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Europe 2009

a travel blog by Chris and Emily

Working Holiday to Europe
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3 week to go!

Hobart, Australia

Finally our working holiday visa's have been approved, yet to see them though as they haven't come through the mail yet :( on the Bright side we have managed to find a place to stay for the first 4 days in London, yay! I think Em and I looked at a gazillion (yes a GAZILLION) places on tripadvisor before we found one in our budget, available and not infested with bedbugs, at least we hope so anyway.

permalink written by  Chris and Emily on March 14, 2009 from Hobart, Australia
from the travel blog: Europe 2009
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Passports have returned from their trip to the berra

Hobart, Australia

Just a quick entry before I finally get some sleep!
Our passports have finally returned from their trip to the british high comission in Camberra, I guess they were enjoying themselves seeing the sights and rubbing "corners" with all the pollies as they were gone for a very long time. But they are home now and in good time to be ready to play an important part in our little trip :)

permalink written by  Chris and Emily on March 19, 2009 from Hobart, Australia
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3 days to go

Hobart, Australia

Well 3 days left and we are pretty much ready... I think.. we still don't have any pounds but we are pretty much packed. Been flat out catching up with everybody and have had some really good nights with friends over the last week.

We are feeling a little bit sad at the concept of leaving friends and family for so long but we are excited about the adventure ahead. We have been franticly looking at all the places to visit in London and are pretty overwhelmed so I think we will just play it by ear on our 4 days there before we grab a train down to Bristol.

The blog should get a lot more interesting after Sunday! we might even manage some airport blogs along the trip, we will be in the Qantas club in Melbourne for a few hours (thanks bro!) so that would be a good spot to upload some photos, of what I am not sure yet and write about the big departure. Our next stop will be Hong Kong for an hour or so but we might not get much chance to write.

Google earth has elightened me to the fact that they still have Police boxes in Lodon or at least there is one outside the tube station at Earls Court where we are staying so expect an excited photo to be uploaded of it! If only I had a long scarf, funny hat and some jelly babies so I can do a good Dr Who Impression.


permalink written by  Chris and Emily on April 2, 2009 from Hobart, Australia
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The day arrives, finally!

Melbourne, Australia

The day of take off has finally arrived! Chris and I have been waiting for this day, for what seems like forever! Thanks to the change in time with day light savings, we awoke bright and early and ready to hit the road (or skies as it is in this case) We had an entire day to fill with waiting, last minute checks and the indecision of what to wear.. 3pm seemed to take a very very long time to roll around. FINALLY though it did, and thanks to Ev and Jan made our way to the airport where we were greeted with a large entourage of family and friends.

To anyone on the outside it would appear as if we were leaving for far longer than the 6 months we have planned! It was truly lovely to see how many people turned up to bid us farewell, it reconfirmed to the both of us how lucky we are to have such wonderful friends and family. We were also presented with a large farewell card full of advice and goodbye messages from other mates who were unable to make the airport (or the night out last night..) that too was very touching. It's always difficult for me to leave those I love, no matter how long my journey away is for, and this time was no exception. I promised myself I wouldn't get teary, but it would seem I'm unable to keep promises with myself! I shed quite a few tears whilst saying goodbye and then even more while boarding and taking off. However, I have discovered that becoming puffy eyed, tear stained and snotty has it's advantages! The air stewardess asked "have you been crying?" I replied "yes, are you going to kick me off?" She contemplated for a short time before saying no and then disappeared. She then returned with many many a tissue (I must have looked far worse than I thought...) and a bottle of water, and later, thanks to my display of woosieness, another round of sandwiches.. a girl can never have too many sandwiches you know so I accepted gratefully...

The flight itself wasn't too bad, but then I love a good dose of turbulance, helps to keep the flight interesting. It didn't seem to excite those behind us much however. The sudden dips and violent shakes seemed to draw many gasps and "oh god!" and even one or two expletives... There was a lovely little boy behind us though, who thankfully wasn't a screamer. Instead he laughed quite loudly and yelled "yay, whee!" and at one stage "look grandpa, we're dancing on the plane!" which made a few nervous flyers smile at the very least. Babes can be quite sweet in their innocence.

