We headed first to this place called the 'Playground' which was basically a man made beach in the middle of no where. They had imported tonnes of sand and set up sun lounges and beach chairs along with food and drink stalls. There were volleyball nets and people kicking around soccerballs as well as a huge big screen to watch the match. We just chilled out there with a couple of drinks and watched the second game while talking to a few more people from our bus.

After that place we were going to head to a wine bar we had heard about from our tour guide that you pay one euro for the cup, they fill it up and then you pay them what you think it is worth. As cheap backpackers wereautomatically thought bingo! Turns out we could not find it. After catching two trains and walking up a quiet street we decided that we would give up and try this nightlife thing tomorrow. Turns out we headed home around 11ish and apparently the nightlife in Berlin doesnt start til at least 1am. No wonder the street was deserted!

The next day we decided to check out the History of Germany Museum. It displayed the history of Germany from around 300 to 1995. It was interesting to see how it was founded and read about all the invasions and family history that I had been hearing about throughout my whole time in Europe. It was also interesting yet sad to see memorabillia from Hitlers reigh and the war. The upside was they had a little section on fashion and pop culture which is always cool to look at. We also had a wander through some markets thats were close by and I grabbed another traditional food - a pretzel (yummy!).

After the museum we spent the afternoon looking around the Jewish quarter that was a series of beautiful old buildings connected by little courtyards that held really funky little shops. Not the massive chain stores but gift shops, clothing boutiques, book shops and jewellery stores etc. It was a cute little area and we could have gone crazy shopping up a storm if we had the money. By this time we had worked up an appetite and it was starting to get chilly so we headed to a little cafe in the area. Its so funny how having the World Cup on has changes everything. Every single cafe had a flatscreen showing the world cup along the street. In fact our cafe had three alone! Everybody was out watching it and we were lucky enough to catch the second game for the arvo. When your backpacking and eating out you usually opt for the cheapest thing on the menu or the thing you can understand in the language. For this reason I seem to eat pizza pretty much every second day and I have to admit im kinda getting sick of it. So I thought id be fancy and order a flambee tart with bacon,egg and onion. I figured that sounds sort of like a quiche and I havent had one of those since France. Turns out flambee tart is just a german word for pizza so much to my suprise I had a bacon, egg and onion pizza. It was extremely delicious but now Im still craving a quiche! We also had an appel strudel to share and It was different then I expected but still delicious.

That night we tried our second attempt at having a nightlife but tried to head out a bit later. We started the night by watching yet another football match. It was the USA vs England game so at least I felt like I had a team to go for. Its hard though cuz we had become good friends with the Cali girls so I wanted to go for them... but I would be ending up in England so maybe I should go for them. In the end I figured Australia has always had a sporting rivalry with England and that wouldnt change even if I was living there. So offically (since Aussies arent the best soccer team) Im going for anyone else but England. Thats a suprise at all considering this time last year if you had tried to make me sit through a soccer match I would have chucked a tantrum and left the room.

After the match we tried to find somewhere to go and followed some directions from the bartender at the hostel. Once again the directions didnt help and even at one in the morning we could not find any of the bars/clubs he was talking about. We eventually found one club and had a bit of a dance before the DJ changed and we ended up dancing to songs that just did not mix together. According to my map (yep, when backpacking you even have to take a map clubbing) there was a club nearby so we tried to find it. After taking directions from an English girl who was apparently a local we headed off to the place. We ended up standing in a deserted square in the freezing cold at 2.30 am. Needless to say we gave up on the idea of finding this famous Berlin nightlife and headed home. One day I will be out clubbing and drinking in Berlin! Just not this trip.

Luckily we had headed home as it was a drive day the next day and we had to head to Prague. Overall I enjoyed Berlin and think that maybe if I go back I would love to see something beyond the crazy history and war memorials. Im sure that Berlin is more exciting then that but when you only have two days its not something to miss. On our way out of the city on our way to Prague we drove along the East Side Gallery which is part of the Berlin Wall that is left standing and has been painted by artists from across the world. While Im sorry I did not get a chance to walk it, it was still an amazing sight to see.

Next stop was Prague so im getting close to catching up. Once ive caught up I hope to start blogging about other things other then what I do in the cities and other stuff about backpacking as well.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Well after leaving Paris we headed for Amsterdam. Caroline and I decided instead of doing the whole Eurail thing we would do Busabout which means we selected a two loops around Europe and we can hop on and hop off whenever we want (as long as we book the next leg). The buses drop you off at hostels that they recommend (and they are usually pretty cheap) and give you advice on what to do. I didnt know what to expect after Topdeck but I was happily suprised at how easy and well organised the first leg was.

