Day 4 – 11 June 1994 – Wembley Park Stadium

Caught the tube to Wembley Park Stadium.

Wembley Stadium

Couldn’t get in to have a look so caught the tube to Covent Gardens Markets.  Quite nice.  Had a cappuccino in Cafe Nero (best cappuccino so far).  Caught bus to see Trooping of the Colour.  Waited about an hour and the Queen and Queen Mother.

London Trooping of the Colour Queen

Caught the tube to Soho.  Looked at the market, shops and restaurants.  Got some tickets for Miss Saigon near Leicester Square (£20 each).

Caught tube to London Museum.  Not bad but too tired.  Caught tube back to the hotel.  had a rest then caught tube to the theatre.

Had a quick dinner at Caffe Piazza just near the theatre.  Was great.  Open to the pavement even though we were inside.  We had a good table looking out.  Had a glass of wine, a huge garlic pizza bread and ravioli (full of spinach and cheese) with fresh tomato cause and heaps of parmesan.  Was great.

Went to see Miss Saigon and sat right upstairs in the balcony (seats 6 & 7E).  Off to the right of the stage and incredibly hot!  Could hardly stay awake.

Play was really good but hard to watch in such heat.  Finished about 10.30 and we walked to Covent Garden to have a look at the night life.  Looked wonderful.  Lots of people.  Caught the tube to the hotel.

Day 5 – Sunday 12 June 1994 – Heading to Paris!

Day 3 – Friday 10 June 1994 – Tower of London

Met Marina at Aroma Cafe on Picadilly at 9.30am.  Had a cappuccino but couldn’t have toast and jam because they ran out of butter.

Aroma Cafe

Had a look at Picadilly Market and St James Church behind it.  Church was very old, light and airy.

London
Admiralty Arch
London Bridge

Walked to Westminster Abbey.  Large hall was magnificent.  Surrounding cloisters were lovely, especially Little Cloisters College Gardens.

Westminster Abbey, Cloisters Courtyard garden

Walked to Buckingham Palace.  Came across the changing of the guard.

Buckingham Palace
Changing of the guard

Walked to Houses of Parliament.  Breath taking buildings.  Walked along embankment, then caught bus to Tower of London.  Queue to get in.  Expensive.  Much bigger than I thought.  Crown jewels were pretty speccie.  Huge queue again. Took most of the afternoon.

Caught bus, looking for Marks and Spencer.  Heavy traffic.  Regent Street closed.  Got off and walked.  Got to Oxford Street, shopped a bit.  Got on a bus going in the wrong direction…  Huge walk back to the hotel through not so nice area.  Was 8.30pm by the time we got back to the hotel.  Went to Swan Inn for dinner.  Not bad but drinks expensive.

Walked for about 12 hours today!

Day 4 – Saturday 11 June 1994 – Wembley Park Stadium

Day 2 – Thursday 9 June 1994 – Arrival in London!

Had about 6-8 hours sleep on the plane.  Take about 3am London time.  Had breakfast on board at about 5am and landed about 5.45am.

First glimpse of England was magnificent.  Lush and green with well defined sections.

Took about 30-45 minutes to get through the queue at immigration.  Checked if we had to declare Petite Delights macaroons.  Didn’t, so we walked through! Customs was non-existent.

Easy to find out way through Heathrow.  Cashed a traveller’s cheque for pounds.  Caught the tube to Bayswater!  Had to change at Earls Court.  Was all very easy.  Felt good when I got off the plane but tired after we had to carry our packs on our back from the station to Duke of Leinster.  Hotel very much like one in Kings Cross ($55 each/night) but passable.

Walked through Hyde Park to Knightsbridge and Kensington South.  Saw a squirrel in the park.  Beautiful streets.  Very quaint.  Lots of nice shops.

Regent Street

Had a look at Harrods.  OK.  Rang Marina and parents.  Met Marina at 1.00pm at Harrods.  Spent the rest of the day with her.  Walked heaps through Picadilly, Strand to Savoy, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square etc.

London Trafalgar Square
London Trafalgar Square

Went to Planet Hollywood for dinner.  Not bad.  Identical to Hard Rock Cafe.  Overcast day with occasional spits of rain.  Not very warm.

