Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Monday, August 21, 2006
The weekend started early saturday morning with a long trek to Stansted Airport. Some really good friends of mine, Joe and Linda (and their kids - Jasper and Ella) have been in Europe for the past month or so and I was meeting them in Santander, Spain.
Unfortuntely Ryanair was the only airline that flew there, and they only flew from Stansted. It took a good four hours to get to the airport from Spain! Anyway, the flight there was uneventful (although cramped) and Joe, Linda, Joe's Dad and the kids were waiting at the airport for me.
It had been a good sixth months since I had seen them last so it was really good to see them again. We headed into Santander proper - Joe and his father were from the area, so it was nice to have a guide showing us around.
We headed to the park surrounding the old summer palace for the Spanish Monarch which was right on the beach front. It was a beautiful area. Nice and green with heaps of things for kids to do. We walked around the animal enclosures they had (the kids loved them) and then got on a little train for a quick tour of the park - it was very impressive.
We then headed back to the Posada where Joe's dad was staying (there was no room for us there, so we were staying close by) to have dinner, before heading back to our Posada for the night.
Jasper was up first on Sunday, but he entertained himself and went downstairs to have breakfast with the owner. After we had ours, we headed over to pick up Joe's dad and then headed towards Asturias and Fuente De in the Parque Nacional Picos de Europa. It was a beautiful drive there, through forest and parkland. The north of Spain is remarkably different to the South. I think it is actually a bit nicer. Definately a lot greener.
At Fuente De we jumped on a cable car to take us up the mountain. The view from the top was spectacular. Once we made it back down to the bottom (I will have to go back and walk down the mountain one day) we headed over to the beach town of Comillas.
It was a beautiful village with cobblestone streets and even a Gaudi designed building. Whilst we were walking around Joe and his Dad ran into some relatives which was a nice meeting for them. The kids also played in the park for a while before we all headed back to the Posada for dinner.
Today we headed back over to Comillas and went to the beach. It was nice having a bit of a swim and relax. We had a beautiful lunch at an old house where Joe's dad use to play Boule. It was a nice end to a far too short weekend in Spain.
After dropping me off at the airport and a short stopover in Stansted, I am now in Dublin. Tomorrow I am off to Chicago for six days!
Click on the photo below (of Ella and Jasper) to see all the photos.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Well it has been a fantastic day for all I think.
Jules and Peter have just headed off to The Ritz in London (tomorrow they are off to The Maldives for their honeymoon), I am a little tipsy and Jen is off to Stansted for her flight to Lake Garda tomorrow morning.
The wedding itself went very smoothly. Jules looked fantastic, Jen was pretty good as well. In fact we all scrubbed up okay (unfortunately I don't have any photos).
It was held at Old Wardour castle, an English Heritage property near(ish) to Salisbury. We all stayed in Salisbury last night (went to a proms concert) and started early this morning.
Jules' hairdresser got her times mixed up, so I had to go and help Jen out with a couple of things, but it all went pretty smoothly for Peter and I. Although the photographer was there while we were getting ready which was a little strange.
Peter and I got a taxi out to the castle and I set up the last remaining things we needed before we went into the room where the ceremony was being held to wait for Jules and Jen to arrive. They were a little late, but it was all good once the arrived. The ceremony was short but beautiful.
We then had pictures (and a nice drink) around the castle, before heading over to Stockhill House in Gillingham for some lunch.
The house itself is a lovely place - an old Victorian Mansion converted into a hotel and restaurant. The owners fussed over us while we ate and we all had a great time (the food was fantastic as well).
And that was the day. I thought it might be a little strange with it just being the four of us, but it really wasn't. It turned out to be a great day!
Monday, July 03, 2006
Well I am exhausted. I have just spent three days with Peter and his brother, Evan, in Scotland for Peter's bucks weekend (or a stag weekend as they call it over here).
It started friday night when we all arrived in Edinburgh (Peter from Birmingham, Ev from Belfast and myself from Southampton). Ev's plane was late and we had a bit of trouble finding a park in the city, but it all worked out and we were able to hit the city soon enough.
We started with food at a Mexican restaurant and then on for drinks. Scotland has already banned smoking in pubs, so it was really nice. We got back to the apartment about 2am but Ev and Peter wanted more booze, so they headed out on a quest. They could not find a bottlo (or a 7-Eleven), but found a take away shop that would sell dodgy wine if you bought some food. They apparently pretended to be with some other people and managed to score some wine. They also met up with a couple of drunk blokes sitting out the front of the apartment who insisted they took their spare alcohol as well (and who were they to argue!).