Anyhow. We received a lovely, wonderful suprise whilst checking in. Chris' brother who had dealt with our bookings etc had suprisingly upgraded us to buisness class for the longer legs of the journey! Hoorah! Thank you very much! :) We also have received passes to the the buisness lounge to wait out the 3 hour stop over, lovely thank you very much! We have proceeded to help ourselves to the free champers, beer,phone line and yummy food and now, sitting admist the more 'upper class' I'd guess you say, have kicked off my smelly hiking boots and am blogging away furiously whilst those around me are looking all smart and civilised reading large papers that expand your entire arms length. I am slightly concerned though of the smell wafting from my boots.. whilst it was a practical idea to wear them on the trip to save weight and room, they weren't the smartest idea in the way of comfort.. non the less! I'm planning on begging Chris to take his boots off too in a minute and so that way no one will suspect that the boot smell belongs to me.. hee hee hee... I am a genius! Besides, everyone knows that girls don't smell right?

To toast the adventure unfolding before us we took two glasses of champers. This was all going lovely, Chris gave a lovely little speech, we 'clinked' with the usual eye contact, took a sip and then.. SMASH! Chris had managed, much to my amusement, take the entire bottom of his champers glass off whilst attempting to put it down on the side table. Very amusing for me, not so for him. I think, with the combination of smelly feet and breaking their goods, the lounge and those around us, may very well be glad to see us leave.

So now we sit and wait for a further 2 hours 10 minutes until our flight to Hong Kong is called. Am not sure what we will do to fill in this time but I do see a rather impressive stack of glasses to my right.... :)

To be continued......

Oh yes, we have also learnt that you can not bring small jars of vegemite through customs (thanks for the thought though Jess) & that you can not offer your jar of said vegemite to the custom men. Customs also do not allow used, slimy almost empty tubes of toothpaste through. This is not for its contents, but rather for it's sizing (not allowed anything over 100g) though, vegemite is also a gel and for that reason a no no. Victory though with the tin of milo, it was allowed, much to my great delight and relief, through! Thanks God!

Okay, now to be continued....

permalink written by  Chris and Emily on April 5, 2009 from Melbourne, Australia
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Hong Kong stop-over

Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Oh my gosh. How awesome is buisness class?! Chris and I were both very impressed with our seats and surroundings, all rather flash and the seats reclined a good distance so that we were able to catch a bit of shut eye. Chris was rather excited about being able to sit at the window and watch the world go by, whereas I was most excited by the awesome PJ set we received! Very comfy thank you Mr Morrisey!

We're currently sitting in Hong Kong at boarding gate 24 awaiting our return to the lap of luxury. We did try to get into the lounge with the other hob knobs but were told that we weren't allowed (surely my feet don't still smell, do they?)

Boarding soon so must dash, next stop.. London baby!

To be continued.....

permalink written by  Chris and Emily on April 5, 2009 from Hong Kong, Hong Kong
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London at last

London, United Kingdom

Just a quick entry to say that we made it :) we are tucked up in our hotel room after lugging our bags on the tube into the city. We nicked out for a english pint and a curry for dinner (as you do on your first night in London) Em was fast alseep within 10 seconds of laying down on the bed and I don't think it will take me much longer!

Stay tuned lots of photo's to upload tomorrow.


permalink written by  Chris and Emily on April 6, 2009 from London, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Europe 2009
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We did it, we're in the UK finally!

London, United Kingdom

We're here! We've arrived! My gosh, so much has happened in the past 24 hours I almost don't know where to begin, but I guess the obvious place would be the start, so.. here we go...

