Tuesday, May 30, 2006

London Eye

One of the big London attractions that we hadn't been to look at was the London Eye. Dave and Karen had been tossing up whether to go for a spin in the Eye; throwing us into the equation didn't help - 'The weather might be bad, so we won't go.', 'Now it is raining!', 'Oh, but now it is sunny', 'Well, once I order the tickets online we are going no matter what!'. So we ended up catching the bus into Southbank to go to the London Eye.

As it turns out, the weather held out long enough for us to get to the eye and enjoy the 30 minute ride around. The views from atop the eye are great and we were able to watch a storm creep into the city from the NE.

Click on the picture to see more.

London Eye
May 29, 2006 - 7 Photos

Sunday, May 28, 2006


Jill and Karenlea had had a great time seeing South-East England and parts of Europe. We wanted to get out for one last look around, so on the Friday before they left we borrowed the little red car from Karen and drove up to the Cotswolds.

First stop was Shakespeare country - Stratford-Upon-Avon. This town is about 160km north of London and its main claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of Shakespeare. We wandered around some of the more famous sites, Shakespeare's House and Garden, Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare is buried, Anne Hathaway's Cottage, New Nash House and Garden. We had lunch in one of the many pubs and walked along the River Avon.

From here we drove in the general direction of our night's accommodation passing through the beautiful Cotswold country side. Driving through this area is just like the old traditional English country-side you see in movies and on tv; green rolling hills with fields of yellow flowers dotted everywhere, little country towns with tiny country roads, rock wall fences that go for miles, wooden sign posts and so many rabbits.

Our accommodation for the evening was a traditional English Manor house with beautiful views over one of the many valleys. The next day we were treated to a traditional English Breakfast and they do mean traditional! This includes all your standard English favourites, bacon, eggs, toast, baked beans, little sausages, tea, coffee and more tea but it also includes Black pudding. For those of you who don't know what Black pudding is have a look at this link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_sausage. Yuk! Yuk! Yuk!

The next day we visited two of England's most beautiful country towns - Upper and Lower Slaughter. It was a beautiful quiet town with an old stone church, a little creek with a mother duck and her ducklings and sweet little houses. From there we drove to Bourton-on-the-Water to see their famous Model Village. It is an exactly miniture model of the town complete with tiny furniture, gardens and shop signs.

We took a quick drive through Bristol stopping to see the Clifton Suspension Bridge and then out towards the coast to see a beach. The beach, although not quite what we were expecting (see photo of sign), was kind of 'interesting'. From here we decided to start the long trip back to London. On the way Kelly got distracted by another potential historicial site. After a quite a trek from the main motorway, a section of dirt road and a hike through a sheep paddock (nothing unusual about that for us sheep farmers in-training!) we finally made it to the White Horse at Uffington. It is a chalk out line of a horse on the side of a hill. It has an amazing history - http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/majorsites/uffington.html. We also saw the site where St George slayed the dragon.

All in all It was a fantastic few days and a nice way to end Mum and Jill's trip to England.

May 27, 2006 - 23 Photos

Friday, May 26, 2006

Leeds Castle

Mum, Jill and I spent a day exploring Leed's Castle. It is considered one of the prettiest castles in England set in some beautiful English country side.

The grounds include a duckery, 2 mazes - one with a grotto, aviary - with a large range of birds from Toucans to Vultures, a huge herb/vege garden, what seems like a million swans, a dog collar museum (no I am not joking!), lots of formal and wild gardens and of course a castle with a moat.

Click on the photo to see more.

Leeds Castle
May 25, 2006 - 7 Photos

Friday, May 19, 2006

Karenlea and Kelly in Paris

It was an absolute must that Mum see Paris while she was in the UK. So we hopped onto a Eurostar train and headed over for the day.

We opted for an open top tour bus as our transport around the city, which took us to all the main sights and told us a bit of history on the way.

This is the main entrance to the Opera House. An absolutely stunning building.

The cows had come to town! They had taken up residence in front of the Opera house. Mum chose the multi coloured cow, while my cow had trains coming out its eye (very strange!!).

The second stop for the day was the Arc de Triomph.

Absolute proof that we really were in Paris!!

