A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

Notre Dame, Venus and Mona

A day in Paris

We rose earlier trying to get the maximum amount of things to do in our other full day in Paris.
Paris is so busy and we wanted to beat the queues we had seen just about everywhere yesterday. We went directly to Notre Dame to inspect the inside. It is very beautiful with its delicate flying buttresses and the stained glass particularly impressive. Building began in 1163 and continued up until the 19th century with many additions over time. In fact it was damaged and looted extensively in the revolution and later almost burned down. Fortunately it has survived and it's modifications tie together into the beautiful building it is today. Another impressive church to cross off my list.

From there we headed up to the Louvre. We had done a bit of planning for this and worked out how to skip the queue and our plan worked. Which was good coz it was a warm sunny day and waiting outside in the sun to enter through the glass pyramid would have been tedious.


The Louvre is massive and fairly tricky to find your way around. We had purchased two English audio visual guides to assist which I was very thankful for as all of the signage and interps for exhibits are in French with no English translation. We found this a bit frustrating in French museums. The French are very stubborn in their effort to retain their language, I appreciate this, but for a destination that is visited so widely by international visitors it is a bit silly, especially for the major items. While I am having a whinge the toilet situation was pretty poor too.
On the plus side, many people had told me that the French people were arrogant when dealing with foreigners with little or no French language. I found the opposite. People were particularly helpful and friendly everywhere we went city or country.
So we started with the Greek statues aiming for the Venus de milo. Venus was uncovered by a Greek peasant in 1820 amazing !There were some very impressive pieces and sooo many of them. We moved into the Egyptian section, the mummy was also interesting. From there we spent about half an hour in search of toilets that were open and functioning :) Family harmony was put to the test here for a while. One less Greek statue and a couple more toilets would def be the go! While searching we zipped through the Mesopotamian section which looked interesting but it was hard to concentrate.


From there we moved into some of the furnishings and the palatial rooms fully furnished in period with their well embellished painted ceilings.
We moved along to some paintings and our focus was on the Italian section heading for the ultimate goal, the Mona Lisa.
The Mona Lisa room was pretty crazy. As expected she is only small and not that impressive but I still needed to see her. It was a mad scramble to get anywhere near the front and for a shorty like me it was tricky to see much! Dave and Holly managed to get to the front and get some pics and it was done and we were out of there. Pick pockets were in paradise and Dave had his man bag unzipped while reaching up to take a photo. Nothing lost though.


The painting in the room behind Mona "the Coronation of Napoleon" was also interesting and quite the contrast to Mona, it being one of the largest paintings in the world.
By this stage the boys were completely over it so we decided to call it a day and find a late lunch. This accomplished we headed to the Champs Élysées to check out the shops. Then headed for home. Once on the bus we got caught in the biggest traffic jam, we were gridlocked. Traffic in Paris is horrendous all day but especially in the afternoon. Our bus got in a tangle when it caught another buses mirror and we were hooked for a while :) we weren't in any hurry and were just happy to rest our weary legs and watch Paris go by, albeit slowly! The buildings are really something and the city is very beautiful.
Exhausted we finally got home and prepared for the next leg of our journey the Eurostar train under the channel into London.

Posted by The Hitchies 10:55 Comments (2)

London calling

sunny 32 °C

After a very smooth ride under the channel in the train we arrived in London to a bright sunny and very warm day. London was looking at its best. We travelled to our apartment in step new in the East End and did a bit of grocery shopping then lunched at our new 'local' pub, a great place called The White Hart Brew Pub. So delicious, we went back there for dinner a few nights later. After the hectic pace of the last few weeks we decided just to have a relaxing afternoon and settle in.


The next morning we were up early and ready to take on the London transport system. This wasn't that difficult as we only needed to go two stops on the underground! We got to the Tower Bridge and then jumped the hop on off bus for our usual city orientation. We hopped off at Buck palace with about 45 mins to wait for the changing of the guard so decided to wait (along with a few thousand others). The queen was in Scotland and wasn't even there to greet us, so we hopped back on the bus heading for Trafalgar Square and a walking tour which came free with our bus tickets. It was a Harry Potter tour, we lasted for about 40 mins and then decided that we weren't die hard enough Harry Potter fans, so ditched it and found some lunch as it was almost 3 pm. After lunch, we walked up to Regent Street to see Hamleys toy shop which was lots of fun. With lots of purchases for some special kids at home we headed off to catch the scenic river cruise back to the Tower and home. We have worked out that the river cruise is much easier than dealing with peak hour traffic and much more relaxing.


