Steph & Geoff vs Europe

TravelPod has shut down. Closed. Finished. Doneskis. Which means: all the incredible content from our (half-arsed) travel blog is now in a zip file on my desktop. It is inaccessible to anyone but me, completely hidden from the good people of the world. And, quite frankly, that is a travesty.

Our blog “Steph & Geoff vs Europe” has been sitting on TravelPod untouched (and completely forgotten about) for five years – a relic to the good times of 2012 when we lived in a scummy share house in London and lived it up on weekend trips across Europe…

So, for your reading pleasure, I have decided to post every single blog we published and none of the pictures (use your goddamn imagination for fucks sake). Some posts are by myself, some by Geoff, but I’m sure you can figure that out by… I don’t know… considering the use of pronouns and such.

(Edit: Looks like we stopped blogging in July. Shame really. We had some crazy good trips after that. Marrakesh and Amsterdam and some other places…. I’ll also add some pics as well when I get round to it).

***

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Says it all really. Bye. Just scraped through with luggage allowance at the airport. Miffed to find that they only had the 10 year seppeltsfield at duty free and not the 21. A bad omen indeed. Planned to scoff down one last Oporto burger (how will I cope without you my sweet fat-drenched chilli chicken burgers) but Steph and I had to clear out the fridge and pantry before we left, and i was too full. Second bad omen.

 

London, England, United Kingdom

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hi everyone …

We arrived to rather pleasant English weather, albeit a tad cold, and immediately made our way to West Hampstead where Steph’s relatives Ray and Ray (probably spelled that incorrectly) agreed to put us up for a while. And wow – what a place to spend our first few days as intrepid international explorers. Think north shore of Sydney, inner east of Brissy (Ascot, hamilton etc….). The impeccable 3 story abode backs onto lush sporting fields (what I assume is a rarity in London – but probably not Hampstead, given the heath and whatnot), including the Brondesbury cricket and tennis clubs, and university college school ( yeah that’s right, it’s got all three of the monikers we use for educational establishment – a sign of class if ever there was one) – check them out on google maps if you so desire. Unfortunately, you have to be a member to use said sporting facilities (a bitter disappointment to us both as we have to rise every morning and look out onto perfect, empty tennis courts). And there’s not as many free tennis facilities in England as in Aust; we brought our rackets but may have to travel some distance to actually use them.

After spending 25 hours in planes and airports ( we were fortunate to have only a 1 hour stop over in Bangkok) with only a few hours sleep at best – we pulled ourselves together, and braved London’s public transport to see our good friend and former colleague Ed, who some of you may know as the daring news photographer and journalist currently based in Egypt. He was in London for just a few days – and although our thoughts took some time to articulate in sentences ( was that a tautology – i shudder at the amount this travel blog will be grammatically scrutinised by my brother Michael and our journalist friends – but screw you all, this is pure unrevised free flowing thought) we were able to stave off jet lag long enough to butter him up for a future visit to Cairo. Mission accomplished. We were also blessed with the company of our extremely good friends and former colleagues Jess and Kirsty at the pub, The Angelic in Islington.

We stumbled home ( from weariness not inebriation) to sleep for a good 11 hours.

 

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Ray and Ray’s house: outside inside

 

 

Newton Abbot, England, United Kingdom

Friday, January 13, 2012

Next stop: South Devon… my cousins wedding and our first chance to see some English countryside. Dan and his partner Nell hired out an entire manor/country house in South Devon for their wedding and it was epic. It took 3-hours to get there by train.

The highlights:

1.     Travelling with my bro Daz and his fiancé (also on holiday)
2.     Rolling green pastures and grey coastline with large red boulders
3.     Dogs on the train – mind. blown.

The merrymaking began almost immediately and continued the entire weekend. On Friday evening we found the games room and too many glasses of wine. But the real celebration was the wedding on Saturday. The ceremony was short and very sweet. The father of the groom, my uncle Chris, broke out in song for his ‘reading’ and everyone joined in with vigor. My gosh can he hold a tune. Mum wore a crazy hat, reaffirming her title as the “crazy aunt”. After champagne, canapés, and a three-course meal– the dancing began. Good old-fashioned line dancing that is, which we reckon should be compulsory at every wedding. It was pretty hard core – I think my shoulder was yanked out of its socket at one point…

After that, we basically danced until collapse (see photos). Whenever Geoff went missing, he was found at the fussball/ping pong, challenging anything within reach (and remaining undefeated champion).

