Monday, August 07, 2006

 

Thank you!!

I want to say thank you to Jon, Tracy, Jo, Jenny, Mary, Amanda, Amber, Zoe, Troy, Ross & Anne, Lakester, Martina, Rosita, Karen, John, Nathan, Disco (Yeti, Dunlop etc), Mary, Jess, Muzza and Lewi for making this fantastic experience possible. Thank you for the great nights out, putting up with me staying at your houses, being fantastic tour guides and spending hours on end keeping me entertained. Certainly not an easy task.

Thank you!!!

 

Dubai (United Arab Emirates – 3-5 August)

Hi all,

The last chapter of a fantastic holiday was Dubai. What a huge weekend. Unfortunately it didn’t start off that well, being held up in London for an extra 3 ½ hours meant I didn’t make it to the hotel until around 1 am. However the enthusiasm was back once I arrived and caught up with everyone.

The first beer for Friday came at 9.30 am while enjoying a swim in the pool. It had a swim up bar which was perfect. It certainly wasn’t too early for a beer that’s for sure. It was then off to ‘The Burj’, a 7 star restaurant in the Burj-al-Arab on the 27th floor. It had the most amazing view. The food was unbelievable. We ate and drank there for nearly 3 ½ hours. The bill for 7 of us came to nearly 3700 riyals, or roughly $1400 AUD. It was, without a doubt, worth every cent. We all loved.

That afternoon we spent a few hours laying on the beach at the hotel, trying to let the food digest. It was very relaxing. Nath and I then headed to the Autodrome to do some high speed go-carting. You can get the carts up to 30 kms an hour. Unfortunately when we arrived, it was closed due to track maintenance. They made this decision after they emailed Nath and told him we would be able to drive. Very poor effort on their part, then again, it could have been a safety measure so I probably shouldn’t be so critical.

Instead we went snow skiing at the indoor snow centre. It was great fun. I managed to take out both myself and some poor bloke standing there talking to his girl friend. I am proud of the effort, lucky he wasn’t hurt, I certainly got up a bit gingerly. It was great fun. We met up with Lewi and Mary on the slopes. Mary was a bit rusty at first, but endedup carving up the snow like a pro. Lewi was great right from the start. Unfortunately for Nath and I it took a lot longer. Nath had never snow boarded before, but after some practice managed to get it down pat. Thankfully for all of us we all walked away with no injuries, just a few big bruises and some great stories.

It was then back to the hotel to get ready to head out. In the end we didn’t make. After a few drinks we all decided to stay in. We still had a great night, can’t guarantee we will be invited back to the hotel though.

My last day away, and our last day in Dubai, was spent at Wild Wadi, the most awesome water park I have ever been to. The water slides were awesome. They have fast rushing water which pushes you up the slide instead of down, which is really cool. Although some of the rides aren’t for the faint hearted. If you are claustrophobic then perhaps a few of the rides aren’t for you, however there is enough exciting stuff there to really enjoy yourself. We all had an absolute ball.

After far too many hours out in the sun we headed back to the hotel for a final few beers and to pick up our bags. It was then off to the airport and back to the land of sand.

This ends a fantastic holiday, filled with so many stories, memories that will last forever, and photo’s that will stand the test of time, reminding me of the fantastic 3 ½ weeks I spent in London, Amsterdam, Oslo, Glasgow, Loch Ness, Edinburgh, Ireland and Dubai. 6 new country stamps in the passport, hundreds of photo’s and thousands of memories and stories to hold on to for years to come.

Now it’s back to work and back to reality.

Land of Sand here I come.

Ciao for now.

 

London (31 July – 3 August)

Hi again,

What a flight. After being delayed on the tarmac at Gatwick, it took them ages to take us to the terminal in buses. We were quickly through customs, but then it took a long time for our bags to come out. Rather annoying. As a result, I arrived at Victoria Station after midnight, which meant the tube was closed, just the thing in needed at midnight. After catching 3 buses I finally made it back to Jenny’s at around 1.45 am. Once arriving everyone in the house was asleep, leaving me to spend the next half hour standing outside trying to ineffectively wake them up. Just as I was preparing to sleep on the porch, Jenny came down to open the door. The end to what was a very interesting evening of travelling.

Monday it was to Madame Tussauds with Mary, one of Jenny’s housemates. It was great fun. We got a fair few photo’s. I didn’t see any wax one of me though. Could it be because I’m not famous?? Hmm, I’ll ponder that one. Some of the exhibits looked nothing like who they were meant to be, however the one of Aunt Liz was very accurate, quite impressive actually. On the opposite end of the spectrum was the one of Jerry Springer. If he wasn’t holding a microphone I would never have known who it was. The dungeon exhibit downstairs was great. It was a combination of live actors and wax exhibits. Even I jumped (don’t tell anyone). It was then off to dinner with Jon, Jo and Amanda, Jenny’s other housemate. The fajita’s were actually really nice.