Last time we wrote we were waiting to board into the lap of luxury once more. This time, there were only 7 other people sitting in buisness class which suprised me. I thought HK - Ldn would have been a very popular leg for the buisness lot, but apparently not, not that I'm complaining. It was nice to have a virtually empty section. We settled back into our comfy pjs, selected a movie to watch and found ourselves a comfy position in the chairs (which are more like pods to be honest) and it was great. For 8 hours. Now, I really really don't wish to come across as if I'm sounding ungrateful, because I'm not, I'll always be thankful and appreciative to the upgrade during the flight, but my god did cabin fever set in! Our flight was 13 hours long, and as I said, the first 8 were fine,but then the lack of sleep, restlessness and boredom set in and all this doesn't help when your in a confide space. It wouldn't matter if you were sitting in premium, first, buisness or cattle class, 13 hours in a small space is too long. The air stewards were great though, so lovely and helpful and my god did they ever feed us. I felt like a bloody hobbit! Breakfast, second breakfast, 11sies, lunch, second lunch and all the snacks and free drinks in between! They love to give you drinks of the alcoholic variety on this section, and you can't help but think "why not? You only live once!" and swig back one or two.. (this time we didn't break any of the glasses, we were very civilised)

As we were flying we flew over some of the most amazing snow capped mountains I've ever seen. They went on for miles and miles and were gorgeous to watch and check out. It was insane though that on one side of the plane you had this view and the other showed this barren, dry dead land. Such conrast! We flew over Russia too which was also covered in snow. It was quite amazing to be flying over these landscapes.

We touched down at Heathrow after doing several circles of the city as the air space was so busy. Kind of reminded me of Die Hard 2 when John McClanes wife is on the plane and they circle and circle and circle before going down in typical Hollywood fahion.. Thankfully for us though there was a smooth landing and no flames, though I wouldn't have minded too much if we'd run into Bruce Willis.. I'd have taken a photo or two for my mum.

Customs was nice and easy, just a few quick questions and we were through. We brought some 'Oyster cards' for the train, a prepaid train & bus ticket and head to Earls Court where we're currently staying. Negoiating the tube was easier than I thought, even with our MASSIVE packs and the first thing we saw when emerging into the sunlight was a 'tardis' which Chris insisted I posed with for a quick photo.

Our accom. is nice enough. We have a twin room which the lady at the check out desk said was 'bigger' than some of the other rooms. Well, if our room is bigger than the rest I'd HATE to see the size of the others! Chris and I have to suck in our breathe and walk sideways to walk past each other in this room... Okay okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but it's not far off the truth I swear! The corridoors are so thin that you do bash into the walls as you walk down them and I promise you that's no exaggeration at all! All in all though, it is a nice little spot. We're down stairs under road level and at the back of the hotel, it's a bit of a rabbit warren but it's quiet and that's what you want when all you want to do is SLEEP, which we did for 13 hours once our heads hit the pillow.

This morning we awoke still feeling a little 'off' and out of place but after a good size brekki (where we smuggled out some ham and cheese sangas) we hit the train system to see the sights. We managed to make our way to Buckingham Palace, which I almost missed. I had a complete blonde moment (no offence to those reading who are blonde, it's just an expression!) I happened to keep walking and Chris had to call me back saying "Em! Where are you going?" and I then asked "is this it?!" I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't what was in front of me! We got some nice shots and waited some time for the changing of the guard which never happened before moving on. We saw and took pics of the Queen Victoria Monument, The horse guards parade, Big Ben,the houses of paliment, Westminster Abbey, Downing Street, Trafalguar Sq, Piccidilly Cir. and the London eye (that was from a distance though, that's on the cards in the next day or two) It was a very full on day filled with much sight seeing and me going "is that it?"

So now, after giving our legs a bloody good work out we sit in our wee hotel room resting and relaxing and looking into what lies ahead for us tomorrow, probably the London Eye and Tate Museum of modern art, but we'll wait and see how we're feeling tomorrow I guess. We DID want to go into Westminster Abby today but there was a large protest going on and we didn't wish to get caught up in it all. There was a huge police presence, underground in that area was closed and this morning the Westminster bridge had been closed off too as protesters had been threatening to throw themselves off into the river Thames (another site we saw today for the record) so.. we left it for today and quickly walked past it all in search for a cup of tea and hot chocolate, but could only find the pub so settled for a guiness and lemon lime and bitters (which they didn't know how to make?!) All in all, a nice day and we're looking forward to what else awaits!