All the guests woke up a little worse for wear on Sunday. We took a stroll around the lush green grounds – think Wind in the Willows. There were horses, lakes, tree swings, hedges and graves of small children. Very quaint. Very English.

We farewelled the newlyweds who were heading directly for the balmy Maldives…. put on our thermals and beanies and made our way back to London.

Check out the pics and videos…………

 

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Not drunk.
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Drunk.

 

London, England, United Kingdom

Monday, January 16, 2012

Back in London with many things to do. Ahhhh reality, it has been good to suspend you over the past few days – but now you’re back with a vengeance. The job hunt begins for Steph,we must find somewhere to live – while keeping an eye on plane ticket specials so we don’t get trapped back in the working cycle. Still many awesome things happening though, we caught up with the incorrigible Missy and her lovely sister Mandy, and got in contact with our Brit on the ground, Emma Clarke. It turns out Missy, Jess and Emma all live in roughly the same area – the suburbs surrounding Hampstead Heath. So we will try and get a place nearby no doubt … But probably not in as ritzy neighbourhoods as theirs. Maybe Kilburn or something of the like. Plus i got new snowboard boots. Scotty you’ll likethis one. DC Status, 2012s …. oh yeah. So i shall be shooting off to the snow soon, now that all my kit is in order.

We’re doing the usual London sights, so we’ll just add pictures to this post over the coming days. We’ve booked a trip to Berlin early next week so that will probably be the next entry ….

Till then.

 

Berlin, Germany

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

We left frigid, grey England for the even colder, darker hued skies of Deutschland. In fairness, we knew what we were in for straight away … Easy Jet’s cost cutting has left the budget traveller scrambling from the plane to the airport via the freezing tarmac. Ahhhh, not since that one white-knuckled Tiger Airways flight back in ’09 have i been left to lament what the airline industry has become.

Of course, this intrepid explorer has braved the minus temps before … but alas, the beautiful (and extremely prone to low body temperatures) Stephanie has not. And even the purchase of the warmest garment known to humanity (an 80% down coat/trench number that saw the extinction of 5 small mammals just to create) could stave off the bitter cold.

What terrors lie in ambush around the next corner …. The world famous S-Bahn/U-Bahn system. Oh you Germans, I know now that the cold winter is what inspired possibly the best, most comprehensive city rail service in the world (I must point out that Hong Kong was pretty good as well). A mere 3 euros and we were whisked straight into the centre of town from Berlin’s budget airline destination of choice, Schonefeld. Again, I must point out at this juncture that the corresponding distance in Sydney, Melbourne or BrisVegas would have required a 5-year savings plan on a medium wage job to afford.

Saying any pubic transport system would ‘whisk one straight into town’ would of course be a fallacy, and even the Germans aren’t worthy of such a compliment … so of course there were a few platform changes, where we were given a taste of the rain-soaked days to come. These navigationally fraught exchanges prolonged the journey, so it wasn’t until after dusk that we encamped at the moderately priced (55 pounds for two nights, can’t go wrong there me ol’ China) and completely …. adequate hotel (the gummy bears at the foot of the bed were a nice touch, but failed to increase its star rating).

Time now for some of that famous ‘bier und wurst’. Knowing little of the immediate vicinity, we enquired about the location of the nearest dining establishment. And wow, were we in luck. When next you travel to Merkel’s seat of power you must go to Potsdamer Platz at night. The best of modern, glass-based architecture is on show (I’m not that much of a fan of all the glass these days, give me a subtle yet strong stone building that exudes a previous century … but i must say, the way these modern structures reflect and blend coloured light is always impressive) with many fine eateries, including Corroboree Cafe (had to take a photo of that one). Of course, upon spying an Aussie themed restaurant we went as far away from it as possible, which left us at a microbrewery/restaurant.

