Part 2 of our trip to Europe last summer!
The Euro Disney part of the trip was very expensive and the Disney hotel we’d stayed in hadn’t had a renovation or update since I stayed there with my parents in 1992 it was like going into a time warp! Oscar was also a bit too young to enjoy most of the rides (which was ok but it will still school holidays and super busy during the day) – it was also France’s only summer heat wave so we only really spent time in the park during the mornings.
In Megeve we had a great house that didn’t have much in it to break and in Switzerland the house was an AirBnB that was owned by people with a 4 year old so lots of things for Oscar to do.
What the video doesn’t show is how narrow the streets were in France and Switzerland! We got a Volvo as a hire car and it wasn’t long before I put a big dent into it in a car park in Evian!
I took the recently repaired video camera away on holiday with us and had a bit of fun trying to get over jet lag by making this video, hope you enjoy it.
We got a phone call from Qantas asking us if we wanted to upgrade our flight to business class for the first leg of our flight using our Qantas points. It turned out to be the biggest mistake in air travel I could have made. Not because it is not worth it, it is. Sitting upstairs on a 747 with only 19 other people at the front of the plane no where near the engines and in a seat that has more leg room than you need and the ability to make the seat turn into a bed is simply amazing. But then comes the sudden realization that this is a one off luxury for us and that after this flight we would have to return to economy class. Not knowing what is like to be a heroin junkie I think being a business class junkie is probably a very similar infliction that I now have to deal with. I spent the majority of our time in Singapore trying to figure out how we were going to upgrade our flight to London to business and trying to figure our how much extra cash I would be happy to part with for that business travel luxury. When we got back to Changi airport I approached the customer service desk and asked “how much???” the guy punched in our current flight details and then did a little laugh and said “it is going to be expensive” we did a little laugh back he then went over to his assistants desk and they typed some more and then he said “oh gosh” and then said it is going to cost 6…2….4… And I thought “Yes! We can afford it” then he said …9… each. Which comes to about $18 a minute for an eleven hour flight. So back to the drawing board with those upgrade ideas.
Business vs. Economy
Singapore was fun and a nice way to break up the flight. We stayed at a hotel called the New Majestic which was a boutique hotel near the chinese district of Singapore. All the rooms are designed by local artists and we got a room which reminded me of Austin Powers –
New Majestic Room 310
We spent the majority of time shopping in Singapore. Going to some of the shops which Australia doesn’t have like Zara and Marks and Spencer.
After a very good flight from Singapore, mostly due to the fact we purchased some of those head pillows in the departure lounge of Singapore which allowed us to sleep for a full 8 hours we arrived in London at 5am, one of the first flights to arrive at Heathrow but very quickly followed by lots more. We got a hire car thanks to my Mum paying for one for us and headed to Novotel where we got a day rate to allow us to have a rest and a shower for El and Al’s wedding which we were attending later that day in the village of Bentley, Surrey. It was a fantastic large wedding in a converted oat house / barn. We met up with Mike and Rach and baby Mia at the wedding which was great fun.
El and Al’s Wedding
We couldn’t stay all night because the jetlag was getting too much so we drove back to Warwickshire in a haze of tiredness for a 5 am start the next day to go to the Royal International Air Tatto at RAF Fairford. We left early in the morning and arrived in typical British summer style to pouring rain. It didn’t seem to bother anyone apart from Amy who said “it wasn’t normal” for everyone to be walking around on almost sideways driving rain without really caring or noticing it. We saw some fantastic air displays of some fighter jets as well as a load of static aircraft which included the B2 bomber. We left the air show early and had our first Sunday pub lunch yummy.
RAF Fairford Air Tattoo
The next day we went with my parents for lunch at Lapstone and visited the village where Bridget Jones was filmed and then had a look at the lavendar fields at Snowshill which were very nice. In the evening we went and visited Ki, Weronika and William in Stratford and Gin cane around also. We reminicised about the good old days and said hello to the new baby. We are pretty sure Ki woke the baby for it to see us although apparently his eyes were already open when he went in to get it.
