A Travellerspoint blog

Berlin to Florence

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Paris to Berlin…

We took an overnight bus from Paris to Berlin which turned out to be much better than London to Paris as the bus wasn’t full and we were able to secure the back seats as well as a double seat for the two of us, so we managed to get plenty of sleep during the journey.
On arrival into Berlin, we managed to navigate ourselves around the city pretty easy on the Berlin U-Bahn system (underground). We checked in to our Hotel/Hostel early, luckily they had the room ready for us already so we checked in and dropped our bags, showered and got changed then headed out to meet up with Riley Albiston and lunch. We all headed to a local restaurant and enjoyed a jug of beer and our meals, we ended up all chatting for a few hours and the boys finished over a litre of beer each. We then headed off to see the East Side Gallery, painted on part of the Berlin wall. The boys weren’t too taken by it by I really enjoyed checking out all of the artwork done. We then headed to the Christmas Markets in the middle of the town and tried Gluhwein on instruction of one of Riley’s local friends. Gluhwein is hot red wine mixed with cloves and orange. None of us could get through it. We all tried very hard to drink it, but it just didn’t sit right with us. Next up the boys grabbed a bratwurst to try to get rid of some of the taste in their mouths. We then strolled through the markets looking at all of the different stalls selling food, hot drinks, candied nuts, handiworks etc.

The next day Jaime and I set out to check out the city, we visited the Brandenburg gate, Parliament house (were there was an exclusion zone set up around it due to all of the heads of state meeting about the Euro Crisis), the memorial to the murdered Jews, Topography of Terror, just to name a few of the places. The memorial to the murdered Jews was really great, they have put together a large number of pylons in lines and all of varying heights over one whole block. Was really cool exploring. Underneath there was a very sombre museum. Very worth the visit.


Berlin to Prague

The next day we were off to Prague. Prague is such a breathtaking city. It’s so old and so well preserved. We arrived in the late afternoon and it was slightly miserable weather so we just checked in to our hotel and then decided that we would trek into the city centre and have a look around. We found the Christmas markets where we proceeded to sample some of the food. We grabbed some potato with bacon and cheese thing and one with potato and sausages. I really enjoyed the one with sausages but Jaime swears that the one that he got (potato, bacon, cheese) had worms in it. I do agree that there was a funny texture, but I don’t think that they were worms.. Next up Jaime tried a pastry dessert that was sweet pastry wound around a metal rod and cooked over a fire. It was really nice. We stayed and looked around for a bit then headed back to the hotel as it was getting pretty cold.

The next morning I really wanted to go on a walking tour of the city so we got up and headed in to the city for a free walking tour. Karel was our guide and he was a local Czech boy who had studied overseas. He did a quick survey of the group to find out where everyone was from. There were approximately 20 – 25 people on the tour and there were 2 Canadians, 1 European and then the rest were Australian/Kiwi. The tour was just great! Karel was very knowledgable and provided quite a good show. The point of the tour is that you tip at the end if you enjoyed it. I imagine that Karel did make a fair bit of money from the tour because it was great. I (we) highly recommend anyone travelling to Europe to consider visiting Prague and taking a free walking tour. In the afternoon we wandered around the Prague Castle area and looked at shops and sampled more food. It was great to just walk around the streets and look at the buildings and wonder how long they had been there and what they had seen over the years. I honestly cannot put into words how amazing Prague is. You will just need to go and see for yourself.


Prague to Vienna

Next up is Vienna, Austria. We arrived and checked into our hotel. We decided to start with an easy night, so we had dinner and a few drinks in the hotel. Very limited menu that was the same across the 3 different restaurants.

The next day we travelled into Vienna, it was quite a miserable day so we looked around a little bit then jumped on a tour bus which took us to all of the important parts of Vienna. To be honest the weather really didn’t add to our enjoyment of Vienna. It was a nice city, but didn’t really make it stand out for us.