What marvelous beer …. the best I’ve tasted to date. How Australians would throw their much-loved local amber ale of choice into the gutter if they were to let just one drop of this fine wheat-based beverage caress their tastebuds. And what food. Never have I had 5 types of swine served to me on the same plate, but there it was. Two types of sausage, roast pork, ham-steak and one lovingly prepared pork-juice based dumpling. Oh, how disgusted Steph was … and oh how i needed some of the salad on her plate after i got through that coronary-quivering feast (I love how the German word for meat is ‘fleisch’. Close enough to the English ‘flesh’ to leave you under no illusion that what’s on your plate is dead animal).

Stereotypes are generally unflattering, but we all know how they ring true with gleeful comic abandon. And it was less than two hours into the trip that we were left in raptures at our own social (or is it global in this case) branding. Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency. With machine-like speed that would leave Henry Ford’s jaw planted on the ground, our plates appeared. And the place was packed. Sydney restauranteurs should be shackled together and shipped to Germany for a forced tutorial on how the industry should work.

Before the in-depth appreciation of the culture, must come the touring of the sights. And what sights … I won’t bore you the details, but if you want check them out in the attached photos. As is the case with such tourism-devoted days, the schedule was packed and the pace was frenetic. Two things of major note: I was quite keen on seeing the remains of the memorial church after being suitably impressed with the rubble that Hiroshima had left standing. But much to our bemusement renovations were taking place (don’t you just love it when rubble is being renovated … there’s a reality TV show in there somewhere, ‘join us at primetime on Tuesday night to see which one of our DIY teams can make this pile of shit look like an even bigger pile of shit’) and they had erected sealed scaffolding around it. After walking around for 5 minutes exclaiming to each other ‘where is it, oh, it must be around this corner …. no, must of been around that other corner …. no, where the bejesus is it?’, we finally realised that the cold, grey metallish structure was indeed it (see photos). The other thing of note was trying ( in vain) to keep our jew-based jokes to a minimum, or at least out of ear shot of others. I know, i know …. ‘not the time or place guys’, but i challenge you to go to the Berlin-based memorials (i realise Auchwitz would be another matter entirely) and not let a Cartman-inspired quip escape your lips. Ahhhh South Park, you gave us so much and asked for so little.

Numb and foot weary, we stumbled into our room to plan the night’s festivities. After hearing so much about the Berlin club scene we donned our dancing shoes ( which were admittedly the same as our walking shoes as our backpacks could only hold so much), but then realised it was Monday night. Still, it’s Berlin, there’s got to be something open, right. Yes …. yes there was. We tracked down an indie establishment called the King Kong Klub … very, very cool. It opened at 10pm – just jumped up another notch on the cool stakes. It had been an exhausting day so after struggling to keep the energy levels up into the evening, we sauntered into the night. A quick nourishing at a thai restaurant and a check to make sure we were looking hip enough, we entered nonchalantly into the KKK … and quickly realised that we were the only ones in there. An hour passed, one or two people trickled in. I must say though the bar service was excellent … no waiting at all … and the trendite behind the bar put extra vigour into making our vodka sours. And we were extremely drunk quite quickly. We staggered home.

I imagine that on any other night this place would be jumping (it had quite a diverse roster of indie acts playing every night) and it should be a part of any Berlin trip.

Day two, predictably, started slow with a hangover haze blurring the view from our red-rimmed eyes. There is only one thing humans crave in such a circumstance, coffee. And lots of it. Having been served the weakest possible caffeinated beverage the previous morning (i swear they had washed some lukewarm water across a solitary bean) we knew we would have to battle through a significant commute to slake the beast that we had joyfully welcomed into our bodies the night before.

Having already viewed some of the wantonly distributed street art the previous day, we had decided to spend our final 12 hours on an urban pilgrimage in the mecca of street art. Research had been done, a route established, now it was just a matter of sheer determination to throw off the shackles of last night and appreciate the sides of buildings like we were in The Louvre itself.

If the KKK was a special find of the trip, we were about to blunder into an institution so happening that Coltrane himself would have tossed his sax into the nearby river and applied for a job cleaning tables at the cafe-come-bar-come-reading room-come-art/performance space … oh yeah, and it was a hotel as well. Check out the pictures, we took one of its name just in case we forgot . We’re definitely going back, if just to stay here for a night.The rest of the day was spent wandering, taking in an astonishing array of graf/paste/stencil, large scale and small. Truly a wonderful example of liberal, progressive Europe. Satisfied and exhausted, we bid farewell .. and vowed to return (Steph’s vote was for sometime in the summer months).

