The hills are alive...

Bronwyn
Austria
August 30, 2003

   I have certainly wanted to sing that today. We are in Salzburg, where Mozart was born and The Sound of Music was filmed. The town is really pretty and there are no beggars, which was pretty impressive after Budapest. Everywhere I go I can just imagine Julie Andrews whizzing past me with seven kids in tow. In the hostel you can watch the Sound of Music daily at 10:30 am but we didn't have enough time to watch it (although we should have because Craig didn't know the ending). We did go to some sights in Craig's attempt to make me sing on camera, I hate to disappoint but he failed.

Mirabella Gardens, used in that film

   Salzburg itself is nestled among mountains. On the top of these mountains are castles and I don't mean big houses but castles. Castles complete with turrets and horse entrances and kitchen towers etc. We took a funicular to get to one and then wandered around up the top looking for some rolling green hills (to see if we could see some nuns singing and dancing). We heard through hostel gossip the hills were harder to find that you think, no bus route goes there according to a couple of Australians who tried to find them.

   In Salzburg we found ourselves with the Busabout group again. We happened to be on the same route and we keep running into the same people, they travel by bus, us by train. We can go 300km per hour they can't :)



best wishes from
   Bronwyn
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  29 Aug
03
 

   On the Buda side of the river are two large hills, they may even be mountains. On Thursday (28th August) we walked up Castle Hill to take in the views which were pretty damn impressive if you looked the right way, looking the wrong way you'd just see an eastern european city, smoggy and dirty. The other hill is the one with the actual castle on it. We spent a while in The Labyrinth, which is a cool set of tunnels now converted into a sort of museum on cave paintings and a comment on modern consumerism. With theme lighting and dramatic music it is definitely worth a visit if you are ever in the area. There is also an impressive church on the hill, and beside it is a small bronze version of it (maybe 1ft high) with braille labels of the various features. What a great way to help the blind visitors to the site, I hope it catches on.

   We wandered the city a lot, enjoyed dinner across town and the safety of our own room when we returned. Though there was never any real hint of danger somehow the image I have of Budapest at night has always been a slighty shady one. Though we had constantly been assured there was no reason to book tickets on the train to Austria, we were lucky to get seats. It's always hard to tell if they mean 'Reservations are not needed (but this is a really busy line so you should buy them or risk being thrown off)' or 'Reservations are not needed (because you are the only people interested in going there at that time)'. We walked the length of the train, and found spare seats right at the end, then headed back to Austria.



Watch the video (2.9Mb)


best wishes from
   Craig
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  27 Aug
03
 

   OK, we left Vienna this morning after another meal at Centimeters. This time Craig got a shovel of Mish mash, i.e. pasta, sausage, ham etc etc in a large shovel. He has taken a photo so I will get him to add it later and he barely even made a dent in it. Last night I ran into 2 girls from high school (Sam McCabe and Philippa ???), they were just in the hostel bar. It was really weird, I was just going through the "that girl looks like philippa" when she turned and looked at me and yelled. Craig has been scanning crowds the whole trip looking for mates and here I was finding someone. Apparently after that I deserved a thump, Boys!!!!

   Today we got to Budapest. A town made up of two towns Buda and Pest. We kinda got forced into a skanky hostel by some freaks on the train. The hostel had boy/girl showers with no doors. The toilets in Hungary have no loo paper so together made for a horrible experience, Craig and I left without paying anything (we did the whole we have no forints bit). We couldn't find anyone who sold tram tickets and then we got a wee bit lost, we were looking for a McDonalds to locate us and we couldn't find it. Can you believe that there was no huge glowing M which you could see from the other side of town. Otherwise Budapest looks cool and now we are going exploring!

Added a link to our schedule on the menu on the right of your screen, check it out if you want to predict where we will be.
.

Watch the video (3.8Mb)


best wishes from
   Bronwyn
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  26 Aug
03
 

   We made it to Vienna, a really pretty city but it feels a bit like the same old thing now. To see anything really different we walked down the road and went to the Kunsthaus Wien which is a building designed by Mr Hundertwasser, a painter, poet and architect. In New Zealand he is best known for the Hundertwasser toilets in Kawakawa and this very proud Austrian decided that he wanted to spend more time in New Zealand than Austria. In Austria he is famous, in New Zealand he is barely known. He created an alternate flag for NZ and Australia and stamps for Senegal, the Un and Liechenstein.
Last night we went out for dinner to a place recommended by the hostel staff for large meals and low prices. Centimeters does indeed serve large meals. Our roommate Chris ordered a 2m long sausage, and that's what came to the table. Our food was equally impressive for little more than it cost to cook for ourselves in Amsterdam.

