Monday, August 24, 2009

So we won't need the walkie card anymore...

Well our return to the motherland, however brief, proved quite eventful. After leaving Bordeaux we made our trip into London Gatwick only to be promptly stopped by customs. After numerous questions we were asked to explain certain ‘discrepancies’ only to have our case taken to another customer’s official. Upon return we were given a polite dressing down and a naughty stamp that entitled us to 5 days stay, but not a moment more!!!!! A little rattled we headed off to Annie’s and Scotties who were amused to hear they had illegal immigrants staying at their house, until we told them that we had given their address on our forms. Not so funny for them!

Trying to make the most of our time in London, we headed off to a BBQ with Scottie where we ate the best steak, drank too much and rang home. Sorry Carls ;)

Monday saw us booked into a tour of Parliament, which turned out to be one of the coolest things we’d done in London. We visited the House of Lords, the House of Commons and learnt why they’re called lobbyists and that even Parliament officials can be given a time out. After the tour we parted ways, J to his favourite barber and me to my favourite shop. Primark sent me off in fine style where I waited 40 minutes for the last time, to purchase the goods. That night we had a final roomie dinner at home.

The next day we boarded London’s very own big bus tour to recap all the fun things we’ve seen and done! A fitting end to a two and a bit year stint in ol' blighty! We ended our day with thai, tears and beers with some faithful friends. The next day we packed our bags and headed for airport for the first leg of the trip home: Kuala Lumpur.

All aboard, the big bus tour!

Hands up, who can see big ben?

One last picture with the worlds prettiest bridge, just before it showed off by opening for us one last time. :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Say Cheese!

Nothing says the South of France quite like cheese and baguettes; and for the last 10 days it honestly feels like that’s all we’ve eaten…. Not that we’re complaining ;)

First stop on the cheese and wine track was Nice on the Côte D’Azur. Centred in the French Riviera, Nice is very nice!!! We arrived late in the evening and checked into our hostel. We then had a quick wash and headed out to Vieux Nice (Old Nice). Old Nice is a tangle of tiny 18th century pedestrian passages and alleyways full of quaint little French bistros with not so quaint price tags. Shocked that some people were paying more for a seafood dinner than we were paying for two nights accommodation we quickly invested in a supermarket bought dinner of salmon, brie and a baguette all washed down with a pretty nice white wine. We took our purchases to the shorefront and had a lovely moonlit evening.

Day two saw us head to the beach for the morning. We felt pretty flashed reclining on the pebble shore and splashing around in the fresh clear sea, hob-knobbing with the rich and beautiful. By lunch we’d had just about enough and headed in for some BBQ chicken that would have rivalled morty’s! Afterwards we spent the afternoon shopping and organising the remaining days of our trip.

The next day we rose early and boarded our train to Avignon. Avignon, engulfed by almost 4km’s of stone ramparts is a remarkably enchanting city. With its sweet cobbled streets weaving between the most romantic architecture I’ve seen, we quickly fell in love with it. The first night was spent taking in the Palis des Papes (Popes Palace) from the outside and wandering the main street. The second day following some advice from the tourist office we manufactured our own walking tour. We spent the better part of the day wandering the streets, walking on a small section of the ramparts and taking in the sights. One of which is the Pont St-Benezet, built during the 12th Century but partly destroyed in the mid-1600s and is therefore now simply a bridge leading to no where. Our final night was spent watching our favourite Indian acoustic group and waiting to see the light.

On the way to Bordeaux, we had a quick stop over at Toulouse. Toulouse proved to be quite an interesting place complete with its own monopoly game. We spent our one night there checking out the old town, the river and tasting our first crème brulee. The next morning we headed to our final destination Bordeaux.

Bordeaux proved to be a real highlight and satisfying end to our European holiday. We had managed to score our very own apartment for our four day stay just outside the centre of town. On the first day we headed straight to the tourist office to book ourselves on 2 tours, a visit to some Chateau’s and a wine and cheese tasting evening. We then spent some time looking around the city and picking up some groceries at the local supermarket. On Thursday afternoon we headed into town for our wine and cheese evening. A pretentious but fun evening that taught us how to appreciate the finer points of wine. Also, having been held in a cheese restaurant we were treated to 250 different varieties of cheeses that we could sample till our hearts content. Afterwards, we headed back to our apartment and promptly fell into a cheese induced coma!

Our final day in Bordeaux we headed out to the countryside to take in two lovely Châteaux’s in the Graves appellation. Graves is the oldest Bordeaux wine producing region, specialising in sweet whites, dry whites and red. Our first stop was Châteaux Myrat followed by Chateaux Beau Site, both small family run vineyards where we sampled some wonderful produce. We returned to Bordeaux (purchase free ) and spent our last evening stuffing our faces with a 3 course meal of , Salmon and Chocolate Mousse.

Next up are 4 wonderful nights in London, cross your fingers customs lets us back in.
Stay tuned…

In Avignon's main square.

Avignon's Pont St-Benezet, bridge to nowhere.

Where's the coon? Some of the 250 cheese's in Bordeaux.

At Chateuax Myrat in the Graves appellation.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

All roads lead to Rome.

