Saturday, December 29, 2012

Germany!

Finally. Bear with me, I know I'm in Mauritius now, but I've been meaning to write this post since October, and haven't done it for various reasons (camera issues being high up the list, among other things). Mauritius posts will continue after I'm done with Germany.

I also don't have all the pictures one could want for a holiday, partly due to being a bit lazy about taking pictures. But here I goes!

We started off with a kayaking trip on the Lahn- inspired by that excellent kayaking trip down the Ardeche last summer. It was much calmer, nobody fell out at all, although I must admit to being concerned I would come out straight away- the kayaks were a whole different design, much more manoeuvrable  and also much more sensitive to shifts in your weight! Not only that, but there were chutes for getting around the occasional weir or little drops in the river, and of course our start point started off with one. Naturally it couldn't go easily, I got stuck half way down, lodged sideways against the wall! I had to be rescued, despite my best attempts at fighting my way out; not a great start. But it went much more smoothly after that- plain sailing the whole way! It was by far the easiest kayak trip of my life, the river carried us on at a reasonable enough pace that paddling was basically unnecessary a lot of the time- I sped up considerably when I did paddle :-) but there were no rapids, no rough patches, just floating along quietly. We got stuck in shallow bits once or twice, but that was about it. Oh and at the very end we forgot to tie up one of the kayaks, and my friend had to paddle downstream, find it, and paddle madly back upstream, towing the double kayak behind him! But he made it back, kayak safe, and all was well.

After the kayak trip, we started our castle tour with Schloss Braunfels, which we rather naively decided to walk to from the town we had stayed in. Granted for the fact we walked from one small town to another, it wasn't terribly far. But with big packs, and not being able to work out how to walk directly to the castle, it was a tad miserable. But also exciting. Castles!!! We got their eventually, and before they were open for business! We hid inside an extended tunnel-like archway for a while, dodging the rain, and eventually the tour opened. It turned out that you basically can't take pictures inside the castles- almost all of them had this policy- so no pictures. It was impressive though, large enough, very castle-like, and with a good collection of armour, including a full plate for a horse and knight, very impressive! The combined weight was 120kg or something insane like that- practically the weight of two people, just in armour, never mind the actual person inside it! We had a lovely tour guide too, and although the tour was in German (most of them were) she translated bits into English for us when she got a chance. And I was impressed at both her English, and her representation of stereotypical German beauty! She had the most amazing skin of anybody I have ever seen. She is secretly Snow White, I'm sure of it. On a related note, we were amazed by German teenagers, who appear to be entirely unrelated to teenagers over the rest of the world. Without exception, all the ones we encountered were polite, and had impeccably clear skin. Maybe they're imposters, and actually store their real teenagers somewhere else, in giant summer camps where they can go be spotty obnoxious teenagers by themselves. Oh right, they're called schools when it's not summer...

After Schloss Braunfels we headed for Koblenz, where our first holiday misery awaited us. After walking around the town we found no accommodation, so we wandered in to the tourist information office and asked them to book something for us. There was nothing. A huge wine festival in a small nearby town had resulted in the place being packed to the rafters, and the advised us to go a good distance to be sure to find something. Okay, no problems, we can head down the Mosel (river) now, stay there a day or two, and come back up here when the festival is over. So we got a train to Cochem, a lovely town some 50 miles or so down the Mosel. Now, I must comment on the marvellous system they had at the tourist information office there. By the time we arrived it was gone 5 O'clock, and tourist information were closed. However they had large boards in their windows to display all the accommodation offered through them, a little blurb about each place, and a light to show if they had any rooms. Not only this, but they had telephones you could dial them on, by simply dialling the corresponding number. Brilliant! If only they hadn't all been full... Time and again we called, and got the same answer. The place was full. The wine festival reached this far too it seemed. Finally we found something, it was in the last three possible options remaining, so we were incredibly relieved. It was a long walk, but we made it eventually, much to our relief.

Cochem was a lovely town, with a picturesque castle on one hill, and a giant, glowing cross atop another hill.


After a two nights and a day in lovely Cochem, we moved back up the Mosel, heading for Koblenz, with a castle stop-off along the way. My friend D, who had been in charge of most of the identification of castles to visit assured us that the castle was right next to the train station, but possibly 100 meters directly uphill. At least that's what the map said.

The map lied. We arrived at a small place called Moselkern, where there was a train station, and not much else. We wanted cafe and kuchen (coffee and cake to the un-initiated in this delicious German 'ritual') but it was a no-can-do affair, the place was too small for such establishments. So we followed the signs to for the castle. And we followed them a bit further. And a bit further. And still we walked up the valley floor with no sign of a castle anywhere. It was starting to rain, my pack was heavy, it was miserable. Massive argument ensued, and eventually I stormed off to the castle (I wanted to leave, but had no train ticket -we had a group one-, and the stupid small town was too small to have an ATM to get money from to buy a train ticket with). Turns out I make good speed when I'm royally pissed off, but it was a damn long march. Uphil. In the rain. Boy was I not happy. Fucking castles. 

Suffice to say I have no pictures of Burg Eltz to show anyone, although there might have been postcards to a lucky few, I think. It was quite an impressive place actually, tucked away in the hills, sitting high above a small river. They even had a tour in English, but I was too pissed off to listen (yes, I was sulking.), and they didn't even have decent food options, just chips and hot dogs. Luckily I was still eating meat then, so I didn't go hungry, unlike the vegetarians I was travelling with. Man was I pissed off. I marched all the way back again, but my pace just wasn't the same. Anger levels were clearly shrinking a little, affecting my storming off abilities.

Okay, a picture from Google images. It was a real fairy-tale sort of castle, hidden away like that. Not the best picture, but hey, you get the idea.


After Burg Eltz the day just got better and better. And by that I mean we found out that Koblenz actually actively disliked us. Our second attempt to stay in Koblenz involved arriving, (me using an ATM immediately upon stepping off the train platform, before even leaving the train station. *grumble grumble grumble*), looking at the rain BUCKETING down, and dashing across the square to the tourist information office, to ask if they had anything available. No, they had nothing. Again. Tempers, tempers... we were all cold, wet, hungry and tired. And lugging about big packs on our backs, again. Cafe and Kuchen was located next to the train station, and decisions made to escape Koblenz, this time down the Rhine river. 

Another train ride south and we arrived in St Goar, which turned out to be a delightful little town. What's more, the first bed and breakfast we stumbled upon out of the train station had rooms available. And a sauna. Heaven! We eventually located some dinner (St Goar had some issues with vegetarian options, and met an interesting pair of guys at the table next to us, one of whom was walking the entire length of the Rhine river, from Rotterdam to Switzerland. We had a wonderful cross-table chat, which brought our spirits up a fair bit, along with a hot meal and Weissebeir (white beer, from wheat, nom nom nom). Finally the sauna was used, discussions were had, and the atmosphere relaxed. I wonder how many people make up in saunas, I'm sure it must be a lot. It's hard to be angry when you're so comfortable and warm!

