Thursday, October 18, 2007

What´s happened since Contiki

Well here we are in barcelona again.... but i´m geting ahead of myself....

If you hadn´t guessed we haven´t had time to keep uptodate with this thing, so we thought we´d just put up a quick post about where we are at now.

Contiki finished about 2 weeks ago, we´ve had our extra week in Germany, and our extra week in Spain is about to end. Tomorrow we start our flights to Egypt. First we go barcalona to london, then its out to Cario, can´t wait.

Contiki finished, it was a shame to see the of contiki in some ways, but it was also good to get out on our own again. Had some great times and meet some awesome people. Some of the highlights where the swiss alps, with there amazing natural beauty, Vienna, the city as beautiful as (i think more than) Paris, and absoluty spotless as well (even the horse´s pulling tourist carrages have little poo catchers) and full of really nice people, Munich and the Octoberfest, great beers, great food, and then an awesome Roller coaster ride ;), Debrovnic, Prage, and Corfu where all awesome as well, Troy, the legend that tuned out to be more than a legand, and they still don´t know exactly what went on there, and Galipoli was an amazing place to see with your own eyes, its easy to see why it went so wrong and when you look at the surronding area you have to think ¨Why didn´t they just land 1Km further down where the flat land is¨

Then it was out on our own again. We got our flight out to Salzburg, got a train up to Berchtesgaden, and jump on a tour upto Hitlers Eagles nest or Kehlsteinhaus as the locals call it. Unfortionatly the weather wasn´t the best so we had no view of the mountains from up there, but its an amazing place, not just the Kehlsteinhaus but the entire area, theirs bunkers to be seen as well as a cool museum full of stuff about the area during the Nazi era. We also had a local Austrain/German meal while we where there, Porknuckle with dumblings and sour kraut, washed down with a stein (1 Litre of course) of beer (Megan had a Raddler which is like a shandy), all for bout 35 Euro for both of us.

After Salzburg it was onto a train to Berlin. One thing about the trains is they are really easy to get on and off, and they always drop you off at a major underground termainl, and the under grounds are easy as to use too....

Berlin was amazing, had abit of a problem, the hostel we origanlly booked ¨had a gas leek¨ so we coldn´t stay there (i think the gay owner was just afraid of having a Hetro married couple staying there) so we ended up booking into a place called ¨3 little pigs¨at the last moment and with out doing alot of research, The place turned out to be awesome, realy helpful staff, clean, tidy, in the middle of town and had German contantal breakfasts (breads, cheese, salami, ham, cerial, salami, coffee... did i mention the SALAMI´S?) for 4.50. he hostel was about 500m as the crow flys to ¨check-point charly¨. While in Berlin we did a walking tour of ¨Red Berlin¨which covered what went on in berlin post WWII, and tended to concertrate more on East than west, and we went on a tour of sachsenhausen concertration camp. Both where very interseting. The red berlin tour was very informative, and the tour guide was great. At the end of the tour he summed up by pointing out that as bad as its made out that red berlin was, since the wall came down, unemplyoment and crime have risen, and the only people that can say for sure which was better was the people that lived through it and are living in the fall out today.

After Germany it was onto Spain, and our Easyjet experience. Not only did we have to wait at every single point from checkin to boarding for between 30min to 2 hours, but the plane landed about an hour late and you where stuffed in so tight it made a herc look like luxury. For what it would have cost extra to fly british airways or one of the other local operators it´s well worth it for the sake of comfort, but we got there in the end.

In madrid it was a new underground to learn, and a new hostel to find, again it was in the middle of town which was great, it was clean and tidy, the staff where helpful when we where able to get past the laungage thing, and we had our own bathroom, but the place had no sound proofing at all, which is a problem when your on one of the main streets of Madrid. But we got over it. Madrid isn´t as nice as Berlin, and after the organised effiency of Germany, Spain time and spain things took abit of getting used to.

We took a tour out to Toledo, and the valley of the fallen, which was awesome, and toured the city of madrid on foot as well, and after Berlin, it was very disappointing. There was a Military parade while we where there, which was cool to watch. Then it was off to the train station for another ride, this time to Granada. At the train station we decided to ring ahead and let the Hotel know we where going to be late getting in, only to find out that the travel agent had booked us in for the wrong day, and the hotel was full... the manager said to give him a call once we got there and he would see what he could sort out for us. Luck was on our side and he had a late no show, so we where able to get a room. Which was lucky cause when we arrived so did an electrical storm and it was pissing down by the time we got to the hotel.

