Friday, 19 December 2008

Kent's 2c/2p worth

On our last day here in Ipswich we have put together a little list of our favourite times and places so far. Ten favourites in each of East Anglia; the rest of Britain; and the rest of where we’ve been.

EAST ANGLIA:


  1. Portman Road - website here
  2. Dayboat on the Broads - website here
  3. Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival - website here
  4. Framlingham Castle - website here
  5. Sutton Hoo - website here
  6. Aldeburgh - website here
  7. Bury St Edmunds in Spring - website here
  8. Orford Castle -website here
  9. Lavenham - website here
  10. Sizewell - details here


BRITAIN
(not in EA):


  1. Winding the worlds largest Trebuchet at Warwick Castle
  2. Blaenavon Iron Works
  3. Kent and East Sussex Railroad (KESR) and Bodiam Castle
  4. Lakes Hiking
  5. Battle Abbey walk
  6. Live performance of Romeo and Juliet on the banks of the Avon in Stratford upon Avon
  7. Old Hastings and Smugglers Adventure
  8. Live Music - Spice Girls, Stevie Wonder, Ronan Keating, Script, Nickelback, Keane, Sugababes, Scouting For Girls, The Feeling and James Morrison.
  9. Harold's Stones and Tinkinswood Burial Chamber (nr Cardiff)
  10. London

REST OF PLACES SO FAR:


  1. Ponto Final – Little restaurant on the Almada side of Lisbon’s Tagus River
  2. St Mary’s Bacilica, Krakow, Poland
  3. Armoury at Wawel Hill, Krakow and the view over the Vistula River
  4. North Coast and Malahide Castle tour, Dublin
  5. Sea Safari Tour from Dublin
  6. The beautiful town of Le Quesnoy, France
  7. Jaulny Castle B&B near Pont-a-Mousson
  8. Ypres, Menin Gate and Tyne Cot, Belgium
  9. The Celebrity Constellation cruise ship
  10. Danish Resistance Museum, Copenhagen
  11. Peter the Great and Catherine the Great's crypts; Peter and Paul Fortress; Bridges; Bus Lady in St Petersburg
  12. Vasa Museum, Stockholm
  13. I’m sure we did something interesting in Tallinn, Estonia!
  14. Bergen flight Northern Germany
  15. 175kph [legal] in 1.4ltr Scoda wagon, Autobahn, Germany

Yes, we know, there's a few too many in that last one, but they're all just so good.

Anyway, we'll post soon, in the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas!
Kent & Eryn x

Friday, 12 December 2008

PLANS

Hello again... the countdown is on, and we both finish work for good on the 19th of Dec - hooray! Am quite looking forward to not having to drive anywhere at the exact time that everyone else in the immediate vicinity decides to do the same... unless we want to, of course.
In theory, we've been packing and organising frantically, but in reality, things are slightly behind schedule, so the coming week will be far more hectic - although, we've done this packing everything up thing before, and it's not nearly as big a job this time around...phew!
Last weekend I decided to sack off organising and buggered off for a long weekend in Paris instead... Kent gets motion sickness, so opted out, as the main destination was Disneyland, he (quite rightly) assumed I would want to go on all the rides. I have to say it wasn't quite as big as I was expecting, but definitely still fantastic... my inner 8 year old was captivated by the castle, especially seeing as it's all decorated for Christmas - probably one of the most magical sights I've ever seen. Our second day there was at Walt Disney Studios, which wasn't quite as magical, but the rides were even better, especially the Tower of Terror and the Aerosmith Rock n Rollercoaster... more fun than you can shake a stick at. The only downside was that the second day was Saturday, so it was terribly busy and we had to queue for over an hour-and-a-half for each of those. Worth it though.
The next two days, Susie News and I spent in the city... despite all the awful things I've been told by numerous people, Paris is NOT a dump, and I didn't encounter ANY rude people. I honestly think it's all in how you approach them, and without very few exceptions, people were friendly and helpful - a woman even approached us in the Metro when she saw us looking at the map because she thought we might need help... such a relief!
We did all the standard tourist fodder: Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, a river cruise, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, a wander past the Louvre, a trip on the big ferris wheel thingy, the Christmas Markets, and a visit to a huge department store to see the really big Christmas tree that I'd seen in other people's photos, but failed to locate via google - a lucky guess took us to it.
I loved the place, and could happily spend longer there - it's beautiful, and we didn't really have enough time to look at more of the history (and I think Susie might have got a bit bored of that!)... but there's always next time, I suppose. A few photos are here:

It was a bit of a shame that the weather wasn't particularly nice; our first stop off at the Eiffel Tower was a bit of a non-event, as you couldn't even see the top because of the fog... it was still a bit cloudy the next day, but at least you could see the ground from the top... it is a LONG way up there, or at least it feels a long way in the lift, which just seems to go up forever.
I managed to somehow damage my train ticket one of the days, so I had to jump the turnstiles to get out - no one even batted an eyelid! I did ask at the information desk but the lady said it should work and not to worry... so I had to jump again on the way back to the train - not the most dignified look when I'm not quite so bendy as I used to be!
We're home now, with a week before we leave for Sheffield, then a couple of weeks in Scotland, before we head to Istanbul for a week in the middle of January... which I'm hoping will be warmer, although apparently they have winter in Turkey too, so we may have to wait just a little longer to thaw out! From there we have two weeks in the South and West of England, then a week in Marrakech, Morrocco (again, hoping for warmth, but probably not going to get it) and a week with friends near Bergen, Norway... where it will be extra cold and dark for us... and that's not even half of our holiday yet! Safe to say we'll be well tired by the time we hit terra firma in May...
Take care,
Kent & Eryn x

