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, February 29, 2008

Day 36 - ENG

Cookie says...
Continued being the tourist today and headed to Lords. The tour is more about the Marylbourne Cricket Club however this is where they house The Ashes and stacks of other historical cricket items like two stump wickets and curved bats. The tour included rooms like The Pavilion, home change rooms, the stand and the media centre. It was interesting to note that the MCC is the governing body of the laws of cricket, not the ICC.

He's got him... yes!

I'm definately listening to some 12th Man when I get home.

Once that was over I headed into town to meet Julie. The two of us were heading to Frankfurt with Sarah and one of her work colleagues for the weekend and we had to get to Stansted early to change the name on the ticket from Gavin to him. Everything went smoothly until we actually flew. It was the roughest flight I've ever been on. We had a hefty tailwind which although delayed it's arrival in London, made for a quick flight to 'Frankers' which in itself was like flying to Sydney - no sooner have you reached altitude and then you're descending to land.

For the last half of the flight it was a bit rough but there were a couple of moments where the plane dropped suddenly resulting a chorus of screams from half the cabin, especially the American school group that was parked around us. The second we landed the cabin was full of clapping although Julie rightly pointed out that clapping should be held until we've actually stopped moving because anything can still happen... has anyone seen that footage from Hamburg? Check this out! That wasn't us but the same day in the same country.

We experienced something else at the airport. Our only piece of checked in luggage had arrived and been collected by Julz and I before Sarah had passed through border control and it was in her name - I don't think this has ever happened in the history of commercial flights. After what we thought was a quick start to the trip we were then let down by the bus which just sat there for half an hour before we left. I think the driver was more interested in eating frankfurts instead of actually driving us to Frankfurt (because in true RyanAir tradition, we've landed 1.45hrs outside of Frankfurt). The bus ride was uneventful and we mostly dozed but when we got off, we had to hoof it several blocks in light rain to find our hotel which looked like it was closed but thankfully was not.

Checked in, showered and slept as it was after 1 in the morning.

Julz says...
It seems that every trip I take with Cookie, I am meeting him at a random train station straight from work. This trip was no different. After leaving work early (sshh, don't tell!), we met at Fenchurch Street Station and headed to Stansted early to change the flight details in typical RyanAir style (must be done in person - no-one would answer the phone and negative on internet check-in). That all done, we headed to the pub inside the airport (as all good English airports have), and I drank cidar whilst watching the highlights of the Aussies being beaten by the Indians at cricket! How disgraceful!

As was mentioned, the flight wasn't the greatest, but I had complete trust in the pilot and ground-crew, and figured that if they didn't know what they were doing, there wasn't a great deal that screaming would do about it. (It seems that Cookie is a nervous flyer, for any of you who need blackmail info for future reference.) Once off the plane, the charming 2hr trip on the bus at some stupid hour of the night meant that Cookie yet again got to fall asleep on public transport - I'm beginning to wonder if I am really that conservationally boring...

Thanks to Adam, his trusty BlackBerry and Google maps, we found the hotel with relative ease in the rain and all headed to bed.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Day 35 - ENG

Today I turned into a tourist again. After bussing it to Chafford Hundred station and training it to Fenchurch St station, I walked to St Pauls along the northern side of the Thames. Not sure who they were but as I approached a crossing near the cathedral, a police escorted vehicle came through. After I crossed another one came through and I think that as it was the same looking vehicle as before I think they were just the escorts and I missed the middle car or it was the same one and they were lost.

Walked into the cathedral and had a look around. It's the third or fourth church built on that site as the others had burnt down at across the course of history. Unfortunately I couldn't find the access to walk up the dome so I missed out.

Cathedrals all look the same but they are still impressive to look at

I left and was thinking about heading to Lords but I scrapped that in favour of securing tickets for Gavin, Jo and I at the Chelsea v Olympiacos match next Wednesday. Found the ground and while waiting to do a tour of the stadium, I checked out the shop. Plenty of gear there football hooligans would love to own.

What started out as an atheletics track was turned into this

Did the tour of the stadium and managed to get up close and personal with the jerseys the players wear. Apparently Chelsea are undefeated at home in the last 70 odd matches which is a league record. They were spraying the ground so it was off limits to everyone as it might cause an alergic reaction however the tour guide said that being a Liverpool fan, I could roll on the field to my hearts content.