Didn´t get much sleep that night, seems to be the way it is at the moment, got up relatively early and got onto the hop on hop off bus, toured around the city, past the Ahlumbra Palace, Megan wanted to sort out the train tickets and we thought we would come back to the Palace. We got to the train station and very easily got upgraded to first class, so I don´t know why the NZ company couldn´t do that for us. We got lunch and then got back on the bus and went up to the Palace. Unfortunately for us when we got there, the tickets into the Palace were sold out. This was a bit disappointing as it was the whole reason for going to Granada. But we walked around the gardens, into one of the empty palaces, a bath house and looked at the palace from the outside. These things happen. I´ll just have to ask John to so me the pictures he took.

That night it was onto the overnight train and up to Barcelona. Thank goodness we did have a sleeper cos it was a long trip. And we ended up being an hour late. We did have a very nice dinner, it felt very posh eating dinner in the dining carriage, while cattle class were all sitting in their seats.

Barcelona became a time to relax and wind down a bit. We´ve been here before and our hostel is location in an area we have previously been too, so there was some comfort in this. The hostel let us check in early, which was great. We later headed out to Sangrada Familia, the unfinished Spanish church that had Gaudi as the architect, I believe a kiwi is currently the architect. It still unfinished, and I think its somewhere around 2040. Row and I had differing opinions on the church, he didn´t like it and I did. I believed I was standing in the middle of history being built, which I´m sure he did as well, but it was definitely different inside. I hope they finish it in my lifetime as I would like to come back and see it finished. Second day in Barcelona we went out to Montserrat on another tour. This one wasn´t so good, it was just basically an expensive bus ride out to the Church and Monastery. The guide was crap, but at least the views were pretty awesome. Still good to get out of the city. We mucked about for the rest of the afternoon.

Tomorrow we get on a plane back to London and then onto Egypt, this is the part I´m really looking forward too. Hope everyone is well, sorry the updates haven´t really been as often as they could be... wait till you see the photos and here the stories... you´ll laugh...

Hugs & kisses and lots of love Rowan and Megan xxxx

Swiss alps

Woke up today in the swiss alps... clouded over and raining :(

The plan was to take a train up to the mopuntain, but last night renna told us that the ski place was closed as its the end of the session, so that along with the weather made us decide to can heading up, and to check out th local area instead. Ian went and talked to reception and found out about a cable car and nature walk you can do, and a cool water fall that has cut its way into the rock, so we got tickets and headed off.

we headed through town and stopped at a phone booth, megan rung Barb and talked to her and Rob for a while, then jumped onto the cable car and headed up the hill for a walk. The veiws from the cable car where amazing, we where in a glacial vally, the vertical sides, maybe 1.5Km wide.... and all snow topped. We didn't go upto the snow line at all, but there was abit of snow in the lee of trees and stuff that hadn't defrosted since the last snow....

we walked for about an hour, just going slowly taking in the sights and taking pictures along the way, stopped at a little hill side town for lunch, there was a statue there for the guy that invented Slalom racing... and hotel after hotel after hotel. By this time the weather had cleared up so we decided to take a cog train up abit higher to see the veiw... this thing is basically a train, but instead of driving wheels it get pulled up by a cable... and it goes almost vertically. we climbed about 4000m in this thing, jumped out, had a look at the veiw and got more pictures then headed back down, caught up with Ian and Simon who had come with us, then started the treck back down. There where two different cable cars going up so we where able to take a different route down. the second cable car was like the other, but instead of following the hillside down, it went stright over a shear cliff, probably 900m high, quite breath taking when you head over the edge and the ground disappears below you.

once down the bottom, we caught a bus to the water-fall that has cut its way into the rock. the swiss have dug tunnels into the rock along side it so you can get a good view, which is great, because in places the water fall is about 10 meters inside the rock face. saying water fall is abit missleading, its actually about 10 of them, draingin the water from 3 different glacers.... its an amazing sight even at this time of year, it must be out of this wold during the spring thaw...

after more awsome views and photos, we headed down, jumped on a bus and headed back to camp. There where two birthdays on tour today, so we had a party, and the theme was "garbage bags". You could wear what ever you wanted, so long as it was made from garbage bags... Megan did an awsome job of putting together our outfits, i went Fred Flintstone, and Megan went as Whilma, The our outfits rocked :) there where some preaty cool others there too.

and that was about it for the day

hope all is well

R&M

Monday, October 1, 2007

Day 10´- Venice Italy

Today we were taking the boat into Venice. It was a private charter, and then public transport back to the camp site.

The boat ride was great, the water smells pretty bad, but the view. I did expect the city to be built with taller buildings, although in a way it was a nice change. First stop was San Marco Square, which has a bell tower, palace and basilica. Apparently the basilica has very uneven floors, would have been interesting to see. After taking some photos and looking at the bridge of sighs (the saying goes that prisoners would walk along the bridge after being sentenced and sigh after looking at Venice for the last time), we walked around to the square with all the pigeons, there were hundreds of them. We brought some food and fed them, we have photos on them on my arms.