Once we got on board they gave us swipey cards so we just swipe on for the rest of our trips. They also gave us a lonely planet guidebook and a little booklet that gives us info on the places and what we can do there. There is also a guide on each coach that can recommend things to do and sell us tickets to tours cheaper. The buses are pretty much the same except they have a little spot you can put your headphones in and listen to the movie, music or radio. So it was a pretty comfy journey from France to the Netherlands.

Once we arrived in Amsterdam we checked into our hostel called the Flying Pig. It was right opposite the Vondel Park which is like Amsterdams version of Central Park in NY. It was in a residential area just slightly away from the clubbing district so it was a bit quieter then the last one I stayed at. The place had a really cool chill out area where you could watch TV, drink or a seperate smoking room. Having the smoking room seperate was a godsend for those of us who dont smoke because that way you dont walk out of the place smelling like weed.The plan was this time to do a little bit more cultural stuff and a little bit less partying - as last time it was the final stage of our tour so it was all about the drinking.

The first day we decided to do a bike tour that took us out of the city and we rode around the countryside for about four hours. We were lucky that we had a nice sunny but cool day and we could ride along without too much effort. We stopped at the cheese and clog farm that I visited last time so i got another taste test of the delicious cheese they have there. We went through their soccer feilds/golf course (whilst dodging golf balls) and saw a few old windmills and canals.



That night we decided to have a bit of a walk around the red light district as Caroline hadnt seen it.When i say we had a bit of a walk around it i mean that totally literally. We got lost trying to find it and spend 45 minutes wandering the streets only realising when we pasted a chinese resturant for the second time that we had actually walked straight through it twice. In our defense the ladies werent out and the lights werent on and the last time I was there i was completely wasted. Caroline couldnt convince me to go to another sex show so we just had a good wander round and checked out the ladies in the window and all the funny things in the sex shops. Its amazing the type of people you see walking around. We saw all the boys on bucks nights or wild weekends, old men on business trips, a pregnant lady with her husband (walking right past a coffee shop we were like seriously lady!) and people like us just checking it out as well as many of the men going in and coming out of the doors.

The next day it was pouring down with rain so we decided to have a nice lazy day inside. I know I said a bit more culture this time but im telling you sometimes a lazy day is just what you need. We spent the morning reading and chilling online before heading into town to see Sex and The City 2. Since we were having a girly day we followed the movies by traditional dutch pancakes and coffee in a cute little cafe in a side alley. It was really relaxing to do something with a bit of normality like you would at home. I know that im in Europe and probably should be seeing a museum or something but seriously being on the road for a few months makes you miss little things like movies and coffee with friends. Im loving my life right now but when you are away you sacrifice those normal social things without realising how much a part of your life they are.

That night we were just bumming at the hostel when we met some girls from our tour and headed down to the bar for a drink. The girls were from California and we got to know each other over a round of Kings - the drinking game. Its good to know that this game is international and can be played anywhere there is booze and cards. So far I have played it with the yanks, kiwis and poms. Its great to see what different rules they have and i have definately picked up some good ones along the way. I also picked up a few normal card games and some more drinking games which means I will be set for the future backpacking trips to come. It was also really nice to make friends with the Cali girls because they were going to be on the next few stops with us - and making friends from around the globe is part of what backpacking is all about really!

The next stop was Berlin and I will fill you in very soon. Im slowly catching up on what ive been up to!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I know Im a little behind but would you believe I spent two hours doing a massive post on a free internet computer before it chucked a hissy and decided to shut itself down before I saved my work? Well here is a quick up date on Paris even though its over a week ago. Ill try and do better to keep updated!

So once we landed in Paris we made our way to the hotel. This was the first test of being a proper Europe backpacker - trying to find your way from the airport to your accommodation when you cant speak the language or have any idea where you are. I must say that I was pretty proud of myself because we got to where we were without any major dramas. With a quick "parlez vous anglais?" to a train station attendant we got the directions to the right metro station and we were on our way. Once we arrived at the metro station closest to our hotel it was a different story all together. We had no map so we decided to use the GPS feature on Carolines blackberry. Funny thing was that we were actually standing right on the street where the hotel was. What is even funnier is that we were actually about four doors down from the hotel itself and we are standing there trying to GPS the address. Once we did the old fashioned thing and opened our eyes and looked around we found the hotel and checked in.