The next morning we headed out for a cooked breakfast and to look around Edinburgh. It was the first time Ev or myself had been there, so it was nice to see the city. We didn't hang around too long though as we had to head up to Fort William which was where the real reason for the weekend away was. Peter had decided he wanted to climb Ben Nevis.
We arrived to the news that England had been booted out of the World Cup by Portugal (which most of the Scots were happy about!). After dumping our bags we headed into the town proper to look around. We had some dinner and watched as the lone Portuguese person walked up and town the mall celebrating the World Cup win - he was pretty excited.
We started early the next morning and headed out to the car park at the bottom of the hill. The first part of the climb was awful. It was almost vertical and pretty tough on the legs. After a while though it leveled out and it was quite a nice walk. There were heaps of people climbing as well, it was very popular.
We were lucky to have fantastic weather as well. It did get colder as we climbed, but it was not raining and there were not many clouds, which, from what I understand, is a real bonus for Ben Nevis.
It was great when we made it to the top. We sat around and had some lunch and Ev handed out hip flasks to each of us (he bought them specially for the weekend). Unfortunately the shirts I had gotten made did not arrive in time so we could not wear them.
We met up with some other Aussies who we shared the trip down with. Going down was actually tougher then walking up (especially on the knees), but we eventually made it . It was done and it felt pretty good actually.
We headed back to the hotel for a swim and a rest before heading into town for dinner. We decided to head back to the hotel so we could all drink and celebrate the days achievements. Despite Ev's and my whinging about Peter's choice, I think we all enjoyed it!
We left Fort William this morning for the leisurely drive down to Edinburgh for our flight home. The scenery on the drive back was fantastic. We were stopping almost every five minutes to take photos.
We stopped at a place called Monachyle Mhor in Balquhidder for lunch. It was absolutely amazing. The food was out of this world and the setting spectacular. There was also a two year old kid (a son of the owners) who was wandering around doing whatever he liked!
We then headed straight to the airport in Edinburgh where we had a couple of drinks while waiting for our flights back.
What a great weekend!
Okay, sorted out the photo issue (kind of). They are now all on Flickr. So click the photo below to view the whole set.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
So it has been a fantastic weekend! I have had an absolute ball.
Tamsin got us tickets to see the Foo Fighters in Hyde Park for my birthday and the concert was last night. It was one of the best presents I have received, she did a fantastic job.
After checking into our hotel we went to Wagamama's near Harvey Nics for lunch and then onto the V&A Museum where we went to the modernism exhibition (it was pretty cool).
We then headed over to Hyde Park to get into the concert. It was absolutely rammed! It took us about forty-five minutes to get through the gates (so we missed the first act).
We found a spot by the fence (we were in the outer loop, rather then the inner loop) and watched Angels and Airwaves (they were alright) and Queens of the Stone Age (fantastic!). Motorhead then came on so we went and grabbed some food and drink and took it easy.
About 10 mins before the Foo Fighters came on we pushed out way through the crowd and found a nice spot on a small hill where we had a pretty good view of the stage. Unfortunately we were close to a bunch of really drunk blokes who were pretty rowdy, but they did quieten down after a while.
The Foo Fighters set was great. They played for over an hour and it was awesome to hear them! I know I have said it before, but it was great!!
After they finished playing we went and grabbed a drink and then headed back to the hotel.
Today we went over to the British Museum to try and see the Michelangelo exhibition, but we could not get tickets until later in the afternoon. So we did a quick tour around the rest of the museum (thanks to the 20 minute guide in the London Timeout book). From there we headed over to Spitalfields Market and met up with my cousin (Paul) and had lunch.
It was nice to see him again, particularly because he has to head back to Oz soon (his visa is almost expired). So we had a chat and a beer, it was nice.
We then jumped on the train and headed back to Southampton. Unfortunately the only blight on the weekend was Australia losing to Brazil in the World Cup. But then I guess I cant have everything.
Click on the photo below to view the whole set!
Thursday, June 15, 2006
A few months ago Jules, Peter and myself entered the lottery for world cup tickets. We chose Australia's three group matches and then a couple of other matches to fill the days in between.