To be continued...

permalink written by  Chris and Emily on April 7, 2009 from London, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Europe 2009
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Tower of London and St Pauls

London, United Kingdom

Things have been so busy and crazy these past few days that Chris and I haven’t had a chance to sit down and blog, but now on Easter Sunday we’re resisting the urge to leap up and eat many Easter eggs and instead, blog. It’s probably better for our health..

So to catch up we shall pick up where we left off (if we can remember…)

After another huge breakfast consisting of the likes of toast, yoghurt, porridge & cereal we managed to smuggle out some more ham and cheese sandwiches for the day ahead. I know it sounds stingy, but it IS expensive in London, it’s not just a myth!

We skyped home and after a quick chat to the family hit the road. Today’s agenda consisted of the Tower of London, London Tower Bridge and then St Paul’s Cathedral. We were amazed by the size of the Tower. Again I don’t know what I was expecting really, but it wasn’t a 1000 year old Castle that just commanded the sky line and your attention.

It was huge and there was so much history in it that it took us a good 5 hours of wandering about to see what we wished too see, there are still rooms we haven’t discovered. The grandeur of the building, the architecture, the history, it’s all amazing and the views of the bridge from the tower are great. Of course, the most amazing and gorgeous part of the Tower experience is the tour of the crown jewels. Security here is insanely huge and so when they say “no photos” you listen and fight the urge to take a pic or two to show those back home! It was amazing though, the room was filled with gold plates, cups & bowls, full of diamonds, sapphires and pearls, full of amazing sculptures and of course, crowns from the ages. There are no real words to describe the room. I spent a long time just staring in awe of the craftsmanship that went into making such beautiful objects and although I don’t think of myself as a princess and I’d never ever wear a crown like that, I wanted one!

We moved on to the Tower next as the line ups, although we were missing them all by the skin of our teeth, were becoming to much and driving us mad (think a gazillion teen school groups who are more interested in impressing their peers than seeing the history)

The Tower Bridge was also amazing and wonderful. I know I keep saying it, but the work that went into these landmarks is just outstanding. There all 1000 years old but they’ve lasted to this day and age and are still standing in tact and more to the point, safe and useable! I wish that we could adopt this infrastructure in today’s day and age, it would make sense.. There were tours that we could do inside the bridge if we wished, but we were happy enough to just walk over the bridge for now as we were on a tight schedule for St Paul’s Cathedral.

Now, what can I say about St Paul’s? I know that I’ve ranted and raved about how wonderful and beautiful the Tower and Bridge were and I’ve used a lot of descriptive words, but oh, my, god! St Paul’s is jaw droppingly MASSIVE and I’mlostforwords spectacular! It is by far THE most gorgeous, sacred place I have ever ever come across. I could spend days and days in there and not be tired. It is massive on the outside, and not so surprisingly, massive on the inside. Every wall and the roof are covered with the most amazing paintings and with sculptures and just gorgeous tiles and art work. Everything in it is so grand and there’s this sense of history and ‘presence’. I spent a very very long time just staring and looking up at the ceilings (until my neck got sore and I had to look down to try and re-correct the ache..) We then walked up many MANY steep stairs to the ‘whisper room’ Here your meant to sit opposite one another in this very large round room (you can just see one another in the end!) and you give each other a signal to let one another know you’re about to whisper into the wall (that in fairness has to be a stage whisper) and the other puts their ear to the wall to see if they can hear it. Apparently when I stage whispered into the wall Chris said he could hear something, though he wasn’t sure it was me or not as there were a million other people whispering, but I was unable to hear Chris whisper to me. At one stage I thought “geez Louise! I can hear my name being whispered loud and clear! This is amazing!” but then I realized that it was the very loud American next to me “whispering” “Emily, can you hear me?!” to his daughter opposite the room. Oh well. This wall works as the globe shape of the room allows the sound to travel and priests could come up here and send secret messages to one another… what secrets the priests had I don’t wish to know… We were then able to climb even MORE freaking steps to the second tallest part of St Paul’s, and you could step outside. A great view from up here, and it was just a tad bit windy and a wee bit chilly. We got a few snap shots before heading back down to the crypt where we saw dead people. Not in the 6th sense way, but in the tomb, head stone way. Bit Indiana Jones like to be honest, we were just missing our whip and hat…. I thought it was pretty cool until I realized that what I thought were tiles, were in actual fact gravestones and I was walking over dead people. Then I felt bad and had to apologize to the name of the person I was ‘walking all over’.. I did this silently though as I would have looked a tad mad saying “I’m very sorry to be stepping on your head Mr Edward SoandSo” out loud.

