Sunday, July 30, 2006

Krakow and Prague







We spent our 3 nights in a very cool hostel called the Stranger, and have met lots of cool people. Our first day here we went on a cycling tour around Krakow, and saw the Jewish ghetto and Oscar Schindler's factory. It was a really interesting tour and gave us a good understanding of what has happened there.
The next day a big group of us went to an amazing lake about 20mins about that was made when they filled in an abandoned quarry. It was quite spectacular. And very beautiful. It was great having a swim in the cool water. We then picnicked on the cliff edge eating polish sausage sandwiches. Yummo.
We've been hanging out with other aussies, brits, irish, american and welsh people, loads of fun. The partying in Krakow has been loads of fun. And things are so cheap here! Yesterday we've eaten some amazing food at Babushka's kitchen - a cute eatery underneath a university, where they serve up amazing polish food. We ate till we could eat no more for about 4euro! Amazing. I tried to eat as much polish food as possible - perogi, pork chops, cabbage rolls, beetroot soup, bascrz, goulash.... so very good, but incredibly filling as well!

While In Krakow we took a trip out to Auschwitz. Words cannot describe how intense it was to be there. It still makes me feel sick in the stomach to think of it. Very moving. I'm really glad we went though.

On our last day in Krakow we went to the salt mines, which are a world heritage site. They are all man made, and we went down loads of steps to end up 136m underground. We went through numerous chambers where miners had carved amazing sculptures out of the rock salt down there. The extent of the caves were incredible. We also saw the largest underground chapel in the world (or something like that) which was very impressive. The acoustics are supposed to be awesome down there for concerts. But the best thing about the salt mines was that it was 14degrees down there, which was a gorgeous change from the relentless 30 degree temperatures we've been having.

Last night we took the overnight train to Krakow, arriving here at 7 in the morning, eventually found a tram, walked up a hill till our calves burned to our hostel just for tonight - the Clown and Bard. We've met a couple of irish guys we met in Krakow, and we're all heading to Czesky Krumlov tomorrow, to chill out and float down a river. Seems like there are loads of Irish and Canadians travelling around, and Aussies of course, but not that many English and no scottish so far.

Today we wondered around Prague, drank some fabulous beer- Pilsner Urquell - and are heading out for even more Czech food tonight at a restaurant that my family discovered where we were here in May - Kolkovna.

Our one night in Berlin (before hitting krakow) was awesome. We went to the Jewish museum, mainly for the architecture and we were not disappointed - it was an amazing building, and made more of an impression on us than the exhibits. That night (after randomly bumping into a girl I met in Scotland at easter on the haggis tour at our hostel), we went back to the squatter's artists residence and bar we went to last time we were there in January and managed to crash a pub crawl. Was lots of fun chatting to random people. I think that really is the best thing about travelling, the people that you meet. And perhaps the amazing food!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Zaans Sachans and Den Bosch





Today we went to Zaans Sachans - a little old-style dutch village (somewhat touristy, but the dutch are so laid back that it didn't really matter). It rained a bit, which was actally something of a relief after the unusually hot weather they have been having here. Off for some drinks tonight in Den Bosch.Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 21, 2006

First stop Paris

I was quite sad leaving Newcastle on the train on Sunday. It had really become my home, after living there for over a year. My last few days there were lovely too - sunny weather, great farewell drinks, seeing the toon play at St James' Park, an evening trip to druries beach (not sure of spelling there) and quiet drinks by the quayside at the Baltic bar watching the sun disappear behind the old buildings.

I spent a nice Sunday night in hot London staying with Katie (thanks Katie and Daf!). We went to Anna Doughtey's (from college days) place for dinner, which was so lovely (thanks Anna!). I must admit I was feeling a bit of culture shock being around a bunch of Aussies after hanging out with Geordies and English people for so long.

I flew in to a stinking hot Paris on Monday. I managed to negotiate the subway system to get the train to the hotel with 3 changes (which I couldn't have done without the handy metro map that Bolt had given me on my last visit), to meet up with Nita and Erwann (Nita's Dutch friend). We went out that evening to Champs Elysee and we lay on the grass next to the Eiffel tower watching the sky change colour as it set. It was a great way to start our Paris adventure.

