The blog is evolving!

Stay tuned for new features including journey maps, some missing posts, linked photo albums, minor tweaks and ultimately... the earlier trips...

Friday, September 30, 2005

Day 20 - CH

Before we left Glasgow, I realised that I hadn't brought my thongs (for showering in) so we popped into a pound store where Sarah offered to select some for me. She didn't have much of a choice but picked some green ones complete with sequins. Why do I mention this now? We'd been sitting at breakfast and some guys noticed that I was sitting with three girls. They looked at me, looked at each other with puzzeled faces and then looked back at me. I stood up to get some toast and milk and they saw what I was wearing. At that point they looked at each other and started giggling. Sarah couldn't help but notice this and highlighted that they figured I was the gay guy in the group.

We walked around Luzern today and discovered two things; this place is beautiful and this place is expensive. Sarah wanted to see the the Lion Monument so we headed there. I bought a Swiss army knife (because that's what you do when in Switzerland).

Tourists? Nah...

So far we have used planes, trains and automobiles and today we added boats to the list. We jumped onto a paddle steamer over to Weggis and then jumped on the rail car up Mt Regis. After looking around we walked down a few stations and stopped part way down for lunch.

It's obviously not a Magna engine,
there's not a spec of oil anywhere!

God blessed this place with an amazing amount of beauty,
then cursed it with an expensive currency so no one could afford to come and look.
(Warren Miller filmed from the same spot I took this)

Fi and Sarah weren't sure how they'd go but we jumped in a gondola to get back to Weggis. Once back in Luzern we walked around the town more and followed the wall for a bit before having dinner.

I was loving the walls and towers.
You don't get this back in Australia!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Day 19 - CH

Back to the road trip today. We have leased a Citroen C5 through a neat program for tourists. It's a pretty easy thing to organise however I will suggest you organise it with plenty of time up your sleeve or your travel mates might not be impressed. I didn't and the documents only arrived the day before I left the country. But they did and we had a car so off we went.

Basically it was a day confined to the car fanging along the French autoroute and into Switzerland. We had a few dramas and we almost had a head-on but we survived and arrived in Luzern.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Day 18 - FR

As embarrassing as it was, I managed to walk around and get lost in Musée du Louvre and exit without seeing the Mona Lisa. Possibly the first tourist to ever do this. Didn't bother me though, by all reports it's the size of a postage stamp, surrounded by a crowed and can leave you underwhelmed after queuing up for it.

Fi was keen on checking out Monet's garden so she headed off on her own adventure. Mim did a Mim (was happy to keep herself entertained) and Sarah and I were off to the Eiffel Tower. We had a bit of a look around the general area although we didn't go up it.

No points for guessing what this is...
yup, a stinking pidgeon!

Ah... the things you do to 'get the shot'.
And yes, that's another stinking pidgeon in the forground

Mim found us and we checked out La Sainte-Chapelle which was pretty ordinary and then the Royal Palace. Fiona rejoined us and after dinner we headed back to the hostel.

Whilst it wasn't my taste in interiors, La Sainte-Chapelle
was one of the most ornate places around

If were naked, I wouldn't be smiling...
especially with a stinking pidgeon on my head!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Day 17 - FR

This morning we tried out the hostel breakfast today and fell in love with real French bread. It was great! After using the underground to get into the city, we had a look around the Musée d'Orsay. The queue wasn't too long and we we're soon inside.

Now I know how Caesar felt... like a piece of fish!
That's an Asterix in-joke for the unAsterixed readers

For lunch we picked up some food and ate in a park. Another experience today. I had heard of gypsies before and discovered that they are everywhere across Europe. Typically they go begging and at first it seems they are just homeless people (which they are) but turns out they are a bit more organised then what you think. One girl came up with a note in English after some money. I gave her some food instead. After not getting what she wanted, she gave me an odd look and walked off.