So, it was a great day and we saw so so much and did so so so so much freaking walking! We caught a tube home where we then relaxed with a bath, TV, a book and our smuggled breakfast sandwiches. Mmmmm.

permalink written by  Chris and Emily on April 8, 2009 from London, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Europe 2009
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Runaround Day (and a bit of the British Museum)

London, United Kingdom

It had to happen sometime, I just wasn’t quite ready for it, I thought we’d have more time… It wasn’t nice, it wasn’t pretty.. it was the day of “completing all the errands”

We did have plans of seeing the museums today as the weather was shite and it was better to be indoors than out, but we realized that the day of runabout had come. We had to organize our mobiles and their numbers & the bank accounts. We caught the tube a bit of a ways to where the agency we’d signed up with were, grabbed our ‘start up packs’ and then head to the bank which of course, had to be another few good tube stops away and then another 10 minute walk.. nothing seemed easy today. We got off at the right station and began to walk, it was crazy busy and people were just pushing and shoving you in every direction, there were nothing but fashion shops and all we wanted to do was sit down and pull out a map so we could see where the bloody hell we were.. and then we saw it, a big fat sign on the corner of a building stating “OXFORD STREET”… ooooohhhh, now that explains it all. We’d totally stumbled upon it by accident, and we couldn’t wait to get off it! We pulled into a small café to grab a milkshake and coffee just so we could breathe for a minute or two, but then our breath was taken away once more when the bill arrived… it was 9 bloody pounds for 2 drinks! 9 freaking pounds…. That’s equivalent of $18! Thank god we didn’t decide to eat there as well! (no smuggled sandwiches today, we think they’re onto us now…) What made it even more annoying is the fact that we were expecting a pound or so change and that never arrived as they’d kept it as tip. Sorry, but they’d just sent us broke, they didn’t deserve to keep our change as well!! At this bloody rate we were going to be sitting on the street with a Styrofoam cup in front of us with a sign saying “we’re not crack addicts, we just had had a quick drink, any change appreciated”

Anyhow, we moved on to where we eventually found the bank and were served by a very nice young man, who assisted us in setting up our bank accounts. Along the way we passed Marble Arch, but neither of us could be bothered getting the camera out to take a snap shot. We then found a shop in which we were able to buy 2 new mobile phones and set them up so that we could keep in touch with friends and family. Figuring out the international codes etc was fun (please note the large dose of sarcasm) but we did it in the end.

By now it was well and truly into the late afternoon and we were both stubborn and didn’t want to waste today on just running about, we wanted to get some form of sight seeing out of it, so we made our way to the British Museum. Whoa, is this place ever big!!! Its ginormous and so easy to get lost in!

We checked the map and chose a room or two to see, there was no way on earth, even with a good week up your sleeve that you’d get to see this place properly, thus the reason why we chose a room or two. We decided on the ancient Egypt room and the roman room, both of which were very very interesting and amazing. The sphinxes and statues were all fantastic, again the craftsmanship that went into these works of art is nothing you’ve ever seen before, and they dated back to 200-300 AD, bloody amazing!

Again tour groups were pushing past and we’d by now had enough of the crowds and in immature fashion made a deal of pushing past the tour groups that had just pushed by us.. Do unto others and all that.. Our feet were sore, our patience was non existent and we were getting hungry by now (again, no sandwiches…) so we decided to go and grab dinner in Leicester Square, where we had a rather yummy Japanese meal.