 
Action Sam! traverses another dangerous cliff-face.
I believe it was our first day in St Goar when we decided to go up to Boppard and try our skills at climbing stuff and walking up big hills, and we did what is called Klettersteig, also known as Via Ferrata and Iron Ways, depending where you are. Basically they're a bit like rock climbing, but without the skill. There are things sticking out from a cliff face, you clip yourself into a harness and try to get to the other side without falling and needing your harness. It was excellent. You've already seen a picture on here, but here's another, I was having fun!


St Goar was lovely to walk around, another picturesque town beside a river. While its only castle (Schloss Rheinfels) is now in ruins, you could also see two others across the river, Burg Maus, somewhat downstream, but visible from some places, and Burg Katz, directly across, sitting above St Goarshausen, which I was rather enchanted by. Sadly they are not open to visitors, so we couldn't go, but that didn't stop me taking pictures of them! I loved being able to see two other castles, while standing in a third- can you imagine what it was like when they were all in operation?! Castles!!!

Burg Maus, taken from Schloss Rhinefels.
Also from Schloss Rhinefels, I have Burg Katz behind me.

I see I was a bit too excited about Katz and Maus though, I forgot to mention the trip down the Rhine. We took the train down, to see more castles, including Schonberg, where we used a catapult simulator to destroy Burg Eltz; most satisfying! We walked around the town, looked at castle walls or whatever they were, and then made our way down to the ferry terminal, where we got on a lovely river cruise, to St Goarshousen, passing the Loreley rock on the way. St Goarhausen was a beautiful town, directly across the river from St Goar, where we were staying, and it had the most incredible little pub-restaurant place, I was very taken with it. Unfortunately I have no idea what it was called, but it was a bit like stepping into your grandfathers garden shed where a bunch of university students are throwing a would-be-nice dinner party. It was pretty awesome. 

And finally, before departing the wonderful Rhineland, with all of the wonderful castles, we took a look around Schloss Rhinefels itself, which we had saved for last. I was a bit castled-out by that point, but this one had a few features the others didn't. Not walking up a huge hill in the rain though, unfortunately. Once we had done our obligatory march uphill in the rain, we were treated to an excellent ruined castle. There were many parts you could run around and climb on, and best of all, an old mine you could explore. So naturally two of us, armed with cellphone torches barged on down them, and had an excellent time getting all muddy walking doubled up (or waddling like a penguin, depending on your height) through centuries-old tunnels underground, sometimes with complete silence and in pitch blackness, which was pretty cool. After a fair bit of confused exploration we heard voices, and a few corners later discovered light-a new route out, which was much more exciting than coming out the way we came in! We never did discover what they had the mines for though.

After Schloss Rhinefels, it was time to head North again. This time we were wary of Koblenz, and rewarded for our lack of confidence with some blissful sunshine to sit in for ages while we waited for the next train after our own one was cancelled. Goddamned Koblenz. Never going there again!!!

We had a brief stopover in Cologne (dinner, one night, that was all. I walked past the famous cathedral. It is indeed enormous), followed by a day at Landschaftpark, (Landscape park), which was so goddamn cool that it will get a post all of it's own. Soon I hope. There are certainly enough pictures for more than one post, but I will try to restrain myself. Until then...

Au revoir!

(This is French-land here as well, okay?!) 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

When wildlife is not wild enough...

Using the toilet is generally a fairly simple procedure. You sit down, you do your business, get up again, flush the toilet and wash your hands.

This is not always so.

You come in, see nothing amiss, and sit down. Then try not to jump when you see there is a 4-inch lizard with no tail lying on the ground between your feet. Argh, where the hell did that come from?! Okay, never mind it's just a lizard. You watch it look at you suspiciously for several moments before scuttling off to a corner to hide under a pile of dirty laundry, while you get on with using the loo. Stand up to flush it and jump back, aghast upon spying a small fish swimming around in the bowl. Okay, how the hell did that get in there? What sort of waste water system do they have in this place anyway, it's a posh resort for goodness sake. Ewww why is it wriggling around like it's dying, that's really gross... probably because it's in a toilet full of urine... what sort of fish is it anyway, they're usually exciting tropical fish here, it's very grey and dull. And a weird shape, thick and kinda flat at the face, and then thinner and thinner as it goes along, but without any fins sticking out, how weird. Hey it's kinda slowed down it's swimming, it's just kind of twitching now, the poor thing, it must be dying in that water, what will happen if I flush it? Where does this go anyway? And can fish drown? But why is it that weird triangular shape, I've never seen a fish with a head like that, and why is the face bit white, where is it's mouth? It just kind of tails away into nothing.
.
.
.
.
.
Oh.
.
.
.
.
.
.

That ain't no wildlife, if you ask me.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Indian Ocean!


I have been swimming in the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the English Channel, the Andaman Sea (off Thailand), and now the Indian Ocean. So far the Pacific Ocean around the East Coast of New Zealand is still my favourite. The Caribbean was as flat as a pancake, and the sand sticky somehow, really hard to get off, even in the shower. The Andaman was beautiful, but dirty. The English Channel was passable, but it was my introduction to European beaches, dirty and not exceptionally pleasant, although I have now come to accept that it is basically normal here. Passable, but that is about all. It was also a bit cold as I recall, despite being the middle of summer. I'm sounding pretty fussy right about now, I know that. I was spoiled with lovely beaches only ten minutes from home as a child, where I practically lived in the summer, and I imagine it will be very difficult to surpass it. That won't stop me from evaluating every beach I encounter! The Indian Ocean... Well it's warm, which is nice, but not so warm as to be pointless for cooling off, which was almost true of the Caribbean I felt. Perfect temperature. It's an amazing colour, and there is a coral reef, meaning beautiful tropical fish all around (but again no real waves). I'm in Mauritius, by the way, in case you're wondering which part of that rather large ocean I am evaluating. It also means poisonous ones. So far I've only seen the non-poisonous sea-urchins, however they concerned me enough with their feirce and dangerous looking spikes to read about them, and discovered that I really ought not to go in the water without aqua shoes, in case of sea urchins, star fish, certain fish, some shellfish, and who knows what else! The Indian Ocean thus loses out for being too poisonous, it's not the cleanest (although not terrible, so far as I have seen), and here, it's also very flat, but that's due to the coral reef, which provides the lovely (and poisonous) sea creatures, so it cancels itself out on that front. The Mediterranean around Sardinia was nice, but cold when I was there in June. It was also idyllic off Elba, however the mighty Pacific Ocean gives some power to the breakers crashing on the shores of the East Coast of New Zealand, which the Mediterranean just can't rival.