Gotta go running out of $$$ but cool place met cool people.



Hundertwasser

The coolest model village


best wishes from
   Bronwyn
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  24 Aug
03
 

   At the Prague main station we said goodbye to Anand, Dave and Nate as we set off towards our hostel. The city is in the middle of fixing some trams lines, so the numbers quoted in our book weren't all that helpful. I tried to ask the driver of the tram sitting at our expected boarding point, but he refused to talk to me, holding up his hand, shrugging shoulders and turning away. I was trying to point to the station name in a leaflet for the Clown and Bard hostel but he wouldn't help. Probably not specified in his contract so he wasn't forced to do it. We got there anyway and had time to settle in before starting the 'Real Tour' at midday. A local lady walked us and half a dozen others around the town for 6 hours. We passed the town square where a major part of the thirty years war started. There was lots of talk of Protestants throwing Catholics from the townhall windows, and then the Catholics beheading the Protestants a while later. Then into the Jewish quarter. Preserved by the Nazis this site was going to be used for a museum of extinct races! The Charles Bridge, along with other town sights, were used in the filming of Mission Impossible, so I need to watch that film another time for places I have now been. After lunch the tour went up the hill to the main castle in the town, with big impressive views across the entire town.

   We had dinner in the town square. It was a great meal for little money, and we both felt pretty good afterwards. When leaving the restaurant we found the three guys and compared stories of the town walks we'd all been on, and how cheap it was here compared to the other places we've been. They are heading into Italy now so we may run into them again.

   This morning was a lazy one, we slept in and took our time to meander down to the train station to book tickets to Vienna. We were told to go to the other station to do that but given very little detail about this mystery station. The Tourist Info booth comfirmed where we should be, but only told us that the subway was down stairs. That much is true, but another interesting fact is that it was closed that day, and had been planned to be closed for quite a while judging from the signs. We found a replacement bus, got there and then found that we didn't need reservations, but if we had, we could have done it from the first station. All this brings me to the point of not liking the civil servants of Prague very much. For the rest of the day we wandered around town, returning to sights from the day before and spending a while looking at the local handy work on the craft stalls. Tonight we have planned most of our time left in Europe, depending on a few factors the roster is set and I will try to get it online soon.



A sunset over Prague

Cliche black and white photo of prague


best wishes from
   Craig
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  22 Aug
03
 

   Craig and I went to the Van Gogh museum yesterday. It was really impressive. In the basement were painting that were done by more recent artists that were inspired by him. Each of them looked at some aspect of Van Gogh's work, such as colour or gesture. One picture was of some older naked guy with others pointing at there 'goods' (gesture), another was called ObGlob and is hard to explain but the best way is lots of tubes of paint squeezed at the same time but not mixed, several blobs of colour (colour).

Obglob
Craig's super secret photo of ObGlob
   We skipped the canal cruise but did stuff like send a package to NZ and ate chips with mayonnaise. We just wandered around the canals and filled a day. We caught the night train to Prague along with Anand, Nate and Dave (the Jersey boys) who we met at the Flying Pig. This train was pretty horrible as it included being woken about every 20 - 30 minutes between 3am to 5.30am for tickets and passports when our tickets had already been checked. I heard a story about an Australian getting chucked off the train because he didn't have a visa (Australians and Canadians need Visas apparently no one else does). The fellows waking us up were not the kind and friendly type of customs officer but the yelling in three languages at once kind. Oh well off to explore Prague.
Looking east from Birling Gap
A colourful Dutch bike


best wishes from
   Bronwyn
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  21 Aug
03
 

   It took us 4 different trains and 11 hours to get to Amsterdam, one change only gave us 4 minutes to swap platforms and board before the train left the station and it was at that stop that we lost sight of Ben, our travelling friend since Copenhagen, we'll never know if he made it.

   Stacey and Brie were waiting at the station, and had kindly booked us beds at the Anna youth hostel. It was a cool place, with every wall a different colour and hanging semi-transparent sheets all over the place giving it an indian market feel. After walking the town for a bit we settled on a sports pub for dinner. Their speciality was pancakes (which the Dutch invented by the way). Under our instructions, and to their surprise Stacey tried bacon and banana, Brie had chicken and mandarin. Both went down pretty well, possibly to be added to the 'recommended' list.