Weronika, Ki, William, Amy and Gin in Stratford-upon-Avon
We watched and interesting program that my Dad recorded on TV about how Britain works from a logistical perspective, one of the more interesting parts of the program was there is a guy at the national power grid that sits and watches Eastenders and waits for the ending credits at which time he has to turn on additional hydro power generators in Scotland and also borrow additional power from Nuclear energy rich France to power all of the kettles that get turned on almost simultaneously at the end of the soap episode, a phenomenon that only happens in the UK.
We drove to Bristol to hit the banksy exhibition at the Bristol City Museum. There was a two and a half hour queue to get in which was very civilised and went quickly. It was worth the wait as it was a fantastic exhibition. You needed to have a sharp eye as a lot of the banksy stuff was merged into the permanent displays. I was hoping at the end we would be able to gt a nice Banksy print but I do not think that was Banksy style as one of his artworks was called “exit through the gift shop”.
Amy at Banksy Exhibition
After our visit to Bristol to see the exhibition we drove back via Cheltenham to catch up with T-Bone (Chris), Issy, Dylan and Natasha at their house. They used to live in Sydney so it was good to see them all getting on so well back in England. They’d even started a vegetable patch in the garden –
Chris and Issy in Cheltenham
The next day it was my birthday and we celebrated with my parents and Earl by visiting Crabmill at Preston Bagot which is still one of my favourite restaurants in Warwickshire. –
Birthday at Crabmill
The next few days my parents, Amy and I went on a trip to the South of France via the Eurostar and TGV, which was a fun experience at I’d never been on the Eurostar. It is very quick and a bit surreal getting on a train in London and getting off of it in Paris. Our first stop was to visit Madame Huet in Provence about an hour north of Toulon which is where we got the train to. We hired a Citreon C4 which was a nice little car and fun to drive on the “wrong” side of the road. One of the towns near Madame Huet’s house is a tourist town called Le Castellet, we had lunch up there and did some shopping around the shops and enjoyed the view and fantastic weather –
I used to spend summers at Madame Huet’s house and it was very nice, having not visited for around 12-13 years it was nice to see not much had changed. We had dinner with Madame Huet and their friends who made some fantastic food –
Madame Huet’s House with 1000 Layers Cake
After two days in Provence we went down to Nice which is on the French Rivera and stayed for two nights at the hotel where Mark and Karine had their wedding, we even had dinner at Le Castel the restaurant right on the beach which was very nice. We visited the old town of Nice and took a road trip around to see Villefranche, Monte-Carlo and Monaco. We didn’t get to see Mark and Karine because they live in Brussels but some good news is Karine is having another baby to join Monsieur Felix!
In Monaco we took a wrong turn and I was looking for a gap where I could do a u-turn back to the main road we just turned off. I found the gap but unfortunetly it turned out to be infront of a police station, so as soon as I was at point two of my three point turn a police man came out and told me I wasn’t allowed to do it. It turns out Monaco has the largest police force in the world per-capita and per-area (512 officers for a 2km squared area) so the chances of getting caught were against me. I also drove a part of the Monaco GP track which was fun although my speed was probably around 40km/h rather than 240km/h.
We headed back and made a quick stop off in London where we visited Matt for pizza which was good fun –
Matt and Pizza at Berkeley Square
We did a quick shop around London and even managed to get a London Pride Pint in at a pub somewhere in Mayfair –
Pint and Selfridges
We also visited a restaurant called Ping Pong which is a small Dim Sum chain only in London, you can’t order bad food from the menu and the fruit flavoured teas are a speciality and its all a very resonable price. Here’s Amy and I in Ping Pong in Soho –
Amy and me in Ping Pong Dim Sum
Altogether we had a fantastic but exhausting holiday taking in so many locations in such a short period of time. We could have done with some more time and it all seemed over very quickly. The flight back was not too bad, it was much quicker than our last return flight with China Eastern, we left my parents house at 16h30 on Friday and were back in Manly at 7h15 on Sunday.