These are jerseys of two of the best players in the EPL

Afterwards I went back into town to Trafalgur Square to scope out a spot for some time-lapse. My lens (with a wider angle lens attatched) wasn't quite wide enough to place it at the foot of Nelsons memorial and still get the full width of the National Gallery so I went for a diagonal angle instead. Started to have a stroll around the gallery and there's some very nice paintings and things in there.

It's a big square which was full of Pommy cricket fans last time I came here

I didn't quite go for as long as I'd hoped as I was meeting Sarah and her sister Bronwyn (currently living in New York) for dinner but I think it still turned out well. Only sucky thing was that smokers seemed drawn to just below where I was positioned. I'd had Italian for lunch and had more Italian for dinner. I'm just thankful that I'm walking around a fair bit at the moment or I'd hav trouble fitting into my seat on the way home. After dinner we saw Bronwyn to where she was staying and headed back to Sarah's.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Day 34 - ENG

Bit of a late start today as I wanted to catch up on the blogging. Also took a call from the mortgage broker and there's another damn interest rate rise coming through. At this rate I think I'll get my townhouse in the year 2015 and I'll be paying 18.5% interest!

Dropped some stuff off at Sarah's and it was nice to be able to walk around town without a heavy load on my back. So I headed to the transport museum which was quite a good thing to see. It covered the evolution from horse drawn carts and ferries to trams, buses and trains. WW2 had it's impact and half the employees headed off to fight so the women stepped up to the plate. They also noted that the war didn't stop the transport system although 60,000 bus windows were damaged (excluding destroyed busses) and tube stations were used as shelters, although that didn't entirely mean you were safe from the bombings.

Did some more random walking around town then picked up my stuff from Sarah's work and trained it to Chafford Hundred where I met Julie at a cafe. Actually, I was so focused on getting to where I had to meet her I managed to walk right past her in the queue where she was ordering herself a drink. Whoops! She had some things to sort out and afterwards we went to Wagga Mamma's for some Japanese which was pretty good.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Day 33 - ENG

Ahh... today was a bit of a 'mission' day. If you really want to hear about it, email me however after I tell you that Sarah would call me a 'sap' and Gavin would ask 'why the hell did you do that', I don't expect to hear from anyone.

The next part of the day was to be seeing U2 in 3D at the IMAX however as the C2C train service had my first train running 45 mins late, I didn't get there in time so I ended walking around the Tower Hill area.

Makes me want to go find my castle Lego

Had a late lunch and headed to my vantage point for some more time-lapse. No police interest this time though.

No points for guessing what I did the time-lapse off

Bet you didn't think it spun this fast!

Afterwards I managed to make it back to Tower Hill to join a Jack the Ripper tour. Which was a bit of a shame as it proved to have been an awesome night for photography. It was another 2.5hrs of walking but I'm not complaining. It was quite interesting and I've had too much hot chocolate and good food to not want to walk it off. This tour is run by ex-Befeaters and it was well presented. The guy built up the tension nicely and at one point I thought it was going to get messy because two other rival tour groups arrived at the same location at the same time as us. It looked like it was going to be a Mexican Standoff, like what they have in Mexico sometimes. They also include their own spin on it including what the FBI (Federal Bloody Idiots?) profilers think. Turns out it was Colonel Mustard in the dinning room with the lead pipe! Just kidding, if you come over, it's a tour worth doing.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Day 32 - ENG

Not quite as touristy today as others. After leaving Gavin's place later than I'd hoped, I made it to Westminster and setup in Parliament Square (a big traffic island near Parliament that seems to have no legal means of getting onto it). I sat there for 2hrs doing a time-lapse of Clock Tower.

Then I walked around for a while including walking through Chinatown (it seems all cities around the world has one of these). Had some food and hot chocolate near Sarah's work then made my way back to Westminster again.

This time I setup my gear on the opposite side of the Thames looking at Parliament Houses and this time I managed to attract the attention of the constabulary. I had two pairs of officers have a chat to me about taking photos and loitering in a security zone and under Section 44 of the blah blah blah. The first bunch took some details and the second pair were just checking up on me. Had a coupla good chats with them though. One of the offices said how he wanted to come to Australia to visit but was afraid of all the big scary snakes... and he's serving and protecting the public!

Apparently the police were concerned that I was photographing this old building

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Day 31 - ENG

Off to church this morning which was the first time since mid January. Although she's an RE teacher, Alison didn't join us so we met her afterwards. Went to Sarah's church (Holy Trinity Brompton) where (praise and worship trainspotters will know this name) Tim Hughs is a worship leader. He didn't lead today but it was great to experience and I reckon the best part was that the band was quite simple with a single singer and you can hear the congregation singing during the songs. It's in an Anglican church so has two levels and was nice to experience a contemporary service in an old school church building. Nicky Gumbel spoke and it tied in with their vision weekend theme. So mum should be happy cause this is the main mob that's behind the Alpha course. Andy Sercom is involved with theological at training at St Pauls which I think is linked to HTB somehow, I think it might have been a church plant actually.