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London, England, United Kingdom

Monday, February 6, 2012

As I gaze out the window waiting for inspiration for this entry…. all I can see is a thick layer of bright, fluffy SNOW! The very same stuff that’s right now disrupting traffic across London.

Ah, what a novelty!

Not only does it make the entire city look completely magical, it also masks all the dog crap that Londoners seem to never clean up…..

It’s also like a reward for putting up with the cold. Almost a validation, that well, I’m not just a soft Aussie, but that it actually IS freaking cold.

We’ve got a couple of other developments to report. The first and most important is that we’ve managed to find ourselves a room! We left it to the last minute, so with time and options (and patience) running thin, we took a room in a big share house in Kilburn. It’s definitely been an experience so far. Here are some numbers, you do the sums:

 7 bedrooms, 9 people, 2 toilets. (one which is only used in the most desperate of situations, since it sits next to the living room and does little to mask both sound or smell), 1 fridge, 1 living room.

Anyway, it’s a nice room (with good heating and a fast internet and that’s all that really matters, right?). Admittedly it is a little strange….upon inspection we learnt that ‘en suite’ actually meant the room had a shower in the corner. See-through glass. No basin. No mirror. Just a shower. Yeah weird. (NB the shower still doesn’t work after a week of calls to the real estate. We’ll keep you posted).

Thankfully, our housemates are very affable, and so far, very normal. I’m one of two girls… the other is a Chinese chick doing her Masters – something about brain development. There’s also a singer/songwriter from Cardiff, a primary school teacher from Canada and some other young professionals. It’s a pretty mixed bag.

THis week I made a start on the job hunt. I’ve had a shadow shift and a couple of chats/interviews at various places, but no steady work yet. Fingers crossed something materialises this week….While I’m on the job hunt, Geoff’s gone to the snow for a week. Somewhere in the south of France or something. I was pretty jealous. But he had to leave at 2:30am to catch an early flight.. and I didn’t feel too bad after that. Plus, the forecast is minus 30 degrees there. Again – not feeling THAT bad.

SO – that’s the latest! Will try to write again in…. a week maybe? Peace Out Xx

 

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View from our window

London, England, United Kingdom

Saturday, February 11, 2012

With Geoff ripping up the french snow fields, I’ve had a full week to explore London solo (aka go shopping). Unfortunately, I wasted a few too many hours sleeping in every morning and just being a sloth in general…. ahhhh bliss. Anyway, today I managed to lug myself all the way from Hyde Park to Tate Museum. Pics below.  Check it..

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“Art’ at the Tate..

Tignes, Rhône-Alpes, France

Sunday, February 12, 2012

It was only a matter of time, and since the purchase of the fancy footwear, it was never going to be long …. so begins my tale of adventure and woe that was the solo alpine snow trip.

Flush with my brand spanking DCs I headed southeast to re-aquaint myself with the French, a foreboding setting if ever there was one, but blinded by the need to slide with speed i joyously arrived in Tignes. It occurs to me now that I was like Julius Ceasar, ignoring Calpurnia’s warnings (in this case, Steph’s bemusement of me striking out to the snow without her – someone has to be responsible and get a job) and galloping to Rome to meet my brother Brutus … or in this case, the dreaded European Loogi.

But more on that later. First, let me paint the picture. The extreme low temperatures sweeping Europe on Siberian winds had already gripped the southern alps. I arrived to a charming resort temp of -25 degrees. Never have i seen so many padded garments adourning so many people. Dressed in almost every bit of clothing i own, i beat my self-presevation instincts into submission and ventured forth.

Thankfully the first day on snow (the day after arrival) was a lot milder …. a mere -13. Laugh at the elements i did, as i second guessed my third layer. Oh what a fool. Even though the sun was shining, at 2500m the good old alpine breeze was still in fine form, bringing temperature guesstaments to about -25 on the hill.