Thus I proclaim that the beaches of the East Coast of New Zealand still hold as the best beaches in the world. Clean and fresh, the mighty pacific ocean crashing into the shores is as safe as the ocean can be while maintaining all of it's allure.

And why exactly, am I suddenly waxing lyrical about New Zealand beaches? Because this is the first time I've been concerned about stepping into the ocean without shoes on. One shouldn't have to wear shoes in the water! And I still don't. I just don't go near anything that looks like a rock, because it either is a rock, in which case it probably has deadly sea urchins and starfish on it (I know, deadly starfish, I was confused too), or it's a Stone-fish, pretending to be a rock, which is not a better option in any way. Other beaches have not had unpleasant downsides, but nothing terribly dangerous. Apparently being situated between Africa and Australia is a recipe for dangerous aquatic life! Of course the dangers are probably pretty minimal, or it wouldn't be such a popular holiday destination. I probably just wasn't aware of the nasty things in Thailand or the Caribbean!

Mauritius is a nice place, although I haven't seen much of it yet. It seems to have an interesting mix of African and Indian culture, with a dash of French and a pinch of English to spice things up. The food is certainly spicy, but very yummy. Beyond that... well I haven't really been out of the resort. I probably won't get to see any more of it either. I'm loving the wildlife though, the lizards are amazing, so many different types. And the birds are cool too, you'll get some pictures of them for sure, I see them driving from the swimming pool a lot.

Thus ends my first post, but here are some pictures to end with.

Those terribly dangerous fish, eating my leg.
"Are you guys sure about this?"
"Come on, I'll hold your wing big man"

"Yo! What you all waiting for?!"

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I have a lizard in my trousers!!!

No, really, there is a lizard climbing up the inside of my trouser leg.

Just so you know.

*twitch twitch*

Okay, I might go have to get him out now...

Monday, December 10, 2012

"Sam, you're like a pink and purple and black and red and blue ninja!"

Yessss! I'm the most colourful ninja the world has never seen!!!

Kids are awesome :-D



Apologies for ignoring my blog for such an incredibly long time. If we're really lucky, I might manage to update it some time soon, with some pictures from my holiday back in September/October. I know, it's almost Christmas, and I'm due to travel again, and I haven't updated from last time. I had some problems with my camera okay?! No, really, I did. It looked like all of my pictures from the whole trip were gone. Luckily I have clever geek friends everywhere who can do nifty shit like getting deleted pictures off memory cards. Yay! Some are ruined, it's true, but it looks like the vast majority have survived undamaged, so there will be pictures, eventually. Here's one to keep you going:


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Spain is not floating my boat right now

I suspect that my issues lie partially with Alicante, and partially elsewhere altogether. But a tiny two-bedroom apartment with two kids who want nothing more than to be outdoors is not my idea of fun. Especially when the weather sucks.

That said, I shall try not to judge Spain by Alicante. I suspect it isn't my sort of place even when it is in the full swing of summer, so being a ghost town is hardly going to improve things. Apartment blocks galore, to the almost complete exclusion of anything else. Proximity to the beach is really the only selling point. Unfortunately the weather is a bit rubbish, which kinda ruins it.

One week and one day to go.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Abandonment

Now I know first hand how kids feel when their nanny leaves. I feel abandoned too.

:'-(

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Venice!

I have made it to Italy.

Germany was neat, I even survived the train trip from Amsterdam to Venice- actually slept all night on the train, which I find mildly astonishing. But excellent. And just as well after being so busy. Touristing is exhausting stuff really.

And now I live I am inhabiting the world of espresso and gelato. So much so that I have been here 24hrs and still haven't had had any pizza. Or other vegetables. The closest I have come since parting with my vegetarians in Germany is a chocolate-coated banana on a stick from a fair in the Netherlands. That or the banana, rum and chocolate sauce pancake I had for lunch the next day. Accompanied by some delicious La Trappe beer. So far Dutch food is winning from this holiday.....


Sunday, September 9, 2012

One of these days I will...

sleep in until after 6am. One day.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I'm never crossing the Atlantic again.

This is the worst jet-lag ever.

Children waking up at 1am more than one day in a row is a unique and terrible form of torture.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Jet-lag is a curious thing

It's more than just tiredness, although that is obviously a part of it. I actually feel like I've got up at 1 in the morning, after a few hours sleep. I'm in that amusingly helpless state where I am somewhat of a danger to myself and others. I got yogurt from the fridge, tried to put the lid in the cutlery drawer instead of the bin, and promptly put it away in the pantry when I was finished.

2am is not a good time for waking up. Thanks to the invention of portable dvd players this wasn't quite so horrendous as it could have been, and children were put back to bed with a dvd player and a selection of disks. I am not what would be considered a conscientious nanny at 2am and severely sleep deprived. However my plans only partially succeeded, and I did not sleep any further

So once my trusty suppliers on the corner had opened, I went down for coffee, and at least managed to order one, and even pay for it.

This was a somewhat embarrassing affair, as upon receiving the delicious beverage I discovered a large man between myself and the lids. I suspect I must have had an exceptionally confused look on my face, as the man serving reached over and got one for me, which he attempted to give me. Epic fail. Once I had it, it became clear I was functioning at a very low level; after observing precisely how incapable I was he took pity and put the lid on my coffee, looking thoroughly amused. This is almost on a level with my worst ever hangover. Almost. Jet-lag is rough! Jet-lagged kids are even worse.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

For all my geeky friends

I must recommend 'The Pirates! Band of misfits'. It is amazing. Queen Victoria pulls swords out of her hidden steel petticoat to fight the pirates and also Charles Darwin. So she can eat the Dodo.

Enough said really. Oh plus David Tennent as Charles Darwin and Hugh Grant as a pirate (it's animated, fyi). Brilliant.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

With flowers in your hair...

See no, speak no, hear no evil!
I met these monkeys on a seat on the edge of Chinatown in San Francisco, they were rather well done I felt- monkey sized and pretty life-like!

However I wasn't feeling like exploring Chinatown- to be honest they feel the same in most cities I've been to, I don't really see them as an attraction. Why not just go to China if you want to see Chinese culture?! I got a lift into an area called Union Square, which is the hotel and shopping centre so far as I gathered, and so I had to immerse myself in the American consumerist culture for a while, and wander around the many flagship stores they have. I even bought a few things, which I was rather glad of later on when the temperature dropped to unreasonably chilly! I can't say I wasn't warned, but I never thought it would get quite that cold, this is California in the middle of summer!!! San Francisco is known for it's microclimates, but they really are quite something!