There’s nothing quite like a trip to Italy - the food, the wine, the crazy Italian’s!!! Nevertheless, we have had a wonderful time hanging out in the warm Italian sun and spending as much time as possible eating pizza.

Our first stop was Sorrento. Sorrento was to be our jumping off point for the Amalfi Coast, a place we had both not been but heard plenty about. We arrived late afternoon and headed to Bec’s famed restaurant with the massive steaks, but found they now came with a massive price tag and opted for pizza – which Jarratt quickly fell in love with! We then spent the rest of the evening wandering the streets and sampling far too much free limoncello. We ended up feeling a little guilty and purchased some in the shape of a cello…. A lemon cello! Haha.

The following day we boarded a bus for the Amalfi, which was spectacular!!! The villages (Positano and Amalfi) we visited are almost impossibly perched in between rock cliffs and yet a public bus was still able to navigate and get us there. Each town was filled with cute coloured houses each one more unique than the last and had steps rather than streets to reach the beach. We spent the day lunching in Amalfi and swimming at Positano’s beach before we headed back to Sorrento for some more pizza washed down with a local red and a beer. Guess who had which :)

The next day we headed to Naples via Pompeii. Having both visited Pompeii before and being very impressed, we decided what’s 10 euro between friends and decided to head back for another look. We weren’t disappointed, plus we got the opportunity to play silly buggers – which you all know we love. Afterwards we headed onto Naples, or Napoli – for those in the know ;). Having spent the last 2 weeks lazying around in the Greek Islands and on the Amalfi, Napoli made us feel more alert than ever. With the scooters whizzing dangerously close past us and the Mafia types lingering in doorways and by our pockets. Unfazed we spent the next two days tasting the best pizza EVER (Yes! Better than Sorrento!) and visiting and working it at all the local sites.

Our final day in Napoli saw us board the ferry to Capri. It wasn’t til we arrived on the isle of Capri that we met her – our host, Maria. (For you Mr Wyatt ;)) Meeting us at the port, she soon whisked us away into Anacapri and gave us the fantastic news that after 5pm on ANY day you can swim for free in the famous blue grotto. Which you better bet your bottom dollar we did!!! We finished our only night on Capri with (more) pizza – a Caprese and Capricossa (Hey :) when in Rome?) and watching the sun set. The next day we spent the better part of the morning hiking uphill to Villa Jovis and catching our train to Rome. And while all roads may lead to Rome, boy do they get there slowly!!!!! We arrived into Rome, quite late, hungry and just a little frazzled having spent 6 hours on a train ride that was suppose to take 2 and a half.

The next day we slept in (Yay for Bec), and headed into town around 11. We spent most of they day getting some cheap thrills, taking in the Piazza del Popolo, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and the outside of the Colosseum – which are all free! We also had the worlds best Gelato (apparently!?) at San Crispiro, but at 4 euro a hit, you’d want it to be pretty amazing and it was! Day 2 in Rome saw us wake early (Yay for Jarratt) and head into Vatican City, or should we say Tour Group City! I swear tours are fantastic if your on one, if your not – not so much! We then spent 3 hours shuffling our way through Vatican Museum until we reached the Sistine Chapel. There we spent our time taking in the amazing fresco’s and being amazed by the complete disregard for rules. We watched as almost every tourist pulled out their cameras and began snapping away at the roof. Never one to miss out on anything Bec followed suit. Afterwards we headed to St Peter’s Basilica where with the millions we queued to see the cavernous interior, the resting place of the popes and Michelangelo’s superb ‘Pieta’. Afterwards, we headed towards Piazza Navona for some lunch in beautiful winding streets of Trastevere and a quick viewing of the Pantheon. On the way home we both had to giggle that Rome during the Summer (or at least definitely August) was surely filled with more tourists carrying maps of Rome than actual Roman citizens. Our final day was spent swimming in the hostel pool, planning the rest of our trip and having a pretty amazing steak dinner.

Next stop was…. The Cinque Terre. The Cinque Terre, home of pesto, is also home to some of the best coast scenery in all of Italy. Having been a little savvy and wise, in order to avoid paying inflated prices for next to nothing accommodation, we booked an amazing hotel right by La Spezia train station. La Spezia which is 5 minutes from Riomaggiore (the first of the five villages in the Cinque Terre) runs regional trains to the Cinque Terre every 6 minutes – so as you can see, very clever indeed. We spent the next 2 days, taking in 3 of the 5 villages and catching up with some old summer travelling friends. It was a great way to end Italy, which can be comically chaotic one minute and stunningly beautiful the next – we were thankful to have ended on a high note.

We are currently in Nice, which is nice – but like always…. We’ll tell you about that later.

Love you all … see you VERY soon.

Bathing at Amalfi.

At Pompeii with Mt Vesuvius in the background

Jarratt ... being Jarratt.

HUGE pizza in Napoli

On the top of the world.... or at least Capri!

Heading into the Blue Grotto (at Capri)

What an amazing experience!!!!
After our swim in the blue grotto - google it for some pictures to understand how amazing it was to swim in!!!

Tossing a coin in the Trevi Fountain - will we ever return to Rome?

At the Vatican Museum, St Peters in the background.

At Vernazza (the middle and prettiest of the 5 villages) in the Cinque Terre.

Amazing Riomaggiore - So pretty!