The first day was a success though … i hiked two peaks (snow was in great condition being so cold, but all the near off-piste areas were tracked out, so if you wanted fresh you had to climb). The second was solo (my early morning ski buddy, a british lad staying in the same chalet, was a tad slower than me so i ditched him at lunch). As i disappeared around the lee of a peak i was blessed with one of those moments of complete and utter awe. Standing by myself at about 2800m in the french alps, not a soul in sight nor a sound hitting my ears, i was left motionless, breathless at the majesty of my surroundings. Nothing but snow covered mountain tops and untouched valleys as far as the eye could see. A true, tangible moment where you are humbled and left breathless – lost in a white fantasy land, feeling i was the only person alive. I truly love those moments of solitary wonder, it’s probably behind all my solo adventures to date, and will no doubt inspire many more (plus Scotty and Dicko always get up too late when we’re in Japan so im left hiking the back country of Niseko by myself).

So it was with a major shock that I was brought back to the task at hand by one of those quirks of the 90s. Being solo i had the headphones in, music cranked. But of course, once you start hiking up snow drenched cliffs you turn the music off. This was done for me as i left the piste by the Stone Temple Pilots, for as i unclipped the bindings the song finished, and the next one failed to start. With my concentration fully employed by the navigational requirements at hand (i did want to live after all) i just assumed i had turned it off. As ii stood there lost in the wondrous, almost alien environment, i was rudely reminded i had not. Precariously poised with my snowboard dug into the slope above my head to steady my ascent, the secret track began. I almost wet myself on top of almost sliding into a bowl that would have taken hours to get out of. You rascally sound engineers, you gave me one of my alltime biggest frights.

But the records being achieved in my own fear levels werent to stop there. Once i had summited i boarded down, across a 200m long flat spot to arrive on top of the steepest decent i have ever done. It as a chute, half of which had a few tracks down it … the other half dotted with rocks. IT WAS STEEP. Every sinew and fibre in my system screamed at me not to do it, but that would have required an hour long trek back across the flat and around the peak i had just climbed. Plus i had never done a chute before, plus there were those few tracks to prove that it could be done. So after a brief psych-up and a change of music to the Deftones i was away. I employed the parable of ‘slow and steady’ down the 80m drop … i made it, and the rest was bliss … pure deep powder for 10 minutes of riding. I took the right turns and made it back to the piste, pants-soiling mission accomplished.

‘But what about this tale of discontent’ i hear you mock from your chair of choice. Well, it began at 3am the next morning.

The chalet i was staying in was great. I had a double room to myself as i had booked a last-minute deal to get a good price (plus it is really hard to book a solo snow trip), which had me filling the gap of a couple who had pulled out. A cooked breakfast and a 3 course meal were all part and parcel. But i failed to see the silver lining of the cloud on the second day. I awoke to a head-thumping array of aches, pains and nausea. A European flu was upon me. Bed stricken, i spent the next day and a half woozelly cursing the place which had brought me such pleasure and astonishment the day before.

On the third day it was evident I had a chest infection, as i began coughing up yellow/green/red lung lollies of impressive size (see the attached video for a laugh, caution mum – there is some swearing).

Much of the 4th and 5th day were spent polishing my switch riding on basic, clean pistes that let me fall over without too much bruising. It was sucessful, as i was did a full black run switch on the 6th – something i have never attempted. Progression is always on Scotty’s and my agenda when we ride so i was glad i fulfilled that legacy.

On the 6th day, once my energy was back and the flu symptoms under control, it was time to get back on the horse and reaquaint myself with soaring through the air for the first time since my elbow reconstruction. The lead in to the first kicker was knee-quakingly terrifying (even though it was only a 10 foot tiddler) but i made it … and then went for the bigger sets with no dramas to report. i obviously didnt try turning – thats for next time.

It was a strange mix of feelings when i left Tignes… had some truly great days but had suffered a lot as well. Getting sick or suffering an injury on a skiing trip (when they cost you so much money) is the worst case scenario … but progressing and conquering mental and physical challenges is what its all about. I had done both.

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Liskeard, England, United Kingdom

Friday, February 17, 2012

Since I’m lucky enough to have relatives in Devon and Cornwall, we decided to hire a car and set out on a self-guided tour of south-west England……..

