Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Czech it out!

OK so I wasn't so successful at writing two in quick succession, I do apologise. But if you haven't read our Hungary post, please do so before this.

With that out of the way, here we go.
We arrived in Prague after a brief pit stop in Bratislava late in the afternoon. We quickly dumped our bags and headed out into the old town, checking out all the Easter markets that were in full swing. Every street was lined with these beautiful Christmas-style markets, but unlike in December we were NOT freezing our asses off. We peeled ourselves away from the markets just before the hour to check out the Astronomical Clock. What a disappointment that was as its gig wasn't much better than Munich's. Nonetheless, over the next 2 days we had great fun telling everyone not to miss the amazing performance it made on the hour. Hehe. We then wandered through more cobblestone streets to Charles bridge before pulling in at the Pilsner Brewery to try some pretty amazing Czech beer and food. We then headed back to the hostel via the beautifully lit up old market square.

The second day (our only day of rain for the entire trip!!) we crossed Charles bridge once more but continued the upward climb to the Castle and St Vitus Cathedral - resting place of famous King Wenceslas. We spent a good hour looking around the Cathedral before checking out the changing of the guards and Golden Lane. We then spent the rest of the afternoon learning all about Czech Republics communists days where the postcard captions had us in hysterics. Personal favourite was "In those days you couldn't get detergent but you could get brainwashed". Hehe. With the weather encroaching once more we pulled into a few pubs off the main square before stopping at one for dinner. On the way home J (slightly inebriated) showed Prague how too boogie.... LOL.

The next day, after some interesting sleep in our stag do room (complete with threats of tea bagging!) we boarded a train for the Bohemian province. Our first stop was a brief lunch stint in the home town of Budweiser - Ceske Budejovice. After a short stroll around the town - there wasn't much of it - we pulled into the Budweiser brewery and had lunch which was washed down by......... you guessed it. We then headed back to the main square where we spent about 20 minutes chasing the sun before boarding the sweetest train to Cesky Krumlov. Four years on and Cesky is still just as pretty as a picture! We arrived shortly after 5 and spent the next 2 hours lost in its beautiful streets and its castle grounds, complete with bears. Wandering around it is almost hard to believe the movie Hostel is filmed there. We ended the evening with a romantic dinner by the river looking up at the beautiful powder tower in the Castle. The next morning was widdled away wandering the town some more, shopping and drinking coffee - essentially Bec's kind of holiday ;) - before heading into Prague and then home to London.
In Pragues market square - J feel in love with the Tyn Church (background)
On Golden Lane in the Castle complex.
Czech him out! Play that funky music white boy!
Chasing Sun in Ceske Budejovice.
Overlooking Cesky Krumlov - this picture took forever!!!
Dinner views. Pretty amazing!
Me in the main square - surprisingly bag free considering the purchases.
J must be carrying them ;)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Splish Splash, I was taking a bath.

Well, we're way behind on these blog updates so I'm going to do two in quick succession - or at least try too. So bear with me.

Once we left Moscow we flew into Budapest for fun and games. We checked into our lush looking hostel and feel into bed for a few decent hours sleep. The next morning we rose and spent a bit of time organising our trip as the only thing we had planned at that stage was our flight home to London on the 19th. So once the business of the morning was out of the way we headed up to Buda to check out Castle Hill. With the sun on our shoulders and our jackets in the bag we headed off for a fun day of exploring. We arrived at Castle hill and explored the Cathedral, Royal Palace and amazing views! Afterwards we wandered across the Chain Bridge into some pretty festive Easter markets before heading back to the hostel via the Jewish Quarter. After a quick shower and a few games of chess we headed back to the river where we ate aboard our very own floating restaurant. Where we ate traditional Hungarian food and watched the most amazing sunset.

The next day we headed to the House of Terror for a very accessible explanation of Hungarian invasions and rebellions. We then wandered up to Hero's Square before lunching and heading into the Szechenyi Baths, which were a fantastic experience! I felt so revitalised after the 4 hours that I was left contemplating a future retirement in Budapest. hehe. Sorry future children ;) That night we watched Chelsea beat Liverpool over some fine Budapest Burgers and Beers!

On our way to Prague we made a bried afternoon stop at Bratislava where we played a Where's wally game with the towns famed statues, checked out their castle and the pretty old town. We ended the night with a few beers at the KGB bar before trying some Slovakian wine and food, which we will NOT be buying a cookbook about, lets put it that way ;)
As always, here's the happy snaps :)
Us on Buda Hill, overlooking Parliament.
J on Chain Bridge.
Hero('s Square)
At Szechenyi Baths.
Overlooking Bratislava.
Where's wally? No, thats just Bec.