See, Jedi is a religion! They have a statue of Yoda
hidden under a sheet in the courtyard to prove it!

Alison and Sarah

We caught up Alison afterwards and went for lunch. Also stopped in at some cupcake place called the Hummingbird Cafe which is reputed to have the best cupcakes ever. The girls had one each and I grabbed a huge brownie which was as big and heavy as a bessa block! Sarah wanted to show us Summer Heights High so we watched a few episodes at her place with Alison and one of her flatmates who was a Pom but still found it funny. Not my taste but amusing none the less. Sarah had been talking up this Italian place all week so we went there with another of her flatmates and it was nice.

Made it back to Gavin's and crashed.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Day 30 - ENG

The start of what I'd hope to be a fairly cruisy weekend. Gavin and I headed out to have a bit of a walk around town. Walked through Covent Gardens, explained what Monument station is named after (a monument - shock horror!), saw the Bank of England and other odds and ends like how there's an underground station that is kinda the same station as another but has two names plus an entrance to a disused station just off the Strand.

We made our way to check out St Paul's cathedral and then onto Greenwich via the DLR (docklands light rail) to meet Sarah. Found her, or at least she found us and we had lunch at a Mexican place. After lunch we headed to the observatory to check it out. Looked around it and started to watch a short video of the stars in the planetarium. I say started because after a while, Sarah noticed that my breathing became a little heavier as I'd drifted off.

Sarah wasn't sure if the sign referred to the rock or me

And Sarah thinks my glasses are old!

Afterwards we headed back to Wimbledon, met Sarah's friend Alison and watched Be Kind, Rewind. I grabbed some clothes for Sunday as I was staying at Sarah's so we could get a good start for church the next morning.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Day 29 - ENG

Pretended to be a tourist today. Quite successfully might I add. I randomly walked around London looking at things like Waterloo Station, London Eye, Houses of Parliment, Big Ben (or at least the tower in which it resides), Westminster Abby and Cathedral and other odds and ends. Some of it was just to check for locations for some time-lapse I plan on doing.

In this photo there's an old face with lines and an old face with numbers

Met up with Sarah after she finished work and went back to her place where we met Gavin and her friend Lauren. We grabbed some Chinese takeout along with two movies. We ate and watched Alpha Dog. Afterwards, Gavin and I headed back to his place.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Day 28 - ENG

What a write off! Today I discovered that it's easier to buy new clothes than to wash and dry them. I basically spent the day cooped up in Julie's house trying to do a load of washing. To make matters worse, silly me didn't seperate my colours resulting in an old and new shirt stained - not happy Jan!!! I was soo bored too. You know, there's only so much interest that the internet can provide to someone. Part of the day was hiding in Julz bedroom as the cleaners arrived and we weren't sure that they wouldn't find a freeloader and tell the landlord.

Finally I got sick of it and packed and left. Walking to the station took a good 20+ minutes with a pack that was heavier due to carrying damp clothes. I briefly stopped in at Lakeside which proved useless and then trained it to Fenchurch. The plan was to meet Gavin and Sarah to go see Cloverfield that night. The tube was running okay... sorta... some of the lines are known to have issues but I made it in good time to Wimbledon.

I hung out the damp clothing at Gavin's and went for dinner at a Thai joint with Sarah, Gavin and his housemate Jo. We watched the movie and that was that for Thursday.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Day 27 - ENG

Cookie says...
Today turned out to be a mission. We made a B line for Chepstow Castle and then to Tintern Abbey before heading to Bath. Tintern Abby was an impressive structure and would have been amazing at the peak of it's use.

Inside Chepstow Castle

Tintern Abby

Unfortunately when we arrived in Bath, I had 40 minutes until I had to be on a train so Bath will have to wait for another time. Hopefully Brendan takes a chance to nose around a little. Brendan and I went our seperate ways at the station and I trained it to Paddington. It didn't feel like it took too long as I was doing nerd stuff on the computer. Once at Paddington I tubed it to Edgeware Road (pointless ride) then to Liverpool St Station then to Tower Hill where I walked to Fenchurch Street Station and then an overland train to Chafford Hundred followed by a walk to Lakeside Shopping Complex. So, after leaving Bath 3.5hrs earlier, I met Julie for a hot chocolate and a brownie.