   Early this morning Stacey and Craig got to the door of The Flying Pig and started the queue. Two hours later the four of us had checked in, paid our fees and were getting back to the Anna hostel to collect our things. We headed to the Anne Frank house, an experience not to be missed. The museum was next to and around the very house in which the Franks and another family lived for those two years. Most rooms had a video clip playing from a survivor and quotes from her diary on the wall. It was really moving, and I don't like to dwell on it because as one quote at the end said (and I don't have the exact wording here), if we were able to comprend the scale of this, the number of people that went through this it would be too much to bear.

   Bron and I found a secondhand book store, so I was able to find something to read for the long journeys. Though I had been avoiding it for a while I found the last few trips much quicker when I was reading some John Grisham books Bron has brought along the way. The four of us had a big dinner, prepared by us in the basement of the hostel, I doubt I'll need to eat anything for while (but I did find room for an ice cream at the end of the night). Then we set out for the infamous Red Light district. It was a strange experience. Little windows custom made for the women standing there under a red light. Some were busy talking on their cellphones, perhaps catching up with friends, perhaps doing their taxes. Apparently they rent the window space for around 150 Euros and can make 6 times that each night. The landlords number is usually fairly obvious so anyone else can have a go if they want.

   Tomorrow Stacey and Brie are off to Brussels, I won't see them again until I stop by the States on the way home. Bronwyn and I are planning a canal cruise, a walk in the park, the Van Gogh museum and to replace her breaking back-pack. The the night train to Prague.


best wishes from
   Craig & Bronwyn
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  21 Aug
03
 

Hola eveyone
Just thought that it was about time that I tried to make an entry and get everyone caught up on what I was up to. After Bron and Craig left Barcelona Zoe(my sister and editor) and I stayed on for a few more days before heading on down the coast to Tarragona. Tarragona was really nice with white beaches that were packed until late in the night and other great stuff to as it once was the Roman capital of Spain. From there we moved on to Madrid where we went to see the Spanish Royal Palace it was very impressive. Lisbon was our next stop and man was it worth it, there are not many places where you can say you got serenaded to sleep by am accordian player playing a rendition of easy like a sunday morning. We did a day trip out to Sintra which I could rave about forever but I really need to wait for the photos. We went back to Madrid and then headed straight to Seville which had some amazing moorish castles, `the alcazar' and a very cool bull ring. We are now in Cordoba and have just been to see the Mezquita and are going to fit in flamenco tomorrow night. Before we meet Julie in Valencia we are going to Granada then the coast for a few days so Zoe can top up her tan.
Thats the quick guide to what been going on I┤ll try to do another one sooner.
(and if there are any spelling mistakes mum its Zoe┤s fault)


best wishes from
   Nina
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  20 Aug
03
 

   For those of you that aren't subscribed to the email notifications, I thought I'd add a note here to point out that I have just gone back through most of the posts made from July 31st onwards and added videos and images to them. If you are awaiting my holiday snaps go check them out, some are quite cool.

   We're in Denmark now, visitng J°rgen again. In about 2 hours we are off to the train station to go to Amsterdam and catch up with Stacey and Brie for a day or two. The plan from there is to head south via Germany and Prague towards Italy. Depending on an old friend of mine, and whether he can get time off from Uni and work, we might be going to Greece in early September, or delay it until after September 16th when I have promised to meet others in Paris.


   Enjoy the photos, I am off to sleep.


best wishes from
   Craig
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Norway In a Nutshell

Craig
Norway
August 20, 2003

   In Oslo we settled at the YHA near the palace, and near the park in which I slept last time I was in town. I was much relieved to have a roof over my head this time. Plus walls, a shower, a door and all the other comforts that come with paid accommodation. Bronwyn and I met up with Kristin and Kristine, two of the Norwegian girls I met in La Rochelle. It seemed like ages since I met them on the beach, but it's only been 5 weeks, so much has happened since then. We wandered for a bit as we told our stories of travelling in Europe and retold what our plans are for next year. Martine was in town but working so the four of us dropped by her coffee shop to say Hi. The clouds were coming in but we headed for Akershus Festning anyway. When the rain started the girls decided that it was time to go pack for Kristin's move to Denmark that evening so Bron and I ventured on alone around the old fort. It cleared up as we returned to the hostel. That night we met Angelo, a guy touring Europe on his motorbike and detailing his trip online. I really like the idea of touring by bike, and hope to get to it some day, for now I'm happy with the trains.

