26 January 2008


We're now in Calais and booked on the ferry to Dover tomorrow.

I've always thought of Calais as just a town that people pass through when they go from England to France on the ferry, so we thought we'd spend a couple of days here and see what it's like.

If you're in England and want to visit France, forget about Paris, just come and stay in Calais, it's such a nice town. The people here are so much nicer than those in Paris for one thing.

Getting to Calais from Amsterdam was interesting. I didn't mention we visited Amsterdam did I. We went there from Heidelberg, only spent one night, and no, we didn't visit the red light district. Amsterdam just seemed so crowded and fake compared all the other cities we'd visited over the past few weeks. It was the first city we visited where the person in the tourist information office acted as though she didn't care.

Anyway, going from Amsterdam to Calais involved several changes of trains, some of them unplanned. We caught a train from Amsterdam to Brussels. Now that was an eye opener. We'd heard about the girls in the red light district in Amsterdam, sitting in the window advertising themselves, but weren't expecting to see them from the train as we came into Brussels North station. I'd only just put my camera away as well, sorry guys.

We got off at Brussels Central, thinking that would be the main station and we'd be able to get a train to Lille in France, not so. We had to get on another train to Brussels South, where our original train would have taken us.

Brussels South was where we got on the Eurostar to Lille, a quick half hour trip, just enough for a glass of wine.

At Lille we got on a train to Calais and were lucky enough to be sitting near a young bloke that told us where to get off for Calais as there are a couple of stops. It's Calais Ville if you're following in our footsteps.

The woman at the information office at the station seemed surprised that we wanted to stay in the town, but she booked us a room at the Mecure hotel for the night and a good choice it was.

After a quick look around town, we decided to stay an extra night and see the town properly. We also decided to eat in the restaurant in the hotel, something we haven't done much of during the trip. We didn't regret it. I had my first taste of escargot and emu steaks, both delicious.

So now, we just getting ready to head back to England. We're hoping we can pick up a hire car from Dover. If not, we'll have to catch a train to Hertfordshire and get a hire car from there in a couple of days.

It won't be long now before we're back home. Apparently all the animals are still alive, all that is but the tadpole. Their water wasn't topped up from the pond. Maybe the next batch will have a better chance.

23 January 2008


We're now in Heidleberg.

Heidleberg's main claim to fame is the fact that it has the oldest university in Germany. It also has a partly ruined castle that contains the world's biggest wine vat. We didn't actually see the vat as it was starting to get late by the time we saw the castle.

Speaking of castles, I told you the other day we were visiting Castle Neuschwanstein (the fairytale castle).

It was a good day out. Two hours on the train to Fussen, with pretty much the whole carriage to ourselves, as our Eurail pass allows us to travel first class. Then a quick cab ride to the ticket office down the hill from the castle, followed by a 1.5 kilometre hike up a steep hill to the castle itself. Luckily there was somewhere you could buy bratwurst on the way up.

The tour of the castle would have been better if the groups were a bit smaller, but it was still interesting. King Ludwig II, who commissioned the castle, actually died before it was finished. As a result it never did get finished.

It would have been good if we could have got in a position to take some better pictures from the outside. The usual pictures you see of the castle must have been taken either from that cliff you see to the left, or from a helicopter.

With all the walking we'd done by the end, we didn't feel like walking all the way back down the hill again, so we took advantage of the horse and carriage to get back down.

As you can see, we got the seats at the front. You never quite forget the smell of horse fart.

21 January 2008

Guten Abend aus Deutschland

We're in Munich tonight.

Yes, I know I said we were going to Venice after Rome, but we're playing it all by ear and decided to go further north instead.

We got to the station yesterday morning and the next train leaving was going to Milano within ten minutes, so we got on it. There's some really beautiful scenery just north of Rome, we hadn't seen much of it on the way down as we were on a night train then. Further north it gets a lot more industrial, but we couldn't see much of that due to some of the thickest fog I've ever seen.

Milano has a pretty boring station, it looks impressive from outside, but there's not a lot to do there, not even many places to sit. We had a few hours to kill there before catching a train to Verona where we met the sleeper train to Munich at 1am this morning.

If I ever here the first bar of the Platter's "Only You" again I'll go crazy. It got played over and over in all the Italian stations in a Kinder chocolate ad.

So, now we've left Italy and are getting used to saying guten tag and danke, instead of bongiorno and grazie.