Tuesday was time for a bit of shopping, before giving some of my family in London a call. It was great to catch up with Anne, my Pop’s cousin. We had a great chat. It was then off to the Tower of London. The castle is amazing. The armoury is fantastic, the weaponry on display was amazing. The castle also provided a great view of Tower Bridge. Until I arrived in London, I was under the impression that Tower Bridge was actually London Bridge. Turns out I was wrong. London Bridge is the next bridge along, and it’s a tad boring and bland.

That evening I caught up for a few beers with Troy (Aitkin) and a friend of Sarah Wood’s to talk all things Doha and life in the UK. It was a great chance to talk all things sports and transport, share stories and enjoy a few beers. We went to a great Vietnamese restaurant near Victoria Station.

My last day was very busy. I went to the Imperial War Museum in the morning. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to stay long enough as I had other things I wanted to see. I will definitely be going back though, obviously not anytime soon, but I will go back. It was off to do some more shopping and seeing the city. I went to Harrods for a bit of a peruse. Then went and did some shopping on Oxford Street before heading to Trafalgar Square. They were setting up for the Trafalgar Square Festival which was starting the next day. It would have been good to go to.

That evening I went to visit my cousin, who I didn’t really know existed, Ross. I had heard of him, but didn’t know where he was in England. He owns a wine bar in Islington called Colebrookes, it’s on Colebrookes Row. If you are in London it is worth visiting, it’s a nice bar. It was great to meet him. Unfortunately he will be following England during the Ashes series, to bad he will feel the horrible feeling of defeat. I then headed out for dinner with Jon, Jo, Jenny and Amanda. It was a really good end to a fantastic holiday in the UK and Europe.

The next day it was off to Dubai. The original plan was to fly out at 10 am, getting me there at 8 pm, 5 minutes before the others arrived. Unfortunately the flight was delayed at Gatwick, getting me there around 11ish. Thanks to massive lines in customs and a long wait for my bag, it made it to the hotel around 1am. Oh well these things happen. On a positive note I did get to watch the end of Ice Age 2. It turns out that the two mammoths did get together and it was a happy ending. Yay for them.

My trip through the UK and Europe was absolutely fantastic. I had the greatest time, added 5 more country stamps in my passport, and got a fair bit of relaxation. Every country had some many highlights, as you can probably tell. I didn’t have any complaints, I got to see some amazing sights, and catch up with people I haven’t seen in months, and years for that matter. If you asked me to pinpoint one good thing, I don’t think I could. So many exciting things happened. Seeing Tracy and travelling across Ireland, seeing the fantastic sights of Amsterdam and Oslo, catching up with Amber and Zoe in Edinburgh, seeing the wonderful landscape and sights of Scotland, seeing so many great things in London, and catching up with Jo, Jenny, Amanda and Mary. It was truly fantastic being able to catch up with one of my best mates Jonno, have a number of beers and travel to so many countries with him. I had a fantastic time.
Although this chapter of my trip has ended, the holiday is not over. Next it’s off to Dubai to meet up with Disco, Lewi, Nath, Mary, Jess and Muzza.

 

Ireland (almost everywhere in Ireland - 26–30 July)

Hi all,

Well it was time for my next adventure, and that was Ireland. I flew out of London at 0930, landing in Dublin just after 1100, after a slight delay. I was met there by a friend of mine Tracy. Tracy is also friends with Disco (aka Yeti, AD, Dunlop, The Hoff), oh yeah, Tracy is Irish. There was to be the beginning of a massive road trip.

We spent our first day in Dublin. After dropping off my bags at her friend Rosita’s house, it was in to Dublin for lunch and of course, a few beers. However we had to work up a bit of an appetite, so we visited Trinity College, which is where they keep the Book of Kells. The artistry in the book is amazing, having been written so many years ago. There were four books on display. Upstairs was the oldest library I have ever seen. There was also a copy of the Proclamation of Independence of Ireland. It was very interesting reading. There were only 250 written and signed.

After that it was off to lunch and a few beers of course. We then made our way to the Guinness Storehouse, via another bar for a quick top up. This was a tour of the brewery. It was very interesting, much like the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam. At the end you go up to the sky bar or a pint of Guinness. The bar is fantastic. It’s a big round bar with an amazing view of Dublin and the mountains. It is a fantastic place to have a beer and get some great photo’s. It was great.