   The next day was the ride to Bergen, and the sun was shining all the way. We whizzed past plenty of hard to pronounce places perched way up in the hills. The one that really caught our attention was called Dale, somehow we managed to see it every time we passed (four by the time we returned to Oslo) but missed most of the others. Bergen was smaller than we thought. I had only seen the inside of the station last time I was here. Everything was in easy walking distance so after dinner on the roof top terrace we set off to what looked liked the old wharf buildings. Bronwyn spotted and alleyway that brought us to Bryggen.








The view between Oslo and Bergen






Bryggen, the old wharf buildings in Bergen

   Neither of us got much sleep that night, thanks to the old American guy who comes in third on my list of all time snorers. I have plenty of angry things to say about him, but moving on I'll complain about the hostels lack of showers. For 4 dorms of 16 people each there were exactly 5 shower heads in the male washroom. They were communal. No thank you. I made sure I showered the night before rather than wait in the queue with the 31 other guys in the morning.

   In the morning (Monday August 18th) we boarded the train to Myrdal. We swapped to the Flam railway which slowly wound it's way down the hill side, past waterfalls, valleys and the occasional singing temptress (yes really, put on for the benefit of the tourists a siren like lady beckons travellers into the hills). At the bottom we enjoyed the little settlement of Flam and hopped onto the 1:25 boat to Gudvangen. Most of the passengers went to the highest deck, but their views would have been blocked by the bridge. We stayed down and at the front enjoying unspoiled views of the fjords. The journey took two hours and we spent all of that sitting on the edge, our legs hanging over the water and us looking out at the huge landscape all around us. Some parts reminded me of Yosemite Valley. The same granite colour with sparse vegetation and domed tops. Other parts reminded me of Milford Sound, and the rest was totally unique. The bus ride up to Voss was exciting, especially when the driver took the scenic route and met three busses coming down hill. He skilfully reversed around the corner coming incredibly close to the edge but never stressed out, I guess it was just routine. From Voss to Bergen we took the train and had a few hours to kill before the night train took us to Oslo.

   I've done that exact trip before, but this time I awoke to much darker skies. The sun wasn't coming up, and didn't look like it was going to. Outside was a dark grey mist hiding all the beautiful detail I saw a month earlier. On board we met Mark, a Canadian/American who we chatted to for an hour or so before the lights got dimmed. In the morning we talked more and be the time we split up in Goteborg (Sweden) we'd swapped email addresses and he'd offered me a place to crash if I go home via New York. Back packers are the greatest.

A video from Bronwyn

Naeroyfjorden



best wishes from
   Craig
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  16 Aug
03
 

   Our travel to Sweden was fast and pleasant. A very helpful Dane told us that we were already on the correct train to Lund when we arrived at Malmo, where we had been told to change trains by one of the ticket collectors. She assured us that only the staff change at Malmo, the passengers don't, and she was right. The journey through Sweden was lovely, though very wet and when we arrived in Stockholm it was still raining so we took a bus to the hostel. This is no ordinary hostel, and though my heart sank when the desk man directed us in to the building to our room, I was relieved a few minutes later when he found two spare places aboard the af Chapman .

The af Chapman afloat in Stockholm

   We wandered around town that night, just taking in the sights and sounds, and returned to our cabins below deck. It was an early start in the morning and we had to buy food before boarding. All worked excellently and we were heading towards Norway at 8:01am

best wishes from
   Craig
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On a personal note

Craig
Sweden
August 15, 2003

   It seems to me that a few of my posts recently have been just ═ went here, we did this, then took the train here┤, and I don┤t mean them to be. It has to be said that I am covering a fair distance, and some days have seemed like nothing but train travel, but there is so much more going on. Today on the ride from Odense to Stockholm I wrote a little list of some highlights of the trip so far. Here they are, in chronological order.


