Baguettes, baguettes, baguettes

Europe ~ France ~ Paris & Versailles

Well, everyone had better appreciate the trouble gone into writing this… It turns out that keyboards in France are different to those everywhere else. Just small differences (the letters ‘q’ and ‘a’ have swapped places, as have ‘;’ and ‘m’) but its enough to make the thought of typing an email horrendous. Anyway, enough complaining, we are in Paris, after all! Arrived after a very long night of sleeping in Glasgow airport – we were 3 of at least 100 other people who decided to make the smokers lounge our bed for the night. We were the odd ones out – we didn’t bring mattresses or sleeping bags, unlike the many others. Although it was nice and sunny in Scotland, Paris was windy and raining. So very typical of our luck!

We’ve been eating our way through all the delicacies of Paris – baguette with jam for brekky, baguette with cheeses for lunch and baguettes and snails for dinner. Well, at least that’s the way it seems. We also have nutella crepes for desert, accompanying each meal. Of course, if we get sick of all the cheese we can take a break and have a bottle of 2 euro wine instead…

Of course we’ve been seeing the sights as well as eating. Kinda. We make sure our sight-seeing fits around the eating, don’t want to miss a meal! A couple of nights ago, we climbed the Eiffel Tower. Alot of steps (not as many as the Yellow Mountains in China), but definitely worth it. The view across the city at night was fantastic. Last night we had a picnic in the gardens in front of the Eiffel Tower, thankfully the small children didn’t come near our area, we must have been scowling enough to keep them away. We’ve also gone and seen Le Sacré-Coeur, a really big churchy thing on the hill behind our hotel. The dome was amazing to see, all the tourists filing past, one-by-one was just hilarious. Notre Dame was similar – an spectacular building, but the amount of tourists around was just frightening.

The Eiffel Tower at night

The Eiffel Tower at night

The catacombs were great. A couple of hundred years ago, it was decided that the cemeteries were too full, so the French decided to dig up all the bodies and dump them in an abandoned mine. At some stage, the person in charge decided to do it decoratively, and so all the bones are lined up, using a combination of skulls and femurs to create patterns in the walls. The over-all effect is quite unique – eerie and intriguing all at the same time.

Skull and Crossbones at the Catacombs

Skull and Crossbones at the Catacombs

We’ve also seen the rest of the traditional sights, such as the Louvre (got to see the Mona Lisa, should have seen the tourists at that place!) and the Arc de Triomphe (huge huge round-about, so many cars). We also spent a great cuople of hours wandering around Versailles, enjoying the gardens and looking over King Louis XIII and his son, Louis XIV’s chateus. The rest of our time has been spent soaking up the atmosphere (whilst eating crepes) and enjoying our very own bathroom. Now we’re preparing for our week in Germany, should be a heap of fun, will swap from bread to snags… luv yas, bobs

Being followed by Crazies

Europe ~ Republic of Ireland ~ Dublin, Drogheda & United Kingdom ~ North Ireland ~ Belfast & Bushmills

What a fantastic country!!! Arrived in Dublin early in the morning, not really sure what to expect. Booked into my hostel, then set off on one of the open top, hop-on hop-off tours. Highlights of the day included Dublina (a cute little museum aimed at kids, certainly made it easier for me to understand!!), Christ Church and, of course, the Guinness Storehouse. YUM. The storehouse itself was a little disappointing – very manufactured, plastic-y, but the reward was the free pint of Guinness sitting waiting for you at the Gravity bar – right on the very top of the building. However, the amount of beer that was being thrown away would make grown men cry. Tourists were coming in, getting their free beer, having a sip and then leaving it basically UNTOUCHED. These beers were being poured down the sink. I almost had a bit of a sob myself!

Enjoying a pint of Guinness at the Gravity Bar

Enjoying a pint of Guinness at the Gravity Bar

After two days in Dublin I caught a [early] bus to Drogheda, to visit the famous Bru na Boinne. Bru na Boinne is an area that has three large pre-pyramid burial tombs (Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth), plus many many smaller ones. They think that the tombs were created between 3500 and 2700 BC. Knowth was particularity interesting because of all the carvings on the stones – the guides were able to speculate what they were about, but no-one really knows. Newgrange is the more famous of the three tombs – we were able to go right inside the tomb, where the guide showed us a re-enactment of what happens on winter solace. The cave-like tomb is in complete darkness for the whole year, except for the 5 days surrounding the shortest day of the year. During these 5 days, at 8.58am, light enters a small ‘window-box’ above the entrance and lights up the tomb. I think the most spectacular of all this is the man-power that it would have taken to create these tombs – huge rocks were moved over large distances to get them into place, amazing to think about when you see the size and number of these rocks.