Vienna to Rome

From Vienna we headed to Rome. This was an epic bus ride that had a screaming child on it. The mother didn’t seem to care as she just let the child scream and cry for 14 hours straight. As it was an overnight bus, we really hoped that we could at least get some sleep but it didn’t happen, so on arrival into Rome we were both quite exhausted. We tried to locate our B&B that we had booked but no one answered the door. We tried calling and they refused to let us check in/come up/drop our bags. They offered to try to arrange for us to drop our bags at a local Laundromat, which Jaime and I were not having a piece of. So we cancelled that reservation and went to the local Tourist Information centre. It just so happened that the owner of a local Inn was there as well and had a room available. He walked us to Nicholas Inn which was within walking distance to the Roman Forum and the Colosseum along with many other attractions. The room was so amazing and clean. The owners Melissa and Nicholas were absolutely amazing, and so helpful. They gave us maps, circled the important places to see, gave us business cards of the best local restaurants for us to try and answered any questions that we had.

We checked in and had a little sleep then went to visit the Colosseum in the afternoon. It was such an amazing structure. We could have spent hours wandering around and looking at everything. The sheer size of the place was amazing and the history of what had happened there.
We then walked up past the Roman Forum and around the local site seeing area then headed back for dinner.

The next day we headed out to Vatican City to look at the Vatican, the Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. We climbed to the top of the Basilica, it was a very good view and very interesting, however it is quite a climb, a lot of steps. When you do get to the top you have a great view of Vatican City as well as Rome. We then climbed down and looking through the Vatican Church then headed to the Vatican Museum. We powered through so that we could get to the Sistine Chapel. The only word I have for it is – Perfect – absolutely perfect. The room was so full of people which made it hard to stand and have a good look, but Jaime and I were both blown away but the beauty of the artwork.

Next up we headed to the Spanish steps and then the Trevi Fountain. I actually don’t know how long we spent at the Trevi Fountain, but it was just marvellous. We just sat and marvelled at the size of the fountain and all of the work that would have gone into constructing it. Just beautiful. Also a great spot to people watch.

We found that we ran out of time pretty quickly in Rome and would have loved another 2 days in the city, so we have decided that we will come back some other time.

If you do plan to come to Rome please please please book in advance and stay where we did. http://www.nicolasinn.com/en


Rome to Florence

After Rome we headed to Florence. Neither of us had many ideas about Florence before we arrived, we were just told that we should go. We wandered around and it was great. Another really old and amazing city. Many fountains, squares, markets, cathedrals, bell towers and gelatarias to be visited, not to mention the museums. We went and visited the statue of David, the Ponte Vecchio, Square of Independence, the Duomo (Cathedral Santa Maria de Fiore) but I think our favourite part was the Pitti Palace and exploring the opulent gardens attached to the Palace. We paid 10 Euro to get into the Palace and Gardens and did not expect to find what we did. We walked for hours around the gardens. I do not know how big the garden is or how long it took to build but it really was mind-blowing. It would have taken a lot of money to build what they have. I recommend visiting, and if you’re interested to know more, check out this website - http://www.firenzemusei.it/00_english/boboli/giardino.html

We also visited an amazing restaurant in Florence – Osteria Antico Mercato, Via Nazionale, 78/r – 50129 Firenze (www.anticomercatofirenze.itwww.anticomercatofirenze.it) . This place does AMAZING Fiorentina steak (500g) to die for! Also their Pizza are really great. They have been highly recommended by TripAdvisor 2 years in a row. If you come to Florence, you are doing yourself a disservice if you do not find this restaurant and eat there. It was very reasonably priced!

Next up – Venice, Budapest, Munich, Krakow and Amsterdam!

Posted by debbiehowitt 09:21 Comments (0)

Manchester, London and Paris

Start of our Month-long holiday

overcast 2 °C
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We hired a car (For our trip to Manchester) with Enterprise car hire who seem to be pretty good for hiring a car in the UK. On our way up we stopped off at Dave’s work and got a tour of Force India’s workshop. This was pretty cool as he showed us how they make all carbon fibre bits on the car.