We ended up getting none of the Australian matches and just one of our other choices. So I just got back from a couple of days in Munich where we saw Saudi Arabia v Tunisia!
We started yesterday with a look around the city. All the locals seemed to be excited that the world cup was in Germany. We got stopped by so many people who could hardly speak English trying to point out where all the sites were!
So we started in the main drag (Marienplatz) which was a funky square surrounded by old buildings. The Tunisians were out in force, playing music and dancing around. They seemed so happy that their team was playing that afternoon. There were heaps of Aussies about as well. I guess it is because they are playing Brazil in Munich this sunday.
We slowly made out way through the streets to the Residenz, the palace where the rulers of Bavaria lived until the first world war. It was absolutely huge and we spent ages walking around. It was a little disappointing however. Apart from big empty rooms, there was not a great deal to see. Not much information about the various rooms or anything like that.
We then headed over to the English Garden - a huge park in central Munich. It was pretty warm and the park was a nice place to walk around it to try and escape the heat. One interesting thing was the number of naked people around. It turns out that people come into the park during their lunch break, strip off and lay in the sun! There were thousands of people doing it. Perhaps it is something people could start in Hyde Park?
Anyway, we made our way to the Seehaus, a beer garden in the park, for some lunch. There were heaps of people around, so we joined them with our wieners and steins and watched the footy!
We then headed back to the Hauptbahnhof to get our train to the stadium. It was packed. Very much like Sydney was during the Olympics. Security was a lot more visible though. Everyone going in had to go through metal detectors and be patted down.
The stadium was awesome. Apparently there are two local teams that use it as their home ground and the exterior changes colour depending on which of them is playing there!
It was absolutely packed as well. The organisers had sold spare tickets cheaply to locals to ensure full houses. The whole crowd were getting into the game. It was awesome to be there which was a big surprise. In the end the result was a tie, but football was the winner (I had to get that in somewhere!!).
We headed back into the city and went to the Hofbrauhaus for dinner and drinks. I could get use to drinking steins!
Today we decided to head out to the Schloss Nymphenburg. The guide book said it was one of the highlights of Munich. While we were waiting at the tram station to head out there this drunk or high British bloke came up to talk to us. He was absolutely rotten. Anyway Peter and Jules both reckon he was hitting on me - apparently because I looked shiny (whatever that means). I was completely oblivious to it all!
The Schloss was very impressive. It was absolutely huge. But like the Residenz, it was empty. So again, it was a little disappointing. We walked around the gardens and then went to one of the cafes for lunch. We then jumped on a tram again to head back into the city.
At one of the stops about 100 Australian's piled on. It was standing room only (and then there was not much). They were all singing songs ("Stand up if you're the top of the group" and "Super Timmy Cahill") and were having a great time. They even tried to tell me that I lived in a beautiful city in German, but soon stopped when they found out I was Australian. It was a great example of the atmosphere in the city.
We picked our bags up at the train station and headed back out to the airport. Unfortunately it was time to head home. It was a great couple of days. I definitely need to get back to Munich.
Views from Marienplatz.
Views from Marienplatz.
Views from Marienplatz.
Inside the Residenz.
The English Garden.
The funky stadium.
At the Hofbrauhaus.
Blogger is playing silly buggers, so you will have to wait for the rest of the photos.
Monday, May 29, 2006
Yesterday it was raining.
Luckily I came prepared and packed my umbrella. Peter and Jules were not so organised. I felt guilty for a while, but after they passed up countless opportunities to buy an umbrella, the guilt passed.
The first stop of the day was Rosenborg slot. We took our time getting there so we could see more of the city. It really is quite a lovely city to be honest. There are plenty of parks and funky buildings. I was nice to be walking around (and not getting wet!).
The castle was built as a summer palace for one of the Danish Kings (even though it was not that far from the normal palace). It was small but interesting. They also had part of the crown jewels to look at which was pretty cool.
Once we were done we headed over to Nyhavn for lunch. There were heaps of places to choose from so we used Peter's logic and chose a place that was yellow (apparently he likes places painted yellow). It turned out to be pretty good! I had a burger which was great! Although that may have been the drinks we had as well.
The rain had not stopped so we headed over to Christiansborg Slot to have a gander. This is where the Danish government lives and they made us put these covers on our shoes so we would not ruin anything. The tour was only in English, but I think they had Danish ones at other times.