First stop: Bath.
Of course, we couldn’t go to Bath without seeing the actual baths…   I walked around pretending to be an affluent Roman on her daily bathing/relaxation regime. But the moment was somewhat marred by the throngs of frenzied tourists. And then I read that all the men and women bathed together, buck-naked, which also put me off my little fantasy.

Anyway – the baths were pretty cool – as was the entire town – and as we wondered the streets, what really struck me was the architecture. At one point, I stood back and realised I could see something from every major period since 43 AD. Very impressive, especially the row of Georgian town houses and the gothic-inspired Bath Abbey.

Second stop: Braunton.
We continued driving west to Devon, to visit my cousin Dan and his wife Nell (the very Dan and Nell of “Wedding of the Year” fame in earlier post). Upon arrival, we discovered that Dan has two snakes, one of which features heavily in the pics below.

We also discovered their little corner of the world: winding hedge-lined roads, heavy fogs, epic coastlines, lush farmland, dramatic cliffs, caves, sheep, cute cafes…

Third stop: Liskeard.
South to see my very lovely aunt and uncle, Jenny and Chris.
Apparently my family has a great deal of family history in Liskeard. So we took a stroll through the little township (which turns out to be pretty well deserted on a Sunday morn…)

Time to head home… but not before Jenny cooked us some fresh cornish pasties for the journey, and made us promise to come back soon!!! x

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Bath
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Saunton
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Dan’s snake

 

London, England, United Kingdom

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hey ya’ll!

Below is a mishmash of pics from the past few days……. a snapshot of general goings-on.

The photos speak for themselves, so this entry won’t be long. But I will say this: I’m convinced that London pigeons actually WANT to have the crap kicked out of them. They are lead-footed and sluggish. Yesterday I made contact with two in the space of 10 minutes – and I didn’t even have to side step. AND in other (fantastic) news, it’s been warming up over here – consistently reaching a very tolerable 13/14 degrees. So,, we’ve been frequenting the parks and tennis courts and just soaking it all in….  Tis lovely! Peace out. Xx

 

London, England, United Kingdom

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring has launched an offensive on London… and we are LOVING it. The UK has absolutely smashed its average temps this week – it’s been 20 degrees plus.

THe cherry blossoms are out one month early and daffodils are spreading across the city like a rash. And, my gosh, you should see the parks. It is out of control. There are yummy mummies with their prams and skinny lattes, there are dogs chasing tennis balls and pigeons, toddlers running wild, herds of joggers who refuse to give way, and several very heated soccer games with goals defined by the nearest picnic blankets (much to the delight of the picnickers as you can imagine..).

I’ve also noticed that men and women everywhere have been possessed by some sort of insurpressible urge to find a sunny patch and rip their tops off. We’ve also been embracing the unseasonable weather – playing tennis and footy and also hanging out in the local parks… (it is the London thing to do after all).

Check out the pics below. And keep it real. Xx

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SPRING!
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Paris, Île-de-France, France

Saturday, April 28, 2012

We decided to go to Paris to properly celebrate Geoff’s birthday. The goal: good wine, good food and a splash of culture. And that’s what we got… eventually.

The moment we walked off the Metro and into the open air, we were struck by wafts of urine and cigarette smoke. Hello Paris! Our first stop: an Aussie Bar (which offered Fosters and meat pies and cocktails with names like ‘Uluru Sunrise’). We had to go there to pick up the keys to where we were staying (some friends very kindly let us use their apartment while they were away… perfect!).

By the time we settled in, it was late and we were hungry. We found the closest and easiest option – a little bistro just up the street. It turned out to be awesome! The place was packed with highly excitable frenchmen watching Barcelona vs Chelsea. The game was close, the atmosphere was heated and the wine was great. I can’t remember who won. Irrelevant to me. Did I mention the wine was great?

The first day started with a bang and quickly fizzled. Or should I say drizzled. The bang: Fresh and delicious pain au chocolat for breakfast…The fizz: RAIN, WIND, COLD.