Had heaps of rides on the tube and ride in a double decker bus down Picadilly.

Double Decker Bus on Picadilly
Regent Street

Day 3 – Friday 10 June 1994 – Tower of London!

Loved that Parisian apartment

I’m slowly tidying up and culling my photos back to a manageable pile.  We so loved our apartment in Paris that I’m starting by posting some photos of it.

It was located in Rue Francois Miron, Marais district.  The location worked so well for us:

  • The surrounding streets were gorgeous and laden with an abundance of shops, bakeries and bars.
  • It was an easy walk to most of the big attractions.
  • There were two Metro stations within 500m.
  • It was fairly quiet for central Paris and the double glazing shut out any noise.
  • The market square in front hosted a fabulous food market 3 times a week and provided almost daily entertainment with concerts and demonstrations (located adjacent to the Town Hall for the 4th arrondissement).
  • The Seine was a small block behind us.
  • Notre Dame was located just behind us.
  • The Louvre was a 15 minute walk along the Seine.
  • Place des Vosges was a 10 minute walk (although we forgot to revisit it).
  • The Latin Quarter and St Germain was a short walk across the Seine.
  • The main street of Rue de Rivoli was just on the other side of the market square and provided an interesting variety of vintage and new clothing shops as well as bonus entertainment such as the Paris Marathon.
  • The apartment was newly renovated and contained every home comfort that we could require.

Here’s some of our favourite photos.

Entry was via the blue door and our apartment was the top left dormer and two windows below.

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120 classic winding stairs (no lift) helped to walk off the delicious food.

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Spacious living area.

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Compact but well equipped kitchen.

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Very spacious bedroom with bathroom through the central door and armoire behind the rustic door on the right.

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View over the square below with the market on.

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View at night from the apartment with the square being set up for the market.

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Arc d’Triomphe

The most fascinating roundabout that I have ever seen.  I love it and enjoy a good spot of traffic watching there.  It is insane!  It must be one of the biggest, most chaotic, uncontrolled intersections in the world!

As I’ve said in previous posts, on our first trip to Europe we experienced the thrill of driving up the Champs Elysee in our little Renault Twingo, entering the Arc d’Triomphe, circling it and exiting again onto the Champs Elysee (I still don’t know how – I think I had my eyes closed, shrieking most of the time).

This trip, with no car, we had to make do with walking up the Champs Elysee, through the tunnel under the road and popping up under the famous arch.  The weather was not at its best – cold, drizzling with rain, windy on the top.  It still looked glamorous as the lights came on.  In fact the rain just enhanced and reflected the lighting.  The circles on the lower left of the photo are not a rising moon but raindrops…

Arc d'Triomphe at night

The ornate detail is beautiful but the selection of bits that I presume have fallen off over time made me laugh – a massive head, a gigantic foot…  They are stashed in one of the top levels.

Arc d'Triomphe

The spiral stairs gave us a dizzying workout (I counted 286) – all the better to earn my frites for the day!

Arc d'Triomphe spiral stairs

Here’s a cool panoramic shot from the top which incorporates the Champs Elysee on the left and the Eiffel Tower on the right as well as gives an idea of the state of the weather…

Arc d'Triomphe panoramic

While we braved the blasting winds and rain, we amused ourselves watching the traffic frolics.   I love this tiny ant-like car bravely nudging its way to the desired exit.

Traffic ant

I love the general traffic swirl and angle of the cars in this one, with a few motorbikes thrown in for added interest.  I still think that it looks civilised in comparison to what we saw on our last trip (first hand through the windscreen).

Traffic chaos

Finally we were rewarded with the Eiffel Tower lighting up.

Eiffel Tower lights up

So did I lose weight??

Good to be home but I would also be happy to still be travelling…  I’m not yet in the timezone and haven’t had a full night’s sleep since I returned.  Sleep deprivation is severe to the point that I shouldn’t be driving.  Luckily I only had 2 days at work this week and they were long!