  • Meeting Marko, James and Russel in England. Old friends who know what I was like before NZ and telling our stories of the past 6 years. Being there at Marko┤s wedding was really special.
  • The walk towards Mont De La Saxe on the 4th day of the Tour de Mont Blanc. After a terrible morning it was amazing to walk along this ridge on soft alpine grass with the mountain beside me. Perfect weather and a great place to be alone. Crossing the Col D┴rpette was also very cool, a long hike up to a true mountain pass. Special thanks to Heidi the mountain guide who kindly took some of my stuff back to Chamonix for me. With that extra weight I doubt I would have made it all the way around.
  • Jumping into the River Aare in Bern. The whole week in Switzerland was great, hanging out with new friends. Sharing a true Swiss fondue and having my first (and second) raclette. mmmm.
  • Meeting Stacey and Brie on the platform in Spain. Then spending the next 24 hours with these strangers, staying awake all night and sharing one of the most dangerous/stupidest things I┤ve done on purpose with them.
  • Bastille Day in Paris. With Kate, Connie, Jen, Emily, Barry and Holland. We sat in the park, played the celebrity game and watched spectacular fire works.
  • Walking the Besseggen Ridge in Norway. Special thanks to Jorgen for that, his photos inspired me to go there and I can't thank him enough, what a terrific place to be for my birthday.
  • Rome with new friends. I met up with Stacey and Brie again and did a quick tour of this ancient city. It was very special to me to have made friends on the road that have lasted more than just than train journey.
  • The Giant Balloon Dog in the Guggenhiem. That was just the coolest thing ever!
  • Riding around the island of Aero with Bronwyn and stopping to pick wild cheeries off the trees/bushes. I haven┤t told that story yet, so check back soon for the update :-)

   Of course those were just a sample of the many wonderous things that I have experienced on this trip. I do miss home, my friends and family, and travelling is wearing me out, but I am so glad I am doing this and recommend the OE thing to anyone and everyone.



best wishes from
   Craig
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  15 Aug
03
 

   We arrived in Odense and headed straight for the hostel. It's marked in the book as an old/historic building but we saw no plaque and got no explanation as to what it used to do before letting the unwashed masses stay in the relatively clean and spacious rooms. That evening we entertained ourselves by wandering around the town, admiring the flower displays (it was some sort of festival thing that week) and then returned to the hostel for dinner. When buying dinner in the hostel, a local man gave us the useful advice that the drinking water was better than anything in a bottle, and that plastic just degraded into the water after a few weeks anyway. I was sharing a room with two guys who thought it appropriate to eat shellfish at 11pm in the room and then have a competition about who could rustle their plastic bags the loudest. I don't know who won coz my head was buried pretty far under the covers by that point. Bronwyn however lucked out with room mates. Two nice Danish girls on holiday in the area, earning money by selling jewellery they were making in the room.

   To get to the island of Ăr° we had to take a bus rather than the train because the track was under service. An hour later we boarded the ferry and watched as the dark clouds on the horizon got ever closer. On the island there are three main settlements. We arrived at Ăr°skobing which is a pleasant little seaside place, with cobblestone roads and the greatest ice cream :-) The petrol station rents out bikes for 45 DKK per day, so we took two and headed for the hills. There aren't really that many hills on the island, but we managed to cover what little ups and downs we could, riding in the sunshine at first. One particularly lovely lane was gravelled so we walked for a while which gave us time to stop and eat the cherries. The wind was picking up and they were falling to the ground quicker than we could count. Picking them and eating a handful at a time was just a perfect thing to do in Denmark.

Watch the video (3.8mb)

   We rode on to Vodrup Klint. This is the steeper side of the island with the winds whipping across the water to the south west and straight up the soft clay hills so fast that I was able to lean down the slope at quite an angle without losing my balance. The wind got stronger and the water in front of us got darker and darker as the rain came in. We weren't able to make it to the next village in time and were thoroughly drenched by the time we got to any sign of buildings. It came down so fast that it became hard to see and we just had to stop under a tree for a while. Bronwyn took an inner route whilst I raced along the coast, and again we were caught out by a passing storm. I made it to the St Rise church and took shelter while Bron had fun waiting one intersection over, at the point that the church was marked on the map. The weather eased and we were able to get a nice easy ride back to the town before being rained on again. After returning the bikes we strolled back through the town to the place with the warm waffle smell. This is where we had the ice creams. Ohh they were soo good. two scoops (I had strawberry and apple) in a fresh cone with whipped cream and jam on top :-P
   After a rolling ferry ride back and a two hour bus ride (taking the scenic route to cover all the little train stations along the way) we got back to Odense only to discover we had missed the bus by a few minutes and had another hour to wait. One kind bus driver took pity on us. He put on the 'not in service' sign and drove the normal route just for us, nice guy.