Next stop was Belfast. I intended to spend two days there, but was so disinhearted after one night that I left straight away. Nothing seemed to be going right and I wasn’t having a good time, so I though ‘Bugger it’, and moved on. Glad I did, because the next place I went, Bushmills, was one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed at… I had my own room, real beads (not bunks), ensuite… and, best of all, a BATHTUB. The luxury of it all… Spent the day seeing the coast, went to Giants Causeway. Giants Causeway is a section of naturally formed 4- and 6-sided rocks that look just like a pathway leading out to the sea. Legend has it that the giant, Finn MacCool, built it to visit his lady love in Scotland. Also stopped at Carrick-a-rede, a rope bridge strung 30 metres above the pounding ocean over to a tiny island. Whilst it was fun crossing the bridge, it was even better watching people pay 2 euro and then LINE UP just to cross a rope bridge. Guess I did it too, so who’s to judge?! After a day on the north coast, I moved back down to Belfast, where I enjoyed myself a lot more. Took a day tour of the city and found out all the nifty little facts. Like the Titanic was built in the shipyards there. Of course we went through the areas where the Troubles were most prevalent, down past the murals and all the churches and police stations with wire cages over them. Scary but intriguing too.

Giant's Causeway

Giant's Causeway

The people of Ireland are incredibly friendly. Almost all will chat to you over a pint, I’ve met a heap of people traveling on my own, locals and fellow travelers alike. Unfortunately, I also seem to be attracting the crazies too. On my trip to Newgrange, I noticed a guy carrying a little stick [wand?] with a feather poking out the end, waving it all over the carved rocks and bowing and whispering to them. This same guy turned into the hostel I was staying at. Turned out he was staying in my room. When we were all sitting around drinking later that night, he kept doing things like waving his feet over the glasses and mumbling to himself… My first night in Belfast, I was sitting in my room chatting to some of the other girls, when a guy walked in and proclaimed we were reading his mind. Turns out he was chatting to one of the girls earlier, he was completely nuts. And then in Bushmills, whilst waiting for the bus, an old guy came and sat next to me and chatted to me in what I think was Gaelic for about half an hour. My bus pulled up, and he said in perfect English, “There’s your bus”. Ahhh! With all this in mind, when I was on the bus on my way out to see Giant’s Ring (Belfast), and an older lady came and sat next me, I was more than a little wary. When she said to me that “I wouldn’t go there, dear, its not a nice place for young ladies to go by themselves, funny people go there”, I decided to take her advice. Had enough of crazies for the moment…

Cheers to all [said as I raise my pint of Guinness]
xoxo Bobs

Howing into the haggis

Europe ~ United Kingdom ~ Scotland ~ Edinburgh

Back in Europe once again, enjoying the life of the traveling backpacker. Well, not quite, as we have now settled down in Edinburgh to organise some funds until we head over to Europe to travel our last stint. We’re staying in a hostel in the central part of Edinburgh, the hostel is confusing to say the least. It’s just like one of those cruel mazes your parents take you to when you’re a kid, just so they can sit on a terrace above drinking coffee and laughing when you can’t find your way out… Every time I try to find my room (I’m in room ‘E’, bed ‘E=mc squared’, all the rooms have letters and beds have names to match, my first night I was in room ‘J’, bed ‘Joker’), I end up in another part of the hostel, if you’re not careful I’m sure that you could end up in another country altogether. Luckily, the doors back to reception are marked, and I always take a stash of breadcrumbs, so I don’t get lost that much anymore… Once again we’re in a predominantly male room – at least the door doesn’t say ‘MEN’ on the door this time. Tash was here all on her own, but now that I’m here, we’re starting to take over… The guys seemed quite horrified when they came in the other night to find us sitting in the middle of the room with another chick, sorting out my clothing, figuring out what to wear and other general girly stuff. I keep teasing them that I’m going to start putting posters of half naked men on the walls… We’ll see…

Edinburgh is a gorgeous city, everywhere you look there are old buildings, from wherever you are you can see the castle on the hill. I watched Harry Potter the other day, then went for a walk in the Scottish mist… It’s easy to imagine Harry Potter and all his friends lurking around every corner. Waking up after a night of heavy partying to the sound of bagpipes is an experience I never expected and will never forget. Walking along Princes Street, its not uncommon to see a man decked out in the kilt and all, standing on the side of the road playing his pipes. Even better is the guys my age wandering around the clubs in their kilts after a formal event, puts a completely different spin on things.

I went for a day trip to Glasgow the other day, didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoy Edinburgh. From what I saw, Glasgow seems to be a more industrial town, without as many interesting buildings. At least, not in the middle of the town. Wandered along the main shopping drag for a while, the highlight of the day was going into a pub to get haggis, mmm yum. Nah, not really, it was an interesting dish, kind of like mince meat with more spices, and bit of a ‘bloody’ taste. It was ok, not my most favourite though. Still waiting to find a traditional fish ‘n chips shop, YUM!