Sunday, 30 November 2008

I can't think of a name for this

Man, it is DARK here now... come 4pm, it's virtually pitch black outside - it's not really hard to understand why misery is common in winter here. I heard somewhere that the sun north of Peterborough is so weak that there's no vitamin D in it... might be a myth, but interesting all the same.
The start of November was a bit damp, to say the least. Angus & Janet came up for the night one Friday, and after a drive to a town with dodgy name, Kent managed to convince them to got to the football with him in the afternoon (Janet didn't seem best pleased when she realised that not going was an option, especially as it was pouring as I dropped them off - she seemed even less pleased after the game, as a result of the delightful language football fans like to hurl at the opposition, the ref, the goalie, other fans, etc).
That Saturday night was a big public (although not free) fireworks display at the park by our house. Mother Nature co-operated by rolling in the thunder clouds and opening the heavens...despite this, there were still thousands of people there, and the fireworks were very pretty. The station I'm based at had a stage so we went along, dressed in all the thermals I could find, to help hand out glow sticks and get drenched - fun.
My Aunty Paula came over for a flying visit, under the guise of keeping an eye on my 18 year old cousin, who had a work conference in Amsterdam. I met her in London and we had a couple of days being touristy, which was fabulous. Kent really doesn't like the city, and I do, so it was a good way of me seeing more without having to drag him along too... We started at Buckingham Palace, where Aunty P's camera promptly decided that it couldn't really be bothered to take photos - lucky there's not much in London town to take pics of then. It also started raining. Being the tough tourists we are, this did not halt our plans at all, and I made her walk to Hyde Park corner to have a look at the war memorials (the Australian one does out-flash the NZ one, but both are lovely), then down to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, across the river and past the London Eye. The next day we managed to get 3/4 of the way up St Paul's Cathedral, through the Tower of London, complete with a Beefeater/Yeoman Warder (just like on the gin!) tour guide who was just brilliant, to the switch on of the Regent St Christmas lights and then to Chicago - the show, obviously, not the city. It was great, just like the Sound of Music show, which we saw the night before (think I would need reining in if I lived there - there are sooo many shows to choose from every night).
We had an early start to get to the airport for a flight to Amsterdam the following day, and navigated the public transport to get to our hotel in one piece and quite quickly - not a bad achievement as this sort of thing usually falls under Kent's list of responsibilities, and I tend to be a bit rubbish at map-reading etc. The camera is also usually Kent's thing, so I cleverly left this with him in Ipswich for safekeeping - not smart, but at least I didn't leave it at the airport this time.
We had a wander in to the middle of the city, which, like most cities in Europe, comes complete with canals and pretty buildings - I thought it was lovely, and instantly felt guilty for not wanting to go there earlier.
There were only 2 ports of call planned for Amsterdam - the first was the Anne Frank Museum, which we wandered through in the afternoon. It's in the actual building the Frank family and others were hiding in for much of WWII. Anne's father survived Auschwitz (she died in Bergen-Belsen one month before the camp was liberated) and was responsible for publishing her diary and creating the museum. It was very well done and good to see, but in that uncomfortable, upsetting way that anything to do with the war is - but maybe that's just me
The second was completely different, but very predictable - the Red Light District. As you might imagine, it's not marked on the city map, so we meandered around a bit, wondering where the action was.. this continued for about half an hour until one of us spotted a shop selling all sorts of eyebrow-raising bits and pieces, followed by another, and another until we encountered one of the windows you hear so much about... Interesting to note the girls were mostly quite gorgeous, but not always 'all' woman; one of these girls with a, errr, bulge in her knickers did waggle her finger at Aunty P and beckon her towards the window. Naturally, the pair of us giggled like a pair of schoolgirls and walked a bit faster... it was eye-opening, for sure!
It was only a flying visit, so the next morning we headed back to the airport and I came back to Blighty, while they carried on to Paris and Rome.
The next weekend, Kent wanted his refereeing immortalised/photographed, so I braved the chilly wind and racked up over 800 photos in an hour and a half - thank you, continuous shooting. Here are some of the more successful ones (and other assorted pics):


Of these, about 5 were actually ok... that's 0.6%, so I don't think Annie Leibowitz has anything to worry about as yet.
Aunty P and Anna arrived back in London a week later, which coincided nicely with Angus and Janet's leaving party, and Angus's birthday at the Southerner bar, which was a very NZ-y night. It was kinda nice to finally be in a room full of people who talk proper and don't laugh when you say 'excellent'!
Quite a busy month... and it's getting busier as we start sorting ourselves out to leave work and Ipswich in less than 3 weeks - eek!
We've just booked our flights home, which was a bit depressing, but I imagine by the time the 4th May rolls around and we've been living out of our backpacks for months, we'll be ready to get back to the real world...
Anyway, enough about us, got any gossip?
K & E x

Monday, 27 October 2008

The blog is back

Hiya... so we haven't posted for a while as we didn't think there was anything exciting to report - but things have been happening...
Kent's brother got married on the 11th and we missed it - am gutted. The photos are great, and it's wonderful that with digital etc we could see them a couple of days afterwards - not the same a s the real thing though. It's the second wedding we've missed... this whole OE thing is great, but missing out on days like that isn't so much.
I had to make my third call to the emergency services last weekend, after a car swerved in front of me on the motorway and hit the hard shoulder, flipping over twice in the air, then disappearing into some trees... it was pretty scary, especially picking my way through the bushes trying to find the vehicle whilst on the phone to the nice police chap, convinced I was going to find dead people - surprisingly, the two (late teens) boys were up and about, chatting like nothing had even happened. Hopefully that was just the shock and the whole thing gave them a bloody big fright... I had to give a statement to the police and agree to testify incase they go to court for dangerous driving. I'm hoping they see sense and just plead guilty so I don't have to.
As if the drama factor wasn't high enough after that little incident, we noticed a couple of bizarre transactions while checking our bank account online a couple of days later, and discovered that somehow we've been the victims of credit card fraud - to the tune of about £900. Thankfully, the bank, who have been a bit crap in the past, were really good and blocked my card, which they made me chop up (the first time I've had to do that!) and they've refunded our money, so no harm done long term -but a bit worrying. Kent has convinced himself it's because I bought perfume online - although when I emailed to let that site know they might like to check their security, they assured us it wasn't them and agreed to help the bank out in their investigations, so who knows?
We've also had the delightful incident of Kent forgetting to pick me up from work... because he also forgot he had the car and got a ride home from work himself...oops, his bad! They lock the college at night, so he had to cycle to work the next morning - and it's pretty hilly, for Suffolk.
Not too many photos this time round, although we've just bought a sexy new DSLR (that's flash like a fancy film camera, only digital), under the guise that we can get someone to use it at our wedding... but mostly for Kent to play with.
Our big trip next year is coming together nicely, we both finish work on the 19th of December and then it's off in to the big wide world for 4 1/2 months of no work...bliss!

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Strap yourself in... it's a catchup!

Ok... In a complete turnaround, I'm going to attempt to fill you in as quickly as I can... a novel may still follow...
I managed to snare tickets to see Stevie Wonder at the O2 a couple of weeks back, much to the chagrin of a couple of my workmates, and he was awesome! It was his first tour of the UK in ten years or something, and initially I was a little un-engaged as he played a LOT of album tracks - slow ones, at that! - but he rolled out about an hour of hits at the end, which was just fantastic... and free, so it doesn't get much better than that.
The next week it was back to the O2 for Nickelback (another blag - I'm getting rather better at this now!), which I'd jacked up for Kent months ago, after he insisted on watching the 'Rock Star' video on YouTube over and over and over again... They were just amazing live - a notch above anyone I've seen live in the last few years - and there were a couple of families there with younger kids who were really getting into their airguitars - it was supercute!


We met our friends Jordan & Jax at the tube station afterwards and brought them back to Ipswich with us.
The next day was beautiful, so we drove to Hickling Broad and hired a boat for half a day for a bit of a cruise around... we've done this before, and probably will again - it's great - so be warned, if you're planning a visit anytime soon!


Some of my workmates had a flatwarming that night, so it was, ahem, a fairly late night/early morning for all bar Kent, who is far more restrained. This proved to be quite handy as he got up early to cook us all a wicked breakky before we wandered into the park and then drove to Flatford, just down the motorway from us in Constable Country for a picnic... people have been urging us for months to pop down, as it's rather pretty, and quite peaceful. We had a lovely wander in the sun before dropping J & J back at the train station.
In other news, we had to call the police (thank goodness we had to call them while I was at work, as the emergency number here is different than at home!) after our neighbours decided to have a rather loud fist fight outside... in the middle of the afternoon. Luckily no one was seriously injured, after my hero Kent intervened and pulled one off the other... and was promptly accused of being racist as one of them happens to be dark-skinned. Ah, you just can't win, can you?

Oh yes and Kent's been to two football games this week... Ipswich Town lost both of them... perhaps he's a jinx for them?!