We began the next day with a trip to the Cemetery Pere Lachaise. It was very leafy, and the mausoleums were quite spectacular, there were so many! We went to Jim Morrison's grave, and kind of wondered why it was so popular.. Perhaps it is the interesting surroundings. After walking up a slight hill we had to sit down to recover (it really is very hot, and living in Newcastle has not prepared me for the heat at all! Nita is feeling the same way, having just left Glasgow. Hopefully we will acclimatise soon because it wont be getting any cooler...)

We descended to the sniffling metro system and arrived at the Luxembourg garden with some sandwich stuff to join the masses of Parisians sitting in the shade enjoying the summer. It was lovely just lying there enjoying the weather. Parisians really know how to do the outside thing. England hasn't mastered it, for obvious weather reasons I presume.

Highlights from the nest few days include having a drink at Le Deux Magots (where the philosophers Sartre and de Beauvoir sat), a picnic at the Sacre Cour (more sunsets!), walking undergound through the macabre Catacombs, Musee d'Orsay (gotta love Renoir and Rodin), tucking into Lebanese food near our hotel, breakfasting on croissants and pain au chocolats, the Pompadieu centre (very interesting art work), Notre Dame (I don't know, I think the York Minster and Durham Cathedral are just as good, although the Vatican probably wins in terms of spectacularness), Le Sorbonne and the Pantheon.

Getting around Paris was quite easy considering Erwann speaks fluent French, having been brought up by French parents in Holland, and my mastering of the metro system :) My French still doesn't get past the 'Bonjour" and "merci" unfortunately, although sometimes I think I understand more than I realise because of my experience in Montreal 5 years ago.

Paris is such a beautiful city, there is some kind of magic about it - the buildings, the white and silver rooftops, the grand scale of the avenues, the leafy tree-lined streets, the spacious parks filled with people enjoying them... I still think it is the most beautiful city I've ever seen. I was just a little sad that Chris wasn't there to enjoy it with me. Some day soon perhaps.

Last night we drove out of Paris in Erwann's car, through Lille, Belgium, and now we are in Den Bosch, Holland at Erwann's very nice apartment. We are in Holland till Monday when we will make our way to Krakow on the train, and begin our Eastern European leg of the trip. I was quite sad leaving Newcastle on the train on Sunday. It had really become my home, after living there for over a year. My last few days there were lovely too - sunny weather, great farewell drinks, seeing the toon play at St James' Park, an evening trip to druries beach (not sure of spelling there) and quiet drinks by the quayside at the Baltic bar watching the sun disappear behind the old buildings.

I spent a nice Sunday night in hot London staying with Katie (thanks Katie and Daf!). We went to Anna Doughtey's (from college days) place for dinner, which was so lovely (thanks Anna!). I must admit I was feeling a bit of culture shock being around a bunch of Aussies after hanging out with Geordies and English people for so long.

I flew in to a stinking hot Paris on Monday. I managed to negotiate the subway system to get the train to the hotel with 3 changes (which I couldn't have done without the handy metro map that Bolt had given me on my last visit), to meet up with Nita and Erwann (Nita's Dutch friend). We went out that evening to Champs Elysee and we lay on the grass next to the Eiffel tower watching the sky change colour as it set. It was a great way to start our Paris adventure.

We began the next day with a trip to the Cemetery Pere Lachaise. It was very leafy, and the mausoleums were quite spectacular, there were so many! We went to Jim Morrison's grave, and kind of wondered why it was so popular.. Perhaps it is the interesting surroundings. After walking up a slight hill we had to sit down to recover (it really is very hot, and living in Newcastle has not prepared me for the heat at all! Nita is feeling the same way, having just left Glasgow. Hopefully we will acclimatise soon because it wont be getting any cooler...)

We descended to the sniffling metro system and arrived at the Luxembourg garden with some sandwich stuff to join the masses of Parisians sitting in the shade enjoying the summer. It was lovely just lying there enjoying the weather. Parisians really know how to do the outside thing. England hasn't mastered it, for obvious weather reasons I presume.