As Tash already has a job, and I’m not all that keen to actually look for one, I’ve spent a lot of my time just wandering around the streets of Edinburgh, exploring on my own. I’ve been to Greyfriars Kirkyard a couple of times, I keep getting drawn back, its a really ‘nice’ graveyard, if that can be called a fitting word for a cemetery. If you’ve read my previous post, you’d know about our ‘supernatural’ encounter in the cemetery, it was really weird. We took the photos, and didn’t really look at them. A couple of days later, when I was uploading them onto the computer, I noticed the blue streak. I pulled out the camera and lo and behold, it was on the camera as well. The kirkyard is probably most famous for ‘Greyfriars Bobby’, the little Skye terrier that supposedly sat by his dead master for 14 years. He is commemorated by a statue out the front of the kirk, said to be the most photographed statue in all of the United Kingdom. Despite all the ghosty activity that is known to happen around the cemetery, many people visit and just sit around, reading books or having picnics.

Statue of Greyfriars Bobby, Edinburgh, Scotland

Statue of Greyfriars Bobby, Edinburgh, Scotland

Will be visiting the castle sometime soon, also planning on taking some more day trips around the area, I just have to motivate myself enough to get out of the hostel – its oh so cold outside! Hope everyone did well with exams, and are getting ready to party!

xoxo Bobs

Life is like a game of monopoly

Europe ~ United Kingdom ~ London

So long Asia, now we’re back to the land of English – or rather the Motherland… Arrival was full on, we got into the airport and lined up for immigration. We haven’t had any problems in any other countries getting through, but after 12 hours on a flight from Hong Kong, they decided to be difficult. After getting through the line (took about 2 hours), we got to the front, only to be questioned and then sent off for a health check!!! Turns out that as we had travelled through ‘tropical’ countries (Thailand and India), there was a possibility we had TB, so they had to check us out. In the end we didnt need to get X-rays or the like, as the nurses decided it wasnt worth it!

Our hostel is in Earl’s Court, nicknamed ‘Kangaroo Court’, due to the abundance of Aussies who have made it their home. The hostel is full of Aussies, Kiwi’s and South Africans. Most people are friendly, but there are a lot of politics flying around the hostel – such as who gets the kitchen first and so forth. We’re at the very top of the stairs – five flights up, everyone else complains about the climb, but we reckon its nothing – compared to Huang Shan!!! We’re sharing a room with a South African guy and an Aussie guy. Both are long termers and the room is decidedly male – from the sign on the door (‘MEN!!!’), to their choice in posters. All day they have a fan going, pointed at their shoe collection… But they’re nice enough, and the room is alot cleaner than some of the ones we’ve been in.

On our first day we caught a train (‘the tube’, hehe) down to Westminster, to wander around. Imagine us, we’ve just stepped off a plane from Hong Kong, tired and jetlagged, and we’re wandering around London, seeing famous sights such us Big Ben and chasing pigeons through Trafalgar Square. I feel as if I’m trapped on a Monopoly board!!! After wandering around the National Gallery for a couple of hours we set off back home to plan our next day. Ended up teaming up with a pair of Kiwi girls and a pair of South African girls and made plans to go out the next day. We sat on the steps of our hostel drinking the local drinks – we like to think that we looked like the old guys on Sesame Street…

2nd day was spent SHOPPING on Oxford Circus, and then we toodled off to the Tower of London, to see the sights. The Tower of London has a 900 year history as a Royal Palace and fortress, prison and place of execution, mint and jewel house. Lucky us got to see the crown jewels, and even sit on a royal gardenrobe (read: loo!)

Since then we’re been to many wonderful and amazing places – and of course done our fair share of shopping. By shopping I of course mean browsing, as the prices over here are so so so expensive that we can only afford to look! We went to Westminster Abbey to see all the famous graves – such as Queen Elizabeth I, Mary I, Mary Queen of Scots, Henry VIII, Oliver Cromwell, and Thomas Parr, a guy who lived to age 152 (?!). Also went to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard, lots of red guards with fluffy black hats running around. The London Dungeon was a bit different, bit like a horrorhouse, we got to see the more spooky history of London, from the black plague to Jack the Ripper. King’s Cross Station was worthwhile, we all got our pics taken standing in front of ‘Platform 9 3/4’, pushing a trolly through to the platform where Harry Potter caught his train to Hogwarts.

Shopping has been fun, we’ve wandered around the main shopping districts – Picadilly Circus, Oxford Circus (All have ‘circus’ attatched, any ideas?), and even Camden Town. Camden Town was interesting, magic mushrooms and marujana lollypops are sold everywhere. The mushrooms come in many different types (flavours?!) – from Cuban ones to good ol’ Tassie ones!