We hung out at the shops until we met her friends and went for dinner at an Italian place. The others weren't too impressed with it and I thought it was okay but it was nice to finally meet the crew (Dan and Amy, Little Dan and Anushka) which Julie has adopted. Afterwards we went and watched the second National Treasure movie and then Little Dan drove us back to Julie's place. It was late in the evening and as Julie was off to Boston on Thursday, she packed and I slept.

Brendan says...
I still feel guilty about Bath. If I hadn't been late on the first day we'd have had time to do Bath as a group. As it was, I was the only one who got to visit the town properly. Needless to say, I didn't let the guilt stop me spending 2 1/2 hours on the self-guided tour of the Roman Baths after Cookie had gone. But, this is Cookie's blog so you'll have to wait until he visits them to find out what they're like. Ooh, the suspense.

Chepstow was my second favourite castle. It was just interesting, and broke from the traditional square geometry by hugging a sheer cliff overlooking a river. Shame it was such a dreary morning.

Tintern Abbey, now there's a ruin. What a magical place that must have been. It was a pity we only had about half an hour to wander around this site. These monks only had a fire lit for 3 months of the year, and only then in a single room. Nippy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Day 26 - WAL

Cookie says...
More fried toast this morning but my stomach was no more interested it than yesterday. Consolation prize in that it was midly better than last nights dinner which was quite forgettable.

We invaded Pembroke Castle first. Initially we were planning to head to the northen end of Wales but one we realised that Pembroke was open, we went there instead and it probably turned out to be the pick of the castles we visited. Tell you what though, climbing all those towers soon got boring as it's a continuous right hand spiral with slippery and steep stairs. Tell you what though, I'm not sure how these people moved around these castles with ease cause they're pretty tight at times, especially those soldiers who carried photographic gear with them!

Mildly easier to navigate than the stairs in the hotel Julz and I stayed in

You could probably play AFL inside Pembroke it's that big!

On leaving I noticed a brass rubbing store next to the castle exit. Sarah's a bit of a fan of these rubbings so I thought I'd have a go. King Hen-rye the 8th is a favourite of Sarah's so I rubbed up a brass King Henry for her which she was pleased with. It will now feature on her wall of stuff.

I don't think I've ever looked this focused!

Damn it... back at work already!

We also checked out Carew and Cilgerran castles. Once we finished Cilgerran Castle, we inserted some bogan reference. Figured while we were so close to this town, we'd take the opportunity to take this photo considering we're both Magna owners and Mitsubishi is commonly referred to as the 'Cardigan Car Company'

Carew Castle was more manor than keep

These crazy Welsh or Tudors or whoever must have good taste in music!
(lame Bon Jovi reference)

Welsh bogans (English equivalent are Chavs)

Seeing as though we intended on checking out Bath the next day, we worked our way back to Cardiff for the night and managed to stay in the same room although Brendan managed to score a broken bed.

Brendan says...
I agree with Cookie on both counts - Pembroke was a fantastic castle; easily the best I've been to, and surprisingly big, but the initial excitement upon finding a hitherto unnoticed doorway quickly fades as it leads to yet another sequence of small, round rooms and narrow, winding stair-cases.

It was fascinating to be able to explore a castle almost in its entirety. The usual castle ruin experience happens at ground level as all the stairways have crumbled or are blocked off, and keeps that used to boast four or five storeys are now hollow stone tubes, full of mud and pigeons. So being able to wander between towers whilst inside a wall, or ascend to the top of the gatehouse and lean over the parapet was awesome. We spent 3 hours here!

One thing though - people were a lot shorter back then.

Carew was majestic, with amazing picture windows. It would have been a sight back in the day. But it and, in particular, Cilgerran, were a bit "meh" after Pembroke.

I'm still yet to find a satisfying Mexican restaurant in the UK. And for some reason all my dreams were at funny angles.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Day 25 - WAL

Cookie says...
Had the hotel breakfast this morning which was basically an English breakfast comprising of toast, bacon, eggs, beans, mushrooms, tea and fried toast of all things. Seems to be an odd inclusion however I guess some people enjoy eating heart attack material like this.

Before bailing on the town, we checked out Cardiff Castle. It's a neat, ordially castle. We did a tour of the main house and learnt all about some dudes. Quite nice interiors too. Also noted that due to looking at these places in the middle of winter, there's hardly anyone else around which makes tours and looking at things a bit swifter than usual.