Biking on Aero island
The wonderful ice cream from Aero

best wishes from
   Craig
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Deutschland

Bronwyn
Germany
August 13, 2003

From Luxembourg we headed to Germany. In specific we went to K÷ln because we heard it had a pretty impressive church. We did go there and it was impressive but now we are a bit spoiled and we stood in the Dom and said 'Sagrada Familia was better'. We ended up staying the night in K÷ln in this weird hostel by the Rhein. The hostel was a set of apartments above a pub (reception) which were filled with beds in the lounge area. We met an odd Canadian who kept trying to fill our heads with facts about Canada. Craig wants to verify all of these because he is sure that some aren't true. Craig and I wandered around the city that night and onto a bridge which looked over the Rhein to the Dom, it was pretty amazing.






The Dom (cathedral) of K÷ln (Cologne)

From K÷ln we headed north to Kiel (the capital of Schleswig Holstein) which is a major shipping centre for Germany and where manners were a little lacking. Not much English here although they do seems to be trying to make this into some sort of tourist centre with new walkways etc. We left here pretty early keen to get on our way to Odense. We didn't really get a huge chance here to fill ourselves with German culture but we will be coming through Germany again later.



best wishes from
   Bronwyn
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  11 Aug
03
 

   After Belgium we headed to the tiny little country of Luxembourg. Most of the last hour of the train ride was really gorgeous. I suspect if you went that way a lot it would become mundane, but a newcomer to the area I really enjoyed the soft hills, the pine forests and the small towns that passed my window. We headed straight for the hostel and found it intertwinned with a building site, hence no washing or cooking facilities. The guy at the desk was most helpful in pointing out things to see in the town, except the restaurant he recommended was closed on Sundays.

   The first tourist thing we did once we started walking around the city was The Casemates. You┤ll need to read up on the history of Luxembourg to get the full story. Essentially this is part of the old fortifications that they couldn┤t dismantle and involves lots of under ground tunnels.
Watch this video (3mb)
Back in day light we walked the little streets and admired the small palace and government buildings. In the square where we stopped for dinner a panpipe band were playing. I really like panpipe music, especially moody stuff, so although this was very wrong for Luxembourg, it was very right for me.

   Nothing much happened in the morning, but I did manage to get one of each of the Euro coins from Luxembourg as requested by a certain B&B owner in England. I┤ll bring them to you in October :-)


best wishes from
   Craig
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  10 Aug
03
 

OK, we are in Belgium still in a beautiful place centuries old. Bruges (or Brugge) is a town which has lots of churches, lace and really, really good chocolate. Craig and I spent 2 nights there staying in a hostel next door to the rowing club, a wind farm and a drawbridge. The hostel was nice (depsite the fact I arrived to fine my mattress covered in dog pee) and Marcel the owner was very friendly. The barmaid was not very nice (she had a dog) but she was in the minority. When we got on the bus the bus driver spoke english, arranged the cheapest tiket for us gave us timetables and the girl on the bus even helped eith the best bus to catch on Sunday (trickier than you think when half the buses don't run on Sunday). Craig and I sepnt a whole day wandering around the town and looking at bridges and canals and trying to decide if we wanted to catch the bus to Holland. We didn't in the end but it was cool that we could if we wanted. We have lots of belgian chocolates that we are slowly eating on the trains,Yum!


best wishes from
   Bronwyn
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  8 Aug
03
 

   To begin with I am sorry for the spelling mistakes, all the keys are in different places. As Craig finished we headed to Angouleme, a place we picked to stop because it was convenient. We booked an HI hostel (YHA) and headed to it, the guy when we booked advised to catch bus number 7 or 9, but we could not find a bus stop and the tourist office had closed so we walked for a bit. We found a bus stop that seemed to be on the route but for future travellers to Angouleme it is faster and much simpler to walk. They named several bus stops Denis Papin and the circuit does a complicated one way route. The hostel was on on island in the middle of a canal and had bugs, lots and lots of bugs and no curtains. The man at the hostel could not answer any questions about the town so we walked up the hill and had dinner. Angouleme however was a beautiful town at night, with spires and a really safe feel about it.