Apart from the sightseeing and shopping we’ve just been chilling in the hostel, and partying with our fellow backpackers. Nightlife is great, and everyone is so friendly. Only trouble I’m having is wrestling the remote control off the Aussie boys on the weekends – no-one here seems to care how much I HATE watching sports – oh well, they’ll learn quick enough. Take care all, am about to jetset off to the U.S., so if you’ve over there, watch out for me!!!

Crazeee China!!!

Asia ~ China ~ Beijing

We’ve been in Beijing for *almost* a week now, and its amazing. So different to both India and Thailand… To start with, the flight(s) was hell. It took us 48 hours to get from Delhi to Beijing, which, if you were to fly direct would normally take about 6 hours. Our plane went from Delhi to Dubai, then Dubai to Hong Kong (with an hour stopover in Bangkok, something we didnt know about!). In Hong Kong we had a 10 hour stopover. We decided it wasnt worth finding a hotel, so we slept in the airport, highly recommended, very quiet, safe and comfortable airport!!! Anyway, woke up at 5.30am and checked in for the remainder of the flight, Hong Kong to Beijing. Arriving in Beijing was fantastic. We cautiously stepped out of the airport, expecting to be swamped by taxi drivers wanting to take us into the city for huge amounts, but there were only 7 or 8 of them. And, better yet, after telling them ‘no’ only twice, they backed off. Unheard of in Delhi… Instead of taking their taxi’s (they were asking for 200-300 yuan) we caught the bus and subway (about 50 yuan altogether).

Our hostel is fantastic. Right in the middle of town, walking distance to most things, and the subway is also really close, so if we cant walk there we can catch the subway. Many many international travellers here, all with very interesting travelling tales to tell. There is one guy here from the U.S., who is travelling the world, without flying. He caught a cargo ship from California to Singapore and is catching the train from China through Russia to Europe! We are sharing a room with a woman from Seattle, nice to hear some different opinions and ideas about what we are experiencing. The hostel has a cute little bar/dvd room where we all hang out, both dvds and beer are the cheapest things to buy over here, so u can imagine what we spend our evenings!!! A bottle of beer (big, about twice the size of a stubbie) costs under AUD$1 (I’m told its slightly expensive here!!!) DVD’s are about $1.50, I’ve already brought a heap!

Everyone is really friendly and ready to help. Not many people speak English though, which is proving to be difficult. The hardest thing is finding food for Tash, who’s vegetarian. We’re getting really good at pointing and gesturing and using sign language, so we should get by. This morning we wandered onto the street to find breakfast, we ended up with a long donutty type pastry and a spring onion pancake, both from the street vendors, cost us a total of 20 cents. Food in general is awesome, big change from the Indian food. Nice to be eating beef again. The other night we went to a night market, which sold lots of different foods, all on sticks. I got gyoza (fried dumplings) and Tash got fried strawberries covered in toffee on a stick. Yum. They had lots of other things tough, like grasshoppers on a stick, snake on a stick, etc etc. Am going to try them next time… really!!!

We’ve been seeing all the sites of Beijing, our first day of sightseeing took us to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden city. So many people flying kites in Tiananmen, we’ve been really tempted to buy some, an English guy went kite flying, thought it was great fun! The Forbidden city was really interesting, its the largest cluster of ancient buildings in China, home to two dynasties of emperors, the Ming and the Qing. The area was set up as a walled city, so that the emperors and all their families didnt hav to leave unless absolutley neccessary. It’s called the Forbidden City becaus it was off limits to visiters for 500 years, the buildings are absolutley awesome! Yesterday we climbed the Great Wall, we even have the T-Shirts to prove it!!! The climb was so hard, just up and up and up. My legs are screaming at me today! But we made it, the view from the top was pretty good, you could see the wall weaving up and down all the mountains. Back down at the bottom of the mountain we were ‘attacked’ by all the vendors who desperatly wanted to sell their merchandise, we brought some shirts, but managed to dodge everything else. We also went to Kung Fu the other night, which was interesting. It was more like a play, told the story of a young boy going through all his training. I had an American guy next to me, he wasn’t very interested, until they starting breaking boards over their heads, then he sat up straight in his chair and didnt move until the end of the show, after which he could stop talking bout how cool it was!

Weather is rather cold, it snowed in the mountains yesterday, we’re wearing ALL of our warm clothing. Getting ready to move onto Xi’an, to see the terricotta warriors. Its about a 13 hour train trip, so we really have to push ourselves to go! But it should be warmer as we go down south, which will be good. Hope all is well with everyone, xo BOBS!!!

Tash & I at the Great Wall, China

Tash & I at the Great Wall, China