Inside Cardiff Castle

Cardiff from the Norman Keep

Sorry Pilty but here's a better looking Falcon than what Ford make :P

We finished up and headed for Caerphilly and was a castle that had undergone refurbishment by the same bloke who owned Cardif. Rich fella who had nothing better to do than restore this big things. Probably a good thing though or they would just slowly waste away.

Kidwelly Castle was closed to all but the birds

Laugharne was also closed too. Wales is starting to
feel like Adelaide!

I know blue is supposed to be a boys colour but...

Brendan says...
Fried bread is a standard feature of the "Full English" breakfast. Forgetting, for the moment, that it's going to kill you, it can actually be quite tasty. This one wasn't. I think they're still using oil from last year.

Cardiff Castle wasn't bad - but lots and lots of empty space inside which didn't give much of an impression of how life might have been back in the day. The manor house tour was intruiguing, but a little more contemporary than I find interesting. I'd seen the work of this William Burgess architect / decorator chap before. He's widely acclaimed, but his designs are so bright and busy I can't imagine living with them.

The tour guide was a laugh. He had one of those news reader voices. I kept expecting him to sign off with, "I'm David Jones, BBC Wales, Cardiff", then pause for a transfer back to the studio. I enjoyed Caerphilly Castle more, with many places to explore (it rhymes).

Finished the day being ignored by several B&Bs in Pembroke and finding every single other hotel in the town booked solid. Ended up staying a little way out of town in a hotel room you could only describe as"quaint". I think Cookie secretly liked the frilly stuff.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Day 24 - ENG

Cookie says...
The place we stayed in was quaint and by quaint I mean the floor was so lumpy I'd be scared of walking it after a skin full and the shower was a feature. Sarah refers to them as shaths - shower cross bath. Pressure was poor and it was basically a bath with a hand held shower rose. It was the first time I've worked up a sweat showering and turned a five minute process into something closer to twenty.

The 406 was happy to be on the road again

We checked out, had breaky and were on the way to Bourton-on-the-Water. It was a really pretty town and somewhere I know mum would love to stay. The town featured a model town, miniature railroad display, canal filled with ducks and plenty of tourists around the place. Basically we walked around the place, had some fun with the camera, sent random messages to Pilty and had lunch.

These towns have a charm that photos cannot convey


It had soon become time to get the girls to the train so we headed to Moreton-on-Marsh. After some confusion as to whether the trains were running due to track works on this weekend, it was obvious that it was all good. The train arrived and after nine awesome days of hanging out, Julie and I went our separate ways. Julie and Sarah had to work tomorrow however for Brendan and I, Wales was waiting.

We grabbed a pint of local ale to drown our sorrows and then we hit the frog and toad. Caerphilly was the target as there was a decent sized castle there. We didn't see much in the way of accommodation so we headed to Cardiff. We hadn't booked anywhere so were happy when the first place we tried had room. Once checked in we headed to a bar for dinner and the net. Ate, drank and crashed early as we'd had a big day.

Julz says...
I awoke to the mixed sounds of my roomies snoring, and figured that today was going to be an interesting one. After mastering the shower (I had used one for 3 months at my old house), we were out and about. The search was again on for a full english brekky for Cookie, but as with last time, it proved unsuccessful. Maybe this is a sign that England isn't all its cracked up to be...

We checked out and hit the road to Bourton, finding it nice and peaceful. It felt so good just to wander around slowly with no particular destination in mind. The warm sun was a lovely addition to the day, and so tea and scones sitting outside was definately on the menu.

But, all too soon, the time had come for the long journey home. Cookie finally managed to regain some brownie points back after carrying my suitcase from the car to the platform. We said our goodbyes (much to Sarah's disgust), and then us girls found some seats on the train. We ended up being delayed 45mins into London due to signal failure (the joy of all train travel in England), but that meant the train lady was too busy to check our tickets (or lack there-of), so we got off scot free. My journey then continued alone for a few more hours, but after 10 days on the road, I happily walked back into my own house. Did the joyous tasks of washing (I leave for Boston on Thurs) and organising for school (yippee, work tomorrow), and then literally crashed into bed.

Sarah says...