Anyway we got to find out quite a bit about the Danish Royal Family. It turns out that none of the thrones or jewels or anything are used anymore. The Danes (and the Royal Family) decided that by using them they would be raising one person above another which is not right. So the Queen has to sit in a normal chair just like you and me!
We got a tour of the state rooms which were the right kind of fancy (as these places all are). Although almost every palace or posh house I have toured has some form of contemporary art in it. Christiansborg was no different. I am not a big fan of contemporary art. It always seems like the artist was hallucinating or something when they painted it. Again, Christiansborg was no different.
It was still raining when we left (and I was still dry), so we headed to a funky little bakery for a coffee and then went to Tivoli Gardens to look around.
We managed to convince Peter to ride the roller coaster with us, although he almost chickened out once it started raining! It was fun, although it could have been longer. Jules went on another ride that went around in circles and then we just wandered around the park. It was in a great location (right in the city centre) and they seemed to have heaps of events scheduled, but not while we were there.
We had dinner at Peder Oxe which was great. They had a system where you switched on a small light above your table to indicate to the waiter that you wanted service. It was a great idea! Oh, the food was nice as well.
A movie followed dinner (Lucky Number Sleven) before heading back to the hotel. Luckily we had no trouble getting in.
Today was our last day in the city and we started at the design museum. I was expecting it to be full of funky Danish design pieces, and while they did have some funky stuff, a lot of it was rubbish. It was a bit of a disappointment.
We then headed over to the Vor Frue Kirke (the cathedral) which is where Our Mary got married back in 2004. It had this scary gold statue of Jesus at the front - enough to scare anyone away from Christianity!
For lunch we headed to Ida Davidsen (a cafe) to have some traditional Danish smørrebrød. These are open sandwiches and they are delicious. We had a choice of so many interesting toppings and everyone that I tried was fantastic! I can highly recommend it.
After lunch it was time to head out to the airport. Jules and Peter had an earlier flight then me (by about 30 mins) so I busied myself by looking around. Like almost everything else in Copenhagen, the airport oozed style. It was cool and a nice finish to the weekend. Everyone should go to Copenhagen some time!
More city views.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
So it has been an interesting twenty-four hours!
It started yesterday with a mad dash to the airport. Dash is probably the incorrect word actually. I think everyone else in the south of England was also trying to get to Heathrow. Anyway, I just made check-in and had to push my way though security to make the flight.
I met Jules and Peter once I landed in Copenhagen (they flew from Birmingham) and we caught the train into the city. It was about 11:30pm by the time we arrived at central station and we headed straight to the hotel.
Here is where we had some more fun. Despite advertising 24 hour reception, the hotel was closed. It seems they should have said 24 hour access, as reception was only open between 7am and 11pm. We tried to phone the other two branches of the chain in the city. They had 24 hour reception, but could not help us. They could not check us in and they did not have any rooms for the night (in fact they told us that we would have difficulty in finding anything).
So for the next couple of hours we walked around the city trying to find a room. Nothing at all was available. Not even at one of the most expensive hotels in the city. So we decided to hole up in the train station while we could (it was closing at 4am). We then decided to move to one of the Cab-Inn's that was open and sit in their entrance. Luckily they had a no show and considering it was 3am they decided to let us use the room. So we finally found somewhere to sleep!
We got up the next (well the same actually) morning and went over to our reserved hotel and checked in. We were lucky that they had kept the room open for us. We dumped our bags and then hit the city!
We headed to the central square (the Radhuspladsen) to have a look around. A lot of the buildings were quite old, but a lot of the newer ones oozed the style and sophistication that the Danes (and Scandinavians in general) are known for. We had a look at the Georg Jensen shop as Jules wanted to buy some wedding jewellery. Everything in the store was pretty cool.
By this time we were hungry so we started looking for a nice lunch place. We ended up stumbling across Cafe Norden, which was in a great spot and looked pretty cool inside. Unfortunately they service was not that great and the food was pretty uninspiring, but I would still recommend the place. Its location and interior are fantastic!
We then headed over to check out Amalienborg Slot. This was where the royal family live. Unlike Buckingham Palace, you can get pretty close to the entrance of the palace. They still had soldiers on guard, but it felt like you were closer to the action!
We then headed over to the Marmorkirken and then to Kongens Have (one of the parks). We walked past the Rosenborg Slot (another castle/palace) and finally over to the Little Mermaid. I know it is a Copenhagen landmark, but it was pretty disappointing. We then headed into the Churchillparken and walked around. We finally ended up at St Alban's Church which had a fantastic fountain out the front!