A short video of Prague to get a feel of what the place is like in motion, set to some classic Czech style music, I think –
Or download a higher quality WMV (17meg) of the video for a crisper experience.
On our second day in Prague we hit the tourist walk which took us to all the major sites of the city. It is actually quite a small place so only takes a day to walk around, we even got to go inside a castle!
We headed out of a great hotel and walk alongside the Vltava River and headed fo for the biggest castle complex in Europe –
First off we walked through a park with a giant swinging pendalum in it. The park was covered in graffiti which spoiled it a little bit but when we got to the castle it was a different story. After walking around the castle and having an apple strudel and macchiato at an overpriced cafe we walked this stair way back down towards the city centre and over the Charles Bridge, famous in recent times for being the film location for Linkin Parks ‘Numb’, INXS ‘Never tear us apart’ and Kanye West’s ‘Diamonds are forever’.
Amy and stairs from Prague Castle
After hitting the Charles Bridge we walked past the ‘Astronomical Clock’ which was pretty amazing, we actually saw it the day before but didn’t realise what it was as we weren’t as clued up on the historical sites of Prague at that time –
Astronomical Clock in Prague
That night we headed out for dinner at a nice restaurant which had live music playing, Amy had traditional Czech food “Shoulder of Pork with Dumplings and Cabbage” where I went for the even more traditional Czech dish of Spaghetti Bolognaise.
Czech Repulic Favourite Car
We went back to the airport the next day in even colder temperatures with snow falling all around us (in a luxury Skoda). Prague is a great city and really nice to go at Christmas time as it appears the drunken louts don’t come at this time of year!
Sorry for the strange aspect ratio on the pictures but this is the way it will be until we can get a new pocket camera!
UK airport security has reached “ridiculous” on the threat level stages, you are only allowed to take on board one bag and anything you have that has 125ml of liquid must go into a plastic bag and if your hand luggage weighs more than 10kg then back to the check in desk for you! A guy in front of us had his bag weighed and it was 12kg so he wasn’t allowed through security. When you finally think you’ve got through the metal detectors and the bag x-ray you get to another security checkpoint where you have to take your shoes off and they go through an x-ray machine. Then when you think your finally into the shopping area of the terminal you go through another security checkpoint where your greeted by police which semi-automatic machine guns and the spanish inquisition.
On the flight over to Prague you can see the fields from the plane going from a nice green colour to an icy white colour. The temperature in Prague is mild to say the least, the first thing we did after arriving in the country was to buy some mulled wine from a little market stall, here’s Amy buying some with the temp. gauge at a freezing minus six degrees –
Amy, Mulled Wine and -6 degrees
We had a walk around with our mulled wine and checked out the square near the Powder Tower which is one of the sights in Prague, here is me outside one of the buildings in the square wrapped up for the cold –
Cold with Mulled Wine
We walked on a little more and looked for a restaurant to get dinner from, there is a lot of choice and some amazing architecture in the city, this is another square we came across that was selling all sorts of food and drink. It had a stage with a choir singing Christmas songs which was very nice.
We eventually found a pizza place which was off of the main square down another little side street. It had some amazing decor, here is Amy and me enjoying some lovely authentic Prague Pizza?
We went into a mall to look for some drinks and came across another C&A Shanghai style. We tried to take a photo outside of it but then the camera tumbled out of our hands and onto the floor from which point it has ceased to work 🙁
Looking forward to tomorrow day time to get out and see the sights of Prague and maybe some even see some snow!
A little winter trip was much needed to get away from the London coldness blues, so we hit Sardinia, which is an island just off of Italy (you can see it here). It was a beautiful little trip and very cheap costing only £80. Although it was out of season so no sun batheing was taking place and we almost got kicked out of the hotel by setting off the fire alarm (I had one of my epic showers that caused such a heat build up that when I opened the bathroom door it triggered the temperature increase detector to set off the alarm – the hotel staff didn’t know it was possible).
In fact it rained a little bit so we got a hire car which was named ‘bug’, because of its quriky characteristics, such as the strange sounds it made when you indicated (sounded like a game of pong on acid).