It's been lovely again today, so we went to Sutton Hoo, which is an Anglo-Saxon burial ground, where archaeologists unearthed a massive burial ship just before WWII. There's quite a lot of evidence to suggest it's the one holding Raedwald, who was King of East Anglia in the 600s - it was pretty cool, and there's a great story that the old woman who lived on the farm there kept having dreams about a huge burial procession for a King and so funded the digging... personally, I'd have thought the unusual mounds in the field on her otherwise flat farm might have been a giveaway, but it's nice to have a story.
Incidentally, it's between Sutton Hoo and Orford Castle, where we went next, that I found apples that actually taste like apples... let's face it, they've been a bit rubbish for ages, but we drove up a narrow dirt path and found a farm that sold them...mmmmmm... they tasted exactly like the ones we had as kids.
Orford Castle was also pretty cool. I have to confess that I do get a little 'castled out' at times, thankfully this one is almost a 'castlette' - it's still standing, but only one really big tower and a couple of small ones attached to the main one. It's good and tall, so there are amazing views of the north of Suffolk from the top; especially good views from the bit of the top Kent climbed over the fence to take a video of... I think he thinks he's Indiana Jones... or Lara Croft?
Not mega-quick, but not too bad to sum up the last few weeks... we'll spend the next few planning Christmas (sorry, but someone has to be the first to use that word) and my trip to Disneyland Paris with Susie News - YAY!
Take care,
Eryn x

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Last weekend of Summer

The camping ground was in Mablethorpe, one of those delightful old English seaside resorts. You know the type, five permanent residents and 20,000 caravans. It was about as interesting as American Football (sorry Jayse). The camping ground was nice but we did nothing else there.
The first day we visited Louth, which is supposedly a “foodie” kind of place. - there was a little food market in the centre. We had soup for lunch from one of those old cafes - the type of café that doesn’t have a grave accent. Had a bunch of gossiping old ladies in it and white bread.
The first of the weekend's castles was Bolingbroke. It's another of the castles that pillock Oliver Cromwell trashed in his one man culture purge. It was a squat but impressive moated castle. It was wesieged and taken by an army, then including the lowly ranked MP Oliver Cromwell. The battles around this particular castle would be the start of his meteoric rise.
We had a quick look along the waterfront/pier at Skegness. There were lots of rides and chavs. Let's just say Skegness has only marginally managed to leave Great Yarmouth with the title of England’s biggest dive.


On Sunday we headed toward home via Sibsey Mill, an old mid 19th C wind mill. You could climb right to the top and see all the working gear and the twisty roof.
Then we invaded Tattershall Castle, but the defence of one old man on the battlements shouting scared off the attacker...but not before he had a few photos and videos and decided he wanted to bring back a larger army.
Last thing, and probably Eryn's favourite thing so far in England: we found a PYO raspberry place on the way home and picked about 2kg of raspberries. Mmmmmm!
And that's us all caught up... we've got the next couple of weekends at home mostly, so it'll be nice to wake up with a roof over our heads.
K & E x

Monday, 25 August 2008

Madonna in Cardiff!

So, the Queen of Pop: a week after her 50th, prancing around stage in high boots and clothes normally donned by 20 year old strippers? Yes, please!
We took the bank holiday weekend off down to Cardiff as we had paid rather a lot for tickets to the opening night of her tour, and to cruise around South Wales.
Friday night we got no sleep, because all the little boys and their boyfriends were so excited about seeing Madonna the next day, they couldn’t keep their mouths shut all night.
On Saturday we had a quick look around the city of Cardiff and then had much of the afternoon in Cardiff Castle. It was lived in until about 1947. We had a tour round the inside of the Manor house. Typically enough it was amazing, much of the internal architecture and design was done by an eccentric Frenchman, so you can imagine it was full and bright. The castle dated from just after the Norman conquest 1080ish but was built on the site of an old Roman ruin from when they were there beating up on the Welsh between 75 and 400 AD.
We then headed to the concert about 8:30 to see Madonna.
On Sunday we went to the Blaenavon Iron Works (Eryn wasn't excited by this, but enjoyed it) which turned the rich iron ore, coal and limestone of South Wales into Iron. It was in production from about 1780 until 1860. The life of the workers was pretty fascinating - young boys started working from about the age of 7, working 12 hour shifts seven days a week and one 24hr shift every fortnight... it's making me tired just thinking about it.
Across the valley we had a look around the Big Pit coal mine. With much of the machinery still there and some of it still functioning it was also quite interesting. We should have gone down the mine but as the English prefer queuing to doing, we would have had to wait in a line for over an hour and a half.
We used an actual map (rather than our SatNav) to find Harold’s Stones. They are three stones in the ground, from about 1500BC. Apparently they got there because the Devil was playing his little games (you know, like the song, Devil Went Down To Georgia) with a dude from Kent - not to be confused with this Kent. He got beaten and threw his toys (and three big rocks) out of the cot.
We also did one better than that on the way home - we called past an old burial chamber from 2000 BC. A bit like an A-frame bivy with a 80 tonne rock on top rather than canvas.

After a quiet Sunday night (thank goodness), Monday took us to Caerphilly Castle and their middle age siege engines. It's another great moated castle that took so long to build that once it was finished it wasn't really needed. Unfortunately the genius that was Oliver Cromwell (we are starting to rather dislike him) decided to blow it up in the 17th century. Thankfully the aforementioned coal and iron made some people ridiculously rich and the 3rd Marquess of Bute (the richest man in the world in his day) rebuilt much of it.
we snuck in a quick visit to the 1800year old Roman baths in Caerleon (they needed a few repairs so we couldn’t use them) to see how clever the Romans were.

By the way, the powers that be couldn’t be arsed giving us our tickets as they didn’t want to open the ticket office they sent us to earlier in the day. Basically we paid £65.00 each and then wouldn’t let us in... so no Madge, then.
K & E x

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Camping in the rain...again!

We drove for what felt like all night to reach Coniston in the Lakes District on Friday night - it was a fair way and we only had the two days, so the tent went up in the dark for the second weekend in a row. Coniston was home to Donald Campbell, John Ruskin and Beatrix Potter.
We camped with Rod and Louise in a picturesque lakeside ground... which we weren't overly fussed about as it was REALLY busy and loud. Although, we did manage to put our tents right near the loudest, fight-iest, trashiest family in the entire country, so listening to them yelling at each other was fun.
On Saturday the four of us went for a bit of a walk. We headed out of Coniston towards the Monk Coniston Estate and Tarn How which were left to the National Trust by Beatrix Potter, who owned a lot of the land in the area. We saw a snake... although I wondered if it was a worm on steroids as it wasn't very big. Lunch was on a hill above the lake on what looked a bit like an old slate mine.

On Sunday we headed home via two of Beatrix Potter's houses. The first was the one that was used for the movie 'Miss Potter', that she owned, but never lived in. There was a farm shop and galley in it but it didn't open till 11am(!) so they didn’t get our money. We also had a quick visit to her real house, the one she owned and lived in for about 30 years. We were warned that since the movie, the wait to see the house can be hours long - so we decided a run up the garden path with the camera would do and left the hoardes of tourists to their waiting... here's her pad (and the rest of the photos):

We spotted a random car boot sale on the way back to Suffolk - Kent picked up one of those double saucepans that you melt chocolate in... a must, I'm sure!
From there we found ourselves in Morecambe on the Lancashire coast for lunch... and it has to be said, some extra-yummy local lamb - the first we've had here that's not been from NZ!
K & E x

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Power Weekends...

While Eryn has been working and I have had four weeks of non-working we have been taking Power Weekends. They go something like this: I spend all day cooking, organising and packing the car on Friday, Go to pick Eryn up, she is an hour late (because we have to hang around at meet and hear James Morrison sing), drive wherever we are going (Eryn asleep), put the tent up, get into as much as we can in a day and a half in [insert text from the next few blogs below], pull the tent down in the rain, drive home while Eryn is again, sleeping.