Highlights from the nest few days include having a drink at Le Deux Magots (where the philosophers Sartre and de Beauvoir sat), a picnic at the Sacre Cour (more sunsets!), walking undergound through the macabre Catacombs, Musee d'Orsay (gotta love Renoir and Rodin), tucking into Lebanese food near our hotel, breakfasting on croissants and pain au chocolats, the Pompadieu centre (very interesting art work), Notre Dame (I don't know, I think the York Minster and Durham Cathedral are just as good, although the Vatican probably wins in terms of spectacularness), Le Sorbonne and the Pantheon.

Getting around Paris was quite easy considering Erwann speaks fluent French, having been brought up by French parents in Holland, and my mastering of the metro system :) My French still doesn't get past the 'Bonjour" and "merci" unfortunately, although sometimes I think I understand more than I realise because of my experience in Montreal 5 years ago.

Paris is such a beautiful city, there is some kind of magic about it - the buildings, the white and silver rooftops, the grand scale of the avenues, the leafy tree-lined streets, the spacious parks filled with people enjoying them... I still think it is the most beautiful city I've ever seen. I was just a little sad that Chris wasn't there to enjoy it with me. Some day soon perhaps.

Last night we drove out of Paris in Erwann's car, through Lille, Belgium, and now we are in Den Bosch, Holland at Erwann's very nice apartment. We are in Holland till Monday when we will make our way to Krakow on the train, and begin our Eastern European leg of the trip.


Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 14, 2006

Farwell Drinks







I had my farewell drinks last night, which went really well, and now I have a very sore head on my last day of work! It was so nice to see everyone there, I can't believe I have made so many friends while here, there must have been 30 people at one stage. Friends from work, netball and old housemates. We went to Camp David, a bar that has an outdoor patio, 2 for 1 drinks and free burgers, so it was a really nice atmosphere too.

I hate saying good bye to people. It doesn't seem real, like I know I must see these people again, I'm not going away forever or to another planet. But there is always the possibility that I may not see them again... I'm going to really miss my friends here. It'll sink in in about a month when I'm in Europe and I'll suddenly realise I'm not living in Newcastle anymore. I'm moving on once again.... I should be used to it by now, this is my 5th home since I left the Gold Coast to go to Uni... But people always mean so much, that is what never changes, and it always hurts to go away.

I think I'll stop trying to write silly things because I'm not coherent enough this morning after my 5 hours sleep and drinking escapades.

I left my sunnies on the table and they were discovered by my mates, hence the pics :)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

cruise on the Tyne

On Sunday Ken, Porter (Ken's mate) and Claire (from netball) went on a cruise up the Tyne river - started out at South Sheilds at the north sea and wound our way up the river to the Quayside, and then went all the way back again. It was so awesome, like being on holidays in your own city. I saw a side of newcastle I hadn't really seen before, like the old ship yards that are falling down, and the shipping terminals, and all these places along the way. The very cool part was when we went under the Millenium bridge, which is a tilting bridge, the first of its kind in the world. I'd never seen it open before, and we got to go underneath it! Pics attached.

It was all very English though, nothing spectacular about the ferry and everyone was in wet weather gear as it looked like rain (although we missed it luckily!), and we ate ham sandwiches for 90p and had a cup of tea. It was a nice way to spend a Sunday.

I'm busy preparing to leave Newcastle at the moment. Farewell drinks are organised for Thursday night, which should be good fun! I'm leaving on Sunday for London, then off to Paris on Monday to begin 2 months in Europe. I'm arriving back into Brisbane on September 20.

It is amazing how quickly time is going in the lead up to me leaving. I'm really going to miss this place, I've been here over a year now, and I've just got so used to it. I think I have made the most of my time here - going on trips away and seeing the countryside. In the end it will be the people that I will miss. Hopefully they will all be out to visit me in Oz before too long! Leaving hasn't really sunk in yet. It might hit me somewhere in Europe, when I'll realise that I have left Newcastle for good.

It's all very exciting. I've got almost too much to look forward to right now.