I Emily, who is allergic to fish and all things that grow, live and breed beneath the waves tried some vegetarian sushi. Last time I tried this I did have a reaction, and this time was no exception, though it was less severe and I popped a pill straight away so I was fine and dandy. Next to us at the restaurant sat a couple who were on their first date and god it was painful to observe and listen to! We weren’t being noisy, we couldn’t help but practically be involved in their date, the tables were all crowded in there and we had (with NO exaggeration or sarcasm used at all here I promise you) an inch between their table and ours. My gosh though, the guy on this date was something that very strongly rhymes with banker! My head was screaming “RUN GIRL RUN!” but that was just me, hopefully she has sense to see through the guys crap… though when we got out into the somewhat fresh London air, Chris turned to me and said “that guy was a complete… banker.. “(remember to rhyme!) So it wasn’t just me thinking that after all.. I don’t actually know why I’m filling this blog in with someone else’s date, it’s not relevant at all, but it was a highlight for me being a woman and gossipy I guess…… Anyhow, we got back to the hotel, packed and went to bed early that night ready for our check out and trip to Bristol the following morning.

permalink written by  Chris and Emily on April 9, 2009 from London, United Kingdom
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Train trip to Bristol

Bristol, United Kingdom

Thankfully here in London check out is 11am, which is great if you have a tendency to over sleep as Chris and I did this morning. Again another brekki in which this time we DID smuggle some more cheese and ham sangas out.. by now we didn’t care if they saw, it’s not like they could kick us out now! Check out was easier then first expected and we head straight to Paddington Station. We had two hours to kill before our train down to Bristol and it was easily filled with Maccas and Paddington bear. Yep, Paddington bear at Paddington Station, who’d have thought? There was a large Paddington bear strolling around collecting donations for a children’s charity, and I couldn’t resist the chance to leap in for a photo with the marmalade loving bear. As you can see from the photo Paddington is obviously a male, that or a lurking pervert.

We hopped on the train nice and early and found that our seats were at a table for four. “No problem” we thought “that’s cool, just hope our seat mates are nice” and they weren’t nice.. they were awesome! It was so odd. The train was practically empty, seats galore to choose from and yet they’d clumped us together and it was great! We met Helena and Nils, a couple heading away for the long weekend. God knows what they may have thought of us, but we thought they were great. They were great fun and were very generous in shouting us drinks, only wouldn’t allow us to shout them back, we’d like to be able to meet up with them and buy them a round or two in the future. It was lovely though as up until this train ride we’d not come across anyone who would voluntarily talk to you. So far we can only assume that the people in London are nice, we make this guess as no one will bloody talk to you in this city! Unless of course they HAVE to, like at the hotel or bank, or to tell you to “move please” when you’re standing on the wrong side of the escalator and they’re trying to rush on past you… I learnt that one the hard way. But this train trip was a lovely experience and I hadn’t laughed that much in a long time, it was so nice and such a relieve to meet some lovely, genuine people. As I sat there thinking ‘hmm, this woman is bloody gorgeous” it came to pass in conversation, that she is indeed, a model. Knew it. She was just gorgeous inside and out though and her partner a lovely, witty bloke. Lovely couple, who we wish all the best to and would, if it was to happen, see again.

We arrived in Bristol, perhaps a little, shall we say, merry? And were picked up by Jenny and it was so lovely to see her again! We loved having Jenny with us while she was in Australia and it’s great to see her again, she’s a complete gem. Luckily Jen was more than happy to see us too and had no problem in overlooking our merry state. We lost our merriness during the drive and arrived to our home away from home not long after. Ann and Brian are so welcoming and lovely and we feel at home straight away. Later on, after Martin had arrived and we’d all eaten dinner the four of us head out to sample some of the more local beer at the most local pubs. It was a great casual night and a nice way to start our stay down here in Bristol, though the large consumption of alcohol probably was enough to keep us going for a good few weeks. No more for awhile I think, I’m not 18 anymore sadly!

permalink written by  Chris and Emily on April 10, 2009 from Bristol, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Europe 2009
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