HASTINGS

We bolted down to Hastings and Battle (yes, a town called Battle... it's where the actual Battle of Hastings happened. Clever, no?) It's the area William the Conqueror successfully invaded in 1066 (the last time England was successfully invaded), which was pretty much the birth of England as we know it. Plenty of history there for this pair of anoraks, then.

We had a couple of hours in Battle Abbey, which William built because he felt bad about the bloodshed from the Battle - he might have been a bit of a hardass, but he had a conscience too. Such a shame that much of the Abbey was destroyed during the reformation - thanks very much Cromwell.
The tour included the spot where King Harold of England (you can already guess this didn't end well for him) was killed... rumour has it he was shot in the eye by an archer - ouch... there's even a pic of that on the Bayeaux Tapestry.

The weather was what the locals told us to expect in an English summer - rain. It was teeming down when we left the Abbey, so we were keen to find something indoors-y. We did, in the form of Smugglers Adventure - an exhibition in an old cave in the hill on the old side of Hastings. The cave was used by the smugglers during the 1700s when they were taxing imports at sometimes over 800% of their cost (see, 17% VAT or 12.5% GST isn't so bad!).
It was still pouring, so we thought it wise to check the state of the tent... whilst Eryn has warmed to the idea of camping, sleeping in a tent full of water was an entirely different proposition. Still dry, so after dinner on our new camping stove we went back into Hastings for the carnival fireworks...pics of the weekend:

On our last morning (accompanied by the sun, yay) we headed out of town a bit towards Tenterden. We took the Kent and East Sussex Railroad (KESR) for a 17km trip through the countryside, to Bodiam Castle, which was beautiful... we managed a short hour there before having to run down the road to get back to the train on time.

More to come,
K & E x

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Ever so English!

After Eryn's first dabble in camping in Winchester, she's decided she quite likes it - yes, that was a surprise to me too - so we hit the road again for more cheapie weekends...

First stop - Warwickshire, home of everyone's favourite playwright, William Shakespeare... we hit Warwick first, as there was a Medieval festival on, and I was rather set on watching the Trebuchet at Warwick Castle... Eryn says I should mention that I don't mean the font Trebuchet, but that it's also a really, really old seige weapon.
After a bit of a wander through town, to see some proper Morris dancing, with the men with silly flower hats and bells on, and some other blokes with their faces painted black (apparently in the olden days the churchy types thought dancing was the work of the devil, so those involved painted their faces so they wouldn't end up in big trouble). It was all very English. And a bit ridiculous. You can see why we've adopted the Haka, rather than the 'other' traditional form of dance - the other teams would just be doubled over laughing otherwise - could be a new idea, though?!
The castle was next - it's
18.95 EACH to get into, but worth every penny! The highlights:
- The Birds of Prey display - the birds were massive and flew so low we had to duck! They were so majestic.
- Jousting.
- The sword fight re-enactments, the actors were pretty funny and it was all very well done.
- The castle itself, which is pretty tall and has a wall-walk that goes quite high up and a lot of the way round - great views on what is probably the hottest day we've had so far this summer (and they tell you it doesn't get hot in the UK - it's a lie!)
- The Trebuchet - a real one, which I was chosen to help fire (there are only 6 helpers and there was pretty much the population of Britain there that day)! It was well cool. There are photos here:

After a night in the tent, we took off to Stratford-Upon-Avon, which is quite famous, and accordingly, very busy. Bloody tourists.
To be honest, the non-tourist parts of Stratford are a bit dodgy looking... but once we got to Anne Hathaway's Cottage (the house Will's missus grew up in)we forgot that, as it was lovely - with a thatched roof and rambling (but in that good way) country garden... if only we could get married there! It was the stuff of picture postcards. We managed to pinch some of the berries and broad beans (definitely not for Eryn) from the garden... yum.
By the time we left there it was about a million degrees... for the second day on the trot too. We somehow managed to sneak into Shakespeare's actual house at just the right moment - there was almost no one else in it - hooray! Places that old don't have airconditioning, and the fewer people in there adding to the heat, the better. It's a bit strange to think that probably none of us will be so incredibly famous that in almost 500 years people will want to look at the houses we were born and grew up in - if the houses are even still standing... they don't make them like they used to!
We wrapped up what was an ever-so-english weekend with an outdoor performance of Romeo & Juliet, in a park alongside the Avon... it was an amatuer production, but they were from Cambridge University, so as you might imagine, it was very slick... and best of all? It was FREE.
Talk soon,
K & E x

Sunday, 20 July 2008

"Cabin crew, please prepare the aircraft for take off..."

A couple of weeks ago we headed a south to Farnborough. Thanks to the joys of the M25, it only took us five and a half hours to do the two hour drive, after we drove about 10km per hour for about three hours.
The plan was to pick up Angus and Janet from the train in Winchester and meet Rod and Louise at a campsite near town... which is sort of what happened, with a bit of getting lost and driving round and round (and round) on the one way streets of Winchester in between times - England is lovely, but small medieval streets aren't always the best for finding your way at night, or anytime, really!

Kent was about as excited as he could be - he started organising this weekend in October last year! It's not surprising really, as his
Grandad worked at Farnborough Airbase in the late 1930s, he was a carpenter by trade and ended up working with the team that built the first Jet Engine - how cool is that?! If you're an aviation geek, it was a put in the Gloster E28/39 which flew for the first time 15th May 1941.
After a late night with rain pelting our tents - but managing to keep it all on the outside - we jumped on a train bound for the legendary Farnborough Air Show and we weren't disappointed, although we may have lost some of our hearing, as some of the military planes were mighty loud - including the Avro Vulcan, which was flying for the first time in 50 years... others were awfully clever (and brave), like the Red Arrows, who are a squadron of stunt flyers (2 of whom are Kiwis - not bad considering there are only 9 in the group)... then there was the pilot who had the new Airbus A380 up for a spin - we were lucky enough to be very close to the runway as it took off, and then watched (with Eryn convinced it was going to fall from the sky) as he treated it like a much smaller aircraft, not the cumbersome beast it looked like - he had it in some pretty steep banking turns etc - certainly not something you would see looking out over the tarmac at Christchurch International.


Another bbq that night - this time without the rain, which was a nice change, only that did make it a much colder both in and outside the tents, so we turned to Pimms and beer to keep us warm... not the most effective plan, but quite fun to try.
We wrapped up the camping palaver with games of batdown and french cricket, before heading in to look at Winchester, which, despite our repeated circuits, we hadn't really seen much of. It's such a lovely town (one of the many that proclaims itself to be Britain's oldest - who to believe) and was the capital of England in Saxon times. It was also the royal residence up until the civil war in the 1600s, when the cathedral was ransacked and the castle was mostly destroyed on the orders of Cromwell... There are some bits still standing, like the Great Hall, built by Henry III in 1222, which houses the 'original' round table which was made in about 1290 (Interesting - King Arthur was allegedly kicking around in 400 - 600, and is generally thought to be a made-up figure) but despite the questionable nature, it's still pretty damn impressive.
We also struck it lucky at Winchester Cathedral, as it's usually a fiver each to visit, but as it was Sunday it was free... or maybe because it was supposed to be closed - who knows? It was free! It's the burial place of Jane Austen and a few other luminaries, and in the lightning quick visit we snuck down into the crypt (we think we weren't really supposed to go down there, but there were no signs), before leaving without being growled at, or struck by lightning.
After seeing off the others, we took a Sunday afternoon drive out around some of the civil war sights, and had a walk in the country where Kent pinched and ate almost his body weight in broadbeans...yuck!
Then it was home and back to work for Eryn, and into summer holidays for Kent - lucky for some, huh.
Kent & Eryn x

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Captain's Table, Copenhagen and "Can we stay on holiday forever?"