We then went for dinner at a place called La Med. The food was great. I highly recommend it. If anyone is in Dublin I would definitely go there. We went to another bar after dinner before retiring for the night. It was a great day, lots to see and drink.

Day two we kicked off by heading to Wicklow for Tracy to go to an interview. We then went to Glendalough. Glendalough is home to one of the few remaining moscs in Ireland since the early 1100’s. The building of the mosc was amazing. The entry to the mosc was built out of rocks, using no mortar. The wall has been standing for hundreds of years and still to this day hasn’t fallen. We then walked for around half an hour to a lake near by. We sat by the water watching a kid throwing rocks in the water, just hoping he would miss aim and throw the rock at his brother or sister. Unfortunately he didn’t, although he did get his brother wet, it provided a good laugh. The lake is great, it would be perfect for skiing and also just for picnics. After this relaxation it was off to Waterford. I have to say there wasn’t much happening there, but we did find a nice Chinese restaurant for dinner.

The next day we left for Cork, well actually, that was the plan, until lunch time. After failing to find breakfast in a town called Tramore, which is on the west coast, we decided to go for lunch in a small country town called Dungarven. It’s a really nice town. After lunch it was off to Ardagh, a town located near Newcastle West. It was a really last minute decision. The drive took around 3 hours, as we had do travel to the other side of the country. The landscape on the way was amazing, especially in the county of Cork. We went over to visit Martina, a friend of Tracy’s. We had a fantastic home cooked meal, actually it was the only home cooked meal of the trip. It was great. Not to mention the many bottles of wine. It was a big night.

Saturday, it was off to Cork. By the way, Cork is both a county and a city. I doubt it would be much smaller than Dublin. On our way over, we made our way to Ballybunnion. It’s a small town on the west coast. It was excellent. The beach was fantastic and the water wasn’t even cold, mind you I was wanting a jumper, for the first time on my holiday, it was cold outside. It was great.

It was then on to Cork, via Killarny. We stopped off along the way to visit Tracy’s sister Karen and her boyfriend John. They are both really nice. After the short visit it was off to Tracy’s in Cork and then out for the night. We went out to a bar in the city. Unfortunately I can’t remember the name, but it was really cool. It had a downstairs bar, with a nightclub above it. The nightclub was 2 levels, a good place. Once again, a few beers consumed and a great night had by all. Unfortunately it was my last night in Ireland. I really enjoyed it.

My last day in Ireland was very relaxing. We went out for breakfast and then a tad of shopping. We later out for a coffee with Tracy’s friend Rosita, who was kind enough to let us stay in Dublin. The two of us headed out for dinner and had a look around the city. It was my last chance to look around. I saw the tallest building in Ireland. It was 15 stories high, and I am sorry to say, one of the most average looking buildings I have ever seen. It’s on a road called “The Straight Road”. I can understand why it would take pride of place in Cork. This little visit ended up being the last place to see before it was off to the airport and back to London.

It was great to catch up with Tracy, meet some of her family and friends and see some of the fantastic countryside of Ireland. I had a ball there.

 

London (24 – 25 July)

Hi all,

After good nights sleep it was off to see some sights. This didn’t quite work out as planned, however I did get the chance to go and have a few beers with Andy, a guy I work with in Doha. He was also lucky enough to escape the island, albeit for a short period of time. We went to a few bars in Covent Garden. The bars there seem really good, Jonno and Jo also joined us. Covent Garden seems like a good place to go out.

Tuesday was tourist day. It was great. The weather was perfect, around 26 degrees, sunny and clear blue sky. Perfect for a walk. I saw Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. After that it was off to Westminster Abbey. It is amazing. There is so much history, it was really interesting. So much of what we saw and read about when we were in Scotland was also there, which brought everything together. Next it was off to visit Aunt Liz and Uncle Phil at there place, Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately she wasn’t home, so I slid a note under the door saying I would be back next week and could wait to catch up… after a nice wlak through the park, I then dropped past Tony’s house, however his assistant said he wasn’t home as he had Prime Minister things to do, quite disappointing, all I wanted was a glass of water.

Since the day was getting better and better, it was time to keep walking, and back to the London Eye to relax in the park. There were a few street performers, one of which said he was from Melbourne. I was disappointed he said that, cos he dragging the rest of us down. A rather average act I must say.

I am rather impressed with London so far. There transport system is really good, the tube is very handy. It could do with some air conditioning but other that that it is a very effective system. My first couple of days in London have been good. I have seen a fair bit so far and I am looking forward to seeing more. It has also been a great opportunity to spend time with Jonno. Having been MIA in London, we haven’t been able to see him for a while. Don’t worry Ben, I gave him a kiss from you!!