After exploring the shops I had a bit of lunch, turns out I got lucky and picked an Italian cafe with reasonably authentic Italian food. And coffee. Mmm coffee. As a side note, Americans have an unfair reputation for bad coffee, it's nowhere near as awful as English coffee! I'm forming a theory that I might actually be able to drink espresso and macchiato in Italy, and that the reason I like it milky is due to the (poor) quality of the coffee. This is convenient as my stomach has taken a dislike to dairy after Russia, and goes on strike whenever I have coffee.

Anyhow, that has nothing whatsover to do with the pictures you can now see of the amazing cable car I went on. I have heard comparisons of San Francisco and Wellington before, and they are fair. Landing at the airport feels just as much like you are about to land in the harbour as it does in Welly, and then it has all the hills, and the sea, and a cable car. And as dearly as I love Wellington, and it's cable car, it's got nothing on this one! And yes, of course I got myself a spot standing up hanging off the edge at the front, where else would I go! Although I would advise trousers rather than a dress such as mine for this endeavour- the wind is another fair comparison with Wellington! I enjoyed the cable car a great deal, they do rather rule the roads wherever they go, half the stops seem to be in the middle of intersections. And one guy almost got run over by us- these cable cars go around corners and I guess he wasn't looking. Although they do make a hell of a racket, they have bells that the drivers ring with the skill and enthusiasm of a bell-puller calling Sunday mass!



I jumped off the cable-car at the top of the last hill, where I could peer down the infamously steep Lombard Street, which zig-zags downhill ruining the otherwise grid-like road maps. I attempted to take some pictures, but eventually realised that the bottom of the hills was probably a lot better place to try and take a picture of it than the top, so you'll have to settle for a picture of me instead. You can see the white 4x4 making it's way at a good angle I guess. Anyway, I didn't fancy walking down the hill only to walk back up it again, and I wanted to go down to Fisherman's wharf, see the famous chocolate factory, admire the sea and bum around a bit before getting myself up to Golden Gate park to wander about some more and have dinner.

Walking down the street following cable car tracks I encountered a rather amazing view-
ALCATRAZ!



I also briefly spotted what I believe was the Golden Gate bridge, hiding in it's usual cover of fog. San Francisco has many things, but more than almost anything else, it has fog. Lots and lots of fog. There was also another rather impressive bridge, called Bay Bridge, which goes to Oakland and Berkeley University. On the topic of universities, we are very close to Stanford university here, I am very tempted to try and visit. I only want a picture of the Metaphysics lab.....

And finally this rather sad looking picture is of a place called Sharon Meadow, in Golden Gate park, otherwise called the Summer of Love. In the 60's this was the place to be, if you believed in love and gentle people with flowers in their hair... it was honestly really depressing to walk around it. The place was almost completely deserted, the only person I saw was a guy who looked homeless and was finishing up busking for the day. It almost made me cry, to think that this used to be a place full of people with such love and hope for the future has become so forlorn, an empty space of scrubby grass. It wouldn't take much to maintain it, with those established trees and the rest of the park surrounding it. No wonder my generation has no hope for the future when you can see how such an energetic and loving generation, with such altruistic dreams have only this left as a memento of their enthusiasm.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Capital geek country

I don't actually know precisely where we are staying- somewhere in the proximity of San Francisco. And, it seems, geek central. I had a short, child-encumbered trip to Palo Alto the other day, during which I discovered there isn't much to see at 8am, that they have a pretty awesome twist on public art features, and that jelly-bean art is an excellent form of entertainment.

Altogether a pleasant geeky surprise for me. And it seems I have earned a day off, tomorrow I shall be entirely un-encumbered with children, and have the day to explore San Francisco. Or anything else I happen to be interested in, but San Francisco seems to be the biggest thing around to go and see. Besides, the more I hear the more I'm liking the sound of it!



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

California...

is so very American.

I shall attempted to elaborate on that when I get over the jet lag. Possibly when I get back to London.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Dairy education

I am slowly coming to grips with the excellent variety of dairy products available in Russia. I was initially confounded by the sheer variety of what appeared to be milk cartons in the fridge. When I first asked, I had got a simple 'It's creamy milk for coffee' as an explanation. It appears that one doesn't buy milk and cream here, but rather a selection of dairy products to keep in the refrigerator and then select your dairy product of choice by fat content for each use. I am currently consuming frozen strawberries (they got kicked out of the freezer in favour of space for icecream) with 10% fat milk. It's better than normal cream, I think. The lowest I've seen is 3.2%-4% which I think is your normal standardised milk, but they only seem to go up from there! Not that I mind of course, but it is fascinating.

As for the other dairy products... I don't think the English language has words for half of them. I tried to get some butter one day (it was in a tub like margarine), asked one of the kids "Is this butter?" got a no and said "So what is it then?" Oh ummmmm........... no answer. It had pictures of cows on the front, and came in a margarine tub, it seemed like a reasonable guess! I think it is some sort of cross between cheese and butter, it's quite nice. A bit like cream cheese, but creamier, more buttery.

Altogether, Russia seems to have a greater supply of dairy products than France, although they claim they aren't as heavy- apparently they don't do 'cream' like the English! Certainly I'm not suffering that problem I had in France, where every meal seemed to be made of cream freche!

In other kitchen-in-Russia related news, there is a frog hopping it's way across the floor. I had better go and liberate it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

And now that I've filled you in on Scotland

... I can start catching you up on Russia!

I haven't actually got a lot to say about Russia, in the same ways that I didn't have a lot to say about Thailand, or the Caribbean. I'm not hear on holiday, it's work, and it does alter the way you see everything. Things I might love as a visitor are just seriously irritating when I'm trying to get something done, and instead of having a food adventure and exploring the fridge contents of a Russian house, I sulk because I can't figure out what anything is, and I just want some damn comfort food already.

Please, don't judge me too harshly for not making the most of it. I know I haven't and I do have regrets, but I can't do everything at once (I'm still coming to terms with this thought, I haven't really accepted it yet).

All these excuses, and no real substance to what promises to be a good adventure, it doesn't bode well. But it is just because I don't know where to start. Perhaps with the day I arrived, and at 10pm or so I cracked, and had to ask when it was going to get dark- this turned out to be some time between 10.30pm and 11pm. No midnight suns then. I was vaguely hopeful, but knew that we weren't really going to be that far north, sadly. It would've been neat.

The conversation that evening also turned to languages- I couldn't understand any of what was being said by anyone, not in itself unusual. What curiosity I did discover was that although I couldn't speak German (apparently this would have been helpful for talking to one woman), my (rather basic, and very rusty) Spanish would be. There is one man who speaks Russian and very little English, so it came as quite a nice revelation to discover that he is fluent in Spanish. I think my Spanish is a little better than his English, although not by very much.