Before we start on Copenhagen, we can't not tell you about our invitation to dine at the Captain's table (actually it was the Hotel Director hosting that sitting's dinner - she runs everything that isn't the boat going forward, and she's just lovely) in the dining room on the final formal night... this is quite the big deal, as they only do it on formal nights (3 on our cruise). The Steves had been invited the day before, and I don't think we've seen anyone so excited about something as Pilot Steve was... until our phone rang the next day and Eryn took the call and squeaked that yes, we'd love to dine at the big table. Needless to say there were a few dirty looks from hoity-toity posh people who hadn't been invited - brilliant!
After just our fourth and final sea day, we arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark, our last stop. I should note sea days involve getting up when you do, with no natural light. Heading to breakfast (9:00am). Back to our room for a shower. Heading to lunch (11:00am) maybe a swim or lecture even both on a busy day. Then back up to the restaurant for second lunch (4:00pm) maybe more swimming or lectures and back into the restaurant for late seating of dinner at (8:30). If after a great dinner we still had some energy we could go to the broadway style shows where those who served us breakfast are now dancing and singing.
On land, we obviously had to see the Little Mermaid, it was very brassy and distinctly mermaid shaped, although Eryn would have prefered that she wore a top - it looked like she was a bit cold. We took some photos and then moved on, wandering around and through the Kastellet to the north of town. It is an old fortress and army barracks completed in 1663 and still housing soldiers there today.
There was a great free museum (Frihedmuseum), dedicated to the Danish Resistance during WWII. There were some very interesting displays and information on all sides of the arguments whilst Denmark was annexed by Germany during that time.
It was a bit of a sad night that evening as it was our last on the boat... we made the mistake of visiting the Steves' and the Peters' staterooms... or in the case of the Steves, state-palace might be a more appropriate term... lucky we didn't do that earlier, or we would have had quite the inferiority complex!
The next day we visited Amalienborg (dunno about you, but I think it sounds more like a spaceship than a palace), home of our good friend and ex-neighbour Crown Princess Mary. Well, we say good friend, but there was no invitation to join her for a cuppa and some damper, so we might leave her off the Christmas card list this year. There we caught our second changing of the guard in three days. It was less interesting than Stockholms; there were a lot less of the little conscripts and they did more standing than prancing.
Eryn had begged to go to the 'Bodies' exhibition, which was on in the Hans Christian Anderson Museum, so we opted for the slightly gross option and checked it out... fascinating. It's an exhibition of real people who've donated their bodies to science and they've been turned into polymer (it sounds like some kind of sick horror flick, we know) and used to demonstrate all sorts of movement, illnesses, basic motor functions and a few individual internal organs... it's probably not for the weak-stomached, but it's super-interesting to see what's going on inside us, and worth a look if you get a chance to see it.
Not surprisingly, we weren't especially hungry after seeing other peoples' insides, so we wandered some more, people watching on the main shopping street, and checking out the view from the top of the round tower - yet more sun meant this was a perfect end to our big trip... One more batch of photos:

And that is that... apart from the requisite flight delay into Stansted, which will teach us to fly EasyJet, and a long bus trip home, we're back into work and home and all those delights. Roll on our next break!
Love Kent & Eryn xx

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

A Brief But Awesome visit to the home of ABBA

Hi from Stockholm, Sweden... home of the band we all secretly love!
Stockholm is a beautiful city on an archipelago (our new favourite word).
Gamla Stan is the old built up area of town and very packed with buildings and tourists, but more tastefully, very fancy icecream shops... because we definitely needed MORE food! While we were wandering we saw the changing of the guard at the royal palace, which happens every day, and afterwards did our upside down photo in front of one of the guards and on her way round Eryn grabbed his gun, but, like a true professional, he didn't even blink. Lucky, as the gun looked fairly serious and we didn't have travel insurance, although I suspect "being bayonet-ed by a royal guard because you accidentally grabbed his gun and it was all a big misunderstanding" might be one of those situations it doesn't cover anyway.
In the afternoon we traipsed across town to the Vasa Museum, which was “probably the best museum we saw”. The Vasa was a huge new warship launched in 1628 that was much bigger than anything built previously. It sank on its maiden voyage about 300 metres from where it was launched. We spent over three hours in the museum looking at the details of the ship, its recovery and salvage and also all the information and details about the life and times of sailors around that time including very specific details on those sailors who died when it sank. Photos don’t do it justice... but we can try:


The next day we hired a pedal boat and played chicken with small cargo ships, fast ferries and pleasure craft coming and going from the Vasa Museum port area. It was rather tiring but a nice way to see the city from a different angle.
Public transport again was very good even though the port was not on a very good line. The Metro was very nice - if only every city was so good at it... the drivers on the buses and trams were friendly and helpful too, which made a big impression on us.
Due to the boat schedule, our two days in Stockholm were shortish, but we very much enjoyed it... apparently accomodation is fairly pricey there, so this was the perfect way to take it in.
Hooray, you're nearly there...
K & E x

Monday, 7 July 2008

Hum-drum Helsinki

It has to be said that this was the disappointment of the trip...
The ship was very close to town for easy walking, and the public transport was well mapped and set out but we struggled. We hit it on Monday, Europe-wide museum closing day... boo to that. We're not sure if it's that we were getting tired after three big days or that maybe Helsinki is just boring. Now that we've read our Lonely Planet more (yes, we know, should have done this before arriving), maybe we should have got out of town.
However, there was a terrific market on the port with all sorts of things made out of reindeer and foxes, hats, gloves, coats, burgers. I had the most amazing salmon dinner so tasty and fatty but really simple. Definite recommendation, before you flee town.
There was also a quaint little church built into a natural rock dome. Ordinary church inside, but very interesting to be able to walk around on top.
We just snuck inside Uspenski Cathedral before it closed which is a beautiful old Russian Orthodox Cathedral on a hill overlooking some of town... worth the look, for sure. As was the foodhall near the market, which we didn't find till after lunch, bugger!
Quiet though it was, we still saw some lovely sights:

There's some contention as to where in Scandanavia Father Christmas lives, but we did see a LOT of souvenirs in Helsinki proclaiming Finland to be the official home of Santa. Not surprisingly, Eryn was hoping to see him wandering down the street, maybe in civilian clothes, so she could put her order in nice and early... you'd think an engagement ring would be enough, but apparently not!
K & E x

Sunday, 6 July 2008

From Russia With Love...