Tomorrow we're hoping to do a day trip down to Fussen to see the fairy tale castle. The day after that we'll most likely head towards Heidleburg, but that may change.

Only one photo today, hopefully more tomorrow when we get back from Fussen.

This is Marienplatz, looking toward the Rathaus (town hall). I've never seen so many clock towers in one place as there are in the old part of Munich. You can see one in the picture, there are two behind me and another to the left of me.

Incidentally, the picture of the steps I posted a few days ago wasn't the Spanish steps, and therefore not the steps used in the movie the Italian Job. I must say, Donna was quite impressed with how anatomically correct and to scale the two male statues were at the top of the stairs. She took a picture to prove it.

Oh, and the hotel we stayed at, the Hotel Romae, we originally booked that from the railway station when we arrived. The woman there said it was 180 euros, which we paid at the station. We weren't sure afterwards if that was just the deposit, as a notice in the room said the usual rate for the room was 210 Euros and Trip Advisor says it averages 180. When we checked out yesterday morning, our bill came to 16 Euros, that was for two bottles of wine we'd bought. So, 60 Euros a night for a good hotel in a capital city; you can't complain about that. The hotel in Paris cost us about 130 Euros a night and that didn't even include breakfast.

19 January 2008

Still in Rome

Yesterday we had a look around Rome on one of the many open-top, double-decker, tour buses that seem to be in all the big cities we've visited. I'm not sure how much they cost in London, but in Paris we paid 22 Euros, and in Rome it was 15 Euros. The Paris one was valid for 48 hours and the Rome one for 24. You can get on and off as many times as you like while your ticket is valid.

Our bus didn't go near the Trevi fountain and that's the one place in Rome that Donna really didn't want to miss. As it wasn't all that far from our hotel, we set out, map in hand, to walk to it. Then, because they weren't too far from the fountain, we walked to a few other places that we'd already seen, such as the colosseum.

The Trevi fountain. Apparently, this wasn't all that popular before Hollywood discovered it. I find that hard to believe as it's got to be the most spectacular fountain I've ever seen. We threw some coins in, Australian, British and European, just to cover all the bases.

The spot where Julius Ceasar met his end. If you look closely, you can still see the chalk marks left over from the murder investigation. If you look even closer, you may see some cats, it's now a sort of refuge for cats.

Two different ways of seeing Rome. The cheap one can't be used to fertilise your roses.

Another shot of the Colosseum. It amazes me that, as old as some of these buildings are, you can still walk all over them.

Never trust a man who wears socks with his sandles. What do Romans wear under their skirts? I wasn't game to ask him.

18 January 2008

I like the Hotel Romae

Because, among other things, they have free internet in your room, assuming you've brought your laptop with you.

So, below is a quick summary of what we did today. Maybe I should say, the movie locations we visited.

I can't help looking at the Colosseum without thinking of Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris in Enter the Dragon and Game of Death.

Ben Hur, funny name for a bloke (Hur). This is part of the Circus Maximus, where the chariot races were held.

The Italian Job. I may have this wrong, but I think these are the Spanish steps, where the Mini Coopers drove down in the movie.

I'm sure this would have been in The Divinci Code, but I haven't seen the movie. Driving up toward the Vatican.

17 January 2008

When in Rome, do as the Romans do

Which is a lot easier than doing as the French do in Paris.

The French seem to have the attitude that if you are in their country, you should speak their language. The Italians on the other hand, realise that this in unrealistic and arrogant, their signs are all in Italian, English, French and German. The people here are much more friendly too.

We are here for a couple more days, taking it easy to try and get over our colds. The rain outside does not help. Once it settles down a bit, we will go and find one of the open top double decker tour buses and see the sights.

No pics at the moment as I am using the free internet in the foyer of the hotel. Hopefully, by the end of our stay here I will have found the apostrophe key on this keyboard.

15 January 2008


Yes we're in Paris at the moment.

We spent a few days in London after the tour, as you can see below.

Saw a bit of snow while we were up north.

And caught up with a few friends.

Tomorrow night we're on the train to Rome. We don't have any accomodation booked just yet, don't even know how long we'll be there, but hopefully we can get internet access so we can let you know what we're up to.

I just hope we can get over our colds soon. Just about everyone on the coach tour ended up with one by the end.

09 January 2008


Finally, internet access on the laptop.