I cooked dinner for only about the third time since we had been away! I didn't really feel like cooking after a big day but sometimes you just feel like a home cooked meal with lots of veggies. Food and drinks here are pretty expensive too. Though grocery prices seem pretty much the same.
This morning we had a slow start as we had tickets to the tower and didn't have far to go to get there. Everyone is starting to feel a bit tired, me included!
Our trip to the tower started with a Beefeater tour. Which was extremely informative and funny 90 minutes and gave everyone a basic rundown of the the history of the place. Including the execution and burial of three of Henry's wives, Anne Boyelyn, Katherine Howard and Jane Grey. This is included in the entry and I would really recommend it.

Our tour group, we are in there somewhere, taken by our beefeater ......Billy
From there we moved onto the Crown Jewels. The English really do know how to organise a crowd and people were moved through the displays without any of the fuss or drama we witnessed in France and Italy. It was well laid out had interps in about 10 languages! Unlike the louvre which was French or .....French! They jewels were just stunning and the Callinan diamond I at around 500 carats was pretty nice.
From there we moved to the White tower. This is the central tower or keep built by William the conquerer in the 11 th century. Considering this it is in pretty good shape! It's dungeons were used to torture prisoners and traitors. From there we moved onto the various other towers and walls with many displays taking a fair chunk of the day. With lots of interesting displays and stories, I really enjoyed this tour and everyone should do it while in London.


Back into town on the tube for some shopping (along with everyone else in London) then dinner and home ready to head off and pick up a car tomorrow.

Posted by The Hitchies 13:55 Archived in England Comments (1)

Off to explore the countryside.

all seasons in one day 21 °C

It was a rainy bleak morning and we packed up to head out to Heathrow and grab our hire car. Ready for the next leg. London had been great, the city is lovely. The English are extremely friendly everywhere we go and as with all places we have felt very welcome. Holly is a champion at negotiating the underground but we are still not brave enough to do it dragging all of our luggage and Dylan as well.
We have upgraded our car to something a bit bigger as we will pick up some more stuff of Holly's when we get to Leeds. We have a lovely powder blue Citroen Picasso ...... It is brand new, very smart and roomy with lots of gadgets. Our plan is to head to Bath via Stonehenge today.

The country side is very beautiful, rolling green hills, very much like home as you are driving into Dorrigo from Armidale.
We got to Sailsbury in no time (with a brief stop to buy more delicious strawberries) then there was a long line of traffic to get into Stonehenge. The visitor centre here is very new and the complex was much bigger than we were expecting. The whole thing is very well done and has audio tour included. Lots of people but well managed and great information about the history of the place. I won't give you the history lesson as I am sure you know it already except to say that it seems there are still many more things unknown about this place than known facts. Amazing how they got stones of this size to the monument and put them in place. The monument itself is bigger and the stones are taller than I expected. The weather had fined up beautifully into a perfect day for photos.


On the subject of strawberries. Someone said to me that I should make sure I eat the strawberries while I am in Europe. Well they weren't wrong. Compared to our hard tasteless lumps these are divine, juicy, soft and sweet. All of the fruit we have eaten while away has been exceptionally yummy. Is it because I am on holiday? I have a theory that food tastes better when it is eaten outdoors and especially on holidays. What the hell are Aussie growers doing with our fruit to make it so tasteless in comparison most of the time?


We piled back into the car and got to Bath by about 330. We hadn't had lunch so that was our first priority. We came across a pub that was doing a roast dinner.....perfect. Hadn't had a baked dinner since we left home . Lots of veg, Yorkshire pudding , great price, caught the second last set of the men's Wimbledon final. What more could we want. We drove around Bath for a bit of a sticky beak knowing we didn't have much time and saw the hop on /off bus and just followed it around town in the car. Made up a bit of commentary (which was much more colourful than the one you get on the bus) along the way ....perfect and free. :) We will come back in the morning and do a walking tour. Off to our accommodation just out of town No dinner required, cup off tea and a bit of chilling time.
Bath is a beautiful Georgian city. First developed by the Romans in about 60 AD. The Romans used it for about 500 years then left and it was covered by silt from the flooding of the Avon river. Eventually it was rediscovered and then became very fashionable in the 18 th century as the place to be seen and pick up a prospective husband or wife. The old Roman baths were discovered accidentally when someone found a leak in the basement and then unearthed in an archeological dig!


We went on a walking tour which took about 2 hours around the inner city which was very interesting. It would be great to have a few days here there is so much to see. The city and gardens are very beautiful we really didn't have time to explore as much as I would have liked too.


From Bath we headed to Gloucester, this was a quick diversion so Dave could say he had been to the English version of his old town. We stopped for a quick tour of the cathedral which is very large and quite beautiful. By then it was getting late and we had a bit of a drive ahead of us to get to Wales.