After a gruelling 4 hour drive up (by Jaime, as Debbie was under 25 and they wanted to charge an extra 40 pound a day for Debbie to be able to drive) there we checked into our B&B, Flushing Meadows, run by the lovely Jan. Afterwards we went around to Jean and Jim’s (Debbie Great Aunt and Uncle) for a sandwich and some apple pie before heading back for much needed sleep.

The next day we meant to go into Manchester however we got stuck planning our Europe trip, for roughly 6 hours. Seemed a good day to do it as it looked wet and miserable outside. That night Jean and Jim took us to Harts Head in Stalybridge for a great dinner and great conversations.
We drove back to Reading in the morning to get ready for our European adventure; we bought the backpack for the trip the afternoon we got home even with Debbie getting caught in TK Max. We packed our stuff for the trip and off to London we went the following morning.

On arrival to London we booked our Eurolines pass and were lucky enough to get pricing for the low season as 16 days of our trip was in low season and 14 days in high season (and pricing is based on the longest period of travel in either low or high season). We were also lucky enough to be able to secure 2 seats on the bus to Paris that night (because when we got on board every seat was full). Eventually we got on our bus to start our trip across Europe towards Paris. This was a pretty long and arduous journey as we were surrounding by loud Americans also, we seemed to stop every 2 hours (pick up other passengers, passport control, get on the ferry to France, arrive in France), and the seats were a bit small to sleep in.

Finally we got to France and after some navigation got ourselves to our hotel out in the suburbs (and we mean waaay out). If anyone had seen any of the films regarding abductions in foreign countries or many horror films set in a dodgy looking hostel, they might have had second thoughts about staying here. Firstly the Reception was actually in some housing commission block in another building to where we were staying. Secondly we were the only people staying there in the big creepy apartment building. To make matters worse the guy who showed us to our room said make sure you lock the door to the outside of the building at night. And last but not least the lift door had a mind of its own opening and shutting whenever it felt like it… With that in mind, being their only guests (probably in 30 years) we were able to check in early and check out late.

After catching up on some missed sleep on the bus that day we ventured into Paris that afternoon/night for some dinner and sight-seeing. We got most of the way there before the train decided not to move anymore, so we thought we would just walk the rest of the way. Gotta love the unreliable Paris Metro.

Once we got out of the station we saw lighthouse-like lights in the sky and thought that must be the Eiffel Tower and made our way in that direction. On our way there we stopped at a little Chinese place along one of the streets for an adequate dinner. After some time walking, up sprung the Eiffel Tower like a big pointy piece of scaffolding covered in lights. We got some photos from a distance and then headed down to get up close. We (Jaime) couldn’t go past a street vendor making some delicious Crepes containing Nutella and Banana. Beside the vendor were a couple guys offering drives in a Lamborghini and Ferrari for 89 Euros. Jaime was very tempted, but it was too early in our trip to be spending that kind of money

We got up close to the Eiffel Tower and got some good pictures before grabbing a train back to the outer suburbs of Paris. On our way to the tram we were passed by French Army carrying full automatic machine guns while cruising the streets.

Debbie was having a mini anxiety attack about staying in the hotel in the middle of nowhere when we were on the train on the way home. To add to that tension, slightly creepy moment when we got back to our hotel and got out of the lift, opened the door and the lights flicked out and we weren’t in our room yet… then the lift door decides to open and close itself.

Day two in Paris started well with a huge breakfast with breads, pastries, and hot chocolate/tea and oranges juices. With full bellies off we went in search of sights to see.

First up we got to Notre Dame Cathedral and had a walk around inside. It was a good sight with all the artefacts/art and stained glass windows. After the cathedral we walked for a bit to a little restaurant for a delicious lunch then great gelato at Berthillion (Lonely Planet recommended).