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Not enough time to finish this so I´ll finish it next time
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Day 9 - Venice Italy

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Oh my gosh its been so long since I´ve posted anything, finally getting the chance to catch up a bit in Heidelburg Germany. Hope everyone is doing well. Luv Row and Megs
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Another travel daz, we´re starting to get use to these. This time we´re leaving France and going to Italy. Venice here we come via Verona (home of Romeo and Juliet) Packing up was slow we were trying to get away early, but it wasn´t working. Chris our driver was leaving us for a couple of days off. So he wanted to get there early, as it was we only just got away on time.

On the road again.... first stop after the Italian border for pizza, and it was good. The only problem with this leg of the journey NO BOOK!!! I had finished it and now I had nothing to read. All the book stores had things in their own language not English, well to be honest I didn├Ąt look verz hard for an english book, so I slept instead.

After the services stop, I got the diary out and started catching up. The last time it was written in only finished the 2nd day in Paris. I had a lot to catch up on, and it was one of those things I didn´t want to start cos there was so much to catch up on.

The next stop was in Veron, the home of Romeo and Juliet, this meant I had three hours of writingand I made the most of it. 4 dazs written up, but the 4th not quite complete. Well that was bz the end of the daz. In Verona we walked past the old Arena, which use to be four stories, but now it is onlz two. Thez still have plays in there which is quite cool. Then it was a short walk to Juliet´s balcony and her statue. Row had a photo with his hand on her left boob, it´s suppose to be good luck... seems there are a lot of things like that around the world. Funny thing is that her boob is worn down so she hardly has any left.

Then we had a walk around the markets (on our own), got some nice fruit, a post card and wondered back to where we met everyone. Interesting point about the balcony, it was actually built in the 19th century, so it can´t be her original one. Although it would be interesting to know whether the story is true or not.

Back on the bus agian, bound for Venice. Got there wuite early, unpacked and set up camp and then went for the bar, well after dinner. Jellz our cook wasn´t feeling very well, she finally got the bug that was going around.

The bar went off that night, everyone was drinking attitude adjustors (crap loads of alcohol in them) I didn´t have one, as I didn´t want to get smashed, but I did have a few beers so I was still tipsy by the end of the night. Off to bed about midnight, tomorrow we´ll be in Venice.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Day 8 - Antibes French Riveria - France

Today was bliss, the campsite was clean, showers nice, toilets with toilet seats. Bliss I can tell you, not only that we got a sleep in, we didn't have to be at the bus till 9am. This mean't no alarm. Everyone got up relatively early and had breakfast, poor Jelly thought she was running late, but we were just early. Got breakfast, Row was a dishy so he had to do the dishes, they started late, therefore we were running late. Not really a problem, we are on holiday after all.

1st stop the french perfumery. We were told how perfum was made, something like 2 tons of flowers to make 1 litre of essense. No wonder it is so expensive. Row let me buy 5 bottles for E175 and then he brought a face cream and some smelles for him, very cheap. After walking through we walked back to the bus with an awesome view down to the water.

Back onto the bus and into Nice, about 10 mins away. We got dropped off and had a free afternoon. Its right next to the water, so it was nice to think we could just relax close to the water.

Row and I decided to get some lunch, so we walked off the beaten track a bit and had fun trying to order lunch. We got it to takeaway, and walked back to a waterfall with a walkway that had some nice shade and sat down to eat lunch.

Today is our last day in France, tomorrow we leave for Italy. After we finished lunch we walked up the main street, which has a tram-train, but the tracks were under repair so we didn't see it running. We decided to find an internet cafe and catch up on emails etc and write on the blog for an hour. The cafe was a bit doggy, the keys on the keyboard hardly worked, but we got there.

After this, we walked down to the beach and got an ice cream. We didn't give them enough money, it was funny trying to understand what they were asking. I looked at the price and suddenly realised what she was saying and gave her extra money.

It was so hot that we headed for the beach, we were just going to walk along the beach, but when we got down the stairs and saw some of the guys on our tour so we sat and chatted with them. I put my togs on and went for a swim. It was really cold when you first got in, then it was beautiful. The only problem was that there was alot of rubbish in the water. When some thing came towards us, (lots of dirty water) I decided to get out, I'm really pleased I didn't put my head under. Incredible to think that they don't care about their environment as much as we do. It will hit them sooner or later.

After the swim we thought we would go and see the old town markets. The old town was very similar to the gothic area in Barcelona. In that everything was very close together. The look of the buildings weren't the same, but the market was in a square and all the little tiny avenues leasing off were similar.

The market wasn't really a market it was fully of antiques. If you had wanted to find silverware and other antiques, it would have been the perfect place, but for campers not a good market.

Tonight its off to Monaco - I'll write more on this soon.

