Travels

Last day in Prague

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Prague is every bit as gorgeous as everyone says it is and not as packed with tourists as the narrow streets in Italy. We spent most of our time walking and walking and walking, looking over the castle and admiring the view from the bridges. Sophie managed to eat a chocolate ice-cream each day because apparently its the best she has ever had in her life! Apart from a bad experience with my credit card (fully loaded with all my travel money) which ‘went missing’, it’s been a lovely 3 days here. Its looking like Sophie will have to fully fund the holiday now. Lucky she is so rich with savings..
We are off to Cesky Krumlov tomorrow which is apparently a smaller version of Prague and every bit as pretty.

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Prague, Czech Republic

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Commando would be proud. We dragged our luggage 2.5km through the rain this morning, across the cobblestone higgelty piggety roads to where our bus departed for Prague. A short 4 hour bus trip and another walk to our hotel had us weary but excited to explore the much awaited Prague.
Czech doesn’t use Euro so I had to withdraw cash from the ATM. Withdrawing 4000 Czech dollars turned out to be the same as $200 so my initial fright turned to concern that I didn’t get enough!
We managed to catch a train into Prague and walked around for a while before sighti g big black storm clouds. After a very yummy meal we came back in time for the storm to hit. Here’s a pic of the sky just before we left…

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Dresden, Germany

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There is an odd atmosphere in old Dresden which I can only describe as similar to Gertrude st Fitzroy. Low socio economic status mixed with urban grunge, alternative trendiness, lots of graffiti, cigarette butts, dog poo and broken bottles mixed with unusual trendy cares, shops and bars. That’s on the ‘new side’. The old side over the river is quaint and full of history. It’s bigger than I expected and our rooms are further away than we thought so had to cart our luggage 2.5 km across the cobble stone roads.

Last night we went on the Dresden night walking tour, which turned out to be a little odd. The guide was an East German guy with a political agenda who took us around ‘new Dresden’ and gave us tastings of locally made herbal liqueur. We were a bit worried about the herbs for a while. Sophie and I were a bit childish and snuck away and left the others there. Ive no idea when the tour ended but we didn’t get back to our hotel until midnight as it was.
The next day we explored the ‘old Dresden’ which is like another world. Sophie likened them to Heaven and Hell but there is something exciting about both parts. Off to Prague tomorrow which I’m really looking forward to.

Please send us some vegetables. Label them as we have forgotten what they look like. We haven’t seen any for so long and are eating so many carbs we may take off like rockets. Sie sind vom Aussterben bedroht. Ich bin unterernährt.

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Berlin

Just to get you in the mood for today’s blog post from Berlin… here’s a little entertainment:) If you look carefully you’ll see us in the background.

After 9 hours on a bus we arrived in Berlin at 6pm. On the way, we were entertained by the history of Germany AND Sophie winning the grand German speaking competition. The prize was a chula chip which she never received.
We had decided to get separate hotel rooms rather than stay in the hostel as we have 5 nights here. Somehow we managed to carry our luggage up and down several flights of stairs and get a train to our hotel room. The rooms are like luxury after the Amsterdam experience although we have separation anxiety being in different rooms. There is much excitement as we have TV! woo hoo! Now we can hear about Prince Phillips bladder infection over and over again because CNN is the only English speaking channel.
The next day was very very chilly but being the tough stock we are we went on a 4 hour walking tour of Berlin and afterwards we walked the 8 km back to the hotel room. We managed to see the Berlin wall, Hitlers bunker and place of death, the holocaust memorial and many other interesting places. Our tour guide was a very tall pommie guy named Barnaby, who was both funny and knowledgeable PLUS easy to find in a crowd, being tall as a bean pole.
On returning back at the hotel, we went out for Thai food and had to order it off a German menu with German speaking Thai waiters. That was pretty challenging but we managed to get our order in successfully and it was delicious!
Sophie is hoping to catch up with her. Good friend Sophie H who she has known since school and is German.

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Chick trip itinerary 2012

On May the 25th Sophie and I will hit Europe for 7.5 weeks to celebrate her finishing Uni. Nice excuse hey?

This trip will be more of a backpacking trip on the ‘hop on hop off’ Europe bus. With this bus travel we can choose how long we stay in each place and have the safety of traveling with a tour guide on the Busabout bus. We have the freedom of ‘doing our own thing’ once we arrive at the destinations which is much better than having to hang about with a tour group. Since I’m now a ‘seasoned’ traveler I cant stand the thought of going on a tour so with the safety of the bus travel it’s a good compromise. Although I’ve been to half of these places before, I will enjoy returning and seeing them through the eyes of my daughter… instead of the Dishmop;)

We are packing lightly (aren’t we Sophie?) and taking backpacks with wheels (as opposed to a suitcase).  Afterwards, Sophie continues on to the USA with a friend so she will be gone for 3 months all up.