It has been quite an experience for me, having to try and speak and understand another language as the only means of communicating with another person- my poor skill in Spanish is the lowest common denominator as it were. Previously I've got along fine with speaking English and gesturing, but when you know that you share some skill in the same language, one feels a curious obligation to attempt to speak it with them, rather than gesturing like a pair of monkeys. It's actually quite a lot of fun, seeing what I can understand. Although I rather tested the limits at one point by not thinking before using the excellent line "Que significa 'Ye nada'? " which is "What does 'Ye nada' mean?" 'Ye nada' being a Russian phrase I hear often. It sounds very similar to the Spanish 'de nada' meaning 'it's nothing' but the context (and tone!) didn't make sense. Of course his attempt to explain it in Spanish went beyond my vocabulary, and into his English, which he eventually translated as 'No make'. Hehehe. It was an amusing realisation that of course asking "what does that Russian word mean?" in Spanish was bound to give a challenging result. But a fun one. And we did get there in the end. I think, from the context, that 'don't' or 'don't do it' is closer, but hey, it's all learning. And it could just be the funky linguistic counterpart to an English "Child, please don't" is "Child, please no make" in Russian.

On that amusing note, I shall leave you there, as it is past my bed time, and if I'm not asleep soon the small people who live in the cellar and make the house work will come and get me. Apparently. 

St Andrews

I liked St Andrews a great deal, and if were the sort to go for small towns I would have simply fallen in love with it. It was beautiful and charming, wild and yet so historical. Definitely fascinating. And with ruins to explore as well...
Peeking through the cathedral ruins.
A lovely little town by the sea in Scotland, known the world over for golf and Prince William. I mean it's university. Which Wills happened to attend. I did have vague hopes of taking a walk by the sea while I was there, but these were laid to rest in light of my mobility issues. Arriving off the train at Leuchars (St Andrews itself not actually being on the train line), I taxied in, and settled in to my B&B (not as perfect as the one in Edinburgh, but everything else was full). I hobbled around with my sprained ankle and found a surprising lack of restaurants, the one I found and really liked the look of was, wait for it... fully booked.  

The remainders of the grand main entrance.
Some nice Scottish imagery.
I discovered it to be a lovely medieval town perched up above the sea, complete with castle and cathedral ruins. Of which the castle ruins were so lovely, I shall dedicate a post entirely to pictures of it. It was pretty idyllic really. I spent most of the next day either sitting in a coffee shop (needed coffee, and couldn't walk much) or hobbling around the ruins. Ruins are pretty amazing. Oh and the graveyard! Sounds weird, but the graveyard by the old cathedral ruins was quite something to see. It was on a gentle hillside, topped by the cathedral walls and sloping down towards the beach. I don't usually make a habit of touring graveyards, or photographing them, for that matter, but this one fascinated me.

The angel raises his face to the sky, finished. 
In between I managed to find what might be the worlds most amazing ice-cream store, with a variety to astonish the most experienced ice-cream samplers. I believe I went for something reasonably tame, some sort of special Scottish icecream, with caramel swirls and something else, it was very tasty. I even sampled some of the Irn Bru ice-cream, which I was less taken with. But the one I had was delicious! I wandered around the pretty streets (and Butts Wynd as I recall), before realising that if I didn't get my own butt over to the castle I wouldn't get to see much of it. I arrived with five minutes until close, and luckily they were kind enough to let me in anyway, and I wandered around taking pictures. Like the cathedral, it was in an advanced state of ruins, but rather cool to explore, as you shall see. It would have had amazing views when there was an actual building there, it sits right at the top of the cliff above the sea, just where you really want there to be a castle.
I was totally mature enough not to giggle. Honestly.
After all this exploring I went and collected my massive pack and staggered around for a while, until I found a suitable restaurant to loaf about it for the remainder of my evening. I was very well attended by the staff, who were super-kind, and found somewhere to keep my pack, and loaded it into my taxi (which they called) for me at the end of the evening.

After scrambling aboard the Caledonian Sleeper train I had an epic adventure night of awful proportions. The sleeper train broke down in Edinburgh, and after moving us to new carriages, we were then allowed to 'sleep' for a few hours before they woke us all up to tell us "This train isn't going anywhere" Ummm yeah, figured that out a few hours ago guys, what with the not moving and all. Eventually with much kerfuffle I managed to obtain coffee from the plebs who open the Costa Coffee in Edinburgh Waverley at some truly unreasonable hour of the morning (I was there at about 5.30am...) and get on a train to Lancaster? Somewhere in the North, starting with an L. Eventually arrived there at about 8am, changed to a new train to Birmingham, only to be told I *still* had to get off a Crewe anyway and collect my tickets for onwards travel. Sigh. Crewe was difficult to navigate, their ticket machines useless, and the elevators slower than me going down stairs with a sprained ankle and a pack my own size and weight. I was not happy with Crewe. Oh and they denied the existence of my tickets until I eventually got my phone (with dying battery in its very last moments) to show an email receipt that I had indeed paid for the tickets. At which point they were obliged to concede their existence, and eventually relinquished them to me. After Crewe I eventually got to B'ham, where they proceeded to change my train platform (after I had arrived at it, of course) not once, but twice. Way to mess with someone who has a heavy pack and can't walk.

I am honestly surprised I made it without hurting somebody.

Friday, July 20, 2012

(somewhat delayed) T in the Park!!!

Apologies for the delay. Blog posts to follow thick and fast in the coming days I hope!

Thursday: We made it in, and actually got sunburnt waiting to get into the camping ground. Not putting the tent up in the rain- WIN!!!


Fairy trio! There was a fancy dress theme for the Friday night, which we (clearly) put a lot of effort in to. 
Friday:
Friday was actually pretty amazing. It was glorious and sunny mostly, there was the requisite mud that any festival must have, but basically fine. I got to see The Darkness live, meaning I have now seen Franz Ferdinand and The Darkness, the soundtrack to my last year at high school. I even had S2 (a friend from school) with me to appreciate The Darkness too, it was perfect. I believe in a thing called love!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fairys in tent city! (Note the lack of mud now...)
Fairy make-up was a lot of fun, Jo did an amazing job of drawing on the side of my face. If only you could actually see it...
Oh so also there was the Kaiser Chiefs, who I've loved for a long while now, but I was surprised at the crowd reaction to them. The Darkness inspire people to rock out in a hair metal totally-I'm-taking-this-seriously-buahahahahahahahahahahah-just-listen-to-the-rhythm-of-my-heart sort of way (i.e. have an awesome time tossing their hair about play air guitar and trying to hit the high notes of a would-be metal love song). I guess the Kaiser Chiefs are just that bit more melancholy and strike a chord with the younger, frustrated generation who mostly comprised that part of the crowd. Their rather tongue-in-cheek lyrics I think were taken rather more literally than really intended too ("every day I love you less and less"). Either way, Jo started to get seriously squished and was in danger of being maimed, so we left after a couple of songs, it was just too rough. Which is a pity, I really like them, but there's no way we could've stayed, she's just too small for a crowd in that sort of mood.