I started this blog entry in the middle of the first week of our holiday. Unfortunately, internet access has been a bit of a problem. When we could get access from my aunt’s place, during the first week, I had no easy way of transferring stuff over from the laptop. I would have had to hog the computer to do a proper blog entry and I didn’t want to do that. So I’ve been typing stuff into Word and hoping I would be able to get access somewhere. We're in the Apex International hotel, five minutes from Edinburgh Castle and finally, with some help from support and the girls in reception we've got access, what's more, it's free. Most of the hotels we've stayed at it's been about $37 Aussie dollars for 24 hours. It was about $25 in London, but access was pathetic, especially compared to Hanoi, where it was quite good, and cheap.

Anyway, here’s what we’ve been up to so far.

If you’re travelling from Australia to the UK, I can highly recommend you plan your flights so that you arrive in Singapore in the evening, then leave in the morning. We booked a night at the Ambassador Transit Hotel, which is in the middle of the airport. That way we managed to get a good night’s sleep on the way and a shower. There’s still that 12 hour flight for the second leg, but you feel much better for the break.

Donna got to visit her first English pub the day after we arrived. My cousin Terry, who turned 50 on Christmas eve, had his birthday lunch at a pub called the Yachtsman. We were in another pub the next day, The Jolly Sailor on Poole Quay (notice the nautical theme developing here?). This was for New Year’s Eve.

We stayed there until about a quarter to midnight, then moved down the quay to another pub, Corker’s, where my cousin Mandy’s husband John was the DJ. This meant that the first song played after Auld Lang Syne was 500 Miles, one of our favourites. It was quite appropriate with us travelling around as we are, but the reason John played it was because I requested it.

Tuesday, Terry took us to Corfe Castle via Swanage. Crossing the harbour entrance on the ferry, it was so clear, that we could see the Isle of Wight, birthplace of one of my work colleagues.

Corfe Castle was pretty much destroyed by Oliver Cromwell during the civil war. Yes, England had a civil war once too. If you have a look at most pictures of Corfe Castle, you’ll see a pub called the Greyhound in the picture,that was where we had lunch. A sign out the front says it’s Britain’s most photographed pub. I can believe that, I took a couple myself.

Terry left to visit some friends in Budapest on Thursday morning, so Barbie and Ken took us to the New Forest. Yes, you read that right, my aunt’s name is Barb and her partner’s name is Ken. We visited yet another pub for lunch, the Queen’s Head this time. Getting back to Poole, Donna and I went to a local grocery store and discovered that Jaffa cakes cost about half what we pay for them in Australia.

The next day was a trip to Monkey World, a refuge for rescued apes. It's apparently famous the world over because of a TV show about it, but we'd never heard of it in Australia. Probably because the show isn't on free to air TV.

Friday morning (I think), Barb and Ken dropped us off at Bournemouth station and we caught a train up to London. We spent that night in a room at the Park Plaza hotel, just across the river from the Houses of Parliament (Big Ben). Internet access in that hotel is ridiculous. We could get access on the TV, but it’s almost impossible to read. Wireless access is extremely slow, if it works at all. We're staying there for three nights at the end of our tour, so there'll be another pause in internet activity probably.

Saturday, our tour with Trafalgar started. This really needs an entry of it's own, partly because it's part two of our trip and partly because we've seen so much.

The Marriot hotel in Bristol, where we stayed for the first night of the tour was excellent, the food was great and so was the service. The Holiday Inn at Chester, not so good. The service was still good, but the food a bit, blah! We're now in Edinburgh, as I mentioned before, right in the middle of the city.

Tomorrow we travel down to York, then the following day we finish our tour in London.

I was hoping to catch up with Dave while we were in Dorset, but family kept us pretty busy so it didn't happen. We'll still have some time when we get back from the continent, so there's still a chance Dave.

Now, hopefully our next chance to get on the internet won't take so long, figers crossed.

Below is a very small selection of some of the places we've visited so far.


A business sign in Llangollen, Wales

Lake Windemere, in the Lakes District.

Still around

We haven't fallen off the edge of the world, but we've been having a hell of a job getting decent internet access so we can do blog entries and upload some pics.

We're staying in Edinburgh at the moment, only 5 minutes walk from the castle. If you stand outside the hotel and look up, there's the castle, right in front of you.

Anyway, once we get internet access sorted I'll be posting a bit more, about two weeks' worth.

Oh, and if anyone's interested, yes, we have seen snow, plenty of it on the drive from Gretna Green to Edinburgh. We haven't needed the thermals yet though.