Despite Mum's dislike of heights, we joined the (unfortunately long) queue to go to the second level of the EiffelTower. After a brief moment of maddness when we considered walking up, we decided to stand in the rain queuing for about 40mins instead (time restrants being our main concern not necessarily climbing ability!)

Mum made it and even posed at the railings edge for photos! Yeah Mum!!!

It was rather windy that day, as the hairstyles suggest!

A victory photo - Mum had conquered the tower!

This is a fantastic photo taken by Mum of the Dome Church and thundery skies as we whizzed by on the bus.

Mum at Notre Dame.

Our final stop for the day was the Louvre. We felt a bit like we were in the Da Vinci Code movie running away from the villians. Having to navigate our way to the particular pieces we wanted to see and still make the train in time was a challenge (we certainly were not missing this transport back to the UK!)

Our day was so much fun, one we won't forget. Even though we managed to see all the major sights, one day is certainly not enough time in Paris. So the solution to this problem Mum?? you'll just have to come back to see the rest!!! ;-)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Copenhagen, Denmark

This weekend we took a short trip to Copenhagen, capital of Denmark. With Karenlea over for the month, it was a good excuse to jump across to a Scandinavian country.

Hans Christain Anderson would have held the mantle as the most recognisable Danish person. However, in recent years that title would have been passed over to Crown Prince Frederick and Crown Princess Mary.

Outside the Glyptotek.

Danish horns in the National Museum.

The view from the clock tower of the town hall.

Christiansborg slot, residence of Danish royalty and home to the Danish parliament.

Us at the top of the town hall tower.

Christiansborg slot.

Karenlea at Christiansborg Slot.

Parking, European style.

Rosenbourg Slot. The treasury is hidden below the castle and houses some of the crown jewels, including the jewel encrusted crowns from around the 1600's.

The crowns.

Kongens Square, with the Royal Theatre in the background. Off to the left is Nyhavn, a little dock with restaurants.

Memorial to Danish lives lost in World War II at the end of the Nyhavn dock.

Nyhavn dock.

You can ring my bell.

Wonderful fountain and a very interesting church in the background.

One of Hans Christian Anderson's most enduring stories is The Little Mermaid. This statue is a popular tourist attraction on the edge of the harbour. However, some aren't so taken by it - so much so it has been beheaded twice!

The Citadel. An old fortress at the entrance to the harbour. These days it has accommodation for navy personnel.

One of the buildings in the Citadel.

Copenhagen canal by night.

Sunday delivered a glorious day. The sun was out and visibility was great. What better day to take a canal cruise.

Amalienborg is the current winter residence for royalty. Four near-similar buildings flank the square. The marble church is in the background.

Cruising on the harbour.

Karenlea gets to see a Dutch-style windmill.

Mother's Day breakfast in a 5-star hotel. Did I mention that we stayed in the Marriott? Believe it or not it really was the cheapest option!

Kobenhavn FC supporters. Just as we crossed the riots in Paris, we came across a noisy, but peaceful, group of football supporters in Copenhagen. In true football fashion, there was plenty of beer, flags, Carlsberg shirts, flares and singing. The group was escorted by police and stretched for at least 5 blocks.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


The first bank holiday weekend in May. We met up with Dave, Karen, Pete and Kristi to get out of London and spend the long weekend in Brugge. Brugge is a moderately sized city in the north-west of Belgium, and hence is known for beer and chocolate. This trip was much anticipated by many and we were all very keen to see what Ned (of the Flanders regions of Belgium) would serve up for the weekend.

BrugesI haven't put many photos up here. Dave has a great collection of photos from everyone that you can access by clicking this image.

On Friday afternoon we met at Waterloo station armed with a large array of snacks and drinks for the 2 hour Eurostar ride to Brussels. From Brussels we caught a local train to Brugge... but only just. The hotel was located in the heart of Brugge, just near the main market square. Brugge is definitely small enough that you can walk between all of the main areas. After finding the hotel we went out for a midnight dinner at a late night restaurant.


Today Brugge turned out a wonderful day. The sky was clear and although the breeze had a coolish edge, the sun more than made up for it. First call was a breakfast of coffee and omlettes. The Markt (large town square) is lined with cafes down two sides and bordered by the Belfort tower and the old provincial government building. The Belfort tower stands 83m above the town and has 366 steps to get to the top. Loaded up with breakfast we walked those steps and got a great view of the town and surrounding areas.