Next stop, the Arc de Triomphe, after a short queue and 184 stairs up we got to the top for a brilliant view of Paris. We reckon this is a must see in Paris and probably our favourite spot of the city. There was great views of the city and the CRAZY driving below. Once we got down after taking in the great view we thought we would walk down the Champs Elysees to the Louvre to get a look at the Mona Lisa.

I think we misjudged the length of the walk as it took forever to walk to the Louvre as it’s a long way down the Champs Elysees and it really is really a busy street. We also misjudged the hours it was open and arrived as it was closing (Yep we made it to failtown). One good thing to come out of this venture was our dinner that consisted of garlic carrots, mash potato and Pork (mmmm veggies….).

The next day we did get to the Louvre during opening hours and saw Mona, there wasn’t much time for anything else as we also had a bus to catch to Berlin.

Next up... Berlin, Prague and Vienna.

Posted by debbiehowitt 12:23 Comments (0)

First Week in UK

9 °C

Start of our UK adventure

So the 11th November 11 finally rolled around after months of planning and selling and saying ‘goodbye for now’ to our Australian friends, family and lives and headed to the Gold Coast airport to board our Air Asia flight from Cooloongatta to Kuala Lumpur.

Air Asia D7 2707 OOL-KUL left on time and was a good flight. The crew provided great service and it was comfortable. We had 3 seats to ourselves which made the journey more comfortable. Food on board was ok, for aircraft food it wasn’t too bad. We did bring our own snacks on board the flight to try and avoid high costs, but to be honest, the cost of food and beverages on board were quite reasonably priced. The crew accepted Australian, Malaysian and US currency but all change was in Malaysian currency. We also paid extra to have the portable media player as well, they were showing a few good movies (Bridesmaids, Hall Pass, Pirates of the Carribean – On Stranger Tide, Tangled, some international movie and some horribly gruesome movie). It’s good for people that don’t have their own laptop or movie player of your own. It did also have a lot of music and some episodes of TV shows also which was good.

On arrival into KL we had prepurchased the SkyBus tickets through the AirAsia tickets so we just climbed straight onto the bus. The journey did take an hour to get from LCCT to KL Sentral (main railway and bus station in the middle of KL). From KL Sentral we then had to get a cab to our hotel which should have only been a 15 – 20 minute journey, but we managed to arrive into Sentral at the start of peak ‘hour’ traffic. The taxi journey took about an hour as well, which wasn’t very nice after 9 hours flying already. We stayed in the Prince Hotel and Residence in KL in the Golden Triangle area. We were both so tired that we ordered room service then went to bed. The following morning we woke and it was raining which made the heat a little bit more bearable. We had breakfast included in our stay which was absolutely epic. As it’s an international hotel there was every type of food you could imagine; cereal, fruit, yoghurt, pancakes, waffles, congee, centurian eggs, sausages, turkey bacon, scrambled eggs, something similar to pad thai, there was even guys waiting to make your own personal omelette to name just part of the buffet. It was great. After breakfast we went on a guided tour of KL which ended up being a private tour for just the two of us, which was good. We went to many places all over KL including Royal Selengor(Tin and Pewter) fabrication factory (we saw how it was all made, step by step) and the Pertronas towers (from the outside) and were recommended a place call Din Tai Fung for a great meal by our guide in the local shopping centre close to our hotel. So after our tour we went looking in massive shopping centre and found the place he recommended and decided to eat there for dinner. We were so blown away by how amazing the dumplings and sweet and sour chicken was. Possibly the best Chinese food that we have had, and we’ve been to China. It was also a Michelin Star restaurant. Oh, and did I mention that it was only $23 AUD for our whole meal for the two of us, including drinks and all. We then did some more walking around the 6 floor shopping centre which had every single store you could think of. A couple of hours later we decided to get some dessert and take it back to the hotel and relax and watch some TV, because it was getting really humid. The following day we got up and packed our bags then caught a cab to the airport rather than try to deal with traffic again which was only a 40 minute ride rather than 2 hours in transit.