The MOTH is going to learn how to use email and if we progress well through the lessons, Skype as well. Otherwise we will resort to courier pigeons.

Here’s our map and itinerary…

ITINERARY

25/5/12     Melbourne to Paris

26/05/12    Paris (sleepy sleepy time)
27/05/12     Paris
28/05/12     Paris
29/05/12     Paris

30/05/12     Bruges, Belgium 6pm
31/05/12     Bruges

1/6/12     Amsterdam, Holland 6pm
2/6/12     Amsterdam
3/6/12     Amsterdam

4/6/12      Berlin, Germany 6pm
5/6/12       Berlin
6/6/12       Berlin
7/6/12       Berlin
8/6/12      Berlin

9/6/12      Dresden Germany 3.30pm
10/6/12     Dresden

11/6/12       Prague Czech Republic
12/6/12       Prague
13/06/12     Prague

14/06/12     Cesky Krumlov Czech Republic
15/06/12     Cesky Krumlov

16/06/12     Vienna Austria
17/06/12     Vienna
18/06/12     Vienna

19/06/12     Salzburg Austria
20/06/12     Salzburg (Sound of music tour) ‘High on the hills was a lonely goat herd’…

21/06/12     Munich 5pm
22/06/12     Munich
23/06/12     Munich Day trip to Neuschwanstein castle

24/06/12     Innsbruck Austria
25/06/12     Innsbruck

26/06/12     Venice, Italy   13.30
27/06/12     Venice
28/06/12     Venice

29/06/12    Rome, Italy
30/06/12    Rome
1/7/12     Rome
2/7/12     Rome Pompeii day trip
3/7/12     Rome

4/7/12     Siena, Italy
5/7/12     Siena

6/7/12      Florence, Italy
7/7/12       Florence
8/7/12       Florence

9/7/12     Cinque Terre (Riomaggiore) , Italy
10/7/12   Cinque Terre
11/7/12   Cinque Terre
12/7/12   Cinque Terre
13/07/12  Cinque Terre
14/07/12  Cinque Terre

15/07/12     Nice, France

16/07/12     Barcelona arrive late, Spain
17/07/12     Barcelona
18/07/12     Barcelona
19/07/12     Barcelona > Fly out (Jenny home and Sophie to USA)

Planking in Singapore

Colin is a good sport sometimes. I almost drive him insane with my ‘photo moments’ but when I drag him into it as a prop… it’s even more testing on his patience.

We arrived in Singapore at 6.30am after very little sleep and went straight to our hotel and slept for 7 hours. Then we got up, walked about 15 k around the city for 5 hours and went back to bed and slept another 11 hours!! Nice way to shake off the jet lag.

Singapore marina

I’m not a big fan of Dubai, but I have to admit, Singapore mixes their affluence with some nice artistic style and good taste. The shopping is horribly expensive, but it was interesting to look and there are plenty of  cheaper  ‘bling bling’ markets around, although the prices are still pretty high.

The botanical gardens and Orchid gardens were beautiful and we spent most of the afternoon there today. I was excited to have a giant lizard chase me across the lawn, which I filmed for evidence.

The hop-on-hop-off bus and the river cruises have kept us busy for 2 days and will include a trip to Sentosa Island tomorrow for the day.

All this and then back to home on Friday morning… if Sophie wakes up early enough to pick us up (6.20am landing!!).

Tony gets a shower

Today the 4 off us took off to Gourdon, Domme and Sarlat. After the GPS sent us off circling Figeac 4 times for good measure, we ended up in Gourdon where we had a loo and lunch stop. As we pulled up, Lorraine and I used the toilet, which was one of those automatic ones, and Tony went in after us. Colin, Lorraine and I were standing outside the toilet when we heard an almighty roar and a gushing of water. We all had the giggles which erupted into laughter when Tony emerged from the toilet soaked. He hadn’t locked it so he was included in the loo washing cycle. Unfortunately, the toilet retracts into the wall and water erupts from the floor so it was a bit disconcerting for him. I’ll leave the details up to your imagination!