   From Angouleme we were meant to go to St Malo but we couldn't get accomodation so we stayed in Rennes. Rennes is the fourth largest town in France but is not mentioned in our Lonely Planet guides. We were even lucky enough to have an American tour group staying at the hostel and a group of intellectually handicapped people. One of the young fellows felt it was necessary to stare at me whenever he could, another just like to sit and stare at Craigs watch, all of 10 cm away from the watch face.

   From Rennes we went to Mont Saint Michel(GoogleEarthLink). I would highly recommend going there but it is touristy so it is better to take some food. This island is now attached to land by a long road that gets flooded each time there is a spring tide. It has nuns and monks and the live in the abbey right at the top and there is a village below (well more of a winding path with buildings filling the gaps). It is really an amazing sight and it is staggering to think it has been occupied for 1300 years. That night we got stopped in the street by a stranger who wanted us to savour our ice creams on the top of our mouths!!!!!






Mont Saint Michel


   Today, Craig and I travelled through Paris (coming back later) to Brussels and we are heading to Brugge/Bruges. We have spent the afternoon looking around Brussels eating frites with mayonnaise and seriously wondering about the belgians. We just saw a statue of a boy peeing (Manneken Pis) and they seem to dress it up for Xmas etc???






The world famous Manneken Pis


best wishes from
   Bronwyn
Wish you were here?     (1 replies so far)



  4 Aug
03
 

   We left Madrid on another night train, and had to share with some rather rude Spaniards who liked to have the door open and smoke in the hallway. I put a stop to that pretty quickly I assure you. Though we had paid for a cabin with beds, none of them on the carriage were ready and were all folded down into seats. Being clever little Kiwis Bron and I fixed it up without a worry and though I tried to tell the other cabins what they were missing out on I think it fell on deaf ears.

   In Bilbao we dropped our stuff off at the hostel (a very nice hostel run by the YHA infact) and headed for the Guggenheim Museum. I enjoyed this a lot more than Madrid, there were huge sculptures on the first floor, lots of mobiles on the second and the coolest peice of art ever on the third. The art to which I refer is an 11ft high shiny blue steel balloon dog by Jeff Koons. The plaque said it was version 1 of 4, so I have a new mission in life. To see the other three, and preferably own at least one of them :-)

   The next day we took a bus to San Sebastian on the advice of the train guy, it was fast and direct, just what we wanted. According to the train guy there we had to wait four hours and pay six Euros to cross the border to France. Luckily eagle-eyed Bronwyn had spotted a tourist info place, and they pointed us to a private metro system that got us there in less than half an hour for just over one Euro. Can you see why I hate the Spanish train system?

   Returning to France was great, the reservations were cheap, the system was reliable and best of all I was able to speak to the train guy in his language and understand his response. Ever since I have been decoding as many of the station announcements as I can and I think my French is improving a bit. But only marginally.

photo added August 20th

The giant flower dog at the Guggenheim, Bilbao

best wishes from
   Craig
Wish you were here?     (2 replies so far)



  3 Aug
03
 

   Well I have started my Eurail pass and now I have 2 months of trains to look forward to. Last night we took a night train and it had airconditioning and lights, the people in the cabin next door didn┤t. Luckily we had a pretty good nights sleep.

   Craig and I are spending a day in Madrid on the way to Bilbao. We went to Museo del Prado which is an art museum and it holds a very famous painting called Las Meninas by Velazquez. What makes this painting cool is it is painted from the point of view of the King and Queen who are having their portrait done by Velazquez. So, you can see Velazquez painting the portrait, you can see the royal subjects watching the king and queen, an odd midget, and the king and queens reflection in the mirror at the back of the room. Even better still the Museum was free because it was Sunday.

   There is also a couple of paintings by Goya, the famous ones are kinda disturbing (civil war type death scenes) but there is a portrait of a nice young lady that Goya was commissioned to paint but he had an affair with her and made a second nude painting for himself! This is thought to be Spains richest woman in Goya┤s time. A bit of a player, and you can even visit his tomb but Craig and I held ourselves back.

   We also went to the markets and admired the old Royal Palace (Bree I looked for a tall dark prince type but they were lacking), sat in a park and then went hunting for airconditioning and spent an hour buying shampoo and burning photos to CD. Tomorrow we are going to Bilbao and from there we keep changing our minds. Who knows what after that.


best wishes from
   Bronwyn
Wish you were here?     (3 replies so far)




Art work and site design by Craig Stanton. Entries written by Craig Stanton, Bronwyn Leak and Nina Lindsay. All rights reserved. © 2003