Regarding weight, I returned home exactly the same weight as I left which I think given the following is miraculous:

  • For 3 weeks before I left I was on an elimination diet for food sensitivities (ie no bread, grains, dairy or alcohol etc – just meat and veggies).  So I lost a couple of kilos before I left.
  • In Europe I let all of that lapse and ate and drank whatever I wanted.  My average day went like this:
    *shared pre-breakfast – just had to try a pastry from whatever Boulangerie or Patisserie we were passing on our way to find breakfast…
    *breakfast – un ou deux cafés et un jambon et fromage omelette (one or two coffees and an omelette with ham and cheese) – although I have learnt that the Google Translate can be a bit broken…
    *shared 6 pack of macarons – yummmm
    *lunch of cheese/cold meat and salad and a wine/champagne or two (especially in Brussels)
    *dinner of steak/chicken and salad/veggies and a couple of wines/champagnes
    *bread, bread and more bread – completely unavoidable in Europe.  Some days I am sure that we were served a side of bread with a bread based dish.
    *usually some frites (hot chips) somewhere throughout the day
    *I averaged about 5 glasses of alcohol a day which is probably my weekly consumption at home…

Now if that was my regular diet at home I would soon end up bulging at the seams.  The best thing about travelling is that you can be constantly active rather than desk bound.  Our days of walking ranged from 5km (flying days) to 32km (a big day in Paris) and averaged around 16km.

I have roughly estimated that we walked 220km (which would nearly get you from Canberra to Sydney) with about 145 of those kilometres being in Paris.  Once we got to Brussels the walking tended to be around the beautiful, medieval canal cities where we were just wandering and gazing in awe at the sights.  In Paris we had to walk a long way to get to the various destinations.  We did take the Metro sometimes but most days we had nothing better to do than wander along and appreciate the sights along the way.

I say roughly estimated the kilometres because the pedometer did not work out at all.  I think that the layers of winter clothing were too restrictive and held the pedometer in place too firmly.  Unfortunately they don’t work on the outside of jackets etc either.

At home I would use an iPhone app to measure and map my walks but of course that requires internet access and we all know what happened there!!  Also these types of apps tend to chew up phone batteries very quickly.  The one day that I did have internet access, my phone battery only lasted half the day.

So the only way that I can think of that I could accurately map and measure my distances would be with a GPS watch or other handheld device.  I might think about that next time as I could then also keep a map of where I walked.

Within a few days of returning home and getting back to normal eating patterns (although the alcohol consumption hasn’t quite settled down yet) I had lost a further kilo.  So, while I think you need to do more than the recommended 10 000 steps per day, walking can get the weight off you despite my best efforts to thwart it with all that yummy food and wine.  I’m happy to keep travelling and confirming that theory…

再見 Hong Kong – goodbye Hong Kong! 20 April 2013

Hong Kong

I was hoping to wake up fighting fit in the morning and get out to see the markets and beach at Stanley.  All was good until after breakfast when I realised that my stomach upset was still with me (in fact I hadn’t been completely well since the B52 and pig knuckle night…).  I really didn’t dare leave the house and sent hubby to the market with orders to buy anti-diahorrea and anti-nausea medication.

He tells me that the markets were good and he found some cheaper electronic stalls so bought some head phones for our 13 year old who was turning 14 the day that we returned home.  The weather had also improved a bit.

Hong Kong

So he came home with the anti-diahorrea medication (Immodium) but traditional Chinese medicine for the nausea (and everything else)…  He said that was all the pharmacy had. I really didn’t think that a couple of hours before 12 hours of flying home was a good time to try something new but I also really wanted to make sure that the trip would be as comfortable as possible.  I wasn’t feeling really bad but I also wasn’t feeling really good.

I asked a few people about the Chinese medicine and most people said to take it.  I opened the packet and it was actually full of 10 little rectangular boxes, each of which contained a narrow plastic vial full of about 20-30 tiny round pills in an unappetising brown colour.  The devil and the dark blue sea – what to do??  I compromised and took 1 of the vials when 2 were prescribed every two hours.

We taxied to the airport (taxi costs are very reasonable) and the weather was a lot better today so saw a bit more of Hong Kong harbour.  Hong Kong airport was very efficient and we were soon on a Cathay flight to Kuala Lumpur.  A bit of a detour but the only flight that we could get later in the day (at the late date that we booked).