We walked to the Arc de Triumph, but the weather was AWFUL. It was so unpleasant that the entire Champs Elysees was deserted…. We followed suit and headed instead for the shelter of the Louvre. Of course, it was packed! But definitely worth the wait for a glimpse of the Mona Lisa (after jostling through a crowd equivalent to the BDO mosh pit).

That afternoon it cleared up and we headed for Sacre Coeur – my personal favourite. I reckon it’s the most breathtaking church we’ve been to so far…. set atop a hill with the most stunning view and fringed by Montmartre – a very quaint (albeit touristy) little district full of little surprises to uncover. One of them: Chez Camille, a cute little cocktail bar stuck in the 50’s.

Finally: Geoff’s BIRTHDAY! In the morning we smashed the Eiffel Tower, then smashed down some delicious baguettes with wine and cheese. In the afternoon, we headed back to Montmartre (quickly becoming our favourite place) and went to a Salvador Dali exhibition….  I’m convinced he was equal parts mad and brilliant!

Afterwards, we had some time to kill, so we whiled away a few hours in a sidewalk cafe, sipping wine and watching the Parisians (and their dogs) pass us by. We finished the day  with the most delicious dinner of the trip  – Check out the pics!

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Baby jesus
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Sacre Coeur
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Told off by a guard at the Lourve for personating the Winged Victory of Samothrace
London, England, United Kingdom
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Hey team!
Just some random happenings from London Town: See pics below

 

Prague, Bohemia, Czech Republic

Monday, May 21, 2012

The grey skies that had been firmly stationed over London for the previous 2 months hadn’t helped … nor the cold London air that refused to let the temperature get above the 10 degree mark over this period. Thus, the reason the Czech Republic now seems so alluring and faultless in our minds, is the fact that the timeless Crowded House song ‘Weather with you’ failed to hold true when we arrived in wonderful, beautiful, but above all – warm and sunny – Prague.

We got off the plane basking in the blast of warm air seeping through the boarding ramp as we meandered into the airport (so surprised were we at the glorious sunshine that ‘meander’ is probably the only word – possible ‘amble’ or ‘saunter’, but definitely no such verb as to impress upon the reader that this briefest of transits was done with any haste.)

And so enamored were we with our sudden change in weather fortunes, that as soon as we were off the bus that shuttled us to the start of the metro system we beelined for the first patch of available grass and lay spreadeagled to maximise our intake of vitamin D, which had sunk to an all-time low in the grey drudgery of early-spring England.

Once we felt like Australians again, we boarded the metro system (resplendent in soviet-era decor), dumped our gear at the hotel and doubled our resolve to get more sun while the getting was good (simply a matter of forgoing the sites for one afternoon – we didnt know if this glorious weather was to last). Our mission took us on a wonderful afternoon stroll along the banks of the Vlatva river, up a hill and along the crest of a green and luscious park that overlooked the city. Being Prague, there was a stall selling cheap beer. What a start. As we drank in the view, beer and sunshine we were given to thoughts of what a paradise this central European region was (No wonder the bohemians developed such a reputation for ditching hard work for other more leisurely pursuits).

We were well researched and had some good tips of where to go off the tourist trail for some decent (and cheap) authentic Czech cuisine. But we were still surprised at how good the restaurant was we found in the bar district of Zizkov that first night. I had one of the best duck meals i’ve ever had, Steph’s orchard of a cocktail was particularly tasty, while the outdoor decor was perfect for the warm evening. What a great start, and as we drifted off to sleep that night we wondered how it could ever get better over the next three days.

But of course, it did. The sites of Prague are well worth the effort (even if all venerable European churches look the same after a while) – its just all so different in art and architecture than what we’re used to back home. Navigating was extremely easy and even though we hit the language-barrier a few times it was not enough of a detriment for us to think any less of traveling here. It was the first time in our travels of Europe that we didnt have any idea of the language – but that only increased its charm as we mimed commands for directions and food. Of course, the fact that it’s cheap never hurts does it, and easily glosses over such inconveniences. It was a solid day of culture appreciation combined with a solid day of walking – the senses as well gorged as the soles of our feet by nightfall.