We followed the toilet stunt with a delicious lunch with free wifi and apart  from Lorraine pinching the last lemon meringue tart, enjoyed it so much we decided we wouldn’t need tea. It was finished off with a drenching in a rain shower and another odd trip with the GPS to our next destination.

All in all, it was a very drenching experience, for some more than others. Tony is looking forward to us NOT asking to drive to 12 small villages on goats tracks tomorrow!!

Oh and yes… we DID have tea when we arrived back at 8pm. Piglets!

Figeac, France

I can’t get used to walking into toilets to find a man standing at the urinal. In country towns the toilets are combined!
I  also can’t get used to seeing dogs in hotels, which eat with their owners at breakfast in the dining room.
It amazes me how often you drive on a goat track to the middle of nowhere with no cars in sight, only to reach the ‘quaint little village’ and find a boom gate with a 3 Euro charge for parking and tourists everywhere. Our trip to Figeac, sent us over the Millau Viaduct and via a little fortified village called la Couvertoirade (which was ‘out the middle of nowhere but had a parking charge). We arrived late in the day at our 2 bedroom appartment, about 35 minutes before our friends Tony and Lorraine.

Rocamadour

Our first day together we drove off to Rocamadour to see the breathtaking view and visit the village. Colin decided it was a good idea to visit the caves as well. The only problem was that there was only one cave, we were on a tour and the guide spoke in rapid French, for what seemed like 3 hours. Colin almost ran out of the cave crying as it was too much for him to cope with. We are now calling him ‘cave man’. Luckily, Rocamadour made up for it and far exceeded our expectations.
Today’s adventure was Cahors and, Saint Cirq Lapopie. The later sent us on a goat track but was again a gorgeous place to visit with breathtaking views and beautiful gardens nestled in a cliff side.

Not Bastille day in Montpellier

‘What Bastille day activities do you have on here in Montpellier?’ Colin asked the Office of Tourism employee. ‘It’s not Bastille day, it’s a bank holiday’ he replied. Erm… interesting. We could have sworn July 14th was Bastille day. At least, after our Aussie friend told us via SMS.

'Painted buildings' on the back of blank walls

Montpellier was dead as a door nail anyhow so whatever the case, we almost starved to death because everything was closed (in the morning). Can you starve to death in one morning?

As is usual, we walked over Montpellier aimlessly and then went looking for the Tourist info centre. Every town we’ve been in we have had a wild goose chase trying to find the TIC. The signs are everywhere pointing down streets but we always seem to end up going in circles or nowhere. By the time we find it and get a map, we discover we have seen everything! This was no exception. We discovered the Arc de Triomphe, aqueduct beautiful gardens etc well before we got the map. So the next day, when there was a ‘bank holiday’, we had already covered all grounds and everything was closed in the morning so we were a little stumped. After strolling around for a couple of hours, the shops opened.

Our hotel had a door which opened into the 4 story shopping complex *groan*. After 3 weeks of little villages and small markets it was quite overwhelming to see so many people in one place. I know I’m a sad case, but the shops and the sales were pretty exciting for such a deprived case as myself. Col, of course, wasn’t too thrilled about it so I restricted my frenzy to 2 hours.

We’re off to Figaec now to spend the week in an appartment with friends. Back to the little villages which are more our style. Our luggage has grown considerably so let’s hope we all fit  in! My boasting of ‘carry on luggage only’ is a thing of the past.

Palavas-les-Flots

Our arrival at Palavas-les Flots was met with a giant thunderstorm which went for 12 hours (continual rolling thunder and flashes of lightening). The rain poured all night and met us in the morning with humidity and eventually more sunshine. This seaside town has the best sandy beach we have seen so far but lots of tourists as well. It has the funniest chairlift, which goes over a small canal to the other side so you don’t have to walk to the bridge to cross it. It’s about 50m long and costs 2 Euro.

I have almost saturated my desire to shop at markets… having been through  100 of them now… but I managed to fit in another one here. I found myself today getting into the back of a van (encouraged by a French man) with a curtain with canonball sized holes in it, to give me the necessary coverage for privacy, to try on a dress. ‘What I am doing?’ I asked myself. I must be desperate! I managed to get the dress on without exposing myself or getting driven off in the van and happily paid for it afterwards. I swear it was worth it!

Ordering tea off a menu and not knowing what you’ll get because nobody can explain it to you is quite an adventure. Last night I almost ordered bulots but discovered they are whelks, or sea snails in the shells. I should have tried them but I didn’t want to walk out hungry! So far we haven’t had a bad meal in France. Is it possible?