The next journey was of to Ireland.

Stay tuned!!!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

 

Glasgow and Edinburgh (Scotland – 20-23 July)

Hi Everyone,

After another very short flight, around 1 ½ hours, we arrived in Glasgow. After picking up our car from Avis in the city it was off for dinner. After a very pathetic meal at a joke of a restaurant called Harry Ramsdens, we went for a wander around the city. After walking past one of the biggest rubbish heaps around 9it was an actual rubbish heap next to the road), we took a wander through the streets. The city hall and world war monument were both very impressive. Unfortunately the rest left a lot to be desired. I doubt I will go back there any time soon, unless anyone can tell me that there is something impressive about it?!?

Friday was spent driving to Edinburgh, via Loch Ness. It took around 3 ½ hours, with some fantastic scenery. It wasn’t quite as impressive as Norway, but definitely amazing to say the least. Loch Ness is huge. Interesting fact: There is that much water that you could fill it with every human on earth twice over. Unfortunately we didn’t see the Loch Ness monster, although I was looking.

After our little adventure it was off to Edinburgh. Another 3 ½ hour drive was what met us, but after 2 hours one of the most exciting things on the trip happened, it started raining. Now normally this isn’t anything exciting, however rain isn’t something we have seen for months, so this was a big thing (then again, it could just be me).

In Edinburgh we met up with Amber. That’s right, Amber Rimmer. By the way she is well and loving her time in Edinburgh working on the Fringe Festival. We caught up for dinner and several drinks. It was nice and relaxing, especially needed after all of the driving.

Saturday we spent wandering around Edinburgh Castle and went to the Edinburgh Dungeons. It was good fun. Amber wasn’t as impressed as we were, probably because she used to work there and they weren’t as exciting as she was… That night I got to meet up with a friend of mine Zoe. I hadn’t seen Zoe for around 3 years, and it was a great chance to catch up. For those of you who know Zoe I will be sending you some photo’s soon. We went out for dinner and out for many many drinks. We went to a bar called Finigan’s. It was absolutely hectic. Had a beer there and went to ‘3 Sisters’. We all sat in the beer garden out front. It is huge, and it was filled with Hen’s Parties. Very funny, some great costume ideas, and some absolute hideous ones. Once that closed it was off to the next place, the name of which I can’t remember, not sure if it was the beer or the name was easily forgettable.

Sunday we were everywhere. We went back to Glasgow for a short time, and then off to St Andrews. The golf course was amazing. We then watched a Scottish Pipes and Drums band. By this time it was getting late and we had to go to the airport. We made one last stop and had a look at the Royal Britannia. The ship is huge, no wonder the Queen was always using it. Imagine the parties, Aunt Liz would have been wasted…

Unfortunately for Jon this spelt the end of the Eurotrip and it was back to work. As for me, well, it keeps going.

 

Oslo (Norway – 17-20 July)

Hi again,

As I am sure you can understand, the flight from Amsterdam to Oslo, although smooth flying, wasn’t really the greatest due to our antics the night before. After arriving at Oslo airport around 5pm, we caught a ‘fast train’ from Oslo airport to City Centre, which took around 40 minutes. We made our way to the Anker Hostel, dropped our gear and headed out for dinner.

There were lots of restaurants around, and the food on offer sounded amazing. After enjoying a very nice meal we wandered around for a while and headed back to the hostel for a bit of sleep. Interesting fact: One thing that is different with Oslo is that it never actually gets dark. The sun sets around midnight, however there was never a dark sky, there was always a tinge of blue. It is a fantastic view.

We rose early on Tuesday and headed out for the day. We decided to do a 5 hour bus and boat tour through the fjords and the country side. We had an hour boat tour which was great. The fjords are very extensive, there are so many waterways, so much more to look around in the future.

We went to a sculpture park, a couple of fantastic museums, past the royal palace, around the docks and to the Oslo Ski Jump, which is used or ski jumping etc. It was a fantastic 5 hours. The information was great, we both actually learnt a lot, the history of Norway is very interesting. If we hadn’t taken the tour we would never have seen as much as we did with only a guide book to show us around. We went for a wander around the streets of Oslo after dinner. It was rather busy, even though it was a Wednesday night.

On Thursday we went and had a look at the Royal Palace. It is surrounded by a public park, which is quite interesting, considering 500m is the U.S. embassy which is surrounded by a high fence and armed guards. We saw a changing of the guard which was very impressive. The drill was excellent, could have been a bit better but excellent none the less. We then went to a few of the islands we went past in the tour the day before. It was fantastic. The view was amazing. We did a walk through the bush (not because we were lost…) to have a good look around. The beaches were great, the water was the perfect temperature for swimming. After spending several hours on the boats, sitting by the water and generally being lazy (other than the bush walk) we went out for some dinner and a few beers.