Posted by The Hitchies 02:27 Archived in England Tagged stonehenge Comments (1)

Almost like a local in Wales and Leeds :)

all seasons in one day 18 °C

We arrived in Wales fairly late and it took us a while to find our accommodation but we eventually got it. Flew in to get changed and then ducked out to get dinner. The apartment is great in a little terrace in a little village called Trawsfynwdd. Most of the accommodation throughout the trip has been fantastic. London has been the only one that I was a bit disappointed with. We have had 15 different beds over 31 days so I suppose that is not too bad.
Our lovely blue Citroen and our 18th century welsh cottage
The village we are staying in is very scenic on a lake. It was not until we were chatting to our Welsh in laws, Myf & Non that we found out that this is close to the nuclear power station! As we were driving in Aden commented that he could see a castle in the distance.....err no that is actually the nuclear power station. There were lots of jokes about 3 eyed fish and visions of Homer Simpson at work. Later, we found out that the station has now been decommissioned. :)
We wanted to go to this part of Wales because we had heard Myf and Non speak about it so passionately over the years. It certainly is lovely.
We had a bit of a slow start the next morning and I let everyone have a bit of a sleep in till 9 am. Everyone is starting to get a bit tired and needed a catchup. By the time we finally got away the weather was closing in so we drove across to Penrhyndeudraeth and had a quick pic outside their old home to send back to them. Later we returned to have a drink in 'the Griffin' their local pub. We also visited the towns of Criccieth and Porthmadoc.


Eventually we got sick of driving around waiting for the weather to clear so just headed to Harlech Castle with our raincoats ready. There are lots of castles in Wales most of them were built by Edward I in the late 1200s, in order to secure his control of Wales. He formed an 'iron ring' of castles encircling North Wales. There is not that much left of the castle inside but the views are spectacular and the weather had started to fine up for us. For the golfers, the castle over looks Royal St David's Golf course.


From there we decided to drive up to Carnarfon Castle which took quite a while by the time we had stopped for lunch and went to go in it was closed :( I suspect the boys were not that unhappy to miss out on another castle! We wandered around the outside and then took the scenic route home through the delightful village of Beddgelert (I think) which was very quaint. It took us ages to get home because the weather had cleared and the light was beautiful and there were so many pretty places begging for photos.


We packed up the next morning and decided that we would do a tour of the Llechwedd slate cavern at Blaenau Ffestiniog. The mine is no longer in operation, it is all open cut these days. We went down 400 metres in a little cable car thingy and were shown the conditions the miners worked in. Conditions were appalling and miners were paid on a contract system by the amount of roof tiles produced from the slate they brought up and split plus a third extra to account for breakage, they worked in crews of four and had to supply their own gear, candles etc. of course there was no protection if you were injured. It was interesting and the conditions were pretty horrific. It was a chilly 6 degrees underground compared to a balmy 18 above ground. Once we were back up above ground we watched a slate splitting demonstration. Welsh slate is apparently the finest in the world and was exported all over.

Piles of waste slate and the Hitchy miners ready to 'go down'

We left Wales and headed across to Leeds to pick up the remainder of Holly's gear. The next day we explored a bit, it was nice to see Hollys accommodation and the uni. Holly met up with a friend for lunch we had a bit of a tour of Leeds before we headed south for Heathrow and the flight to Singapore tomorrow.

Holly's Leeds home away from home, Ellerslie Global Residence

Posted by The Hitchies 18:08 Archived in Wales Comments (0)

Sleepless in Singapore

semi-overcast 30 °C

Well it is 4 am and I have finally given up on sleep after 2 hours of laying awake. May as well do something productive. No free wifi here so I will type this up in notes ready to publish when I pay for some internet time. I am frustrated cos I have a whole lot of blog written for Wales and Leeds but it just needs some photos off the camera to add to it to finish it off. I haven't been able to connect my camera to my iPad wirelessly through most of the hotel internet we have used. Not sure if it is something I am doing wrong but it is beyond by techie capabilities.
So we are in Singapore. The flight was uneventful but none of us got much sleep on the plane. I let myself fall asleep in the late afternoon, not long after we had boarded. Bad idea. I had about an hour then woke up for dinner and then couldn't sleep for pretty much the rest of the trip. We had a large group of young adults sitting in most of the 2 rows in front of us who were very 'social' and just wanted to party on, so that didn't help. Dylan didn't sleep at all and in hindsight I should have given him a pill. I did catch a couple of excellent movies though, highly recommend Saving Mr Banks and Philomena. Also read for a bit. I am trying to read Coleen Mculloch's First Man in Rome but am struggling with it and that is what put me to sleep in the first place!
So we arrived feeling pretty wrecked, as it was only about 11am and our rooms weren't ready yet so grabbed a coffee then a swim and a shower........rooms still not ready. So we did the hotel buffet lunch (which was absolutely outstanding btw). Anyway they must have felt sorry for us coz they had kept us waiting so they upgraded us to better connecting rooms on the 20th floor. Score! The view is fabulous, fluffy towels, robes, slippers...... Nice. We hadn't complained but we must have looked pretty bad laying about semi comatose in the lobby and they took pity on us :)
Had a small nanna nap which was about an hour more than I should have had. Had to put a rocket under the kids to wake them up. Freshened up and out for a wander around town and then some dinner and bed.
It was a slow start the next day, we did our usual city orientation on the hop on / off bus. We bought our stopover as a package with Singapore Airlines so there were lots of free attractions and passes thrown in with the accommodation which makes it very cost effective.