Well, if you think that was a blonde moment and a half you should hear what happened next. After checking in to our hotel and having a bit of a rest we decided to check out the area. We wandered outside and started to head up the street when we saw a little street with lots of shops and stuff so we wandered up there. I was thinking to myself "this looks a little familiar" and as we continued up the street we realised that we were right around the corner from the Sacre Cour (the Sacred Heart Basillica - the highest point in Paris) which I had visited when I was in Paris with my Topdeck tour. So not only did I not realise we were actually on the right street when I was looking for my hotel, turns out I had been there before and my bus had actually parked opposite the hotel I was staying in. Oh dear. It doesnt bode well for our future adventures across europe... oh well!

So after a quick look walk around the area and having a squiz at the Sacre Cour and the Moulin Rough we headed up to a cute little italian cafe for dinner then headed back to our hotel for the night. Our hotel was a little crazy! We found it really cheap on and figured since we would be hostelling it for the next seven weeks it would be nice to flash out and stay in a hotel. Well this hotel was something else altogether. We still had to share bathrooms which were a bit... different. The shower on our level door didnt lock and it had a shower curtain hanging up blocking a massive hole in the wall. It also had a bath mat from the Holiday Inn (you know the place is dodgy when even they have to steal the towels). We were up on the third floor and so we had to climb these wonky stairs that were on the biggest lean. It was like something out of a movie from a haunted house or something. Our room wasnt too bad - the linen was clean and the bed was comfy enough. The view however was a little weird as we looked into the most beautiful apartment across the way but outside of it on the roof of another place was a rusty soccer goal (which i have no idea how they got up there) and a black wig. The funniest part was the floor - the lino had been layed a little bit too big for the area of the floor so when Caroline rolled her suitcase over it, it bubbled as she went. But you couldnt fault the location and it came with free wifi which was the most technical thing in the whole place.

The first two days we were in Paris we spent at Eurodisney. It was a pretty good way to break up the historical and sightseeing stuff that I had spent ages doing and that we were both about to embark on. When we got there I was like a kid all over again. I got so excited there was so much do - ¨Do I go on a ride? Do I go find Mickey for a photo? Do I buy Minnie Ears? Do I get some fairy floss?" Ahhh I was so excited. Luckily for me Caroline is a pro at Disney theme parks and she divised a plan to get us through the two parks. We had so much fun doing all the old school rides like the tea cups and story rides and then moving onto more excited adventure rides like the Indiana Jones rollercoaster and the twilight zone haunted hotel. We had a suger high after eating candy apples and pigged out on junk food for lunch. We saw the parade and got to see all the little kids dressed up as the princesses and had heaps of fun.


The last day in Paris we managed to have the best luck. We headed off to see the Lourve which was free because it was the first sunday of the month but once we arrived at the metro station it was pouring down rain and we didnt bring our brollie. So we were a bit caught - should we go back and get it? buy one? do this the next time we are here? But we decided to make a run for it and ended up running right into the side entry, straight down the stairs and right into the foyer without delay. We quickly got the book as a guide and made our way to the italian portraits. We had a bit of a look around before decided to get the Mona Lisa out of the way. I was happily suprised with her because she was bigger than I had thought and we were lucky enough that it wasnt too crowded yet so we got to have a good look without being pushed and shoved. After that we visted the Napolean Apartments which made me drool over the beautiful furnishings and elaborate decorations. After two hours we were a little bit over the crowds so we made our way to the Eiffel Tower.

It was nice to be up the Tower in the day time as last time I was there at night. It was a little bit rainy and foggy so the view wasnt the best but it is still one of my favourite things about Paris. After a hot chocolate up the top and a bit of a wander in the park nearby we headed back to the hotel to rest our feet. That night we decided to head up to the top of the Sacre Cour and see it both in the daylight and at night time. Luckily for us our metro tickets worked on the fernicular railway so we didnt have to charge up the steps twice. The second time we were up there at night we timed it so we could see the Eiffel Tower light up. Ive been to 15 countries in two months and seen some amazing things but the sight of the Eiffel Tower sparkling at night still takes my breath away and will always be one of the highlights of my trip.

Since Paris I have been to Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague and Vienna but I intend to fill you in and post some pictures soon. It is so frustrating that I lost all my hard work last time because I feel this post is rushed. I hope that you guys enjoy it anyways and I would love to know what you would like to hear more of. More about the places? the people? the hostels? let me know and I will try and make it more interesting!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Sun Is In The Sky - Why Would I Want To Be Anywhere Else?