Australia is viewed by some as the land of the roundabouts. I tell you though, we have nothing compared to the roundabout at the base of the Arc de Triomphe. It's true that it's several lanes across and insurance companies don't extend their insurance to it. It's also entertaining to watch people navigate it. The best effort I saw was some dude in an old school mini hug the outside kerb at a good pace and had managed to travel from one side to the other in under 10 seconds leaving many others in his wake. There's a good display inside the structure about Napoleon and his exploits and the view from the top is great.

Here's five lanes of traffic with plenty of room for more

Afterwards we headed to the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. It's a pretty impressive church with an equally impressive view. Fiona and I walked up to the crypt (I thought crypts were in the ground!) where we were expecting to find dead people. Not quite. Probably a good thing.

Basilique du Sacré-Cœur

For dinner we returned to the hostel and headed out to a net café afterwards.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Day 16 - FR

This trip was a world of new experiences, one being Ryanair. I had only ever flown to and from major airports to date and after we woke and jumped in the car, we discovered that Glasgow-Preswick was 60km away. Fortunately Jared had anticipated this the night before so we made it there in time.

Naturally, this was the same at the other end (Paris-Beauvais) but instead of a 45min car ride, it was a 90 minute bus ride. We arrived in Paris and then had the challenge of finding our hostel. Turned out that Parisians aren't as bad as we had heard and the few we spoke to, helped us out.

We made it to the hostel so checked in, dumped our stuff and Fiona arrived. Bumped into an Aussie there from Sydney and couldn't believe how 'typical' his accent was. Not sure if it was because we hadn't been around Aussies for a while or if he was putting it on!

I call this 'Bogan à Paris'

Anyway, we headed out and saw Notre Dame de Paris, Musée du Louvre and other bits and pieces. For dinner we propped ourselves up at a typical French café where I had a nice but small panini, some port for an apéritif and a crepé. Sarah had a €7 Pepsi! One of the cool things about travel is experiencing the different cultures. In this instance, it was that outdoor seeting at café's have the seats facing the street so you can people watch! Took this as an opportunity to have a giggle at the number of scooters that stopped at the lights.

The girls resting at Musée du Louvre

We did some more walking and looking then headed home for a shower and a rest.

The Arc de Triomphe from Jardin des Tuileries looking up Avenue des Champs-Élysées with Place de la Concorde in the foreground

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Day 15 - SCO

We headed for Glasgow today where we were to stay with Meg and Jared who Mim knew... I think... she has a list of contacts longer than a roll of toilet paper but fortunately, most are willing to help out travellers.

I found British drivers to be great however
these sheep were as annoying as Australian drivers

On the way we saw Glen Nevis and Loch Lamand and I grabbed a panorama around Glen Coe which I think could be a personal favourite. I would love to capture this three more times representing the other four seasons. Oh well, I can dream.

Glen Coe in all its glory

After arriving in Glasgow and finding where we were staying, we met Meg and Jared and headed out for dinner.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Day 14 - SCO

After leaving the hostel, seeing as though we were to drive around the Isle of Skye, we picked up a girl who was heading to Portree. When we arriced we had breakfast and finally tried some black pudding. Sarah wasn't a fan as it seems that she didn't find it very appealing as it is something that is essentially congealed blood. Whilst I wouldn't want to have it as part of my regular diet, I didn't mind it.

Around the northern tip of the isle we found a mock village of what it might be like to have lived there many centuries ago. It was a cold, wet and windy region, fires provided light and warmth, simple food and no wireless internet!

This is another part of Scotland with stunning
views filled with rich green grass

We also headed on another Mim detour in search of some ruins at the southern end of the isle. No surprises that we had no such luck however we still had a bit of a look around.

Even on the Isle of Skye there's a vandalism problem with the sheep

As we left, we visited Eilean Donan Castle and it was alright. Another castle in good condition.