The pills seemed to work! Po Chai Pills if anyone ever needs them.  I took a vial every couple of hours and avoided food.  Avoiding food was not such a good idea as after 3.5 hours we landed in Kuala Lumpur with about 1.5 hours to kill and no Malaysian currency.  We could have changed some money but it didn’t seem worth it.  By the time I got on the Malaysian Airlines flight to Australia, I was really hungry and ready to eat regardless of the consequences.  All was food though and 8 hours later we arrived in Melbourne.

I’m sure that had the weather been better (and possibly had I not had cocktails and pigs knuckle with rich mustard sauce the night before I left for Hong Kong) my experience would have been a lot better in Hong Kong.  Oh well, I’m sure that there will be another opportunity.

 

Day 1 in Hong Kong – markets and humidity! 19 April 2013

Hong Kong The Peak Tram

I’m a bit behind with my posts but here’s what happened anyway.

Felt so much better after a good night’s sleep.  We awoke to not being able to see beyond the huge balcony of our friend’s flat which normally has beautiful views.  In fact we couldn’t see anything beyond the Club and it was drizzling with rain.

Hong Kong Skyscraper Fog

Over breakfast at the Club we discussed what to do on our one whole day in Hong Kong.  I wanted to get a snapshot of the feel of Hong Kong – and I got it!

Despite the weather, we decided to take a taxi to The Peak, take The Peak Tram down, then the Star Ferry to Kowloon where we would browse the markets.

The taxi ride to The Peak was quick as we were already quite a way up the hill at the Club.  We walked through the shopping mall to the viewing platform – but couldn’t see a thing for mist.  No point lingering there so we checked out the picture of the view and then headed for the tram.

Hong Kong The Peak Tram

The tram was a bit of an experience.  We should have had spectacular views of Hong Kong – but there was the mist.  Wikipedia tells me that the gradient is 4-27 degrees but my eyes told me that it was at least 45 degrees and plain scary at times.  I was hoping that the brakes would hold out – which they did of course.

The rain had eased off but the humidity was still probably close to 100% and the heat was rising.

We caught the Star Ferry to Kowloon.  I’m not sure how to describe it.  Antiquated? Rustic? Perhaps just authentic.  The diesel fumes were rather overwhelming.  You probably don’t notice any of this when the weather is better and you can see the harbour.

We then caught the train to Prince Edward station and then walked to find the flower markets. It was debilitatingly humid!  The flower ‘markets’ as such are actually a few blocks of shops.  There were certainly some exotic flowers and plants that I hadn’t seen before but also lots of familiar ones.

Hong Kong Rickshaws

We then found the bird markets which were just sad.

We moved onto the ‘ladies market’ but by then I had had it with the humidity and crowded streets and was starting to need to a toilet.  We whizzed through the markets which mainly sell every day Asian fashion – not to my taste.

The bamboo scaffolding looked rather precarious!

Hong Kong Bamboo Scaffolding

We were very hot and bothered by this stage and found ourselves in a large shopping mall with various exits to train stations.  We wanted to get back to Tsim Sha Sui station where we had got off the Star Ferry – our friend had been to a nice restaurant for lunch there.  ‘Nice restaurant’ meant ‘nice toilets’ in my mind and given that the toilet situation didn’t look too promising around the markets, I was willing to go the distance.  However, we were so tired that we elected to go out the closest exit to a train station that was not on the red line that we wanted.  I think that we ended up going around in a square with about 3 changes to get the line that we wanted.  The trains were very crowded and it was quite overwhelming on top of being hungry, jet lagged and needing a toilet.

Luckily the end destination of Hullett House was worth the trek and we spent a couple of hours having lunch and drinks on the balcony.  The weather had cleared quite a bit by this point and we were lulled into a false sense of security while sitting under the verandah.

We then crossed the road to Star House where there were many electronic shops.  The prices were fairly expenses though so we didn’t buy anything.

After that we headed back to the Club for a well earned rest.  By this point a stomach upset had set in for me and my focus was on toilets.  I ended up staying in that night as I wasn’t feeling too good and was well aware that we had big flights the next day.  However, hubby and friends headed to a Peruvian restaurant in Soho (the nicer area that I had deferred seeing and now wouldn’t see) and partied away until 2am!  I was happy to be on the lounge.

Probably about a 10km day.