Cookie is right (I know, I am as surprised as the rest of you) – Boughton-on-the-Water was absolutely beautiful. There was a little stream running through and a little high street with lovely shops. It was quite a fine day and it was lovely to sit in the sun (despite the fact that it really is not that strong). After tea and scones (which I think you would agree, the occasion called for) Julie and I headed back to London and we just chatted the whole way back – Julie may have been missing Cookie but she was strong and didn’t show it. Overall it was actually a really nice weekend (despite the fact that our room meant the four of us were literally sleeping on top if each other) and the shath (which I can say was the most painful experience of my life to date). The Cotswolds were so quaint and I loved the villages (also the company was okay I suppose).

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Day 23 - ENG

Cookie says...
Come morning the girls were wishing we coulda had a bit of a sleep in. Unfortunately Brendan who was to pick us up on our way for the weekend trip had left his coat at work so as he was late, a sleep in would have been possible. He arrived around lunch and we got on our way. Initially we were going to head to Bath but instead we decided to head to the Cottswolds instead. It was a nice day for a drive and the company and music was good.

We made it to Stow-on-the-Wold where we'd booked a 'family room' which was a double bed and two bunk beds. After threats of male spooning, the girls came to the rescue and took the double bed. We wandered around the town in pairs of like gender and did gender specific things. Brendan and I took photos while the girls shopped and we met for dinner and drinks later.

Stow-on-the-Wold... well, it's carpark at least

Sarah was finding it a bit cold

What a nice couple!

After drinks in the oldest inn in England, the girls went to bed and Brendan and I took some long exposures of a church.

For the last time, it's not time-lapse and it was worth trying!

Julz says...
Sleep was of the utmost importance today, but it seemed to be lost in the rush to get ready for Brendan, who then ended up being late. But, in saying that, we did have time for brekky in Sarah's living room, where the highlight of the day was definately Cookie head-butting the window, because 'the glass pane was closer than he thought!'.

Once on the move, Cookie and Brendan's conversation topic of 'the superiority of the Magna' put me to sleep, so I managed to miss most of the scenary. However, I did awake as we were pulling into the lovely village of Stow-on-the-Wold. After convincing the gang that it was ok to lie about the fact that we weren't a family and to rip off the hotel, we headed out for tea and scones. The afternoon consisted of me buying shoes and Sarah's wishing she had. Dinner was at the pub (big surprise there), and Cookie once again tried to prove his manliness by outdrinking me (albeit successfully this time). Sarah and I avoided the opportunity for a midnight time-lapse (such a shame), and instead opted for sleep.

Sarah says...
In our defence we didn’t just wander the shops. We looked around the village and what we did was so much less naff then what the boys ended up doing (taking time shots???? BORING I say). Seriously though it was a lovely day, after what should have been a late start but turned out we got up hours to early. The Cotswolds are beautiful and so quaint. The place we stayed in was quite pretty but as Cookie says the shath was awful. Part of the way through trying to shower/bath I almost lost the will to live. Dinner was nice except I had nothing to talk about after Cookie made me promise not to pay him out so I basically sat there mute for the whole evening.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Day 22 - ENG

Cookie says...
Once we were up and about, we headed into town to pick up Sarah's house key. We made our way there and put on some washing then found ourselves a bar for lunch and a few drinkies. Sussed out some more about the weekends trip and decided to go see Jumper at the movies. After the movie we headed back to Sarah's to meet her and Gavin but it was a race against time to pick up Julie's coat which we'd deposited at the dry cleaners. The London road network isn't the swiftest going and our bus terminated several hundred metres short of our stop with minutes to spare. We made it though and Julie was thrilled to have a clean coat again.

For those who can't hear the annoying 'Mind the gap' announcements...

Sarah made it home and joined Julie, Gavin and I at an Indian place for dinner. The food was alright and the Cobra beers Gavin and I had were huge. I could only drink one and a half which resulted in copping it that I'd been out drunk by my girlfriend, especially when we went to the pub afterwards and I didn't drink anything.

Gavin headed home and Julie and I stayed at Sarah's place for the night.

Julz says...
Well, compared with the last few days of tripping around Austria, today was relatively cushy. Got up later than usual and tried desperately to find somewhere for Cookie to have a full english breakfast, but failed miserably. By the time we got to Sarah's to drop off our stuff and do washing, it was past midday, so we headed to the local for a big lunch and free wireless internet. I especially savoured the cidar... which means I have become way too english. The afternoon consisted of heading to the movies, running back to get my coat, and meeting the gang at the restaurant for dinner. If Cookie was trying to impress me at any point today, his hopes went through the floor when I did in fact out drink him. And it wasn't even a challenge! Personally, I think his age is finally catching up with him...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Day 21 - AT

Cookie says...
Heading back to London this evening but still got time to do a few things and the hit list included a Sound of Music Tour, a cable car up the Untersberg and hanging around town i.e. maybe another time-lapse...