The port is amazing at night. There is a fort which overlooks it, providing a stunning view no matter where you were sitting. There were heaps of restaurants open, giving us the chance to have a few cold ones.

On the last day, Thursday, we flew out to Glasgow, Scotland. However, in the pursuit of cheap plane tickets, Jon booked us a flight leaving from Torp airport, which happened to be 120 km from Oslo, which he didn’t notice until 3 days before we were supposed to depart for our European tour. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. As a result we caught a coach from the central bus station in Oslo out to Torp. The scenery was some of the best I have ever seen. It was amazing to see the extent of the fjords, which we further discovered when we were flying out. It was a great mistake, as not only did we get to see Oslo but we also saw the country side of Norway, a definite hidden bonus.

A very fun few days, Olso is without a doubt one the best cities around. I would love to live there, perhaps the 2011 World Nordic Ski Championships??
Now it’s of to Scotland!!!

 

Amsterdam (and a bit of London – 14-17 July)

Hi everyone,

I thought it was a good opportunity to drop the Arabic. It turns out the world does exist outside Doha, I was starting to wonder if the world was still spinning.

The flight from Dubai to London was only 7 hours, it went really fast. I spent my time watching Toy Story 2, the first 5 minutes of Mary Poppins, Annapolis and Ice Age 2. Unfortunately the flight was on time and I missed the last 20 minutes of the movie. Anyone able to tell me how it ends? I think the mammoths get together, but I’m not too sure. Might have to wait for the return trip.

I flew into Heathrow airport at around 6pm, where I was met by Jonno and Jo. Believe it or not but Jon hasn’t really changed, he still looks the same. We went out for dinner, and got some sleep before the beginning of my new European adventure.

Friday morning was fantastic. It started by cooking the biggest load of bacon and eggs ever. There was so much bacon it was crazy. Now this may seem crazy for me emphasising that I had mass amounts of bacon, but in Doha, we cannot get bacon, or ham or pork for that matter, as the pig is not allowed in the country. Those of you who know how much I love food, will know that this is a big thing. That afternoon it was off to Amsterdam.

After a 3km taxi down the runway at Heathrow we were off. We arrived in Amsterdam a little after 5 pm. We headed out as soon as we arrived. The night life is amazing. The streets were filled with people, most of the restaurants were nearly filled and the streets were covered with locals and tourists alike, all looking for that tasty meal and some fun… We stayed out for a few beers and hit the hay.

Saturday was fantastic. We went in to the centre of Amsterdam, the central station and worked our way around. Within 5 minutes beginning our excursion, we ended up visiting a sex museum. From what I could work out, they did it the same way a couple of hundred years ago as they do now, although a few of the pictures did show a few slight changes in the way its done now, I will leave it up to you all to ponder that one!!!

After the thrills of the museum, we went and had the “Heineken Experience”. It was fantastic. It was a historical tour or the brewery, stopping off for a free beer along the way. The tour was really interesting. It was very interactive, a great experience. It was finished off with another few free pots of Heineken and a present, a Heineken bottle opening in a bottle. That took several hours and was great fun.

Following that experience it was time to experience “The Red Light District”. It wasn’t a massive area, but it was filled with ‘special’ cafes, sex shops and more sex shops. All I will say is if you go to Amsterdam you have to go to the red light district. It’s an experience to behold!!!

That night we went on a pizza cruise. It was a great way to see the canals, have many many glasses of red and eat pizza. It went for around 2 hours and it was fantastic. That night we were out and about again, having a few beers.

Sunday, after a big breakfast, which once again included bacon, we went on a 3 hour tour of Amsterdam. We went and saw a windmill, lots of old buildings, the Rembrandt Museum (very impressive) and many other sights in Amsterdam. We than spent a few more areas looking around the town before getting ready for the night. We went on a pub crawl with around 15 others. It was great fun. After finishing our tour we jumped in to another one and continued with them. After returning around 5.30 in the morning, we had to check out of at 11 am. As you can imagine it was a painful experience. The Amsterdam experience ended with nursing a very bad hangover spilling a large coke all over the table and me at the airport. Interesting fact about Amsterdam, “There are more bicycles in Amsterdam than there are people. This is because every resident owns 2 bikes, one old one for use in Amsterdam and one good one. The reason is that good ones get stolen by the druggies and sold back for 40 euro’s”.

One country down, 5 more to go.

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