I really enjoyed driving on the right hand side of the road, I’m definetly going to try and get the UK to change to left hand drive cars it just feels right!
Oh yeah and guess what Sardinia has….
Lots of rocks though and no surf board so didn’t bother checking out any of the spots, it was a bit windy anyway so they were probably all blown out. We went to a little place called Neptune’s Grotto which is a really magical place that is right at the bottom of a cliff face with 642 steps –
A long way down
Once at sea level the swell from the ocean was hitting the entrace to the cave and we had to wait for the guide to tell us it was safe to cross the entrance, as the water comes over the path and into the grotto. The ocean was pretty rough and you could hear it crashing against the side of the rocks. However, once in the grotto it was very very quiet and a little bit surreal –
The lines on the far wall show where the ocean once lapped against the walls of the grotto during the penultimate interglacial period 125,000 years ago, when the oceans where four metres higher than they are today and people lived on hills.
A nice little trip to Italy where I tasted my first Italian pizza (taste just like they do at Pizza Express) and my first Italian cappuccino (tastes just like they do at Starbucks).
Rock on next mainland Europe trip!!!!!!!!!!
If there’s one thing I’ll learn from the couple of days spent in Germany, that is that there’s no such thing as the Nürnberg Ring, a fantasy location that I had wanted to visit on my trip over. Apparently the Nürburgring is some 400km away. The reason for going to Nürnberg was for work and so I was invited to go over with Mark and Dave for the trip.
Here are Mark, Dave and myself enjoying some fish food (which I was sure wasn’t good to eat pre flying) at Stansted airport before taking off –
We flew Air Berlin who are probably the worst airline I’ve ever flown. They wouldn’t let you take a bag as hand luggage even if it was the right size if it weighed more than 6kg!! We boarded the half empty plane and flew over to Nurnberg. The next morning, early and before the working day had started we took a very short tour of Nurnberg and visited the towns best attraction; the castle. Here is Dave and Mark outside the castle –
I can’t talk about the work stuff really because that’s all corporate corporation stuff, but here is a shot of my German collegues having a fast paced game of that game where you have to smash the puck towards each other. This was in a rock bar somewhere in Nurnberg on my last night there which was great fun –
The flight back with Air Berlin was pretty funny. I got told by the overstressed checkin desk lady that the flight was to make an unscheduled stop in Leipzig (North East of Nurnberg) before continuing for London. I asked the sales desk if there was any compensation for such a diversion and landing 2 hours behind schedule, however, I was told “no”. I fell asleep for most of the flight anyway so it wasn’t too bad. However, on approach to London I noticed that it was a fairly foggy evening. I was concerned that the pilot was suffering from ‘get-there-itus’ and really became concerned after seeing the plane make some last minute adjustments as I could see the lights of the airport not too far away. The plane hit the ground hard and some people gave a little shriek, the plane then hit the ground again and came to a normal stop which everyone was happy about. Some child on the plane shouted to his mate sitting a few rows back “I think that was a crash landing!”. I was more nervous about the landing after recently watching this video of an MD-11 crash landing in a typhoon at Kai Tak, Hong Kong 1993 (do not watch if you are even remotely scared of flying).
Over and out.
A great weekend spent at an undisclosed location in the world (not Ireland) where I drank some beer in small glasses –
Undisclosed Beer Drinking Location
On another note met Matt (here/here/here and here) at Gloucester Road tube station for a quick beer on the way back from the airport as he was in town for the weekend. Which seems strange because Matt lives on Maroubra Beach in Sydney, Australia!? Well the good news is Matt took his piloting skills to the next level and now works for an international airline doing short little trips from Sydney – Singapore – London. So it was good to see my Australia surfing buddy in foggy London town for a couple of hours on a Monday night!! Made me miss Australia a lot, especially when he told me he was going to Seal Rocks with Rach and Mike next Saturday morning.. four days away!!! –
Matt Bass in Foggy London
Ahh memories… until the next time!!!!!
I was at an undisclosed location this weekend. Can you guess where it is?