Back in England again and first stop was London (or as Lily says LDN). Caroline and I spent her first couple of days in London seeing the sights. We did one of those hop on and hop off bus tours around the city. We did Harrods and drooled over all the divine stuff inside there before seeing all the big sights like Trafalgar Square, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey before hopping off at the London Eye and catching a boat down the Thames river to the Tower of London. Once we got all that touristy stuff out of the way we had a day of shopping along Oxford St. This is always dangerous with shops like H&M and Primark but I was pretty well behaved mainly because I'm running out of space in my backpack!


While we were in London we got to celebrate Carolines birthday and I don't think we could have had a better day if we tried. The sun was shining and we manged to fluke some really good spots for the changing of the guards. I've been to London five times but this was the first time I had seen the changing of the guards and it's pretty fun to watch. We also got to see some horse drawn carriges with men in tails and top hats. I have no idea why they were there but it was so totally English it didn't matter. During the changing of the guards the band played 'Sweet Caroline' which of course was pretty cool for Caroline for her birthday. The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering along Portobello Road and browsing at all the vintage market stalls and cute little shops. We ate the most delicious Thai meal before walking through to Notting Hill and dreaming about living in that area *sigh*.

As a special treat for her birthday we went and saw a musical - Legally Blonde. I wasn't sure what to expect because I didn't know about the tv show recruiting for the lead singer so as far as I knew it was just a musical version of the movie. It was soooooo much different than what I expected. It was fairly true to the movie but it was really clever how they added music into it (seriously youtube - 'Ohmygod you guys'). The songs were so funny and catchy and really well suited to the story. I would totally recommended it to anyone who is a fan of the movies and those who are up for a bit of fun. They even had real dogs in it! They were so cute! The best part was that we were originally sitting in the grand circle (which was all the way at the back) and we got upgraded to the third row! So all in all Caroline had a very lucky and very fun birthday. In fact I almost felt like it was my birthday again having here there and doing all this fun stuff.


The next day we were catching the bus to Bristol before spending time back in Hawkesbury so we thought we would have a quick walk around Camden town. We had a pretty late start to the day but we figured it would only take about an hour to get from our hostel to the coach station. So we casually strolled round then headed to the pub for a quick meal. Once we were there we realized we actually only had an hour and a half to finish our meals, get the tube back to our hostel which is a ten minute walk from Kings Cross, pick up our luggage, walk back to Kings Cross then get the tube from there to Victoria, then do a ten minute walk from there to the coach station. Sounds hectic right? Add in the fact that they were doing service works on the northern line so we had to change trains and the fact that it was pissing down with rain. We were rushing like crazy. We were still on the tube two stations away from Victoria at the time we were supposed to be there. Caroline is sitting there laughing at the state of us as we both drenched, out of breath and pretty much looking like wild gypsies with all our luggage. I'm standing there thinking of alternate plans to Bristol that would not make us really late or were really expensive (it was a bank holiday weekend so most things were booked). We get off at the tube station and I was off - pretty much running (well as close to running you can do with a 25 kilo back pack, day pack stuffed full of breakable pressies and a handbag) determined that we could get there. By this stage it was 2.30pm the time it was due to leave and we were only just leaving the tube station. We get to the coach station after jay walking through London traffic and pretty much shoving people out of the way and the bus was still there! Only problem was we were at gate 10 and it was at gate 20 so another frantic dash through the terminal and we get to the bus. Phew! I've never been so relieved in my life!

It was a short trip down to Bristol for me because as soon as we were on the road I completely zonked out exhausted from our crazy little dash across London. I was so excited to get there though because I love staying in Hawkesbury Upton with my friends. it's like my new home away from home. I couldn't wait to see them again and give them all their pressies and tell them all my topdeck stories. Thing was that I planned on rocking up looking happy and tanned and pretty and relaxed and it turns out I rocked up looking like the crazy cat lady. I was also excited cuz they had organized a night out clubbing in Bristol which was something I had never done with them so it was bound to be a fun experience. Once we got there we had to have a quick rush to get ready before heading out for a yummy dinner of Chinese before heading home to get ready. I must say it was soooooooo nice to have a nice long warm shower before getting ready in front of a full length mirror with other girls while having a few drinks. It was almost like being at home getting ready with my girls before a big night out.