Our hotel was right across the road from the fire station, Dylan and Dave were on constant alert for a call out
Singapore is a beautiful city. Very clean with magnificent trees and beautiful gardens. We jumped off on the stop for the Singapore Flyer for a birds eye view. The Singapore Flyer is a bit like the London eye. It was a great way to orient ourselves. From there we grabbed some lunch. After lunch Holly and I decided it would be fun to go to the fish, foot spa we had seen earlier. This is one of those places where they get you to put your feet into water and tiny fish have a bit of a feed on them to tidy things up (so to speak). It really is the most bizarre feeling. You start off in the tank with the baby fish which are about an inch long. It kind of tickles a bit at first and was pretty funny. After that they graduate you to the next size which are a couple of inches and then a third. When we put our feet into the second the fish went into I but of a feeding frenzy and it really tickles. Holly and I got the giggles and you have to really focus and breath other wise you can't stand it. You are in for about half an hour all together. I could have done with another 3 hours the state my feet were in, but they were definitely improved.
While we did this Dylan had a neck and shoulder massage and absolutely loved it. He actually fell asleep while being massaged and now will want one all the time I think.

After this we finished the bus tour and headed back to the hotel for a swim. It is very steamy here all the time. I could never live here! Our plan was to freshen up then walk out to Marina on the Bay to see the Gardens on the Bay and the light show there having dinner on the way somewhere.
The gardens were wonderful but the most amazing thing was the light show. The pics tell the story. It really was impressive.


Singapore really is beautiful at night too. The city lights were fantastic. There are some pretty amazing looking buildings. On the way back we came across this big fountain which kind of looks like water going down a gigantic drain hole. It is quite hypnotic to watch it swirl around on such a large scale. Aden had to do a major science project while we were away and he chose to do it on the correalis effect. This is the way water water goes down the drain depending if you are in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere. Perfect large scale exhibition of this for his slide show when he goes back to school! Feeling very tired we grabbed a cab home. It had been a very pleasant day.


The next morning we opted for an early start we packed up our bags and left them at the hotel then headed to Sentosa resort world for the day. Our flight home wasn't until the early hours of the next morning so we didn't have to be back to get the airport shuttle until 9 pm. Our first stop was universal studios theme park. This is something that the kids (they really are just big kids) had really been looking forward to and in the Jurassic Park World Dylan was in his element. The first ride we went on was one of those water things and we got absolutely soaked. This was good coz it was soo hot and sticky. Much hotter than the previous day. We went through all the worlds and the various rides, Dave and I opted to put our feet up and watch and wait for quite a few rides.

After that we worked out that we had free tickets to use at any 2 other attractions of our choice. We decided to try the Segway ride. This was a bit of fun, Dylan was very wary as he hates things where balance is put to the test. He persevered and gave it a try and went really well suggesting that he could use one to get to work by the end. Aden loved it and of course was a master after about 5 seconds. We laughed because being the only 'child' he had to wear all the padding for safety. We were the ones who probably needed the padding!

Not sure where Dave was heading on his Segway, I think he was keen to get moving, either that or he had no control whatsoever!

From there we went to the luge track. We had done this before and had great fun at Rotorua when we were in NZ. From there we took a cable car back into the city. Spent ages fining a taxi to get back to the hotel but got there eventually. Had a quick shower in the gym at the hotel ready to head to the airport. Our whirlwind tour of Singapore was over and so was our holiday.....sad but a teensy bit excited to be sleeping in my own bed again.
What a wonderful time we have had!

I hope everyone has enjoyed my blog. I have enjoyed compiling it and appreciate those who gave the encouragement to keep writing. I now have a wonderful keepsake of our time away which I will be able to look back on. Sorry for all the grammatical errors and lack of punctuation! I have thought about going back and correcting some things but decided that would probably be a bit anal, and I really do have better things to do. Some of the early entries are a bit dodgy coz I didn't really know how to use the application very well. Apparently you can have them made into a book........ It's ok I am not going to give you all copies for Christmas! You are safe for now !

Posted by The Hitchies 21:09 Archived in Singapore Comments (2)

(Entries 16 - 20 of 20) « Page 1 2 3 [4]