Waiting for the tour dude to arrive

Checked out and the tour operator picked us up from where we were staying and it turned out that we were the only ones doing it and offered to drop us off at the cable car which saved us some time. The tour was good. I can't say I'm a huge fan of the movie (Austrian's deny it musical status and I'm told it's banned due to containing Nazis). Anyway, we saw the stuff around Salzberg that was used or real to the true story as the tour is more about the Von Trapp famil more so than the movie. Also listened to some original recordings including a rendition of Waltzing Matilda which the guide thought was an English folk song. A bit of yank bashing didn't go astray either...

Stopped off for some more strudel too :P

After the tour we went up the mountain in the cable car and then hoofed it to the top up some slippery and steep slopes in the snow. Neat views though and it was nice to be out in the sun in the cold, quite refreshing.

Seems Hasselhoff has his own Aldi stores

Before heading to the airport we stopped in the town to try for some more time-lapse but it wasn't too good so much to Julie's relief, I pulled up stumps. Did a small amout of souviner shopping (a tea towel for me) and grabbed a snack and some hot chocolate. We walked for a fair bit in the freezing cold (sorry Julie - her hands were red from the cold!) and we found a bus to the airport. Made it to the aiport and checked in and waited for the plane.

Flight was ho-hum and after landing in Stanstead, we trained it to Liverpool St Station and for a station at 12 in the night, damn it was busy! Did some more walking and I swear it was Julie's revenge. Found this hotel in Brick Lane and got into the room. Wasn't the best of inns however at 1 in the morning, you don't care where you're sleeping.

I'll tell you something weird though, it feels like I've forgotten something...

Julz says...
Well, Valentie's Day arrived with a distinct lack of any present for me, but I won't hold that against Cookie for too long :)

The Sound of Music tour was great! I was worried at the start about Cookie sleeping through it all, but once he got talking politics with our guide, he was all good. And, as always, strudel lifted his spirits and sustained him through the many Julie Andrews CDs the guide played for us.

Hike up the Untersberg was interesting in a lack of snow gear, but I was quite proud of myself to reach the top and not have fallen in the snow (even though I must have looked incredibly out-of-place). As a non-snowboarder, I can now understand its attraction, as the snow and view was amazing.

Final afternoon in Salzberg and yup, the time-lapse made its 4th consecutive appearance. But, as Cookie stated, it was abandoned in favour of me keeping my fingers safe from frostbite, which I am eternally grateful for. Final strudel and hot chocolate in Salzberg, short trip to the airport, some small child vomitting next to me in the line to check in, and we safely waved goodbye to Austria.

Arrived in London hungry and tired, and had to walk way too far for the next hotel (no Cookie, I didn't plan that on purpose). Please sleep, come and claim me, this much travelling is way to exhausting!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Day 20 - AT

Cookie says...
Busy day planned today. We wanted to check out some festival halls thingie, the catacombs, a panorama museum, some state rooms and the fortress. Managed to nail all of those sites and noticed Placido Domingo's name on a seat in Festival Halls where you pay a fee to ensure first choice for a specific seat for the year. It was a pretty impressive bunch of buildings and wipes the floor with anything Australia thinks it has.

As the camera gear is a bit heavy, we snuck home to get the computer etc and returned to look over the city from near where a lift goes up to a ridge around the back of the old city. Nice angle however it was a bit hazy so not sure how it will look and it was another cold effort. Hope these all turn out. Headed back to our local and this time had some nice garlic soup, schnitzel with ham and cheese between the meet layers and more of a local beer of theirs. You can probably guess what dessert was...

Julie tried plying me with alcohol and I was none the wiser...
check out the alcohol content!

Julz says...
Another day, another bloody time-lapse! We started out knowing that we had a bit to do before the afternoon, when we would come back to get the stuff that is causing me so much froze-ness. Anyways, the sights were so much better than in Vienna. The fortress was nice, catacombs were quaint and the state rooms were pompous as always.

Festive Halls, although only used for 2 months of the year, is worth every bit of the millions of euros they spent on it. If only our country had the musical history of Austria, I would be in heaven! I seriously considered dragging Cookie to another classical concert, but with tickets almost definately sold out and worth more than I earn in a week, I didn't think I would be that cruel. However, I didn't count on Cookie being that cruel to me - making me freeze through yet another time-lapse. Yup, that puts it at 3 in 3 nights... insanity has definately arrived.