Day 7 - Antibes French Riveria - France

Today started at sparrows... about 6am (not that early really, but we're on holiday). Breakfast, tents down, bus packed.....and......then we waited. The bus driver had gone over on his hours the day before, so we had to wait till he'd had enough time off before we could hit the road, but when we finally did, it was get comfortable and wait some more... it was going to be a long day in the bus.

During the start of the trip we did introductions. Everyone got up and jumped on the bus microphone and told everybody who they were, where they came from, and tell an emparrising story. It was quite good to put names to faces, or though i still can't name everybody on the tour, but i'm getting there. Megan told the story of how we got together, which went down a treat. but once that was over, most of us had alittle sleep.

After a couple of hours we had our first "Service stop". Services are areas off the side of the main drag where you can park up, get gas, coffee use toilets and things like that. Most are well setup and you see the every 30min or so along the roads. Anyway, when we got to this one it was stinking hot... which was nice cos thats why we came at this time of year... so we had a coffee and did the usual stuff and jumped back on the bus, and went to sleep before the next stop.

The next stop was a little gypsy town called Aigues Mortes. This was a cool little town that is completely walled in. The whole town is within the walls and at the moment they are celebrating the Festival of Louis IX. Everyone was dressed up in gypsy clothing, there were horses rides, shows (that we didn't see), all the shop attendants were dressed up. (How they could handle being dressed up in the heat I've got no idea), we had fun ordering lunch, well i did, Row didn't feel very well. We were a bit worried that he was going to get sick, but turned out in the end to just be a bit of dehydration.

We walked around the town and had to pay for the toilets (bit of a foreign concept, although the superloos are starting to pop up everywhere at home). We got some photos and then just as we were leaving we brought a bottle of local wine.

Both Row and I were sad to leave Aigues Morte, we could have spent a day or two looking around. Its definitely a place Ian and June should visit when they come over to France again.

Back on the bus, my gosh we truely are going to live in this thing. Bound for the French Riveria, not sure if we had to stop again, but if we did, it would have only been a services stop. It was late in the day when we made camp about 7pm, it was everyone hands in to get things done.

Once we had dinner it was free time. I was going to go to the theme park, but ended up going to the bar for a quiet beer. Then off to bed, its been a long day. I was looking forward to tomorrow, as we're going to Nice and a french perfumery. For now its a good night sleep.

R&M

Day 6 - Barcelona Spain

Well today we woke up in Bacelona, and it wasn't raining :D

It was a normal morning, up and about fair early, and onto the bus for a trip into town. We did driving tour of the city and learnt abit about Spain's history. Seems it was a big place back in the day, but in more recent time its been abit of a nothing country, they weren't involved in either of the two world wars, but did have a rather bloody civil war between the two world wars...

The city itself is quite modern to look at, a big change from London and Paris. It was the sight of the 92 olympic games, and that can been seen through the city in the form of sporting arenas everywhere. There was one big church that we had a good look at, but I can't remember (he can't but i can Sangra Familia - Gaudi was one of the architects) the name of it... its still under construction, even though they started building it back before 1910... things go a little slower on spanish time. They are meant to finish in the year 2040, but aparently the date changes everytime Contiki go there... so who knows when it will be finally finished.

After the driving tour, we did abit of a walking tour through the old gothic part of the city. it was like stepping back in time. Old stone walls, and cobble pathways, narrow streets, wood and wrought iron doors and gateways. We went through to the old town square where Columbus was meet back, and then down some more narrow allys to an area that was used as an execution area for anybody that didn't agree with the king during the 1930 spainish civil war. From there our tour manager lead us out of the gothic town (which is almost a maze) and into the new town, where we had the day to ourselves. Because Megan and I are heading back to Barcelona by ourselves at the end of the Contiki trip, we decided to just take it easy and have a look around. We walked up and down the main street, got some lunch at a little local place (which cost heaps about 50 Euro, we normal spend about 15 Euro), and just generally took in the sights of the area.

At around 5pm, we meet back up with the bus and headed out to watch a Flaminco Dancing show. It was realy good to watch, and at the end we did some "latin dancing" as a group for abit of fun, it was a real laugh and well worth it. Its not something easy to describe, but it was very interesting to watch. They served us sangrea which is a red wine with something added to it, its quite sweet with a hint of spice to it. i didn't think it was to bad, but Megan wasn't impressed with it.

After the the show we headed down to Port Olympic for dinner. This seems to be the pary area of Barcelona and there where people everywhere. We had dinner in quite a large restaurant with most of the others off our tour, then headed home on the bus. On the way back we went past some water fountains that had been built for the 1929 world expo.... it was AMAZING. and awsome sight, was lights and sound, it was well worth missing the night out on the town to see it.
And that was barccelona :D

R&M