After mooching about for a bit, going to get something to eat, we meandered back around the end of their set, and I decided I would like to go back in. I'm not really into mosh pits, but I'm okay with the crush around the main stage, it's a part of the thrill and is really quite fun, if you can hold your own (which I'm sure you all know I'm more than capable of with a mixture of elbows and fluttering lashes). I'm not really familiar with Example, I only knew the song 'Changed the way you kiss me', but I like it well enough, so I was up for it, and managed to get in really close without too much difficulty. It's a bit of whirlpool effect once you get into the crowd, I started quite far out at the side, but only about two songs in I was right in the middle, without any real intention of getting there, that was just the way the crowd sucked me in. Unfortunately Example wanted to get a few mosh pits going, and actually requested the crowd to 'get a few circles going here' and then the real squishing started. I suspect it was somewhere in here that I got a bit damaged, but I didn't really notice at the time (thanks Adrenaline- Threnaline), so just carried on. I actually got pulled out the front barrier at the end of the set, thanks to some kind (and tall) guy in front of me who asked where I wanted to go and when I said 'out' he got attention from the appropriate plebs and got me hauled out over the front barrier (quite literally). It was the only way out at that point, the bands only got bigger and better after that, and the crowd correspondingly bigger.

Anyway, enjoyed an amazing set from Florence + the machine. AMAZING!!! I love that woman! She owns the stage pretty damn well for one lady, and is a security nightmare with all her jumping off the stage to go right up to the crowd. She has such a powerful voice, and such a range. Sometimes seeing people live is disappointing, and sometimes you appreciate them more. In her case, she definitely came across even more awesome than I realised she was (and slightly drunk, but that's entirely forgiveable), such enthusiasm too. I was very happy.

Unfortunately by the time Snow Patrol came on I was starting to feel the full force of my time in the crowd, and my ankle was getting really sore, so I headed back to the tent early, not wanting to fight the main crowd and mud to get back with a sore ankle.



Please observe where we could have pitched a tent...

Jo and I








Saturday: Cut forward nine hours, and I woke up to rather upset friends, whose sleeping bags were wet, thanks to a leak in the tent. Leak in the tent was fixed (drunks had tripped of guy ropes keeping the fly away from the tent), contents of tent sorted out, and then I tried to stand up and walk. Suffice to say that 'tried' is the important word. 'Hobbled' is the correct term for what I managed, with the aid of S2 and Jo, until we reached a help point, and got some medics. To make a long story short, I spent ALL day either in first aid posts, the site hospital (yes, apparently a festival this size has an actual, on site, army-style hospital), except for a while in the Cabaret Club. Which had stand-up comedy. Grr. Also, dear god, festivals are FULL to the brim of stupid people. Absolutely full. There were drunk people with hypothermia left, right and centre, wearing foil blankets and vomiting into cardboard tubs, or passed out on stretchers. I realised that people who're high as a kite are actually way more tolerable than drunk people, mostly. Whatever party drugs they were on just made them very love-y and actually pretty hilarious for the most part. And they don't vomit so much. Also, anybody who volunteers at these sorts of things deserves a gold medal. I don't have nearly that much patience! They're angels really.

Also, they should sit in a corner of these tents with a camera, filming. It would make awesome reality TV. People who pay £250 for the privilege of getting themselves fucked up, cold, muddy and ill in close proximity to awesome live music are just crazy. All that amazing music, and they aren't going to remember any of it. Admittedly that's because they didn't see it, but that is directly due to their own stupidity (except for a few, much more worrying and sad cases of drink spiking). It's a strange phenomena really, but it seems quite common- S2 reports that she has encountered this attitude from workmates and such here. Really odd. If you want to go mess yourself up outside, camp-grounds are a lot cheaper!

Anyhow, the end result of all my time in festival A&E was that I was *eventually* helped out of the place and onto a bus back to Edinburgh, with my pack. Many thanks to many of my friends for all their help. E sorted out a B&B for me to stay at, as my cellphone battery was dying, and Jo and S2 helped to carry me and my stuff to places I could be rescued from. I made it to the B&B by about midnight, where I showered (*with* my boots, it was the only hope I had of removing the mud from them!) and collapsed into bed after re-bandaging my ankle. Yay I still know how to do up bandages properly! They are awkward on yourself though.


Festivaaaaaaaaaaaal power!

Sunday: Next morning I got a taxi to S2's flat and grabbed my stuff, in order that didn't die of boredom in the B&B room. It was a nice enough B&B (Smith's Guest-house, if you're interested, I would definitely recommend it!), it's just that with no phone and no internet, there's really not much to do. After retrieving my travel entertainment (oh Netty, how I love thee), I settled in to a café for the remainder of the day, taxing back to the B&B (sprained ankles while travelling are expensive) in time to paint my nails before hobbling to the Chinese restaurant down the road for dinner.

Anyway, the festival was good, even if I did get a bit broken and have to leave early. I got to see the bands I was most after, and my friends, so I'm happy. I was able to catch up with S2 and Jo (who can be found over at her blog) on the Monday, and they filled me in on the remainder of the weekend and all the mud and music I missed. Sounds like I missed the most of the mud-fest!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Russia!

Okay so I know I haven't even updated on Scotland yet, but RUSSIA! It's a bit wild, and we are way out in the middle of nowhere (2 or 3 hours drive from Moscow). But there is internet. No cellphone, but internet.

I am itchy, and it's a bit cold. Also, I think this is the furtherest I have ever been from the sea. I realised this looking at the river that people seem to think I am going to swim in. I'm not yet convinced. I don't like swimming in rivers, especially the muddy, weedy variety which also have fish and frogs in them. Ewww. At least it means it isn't toxic I suppose. But still, eww. Give me my stony mountain rivers and lakes please!

Anyhow, time for lunch. Raiding the fridge is an interesting prospect here, I can't tell the butter from the sour cream until I open it. Never mind the fact that I don't even have names for half of what is in there!

xx

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Apologies

I have been a bit lazy with my blog recently, mostly due to a lack of things to say. I've just been preparing for the summer ever since coming back from Sardinia, and now it is upon up.

I got sunburnt in London.

Also, three days of work left before I go up to Scotland for a massive four-day party on the farm, otherwise known as T in the Park, one of the most awesome music festivals on the circuit. Upon returning from that NEXT Thursday, I will get one short nap in my bed before flying out for Russia on the Friday. 

Then I explore Russia, fight off mosquitoes, and life is all summery. Then some time after that I fly to the US of A for the first time, and spend the remainder of the summer in San Francisco, returning to London early September.

Overall it is looking like an excellent summer. I expect I shall be most pleased with it, and have many adventures to report back. BUt until then, it's time to go and PARTY!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Cagliari

A pretty post-card-of-Italy looking street.
Another pretty street, this time looking down to the sea

The square where I had lunch. I saw it and knew I had found the perfect spot...