After getting dropped into town us girls had to wait for a bit before the boys got in so we headed to a bar for some drinks and a bit of a dance. We got to the bar and ordered a vodka lime soda for me and the bar tender just gave Sara a weird look. She just pointed to me and said "she's Australian!" and he bartender was like " That explains it then!". It was so weird it's not like I ordered something wild and crazy but the funniest thing was when he made it for me he just poured it out of the tap. They have lime cordial on tap in England. Now it was my turn to give them a weird look cuz to me that's just plain strange! Anyways after that we met up with the boys at another bar before realizing that we had 25 minutes to get into the club we had pre booked for so we skulled ( or to use the English terminology we "downed") our drinks before starting a speed walk thru Bristol city. I had no idea where we were going so me and Caroline are just following them all. Poor Caroline was in heels on uneven pavement in the dark and I'm just clumsy at the best of times so I'm suprised there were no major stacks or sprained ankles. Somehow me managed to make it there before twelve but I have to tell you after me and Carolines epic rush across London we were sick and tired of racing to get places.

We solved that problem with a glass of champagne followed by lots more drinks and lots more dancing. I had a great night. The club was pretty quiet but it was so huge that maybe that is just how it always is and we aren't used to having that much space. Sara had organized drinks vouchers so the drinks were cheap and the music was good so as many of you know that's all I need to have a good night. We headed home in the early a.m and kicked on in the conservatory until around 4.


The next day we had the nicest sleep in ever. I hadn't been asleep past 7 everyday for a month so it was nice to wake up to a knock on the door around 10ish telling me a cooked breakfast was on the table ready. I told you I got spoilt when I went to visit Hawkesbury. We had a really nice lazy day chilling in the conservatory when everyone came round to watch the football and cricket. It was even sunny enough to sit outside in the backyard and listen to Caro's iPod and gossip about the events of the night before. We got even more spolit that night with a roast dinner before spending the rest of the night drinking and hanging out. It was a bank holiday weekend so on the Monday everyone had the day off so we headed to the Costswolds. It was a cute little area with a stream running through it and cute little old houses, little gift stores and lots of traditional old English pubs. We had a yummy pub meal before a quick look at shops. We didn't stay too long because nearly every man and his dog - literally, I saw about 5 sausage dogs - were out and about. It was nice to see a differet part of the countryside and spend a day outside the village.

The next day we had another nice sleep in followed by a lunch out with the kids. It seems that all I do in the village is eat, drink, sleep and relax but I have to say I quite like it that way. Topdeck was heaps of fun but it sure was hectic. You were either on the move sightsseeing, shopping, chatting to people, drinking, trying to sort out your backpack or on the bus where you either coma-ed out or somehow tried to write in your travel journal or read a book. There was never just time to sit down and watch a bit of telly or have a bit of a sleep in. I wouldn't change that at all though because that is what tour is all about but it was so nice to do all these relaxing things for a few days. That night we went for a wander around the village to show Caroline around and then headed down to the local pub the Beaufort Arms - I think that's what it's real name is, everyone just calls it "the Beau". We had a few drinks and watched the lads play skittles.

Skittles is pretty similar to ten pin bowling except there are nine pins and you get three bowls. It also takes ages to play which means you get through quite a few drinks. After we watches the boys comeback from losing to win we played a game of killer. This is where you all put in £2 and try to be the last one standing. When it's your turn you have to try and hit at least one pin and you get three misses. I am pretty much the most uncoordinated person alive so its not surprising I didn't win but I am proud to say I actually knocked down at least one pin! Woot! In the end it was a battle between a little old lady and a one of the hawkesbury boys. It was intense for awhile as both were good contenders but in the end the little old lady lost and I was suprised to find myself cheering as usually ten pin bowls bores the hell out of me (it might have had something to do with the few drinks I consumed while spectating)

Waking up to a phone call from my mummy was a pretty good start to the day. After another lazy morning spent chatting to home and planning the rest of our trip accommodation and flights we had another pub lunch before a lazy arvo watching a movie. On our last night we just had a nice dinner at an italian resturant followed by a few drinks in the conservatory. Perfect way to end a lazy few days in the village.

The next morning we were off to Paris which means leaving the village which now felt like home. It was a bit of a scramble to pack as I had somehow managed to let my stuff spread all over the guest room (which was kinda fun after having to leave my bag more or less packed for a month). After a final lunch out in the sunshine we were off to the airport to get on our flight to Paris!

Now Paris is a different story altogether and I am very behind on my blogging but its so hard to do a summary because it just misses out so much stuff. I am super clever though and worked out that I can do a post via email which means when we get free wifi I plan on stealing Carolines Ipod and updating you all. So hopefully sometime soon I can catch you all up on what I've been doing in Paris and Amsterdam.