Monday, April 13, 2009

From Russia, with love.

So for the last 6ish days we have been Russian around (hehe) St Petersburg and Moscow. Its been so much fun!!! We arrived direct to St Petersburg from Copenhagen and were met by a rather bright and happy girl named Katya (our tour guide for the trip), who was - I'm sad to say, wearing a puffy jacket. From the airport we were promptly whisked away to our three star hotel and given the lowdown on navigating the city. Without missing a beat we headed into Nevsky Prospekt (which is just too fun a phrase to say) to check out the Church of the Spilled Blood. Wow oh wow, what a start to Russia. The church in a nutshell is A-ma-zing! After having a look around, and inside we headed to St Petersburg Cafe for a lunch of Borsch and Beef Stroganoff - staples of Russian traditional cuisine. Afterwards it was back to the hotel to meet the rest of our tour group.

Tuesday we boarded our bus for a tour of the city, taking in sights such as St Issac's Cathedral, the bronze horseman and winter palace before taking a very cheap tour of the Hermitage. That evening we had a special vodka party with some new friends.

The next day, being the independent travellers we are - we opted OUT of an optional tour and sneakily decided to attempt seeing all the sights ourselves. Having discussed the idea with a pleasant information kiosk lady we were confident we would be successful. Plus we would save ourselves a lot of mullah, instead of 80 quid each we budgeted about 20 quid together. So, we made our way out to Tsarskoye Selo (St Catherine's Palace - Summer Palace) near Pushkin all via the public bus. A little mishap of a missed stop but we quickly recovered. Another bus and a gold toothed smile later we arrived at the palace. Afterwards we headed back into town to St Peter and Paul's fortress, the resting place of the Tsars of Russia including the body of the last Tsar. As well as witnessing a strange ritual of near naked bodies leaning against the fortress wall in 5 degree weather to get a Russian tan - crazy! From there we strolled along the Neva River to have another go-gander at St Issac's - which we were surprised to find out is sinking and may close to tourists within the next 12 months. We then headed to the Mariinsky Theatre to watch a Russian production of the fable - the humpbacked horse. That night we boarded a very snug overnight train to Moscow.

After dropping our bags at the hotel in Moscow, we had a quick breakfast and headed out on a walking tour of the city's sights. Taking in most of the red square and being taken back by the stunning St Basil's Cathedral. Unfortunately Lenin's Mausoleum was closed as he was vacationing at the spa - they have embalmed him so well that his finger nails and hair still grow - eww! We then lunched in the beautiful GUM department store before joining an organised tour of the Kremlin. We finished our afternoon checking out the inside of St Basil's, nothing flash, before heading over to see the Moscow Circus troop.

Our final day was left to our choosing, so J and I took in a tour of the amazing metro system of Soviet Russia ending in Revolutionary Square. We then travelled back to our hotel to check out the Vernisazh Markets to purchase our very own Matryoshka doll and equally kitsch souvenirs. We then had a lovely dinner on Old Arbat before a night tour of Moscow, to see all the sights lit up.

It has been an amazing trip, that flew by and we cant wait to go back again!

Us at the church of spilled blood.

Yarit (Jarratt - Russian style) at St Peters and Paul's Fortress

Us in the Red Square (State History Museum behind)

Being silly in Red Square (St Basil's Behind)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Look at this stuff, isn't it neat?

What a great start to a 2 week break from London!!! We landed in Copenhagen on Saturday at around 10am and reached our lovely hotel at about 11am, where Bec promptly ate her words about hotels around the central station being awful. Our 2 star hotel located a street from the main terminal is pretty lush, but so are most things in Copenhagen - we´ve discovered over the last 3 days. After dumping our bags in our room we headed our to the National Muesum for a whistle stop tour of Danish History, along the way we bought our first danish pastry and discovered that Tivoli (Copenhagens main tourist attraction - kinda like a danish disneyland) was SHUT! Jarratt was relieved as that was gonna save him a bucket load of cash whereas I, as you can imagine was a little less joyful. After the muesum we headed to Slotsholmen, an island seperated by river from the city that houses the Danish Parliament and a few muesums. From there we boarded one of the canal cruise boats for a spin around the sights. Afterwards, exhausted from our 4am start we headed back to the hotel for a short kip. We then headed down to the local cafe for our first Calsberg and a danish style burger.