Eilean Donan Castle

Sarah all excited when she thought
we were playing hide and seek

Our destination was Fort William where after a few stops to discover the hotels were full, we found a good B&B. For dinner we snuck back into Fort William and had some take away dinner. Gwennie also let us know that she won't be meeting us in Glasgow tomorrow.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Day 13 - SCO

Back on the road today. The Isle of Skye was the target and we had a few castles on the way we wanted to check out.

First up was Stirling Castle. It's another impressive castle that's in great condition. We made our way around it and even sampled some locally distilled whiskey inside. After we left, we grabbed some food from a Griegs (a popular bakery found across Great Britain) and it was yummy.

Mim and Sarah on their way to assault the castle

Inside the great hall

The view from Stirling Castle towards the William Wallace monument

We made our way through Inverness and stopped at Loch Ness to see if we could spot the monster. The ruins of Urquardt Castle was next and we spent about an hour there. There was another castle we tried to look at but it was closed.

Mim looking for 'Nessy' and
Sarah looking silly...

Inside the ruins of Urqhardt Castle

Just before the Isle of Skye sits Eilean Donan Castle however we decided to have a look at it tomorrow on the way out. We found the hostel and Gwennie let us know that she might be joining us in Glasgow before we leave for Paris.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Day 12 - SCO

When Todd first arrived in Edinburgh, he did a guided walking tour so he thought he'd try his hand at doing the same for us. We went to Queens Palace, New Town, Old Town and had lunch at a pub where we sampled some haggis. For something that's basically offal, it wasn't aweful (excuse the pun). In fact, it was pretty good.

Walking up the Royal Mile

Sarah was loving the haggis

After lunch we headed back to Todd's and grabbed the car and headed up Arthurs Seat. It has a pretty good view up there but it was pretty windy. When we arrived at the top, we found some dude who was playing the bagpipes. Turned out it was a family tradition of theirs. Only in Scotland...

The last known photo of Mim before she was blown away by the wind

Fortunately the notes were also carried away with the wind

Kristen met up with us when we arrived back at the unit and we headed out for a curry for dinner at a nearby pub. Later on Sarah stayed in while Mim and I saw Pride and Predujice at the movies.

Todd was horrified when he found out I was going
to see Pride and Predujice at the movies

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Day 11 - SCO

Mim had a few things to do this morning so so Sarah and I made our way to chech out Edinburgh Castle. It's another impressive structure with a world of history.

Edinburgh from Edinburgh Castle

He doesn't really look like Mel Gibson

After hearing the One O'Clock Gun fire, we met up with Mim and had some lunch followed by taking Todd and Kristen to a wedding at and impressive castle / home.

Busking is a little different over here

We made our way to Rosslyn Chapel and had a look around. Part of it was off limits due to restoration and it was to be used for filming for 'The Da Vinci Code'.

Rosslyn Chapel is quite ornate

For dinner I volunteered to cook but produced some tasteless pasta. It usually tastes really yummy! We finished the night with walking around getting some random photos of the city.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Day 10 - SCO

We did some serious driving today. After leaving Banbury we basically headed for Edinburgh. On the way we had two detours. Mim had been talking about some 'Angle of the North' that we have to see and Sarah had another aunt to see.

First up was Mim's detour. Let me give you some advice. If Mim says she has a small detour to make, be very careful about what you agree to. I had visions of some nice statue in a setting that was worth checking out. Instead we were greeted with an ugly steel structure that apart from being impressively big, sat out in the middle of the boondocks near Newcastle!

You have been warned.

It was impressive but not quite what we expected

The second stop was Aunt Angela who lives in Rothbury. We arrived and were treated to some afternoon tea and some RAF Tornado's on manouvers. Time was moving on so we had to do the same. There was quite a bit of nice scenery on the way north too.