By this time we were exhausted and pretty tired. Jules was also not feeling very well. We decided to take the easy route for dinner and went to Jensen's Bofhus - a chain restaurant all over Denmark. The food was actually quite good! It was a nice surprise.
After dinner we headed back to the hotel. After the fun of last night we just wanted an early night. We were to be thwarted again however. A couple of streets from the hotel we were stopped by the police. They told us there was a stabbing in the area and the streets were blocked off while they look for evidence. We could not get to the hotel at all!
We could feel the call of the SAS Radisson bar, so we headed there. The bar was very funky, a nice place to be. So we sat back and consoled ourselves with expensive drinks. It was just what we needed!
After a couple of hours we headed back to the hotel without trouble! It was nice to jump into bed.
Views of the city.
Someone didn't want their bike!
Views from the Radhuspladsen
The funky new music hall.
In the park.
More street views.
Me trying to be a windmill!
Funky pidgeon holes.
St. Alban's Church.
The cool fountain out the front.
Radhuspladsen at night.
Sunday, May 07, 2006
We spent yesterday in and around Birmingham just taking it easy. Saw Mission Impossible Three (it was not the best movie!).
Today we decided to head out for the day. Peter was coming back to Southampton with me so that he could look at a couple of houses with Suzie, so we all decided to head out and Jules was going to get the train back to Birmingham from wherever we ended up.
We decided to head down towards Woburn Abbey and grab some lunch along the way. We ended up in some uninspiring pub with food that I cant really remember, so it must not have been that great!
We then headed down to check out the Abbey. We arrived quite late so we could not go around the Safari Park. In fact we just had enough time to check out the house. As with similar places it was grand and full of expensive furniture, but not really a place that you would like to live.
We then went for a bit of a walk around the grounds which were lovely, but it was cold so we decided to head off.
We dropped Jules off in Milton Keynes (which was unlike any place I have seen in England) and then headed back to Southampton.
A pond in the grounds.
The house and grounds.
Friday, May 05, 2006
So today is my birthday (time for everyone to celebrate!). If I follow the rule that once you turn 21 you get to start counting again, then I have just turned 6!
I decided to take the day off work (no one really likes to work on their birthday do they?). I slept in, talked to family and friends back in Oz (it was really nice to hear from them) and generally took it easy around the house.
I then drove up to Birmingham to spend the weekend with Jules and Peter. They were going to take me out for a fancy dinner and generally feel pity for me turning one year older (it is nice to have great friends like that!).
Anyway, Jules decided to take the afternoon off as well, so once I arrived we headed over to the Gourmet Burger Company for lunch. I have decided they don't really know how to make proper burgers here in the UK. I think it is related to their problem with making sandwiches as well (although the sandwich part is over all of Europe). People here seem afraid to put too many ingredients on a sandwich or a burger. You get strange looks if you ask for more then three items on a sandwich. Its just not cricket! So while lunch was nice, I really do miss Australian style burgers (and it is not just the beetroot!).
We then walked around the city for a bit before heading back to the apartment and taking it easy. Jules and Peter also gave me my birthday presents. They were a plant that cannot be killed (no, it is not a plastic plant) and a learn to sing book (they obviously have not heard me sing properly). I think the book was just in case I make good on my threat to sing at their wedding!
They also took me out for dinner. But it was not just any dinner. We were heading to Jessica's, a Michelin starred restaurant in Birmingham. Being such a fancy place we had to all dress up (but everyone likes to go formal every now and again, right?). We caught a taxi over to the restaurant and had one of the most amazing meals I have ever eaten. I cant remember what I had for starters or dessert, but for my main I had:
Roast Saddle of Lamb with Aubergine tart, Tomato butter, Black Olives, Courgette puree & Cumin roasted Tongue.
It was fantastic! I could see why they had won so many awards!
So feeling full and slightly tipsy we decided to see what the nightlife of Birmingham could offer us. We got dropped off in Broad Street and went to a couple of bars, but it was pretty quiet in the city for a Friday night. In the end we headed back to the apartment and chatted while listening to music and drinking! It was a great way to finish off a really good birthday!
Jules, Peter and I before going out.
Jules after dinner (and a couple of drinks)
Me, feeling happy
Peter - very drunk!