Sunday we headed out to the Carlsberg Brewery to sample some of Danish´s finest ales. We learnt all about the development of Carlsberg, the brewing process and the worlds largest collection of unopened beer bottles, 18314 in total!!!! After some silly photo ops we made our way through the souvenir shop (without purchasing anything!) to the Jacobson bar. Before you entered the bar there is an option to smell a number of aromas, you then pick the combination you like and hey, presto! You can have a beer matching those smells! Despite only receiving 2 free tickets we ´found´ an additional two so in total we sampled 6 beers (Hvede x2, A seasonal Spring Beer, Elephant, Carls Special, Master Brew). A little tipsy we headed back to town. Later that night we headed out to the beautiful area called Ny Havn for a seafood dinner. Very Tasty!!!

Today we headed up to Amalienborg Palace to see the changing of the guards at noon and the Frederikskirken (aka the marble church), afterwoods we wandered along the seafront to check out the famed Little Mermaid Statue. Before picking up some Smorrenbord and heading to the Kings Gardens for lunch. We then spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the Latin Quarter before pulling in at La Glace, Copenhagens oldest cake shop, for some Mocca Eclaire. Tonight we plan on eating local again and getting ready for Russia tomorrow. Cant Wait!!!

Till next time.... xoxoxo
The Master with his Brew! (Gotcha dave!)
Us in Ny Havn Quay.

The little mermaid statue.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Pints and Punts

Well hello there! How are you all? Jarratt and I are well - living it up in the land of London. Even though we are both sick feeling ill and have been refused by the doctor to get a course of anti-biotics (!) These last few weeks the weather has treated us to a bit of sunshine and we're just about falling over ourselves with excitement. So we have tried to make the most of this fun, sunny weather by slipping across to our park on the odd occasion and catching up with friends. So here we go with a few more tales from what is the chronicles of Where is Bec and J?

Last Wednesday (25th) thanks to our very nifty phone company Jarratt and I managed to swindle some free tickets to a Ben Lee gig at the O2. Pretty cool huh? So since Dave, Bec, J and I are "all in this (London thing) together" we thought what better pals to "Gamble everything for love" with and head off "Into the dark" to the O2. Haha - that one was for Bec (Make sure you bring some apple candy on Friday, ok?)

On Sunday we headed to Cambridge for a look around the "prettier" university town. With Dave and Bec in tow we headed to Liverpool Street bright and early to board our 8:30am train that was really 7:30am (because fortunately this daylight savings change we we're wise to and not suspecting all the clocks to be wrong - hehe). Our first hurdle was met before we even picked up the tickets.... the cheap tickets we had bought in advance, as the booking was not showing up under any name. So we prepared ourselves for the worst and prepared to buy x'y tickets but SHOCK HORROR for tickets purchased on the day for groups of 4 .... you only pay for 2!!!!! Hurdle, hurdled!

We then headed to Cambridge and began exploring the universities where you DO NOT walk on the grass! EVER! First was Christs College, where we discovered the door to the Secret Garden and Jarratt pondered evolution in Darwin's own college. Second was Kings College, where we were wowed by the amazing architecture that had us jumping for joy. Our final college visited was Trinity, we were very excited to visit the college that Issac Newtons famed apple tree lives at as well as the original manuscript of Winne the Pooh. But much to our dismay the library was closed and we were left to play silly bugger statue games to amuse ourselves just outside the largest great court of its kind. We ended our tour of Cambridge with a rather eventful Punt (a fancy word for boat ride) down the Backs, where some sticky mud nearly had us paddling to the shore. We ended the day watching the Oxford vs Cambridge boat race that I'm sad to say Cambridge lost :( A few pints later we boarded a train back to Kings Cross Station in London where we disappeared into a wall at the 9 and 3 quarters platform.

Last night we headed into Kingsbridge for dinner at Gordon Ramsays Claridges. It was a wonderfully extravagant affair for lobster ravioli, quail cooked three ways and a dessert that was to! die! for! However, the whole experience was a little too la-di-dah for Jarratt and I, right down to the bathroom visit, where a lady not only prepared the sink for me by running the water, personally handing me a towel and flushing the toilet so I didn't have to. CRAZY!!!

Friday night we are being reunited as an awesome foursome as Dave and Bec move into our place, but Saturday we part ways as Jarratt and I head off to Copenhagen for a 2 week break crossing Russia, Czech Republic and Hungary.
At our recently discovered local.
Ben Lee, free and easy!!!

Door to the Secret Garden - am I right?
Joy jumping at Kings College.
The great court at Trinity College.
Silly Bugger statues.
Punting, or trying to at least.