We'd spent the vast majority of the build up to the cruise being quite excited about going to St Petersburg, Russia - Kent's brother lived there for a year on an AFS exchange in 1995/96, so he's always been interested, and while it's becoming more touristy, it's still a bit further off the radar of most travellers, so it felt a bit more adventurous... especially when we realise we were the only people on the cruise who weren't going on organised excursions (out of over 2000 people) and were braving public transport with our Russian visas in tow.
We weren't disappointed... here's a few of our pics:


After getting off the boat and getting one of the free busses to the other side of the port (three miles) we got our visas checked by the seven year old looking conscript girl doing the border control. Then, with no idea where we were or where we were going, we started walking and managed to get a bus into town for 16 rubles each (30p or 70c) into town. We did spend the entire trip trying to figure out with the bus lady (who spoke perfect Russian, but alas, no English) how we were going to split our 1000 ruble note. She was just lovely though, as was everybody we met in Russia - apart from the information centre girl, ironically.
That first morning we did all the centre city bits having a look at the General Staff Building, St Isaacs Cathedral, Nevsky Prospekt, Bronze Horseman, Alexander Column, The Metro and the Church On The Spilled Blood... the spires of which look like some kid of lolly - it's so yummy looking! We made the bold decision not to go into the 1057 room museum and art gallery in the Hermitage/Winter Palace, one of the worlds greatest art galleries. But with the organised trips from the boat spending the whole day there we wanted to spread ourselves a bit thinner.
For the afternoon we took a hydrofoil boat thing over to Peterhof which was intended to be one of Peter the Great's palaces...he died while they were building it. The 1 km2 lower gardens were beautiful, as was the Grand Palace, which Peter wanted to be known as the 'Versailles of the East' By this stage we were starting to get the impression Russian money allocation was not particularly wise, no wonder they had a revolution.
We then a what felt like a never-ending walk back to the ship for our five course dinner.
The Peter and Paul Fortress was the second day's highlight. It's over the river from the majority of town, and is the fortress built in 1703 to defend the new city, although it's never been attacked. There are at least five different museums in the complex, along with the St Peter and St Paul Cathedral where all the Romanovs are buried, including Peter the Great, Catherine the Great and Tsar Nicholas, his family and some of their servants, who were murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918 - they weren't buried at the Cathedral until 1997 though.
We saw and felt the noon cannon firing from the Bastion...then bolted inside to the museums in the complex on various artistic, historical and general life in Russia exhibits; we couldn’t go far as it was raining and Eryn had just washed her hair - had Kent just proposed to the queen of high maintenance?!
We loved it - one of the places we could easily spend another week... maybe next time in the snow, so it looks like the Russia we've seen in James Bond movies!
Do svidaniya!
Kent & Eryn xx

Friday, 4 July 2008

A Decent Proposal

Day something (by this stage we have both completely lost track of the days & dates!) was a stop at our third port, Tallinn, which is the capital of Estonia... It's a former soviet state, but don't hold that against it - such a beautiful, well-preserved medieval town... we'd definitely recommend it for a visit.
We started by getting one of those "hop on hop off" cons, my bad. We hopped on once and realised it only went every two hours so couldn't hop off anywhere out of the way. Had to miss the radio tower with the restaurant in the top which would have been a great view. Will have to do that next visit.
The big deal place outside the city is Kadriog Palace and park, which were founded by Tsar Peter I. It's named after Catherine the Great, Kadriorg means 'Catherine’s Valley' and the best thing is that it has always been open to the public, kind of brave when you consider the Russian aristocracy were quite big on opulence and over-the-top luxury.
At this point, Kent has forcibly removed me from the computer, something about wanting to "get the blog finished before Christmas", so here are the photos to look at while he sorts himself out:


We had quite a good time just walking around the beautiful Old Town area with city walls the castle and all the market stalls and and vendors. We had a snack at the cafe in the 600 year old town hall building. Eryn minted (or munted) her own Tallinn coin.
We had about an hour in the Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments, which kept Eryn off her food. Quite macabre, although it was a very interesting little private museum, with recreations of the "instruments", illustrations and information on the processes... and the (usually religious) justification.
Up at the castle we set up for our usual photo of Eryn upside down. But instead of starting the timer on the camera I started it recording then went and proposed, all proper like. I had bought a ring here in Ipswich and smuggled it over and around without Eryn knowing anything. She said yes.
So that was nice.....
There was a couple that had an archery set up down by the castle walls so we went and shot a few arrows for "prizes". I did manage to get the bullseye on the 11th shot, so I won ten more shots. As my arm was getting, Eryn had a reluctant go and hit the bullseye on her third shot! Her arrow went right next to mine in the bullseye. The guy said he had not seen that before... so romantic.
From there, Eryn couldn't seem to keep her eyes off her ring finger and on the sights, so we wandered a bit more. She has asked me to tell the girls that yes, she does have a ring, but that there aren't any photos of it yet (forgot to take any before we dropped it off to be resized - oops) and as soon as she gets it back, we'll put something up here for you.
Then it was back on the boat, for the night's sail to St Petersburg...
K & E xx

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Life Is A Highway... but it should be an autobahn!

Day 3 of our Cruise found us in Warnemunde, the port town of Berlin, Germany.
The weather that day was amazing - hot and sunny, the sort of weather I imagine is common on a cruise around the Mediterranean, not the Baltic.
We hired a car for the day as Kent was champing at the bit to get onto the Autobahn and drive like Jeremy Clarkson... imagine his disappointment when the girl at the hire place handed us the keys to a Skoda! A 1.4L Skoda station wagon, no less. Last time we drove in Europe we had our car, so this was another new experience, and I have to say sitting in the passenger seat on the right hand side of the car was totally weird.
We headed north east to the island of Rugen, on the way passing loads of signs pointing to 'Ausfahrt', which, naturally I couldn't help laughing like a 7 year old at... Kent figured it must have been a big city to have so many roads heading there... till we figured it was German for 'exit' - oops!
We stopped off in Bergen briefly, a biggish town with pretty buildings, where we bought a massive map of the area and chose a few bits and pieces to do... including a visit to a German U-Boat in Saßnitz, where I managed to fall down a flight of submarine steps... clearly not growing out of my clumsy phase, then. It was pretty interesting, although probably not good for anyone with claustrophobia - how on earth the sailors were able to cope with living in it for months on end, I don't know.
After a few enquiries, we tracked down German Asterix at a bargain price - hooray!
We had spotted a few postcards with pictures of huge chalk cliffs on them, so decided to find them... although, according to our map (in German, so a bit of guesswork involved here) Konigsstuhl is only accessible by a short walking track, so off we trotted for a couple of miles in the bush... only to find that 200m away from the cliffs was a major road and a carpark, but the walk was lovely and a good way to walk off all the ship food!
We still had time to burn before the 2 hour drive back to the ship, so we called into Guttin Airport to see if they did scenic flights and took to the skies in a Cessna 172... which could not have been more of a perfect way to see the islands - hardly any clouds and breathtaking views, plus it wasn't very bumpy, which allayed my fears about falling out of the sky!
I've tried to be economic with the photos:

The drive back to Warnemunde was Kent's chance to try and beat his hi-score speed of 169km/h from that morning (all legal) and he managed (with a tail wind) to get to 175, not bad for a fairly gutless car - and people were still breezing past us in the other lane. We should mention that the roads are about a million times better than anything either of us has seen in NZ or Britain, and there just aren't many older cars on the road, so it's not nearly as unsafe as you might be thinking.
We arrived back in plenty of time, and had time for a wander around the town, which was lovely - one of my favourite things about this part of the world is abundance of public spaces and how many people use them, and this was no exception, at 9pm there were still hundreds of people walking around, stalls set up selling all sorts, and just a really lovely feel to it... just another place to add to the ever-growing list of "let's go back there"s!
K & E xx

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Cruisin'

Well hello there... my oh my, we have sooo much to tell you!
We've just got back from a truly amazing two week cruise in the Baltic Sea. I could waah on and on about how great it was forever really, but will try my best not to...
We left on the Celebrity Constellation (currently ranked by Conde Nast as the world's best large cruise ship - fancy, huh?) from Harwich, which is just on the other side of the river from Ipswich, so it was pretty handy for us. The sailing was super-smooth; to the point where, if I didn't know better, I would have thought we were on land pretty much the whole time, which was good, especially considering Kent's little motion sickness issue!
There's a huge dining room where a full-on 5 course meal is served every night, it looks like the sort of thing you might have seen on the Titanic, only our ship didn't sink, which was nice. We were at a table with 3 other couples, Steve & Steve from Florida, Gus & Terry, who met and married during WWII in France (she's French) and also live in Florida and Peter & Peter from Birmingham, one of whom is the cousin of one of my friends from work - it's a small world! We were a bit worried beforehand that we'd end up with horrible annoying people and have to sit with them for a fortnight, but needn't have bothered because the 8 of us got on famously.
Photos of the boat are here:

