Bratislava and Budapest: 12th September

We were sad to leave Prague, if only for the simple reason that it was actually hotter in Budapest. We had a very nice lunch stop in Bratislava (yeeeees I always have lunch in Bratislava daahling. I don’t know, it just seems weird to be able to say I’ve had lunch in Bratislava. ANYWHO) which is very pretty.

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We had lunch at a very nice italian place before taking a wee look around the main square of the old town.

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Oh yeah - speaking of I <3 [insert here] signs, we found this in Bratislava:

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Needless to say, I Tomato Pizza was not the Italian place we went to. 

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After Bratislava, we made our slow way into Budapest (freakin’ 3 and a half hours or something. Stupid Budapest traffic). We arrived at our hotel to find that none of the aircon units was working, in the 30-oddº heat. After the initial stress of this, and the slightly heartening discovery that the windows did open, we had a lovely, relaxing evening cruise on the Danube, to see Budapest’s magnificent buildings lit up. 

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This is their Parliament. I’ve seen it before, in the daytime, but it really is spectacular at night. Even this photo (which I am very happy with, it is the only one out of about 27 which wasn’t blurry) can’t do justice to how beautiful it was. 

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(I know, dreadful photo, but it’s the only one I could get of the Liberty Statue)

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The cruise was wonderful, the breeze was cool, the food was nice, and the information provided by Sophie (our local guide) was interesting (and she had the most charming way of speaking english I have ever heard. She said ‘we used to have a rebellion’ instead of ‘we had a rebellion.’ Which must be what I sound like when I attempt tense in French). 

After the cruise we headed back to our rooms so we could lie awake in the heat and the noise for the whole night. I won’t call it sleeping.

Yes, Minister and Much Ado About Nothing - London: Saturday 3rd September

We began another glorious day with a wander around Westminster, all the time expecting to see Sir Humphrey Appleby and Malcolm Tucker wandering along the street, arguing vociferously. 

Boudicca oversees the debacle that is London traffic and no doubt tries to keep Westminster and Whitehall in check.

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Even though I know it’s just a clock, I always get a little thrill when I see Big Ben and the rest of Westminster, such a beautiful building (they know how to house their leaders in London - so much nicer than the Beehive).

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This next one is my favourite photo of the bunch - 

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- apart from perhaps this one!

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The place was heaving with people, all snapping pictures. I feel sorry for Londoners who have to walk by Parliament on their way to work, through the obstacle course of tourists.

The lines for Westminster Abbey were huuuuuge, so we settled for some pics outside:

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We wandered along towards Millbank, taking a gander at the HQs of both MI5 and MI6, before heading across the river.

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We had a marvellous lunch at a place next to the Globe called Tas Pide - mine was a traditional Pide (middle eastern pizza-type thing) with garlic sausage and fresh tomato. Just to make you jealous.

After lunch, I headed next door to the Globe (well, really the Globe v. 2.0 - the original burned down) to see Much Ado About Nothing!

It was absolutely fantastic and I managed to get a terrible picture of the musicians before being told to put my camera away:

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Benedick and Beatrice were particularly good, as well as Dogberry and Verges (Verges actually got a bucket of water emptied over his head while on stage).

I was a ‘groundling,’ therefore had to stand in the yard for the whole three hours, hence this slightly bemused-looking self-shot from the interval:

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On my way back across Millennium Bridge towards the tube, I spotted an odd thing - little padlocks attached to the cables of the bridge.

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Apparently this is also a thing in Paris - people leaving little padlocks with messages of love, names and other things written on them! So cute :)

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Such a lovely idea :)

We were boring and had wagamama for dinner. Just if you cared. Which you probably don’t..

The Midlands: 5th September – 8th September

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

Don’t be fooled, the Midlands are very very exciting.

Cough.

No, but really, we stayed with my Uncle Alun in Catherine-de-Barnes, a lovely wee town near the seething metropolis of Solihull (cough). We mostly just relaxed and read books (I read the first two Hunger Games books in about 36 hours - my goodness they’re good), but we did head out into the wide world once.

We visited a gorgeous wee town called Ironbridge, which is apparently where the Industrial Revolution began (something to do with iron I think..) and is a lovely little place.

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It looked like a biscuit-tin scene, with the Severn running through the town and the little church on the hill.

The bridge itself was built by the nearby ironworks and is stunningly beautiful

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If I look a little less-than-elated here, I think it’s probably because the following night I got stung by a (f#$%&^%#ing) wasp the night before, so spent most of the night sitting with the light on and the insect spray at the ready. I cheered up immensely when I got some food in me (The Malthouse Pub, had a brie, tomato and bacon baguette, which I swear had about $10 worth of brie in it - I’m hungry just writing about it).