你好香港 – hello Hong Kong! 18 April 2013

Hong Kong Fog

We are staying with friends at a sports club that they manage in Hong Kong and being very spoiled. A driver was waiting to collect us at the airport. Our exit through Immigration was the quickest that we had experienced and Customs was a walk through. Surreal after the queues that we had experienced elsewhere (Narita comes to mind…).

The luxury of a driver was fantastic and the direct opposite of our train and Chatelet Les Halles experience in Paris…

I had no idea where the Hong Kong airport was in relation to the club which I knew was on Hong Kong island. I now know that it is located on the largely reclaimed island of Chek Lap Kok. The drive seemed long through towering hills, concrete retaining walls, sky scrapers and glimpses of harbours. Hard to tell though as I was in micro nap mode (ie only knowing that I had fallen asleep when I woke up again and again and again) after a total of about 1 hours sleep on the plane and only a few hours the night before that. Therefore my entry into Hong Kong looked like 20 second exposures in between naps… One long mass of bridges, skyscrapers and concrete.

Hong Kong Fog

So, the driver was great until he dropped us off at the wrong sports club. He parked around the corner, unloaded our luggage and told us that the main entry was around the corner. We trundled around with our luggage and asked for our friend by name at the security gate. Took a while for them to surmise that we were at the wrong club and ours was 20 minutes drive away… We needed to get a taxi but had no Hong Kong dollars yet. So we needed to find a bank but had a lot of luggage to lug around. Or we needed to phone our friend but still had the unusable French SIM cards in our phone…

Back to the nice security guard to see if he had a pin or paperclip to help us get the French SIM card out. His English was running thin by then and he said that he didn’t have any. I was getting desperate and pointed to his badge asking if that had a pin on the back of it and trying to show him what I wanted to do on the iPhone. Ah, he understood and produced a paperclip. We changed over the SIM card to the Australian one. We then phoned our friend who didn’t answer the phone. We then tried to email them but that didn’t work. Thankfully they answered the second time we phoned and told us to hop in a taxi and they would pay at the other end.

Now to get a taxi. Lots going past but either full or they wouldn’t stop. Hubby decided to walk down the road to find a rank. He disappeared for what felt like a very long time, leaving me with a pile of luggage and no way to contact him as he didn’t have his Aussie SIM in his phone. Success at last though. He eventually came back with a taxi and we were on our way to the correct club. It was quite a long way and up steep hills. I had thought about trying to walk at one point…

Eventually we caught up with our friends and it was great to see them. They live in an apartment at the top of the club and have a full suite of sporting facilities and three restaurants on site.

We had Peking Duck for dinner – first duck for me in a very long time as I’m not keen on it. The whole ceremony of cutting it was great though and I did have a couple of pancakes which were quite nice. The restaurant was very nice.

Hong Kong Peking Duck

We headed to one of the bars afterwards but after waking up twice when I didn’t even know that I had fallen asleep, I decided to call it quits for the night and we were in bed at 8.30.

Day 6 in Bruxelles – au revoir Bruxelles! 17 April 2013

We really enjoyed our time in Brussels with our friends. I love their suburb, shops, Metro, tram, markets and local friture (chippery – Charles).

I had woken up feeling rather delicate and the feeling extended throughout most of the day. I don’t have many big nights out but why do the few that I do have usually end up being the night before I travel somewhere???

I spent the morning trying to pack everything into my suitcase and gratefully borrowed a carry on bag from my friend which kept my suitcase at about 21kg but gave me an extra 7 kg of luggage.

I then hopped on the Metro with my friend and went to a nearby suburb to attend a ladies morning tea ( all the spouses from her husband’s work which is an international organisation). There were 16 ladies, covering several nationalities and it was hosted by a Turkish lady so the food was yum but I wasn’t up to sampling much… Their main topic of conversation was where can we visit next’! Tapestry outlets, medieval towns, restaurants, Istanbul, Athens, London… hard choices. It’s a tough life but someone has to do it.

Our friend drove us to Brussels airport and we said our sad goodbyes. Their children live in Canberra while studying so we had a few gifts to squeeze into the luggage from Mum and Dad.

Then we queued and flew to London, then queued and queued and queued and travelled through Heathrow on a shuttle train to cover 3 terminals and then flew 11.5 hours to Hong Kong!