Our first port was Oslo in Norway, where we berthed literally across the road from a fortress... so far, so good. It's apparently the most expensive country in Europe, but as Kent keeps a fairly tight rein on the wallet, we didn't really notice... with the abundance of food on the ship, we didn't need to eat (and may never need to ever again!) during the day, so it was a pretty reasonable day trip. We braved the metro system and trams - man, I LOVE public transport in Europe, it's generally clean, quick and pretty reliable... and, London aside, quite reasonably priced.
We took in quite a few of the sights, including the Vigeland sculpture park, which was all kinds of weird - there were more naked-people-doing-bizarre-stuff statues than you can shake a stick at, some of the photos will give you an idea... From there we went to the Munch Museet, a museum dedicated to the work of Edvard Munch, who painted 'The Scream', which both of us have liked since we were quite young... to be honest, and this will make me sound a bit of a philistine, I didn't realise he had lots of other works. Both 'The Scream' and his other well-known piece, 'Madonna' were stolen from the museum in 2004 and not recovered until 2006, but they're just hanging there, on the wall, like any random painting you have in your house... they even let you take photos, unlike so many other museums.
After finding the requisite copy of Asterix in Norwegian, we headed over to Bygdøy on a boat to see the Viking Ships museum, which contains 3 ships that were buried hundreds of years ago and unearthed from the late 1800's... it was just amazing, and some of the artefacts they found inside are pretty well preserved. The weather was just beautiful, sunny and warm, but not hot, so ideal for all the walking we did. Our final stop was the Armed Services museum, although as we arrived only ten minutes before it closed, it was a bit of a whistle-stop tour... which is a shame as there was quite a big collection on display, but we were a bit paranoid about making it back on to the ship in time - we didn't think it would be a good look to be running down the pier shouting and waving as it sailed away!
Our photos of the first day are here:

The next day was another Sea day, so a bit of a chance to sleep in, and wander around the boat, go to a lecture about the history of Berlin (the next port) and laze next to the pools in the sun - ahh, it's the life!
And that is part one of seven... I do hope you're somewhere comfy!
Love Kent & Eryn x

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Vive La France... finale!

Righto, where were we?
Yes, France, obviously... our final night in the castle was great - the weather was super; lovely and balmy, perfect for dinner in the huge garden, under the equally huge tree... more French food mmmmm.
Photos of the castle... and the feast etc here:
The weather packed it in that night, with a ferocious storm howling its way through Jaulny; pelting the biggest hailstones (proper big too - they were somewhere between the size of a large pea and a broadbean, not pathetic ones like we get at home) into our somewhat fragile window. This was accompanied by quite a large amount of precipitation, most of which, it seems, ended up inside our car, as we left the windows ajar the night before so it wouldn't be so hot. Kent remembered this as it was teeming down, and thoughtfully risked life and limb to wind them up; I pretended to be asleep... my hero!
The abysmal weather continued for our last day, which was mostly spent driving... We decided that forking out another €20 just for the privilege of driving on an extra-fancy motorway was a bit over the top, so we made-do with the fancy motorway that TomTom took us on... not realising it went through two other contries before it reached our ferry terminal... infact, had we blinked and missed the letter 'L' in an oval on a road sign, we might not have even realised we had driven into Luxembourg... the same goes for Belgium an hour or so later... ah border control, schmorder control!
It was lucky we did take that slight detour though (it was only 20 min longer than the toll route) as we hadn't managed to track down Asterix in Flemish on our earlier sojourn into Belgium - they'd sold out in the bookshop in Ypres! Surprisingly, there's no setting on TomTom for "find us a town that's big enough to have a decent bookshop, but small enough to find parking on the main street", so after a bit of hasty map-reading, we ended up in Poperinge, in Flanders, where we managed to unearth the blasted book from under about 200 copies of TinTin...
With that task ticked off, it was back to the Corsa, which by this stage had started to make a funny grinding-y noise...hmmmm... Oh well, let's just keep driving and see what happens...
Made it to the Dunkerque Ferry terminal in time, no smoke, or tears from the car - phew!
And here endeth our French trip, or "ad-French-ure" as I like to call it... looking forward to going back - it was just wonderful.

In case you're wondering, the funny noise continued all the way from Dover till we got home... it's evidently the noise your engine makes when it has NO OIL in it!
Oops, Kent's bad.
It's all better now... although we did run out of petrol on the way home from the Sex and The City movie (clearly, this wasn't Kent's first choice for entertainment) a couple of days later... we're thinking walking could be a good option from here on in!

Take care,
Kent & Eryn x

Saturday, 31 May 2008

Vive La France...part deux!

Tuesday morning saw us leave our B & B - which, it must be said, had the best shower I have ever had in my life, if you're in France, go there... worth it for the shower alone!
We hit the road on our 438km odyssey to our next digs - an 11th century castle in the Lorraine region near the border with Luxembourg - but more about that later.
We did more war-ry stuff, stopping off in Le Quesnoy, a fortified town that NZ soldiers liberated after 4 years of occupation in 1918... naturally, the people there were pretty stoked by this and are quite fond of kiwis; there are several streets named after NZ, Avenue des Neo-Zelandais, Rue de Nouvelle Zelande, Rue de Waikato and Rue de Cambridge... as well as a Square they re-named Place de All Blacks! It was so nice to see bits of home when we're so far away, although certainly not what we expected to find in rural northern France!
Photos here:
Bonus find in Le Quesnoy: Asterix, in French, in the supermarket... for €5! Hooray!
We embarked on a walking tour (again in the bloody rain - grrr) which was a bit of a task in map-reading and patience on Kent's behalf, but it took us around the town's fortifications, which date back to Napoleonic times, and to some of the memorials to the New Zealand troops... and past the biggest Maori fulla you have ever seen (check the photos below and you'll see what we mean!)
Back in the car, and onto the toll motorway... €20 poorer and several hours later we arrived at the castle in Jaulny, thanks to the magic of TomTom... there is NO way we'd have managed navigation without it.
The town itself is the stuff of postcards, overlooking a valley, on a hill and most of the buildings are hundreds of years old - the kind of place you'd like to fold up and put in your pocket... and the castle is breathtaking - I could go on and on about it, but it might just rank as my all time favourite place EVER... I think Kent is in agreeance.
Again we had a lovely host, Anna (who spoke great English, which was a godsend, as my French doesn't stretch much further than the standard yes, no, thank you and hello... and Kent's is virtually non-existent), whose family has owned the castle since the middle of the 1800s. Some of the castle is a museum, with full suits of armour, a summons to war (in French, obviously) and so many priceless treasures - and they actually belong to her and her family!
Her loveliness just proved that the reputation the French have for being rude is clearly unfounded, I suspect it might be the English habit of refusing to learn or even try to speak the local lingo and just speaking slower and yelling that might evoke this legendary attitude, but we saw none of it from anyone; they even smilingly put up with our pidgin attempts at speaking French. The language thing does sometimes cause a few crossed wires - a great example: after Anna suggested to us that we visit "Noh-See" the next day... we were stumped, until I asked her to write it for us, and found that it was Nancy... which immediately led me to think of 'Allo, Allo', as I'm pretty sure I remember a scene where Rene tells someone both he and his brother were "Nancy Boys". She said the city was beautiful, and very special, and she wasn't exaggerating... very European, with a large square and gorgeous architecture, beautiful park etc etc etc...
On our way back we checked out Pont-A-Mousson (about 20mins from Jaulny), yet another beautiful town... there are just so many of them around!
More photos:
Last installment on it's way shortly...
K & E x

Friday, 30 May 2008

Vive La France... part un!