We went into this dinky little museum which had a gigantic diorama thing of the whole of the town, so I spent about ten minutes trying to take artistic tilt-shift hipster-type photos of it. This is what resulted:

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After that we headed to the Blists Victorian Town, which is a little town kept in all its Victorian glory, with people in period costume acting as the apothecary, the postman etc etc. It was very sweet, and lots of fun to look around. 

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I had the most fun in the sweetshop, where I bought an ounce each of sherbert lemons and mint humbugs and conversed with the local paperboy, who was very interested to know whether I came to the UK from NZ in a horse and cart. 

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(That’s my Uncle Alun on the left)

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(That’s a rooster)

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Who’d have thunk the midlands could be so exciting! (I’m just being mean really, we had a marvellous time). 

We have been awake since 5am NZ time (about ten and a half hours now) and still have about three hours to wait ‘til our next flight. I shouldn’t complain though, because I am thoroughly enjoying the luxurious Qantas Club Lounge (na na na na na na) with its endless supply of ginger ale, free booze, cheese and amusingly small individually wrapped ice creams.

This is a picture of Sydney from the lounge window, taken with my brand new camera which I bought in about ten minutes at AKL airport. (SHINY. SHINY SHINY). Not too bad, eh?

It looks like we might have a seat between us for the long flight (touch wood, no jinxes, currently praying to anything that’ll listen) which means: oh yes! The ability to actually have my feet above knee level occasionally (that makes no sense, but what do you expect? I got up at 5 this morning).  

Anyway, Sydney looks pretty in the distance and it’s quite fun watching the planes take off. 

Next time I post will probably be from London! Insert reference to your chosen Clash song here!

Doctor Who! Greek Food! - London: Friday 2nd September

Warning: this is the longest post in the world.

It was hoooot today. Apparently it got to 26, though it felt like at least 30 in the Underground (especially while I was standing wedged between a dude in a suit and a kid with the worst bleach job I’ve ever seen).

We started off the day with brekkie at our hotel (by the way, you should all see the stunning view of Earl’s Court from our window:

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Stunning, no? My mother has taken to noting the time of the first tube  - so far the earliest has been 5.02am). 

We went for a casual mosy down the King’s Road

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before making a rather arduous journey to Olympia, where we went to see… wait for it…

THE DOCTOR WHO EXPERIENCE.

OK, so I’m a giant nerd. And this was awesome. Commence photospam NOW:

We had to queue for AAAAAAGES, but luckily there was some cool stuff to look at while we waited.

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I know it’s unusual to look so happy to be standing next to a dalek, but we kind of love them. 

We also bumped into this awesome lady

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who kindly took time out of her busy time-travelling, crime-fighting schedule to say hello.

Luckily no one messed around with this

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and the weather stayed nice for the day. Didn’t see any flying fish floating about either!

The experience itself was pretty fun. We stepped through the crack in the universe and got to go inside the TARDIS, before nearly being exterminated by some daleks in pantone colours (OH MY GOD CAITLIN, YOU CAN’T JUST ASK A DALEK WHY IT’S PANTONE). 

We had to walk by some weeping angels, which legitimately freaked the bejeesus out of me. Then we saved the Doctor, and the world, yada yada etc.

The exhibition at the end was awesome, though there was this creepy wax version of Matt Smith next to the TARDIS..

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They also had all the costumes on display, which was quite strange, it looked like all the characters had been beheaded.

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I came into rather alarmingly close contact with a cyberman

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but I wasn’t too worried, ‘cause there were some daleks about and we all know how cybermen fare in the face of that lot.

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And then - hey! Who turned out the lights?

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Jeebus that is creepy. I was glad there were no weeping angels about, because I think I honestly would have completely lost it. I mean this little dude was freaky enough..

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But then we bumped into an old friend and felt a little better.

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Then I can’t remember what happened next. Hang on..

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Wait, what was I talking about?

Well, anyway, we had a marvelous time at the Doctor Who Experience, before catching a bus to - 

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That’s so weird, I keep spacing out. 

We caught the bus to Picadilly Circus, before heading down to the South Bank to find our favourite restaurant in London where we had some fantastic Greek food and people-watched for a while.

This was the view from our table:

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And this is what our food looked like:

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Num num num. So delicious. 

After lunch we mosied across Millennium Bridge

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and around St Paul’s towards the tube.

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Another gorgeous day in London :)

München: 9th September

And so begins the Cheesy Bus Tour.

We managed the sprint across Munich Airport to the Tour Bus just in time, so made it to the hotel reasonably early in the day. The hotel was way out in the waps of the city, so we had a wee adventure finding some lunch - we went to a hotdog stand (or really a wurst stand) and I had to attempt to speak German. It turned out fine really. 