Sarah and Mim taking in the scenery

Sarah with a foot in both camps

Next stop, Edinburgh. We had some fun doing so but we finally found Todd's place. Dinner was in order so headed out for a steak.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Day 9 - ENG

Nat took the day off work and drove us to Warwick. I walked around Warwick castle while the girls went to Stratford. The castle is pretty good and is in great condition.

It's a bit bigger than my Lego castle

Madam Tussuad's own it so it's full of dressed up mannequins. I watched a trebuchet catapult some stones and an archery demonstration. Well worth the visit.

A trebuchet in action

He looked even less impressed after he discovered
that his trebuchet had hit his bosses car

The girls came back to pick me up for lunch so we headed to a pub. We then walked around Stratford including walking past the house where William Shakespeare was born, a church and some gardens.

Then back to Banbury for a nice dinner and some laughs.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Day 8 - ENG

Today was the start of the road trip. Except we didn't have a car so we headed to Luton Airport and rented a Ford KA. Wasn't much to look at, actually, they kinda look weird. But it fit the three of us and should do the job.

Our next port of call was Banbury where Sarah had some more family and after missing an exit and some wrong turns, we made it. We had dinner there and Uncle Alan broke out his alcohol collection (listed below). I think I sampled half of his stuff including some Irish Pottney which had to be kept in glass for fear of dissolving anything else!

Yup, I tried all of that stuff!

Afterwards we headed out with her cousins to a coupla pubs. I had another ale or two and then tried some cider - yuk, not a fan. We ended up at a club where I could strut my stuff, much to Sarah's embarrassment. That made it all the more enjoyable.

The girls loved my dancing

It was a good night but I was ready for some peaceful sleep.

Brasserie, Fosters, Irish Poiteen (Pottney?) (100% proof), Jack Daniels, Schnapps (homemade), Wolf Blass 2004 Cab Sav (with dinner), Kourtaki (sweet red wine), Aalborg Jubilaeums Akvavit, Wolf Blass Chardonnay, Southern Comfort and Napoleon Brandy

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Day 7 - ENG

Aunt Barbara spent the day showing us around St Albans. We looked around the cathedral which was quite impressive, mum you'd have loved it and the pipe organs.

St Albans is a small town surrounding a big church

Nearby there is a pub claimed to be the oldest pub in England called 'Ye Olde Fighting Cocks'. We had an ale there however I think I spent more time photographing it than drinking it. Sarah explained to Aunt Barbara his was normal if a little odd.

'Ye Olde Fighting Cocks' and 'Ye New Ugly Land Rover'

A beer in the oldest pub in England

We headed for High Street (each town generally has one named as such, in Australia we refer to it as the main drag) where we walked around the markets. Even though Aunt Barbara isn't too fleet, she managed to lose me in the crowd, much to Sarah's amusement.

Look mum, someone on the opposite side of the world
has the same crockery as us!

Mim joined us tonight ready for our next phase of the trip.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Day 6 - ENG

Last day in London today before we head to Sarah's aunts place but first we wanted to check out the Tower of London. It was well worth going with lotsa history to learn and stuff to look at, including the crown jewels.

The Tower of London

Mikey... found you some armour!

We collected our gear and headed to the train. Turned out to be a surprisingly quick trip to St Albans. One thing is certain. It shows that Great Britain has been doing trains for a lot longer than Australia. QR could learn a lot from them.

At the station we jumped onto another bus and then met Sarah's Aunt Barbara. Discovered that she has the same crockery as we have at home.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Day 5 - ENG

We pretended to be the upper class today. We met Gwennie at Harrod's and then headed to Kensington Palace and walked through the gardens there. Met my first chipmunk.

Sarah's camera shy

Afterwards we returned to Harrod's and had some high tea. Who knows what others thought me sitting there wearing a Holden shirt while sipping tea!

A classy kinda bogan!

Mim and Julia found us for dinner and then we were off to see 'Woman in White'. Seems they are trying to use some 21st century technology with these performances. The backdrop was done by projection so easily changed depending on the set. Quite effective actually.