It's been awhile. This can be attributed to two things:
1)Eryn discovered Facebook... and what a huge time-thief it is!
2)We spent loads of time getting ourselves sorted for our road trip to France, which was ace!

We madly decided to take the mighty Corsa to the continent with us... I say mad because there is an engine light of some description that just keeps going... but so does the car, so it can't be all bad! I'm picturing Dad rolling his eyes at that last bit.
First lesson - Driving laws in France are quite different than in the UK - obviously there's the whole 'other side of the road' thing, but in addition, you have to carry a high-vis jacket, one of those red triangle things, a fire extinguisher, spare lightbulb kit, first aid kit, ownership/registration and insurance papers... information that might have been more useful to us, had we found out BEFORE we boarded the ferry. Evidently checks on foreign cars are frequent and the punishments handed out are quite harsh... so that had us a bit anxious before we even docked at Dunkerque.
They take their Sundays quite seriously over there, so there was practically nothing open when we arrived, but we did manage to find a great Maritime Museum with all sorts of bits in it, particularly about the mass evacuation in 1940... if you're not interested in war history, best stop right here, as the rest of the trip was full of it.
We stayed in a very cute B & B, our host, Nelly (whose husband is Jean-Luc - could he be any more French??!) was lovely, despite protesting that her English wasn't very good (it was better than some of the students Kent has encountered in England) and sent us to La Coupole, a huge concrete dome, built by Hitler & co in WWII to launch V2 rockets at London, the next day. It was impressive...even though it was abandoned towards the end of the war. Probably for the best, methinks.
From there we were headed to Ypres/Ieper, which meant we needed to cross the border... well, I say border, but really it was more like a petrol station forecourt, unmanned, where you don't need to slow down, into Belgium. My hopes of getting another stamp in my passport were dashed... thanks very much, EU.
Cue lumps in throats for both of us... which might seem a bit on the dramatic side, but when you consider that Ypres was the focus of much of WW1 - it was pretty much destroyed during the war, then rebuilt afterwards with money paid in reparation by the Germans, and that it's surrounded by Comonwealth War graves sites (we saw at least a hundred signs for different ones from the car), it certainly makes the whole thing seem so much more real than 5th form history ever did... We were lucky enough to see the Last Post played at the Menin Gate in Ypres that night, something they close the road for and have done every night at 8pm since 1928! It was very moving, as the gate itself is a giant memorial to 50,000 fallen, with every single one of their names engraved in the stone.
I was mildly put out as I couldn't find any Kiwis but it turns out that it wasn't big enough for all the names they had orginally planned, and the NZers decided to put the names of our boys on one of the other memorials - Tyne Cot - fortunately, it was just down the road at Passchendaele. It was raining at this stage, which seemed quite fitting. There are 11,856 men buried there, with a memorial to a further 35,000 missing - and an entire bit of it dedicated to Kiwis - which started the waterworks again - we were really just blown away by the sheer numbers of people, mostly younger than us, who died for their countries. Just thinking about it still makes me feel so incredibly humbled... but enough being maudlin for now... That's not even halfway into the trip...
Photos are here:
More soon,
K + E x

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Dublin Photos... finally

Before I forget, after the whole "Oops, Kent? I think I lost the camera..." debacle, here are the photos from beautiful Dublin...
Would love to hear what you've been up to...
Eryn x

Monday, 12 May 2008

Sláinte!

Prior to two days ago, my knowledge of Irish people consisted of watching reruns of Father Ted, that movie about a dead guy who wins the lotto, reading Angela’s Ashes, and a couple of fairly depressing filims about the IRA… We didn’t go anywhere near ‘Craggy Island’, so I couldn’t possibly comment on Ted & Co, but on the whole, it was much as I’d imagined; Dublin is a beautiful city, the countryside is lush and the people are very friendly – with the best accent ever!

Not surprisingly, as many people had warned us, our Ryanair flight was delayed, and it was already pretty late on Friday night, so not the best start, but it tied in quite nicely with my plans to go late-night club hopping in Temple Bar with Kent… yeah, right.
After a comfy, if too short, night’s sleep in our rather luxurious hotel, we hit the footpath to wander into the centre of town… in the rain, ick! It stopped almost as soon as we got to town though, and the rest of the weekend was actually pretty nice - phew.
We took the hop-on, hop-off bus tour of the city – a nice way to check out the sights and decide what we wanted to see later… which led us to a tour of Kilmainham Gaol, the onetime home of some of our Australian neighbours’ ancestors. It also held the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916, most of whom were executed within days of being arrested… a major landmark in Irish republican history. Our guide was really passionate and she made the whole thing quite real, and I have to confess that I had a lump in my throat in some places; it was very moving… certainly wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for a pick-me-up!

We had dinner in a quite little traditional pub just off the Temple Bar, minus the hoardes of hens-parties… complete with a ‘Smokers Beer Garden’ which really meant a covered in area that collected smoke and sent it back inside to the rest of us – nice! If there’s one huge difference we’ve noticed on this side of the world, it’s how many people smoke, and how much less hysterical non-smokers are about it; not sure if that’s a good thing though…
Next day was a bit of a rush to get going in time to get to the bus stop for our tour out to Malahide Castle and the Coast… bed was a bit too comfy and we overslept! We did get there in the end, and it was worth the hurry, as Malahide is a beautiful castle, which was lived in until the mid-70s when the last owner had to sell up to pay inheritance taxes, then she high-tailed it to Tasmania… it must have broken her heart to sell the home her family had lived in for a staggering 900 years! Kent was in his element, and managed to find out that they still hire out the Grand Hall for banquets, complete with string quartet, for the teensy sum of €3000 plus €75 per head for minimum of 30 people, so I think it might be a while before we can afford that (but it would be a pretty amazing experience…). We also headed to Howth, for a wicked view over Dublin Bay – lucky the sun was out, and we could see quite a way across. We also saw the school where U2 met (they’re very proud of their rock music
protégées in Dublin) and heard a few great (and some tall) tales from our guide.

You may wonder why there are no photos… keep reading and all will be revealed.

Our afternoon was somewhat more adrenalin-filled; we took a ‘Sea Safari’ out of the River Liffey and into the Irish Sea in an RIB (rigid inflatable boat – those open ones that bounce around like nobody’s business in the waves – eek!), around Dalkey Island, Dun Laoghaire and the Muglins… which sounded JK Rowling-esque enough to keep me happy. It was quite exhilarating – not something I thought I would love, but I did – and sooo much better than a boring/sedate cruise up and down the Liffey.

From there it was a short wander to the bus station, past a canoe polo game we stumbled across en-route, to get to the airport… where I lost our camera.

Yup. Lost our camera… bother… or something stronger.

Needless to say, there wasn’t much joviality on the plane home. After a similarly quiet drive, we arrived back in Ipswich about 12.30am; not the nicest with Monday morning looming at work for both of us… and still no camera.

It’s not all bad, though. Someone found the camera and handed it in (which was lovely, am so incredibly grateful to whoever it was – hopefully lovely things happen to them) and it’s now winging it’s way back to us in time for our drive to the continent in less than two weeks… so I will post the photos soon.

Take care,
Kent & Eryn x