You know you're in Italy when you're navigating by churches
100 points for anyone who can translate whatever that says!

Cagliari. It sounds like seafood, but it's actually a place in Italy. Sardinia in fact. Where I am currently (although not for much longer, admittedly; we leave day after tomorrow) located. I am liking it a great deal, it is warm, sunny, delicious food, and amazing coffee. Also it is generally stunningly pretty. And it has flamingos. I don't quite know how or why, I thought they came from somewhere in Africa, but apparently I don't know anything much about flamingoes. Strangely I'm okay with that. Also, did I mention they have amazing coffee here. I had almost forgotten what good coffee was like.

All the best graffiti is always foreign. Always!


So basically I had about 4 hours to explore Cagliari. It was nice, but I had about half an hour of warning, and a guide-book in Italian. The sum total of my knowledge of the Italian language at that point was 'Ciao'. It is now 'Ciao' and 'Grazie'. I shall follow the principal I used in France, and hope that some combination of manners in the appropriate language, English and gesticulating wildly will generally achieve my aims. So far, so good I might add. Anyhow, the result of my lack of warning, and lack of Italian skills was that I got time to explore, with no idea of what there was to see or do in Cagliari, so I just wandered around. It was lovely wandering, the buildings were very pretty. There were old alleyways and apartments where people were drying their washing above the street, and had flowers in planters outside their windows. There were scooters and graffiti. I am told it is reasonably representative of any Italian town, which of course makes me even more motivated to explore Italy! I found some pretty jewellery (Sardinian style apparently), and bought some tops and shorts. I am always impressed how cheap clothes in Europe are always so much better than cheap clothes in the UK. They're just so much nicer! European style, definitely better.  I had lunch alfresco in a little square under a tree (see above) and then wandered some more, found amazing coffee served by an incredibly hot waiter who ran away as soon as I started talking English at him, bought icecream. I then wandered about with said icecream, becoming steadily more lost, until such point as I realised hat I really had to get back to work quite soon, so hiked it down the hill to the waterfront, across, and realised I had wandered quite a way over a hill, and hiked back up in a bit in search of a taxi or tourist information, and finally stumbled upon the Piazza. Oops. Never mind, it was still fun. And it bodes very well indeed for future explorations of Italy!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pure pleasure

There is something about a still-slightly-warm-from-the-oven baguette that is complete and pure pleasure. Mmm breakfast has never been this appealing

Friday, May 25, 2012

Somebody remind me

Why did I decide to travel? What exactly was it that I was expecting to gain from this enterprise?

It's hard to appreciate it in the moments when you're just sad, missing people, and can only foresee impending loneliness with no bright spots on the horizon. Sure, I'm going to France (again) next week. But I'll be working. Sure I might get to see outside of the hotel this time, but not much. I'm going to Russia for a month in the summer, but I can't quite look forward to it. I'm apprehensive that I'm just going to be even more lonely and also bored. Apparently the kids cousins nanny won't be coming, so rumour has it anyways. So I might just end up with a fuckload of kids to look after. And no company. My summer in France was bearable because I had company, but I may not in Russia.

I miss having friends. And a life. I miss being able to go and see my friends when I want to. I miss having flatmates. I miss flatmates a lot.

I don't even know what I'm doing.

*wangst*

Somebody please solve all my problems and make all my decisions for me. I'm over it.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Brighton

It's pretty neat. I got to spend a few hours there today. Not a lot, nowhere near enough, but it was nice to see it. Three seconds outside the confines of the train station was about sufficient to decide it is somewhere I like, and could potentially spend a lot of time. It is now officially on my 'places I could live' list. Cause I totally have one of them...

Anyhow. Nice place. I do miss living by the sea, it's not something I had ever done before leaving New Zealand, and I think it is one thing I do miss.

Well, on my way back to London now, my train appears to be delayed. I wish trains here weren't quite so useless.

Xx

Friday, April 13, 2012

Happy New Year!

Thailand part III

Today was the celebration of the Thai New Year, and we have had a blast! Traditionally all of the Buddhas get washed, and people throw water over them while they are paraded through the street. Water from washing them is blessed, and so you pour it over loved ones. But really it is just symbolic, and any water will do... and so long as you're not a traditionalist, then actually you just 'pour' it on everyone, preferably from a rooftop or with a hose! To a foreigner it seems like an organised day of national water fight chaos, it's brilliant! Such a fun day, everybody was soaked all day. No pictures of course, I wasn't taking my camera outdoors, it would've been a certain death for it!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Earthquake near Sumatra

Apparently there has been a really big earthquake, 8.9 if the internet reports are to be believed. There is a tsunami warning out for our region, they've warned everyone off the beach. We are fine, we're up on a hill, we actually went to the resort gym to see it (highest point on the resort and much higher than needed) but no action so far. Apparently not for another hour.

Anyway just to make sure nobody is worrying!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Exploring on the Andaman sea

Thailand part II

Went on a boat tour of some islands up towards mainland Thailand today (now yesterday)- we are based in Phuket by the way, if I didn't already
mention that. It was really amazing, the islands were beautiful. They all seemed to be cliffs rising out of a gorgeous blue sea, topped with thick green jungle. It felt as though there must be places that person has never set foot, although I doubt that is actually true, there were a lot of tourist boats around.

The local fishing boats were pretty, they appeared to be made of wood and all of them had an umbrella on the top that looked like it belonged on top of a (giant) cocktail. Also, we got to go inside one of the islands, which was pretty neat. I say inside because we got there via a cave. Inside of the island was a blue lagoon, surrounded by cliffs. The jungle was creeping it's way down the cliffs as far as it could towards the water, and there were monkeys swinging just above the water ("Along came Mrs Crocodile, hungry as could be....."). It felt like
something from a fantasy novel- I was thinking of Isabel Allende's City of the Beasts while we were there, it just seemed so impenetrable; there could be anything up there, if only there were a way up!neat though, they looked like they

We also passed 'James Bond Island' as it is called, which featured in The Man with the Golden Gun, which was neat, although slightly odd. Having seen it fairly recently (given it's age) I was asked a few questions about it, and again my lack of knowledge of/ability to retain pop culture was highlighted. It just doesn't stick. I saw it, I think maybe six months ago- I couldn't even remember if it was Sean Connery or
not! Never mind the villains, or actual
plot or anything like
that.
All in all another incredible experience. Thailand is definitely filling in all the boxes for a fantastic holiday, and I'm not even on holiday.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Thailand part I

Swimming with fishes and thunderstorms

Today I went swimming with fish. I did yesterday as well, twice actually, but today was different. A baby shark took a bit of a liking to me, possibly not of the good kind, and took to circling me in the water in a slightly disconcerting way. Of course, it is hard to be concerned about a creature as long as your forearm, and rather slimmer, but when it looks like a very small Great White you can't help but feel slightly alarmed. But the other fish were stripy, spotty, and very colourful! There is one type, which are a velvety black, with blue tails that I like, and also some which are a sort of velvety dark blue, until you see that they are actually iridescent and then you notice that their fins are pink and purple, and their tails have a yellow bit in the middle!