As well researched as we were, there was one nugget of Prague gold that we didnt hear of until the night before we left. As we supped on a delightful pot-luck dinner laid on by a friend in the south of London, our interest was piqued by tales of the bone cathedral (cheers Guy). The bait was taken, the trip was set, and we were whisked off into the bohemian countryside for a delightful day trip to Kutna Hora. This was no esoteric find, it’s part of the tourist circuit – but it was a Tuesday (i think) and we were fairly certain that numbers would be down. As we chugged out of the city, it was pretty clear that the lovely sunshine had been preceded by some inclement conditions. The hills weren’t alive with the sound of music, but the insects were giving their best Julie Andrews impressions as they mowed into the lush countryside. And the stunning green of the fields was the perfect offset to the rustic (indeed rusting) train station we pulled into an hour later. Here a decision was to be made, one that would have repercussions. The bone church was a short walk from the station, but the rest of the town was a long walk from there. We could get a small shuttle bus or keep on traipsing. Never ones to turn down a physical challenge, we massaged our feet (Steph’s were bleeding by then) and hit the trail. Exhausted, we arrived back in the city for a boozy dinner with good mate and fellow recent ex-pat Andrew Greene, and collapsed for a night of well earned sleep.

We had just a few boxes left to tick on our final day. One of those was the Jewish quarter. Really interesting how it was kept intact by the Nazis who were to use it as ‘a museum of the instinct race’, but its a bit of a tourist trap – an expensive tourist trap. A small gripe, no city is perfect. We found another great park a short walk from the city – it had a mirror maze and a small replica of the eiffel tower, but lying on the grass on a warm, sunny Prague afternoon with ice cream in hand was too good to pass up.

Thankfully, we did take the weather with us back to England and its been nice ever since.

 

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Bone church

 

 

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London, England, United Kingdom

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Here are some of the latest pics from an assortment of adventures.. featuring:

1. Jubilee

The Queen may have braved the rain for Jubilee. We didn’t. Geoff went to work, while I opted for pimms at the pub… and cupcakes decorated with pictures of the Royals. British enough I would say.

2. Geoff hits Amsterdam.

Geoff joined one of our housemates for two days, one night in Amsterdam. He had to leave the house at 3am (3am!!!)…  after that I don’t really know what they did. The pics all look pretty tame but….

3. Kew Gardens.

After being stuck in a city for so long, it felt good to be in something that resembles nature. Particularly loved the massive lily pads. I’m pretty sure I could have hopped across them before sinking, but my theory remains untested.

4. Big Cats.

Our team at CNN was lucky enough to be invited to feed some big cats at the Wildlife Heritage Fund. One of the highlights was seeing Amur leopard cubs, so rare! Only 30 of them still in the wild.

5. Wimbledon.

Our entire house was glued to the television throughout the tournament. One morning  I decided to go watch it live…. but when I was told the wait would be at least 8 hours, I promptly turned around and headed straight back home. Disappointing.

 

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Kew Gardens

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Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pics below.

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London, England, United Kingdom

Friday, July 27, 2012

I have a confession. I shed a lil tear when I saw the torch relay pass through Trafalgar Square. I love the Games that much. I love everything they stand for. The sport and sportsmanship, the coming together of nations, the history, the buzz infecting the city, the athletes, their dreams…. and the ceremonies. Ooooh the ceremonies.

Unfortunately, I failed to get tickets to any actual events. So as a substitute I decided to go to the ceremony concert in Hyde Park with some friends, featuring Duran Duran and Snowpatrol.

My gosh – the ceremony was incredible! Granted, I was in good company, there was Pimms being consumed and the crowd was absolutely hyped… but I think it’s safe to say: Danny Boyle exceeded expectations. The opening sequence was incredible dramatic and the music took my breath away. Multiple times, consecutively, so I almost passed out. Not really. But it was completely spectacular.

Afterwards, the city of London had another treat in store… the tube stayed open past midnight. This is unheard of. Normally, there’s a crush for the last train. So we were all pretty happy when it took less than an hour to get home.

It’s now 9:30am the next morning and I’m watching the first events get underway on the BBC. If anyone needs me over the next two weeks, this is where I will be….

Or alternately, you might find me wodering around London wearing an Australia t-shirt and a lanyard.. pretending to be an athlete. Word.

 

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Pals and pimms

 

 

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