Our next flight D7 14 from Kuala Lumpur to London Gatwick was a 14 hour flight leaving in the afternoon in KL and arriving in the evening in London. This flight was also a good flight but it felt quite long. I don’t recommend doing the Gold Coast the whole way to London in one day. We tried to avoid sleeping on the flight to London due to the fact that we would be arriving at night and then needing to sleep that night. It was quite tough as it meant that we were awake for about 23 hours straight. Once again we took our own food on the plane. Never ever ever ever ever eat a flavoured twinky roll thing from Kuala Lumpur that is flavoured with corn. I purchased one because everyone else was buying these things and I thought it might be good but it really wasn’t. During the climb at the start of the flight the plastic bag it was in exploded due to the change in atmosphere, this was fine as it was tiny and couldn’t be heard, however when we grabbed the bag with food in it for snacks a little while later, the smell was not pretty. The twinky style roll was made of a sweet bread with corn flavoured cream in the centre. As Jaime explained it… it smelt like Indian food in a diaper. Honestly, nether of us could stand the smell. I even offered Jaime $100 to eat it… Still no deal. Anyway, on arrival into London, we went straight to passport control, Jaime into the non-EU line which was about 1/3 of the size of the UK and EU line. I went into the longer line. Jaime looked over to me and smirked, thinking that he had the fast lane and would be through well before me.. Boy was he wrong. I zoomed through the UK/EU line with my UK passport, no questions asked. Managed to get to the baggage carosel, collect both of our 30 kg suitcases (plus I had my carry on roll around case, and a handbag) and waited at the door to customs. I waited for about 20 minutes and then texted Jaime asking how far along he was. Turned out that his super fast line had only moved a few people so I decided to just go through and wait with Anna and Dave. So I pushed through approximately 85 kg’s of luggage myself (I am so happy for 4 wheeled bags) through customs. I was asked where I was coming from, no one asked if they were my bags, so I went straight through. Anna, Dave and I waited for almost an hour for Jaime to just pass passport control then come through. By the time he was finished, we were nearly the last people waiting at arrivals. But, he did make it through eventually. And we all headed back to Reading.

The next couple of days were filled with shopping, trying to organise phones, bank accounts, drivers licences/proof of address, but it’s funny that we couldn’t get any of them. Can’t get a proper phone without a bank account, cant get a bank account without a fixed address, cant get a fixed address until we have been in the country for 135 days or until we have a lease. None of which is possible right now. Joy.

On Wednesday we went into London for a little look around. We caught the train in and got on a bus tour in London that you can get on and off at any point. It was a really good tour. We were given head phones and you plug into the sound system and get a fully guided tour of the city. We spent the first day just on the tour, cruising around and taking photos. I absolutely recommend that bus tour for people that are new to London and want to see the sights. We also decided to go and see a show in West End that night, The Phantom of the Opera. It was a really good show and we even got a dinner package which wasn’t too bad either. The second day in London we started off on the Tube and went to the Tower of London. Within the Tower of London they do free tours and we jumped on a Beefeater tour run throughout the castle. It was informative and we both really enjoyed it. It shared the stories behind the gruesome history of the place. It also took us into a separate area that’s not accessed unless you are on the tour. I definitely recommend that when you visit the Tower of London that you get on the free Yeoman (Beefeater) group tour.

On Friday we headed out to Oxford for a night out with Anna’s friends. Saturday night we watched the most dismal fireworks display that I’ve ever seen then went out for drinks in Reading, ending with the Purple Turtle.. Interesting establishment. We met some great people and had a few good laughs.

Sunday, Dave and Anna took us around and showed us Stonehenge and Avebury – a nice historic adventures day.
That pretty much sums up our first week of our adventure.

Next up- a sneaky trip to Manchester followed by the start of our epic 30 day do it yourself European adventure on a bus.

Posted by debbiehowitt 01:30 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

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