Brugge has a small canal that runs through the southern part of the town. Half hour cruises start from various parts of the canal and they offer a great way to see the more scenic areas. We did one of these cruises and saw many of the churches and buildings of the oldest part of the town. Along the way there were other such amazing sites like the smallest window and the doggy in the window ("He was soooo cute", says Kelly).

Brugge has many chocolate shops. After randomly selecting a chocolate store we made some purchases and walked around the south side of the town picking at them. Next stop was lunch, with a couple of Belgium beers, lunch and the requisite frites. We went up the road was the church with the Madonna and child statue.

This weekend there was a chocolate festival on. Many of the chocolate stores made an effort to create a chocolate display. Here is a intricate carousel and some chocolate boobs. Smaller boobs are also available, if that is your thing (see top and sides of photo). Sorry ladies, but we didn't see anything equivalent that might catch your eyes.

That evening we started with a session at the larger beer cafe in Brugge. This one boasts over 400 different types of beers, mostly Belgian. They range from 3% beers through to 10% triples, that really can go to your head. For dinner we went to a restaurant, de Vlaamsche Pot, which mainly sold traditional Flemish dishes. We had steamed moules, three-farmer's pate, beef stew, a mother-load of frites, and the now infamous Gentse waterzooi (Waterzooi with Chicken), amongst other dishes. It really was a nice meal and good value. Note that Kelly had the chicken.

Goodbye sun, hello drizzle. The day wasn't as nice, but it wasn't too rainy. Breakfast was on the markt square again - chocolate waffles, strawberry pancakes, banana pancakes sides of ice-cream and coffee. Today we planned on hiring some bikes and cycling around the town looking at the sights, amid much speculation of the spectacle of three pairs of tandem bikes and plenty of
Goodies references. Unbeknownst to the others, Pete and I hatched a plan to do a bit more riding than that - maybe out the beach or north to the Netherlands. One-by-one we convinced everyone that this was a good thing, so we went and hired bikes (singles as it turns out) and bought disposable rain coats.

The cycling to
Sluis in Netherlands was great fun. There are plenty of dedicated bike tracks and we took the direct line north-east along the canal, through Damme. Once over the border we parked in Sluis and had lunch - frites and a side of scampi or croquettes. Kelly wasn't feeling too well, so much that she had to sit away from us while we ate. Sluis is another little town that is a popular tourist destination. It doesn't have many claims to fame, but it is a good little town to have a day trip to. We were happy enough to just say that we cycled to another country!

On the way back Kelly wasn't feeling well and after troopering halfway home she passed out and threw up. Pete, Dave and I had stopped a while back to take photos, but we weren't too far away when Kristi came back to get us. After a bit of confusion, the fisherman on the other side of the canal communicated that he had called an ambulance. A bicycle policeman also stopped and called the ambulance. It didn't take too long arrive and Kelly and I were on our way to the hospital in Brugge. The emergency department was competent, if not somewhat off-hand, but they decided to hold Kelly in overnight for observation and a drip for what was diagnosed to be food-poisoning. Remember the chicken? Kelly did - many times that evening. I stayed back in the hotel for the night, after catching a cab at midnight. As for our bikes, Pete and Dave, did get into a bit of Goodies action by escorting our bikes back to town while riding their own. Thanks guys!

That night Pete, Kristi, Dave and Karen went back to the beer cafe for some well-earned beers, and by all accounts Pete and Dave had some rather large serves of frites with dinner.


Another drizzly day. Breakfast - we ordered omlettes and coffee again, 'Would you like frites with that?'. 'Hell no' was the overwhelming response. I think the waiter was a bit taken aback. I went back out the hospital to pickup Kelly and bring her back to town. Kelly wasn't so keen on eating for the next couple of days, but everything was fine.

For the rest of the morning we poked around town before catching the train back to Brussels. With a couple of hours to spare in Brussels we had another quick look around before getting back on the Eurostar to come back to London.

Brugge was a great trip, with a great bunch of people. Hospital stays aside, it is a beautiful destination for a weekend away. The town is obviously catering for tourists, but it is not a tourist trap. The beauty and cuteness of the town is not in any way fake and it was great value for money. King Gee reigns well and truly over this part of Belgium.