Also, when we went yesterday, I swam a good 400 meters with a small child riding on my back. Yes, riding. It is hard not to laugh when a child is pulling on your bathing suit saying "Turn this way!" in a most petulant tone, as though you are a boat which isn't responding properly, rather than a human being fighting against the pull of the water to even swim in the right direction, struggling with an extra 15 kilograms of dead weight shifting constantly on top of them.

As a side note, laughing while wearing snorkel and mask is a bad idea. The extra air that comes out your nose raises the air pressure inside your mask, meaning it simply slips open to let the air out, and promptly fills with water. This does have the positive effect of stopping you from laughing pretty quickly, but it is not a pleasant way to be stopped.

In other news from the land of awesome stuff, there are lots of thunderstorms! They're epic, and an almost nightly occurrence. I love thunderstorms. I tried to take a picture, and it actually worked!


















Anyway, if I want to get any sleep tonight, I had better get to bed. It is past midnight, and I am tired. I am often tired here, I seem to need more sleep than in normal climates.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Oh right

I'm in Thailand, for those of you who haven't actually been made aware... it's hot and I am testing my stomach's capacity for delicious foods.

No pics yet, and it is my bed time now, so not even a real post.

Night night!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

You've not suffered an annoying Apple eater...

Until you have sat through a child eating one at 3am.

Can you hear my teeth grinding several continents away?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Amsterdam

Amsterdam is possibly the most-hyped European city of all to a young traveller, but hyped, generally speaking, in only one way; the sex, drugs and rock'n'roll way. Now, I have nothing against sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll as a selling point, don't misunderstand me. But sometimes one hopes for a bit more than just a party.' 'Just' a party?! It's the biggest party around' I hear many people say. Well, sometimes a party isn't what you're looking for. Or at least not that sort of a party. So, what was there to get from a trip to Amsterdam in early March if you're not looking for a party? Well, this is what we got up to:

A cocktail cruise on the canals- a nice way to acquaint yourself with the canals which the city is so famous for, and get a sense of direction and scale of the city. And consume a couple of tasty cocktails while feeling slightly under-dressed and not couple-y enough. It's okay, I'm down with not being dressed up enough. My rebellious streak revels in it secretly. Plus we spent half our time in Amsterdam sleeping or showering/bathing/getting dressed and ready to leave the hotel, it was already taking up a disproportionately large chunk of time.

Flower markets! Our hotel was just around the corner from the flower market, so we had to stop by. Even though neither of us are really the green-fingered type, we are female and susceptible to the power of pretty smelly things. I did so want to buy some flowers, there were so many, but of course there was nowhere to take them home to really. Taking them back to a hotel room would be... well possible I suppose, but where would they go? And we would only get to enjoy them for a few days. Although that might still have been worth it. They were so pretty! And so many... so many flowers.

Anne Frank house was interesting, although so crowded by tourists that it seriously detracted from the experience. It would have been more interesting to see it with just a couple of people, as it would have been when it was actually being used as the secret annexe. It was pretty well done, but, as I said, too crowded. They need to limit (or seriously revise the current limit) the number of people in there at one time. It just felt like another tourist trap. Which is a pity, as it is a lovely surviving piece of history, which really brings WWII into focus for the younger generations.

The Van Gogh museum was interesting. I've never been to a museum which is primarily dedicated to one artist before, and it did work rather well. I particularly appreciated the area dedicated to artists he was influenced by and working with- Monet and other European impressionists and other such movements. I did gain incredible respect for his brother- what ace art dealer! He certainly knew what he was doing! They had some amazing works, it was pretty awesome to get to see them up close. They really are better in real life! We had a few lovely hours wandering around gaping at some of the most famous works in the history of art, which is pretty inspiring. I wish they had been open later!

As of course we weren't permitted to take pictures inside of the museum, here is a picture of some more modern art of which pictures may be taken freely, I believe. We did find one bit of the city where there was a lot of seriously neat graffiti (the 'street art' variety, rather than the out-and-out vandalism which NZ tends to provide) which was interesting. We found the same thing in Prague too, it is an interesting phenomena, how you actually get graffiti with a message. Lennon Wall was an excellent example, but it was found throughout the city.

We spent considerable time avoiding bicycles in Amsterdam. It seems that they have taken a new stance on promoting cycling as a mode of transport- the roads are for cars and bikes, and the pavements are for people and bikes. Bikes have right of way. Always. On both. And don't you dare to assuming otherwise, or you will find yourself in a canal before you know what has happened.

I rather liked the areas where there weren't any pavements at all. Road, right up to the canal. What pedestrians?! What are you talking about? Oh you mean that thing that just fell into the canal when I drove by? Car-less driver, really ought to be more careful you know.

S2 unfortunately was forced to abandon me in order to return to work shortly after our time gaping at the the Van Gogh pictures, and from there on in I was solo, which, I must admit, isn't really the way to see Amsterdam. Although I did discover that I have my very own lingerie store (Fridays only, sorry). Pictures to follow, I promise! But we did manage to get a self-portrait together over one of the canals before she disappeared. Another for the collection!


Left to my own devices, I resorted to the company of my camera, and took this picture looking down a canal somewhere near the museum district. I love the look of Amsterdam, all the canals with these big willows draped on the edges, boats floating along. Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures, but there are some really amazing house-boats in Amsterdam! They're really quite incredible, they look like they are just normal houses inside, which just so happen to be floating in a canal. I want to go on one!

It would be neat if they made more use of these floating spaces. The cocktail cruise was fun, but imagine if it was a bar that was anchored, but floating? Or a restaurant? Then you could have enjoyed a whole evening on it. And fallen over when you got off, entirely unable to stand up. I totally would've gone for that. I wanted to stay in a Botel (hehehe) but I couldn't find a decent-looking one, and then lastminute provided a decent hotel at a pretty good price, so we settled for that.


Overall I did like Amsterdam, but I feel like I didn't quite get into it somehow. Above all else, Amsterdam seemed to specialise in really neat pubs; old, dark, dusty little spaces that you weren't entirely sure were open until you got inside and discovered it (very secretly) contained an entire community within. And good beer. Good beer was easily located pretty much anywhere, which was nice. Definitely won points for beer. In fact, I shall provide a whole separate post on our beer/pub escapades, once I have completed the now traditional photo exchange with S2. I was a bit lazy with my camera this trip, so she has a lot more photos than I do.