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(I look really weird ‘cause I’d only just noticed the camera. No, really). 

We had two ‘thüringens’ which were absolutely delicious. 

Later we took the bus into the city and looked around for a little while. München is absolutely gorgeous with so many amazing buildings! 

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This is a brewery. I know, right?

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We started at the Opera House (everywhere in Europe seems to have an opera house)

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before walking to Marienplatz to see the rathaus, or town hall, which is spectacular:

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It also has a very famous and rather lovely (if perhaps overly long) Glockenspiel (or play of bells) which is accompanied by a little cuckoo-clock-like thing with wee mechanical dancers. I took a video with my shiny new camera, here’s a snippet:

I have to say, the ‘crowing’ rooster at the end was a little disappointing. More like a croak. Then again, he is made of metal, so perhaps I should cut him some slack.

After wandering around the markets, we stopped for a Prosecco at a cafe and sat outside watching the world go by.

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A lovely first day of the tour!

London: Sunday 4th and Monday 5th September

Sunday was our only dreary day so far, so we started the morning off with a visit to Tate Britain, which houses the best of British art. It’s a gorgeous collection, including a whole room full of Turners and lots of those odd paintings of entire families looking bemused. I didn’t get any photos, partly because I didn’t want to be ‘that’ annoying person, but also because I have never in my life taken a picture of a painting which wasn’t blurry.

The stand-out exhibit was definitely the ‘walk through the 20th century,’ which was made up of a huge range of different media: paintings, photographs, sculptures etc, but my favourite was a dark little alcove called something like ‘Gateway to the Empire.’ It had benches to sit on, was piping out what sounded like psalms or plainsong and had projected on the wall a short slow-motion film of people walking through the international arrivals doors at Heathrow. It was astoundingly hypnotic. I got a good shot of the installation from a little way down the hall:

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After the Tate, we had a nice pub lunch before slinking off to the movies to get out of the rain. When we came out of the theatre the sun was shining and Leicester Square was heaving. We had a wander around the square, before coming across this horrific sight:

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That’s right, m&m’s world, a four-storey shopping experience, entirely devoted to your favourite candy-covered chocolates. We went inside for just long enough to realise that this was no joke. 

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It took me about fifteen minutes to get over it. In fact I’m still trying to get over it. It’s capitalism gone mad. 

This photo really sums up my feelings about it:

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We also spotted this pub called the Slug and Lettuce. Appetising..

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On monday morning I got in nice and early to take a whirl on the London Eye, which was certainly worth the £20-odd. 

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It’s a nice, very comfortable way to see the city from a whole new angle.

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We had a wander down one of the river paths and found a rather lovely monument to those who served in World War II:

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Then we walked over to Trafalgar Square, after getting a good look down Pall Mall:

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We had lunch at Byron in Earl’s Court and had the best burgers we have ever had in our lives - it’s well worth a visit and such a cute wee restaurant:

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After that we bid farewell to London via Marylebone Station and headed off to Catherine-de-Barnes!

Words. Type them into blog. And pictures. Pictures pretty.

Bllllllllllllllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeeerg.

Basically. So jetlagged right now. Loooooooooong flights. 

Got to London about 7ish (in the morning, though I still have no earthly clue how time zones are supposed to make sense, and stood in the most epic immigration queue I have ever been in. We took the train to Paddington and partook of the absolute delight that is the West Cornwall Pasty Company cheese and onion pasty (mmmmmmmm non airline food..)

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Of course, when we got to our hotel we still had hours before check-in time, so we trudged off, still in our flight clothes, showerless and sleepless, to the embankment where we got a riverbus to Greenwich. 

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When we got to Greenwich, we saw about this much of the palace

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before realising that all we really wanted was chips. And a chair. So we found one.

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This one to be exact. 

We found a nice little pub called The Mitre and had some delicious chips, along with surprisingly nice tempura vegetables (I get the feeling the tempura veges probably wouldn’t have been on the menu ten years ago). It was your classic English pub with lots of rich furnishings and a couple of locals banging on about sport/politics/the good ol’ days in the background. Maybe one day I’ll photoshop a picture of myself sitting in this chair, but I sure as hell ain’t posting any actual pictures of me here (at this point I had been basically awake for 36 hours without a shower).

But here’s a nice one of my mum:

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And here’s an OK-but-my-goodness-I-look-a-mess one of me with Big Ben in the background:

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After the pub we went back to the hotel and zonked out. Seriously. I’m finishing off this post at ten to seven the next morning. 

Here’s hoping London is as nice today as it was yesterday!

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