Because both our brains were frozen solid (like the rest of our bodies), we couldn't make a decision about dinner, so we headed back to the fab place from last night. Enjoyed the soup, schnitzel and beer again, and I think Cookie hasn't stopped eating apple strudel since we got here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Day 19 - AT

Cookie says...
This trip had now officially involved almost all modes of transport excluding boat and hot air balloon. We made good time to get to the train station and boarded for Salzburg. Not a bad journey actually, especially once we'd left what one could only describe as a drab Vienna. It's definitely not a city (in winter at least) that's inspiring so don't know how Beethoven came to pop up here.

Arrival in Salzburg was fairly uneventful and we boarded the bus to go to our hostel. We knew it was a few stops out of town but when the bus kept on going, we discovered we were out in the boonies. In the next town to be exact. It kinda reminded me of New Zealand in an Austrian kinda way but once we found the place, boy what a hostel! It was technically a bed and breakfast but was literally a leading establishment in Austria.

Once we'd offloaded our gear we headed back into town as there was this great looking fortress on a hill that I thought I'd try capturing going from day to night. Actually had fun with people getting in the road of this one - it's amazing how cameras attract people to stand in front of them. Once it was over, we marched around town for about an hour looking for a place for dinner. We ended up bailing and finding a pub in Grodig (our boondocks township). So glad we did this as the tomato soup was soo yummy (think I'm glad Julie let me try some of hers as I had something else), I grabbed what was essentially a mixed grill and Julie picked some schnitzel thing. One of the highlights was the beer. They had some stuff that was potent but was far superior to anything Australia can brew. This was all topped off with some appelstrudel... naturally :)

Julz says...
I am officially in love with train-travel in Austria! We had one of those booths you see in the movies pretty much all to ourselves for the 3hr journey (which, ironically enough, was longer than the flight we took to get to Austria), and so we had space to sprawl Cookies large amount of baggage (yup, he packed more than me!).

Three hours of scenery summed up in one photo

Once in Salzberg, we figured out the buses (no underground here), and caught the somewhat-longer-than-expected bus to the hostel. But it was so worth it! A fab place that beats anything seen previously. We dumped everything but the time-lapse gear and headed back in to capture the castle. However, the only thing I caught was frostbite again, despite consistently walking around this time to maximize body warmth. Why would anyone willingly choose to spend hours taking photos of the same thing?

We then decided to wander around a bit in the city, but neither of us could make a decision about dinner, and so we ended up back near the hotel at the last place we went to - an absolute gem. Best tomato soup and schnitzel ever. If food choice is a competition, I definatley kicked arse with the entree and main decisions, as Cookie spent most of the evening eating my food! Beer was brilliant.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Day 18 - AT

Cookie says...
This mornings mission was to find some big ferris wheel that Julz had read about and I wanted to get to the blue Danube (our family home is Danube Drive). Found the wheel alright... how do you spell tourist trap? And it was in the middle of a theme park that was straight out of the eastern bloc. There were some neat models explaining the history that the wheel and St Stephens (big church in the middle of town) saw including WW2 and invading Turks.

After leaving we found the Danube but it wasn't quite what we expected. Instead of a pleasant river that was blue, it was a fast moving dark mass of water flowing through man made canals.

I've seen cleaner areas in Inala, sorry mum!

We continued our walk into town where we checked out a little more of the city then headed back to the hostel to have a nana nap and get the time-lapse gear.

Mikey, we found a cute outfit for you!

After setting up the computer and camera, we sat chatting, joking and watching the strange looks we and the camera were getting. It was a little cool so it was good to find somewhere for dinner (Wiener Schnitzel and beaf Stroganof - yum). Crashed at the hostel and worked out what we had to do to train it to Salzburg.

Julz says...
Ok, so I admit, the large ferris wheel that overlooked the city was a bit of a dive - but I figured it just re-inforced our view that Vienna really isn't that nice (especially in winter). However, Peter's quest to find the Danube (all bright as beautiful as the waltz claims) was just as uninspiring, so I figure we were pretty even.

We wandered around town for a few hours and then headed back for the camera gear (and a small sleep). Cookie assures me the time-lapses are worth it, but my first experience of one is freezing my butt off outside some whopping great big church getting strange looks from the locals. After the first hour of frostbite, I started asking myself if I was actually insane! Thankfully, we are heading to Salzberg tomorrow, and so we should be able to see what a nice-looking town in Austria is like!

Cookie says it's character building, it's FRICKEN FREEZING!!!